2010 Stanley Cup Finals: In the end, Patrick Kane was the difference

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Kane5.jpgPatrick Kane had just one game-winning goal in the entire postseason
for the Chicago Blackhawks, but that’s all they ever really needed from
him anyway. Jonathan Toews may have won the Conn Smythe trophy as the
Most Valuable Player of the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, but in the end it
was Patrick Kane that was the difference maker as he pushed his team
the incredibly resilient Philadelphia Flyers.

Kane, like the rest of this top line of himself, Toews and Dustin
Byfuglien, had struggled mightily against the speedy and physicial
Flyers in the first four games of the series. He had just three points
in those first four games, and was a minus-6 overall. He was practically
invisible at times and rarely was the scoring threat that this team
desperately needed him to be in order to finally hoist the Cup.

After a disastrous Game 4 performance, Kane turned a corner.

He had five points between Game 5 and 6 and along with Byfuglien was
the catalyst for what the Hawks needed to get their skates back under
them. The series against the Flyers had gone off the rails in Philly,
and here they were headed back to the City of — supposed — Brotherly
Love with a chance to clinch the Cup finals once and for all.

Kane had just two secondary assists before the overtime period
started, but his presence had been felt all game long. It was the same
determination you saw in him after the debacle in Game 4 and it showed
once more in the biggest game of his incredibly young career; there
should have been no doubting that Kane would factor into the winning
goal for the Blackhawks.

For Kane, who at age 21 is just now starting an already incredible
career, it was perhaps the highest moment he’ll ever reach during his
time in the NHL. Skating with the puck in the offensive zone, he was
pushed wide by the Flyers before whipping a hard wrist shot on net.
Somehow, the puck found its way through Michael Leighton before lodging
in the far side of the twine. Kane instantly screamed in joy as the
arena went nearly silent.

No goal lights went off.

No referee signaled a good goal. In fact, there was no signal made.

Kane6.jpgJust the sight of a young kid with the world’s greatest mullet
skating as hard as he could to the other end of the ice, gloves, sticks
and other pieces of equipment falling to the ice in his wake. No one
knew what had happened, but Patrick Kane knew right away: he had just
scored the Cup-winning goal in overtime.

Of course, while talking about the goal, Kane was quick to ramble
onto another subject.

“I knew it right away,” Kane said, a smile on his face as emotion
started to wash over him. “It was stuck behind the meshing there. Got a
shot out to my people back in Buffalo. My hometown. I have four
buddies who drove all the way to come out here. My five family members.
Three sisters, three beautiful sisters. My mom and dad. What a
feeling. I can’t believe it.

“It’s unbelievable. We just won the Stanley Cup.”

Kane was emotional after the game, as many players are when the
reality of their accomplishments start to sink in. Kane is just 21 and
has plenty of hockey ahead of him, but after a long and grueling season
with all of the uncertainty and all of the pressure that was heaped upon
the Hawks, it’s a relief to realize you’ve just accomplished the
ultimate goal.

“I can’t believe this just happened,” Kane said as tears started to
show in his eyes. “It’s something you dream of as a kid. To score the
winning goal in the Stanley Cup Finals. It was just — it was
unbelievable.”

There’s no doubting how important and how deserving Toews is for the
Hawks, the quiet and serious captain who held this team together all
season long. Yet it was Kane, the flashy one of the two, who was
ultimately the difference maker in this series. It’s not how you start a
series or a game, it’s how you finish it that matters. When the
Blackhawks were locked in a must-win game, fighting to not have to head
to a dangerous Game 7 and with the Flyers seizing momentum, he did
exactly what all good hockey players know to do.

He threw the puck
at the net and made something good happen.

Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

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He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

From the AHL:

With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

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The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

“Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

The Ducks defeated the Jets on Friday, moving into a tie with the Sharks at 91 points.

San Jose’s struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.