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Riding the Zamboni – Wednesday, December 15th: Hat tricks for everyone!

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Detroit 5 – St. Louis 2

The night of hat tricks starts with a legend getting his first career hat trick. 40 year-old Nicklas Lidstrom had the hat trick to lead Detroit to an impressive win over Jaroslav Halak and the Blues. Considering how long Lidstrom’s been in the league this being his first hat trick is amazing in itself. Lidstrom has had a remarkable year and with a healthy Wings lineup around him, he looks like the multiple Norris Trophy winner once again. We’re not exactly sure that Lidstrom ages the way humans do.

Buffalo 3 – Boston 2

Drew Stafford was healthy for Buffalo tonight and for the Sabres it’s a good thing because his hat trick was all the offense they could muster in taking out Boston. Tuukka Rask and Ryan Miller were equally solid in goal, but it was Miller’s 32 saves that stood taller than Rask’s 32 saves in the end.

Vancouver 3 – Columbus 2 (F/OT)

Much like Drew Stafford did for Buffalo, Ryan Kesler was all that for Vancouver. His overtime winner gave him a hat trick and gave the Canucks a tough win over the Blue Jackets. Roberto Luongo \stopped 28 shots in this one playing the part of a clutch goaltender while Mathieu Garon stopped 27 shots. For Vancouver it’s their third win in their last four games.

Colorado 4 – Chicago 3

Chicago is getting tired of seeing Colorado and tonight it was new Avalanche forward Tomas Fleischmann causing them pain netting a hat trick to lead the Avs to victory. Fleischmann’s trick helped make Chicago goalie Corey Crawford look bad in the loss as the speedy Avs kept giving the Blackhawks fits. Crawford stopped just 19 shots in the loss while Craig Anderson saved 35 for the Avs.

New Jersey 3 – Phoenix 0

From the department of “Headlines the Devils wish they saw all year long” Ilya Kovalchuk had a pair of goals while Martin Brodeur earned his third shutout of the season stopping 29 Coyotes shots. Is it the sign of a breakout coming? Perhaps. Kovalchuk has two goals and three assists in his last three games. It’s baby steps for the Devils but it’s something.

NY Rangers 4 – Pittsburgh 1

It’s only natural that after a 12 game winning streak that things slow down a little bit right? Tonight the Rangers had a four-goal third period to put the Penguins away in Pittsburgh. Erik Christensen and Alexander Frolov scored goals 13 seconds apart in the third to silence the Pittsburgh crowd. The Pens had what they thought was a tying goal disallowed because Pascal Dupuis interfered with Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers then added two more goals from Artem Anisimov and Brian Boyle to put it away. The win is impressive since Ryan Callahan left the game in the first period with a broken hand. Lundqvist stopped 27 saves in the win while Brent Johnson ate the loss for Pittsburgh saving 18 shots.

Anaheim 2 – Washington 1 (F/OT)

Seven losses in a row for Washington now. Ryan Getzlaf put the Caps away in overtime with his game winner, but if there’s an upside to things for Washington, they played tough defensively and got solid goaltending out of Semyon Varlamov. That’s a start. The offense continued to suffer, this time at the hands of the posts and the hot game from Jonas Hiller. Hiller stopped 31 shots in the win

Philadelphia 5 – Montreal 3

Another night, another intense game between these two teams. Philadelphia had a 3-0 lead before Chris Pronger left the game with an injury and the Habs stormed back to tie it up at three halfway through the third period on a Brian Gionta goal. It would be James van Riemsdyk’s power play goal with just over five minutes to play that would put Philly ahead for good though. For van Riemsdyk it was his second goal of the night to lead the way for the Flyers. Claude Giroux would score a minute later to provide the final tally of the game. Jeff Carter had a goal and two assists while Sergei Bobrovsky made 38 saves in the win. Habs defenseman P.K. Subban will likely be the center of discussion again as offensively he had a solid game with a goal and an assist, but defensively he made two big mistakes that turned into Flyers goals.

Tampa Bay 2 – Atlanta 1 (F/SO)

Carolina 4 – Florida 3

What started off looking like a Florida romp turned into a great comeback win for the Hurricanes. The Panthers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead scoring two goals in the first 1:42 of the game with Evgeni Dadonov scoring 29 seconds in followed up by a Michal Frolik goal. That chased out starter Cam Ward from the game and Justin Peters would take over to allow just one more goal four minutes later and settle in after that. From then on it was all Carolina with Tuomo Ruutu scoring twice with Jeff Skinner and Sergei Samsonov each adding two assists a piece. Tomas Vokoun would surrender the lead in perplexing manner as he’d go from making outstanding highlight reel saves to making brutal turnovers that ended up in the back of the net. Vokoun finished the game with 30 saves while Peters finished out with 20 and the win.

Nashville 3 – San Jose 2

In case you haven’t noticed, the Predators are on a bit of a roll now. They’ve won their fourth straight game and seven of their last eight games. They’ve done it with rookie goalie Anders Lindback providing all the support they need and tonight he was huge on the score sheet and in stature. The 6’5″ Swede stopped 25 shots to earn the win as the Predators came back from down 2-1 heading into the third to secure the victory. Sergei Kostitsyn and Colin Wilson scored 44 seconds apart with under four minutes to play to pull ahead and secure the win. Dany Heatley scored his 14th goal of the year for San Jose while Antti Niemi was the tough luck loser stopping 32 shots.

Early thoughts – and praise – for Capitals landing Kevin Shattenkirk

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Jaws dropped around the hockey world when news broke that the Washington Capitals landed Kevin Shattenkirk in a blockbuster trade. Heads were then scratched as people tried to make sense of the “conditions” of a conditional second-rounder involved in the move.

