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.

A deeper look into the Bruins’ 11-game losing streak against the Caps

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There are some streaks in professional sports that simply don’t make sense. How some teams continue to dominate others year after year even though coaches and rosters change is kind of weird.

One of those strange streaks was extended on Thursday night, as the Washington Capitals defeated the Boston Bruins for the 11th straight time. The last time the Bruins took down the Caps was in March of 2014. The B’s have made a coaching change, they’ve altered the roster, but they still can’t beat the Caps.

As Washington’s Barry Trotz pointed out earlier this month, every squad seems to have a “unicorn team”. On Dec. 5, Trotz’s team beat the San Jose Sharks for the first time since 2009. Fine, the Capitals and Sharks might not play each other that often, but that’s still an eight-year losing streak.

“Every team has a unicorn team, you do,” Trotz said at the time, per the team’s website. “I was talking to the Columbus broadcasters [on Saturday], and they said, ‘Do you know what your record is against Columbus?’ And I said, “I have no idea.’ They said, ‘It’s pretty good.’

“For years, Nashville was [the Blue Jackets’] unicorn. They could never beat them. I think every team has that. The ones that come to mind for me with this club are San Jose and Dallas. We’ve been a unicorn for a few franchises, too. I just think everybody has one of those.”

Trotz is right. The Capitals have definitely been Boston’s unicorn.

The last time the Bruins took down the Capitals, Claude Julien was still their head coach, Jarome Iginla was the third-leading scorer on the team, and Milan Lucic, Reilly Smith, Loui Eriksson, Carl Soderberg and Andrej Meszaros were still on the roster.

Also, Barack Obama was still the president of the United States, the hoverboard scooter wasn’t invented yet, Nico Hischier was just 15 years old, and Tom Brady was “only” a three-time Super Bowl Champion.

“At some point you definitely want to get it over with and win those games,” Patrice Bergeron said after last night’s 5-3 loss, per NHL.com.  It’s not something necessarily that I was thinking before the game … we knew it was a challenge and we had to be good and be smart. A few breakdowns and a little lack of discipline [and they] made us pay is the bottom line.”

Here’s the game-by-game breakdown of the 11-game losing streak:

• Oct. 11, 2014: 4-0 loss at home (Alex Ovechkin scored twice, Braden Holtby had the shutout)

• Mar. 15, 2015: 2-0 loss on the road (Nicklas Backstrom assisted on both goals, Holtby had the shutout)

• Apr. 8, 2015: 3-0 loss on the road (Backstrom had two more assists, Holtby had the shutout)

• Nov. 5, 2015: 4-1 loss on the road (John Carlson had a goal and an assist)

• Jan. 5, 2016: 3-2 loss at home (Evgeny Kuznetsov had a goal and an assist)

• Mar. 5, 2016: 2-1 OTL at home (Matt Niskanen scored the game-winning goal)

• Dec. 7, 2016: 4-3 OTL on the road (Justin Williams scored twice, Backstrom netted the OT winner)

• Feb. 1, 2017: 5-3 loss on the road (Backstrom had three points)

• Apr. 8, 2017: 3-1 loss at home (Kevin Shattenkirk scored the game-winning goal)

• Nov. 4, 2017: 3-2 loss at home (Tom Wilson had two goals)

• Dec. 14, 2017: 5-3 loss at home (Alex Chiasson scored twice, Ovechkin had a goal (empty-netter and an assist)

These two teams will play each other one more time (Dec. 28) this season. Will the Bruins be able to figure out how to beat their “unicorn” by then?

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

PHT Morning Skate: What’s holding the Islanders back?

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• University of Alabama hockey player Jon Lovorn is dedicating this season to the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School. (SECCountry.com)

• It’s time for the NHL to give all 31 teams an outdoor game next season. (Vice Sports)

• Philly.com takes a look at Sean Couturier‘s “well-balanced” life and how it got him to the NHL. (Philly.com)

• A strong end to 2017 could help the Predators land home ice advantage in the playoffs (Predlines)

• If/when Seattle makes it to the NHL, there might be too many teams in the Pacific Division. How would realignment look? (Five for Howling)

• One of the reasons the Oilers have struggled for so long is because of their inability to select solid players late in drafts. (OilersNation.com)

• The only thing that appears to be holding the Islanders back is goaltending. (The Hockey News)

