Evgeni Malkin fights Rick Nash, Tyler Seguin scores, Carey Price allows 6 in tonight's 'early' games

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There were a bunch of games tonight, quite a few of them starting late, so here’s a quick recap of the games that began before 9pm ET. We’ll cover the rest Sunday morning.

Pittsburgh 3, Columbus 1

Plus: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin skated on the same line, which might not be a great idea for depth scoring but would surely be fun to watch. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 32 of 33 shots and the Penguins are 3-0 in games that don’t matter at all. Oh and apparently Malkin got in a fight with Blue Jackets star Rick Nash.

Minus: Derick Brassard went 6-18 in the faceoff circle while Columbus went 18-41 overall. Oh, Nash and Malkin also got in a fight. If it was anything like Crosby’s skirmishes, that could be a minus.

Buffalo 3, Toronto 1

Plus: The Sabres bombarded the preseason-weary Leafs (2-2-1) in their exhibition opener with 44 shots on goal. Ryan Miller stopped all of the paltry nine shots he saw in the game.

Minus: “The Curse of Cuthbert” continues as Mike Komisarek was on the ice for all three Sabres goals.

Ottawa 6, Montreal 2

Plus: Jason Spezza (two goals and one assist) and Nick Foligno (two goals) dominated the Habs. Bobby Butler provided one goal and one assist, too.

Minus: The Carey Price bandwagon hit another pothole, as the beleaguered face of the Habs franchise allowed six goals on 30 shots in this one. Is it time to panic yet?

NYR 5, NJ 4 (OT)

Plus: Mike del Zotto put up an impressive one goal, three assist performance including the overtime game-winner. The Rangers went a stunning 4-for-5 on the power play. Ilya Kovalchuk (one goal and one assist) and Zach Parise (three assists) kept their electric chemistry going.

Minus: Of course, the “ZIP” line hasn’t really created many wins for the Devils just yet. Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Hedberg will not put this game on their personal highlight reels.

Florida 3, Boston 2 (SO)

Plus: New Bruins Tyler Seguin and Nathan Horton scored the goals.

Minus: The Panthers’ 2010 top pick Erik Gudbranson went -2 in the game. The Bruins gave up a 2-0 lead and lost the game.

Carolina 1, Atlanta 0

Plus: Cam Ward earned a shutout, tossing aside all 32 shots while Chris Mason was solid going 28 for 29. Jeff Skinner strengthened his solid chance of making the team by scoring the game’s only goal.

Minus: Sergei Samsonov’s injury overshadowed all of this, although it looks like he’s going to be OK.

Dallas 5, St. Louis 2

Plus: Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro showed why they were once a strong pairing, with Morrow scoring twice and Ribeiro produced two assists.

Minus: Cam Janssen and Krys Barch fought, which might put their regular season fight/play date in jeopardy.

Chicago 4, Detroit 2

Plus: The announced crowd of 20,553 people set a new franchise record for preseason games in Chicago. Marian Hossa, Jack Skille and Duncan Keith all earned a goal and an assist.

Minus: Chris Osgood was in preseason (or maybe regular season?) form.

Washington 2, Nashville 1

Plus: Mike Green factored into both Capitals goals, scoring a goal and an assist.

Minus: Green once sported a faux hawk.

Philadelphia 3, Minnesota 2 (SO)

Plus: Nikolai Zherdev scored one real world goal and one shutout goal. Sergei Bobrovsky has a funny last name.

Minus: Oskars Bartulis playing 23 minutes in an NHL game seems crazy, even in a preseason game.

Lightning, Islanders make East playoff races even more confusing

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes the third period save as Ryan Strome #18 of the New York Islanders looks for a rebound at the Barclays Center on November 1, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Whenever you groan at what seems like a quiet trade market, take a step back and ask yourself this: “Who is really out of it?”

For a while there, it felt reasonable to dismiss the chances of teams like the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. Now? There’s probably only a handful of teams that can really be comfortable, at this very point, with calling themselves sellers.

The Islanders took care of their business with a 3-1 win against the fading (probably selling?) Detroit Red Wings, even with Petr Mrazek making a save like this.

