Riding the Zamboni – Saturday, December 11th

There’s a lot to get to tonight so… Let’s just get to it already.

Philadelphia 2 – Boston 1 (F/OT)

A Bruins comeback sent to defeat as Mike Richards scored with three seconds left in overtime to give Philly the win. James van Riemsdyk had Philly’s other goal while Nathan Horton continues to be Boston’s main source of offense. Both Brian Boucher and Tim Thomas were both outstanding in this one, but Boucher’s 35 save performance was top notch. Thomas was no slouch stopping 31 shots of his own. Every time these two teams match up it makes us hope they get to face each other again in the playoffs.

Pittsburgh 5 – Buffalo 2

Make it 12 in a row for the Penguins. In a feisty affair with Buffalo it wasn’t Sidney Crosby who led the way but rather recently called up rookie Dustin Jeffrey, the AHL’s leading scorer this season, who got it done. Jeffrey had a goal and an assist to lead the Pens to victory. Sidney Crosby did keep his point streak alive and extended it to 18 games with an assist on Alex Goligoski’s third period goal. Goligoski finished with an impressive +4 rating for the game.

Toronto 3 – Montreal 1

A classic rivalry tilt in Toronto ended up with happy fans and no waffles hitting the ice from anyone posing as the Waffle Man. Phil Kessel and Tomas Kaberle had first period goals to set the pace against what looked like a bad Habs team tonight. You can’t hang the loss on backup goalie Alex Auld who got a rare start in this one, it was on the effort of his teammates in front of him instead. Kris Versteeg added an empty net goal for the final tally. Jean-Sebastian Giguere was solid in the win stopping 22 shots.

Detroit 4 – New Jersey 1

This one was over before it really got started. The Red Wings scored on their first two shots of the game with Tomas Holmstrom scoring 28 seconds in and Dan Cleary scoring 1:14 after that. For the Devils it was a rough night with the fans booing the team and Martin Brodeur hearing Bronx cheers for making saves. They at least had a Patrick Elias goal to cheer for, but that’s about it. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk added goals for Detroit while Chris Osgood won his 399th career game.

Atlanta 5 – NY Islanders 4

A wild, up and down game with 1,100 Quebec Nordiques fans in attendance helped make this one hell of a way to sell the game to these fans that likely won’t get to see either of these teams play in Quebec City.  Johnny Oduya scored his first two goals of the year for Atlanta, Bryan Little scored a goal reminiscent of something Mario Lemieux or Adam Oates would do off a face off and the Thrashers held on to beat the Islanders. Blake Comeau had two goals in a losing effort for the Isles who keep slipping away in the East.

Colorado 3 – Washington 2

The Caps dropped their fifth game in a row in a game Colorado was in control of most of the way thanks to goalie Craig Anderson. Anderson made 40 saves in the win while Kevin Shattenkirk, Ryan Wilson, and Paul Stastny had goals. Mike Knuble had a goal and assisted Matt Hendricks on his third period goal but it wasn’t enough. Caps fans are likely getting as antsy as the players are frustrated.

Columbus 3 – NY Rangers 1

Tonight was the Rick Nash show as the Jackets superstar scored twice to lead the way over New York. Steve Mason wasn’t too bad either stopping 32 shots for Columbus. For Nash, the goals are his 15th and 16th on the season as he’s quietly gotten himself back into position in the goal scoring race. While Crosby and Stamkos are well ahead of the pack, all it takes is one hot streak to get serious. This could be the start of something big for Nash.

Carolina 2 – St. Louis 1 (F/SO)

Goalie showdown? Goalie showdown. Cam Ward came out on top in this one making 38 saves and standing tall in the shootout to get Carolina the win. Jaroslav Halak was no slouch himself making 28 saves. Brandon Sutter and Alex Pietrangelo had the goals in regulation while Jussi Jokinen had the shootout winner.

Nashville 3 – Florida 0

Anders Lindback earned his first career shutout stopping 22 shots. Ryan Suter added a goal and an assist for the Predators who have now won two in a row.

Phoenix 5 – Dallas 2

A bad night for Andrew Raycroft and the Stars in Phoenix. Shane Doan scored twice and Raycroft was chased from the game leading to Richard Bachman seeing his first NHL action in goal. Keith Yandle had a goal and two assists to pace the offense. Ilya Bryzgalov was solid once again making 33 saves.

Tampa Bay 5 – Vancouver 4 (F/OT)

Remember Steve Stamkos? Sure you do, he was the guy that was taking the NHL by storm just a week or two ago. He was back tonight in leading the Lightning to victory spoiling Markus Naslund’s special night in Vancouver. Stamkos scored twice, including the game-winner in overtime, and added an assist to give Tampa Bay the win. For Stamkos the goals bring him to 24 on the season, two behind Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead. Daniel and Henrik Sedin each had a goal and an assist for Vancouver. Dan Ellis stopped 23 for Tampa Bay while Cory Schneider stopped just 18 for the Canucks.

Minnesota 3 – Los Angeles 2 (F/OT)

Kings goalie Jon Quick played like a secret agent for the Wild. Sloppy play and puck turnovers helped lead the Wild to victory as two brutal mishandles by Quick led to both of Minnesota’s goals in regulation. Quick stopped just 18 shots in the loss. On the other side of things, Jose Theodore played solidly for Minnesota. Brent Burns’ overtime power play goal proved to be the game winner. Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown each had two points for Los Angeles, Brown with a goal and an assist and Kopitar with two assists.

