Edmonton Oilers v Montreal Canadiens

Riding the Zamboni – Wednesday, December 1st

Edmonton 4 – Montreal 3 (F/OT)

Some nights a loss is worse than normal. The Habs went into the third period of this game with a 3-1 lead on Edmonton and playing great. The foot came off the gas pedal and the Oilers took advantage. Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner scored in the final ten minutes of the game to send it to overtime. There, Dustin Penner won it on a breakaway goal after a brutal turnover by Mike Cammalleri. Both Cammalleri and P.K. Subban were instrumental in Edmonton’s final two goals. The win is Edmonton’s second in a row, their first two-game win streak since the first two games of the year. For Montreal, it serves to be a lesson that sometimes playing it safe means death.

Boston 3 – Philadelphia 0

Tim Thomas had himself a hell of a night. Thomas had 41 saves in what turned out to be his fifth shutout of the year. Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin, and Milan Lucic had the goals for Boston as they got a little bit of payback on the Flyers after they ousted Boston last season. Sergei Bobrovsky made 29 saves for Philly in the loss.

Nashville 4 – Columbus 3 (F/SO)

Who knew that these division rivals would have a barn burner of a game? While Antoine Vermette had two goals for Columbus, it would be Steve Sullivan and his ridiculous deke in the shootout that would win the day for Nashville.

Washington 4 – St. Louis 1

What do you get with a rested Caps team and a Blues team that lost a 7-5 slugfest last night? A tired Blues team getting skated off the ice. Nicklas Backstrom had two goals and an assist for the Caps while Semyon Varlamov had a busy night stopping 37 shots for the win. Don’t let the shot total fool you, Washington was in control of the game but still, a stellar effort out of the young goalie to get it done. Alex Steen had the lone goal for St. Louis.

Phoenix 4 – Minnesota 2

The Wild drop another one but it wasn’t without trying. Coyotes goalie Jason LaBarbera made life on the Wild difficult stopping 33 shots in the win. Scottie Upshall scored twice for Phoenix to lead the way. For Minnesota, it seems like piling on because any mistake the team makes ends up in the back of the net and now it’s the team leaders that are making the mistakes. For Phoenix, the win snaps a two game skid while the Wild have now lost three in a row. Pierre-Marc Bouchard played 14:05 in his first game back in over a year and had no points and finished a -2 on the night.

Vancouver 7 – Calgary 2

Things got out of hand fast in Calgary for the Flames and by the time it was over, Mason Raymond finished with a hat trick and an assist while Jeff Tambellini had a goal and an assist. Daniel Sedin scored his 14th goal of the year while Ryan Kesler and Henrik Sedin each added two assists. For Calgary, the inconsistency continues while Vancouver looks like they’re starting to figure things out.

Anaheim 5 – Florida 3

This game was one of miracles. Ducks enforcer George Parros finished the game with more goals than fights (two goals, one fight). Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry each had a goal and an assist as well for Anaheim who stays hot. Meanwhile the Florida Panthers snapped their horrendous power play inefficiency streak and piled on by scoring twice with the man advantage, each time by Steve Bernier. Bernier finished the game with three points earning an assist on Mike Santorelli’s goal in the second period.

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.