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Riding the Zamboni – Thursday, December 23rd (early edition)

To read about the much-hyped (and justifiably so) game between the Penguins and Capitals, click here. Check out this post to read Scott Arniel’s angry comments regarding the Blue Jackets’ 7-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

There’s a whopping 11 other games on the NHL docket tonight, so here are summaries of the nine that ended at a reasonable hour. Stay tuned for the final two games later.

Florida 4, Buffalo 3

The Sabres lost Derek Roy to an injury that “looks serious” and also lost the game. Both Chris Higgins and Jordan Leopold scored two goals each, with Jason Pominville, Stephen Weiss and Jason Garrison also scoring. Garrison ended up with the game-winner.

Montreal 3, Carolina 2

Scoring spread in this game’s second period like an infection on Cam Ward’s forehead. Chad LaRose gave Carolina a 1-0 lead and Erik Cole made it 2-1, but goals by Scott Gomez (on his 31st birthday), Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexandre Pickard powered the Canadiens to a win.

Tampa Bay 4, NY Rangers 3 (SO)

Shootout haters will cringe at this one: the Lightning now lead the Southeast Division because they won in the skills competition while the Capitals lost against the Penguins the same way. (Although their lead is based on games played, not wins or points.) Martin St. Louis was great as usual, with one goal and one assist.

NY Islanders 5, New Jersey 1

Jacques Lemaire is the new coach, but his mere presence didn’t change much on Day 1. In fact, the Islanders’ mini-run ensures that the Devils are the worst team in the NHL right now. Josh Bailey scored two goals and one assist and Dwayne Roloson made 34 saves to win the game with startling ease.

Boston 4, Atlanta 1

The Thrashers are on a two-game losing streak now, but they shouldn’t worry too much because the Bruins are sneaky-good. Despite resting at the eighth seed in the East, only Pittsburgh (+35) and Philadelphia (+30) sport a better goal differential than Boston’s +24 in the conference.

Of course, many will remember this game mainly for the big brawl at the end of the game and Claude Julien’s anger regarding a “cheap shot.”

St. Louis 4, Detroit 3

Here’s a not-so-bold prediction: the Blues will be in the top eight in the West around the time the Winter Classic begins. Why? Because they just began a five-game homestand and sport an 11-4-2 record in St. Louis in 2010-11. Beating the slightly struggling Red Wings is a great way to start that home streak.

Ottawa 2, Nashville 1

The Senators beat the Predators at their low-scoring game, winning 2-1 thanks to 25 Brian Elliott saves, one Nick Foligno goal and one score by Alex Kovalev. Marcel Goc provided Nashville’s only goal.

Calgary 3, Dallas 2 (SO)

Jamie Benn beat up Jarome Iginla, Mike Ribeiro scored a goal and an assist and Kari Lehtonen made 31 saves … yet the Flames won the game. Go figure.

Minnesota 3, Colorado 1

Trap team or not, the Wild want to win. They earned their third consecutive win and handed the Avalanche their second loss in a row on the strength of Niklas Backstrom’s 36 saves and Matt Cullen, who scored two goals and one assist.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.