Atlanta Thrashers v New York Rangers

Nightly recap – Wednesday, October 27th

The NHL’s ad campaign this year stressed that “questions will be answered” and tonight was loaded with questions. Could the Rangers stay hot? Could Steven Stamkos continue scoring points like Gretzky? Could the Devils get things turned around? Could the Hurricanes remember where the heck their home arena was? All these questions were answered tonight, here’s your recap of the night’s action.

Atlanta 6 – NY Rangers 4

So the Rangers couldn’t keep the hot streak going. It’s fair though since they ran into an Atlanta team playing pretty well themselves. A schizo effort out of the Rangers ran the gamut from looking great to looking abysmal defensively watching both Evander Kane and Bryan Little skate through the defense to score effortless goals. Starter Martin Biron wasn’t immune either getting beat a couple times badly up high. That said, the Thrashers continued to do their thing and playing tough hockey getting other goals from Niclas Bergfors, Dustin Byfuglien, Eric Boulton, and Andrew Ladd. Rangers forward Artem Anisimov suffered an ankle injury and may end up being out for some time.

Washington 3 – Carolina 0

Perhaps the Hurricanes would like to go back out on the road. After being terrors on their long bi-continental road trip to start the season, the Hurricanes returned home for the first time this season only to get shutout by Michal Neuvirth and the Capitals. The shutout was Neuvirth’s first in his NHL career and he made 29 shots to earn it. The Caps got a pair of third period goals from Nicklas Backstrom to seal the deal. The eventual game-winner went to Matt Hendricks.

Montreal 5 – NY Islanders 3

The Canadiens continue to do well and stopping a very game Islanders squad made for a good test for the Habs. Montreal got five goals from five different players and never trailed in the game. The Islanders had a great game by James Wisniewski spoiled as the defenseman had a goal and two assists in the loss. Meanwhile, the Habs had goals each from Mathieu Darche, Andrei Kostitsyn, Travis Moen, and Tomas Plekanec. Carey Price made 18 saves in the win for Montreal, meanwhile Dwayne Roloson stopped 3o in the loss.

Tampa Bay 5 – Pittsburgh 3

You could say this was a roller coaster of a game for both teams. The Lightning’s Dana Tyrell scored on the first shot of the game, only to see that followed up by Pittsburgh scoring shorthanded twice on the same power play to get ahead 2-1 thanks to Craig Adams and Matt Cooke. Pascal Dupuis followed up shortly after that to make it 3-1 and chased starter Mike Smith from the game. From that point on, Dan Ellis would shut the door and the Lightning would rattle off four straight goals to win. Martin St. Louis scored twice while Vincent Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell added goals as well. Wondering about Steven Stamkos? Sure, he didn’t score a goal but he had three assists in the win.

Chicago 3 – Los Angeles 1

Patrick Sharp stays red hot for the Blackhawks as he netted his ninth goal of the year in the Hawks victory. Marty Turco did a stellar job in stopping 33 Kings shots for the win, allowing just a goal to Justin Williams in the first period. Marian Hossa left the game with an unknown injury to this point. The Hawks have done well given the limitations on their roster but losing Hossa for an extended amount of time would be a tough blow. As it is, the team expects to get defenseman Brian Campbell back this weekend so things are looking up elsewhere. For the Kings, rookie netminder Jonathan Bernier took the loss and stopped 25 shots.

San Jose 5 – New Jersey 2

The Devils tough start to the season continues and tonight it was Joe Thornton casting all the daggers in their defeat. Thornton finished the game with a hat trick and two assists, figuring in on all the Sharks goals in the win. Thornton’s linemates Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau also got paid off from Thornton’s good night as each had a goal and three assists. Antero Niittymaki stopped 27 shots in the win while Martin Brodeur stopped 34 shots in the loss. Something is going to give soon for New Jersey, it’s a just a question of when. If there’s an upside for New Jersey it’s that they broke their road power play 0-for-the-season as defenseman Andy Greene netted a power play goal in the third period.

Senators, Panthers fail to gain in Eastern playoff races

OTTAWA, CANADA - FEBRUARY 7: Jay Harrison #44 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrates his game winning overtime goal with team mate Jeff Skinner #53, during an NHL game at Scotiabank Place on February 7, 2013 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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PHT already touched on the Florida Panthers falling to the Calgary Flames on Friday, but in tandem with the Ottawa Senators losing to the Carolina Hurricanes, it makes for a night of teams failing to gain valuable points out East.

With the Montreal Canadiens failing lately, the Senators had a chance to take first place in the Atlantic by tying the Habs in points while holding games in hand. Instead, they’ll need to wait.

For the sake of simplicity, here are the Atlantic rankings, with emphasis on the top five.

1. Canadiens – 72 points in 61 games played
2. Senators – 70 in 59
3. Maple Leafs – 68 in 60

Bruins – 68 in 61
Panthers – 66 in 60
Sabres and Lightning have 62 in 60, Red Wings have 58 in 60

You can see the Panthers hanging around the perimeter of the top three; a point or two would have made them a bigger threat to Toronto and Boston. Alas, even with a heavier slate of home games lately, Florida has lost two straight at home.