• The Hershey Bears released their 2018 Outdoor Classic Jersey for their game against Lehigh Valley next month. (RussianMachineNeverBreaks.com)

• The Rangers’ recent struggles prove that they need to be sellers before the trade deadline. (NY Post)

• The Devils and Coyotes swapped minor-league forwards yesterday. New Jersey got Michael Latta while the Coyotes got Ryan Kujawinski. (NHL.com/Coyotes)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Buzzer: Saros, streaks, shutouts

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Player of the Night: Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators

You can criticize the Edmonton Oilers for taking too many perimeter shots and/or having their defensemen fire the puck far too often, and you’d probably have a point.

Still, on nights like these, you also have to acknowledge that the Oilers have also run into some tough luck and even tougher goalies. When it came to Thursday, Saros was that tough goalie, and he reminded the NHL that’s he capable of being more than “just a backup.”

The Finnish goalie set a new Predators record by making 46 saves for a shutout, collecting the second goose egg of his blossoming career.

The Predators (specifically Kyle Turris‘ new second line, which might need to be called a 1B line at this rate) are on a roll, beating Edmonton 4-0 to grab at least one point (7-1-2) in nine of their last 10 games.

Highlights of the Night

Nice play finished by Patrick Kane, as the Blackhawks cooled the Jets:

Jakub Vrana‘s goal was pretty sweet, and a taste of the Capitals’ recent dominance of the Bruins.

Josh Bailey‘s hat trick is worth watching here, even if it wasn’t enough to propel the Islanders to a win against the Blue Jackets.

Scary moment

Here’s hoping that Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Ryan Callahan are OK:

The Lightning kept their hot streak going with a W over the Coyotes.

Factoids

Brayden Point gets the Lightning their … well, you probably know. Their points.

The Wild are picking it up, and it’s not just the power of Bruce Boudreau. Probably.

The Flyers are weird, and so is hockey.

Scores

Capitals 5, Bruins 3
Flyers 2, Sabres 1
Blue Jackets 6, Islanders 4
Canadiens 2, Devils 1 (OT)
Ducks 3, Blues 1
Wild 2, Maple Leafs 0
Blackhawks 5, Jets 1
Avalanche 2, Panthers 1
Sharks 3, Flames 2
Predators 4, Oilers 0
Lightning 4, Coyotes 1
Golden Knights 2, Penguins 1

Fleury gets revenge against Penguins, Vegas grabs 20th win

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If you’re the fussy type, you might object to the word “revenge” in the headline.

It feels wrong to say that Marc-Andre Fleury got “the last laugh” against the Pittsburgh Penguins, being that this game happened in mid-December. So feel free to soften the verbiage; maybe you’d prefer to say that Fleury and the Vegas Golden Knights merely “got the best” of the Penguins.

Either way, round one goes to “MAF.”

The instinct might be to ding this game because it came in Vegas instead of Pittsburgh, but you could say that there was a healthy offering of Penguins fans tonight:

Whatever way you slice it, there was reportedly a fascinating atmosphere in Vegas, even if the game was a bit “low-event” at times, at least when you consider sheer pucks on net; Fleury stopped 24 out of 25 shots on goal while Murray gave up two goals on 26.

This odd-angle goal by Ian Cole was the only puck to beat Fleury, who was lights out in a second straight victory since returning from concussion issues that … we thought might have been the end of the Golden Knights’ hot start.

If the scene wasn’t nostalgia-laced enough, consider that Fleury evoked the save he made against Nicklas Lidstrom in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final:

Sheesh, some of this stuff almost seems on the nose, doesn’t it?

Remarkably, the Golden Knights improve to 20-9-2 while the Penguins fell to 16-14-3. Writing that almost made me pass out from the unlikelihood of it all; honestly, if someone told Golden Knights management that their record could be 16-14-3, they’d probably take it, right?

In case you’re wondering, yes, this marks another record.

So, the Golden Knights are 12-2-1 in Vegas so far. This doesn’t guarantee that there’s some sort of … sickness that comes from playing a team located in Sin City, yet it doesn’t exactly slam the door shut on such a conversation, either.

Now, Marc-Andre Fleury? He’s done quite a commendable job of shutting the door so far for the Golden Knights. His old buddies found out the hard way tonight.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.