With a little time for the smoke to clear and with the assets revealed, here are some scattered thoughts.

PHT will likely cover more of the fallout on Tuesday and beyond, though, so stay tuned.

Brian MacLellan deserves consideration as a top GM

Judging an executive can be really tricky; while a GM of the Year award is easy to justify, it’s also easy to mock. Even the best managers inherit a roster (aside from MacLellan’s predecessor George McPhee, who will build one in Vegas), so you have to credit some successes to the guy who came before.

And, yes, McPhee helped put together a core that includes Alex Ovechkin, Braden Holtby and Nicklas Backstrom.

Even so, MacLellan evokes Stan Bowman in masterfully adding tremendous electrons to a fantastic nucleus.

He added Matt Niskanen (and, admittedly, flubbed it with Brooks Orpik) to beef up a defense to help the shrewd hiring of Barry Trotz as head coach. Trotz seems like he’s ending what was a busy procession of shaky bench bosses.

MacLellan really nailed it the next summer, trading for T.J. Oshie and signing Justin Williams to a bargain deal. A year later, the Capitals added a fantastic third-line center option in Lars Eller via a smart trade.

And now this. It’s not clear where Kevin Shattenkirk will fit in the Capitals’ lineup, but either way, he boosts an already formidable group.

Misc.

Let’s lightning round some other thoughts.

  • Scottie Upshall joked about all the one-timers Shattenkirk is primed to set up for Alex Ovechkin … but he has a point.
  • It’s difficult to imagine the Capitals re-signing Shattenkirk, putting continued emphasis on the talk of Washington being in the last season of a “two-year window” to make their greatest push for a Stanley Cup. At the same time, there aren’t a lot of problem contracts beyond Orpik’s in Washington, so the plus side is that MacLellan can also show how he might be Bowman-like in making the right calls in who to bring back. Make no mistake about it, getting Shattenkirk is about now, not later.
  • Oh yeah the Capitals also got a nice sneaky bonus in landing Pheonix Copley, who better have the nickname “typo.”

All things considered, it’s no surprise that the Capitals are excited.

There’s at least a chance Shattenkirk might be able to suit up for Washington as soon as Tuesday’s game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, but either way, this sure looks like a slam dunk.

Wild just wouldn’t stay down, edge Kings in OT

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Don’t blame Ben Bishop if, deep down, he was glad that he didn’t make his Los Angeles Kings debut on Monday.

After seeing the kind of speed, drive and all-around electric play displayed by the Minnesota Wild, you can understand a goalie shuddering at the often wide-open action. Despite falling behind four times against the Kings, the Wild ultimately edged Los Angeles 5-4 in an overtime thriller.

Mikael Granlund‘s 20th goal of the season ended it in OT, and quickly. And it was beautiful:

…. Unless you’re Jonathan Quick and the Kings, that is.

Granlund is absolutely on fire right now.

Ryan White made a great first impression for the Wild, scoring a goal and an assist (while displaying great flow). Martin Hanzal wasn’t able to score, though he did make his presence felt with five hits. And, again, Bishop might have secretly been relieved to put his Kings debut on hold.

Marian Gaborik turned back the clock a bit to his Wild prime, scoring a goal and an assist. He generally made quite a bit happen for Los Angeles.

It was a tough one for Anze Kopitar, meanwhile, who was unable to generate offense and suffered a -3. He wasn’t able to stop Granlund in OT, though who could?

The Wild still must worry as mumps sidelined at least Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, but for now, they’re battling on. Just ask the Kings how resilient this group really is.

Sell this: Kucherov, Lightning put trades behind them, blast Senators

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The Tampa Bay Lightning might be in sell mode, but that doesn’t mean their players are quitting on this season.

After shipping Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle out of town, they could have rolled over against a hungry Ottawa Senators team. Instead, they blew them out, winning 5-1 on Monday.

Nikita Kucherov was the biggest standout, collecting a natural hat trick, which you can watch above. (He also generated an assist.)

Jonathan Drouin had a big night in his own right, assisting on all three of Kucherov’s goals. Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson generated two assists apiece, as well.

And, yes, Andrei Vasilevskiy inspired at least a few “Ben who?” jokes by making 39 out of 40 saves, including this beauty:

As you can see, Ottawa actually had a 1-0 lead at that point, so it could have been a different game if the agile goalie did do the splits there.

The Lightning are still five points out of the final wild card spot, trailing Boyle’s new team in the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators, meanwhile, find themselves slipping a bit out of the race to win the Atlantic Division, especially considering Montreal’s comeback win against New Jersey.

Tampa Bay may may not be done making moves and recognizing painful truth that the odds are against them rallying to a playoff spot. That said, nights like these make you wonder if a run is at least possible.

Canadiens’ big guns trigger comeback OT win against Devils

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 27:  Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates the game winning power play goal by Alex Galchenyuk #27 at 2:54 of overtrime against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 27, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey.  The Canadiens defeated the Devils 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Things were looking a little grim there for the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

The New Jersey Devils had, at one point, a 2-0 lead. At least in some corners there were murmurs about a bad start for Claude Julien. Then their big guns swung the game.

The comeback started with Alex Radulov, though the drama was just beginning:

Travis Zajac made it 3-1 for the Devils on the power play, only for Radulov to assist on two Max Pacioretty goals to send the game to overtime.

From there, Alex Galchenyuk scored the overtime-winner for Montreal on the man advantage. Radulov got yet another secondary assist – he ended up with four points tonight – while Shea Weber nabbed the primary helpers on the last two tallies.

Long story short, the Canadiens biggest names came through, allowing Julien to maybe utther a sigh of relief.