Riding the Zamboni – Saturday, November 20th

1 Comment

A busy night and if you’re a fan of the shootout, tonight was basically made for you. Doesn’t that make you feel special? You’re welcome. Anyhow, on with the recaps!

Los Angeles 4 – Boston 3 (F/SO)

The Kings blew a 3-0 lead but won thanks to Michal Handzus’ shootout winner and Jon Quick stopping 38 shots on the way to the win. Handzus’ goal was the only one in the six-round shootout. Handzus also had a regulation goal to get one that counts on the stat sheets. Tim Thomas may have stopped only 23 shots but many of them were dazzling saves. Don’t be too surprised if you see him show up in our “save of the night.” The win snaps the Kings’ mini-funk of three straight losses.

Tampa Bay 2 – Buffalo 1

It wasn’t pretty by any means and it wasn’t all that fun to watch, but the Lightning got one over on the Sabres with a little (a lot?) of help by Patrick Lalime. Lalime’s goaltending boner allowing Adam Hall to score the eventual game-winning goal was the lowlight of the game. As for good goaltending, Mike Smith stopped 29 shots for Tampa Bay. Thomas Vanek and Teddy Purcell also had goals in this one.

Montreal 2 – Toronto 0

Carey Price’s hot season continues as he stopped 30 shots en route to his fourth shutout of the season. Jeff Halpern and Mike Cammalleri had the goals for the Habs while they kept Jonas Gustavsson busy all night long throwing 39 shots on goal at him. Gustavsson did what he could to keep the Leafs in the game saving 37 shots. Highlight of the night came when the Habs paid tribute to former coach Pat Burns before the game with a beautiful tribute.

Florida 4 – NY Islanders 1

There’s only one real way we can sum things up for the Islanders after losing their 12th straight game.  Take it away Sesame Street.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Mike Santorelli had two goals for the Panthers while Tomas Vokoun saved 39 shots. Good luck getting that song out of your heads though.

Philadelphia 5 – Washington 4 (F/SO)

A wild, back and forth game between these rivals was decided, sadly, in the shootout. Daniel Briere scored the lone goal in the shootout to give Philly the win. Meanwhile, Brian Boucher held strong in getting a rare start of late stopping 33 shots. Mike Richards stayed hot for Philly with a goal and an assist while Jason Chimera led the way for Washington with a goal and an assist himself.

Nashville 2 – Carolina 1 (F/SO)

Jared Smithson and Joni Pitkanen scored for their respective teams in regulation while Martin Erat had the winning goal in the shootout for Nashville. Cam Ward made 26 saves for Carolina while Pekka Rinne had a quiet night stopping just 21. The win makes four wins in the last five games for Nashville.

St. Louis 3 – New Jersey 2

The Blues took advantage of some good luck and good bounces tonight spoiling the NHL debut of Devils goalie Mike McKenna. The former St. Lawrence Universty standout and one-time Twitter superstar played strong despite the loss. Matt D’Agostini may not have scored a goal for St. Louis, but the team’s leading goal-scorer added two assists in the win. Lost in the game is the fact that Jaroslav Halak played outstanding in the win saving 35 shots in the victory to help the Blues snap out of their defensive funk.

NY Rangers 5 – Minnesota 2

The homecoming for Marian Gaborik ended with plenty of boos as was predicted and Gaborik netting just one assist and fellow former Wild favorite Derek Boogaard managed to help set up a goal with a crushing hit in the first period. An unusually sloppy game from Minnesota helped get Dan Girardi the first star of the night with two assists. Meanwhile Martin Biron stopped 26 shots in the win. Brandon Dubinsky scored his team-leading 12th goal, meanwhile Martin Havlat and Matt Cullen had a goal each for Minnesota.

Colorado 4 – Dallas 3 (F/SO)

Milan Hejduk’s two goals and Kevin Porter’s shootout winner helped pace the Avalanche past the Stars. Dallas overcame a 3-0 deficit early on to storm back and tie things up to get the loser point going to overtime, but Kari Lehtonen wasn’t able to pull out all the stops in the shootout to get the win. Brenden Morrow and James Neal each scored their eighth goal of the season in tying things up. Peter Budaj made 26 saves in getting the surprise start over Craig Anderson.

