Riding the Zamboni – Tuesday, December 21st

1 Comment

Los Angeles 5 – Colorado 0

Kings captain Dustin Brown made sure the Avalanche’s six game win streak came to an end with a thud. Brown’s two goal, two assist night lead the way while Jonathan Quick had another special game earning his third shutout of the season stopping 23 shots to do it. Colorado’s Craig Anderson stopped 27 of 32 shots he faced and had an uncharacteristically bad game. Perhaps it’s time to dust off Peter Budaj off the bench to get Anderson a break as he’s started their last eight games in a row.

Dallas 5 – Montreal 2

Take your choice of story line here. Either you focus on the Stars winning another game in impressive fashion and vaulting themselves to the top of the Western Conference. Five different players potted goals for the Stars while Stephane Robidas had three assists and Steve Ott had two helpers.

The not-so positive story line are the problems Habs goalie Carey Price is having of late stopping pucks. In his last five starts, Price has allowed 18 goals an average of just over three a game. For a guy playing goal behind a team that pays strict attention to defense he’s both not getting the same help he was earlier this year nor is he doing his part to bail them out. With just one win in their last six games, expect some fans in Montreal to start looking towards the panic button.

San Jose 2 – Edmonton 1

We think it’s high time we start pushing Logan Couture’s bandwagon for Calder Trophy. The rookie forward scored yet again for the Sharks, his 18th goal of the season. Couture’s goal was followed up just three and a half minutes later in the second period by Dan Boyle’s fourth of the year to seal the deal for San Jose. Dustin Penner scored a goal late in the third to spoil Antero Niittymaki’s shutout bid. Niittymaki stopped 26 shots in the win while Nikolai Khabibulin saved 28 for Edmonton.

Washington 5 – New Jersey 1

It’s an official win streak for the Caps. Back to back wins for Washington after humbling the hapless and pathetic Devils. Of concern for the Caps is that it wasn’t the stars leading the way but rather the guys fresh out of the AHL doing damage. Andrew Gordon scored his first career goal while Jay Beagle and John Carlson also added goals. Veterans Jason Chimera and Mike Knuble also scored for the Capitals. Caps fans were so excited about beating the second-worst team in the NHL they began chanting, “We want Pittsburgh.” They’ll get their wish as the Caps host the Penguins on Thursday. Chances this becomes a focus of the story line on 24/7: 100%

Columbus 3 – Calgary 1

The Jackets have been hoping for better goaltending and Mathieu Garon stepped up and delivered tonight stopping 29 shots to earn the win for Columbus. Jakub Voracek, Jared Boll, and Rostislav Klesla each had goals for Columbus. Olli Jokinen was the only Flame to put one past Garon. Meanwhile, Miikka Kiprusoff was the hard luck loser saving 34 shots.

Buffalo 5 – Anaheim 2

The Sabres were able to take advantage of facing Curtis McElhinney instead of Jonas Hiller and lit up McElhinney for three goals in the first and got out to a 4-0 lead before the Ducks could get on the board. Tyler Ennis had two goals for Buffalo while Craig Rivet had a goal and an assist. Corey Perry had both goals for Anaheim. Ryan Miller had a relatively peaceful night all things considered saving just 21 shots.

St. Louis 4 – Atlanta 2

Atlanta’s hold on first place in the Southeast Division was short lived as they weren’t able to hold off the Blues. Vladimir Sobotka and Alex Pietrangelo each had a goal and an assist for St. Louis while Ty Conklin was stellar in goal saving 37 shots to earn the win. Dustin Byfuglien scored his 12th goal of the season in the third period giving him 36 points on the season, a new career high. Yes, it’s still just December. Chris Mason had a relatively poor outing stopping 23 shots for Atlanta.

Backstrom provides OT winner as Capitals take 3-2 series lead

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Washington Capitals are on the verge of the second round.

Yes, the Capitals, who began the series with back-to-back losses in Game 1 and 2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, are now on the brink of eliminating Ohio’s team after Nicklas Backstrom‘s deft deflection in overtime gave the Capitals their third straight win and a 3-2 series lead.

It was the fourth time in the series both clubs played to a tie in regulation. After Columbus won the first two in OT, Washington replied with a win in double-overtime in Game 3 before Backstrom ended Game 5 at the 11:53 mark of the first frame of free hockey.

