NHL Playoffs, Blackhawks v. Sharks, Game 3: Sharks strike first, Hawks tie it up

Hawks5.jpgEastern Conference Finals, Game 3, 2nd Intermission

Chicago Blackhawks 1, San Jose Sharks 1

Blackhawks lead series 2-0

The San Jose Sharks have been able to score on Antti Niemi so far this series, but they have yet to truly exert their offensive force on the Blackhawks. While we always expected great defensive play from the Blackhawks, the inspired play of Niemi in the Conference finals was something that surprised nearly everyone, including the Sharks.

In Game 3 in Chicago, a critical contest for the Sharks as they try to avoid the nearly insurmountable 0-3 series deficit, the Sharks have played much more aggressive and much more confident and it finally paid off in the second period. The Blackhawks put their share of pressure on the Sharks in the first 20 minutes, but Evgeni Nabokov was able to do what he couldn’t in the first two games: makes the big saves when his team needed it the most.

His big saves gave the Sharks the chance they needed, and they responded with heavy pressure to open the second and forced the Blackhawks to take two penalties, giving the Sharks a lengthy 5-on-3 chance. It looked as if the Sharks would come away incredibly frustrated as Niemi turned away several prime chances until Patrick Marleau was able to finally sneak a puck past Niemi’s glove to give the Sharks a much needed 1-0 lead.

With the way the Sharks have been endlessly frustrated by the Hawks and Niemi despite some actual decent play in two games, you would have thought the Sharks would have been invigorated by getting the lead. Unfortunately, the Blackhawks proved once again just how strong a team they are and tied it up just three minutes later on a power play goal of their own.

Once again showing that he is the early Conn Smythe favorite, Jonathan Toews completed a brilliant no-look, cross-crease pass to Patrick Sharp for a slam dunk goal on Evgeni Nabokov. The Hawks used the goal to wake from a bit of an early stupor and responded with some heavy pressure of their own the rest of the period, and only a couple of sprawling saves by Nabokov kept the Hawks from taking what would have been a demoralizing lead over the Sharks.

Heading into an incredibly important third period, the Sharks have a great chance to at least build on a solid 40 minutes and hope to steal an important win in Chicago. Somehow they’ll have to find a way to solve Antti Niemi, who continues to play at a much higher level than I ever thought he would the deeper the Blackhawks moved into the playoffs.

Fortunately for the Hawks, Evgeni Nabokov has finally been able to do his part.

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    Despite tough fight, Stars hand Wild their sixth straight loss

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    The Minnesota Wild put together the kind of effort that would beat a lot of NHL teams on Tuesday. Unfortunately for that beleaguered group, it wasn’t enough to edge the Dallas Stars.

    Despite generating 40 shots on goal and generating 1-0 and 2-1 leads, the Wild lost to the Stars 4-3 in overtime. With that, they’ve lost six straight games.

    (The view doesn’t get much prettier if you pull away a little further, either, as Minnesota’s only won once in the last month, going 1-9-2 in their last 12.)

    Ultimately, the Stars’ big guns were too powerful. Tyler Seguin generated two assists and so did Jamie Benn, who set up John Klingberg‘s overtime game-winning goal.

    Again, the effort sure seemed to be there for the Wild, even if they’re far beyond the point of accepting moral victories.

    As frustrating as this must be, Minnesota’s not that far from a playoff spot. Still, it has to sting to see “Close, but not good enough” as a prevailing theme as of late.

    Royal beating: Lucic, Kings crush Bruins 9-2

    As Boston Bruins' Patrice Bergeron (37) looks on Los Angeles Kings' Milan Lucic waves to the crowd after a tribute to him was played on the screen during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Boston Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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    The Boston Bruins welcomed Milan Lucic back on Tuesday. Maybe they shouldn’t have extended such a warm welcome to the Los Angeles Kings overall, however.

    You won’t see many games as lopsided as this one, at least in 2015-16, as the Kings walloped the Bruins by a humbling score of 9-2.

    Lucic wasn’t just there, either, as he scored a goal and an assist in his quite triumphant return to Boston.

    Tuukka Rask had a short night in Boston’s net, yet it wasn’t as if Jonas Gustavsson enjoyed his time. It was a pretty sound beating by all accounts.

    This dominant win is a heck of a way for the Kings to begin an imposing seven-game road trip, which continues against the New York Islanders on Thursday. The Bruins probably want to burn the tape on this one themselves, as they’re about to head on a six-game road trip.

    Video: Evander Kane believes he won his fights vs. Alex Petrovic

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    The Florida Panthers are beating up the Buffalo Sabres where it counts – on the scoreboard – but Evander Kane was happy to highlight his perceived victories in a couple bouts.

    Buffalo’s power forward fought Alex Petrovic twice on Tuesday, and Kane wasn’t shy about holding up a “2-0.”

    You can watch the second fight above, and the first one below, via Hockey Fights by way of MSG:

    This GIF might just say it all, really:

    Update: Apparently they fought again moments after this post went up.

    Probably safe to call it a rivalry between the two, right?

    The Panthers ultimately won 7-4.

    Fight video: Yes, a visor-breaking punch

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    Some hockey players resist the urge to wear a visor, at least if they’re given that choice.

    Perhaps a few will say “Hey, Nathan Beaulieu will just punch it off anyway.”

    Maybe not, but Beaulieu provided a rather unique moment in his fight with Cedric Paquette during the Montreal Canadiens – Tampa Bay Lightning game. You can watch that bout in the video above, and see a cut on the Lightning pest’s face from that blow.

    Want it in GIF form? OK then: