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.

Mario Lemieux is ‘fine’ with Josh Ho-Sang wearing number 66

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Believe it or not, many people have an issue with Islanders rookie Josh Ho-Sang wearing number 66, but it sounds like former Penguins great Mario Lemieux isn’t one of them.

On Thursday, Lemieux made it clear that Ho-Sang using his number wasn’t an issue.

“I’m fine with it,” Lemieux said via a spokesperson, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It’s just a number. Number 4 and number 9 were worn by great players (Bobby Orr and Gordie Howe, respectively), and they are not retired forever. Players can choose whatever number they want.”

 Unlike the number 99, the NHL hasn’t retired 66, which means any player can still use it.

Some see it as a sign of disrespect, but Ho-Sang has made it clear that that’s the last thing on his mind when he decided he wanted to wear Lemieux’s old number.

“It’s honoring [Lemieux] and just, I think a lot more people remember who he is now because they’re yelling at me about wearing the number, right? I think that’s cool too,” he told Newsday earlier this month. “There’s a lot of light being shined on an amazing player. By no means am I trying to be better than or trying to prove anything. For me, it’s definitely a tribute to a great player. If he asked me not to wear it, I’d definitely consider it, but I haven’t gotten any phone calls or anything. So for now I’m gonna wear it.”

Even though Lemieux has now given his blessing, don’t be surprised if Penguins fan are all over Ho-Sang during Friday’s game between the two teams at PPG Paints Arena.

PHT Morning Skate: Matt Duchene helps fan land a prom date

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Matt Duchene may be having a tough season, but he picked up a terrific assist on Thursday night, as he flipped a puck to a fan and helped her get a prom date in the process. (Top)

–Sportsnet breaks down the five longest individual playoff streaks. Henrik Zetteberg has the longest active streak, but that’s about to come to an end in the next few weeks. After the Red Wings are officially eliminated from the playoffs, Sharks defenseman Paul Martin will own the longest streak. (Sportsnet)

–As you may have seen, yesterday was National Puppy Day. Several NHL players shared pictures of themselves with their dogs. BarDown has accumulated some of the best ones. (BarDown)

–The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell thinks the NHL could improve the World Cup by taking some ideas from the World Baseball Classic. Campbell writes: “Not only was the World Cup in one country, heck it was in one city, in one arena. The World Baseball Classic, on the other hand, was played in four countries – South Korea, Japan, Mexico and USA, with three different American cities hosting games. If you want to capitalize on the unique passion that many European fans have for the game, you have to bring it to them and make them feel a part of the experience.” (The Hockey News)

Al Montoya is the first Cuban-American player to make it to the NHL, and he spoke to the Montreal Gazette’s Stu Cowan about his heritage. “I’m a first-generation Cuban-American. You don’t really hear that a lot. A lot of these (Cuban) people have been here for a while, so it’s something that’s special to me. Where my grandparents came from … they passed away a few years ago, but for me it was always a sense of pride the way that my grandparents carried themselves. The traditions that we had during the holidays … whatever it might be. (Montreal Gazette)

–The Vegas Golden Knights and Cirque du Soleil have become strategic entertainment partners. This partnership should make in-game entertainment pretty interesting. “Cirque du Soleil has had a significant presence in Las Vegas since 1992 and continues to be one of the most popular entertainment options in town. We are always looking for creative ways to enhance the overall fan experience at our home games and this partnership certainly helps advance that objective.” (NHL.com/GoldenKnights)

A big night for the rookies and a big win for the Maple Leafs

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William Nylander helped get Toronto started on Thursday, extending his point streak to 10 games — a new Maple Leafs franchise record for a rookie.

Connor Brown finished it with his 17th goal of the season, securing a 4-2 win for the Maple Leafs over the New Jersey Devils.

Toronto has won three in a row and moves three points clear of Boston for third in the Atlantic Division, with a game in hand, which further helps the Maple Leafs’ playoff chances with nine games remaining on their schedule.

Just another big night for Toronto’s impressive crop of rookies.

Auston Matthews had a pair of assists.

— Nylander had a goal and an assist. He set one and tied another franchise rookie record on Thursday.

Mitch Marner had an assist, giving him 40 helpers this season, which ties the franchise rookie record set in 1943-44.

“They’re good players,” said coach Mike Babcock, per the Toronto Star. “I didn’t know Marner would make the team. I knew Matthews and Nylander were good players. I knew Brown and (Zach) Hyman were relentless. I had no idea (Nikita) Zaitsev was as close to how good he is.

“We have lots of good players.”

In May of 2015, Babcock predicted at his introductory press conference that the Maple Leafs would, during their massive rebuild, endure “pain.” This was, he said, to be a long process — a “massive, massive challenge.”

Approaching the two-year anniversary of that event — after all the losing that franchise and its fan base has gone through, which obviously helped them with the Matthews lottery last year — the Maple Leafs are poised to make the playoffs with a nucleus of young players that present even more promise for the future.

“We just want to get in to the playoffs, and give ourselves a chance,” continued Babcock. “We’re playing well, and finding a way to win games. That’s what we have to continue to do.”

Capitals defeat Blue Jackets in clash of Metropolitan Division powers

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WASHINGTON (AP) T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington’s 35th shot of the game. Orlov’s goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead.

A showdown between two of the top three teams in the league jockeying for position atop the Metropolitan Division lacked a playoff feel. But the matchup of two likely Vezina Trophy finalists lived up to that billing as Bobrovsky and Holtby went back and forth with big saves.

Bobrovsky entered the night first in wins, goals-against average and save percentage with Holtby second, second and third in those categories. The 2013 Vezina winner could also be an MVP contender this season given his value to Columbus’ third playoff berth in franchise history.

“When he’s in his game it’s very hard to score on him,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had eight shots stopped by one of his Russian national teammates. “He likes the big moments, he likes pressure. His worth ethic is unbelievable. … In my opinion he’s one of the best goalies in the league right now.”