Meanwhile, Ben Bishop might just be putting his game together (while Nikita Kucherov‘s game remains very much together) as the Tampa Bay Lightning throttled the Edmonton Oilers 4-1. Bishop might just end up being indispensable – or at least not worth trading – as he’s on a five-game winning streak.

With those wins, the races for the last seemingly available Eastern Conference playoff spots just get that much muddier.*

Third place in the Atlantic: Maple Leafs – 67 points in 59 games, 28 wins, 27 ROW

Second wild card: Panthers – 66 points in 58 GP, 28 W, 25 ROW

Bruins – 66 points in 59 GP, 30 W, 28 ROW
Islanders – 66 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 27 ROW
Flyers – 63 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 23 ROW
Lightning – 62 points in 59 GP, 27 W, 25 ROW
Sabres – 62 points in 60 GP, 26 W, 25 ROW

Wow, that’s crazy-close. Naturally, teams like the Islanders and Flyers lack the luxury of having a third spot in reasonable reach – unless things get truly wild – but that’s quite the congested group of playoff hopefuls.

And, sure, the Bolts are among those facing longer odds, but the way things keep swinging wildly this season, who knows? Especially with a team with a track record of success and high expectations like the Lightning.

* – We’ll arbitrarily cut off the East race at the Devils, but just in case you’re wondering, they have 60 points, the Red Wings have 58 and the Hurricanes have 56. Also, the Ottawa Senators hold the second spot in the Atlantic with 70 points and the Montreal Canadiens lead the division with 72, so that group could see quite a bit of movement over the last quarter of the season.

Forsberg’s hat trick, own-goal highlights Predators’ wild OT loss to Flames

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If you want to summarize the kind of night the Nashville Predators experienced, you could do worse than to draw parallels to Filip Forsberg‘s experiences.

The highs were quite high, you see. Forsberg & Co. carved away at the Calgary Flames’ 4-1 lead as his hat trick (see above) eventually gave the Predators a fleeting 5-4 edge.

We all should have seen more drama coming … and it did. Forsberg ended up being at the wrong place at the wrong time in overtime; the Flames’ 6-5 overtime winner ended up going off of his foot. Ouch.

Mark Giordano ended up being credited with that goal. The game was just a barn-burner.

While it was an up-and-down night for both the Flames and Predators, Pekka Rinne‘s evening was pretty much uniformly dismal.

Rinne was pulled early in the second period after giving up four goals on 13 shots, making way for Juuse Saros (who actually ended up gtting tagged with the loss).

The Flames can breathe a sigh of relief after winning the game despite coughing up a big lead, improving to 64 points and strengthening their grip on the second wild card spot. That “charity point” comes in handy for Nashville, leaving the Predators with 65 points and a game in hand on the Flames.

Serious performance: Blackhawks gain on Wild thanks to Toews’ five points

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If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.

It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.

Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:

Central Division title chase

1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)

Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.

Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).

The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.

Also, tonight marked a nice milestone for Joel Quenneville:

Matthews, Leafs get last laugh in OT vs. Laine and the Jets

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Hockey fans tend to get their radars up about over-hyping things, particularly promising rookies.

Is it hasty, then, to wonder if there’s something to a rivalry between Auston Matthews (and the Maple Leafs) vs. Patrik Laine (plus the Jets)? If nothing else, the two have come up big in two very exciting games.

Back in October, Laine generated a hat trick as the Jets beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. This time around, it was another 5-4 overtime decision … only Matthews and the Maple Leafs took this round.

This isn’t to take anything away from Laine’s performance, mind you. He scored two goals on Tuesday, becoming the rare modern rookie to muster 30 goals. He reminded hockey fans that he only needs the smallest window to make you pay with his deadly, world-class shot.

MORE on that goal and the violence that ensued here.

But Matthews wouldn’t be denied, either, and fittingly did so in a quieter fashion. (Virtually everyone seems a little quieter when Laine’s around, it seems.)

The Maple Leafs’ outstanding rookie managed three assists in this game, giving him 52 points in 59 games. He also has six points in a three-game run and eight in his past five.

Laine? He now has 54 points in 55 games, extending is own point streak to five games (seven goals, three assists).

In other words, it’s really close … just like the games when these two budding stars (and their young, promising teammates) meet.

You might even be tempted to believe the hype.