Here’s an updated look at the wild card races after the Panthers failed to make up some ground:

1. Blue Jackets – 79 in 58, more concerned with Metro races
2. Islanders – 68 in 60

Bruins – 68 in 61
Panthers – 66 in 60
Flyers – 63 in 60

Tiebreaker situations would have meant that the Panthers would have ended tonight technically outside of the playoffs anyway, but a win or even a “charity point” congests an already snug situation. Instead, they stayed put and wasted a game.

Ottawa’s still in a solid situation to overtake Montreal or at least maintain a round of home-ice advantage as the second seed in the Atlantic. So while both teams are kicking themselves for their losses, the Panthers have more to be upset about.

Ultimately, some of the biggest winners in the East were teams that didn’t play or that have a lot less to play for.

(Perhaps the Hurricanes feel a little more optimistic, by the way, as 58 points in 57 games played means they could at least theoretically fight their way back into the discussion.)

Road warriors: Flames move to first West wild card spot with win vs. Panthers

SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 24: Troy Brouwer #36 of the Calgary Flames celebrates his second period goal against the Florida Panthers with Lance Bouma #17 and Matt Stajan #18 at the BB&T Center on February 24, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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The road has been doing both the Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers quite a bit of good lately.

Calgary moved to the first wild card spot on Friday after beating the Panthers in Florida by a score of 4-2. So far, they’ve grabbed at least a point in every game during a road trip that ends in Carolina on Sunday:

Feb. 18: 2-1 OT loss at Vancouver
Feb. 21: 6-5 OT win at Nashville
Feb. 23: 3-2 win at Tampa Bay
Tonight: 4-2 win at Florida

You can’t totally blame the Panthers if they almost miss their road trip.

They rattled off five straight wins through what seemed like a brutal road haul on paper, but now they’ve lost back-to-back home games in regulation. With five of six and six of seven slated in Sunrise, the Panthers need to make the most of these opportunities. So far … not so good.

Here’s how the West wild card situations look now:

1. Flames – 68 points in 62 GP
2. Predators – 67 points in 60 GP

Kings – 62 in 60 GP
Jets – 62 in 63 GP

(The Blues could easily slip below the Predators into the wild card spot, as they also have 67 points in 60 games but hold wins and ROW tiebreaker advantages.)

So, Calgary might not manage to maintain its hold over the first wild card spot, but this streak makes a playoff berth look far more likely.

Capitals could make home-ice advantage a serious edge in playoffs

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 01: Brett Connolly #10 of the Washington Capitals celebrates his goal with teammates against the Boston Bruins during the third period at Verizon Center on February 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Look, there’s no escaping the naysayers who will dismiss just about any Washington Capitals accomplishments with snark about past playoff letdowns.

All the Capitals can do is march forward and lock down as many edges as they can.

With 89 standings points after a tight 2-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday, the Capitals look increasingly likely to have home-ice advantage either through the East (seven-point edge on the Penguins or the entire playoffs (five-point edge on idle Wild, who only hold a game in hand on the Caps).

Now, it’s fair to argue that home-ice (or home-court) advantage matters less in hockey than some other sports. Sure, you can line-match more often with the last change, among other advantages. Still, the biggest edges might be mental.

That said … those small edges might be enough for a team as loaded – and with as much urgency – as this rendition of the Capitals.

Heeding the call at the Verizon Center

They’ve now won 13 games in a row at the Verizon Center, improving their overall home record to 25-5-1.

The Capitals are still a strong team on the road (16-7-6), yet that home record is lofty. It also could come in awfully handy, particularly if they face off against the Penguins again. Pittsburgh’s 24-4-3 home mark contrasts sharply with a more modest 13-10-5 road record.

Perhaps this talk is all small potatoes. Still, when you consider how close things have been – in this age of parity, and in the extremely competitive Metropolitian Division specifically – it could be quite the edge.

In short, the Capitals are a pretty scary group possibly with home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. At least as of right now.

As far as the Oilers go, they’re locked in a tight race for second in the Pacific, as the Ducks currently hold the ROW tiebreaker. Grabbing at least a standings point in this one would have helped … but that’s a tall order against the Caps in their own backyard.

It wasn’t all good news for Washington, tonight:

Loss vs. Pens at Stadium Series could push Flyers to sell at trade deadline

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28:  Chris Pryor, Director of Scouting (R), and Ron Hextall General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers (L) sit at their team table on Day Two of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Is a cross-state, historic NHL rivalry not enough to drum up interest in Saturday’s 2017 Stadium Series between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins? Maybe a trade deadline hook will do it for you.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi reports, Flyers GM Ron Hextall already rules his team out as buyers. That leaves two options, really: standing pat or going into “sell mode.”

Hextall provides an interesting nugget in that regard: it might just come down to what happens against the Penguins tomorrow, via NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman:

It seems odd to imagine that the difference between generating zero versus two standings points might dictate a team’s direction, but it also shows the power of parity in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Granted, it’s not like Hextall locks himself into one direction based on the result. Still, it sounds like that game could have some power in swaying his decision.

The Flyers have some interesting trade chips if they do decide to make a move. Michal Neuvirth fears being moved, while Steve Mason at least needs a new contract, leaving their goaltending future up to question.

There are some other interesting UFAs, particularly in defensemen Mark Streit and Michael Del Zotto.

Some Flyers fans believe that they should indeed be sellers, though it’s tough to imagine many of them rooting for the Penguins to win just to make it happen.