Chicago 7 – Vancouver 1

Remember when I said during the goalie preview that Roberto Luongo would have to get over his Chicago problem sometime? Yeah… That wasn’t tonight. The Hawks ran Luongo out of the game after getting up 4-0 and Cory Schneider didn’t provide much in relief. Fernando Pisani was the secret star of the game scoring two goals. Patrick Kane had a goal and two assists while Marian Hossa quietly added three assists. Corey Crawford had his shutout bid spoiled in the third when Mikael Samuelsson scored on the power play. After the game, the Canucks were upset that the Blackhawks were putting out their top power play unit while up 6-0 and on a 5-on-3 power play. Our advice to Vancouver: Suck it up and learn how to finally beat the Blackhawks. After all, we didn’t read about any complaining from Chicago after they were thumped 7-2 the night before in Calgary.

Columbus 3 – San Jose 0

Not a bad night for the Blue Jackets. Mathieu Garon stops 35 shots in earning his third shutout of the year and team captain and superstar Rick Nash scores a hat trick. This feels like a thesis paper kind of game wherein we finally get a shutout and a hat trick in the same game. Now I know how Pigman in the movie “PCU” felt when doing his thesis on the Michael Caine-Gene Hackman theory. The Blue Jackets might want to play the rest of their games on the road as they’ve now got a 6-1-0 record there this year and have beaten the Sharks twice.

The Buzzer: Bolts send Devils packing, Caps jump ahead, Leafs extend series

Leave a comment

Three games on Saturday

Tampa Bay Lightning 3, New Jersey Devils 1 (Lightning win series 4-1)

The Devils were one of the biggest surprises in the NHL this season, but their 2017-18 campaign officially came to an end on Saturday. They’ll be disappointed, but this season was a success for the group. As for the Bolts, they’ve punched their ticket to the second round after a terrific regular season. The Lightning received point-per-game production from Nikita Kucherov (1o points), Steven Stamkos (6 points) and Alex Killorn (5 points), but they also had 14 different players pick up a point during the series.

 Washington Capitals 4, Blue Jackets 3 (OT) (Capitals lead series 3-2)

Four of the five games in the series have gone to overtime. Game 5 was a typical back-and-forth affair, as the Jackets scored first before the Capitals went up 2-1. Columbus tied the game, Washington went ahead, again, 3-2, but a dominant third period led to the Blue Jackets forcing overtime. Nicklas Backstrom tipped-home the game-winning goal in overtime to give the Capitals the first home win of the series. This has clearly been the best first-round series of the playoffs.

Toronto Maple Leafs 4, Boston Bruins 3 (Bruins lead series 3-2)

The Maple Leafs jumped out to 2-0 and 4-1 leads, but the Bruins managed to make things interesting in the third period. Boston had a number of power play opportunities, but they couldn’t cash in. Unfortunately for the Bruins, they’ll have to go back on the road to try to put the Leafs to bed. The Leafs managed to keep Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand off the scoresheet on Saturday. Replicating that two more times won’t be easy.

Three Stars

1. Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals

Backstrom scored two goals, including the overtime winner against the Blue Jackets in Game 5. He also added an assist on T.J. Oshie‘s go-ahead goal late in the second frame. The win gave the Caps a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. The 30-year-old has two goals and eight points in five games this postseason.

2. Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

The Capitals had a one-goal lead heading into the third frame, but they were badly outplayed in the third period. Holtby is the biggest reason why Washington was able to make it to overtime at all. The Blue Jackets outshot the Capitals 16-1 in the third frame. Holtby had a rough season, but his play in Game 5 was very encouraging.

3. Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs had to kill a number of penalties during their Game 5 win over the Bruins, and Andersen was one of the key reasons they were able to do so. The Leafs netminder faced at least 40 shots for the third time in five games (he’s 2-1 in those contests). If Toronto wants to force a seventh game, they’ll need him to turn in another fantastic performance on Monday night.

Factoid of the Night

Sunday’s Schedule

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers, 3:00 p.m. ET

Nashville Predators vs. Colorado Avalanche, 7:00 p.m. ET

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Leafs chase Rask, hold on to win Game 5

6 Comments

The Toronto Maple Leafs came into Saturday’s game facing elimination, but they managed to force a sixth game, thanks to a 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins.