San Jose 2 – Chicago 1 (F/OT)

Ryane Clowe’s two-goal night for San Jose will get overlooked in this one thanks to one quick whistle in the first period. What was believed to be a goal by Viktor Stalberg was waived off thanks to a fast whistle by the officials. That non-goal turned out to be big for San Jose as they were able to get the game to overtime and help Antti Niemi beat his former team. Both Niemi and Corey Crawford played well, each stopping 28 shots.

The West’s next round is now set (and wide-open)

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Saturday was a great day for fans of brevity and revenge.

Three of a possible three series ended on this day, with the Rangers dispatching the Canadiens, the Blues eliminating the “better” Wild, and the Oilers knocking off the Sharks in six.

The Rangers await either the Bruins or Senators and the Penguins face the winner of the Leafs – Capitals series out East, but we now know how the West shakes out.

St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators

Both teams provided some of the upsets of this young postseason. Each features a red-hot goalie in Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne. Interesting.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers

There will be a lot of orange. We may also see a ton of goals with Ryan Getzlaf on fire, Oscar Klefbom headlining the list of unhealthy players and Connor McDavid possibly able to really take off against a Ducks defense that is beat up in its own right.

It’s already been a strange season out West, with the Kings missing the playoffs and first-round exits for the Sharks and Blackhawks. Get ready – and giddy – for things to get even weirder as the postseason goes along.

Oilers win first series since 2006 after Sharks fall crossbar short of overtime

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After making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers weren’t just “happy to be there.” They confirmed as much by eliminating the San Jose Sharks with a 3-1 victory in Game 6, winning the series 4-2.

Yes, those young Oilers just eliminated the team that represented the West in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Wow.

Ultimately, winning the breakaway battle in the second period indeed made the difference. Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored on their chances in the middle frame while Patrick Marleau could not; Slepyshev’s 2-0 goal ultimately became the series-clincher.

Now, that’s not to say that Marleau was a drag on San Jose. If this is it for one of the faces of the franchise, he had a great 2016-17, including generating the Sharks’ final goal of the postseason.

The Shark Tank was alive after Marleau reduced the Oilers’ lead to 2-1, and more than a few blood pressures rose – both in Edmonton and San Jose – after the Sharks got this close to tying things up.

Wow.

With this result, the West is set. The St. Louis Blues will take on the Nashville Predators while the Oilers face the Anaheim Ducks.

As much as people try to put the training wheels on Connor McDavid & Co., the West is wide-open enough that it’s not so outrageous to imagine a big run for Edmonton.

Beating the Sharks is a pretty nice way of adding an exclamation point to that statement win. And hey … they beat the Sharks last time around, too.

Canadiens sound a lot like Wild after playoff exit (without ‘better team’ talk)

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Much like the Minnesota Wild earlier on Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens are stunned to approach the golf courses so rapidly.

Many of the responses after the New York Rangers eliminated them in Game 6 sound a lot like what the Wild uttered, though there’s no potential bulletin board material like Bruce Boudreau’s line about the better team failing to win four games.

Max Pacioretty viewed this early exit as a “missed opportunity” and never really believed that an elimination was coming.

Claude Julien provided parallel comments to Bruce Boudreau, believing that Montreal generated chances but lacked “finish.”

Brendan Gallagher? He worries that this might have been the Canadiens’ best chance, something the Wild must also worry about with a difficult offseason ahead.

Now, it’s likely that most teams speak about being shocked and expecting better after being booted from the postseason.

Still, these reactions do shine a light on the staggering nature of some of these exits. Will the likes of the Blackhawks, Canadiens and Wild struggle to be in such prime positions in the future? With the Sharks needing a comeback against the Oilers, could the trend continue on Saturday?

The bottom line is that, instead of preparing for a Game 7 after winning the Atlantic Division, the Canadiens are packing up their stuff and worrying about re-signing Carey Price. That’s a pretty stunning turnaround, regardless of the soundbytes available.

Video: Draisaitl, Slepyshev score on breakaways, Talbot spurns Marleau

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Some playoff games or even series come down to something as stupidly simple as one team taking advantage of their opportunities while the other fails to capitalize on chances.

If Game 6 of the Oilers – Sharks series follows the story of the second period, then San Jose may join Saturday’s stream of eliminated teams.

It’s not fair to boil it down to three breakaways, but some might feel that way.

Leon Draisaitl looked like a gritty, strong veteran during his first career playoff goal, bulling his way to the net for 1-0 breakaway tally. About a minute later, Anton Slepyshev was even more alone against Martin Jones, and he scored his first postseason goal to make it 2-0.

That stings for the Sharks, and it doesn’t help that they had a similar chance not long after. This time around, Patrick Marleau couldn’t beat Cam Talbot, so it remained 2-0 for Edmonton.

That’s the same score as the game enters the third period, even with some dangerous late chances for the Sharks.

If the Sharks don’t score at least two goals in the third, their push to return to the Stanley Cup Final could end in the first round.