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Around the Rink – Tuesday, December 28th

Let’s take a look at tonight’s nine games. As usual, all start times are according to Eastern Standard Time (ET).

7:00 pm

Atlanta @ Pittsburgh

While the Penguins have a tenuous grasp on the top spot in the Atlantic Division (and thus, the East’s No. 1 seed), the Thrashers are in danger of slipping to the eighth spot in the conference. Last time these two teams met, the Pens ended Ondrej Pavelec and the Thrashers’ big winning streak. Could a win against Pittsburgh start a new one for Atlanta?

Montreal @ Washington

It’s tough to deny the notion that the Northeast Division is the NHL’s weakest so far this season. For proof, just look at how much is at stake between the Bruins and Habs; the second place team – Montreal – is now in eighth place in the East. The Capitals are in better shape, but will face a tough road to best the Lightning for the Southeast title themselves.

Carolina @ Toronto

With the Hurricanes on a three game losing streak, only four points separates them from the Maple Leafs right now. Unfortunately for both teams, there is no “prize” for winning their race as both clubs are outside the playoff picture right now.

7:30 pm

Boston @ Tampa Bay

It’s too early to know for sure, but these two teams might just be squabbling for the second seed as the season progresses. Of course, they would require division leads to do so, but at the moment they’re at the top of theirs. Each squad presents a contrast in styles, as Steve Stamkos leads the attacking Lightning lineup while the Bruins present a stifling defense. Which approach will succeed tonight?

8:00 pm

Dallas @ Nashville

Both of these teams are on two-game losing streaks, but the Stars still lead the Pacific while the Predators are currently the West’s ninth seed. Every game in the West seems important right now and this is no different.

Chicago @ St. Louis

As opposed to the Stars-Predators game, these two teams are on winning streaks. The Blues will host the Blackhawks for the third game of a five contest homestand in this one – but unluckily for them – Patrick Kane is likely to be one of their guests.

9:00 pm

Buffalo @ Edmonton

Buffalo and Edmonton feature two likable hockey teams, even if their host cities haven’t exactly earned rave reviews. Has Emerson Etem ever been to Edmonton, I must ask?

Anaheim @ Phoenix

The Ducks might have a one-point lead over the Coyotes, but they needed five more games to get there. Phoenix has reason to feel optimistic about its future, with six more contests set to take place at home than on the road.

10:00 pm

Philadelphia @ Vancouver

Tonight’s schedule is full of treats, with Boston-Tampa Bay, Montreal-Washington and Atlanta-Pittsburgh joining this game as elite skirmishes. These teams don’t see each other too often, but doesn’t Ryan Kesler seem like he would fit right in as a Flyers center? Should be a fun one to watch, as the Flyers begin a rugged road trip, with nine of their next 10 games coming away from Philly.

Optimism won’t come as easily for Lightning after ugly loss to Canucks

TAMPA, FL - MARCH 17:  Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes a save in front of Alex Burrows #14 of the Vancouver Canucks at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on March 17, 2014 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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Maybe the Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t “figuring things out” after all.

They were able to find the bright side of recent troubles, but what do you really say after a 5-1 loss to the struggling Vancouver Canucks?

The Lightning have lost two straight, six of seven and seven of nine during a deeply worrisome run. While they did generate more shots on goal tonight, they’ve now given up at least 30 in all but three of their contests since the start of November.

If the playoffs began today, the Lightning would easily miss them.

“It’s time for us to step up here,” Ben Bishop said after a game in which he was pulled heading into the third period. “Nobody is going to feel bad for us.”

Blame it on injuries if you’d like, but Steven Stamkos isn’t coming back anytime soon. If they don’t get things back together, they won’t be playing for much once he can return.

Flyers wouldn’t give up in seventh straight win; Oilers couldn’t protect a lead

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 08:  Claude Giroux #28 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates after scoring a second period goal against the Edmonton Oilers at Wells Fargo Center on December 8, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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One team just can’t be denied. At times, the other team just can’t seem to defend.

It was a pretty wild one between the Edmonton Oilers and the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night, with the ultimate result being a 6-5 win for the Flyers.

The ride was bumpy, dramatic and will probably provide Oilers head coach Todd McLellan with a lot of “teaching moments” (or, let’s be honest, reasons to yell really loud).

Things started promising enough for the Oilers, who built an early 2-0 lead thanks to a goal and an assist by Leon Draisaitl. You could then cue the horror music, as the Flyers scored three goals in a minute and 12 seconds to grab a brief 3-2 lead:

There might be some concern about a young team like the Oilers cratering from such a letdown, yet they bounced back … to an extent.

Edmonton rattled off three unanswered goals, giving them a 5-3 lead about five minutes into the third period. It seemed like it would be a redemptive moment after that three-goal blunder.

Then there was another three-goal blunder.

Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux and Michael Raffl helped the Flyers rattling off another three unanswered goals, giving Philly a seventh consecutive win.

The Oilers? They didn’t even get what sometimes feels like a customary “charity point” by getting to overtime. Three isn’t a magical number for Edmonton lately, as they’ve now lost three in a row. It’s probably safe to say that this one will burn the most.

Avalanche beat Bruins, even as Pastrnak remains almost unstoppable

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 08: Nikita Zadorov #16 of the Colorado Avalanche slides for the puck ahead of David Pastrnak #88 of the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on December 8, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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David Pastrnak is scoring at an astounding pace. Sometimes it’s still not enough to earn a win for the Boston Bruins.

The 20-year-old wunderkind scored both of the Bruins’ goals on Thursday, giving him a patently absurd 18 in 23 games. Pastrnak now has five goals in his last three games (not to mention a five-game point streak with those five goals and two assists).

Calvin Pickard was perfect against Bruins not named Pastrnak, however, and the Colorado Avalanche beat Boston 4-2.

Perhaps part of the problem was that the Bruins “other” MVP wasn’t in action, then. Tuukka Rask has been right up there with the NHL’s best, but it was Anton Khudobin in net, and he gave up four goals on just 22 shots.

Rather than taking a step up the ladder, Pastrnak’s made leaps. Similarly, Rask is more than merely rebounding from what was – for his lofty standards – a disappointing campaign in 2015-16.

The Bruins need more from their supporting cast members, however, especially when one of these two players can’t suit up.

BREAKING: Carey Price’s composure

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Even the best goalie in the world – one who makes it look easy – can lose his cool sometimes.

(Heck, that used to be the domain of Patrick Roy, right?)

It was quite the sight on Thursday nonetheless: Carey Price absolutely lost his cool and went after Kyle Palmieri during the Montreal Canadiens’ game against the New Jersey Devils. You can watch that spectacle in the video above.

Palmieri received an interference penalty while Price received a roughing double-minor. Apparently fits of Price anger are rare:

By Hockey Reference’s numbers, Price has accrued 39 penalty minutes in 465 career regular season games and eight in 54 playoff contests before tonight’s outburst.

Perhaps it’s just one of those nights.