The Maple Leafs built up a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission with goals from Connor Brown and Andreas Johnsson. They would increase it to a 4-1 lead in the second period. That’s when the Bruins pulled Tuukka Rask in favor of backup Anton Khudobin.

After the goalie swap, Sean Kuraly managed to cut the deficit to 4-2 before the end of the frame.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Toronto did their best to blow their lead, as they took penalty after penalty in the second half of the game. The Leafs took the final four penalties, but the Bruins failed to convert on their opportunities on the man-advantage. They even gave the Bruins a 5-on-3 power play for over 1:30 before Kuraly scored moments later.

Goalie Frederik Andersen turned aside 42 of 45 shots. This was the third time in five games that he faced at least 40 shots in this series.

The Leafs will now return home for Game 6 on Monday night. They’ll need to perform more like they did in the first half of Saturday’s game if they want to force Game 7 in Boston.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Backstrom provides OT winner as Capitals take 3-2 series lead

5 Comments

The Washington Capitals are on the verge of the second round.

Yes, the Capitals, who began the series with back-to-back losses in Game 1 and 2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, are now on the brink of eliminating Ohio’s team after Nicklas Backstrom‘s deft deflection in overtime gave the Capitals their third straight win and a 3-2 series lead.

It was the fourth time in the series both clubs played to a tie in regulation. After Columbus won the first two in OT, Washington replied with a win in double-overtime in Game 3 before Backstrom ended Game 5 at the 11:53 mark of the first frame of free hockey.

Backstrom scored his first goal of the series to open the scoring for the Caps and assisted for the sixth time in the series on the go-ahead goal in the second period before Oliver Bjorkstrand tied it in third.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Braden Holtby had to be sharp, especially in the third period as, inexplicably, the Caps were outshot 16-1. At home. Holtby made 40 saves when it was all said and done.

Two-hundred feet away, Sergei Bobrovsky was up to the task, making some silly stops including a big one on Alex Ovechkin earlier in overtime and a bigger one in regulation time off the same man’s stick.

Game 6 of this series is slated for Monday in Columbus, with a start time still to be determined.

In his post-game comments, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said, twice, that his team will be back in the capital for Game 7.

The promise has been made.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Kucherov, Vasilevskiy shine as Lightning eliminate Devils in 5

1 Comment

One’s up for the Hart as the NHL’s best player while the other is up for the Vezina as the league’s top goaltender. Both combined their talents to eliminate the New Jersey Devils with a 2-1 win in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Saturday.

Nikita Kucherov was once again on point for the Tampa Bay Lightning in Saturday’s matinee. Leading 1-0 in the third period, Kucherov scored a clutch goal — his fifth of the series — to put the Lightning from just inside the blue line to put the Bolts up two with seven minutes and change remaining.

It proved vital, Kucherov’s goal, as the Devils attempted a late comeback with Kyle Palmieri scored with three minutes remaining after Devils pulled Cory Schneider for the extra attacker 30 seconds earlier.

Andrei Vasilevskiy stood tall in the final 180 seconds, stopping 26-of-27 to help usher the Lightning into the second round.

Tampa, the Atlantic Division winners in the regular season, will face the winner of the series between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, who play later on Saturday in Game 5. The Bruins lead the series 3-1.

Kucherov was as immense for the Lightning as he was oppressive for the Devils, adding five assists to bring his series total to 10 points. His usual scoring touch was supplemented by his play in the physical department, including this bone-crushing hit on New Jersey defenseman Sami Vatanen.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

For the Devils, it was hard-fought series from a young team still trying to find its way in the playoffs.

The Devils abandoned goalie Keith Kinkaid after dropping the first two games. Cory Schneider, who hadn’t won a game in 2018 before Game 3, came in and provided the spark in goal, one that seemed to get the Devils going at the other end of the rink as well as they rolled to a 5-3 win.

But that well ran dry in Game 4 as the Devils produced just one goal in a 3-1 loss. Game 5 was much the same, production-wise, with the Devils only managing one goal.

Fellow Hart Trophy candidate Taylor Hall provided two goals and six points in the series after a 93-point regular season. Rookie Nico Hischier managed just a goal after scoring 20 in his rookie campaign.

For Vasilevskiy, after looking far more human in the second half of the season, finding his mojo again can only be mean bad things for future playoff opponents.

The young Russian finished with a .941 save percentage in the series.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck