Riding the Zamboni – Thursday, December 9th

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Florida 3 – Washington 0

You can’t say the Panthers didn’t give the Caps opportunities to win. The Caps were 0-8 on the power play tonight while Tomas Vokoun made 36 saves to preserve the shutout for Florida. Vokoun will flash brilliance every now and again and tonight was a sterling example of what he can do on any given night. Stymieing the Capitals slumping offense shows just how good he can be and it also reflects on how much the Caps are struggling to score goals. It’s the third time in eleven games the Capitals have been shutout. As for people who did score goals, Michael Frolik, Steve Bernier, and Mike Santorelli tallied for Florida. For the Panthers, it’s their third straight win.

Philadelphia 4 – Toronto 1

Ah the Maple Leafs. After showing some guts against Pittsburgh and getting wins over Boston and Washington, the Leafs were just about out of gas tonight against the Flyers. Daniel Briere scored twice while Chris Pronger and Ville Leino each had one as well. Brian Boucher stopped 31 shots to get the win for Philly. Things don’t get easier for the Leafs on Saturday as they’ll face off with their arch rivals from Montreal.

NY Rangers 5 – Ottawa 3

What looked like it would be a good start for the Sens turned into a third period meltdown. The teams traded goals all game long and then after a brutal Chris Neil penalty in the third, Mike Sauer’s power play goal, his first career NHL goal, put the Rangers up for good. Mike Fisher had two goals for Ottawa while Marian Gaborik and Michal Roszival had two assists each for New York.

All that actual game stuff aside, Matt Carkner turned out to be the game’s story when video surfaced showing what appeared to be Carkner flicking blood from his head onto the players on the Rangers bench after a fight with Derek Boogaard. Carkner denied after the game that he did that but it would seem to us that he’s just a good (bad?) liar.

Buffalo 6 – San Jose 3

Last night the Sharks played what could’ve been one of the games of the season beating the Flyers in a shootout. Tonight, they looked like a team that was just about out of gas. Buffalo took advantage of the tired Sharks and while the Sharks did well to hang in there, Buffalo dominated the action on the night. Thomas Vanek and Paul Gaustad each scored two goals. Gaustad and Cody McCormick each finished the game with three points as McCormick had a goal and two assists of his own. Logan Couture kept his hot play going for San Jose scoring a goal. For Buffalo it was their third win in four games and vaults them over Ottawa in the Northeast Division for third place.

Boston 5 – NY Islanders 2

Milan Lucic scored two goals, including his fourth empty net goal of the year, as the Bruins took out the Isles. The B’s were able to tack on two empty-netters at the end of the game after Rob Schremp made the score 3-2 with a late third period goal. Special teams is where the B’s made their stake tonight with two power play goals and a shorthanded goal. The real story was the great play from backup goalie Tuukka Rask making 33 saves in the win. Rick DiPietro stopped 32 saves but a failed poke check on Brad Marchand lead to his shorthanded goal in the second period that swung momentum back to the Bruins.

St. Louis 4 – Columbus 1

The slide of the Blue Jackets back to reality continues with another rough game. This time, they ran into a red hot Jaroslav Halak and couldn’t stop the Blues on the power play. Halak stopped 27 shots to get the win meanwhile the first three Blues goals of the night all came on the power play. Alexander Steen, Jay McClement, and Vladimir Sobotka had those man advantage tallies while David Backes added the empty netter. Steve Mason Mathieu Garon was underwhelming in the loss stopping 20 shots. Jan Hejda had Columbus’ lone goal. The Jackets have lost six of their last seven games and now sit last in the tough Central Division.

Minnesota 3 – Phoenix 2

Give it up to the Wild for playing a tough and complete game for the first time in a while. The Wild snapped a five-game losing streak on the back of two goals from Andrew Brunette and one by Brent Burns. Niklas Backstrom stopped 33 shots to earn the win but the only guy he couldn’t stop was Taylor Pyatt as he had both Phoenix goals. Ilya Bryzgalov was strong again for the Coyotes stopping 30 shots. On a disappointing note, the game was seen in front of just 7,749 in Glendale, Arizona. Ouch.

