Flames turn up the heat against Avalanche

Kipper.jpgThe best game of the night was easily the one that had the most
stakes attached to it. The Calgary Flames and the Colorado Avalanche
battled for the 8th spot in the Western Conference, and thanks to Miikka
Kiprusoff’s 35 saves the Flames were able to pull away with the big
victory.

Both teams are now tied with 89 points, yet Colorado is able to hang
on to the 8th spot for now thanks to tie breakers.

Despite the Avalanche threatening to pull off a historic playoff
collapse — something I thought the Ottawa Senators were on their way to
a few weeks ago — at times it seemed as if Colorado just wasn’t as
interested the Flames were determined. Craig Anderson kept the game from
getting out of hand, and his teammates didn’t seem to wake up until the
Avs went down 2-0 in the third period.

Is this Colorado’s inexperience and youth showing? All season long
Craig Anderson has carried the team on his back, and now when the stakes
are at their highest the cracks are starting to show. They’ve now lost
four in a row, and the Flames looked
like a team that knew what it was fighting for
, while the Avs did
not.

“We were taking it like Game 7 of the Stanley Cup
finals,” said Rene Bourque, who scored his 26th goal of the season early
in the third period. “That’s how we have to treat every game from now
on.”

The Flames have had their share of questionable
efforts when the season was on the line, but after a 5-0 collapse
against Boston a week ago have roared back into playoff contention. This
is one instance where publicly calling out the team and its leaders has
definitely worked.

Sadly, this is the final game of the season between the Avs and
Flames. I always love a do-or-die game on the final night of the season.

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    Lightning give Vasilevskiy the (brief) hook after very rare Jurco goal

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    By just about any measure, Monday’s been lousy to Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

    He was pulled with a few minutes remaining in the first period after Chicago Blackhawks built a 3-1 lead, scoring those three goals on just eight shots on net.

    You could summarize Vasilevskiy’s awful start by those numbers, or by how rare the 3-1 goal was for the scorer.

    Tomas Jurco failed to score a goal or an assist in 16 games with the Red Wings, then went pointless in nine more games with Chicago before finally scoring his first goal of the season on Monday.

    Now, Jon Cooper didn’t pull Vasilevskiy because Jurco scored that tally. Still, it rubs a little extra salt in his wounds all things considered.

    Here’s the Jurco goal:

    Patrick Kane‘s 2-1 goal might have hurt the most, actually, as it quickly dissolved a tying tally by Ondrej Palat:

    Update: The Lightning decided to put Vasilevskiy back in net to begin the second period. Interesting.

    Coach Q thinks Anisimov will be back by playoffs for Blackhawks

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    The bad news is that Artem Anisimov seems likely to miss all – or at least most – of the regular season for the Chicago Blackhawks with his lower-body injury.

    The good? Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville believes that Anisimov will be ready once the playoffs swing into motion, as the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports.

    Anisimov was hurt when he got tangled up with Canadiens forward Alex Radulov on March 14:

    The Blackhawks have been filling Anisimov’s typical spot alongside Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin with Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz lately. There have been flashes of brilliance with Schmaltz, but Chicago would probably feel most confident with Anisimov back in his familiar place.

    Chicago’s Central lead is pretty secure over the Minnesota Wild at the moment, which likely reduces motivation to rush Anisimov back before he’s truly ready. The Blackhawks close out their regular season on April 8, so there’s still time for him to heal up.

    Ducks demote Enroth, so Gibson’s close to a return

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    The Anaheim Ducks are flying high – er, waddling with some swagger? – right now thanks to Jonathan Bernier‘s somewhat shocking turnaround, but the pending return of John Gibson is promising.

    (Especially since the Ducks will likely want him to shake off some rust before the playoffs begin.)

    While it’s not clear if he’s exactly 100 percent healthy just yet, the Ducks sending Jhonas Enroth back to the AHL is a strong sign that Gibson is close.

    Enroth actually never got a shot to start for the Ducks, as his last NHL appearance came on Nov. 30, closing off his ill-fated run with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    Considering that Enroth was once a fairly hot commodity as at least a promising backup, it will be interesting to see how his 2017-18 season pans out. Will he get more or less of a chance than he received this season?

    Bernier, meanwhile, is richly rewarding the Ducks for sticking with him.

    He’s provided them with a Vezina-caliber March: 9-1-1, 1.71 GAA and .943 save percentage with one shutout. You almost wonder if there’s at least some potential for a goalie controversy if Gibson stumbles whenever he gets back into action … but hey, having two good goalies to choose from is better than none.

    (Which was the scenario that must have scared the Ducks when Gibson got hurt in the first place.)

    WATCH LIVE: Chicago Blackhawks at Tampa Bay Lightning

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    The Tampa Bay Lightning almost certainly haven’t faced the Chicago Blackhawks in a game this important since the two teams were vying for a Stanley Cup.

    While the Blackhawks have already punched their ticket to the postseason and are merely trying to pad their lead in the Central Division, the Bolts are fighting for their playoff lives. At the moment, they rank three points behind the Boston Bruins for the final spot in the East. With a game in hand, they can make up a lot of ground tonight.

    With all of that in mind, it should be an entertaining contest. You can check it out on NBCSN, watch online or via the NBC Sports App.

    Click here for the livestream.