Backstrom scored his first goal of the series to open the scoring for the Caps and assisted for the sixth time in the series on the go-ahead goal in the second period before Oliver Bjorkstrand tied it in third.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Braden Holtby had to be sharp, especially in the third period as, inexplicably, the Caps were outshot 16-1. At home. Holtby made 40 saves when it was all said and done.

Two-hundred feet away, Sergei Bobrovsky was up to the task, making some silly stops including a big one on Alex Ovechkin earlier in overtime and a bigger one in regulation time off the same man’s stick.

Game 6 of this series is slated for Monday in Columbus, with a start time still to be determined.

In his post-game comments, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said, twice, that his team will be back in the capital for Game 7.

The promise has been made.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Kucherov, Vasilevskiy shine as Lightning eliminate Devils in 5

Leave a comment

One’s up for the Hart as the NHL’s best player while the other is up for the Vezina as the league’s top goaltender. Both combined their talents to eliminate the New Jersey Devils with a 2-1 win in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Saturday.

Nikita Kucherov was once again on point for the Tampa Bay Lightning in Saturday’s matinee. Leading 1-0 in the third period, Kucherov scored a clutch goal — his fifth of the series — to put the Lightning from just inside the blue line to put the Bolts up two with seven minutes and change remaining.

It proved vital, Kucherov’s goal, as the Devils attempted a late comeback with Kyle Palmieri scored with three minutes remaining after Devils pulled Cory Schneider for the extra attacker 30 seconds earlier.

Andrei Vasilevskiy stood tall in the final 180 seconds, stopping 26-of-27 to help usher the Lightning into the second round.

Tampa, the Atlantic Division winners in the regular season, will face the winner of the series between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, who play later on Saturday in Game 5. The Bruins lead the series 3-1.

Kucherov was as immense for the Lightning as he was oppressive for the Devils, adding five assists to bring his series total to 10 points. His usual scoring touch was supplemented by his play in the physical department, including this bone-crushing hit on New Jersey defenseman Sami Vatanen.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

For the Devils, it was hard-fought series from a young team still trying to find its way in the playoffs.

The Devils abandoned goalie Keith Kinkaid after dropping the first two games. Cory Schneider, who hadn’t won a game in 2018 before Game 3, came in and provided the spark in goal, one that seemed to get the Devils going at the other end of the rink as well as they rolled to a 5-3 win.

But that well ran dry in Game 4 as the Devils produced just one goal in a 3-1 loss. Game 5 was much the same, production-wise, with the Devils only managing one goal.

Fellow Hart Trophy candidate Taylor Hall provided two goals and six points in the series after a 93-point regular season. Rookie Nico Hischier managed just a goal after scoring 20 in his rookie campaign.

For Vasilevskiy, after looking far more human in the second half of the season, finding his mojo again can only be mean bad things for future playoff opponents.

The young Russian finished with a .941 save percentage in the series.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Blue Jackets’ Matt Calvert scores a most unusual breakaway goal (Video)

Leave a comment

We’ve all see some breakaways go horribly, horribly wrong in the past.

Patrik Stefan reigns supreme here. Devin Setoguchi didn’t fare too well on this one. And then there was this gaffe by Dennis Wideman once upon a time.

But sometimes one screws up, only to rebound quickly and turn a near-blunder into a nice-ish goal.

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert did that today, in what’s already being called the best/worst breakaway attempt of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

As you can see in the video above, Calvert gets a nice clean breakaway. As he attempts to first a wrist shot, he whiffs on the attempt but manages to corral the puck back, doing the whole spin-o-rama thing, and deposit the puck past Braden Holtby for his second goal of the game.

Sometimes it just all works out.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Lightning, Bruins try to move on to Round 2

Getty Images
1 Comment

Game 5: New Jersey Devils at Tampa Bay Lightning, 3 p.m. ET (Lightning lead series 3-1)
NBC/NBCSN*
Call: Gord Miller, Joe Micheletti
Series preview
Stream

Game 5: Columbus Blue Jackets at Washington Capitals, 3 p.m. ET (Series tied 2-2)
NBC/NBCSN*
Call: Chris Cuthbert, Ray Ferraro
Series preview
Stream

Game 5: Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins, 8 p.m. ET (Bruins lead series 3-1)
NBC
Call: Mike Emrick, Mike Milbury, Pierre McGuire
Series preview
Stream

*Regionalized coverage – Florida markets and WNBC in New York metro area will air NJ-TB on NBC and CBJ-WSH on NBCSN; all other markets will receive CBJ-WSH on NBC and NJ-TB on NBCSN

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]