Los Angeles 2 – Calgary 1

A wild and exciting game in Los Angeles closes out with the Kings winning their third game in a row and the Flames losing in frustrating fashion. The Flames had an apparent Matthew Stajan goal disallowed in the first period after a video review because he was seen to have kicked it in. Later on in the first, Kyle Clifford got his first career NHL goal after a Wayne Simmonds centering pass bounced in the goal off his skate. Clifford didn’t kick at the puck and it counted. Anze Kopitar’s third period tip-in on the power play proved to be the decider and his third game-winning goal of the year. Both Jon Quick and Miikka Kiprusoff played out standing. Quick stopped 26 shots for the win while Kiprusoff stopped 30 in the loss.

The game closed out in angry fashion when Rene Bourque and Drew Doughty battled in front of the Los Angeles net. Doughty delivered a gamesman-like cross check to Bourque, but when Bourque got back up he speared Doughty in the groin. Bourque received a slashing penalty on the play but he may be hearing from the NHL tomorrow as the Flames have a game with Anaheim tomorrow night.

Ovechkin shrugs off Caps’ Game 1 loss in very Ovechkin way

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You know, it happens. Maybe not always in those exact words.

The Washington Capitals carried the play during portions of their 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and even down 1-0 in the series, just about every player seemed happy with their overall game.

(Granted, Braden Holtby picked apart two of the three goals he allowed, and so on.)

Still, Alex Ovechkin shrugged off the disappointment in a way that wasn’t quite Rated R, but probably ranks in the PG-13 range:

The penalty element is interesting, though.

When asked after the loss about the lack of power plays, Matt Niskanen merely offered a “no comment.”

The Penguins experienced some sprawling moments, yet they avoided taking a penalty each time. Often, when a team carries long sequences of play, they’ll go on the PP (especially with home-ice advantage) … but not the Capitals in Game 1.

via Natural Stat Trick

It’s a situation to watch as the Capitals hope to even the series against the Penguins with Game 2 coming on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. (You can watch online, via the NBC Sports App and follow the livestream here).

Holtby takes blame for two big goals in Caps’ loss to Pens

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It’s just about a consensus that the Washington Capitals believed that they generally played a strong game despite falling 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Braden Holtby‘s teammates likely wouldn’t agree with his assessment that the Game 1 loss is on his shoulders, but the perennial Vezina candidate took the blame for Sidney Crosby‘s first goal of the night and Nick Bonino‘s game-winner.

Noting that the Penguins are a dangerous rush team – making them a different threat than the Toronto Maple Leafs – Holtby believes that he should have had his glove in position to stop the 1-0 goal. He said he’s capable of making such a stop and “will next time.” Check out Crosby’s two goals below, with Holtby having a beef with the first one:

It’s really difficult to place too much blame on Holtby for giving up Nick Bonino’s game-winner, as it seemed like a great rush play that few goalies would be able to stop.

Judge for yourself in the highlights:

The Penguins were ultimately able to take a 1-0 series lead, but the Capitals seem capable of shrugging off questions about frustrations, even with naysayers starting to gain confidence in claiming that there will be more than the same.

If Washington’s going to get over this big hurdle, Holtby is likely to be a big part in doing so.

Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

(Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).

Karlsson makes difference for Senators vs. Lundqvist, Rangers

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Swedish superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson were both stupendous in Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

Still, it was Karlsson’s game-winning goal (from a seemingly impossible angle) against Lundqvist that made the difference as the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 on Thursday. With that, the Senators are up 1-0 in the series.

That Karlsson goal really deserves a special look.

Whether you blame that 2-1 tally on Lundqvist or not, the Rangers would be foolish to do anything but praise their red-hot franchise goalie. He stopped all 21 Senators shots in the first period and ultimately made 41 out of 43 stops in defeat.

Craig Anderson was strong in his own right, mind you, stopping 34 out of 35 shots (including all 28 at even-strength) to help Ottawa take that tight contest.

Anderson’s strong play highlights the fact that Rangers – Senators doesn’t merely come down to Lundqvist vs. Karlsson … but even so, both Swedish superstars really did stand out in this one.

Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.