ridingthezamonidec28

Riding the Zamboni – Tuesday, December 28th

For a rundown of Crosby pushing his scoring streak to 25 games and the Penguins pounding the Thrashers 6-3, click here. We also discussed the Blues’ 3-1 defeat of the Blackhawks and Chicago’s far bigger loss in the form of Jonathan Toews’ injury in this post.

Now let’s take a look at the night’s seven other contests.

Washington 3, Montreal 0

The Penguins might be the hotter team going into the Winter Classic, but Washington is starting to heat up a bit themselves after recovering from that awful 12-game losing streak. I guess it’s a good thing that 24/7 was a month-long project instead of a one-shot operation, right?

Semyon Varlamov starred in this one, with a 25-save shutout, while Mike Green, Jay Beagle and Alex Ovechkin scored their goals.

Carolina 4, Toronto 3

I’ve said this a couple times already, but if any team outside of the East’s top eight could creep back into playoff contention, it might be the Hurricanes. They somewhat resemble the Blue Jackets in that their young goalie (Cam Ward, 43 saves) and Eric Staal (two goals) occasionally come through to carry them to victory.

(For the record, I would take Ward/Staal over Rick Nash and Steve Mason, mainly because of the disparity in net.)

Boston 4, Tampa Bay 3

Steven Stamkos is the reason Tampa Bay won quite a few games this season, but his boarding penalty late in tonight’s game cost them a point or two. (To be fair, Stamkos helped them stay in the game in the first place, with a goal and an assist tonight.) The ageless wonder Mark Recchi scored a power play game-winner with 20 seconds left to beat the Lightning in a competitive contest.

Dallas 4, Nashville 2

Two facets of the Stars’ team powered Dallas to first place in the Pacific at this point: their great Brad Richards-Loui Eriksson-James Neal first line and the surprisingly healthy Kari Lehtonen and his unexpectedly healthy backup Andrew Raycroft. Raycroft made 44 shots in this one while Dallas came back from an early 2-1 deficit in the third to win yet again.

Buffalo 4, Edmonton 2

Ryan Miller made 29 saves and Mike Weber had a great two goal, one assist game to help Buffalo have a much better day than yesterday. Emerson Etem took back his mean comments about the city (kind of) and they won against the Oilers after losing to Calgary on Monday. They’ll take it.

Anaheim 3, Phoenix 1

The Ducks were ruthless with Ilya Bryzgalov in his first game since December 15th, scoring three goals on nine shots in the third period. Meanwhile Jonas Hiller stole the spotlight with a 31-save performance. Nothing will come easily for anyone in this division, it seems.

Vancouver 6, Philadelphia 2

Earlier today, I wrote that Ryan Kesler would fit right in as a center in Philadelphia in some alternate hockey universe. He looked awfully good as a Canuck tonight, scoring two goals and one assist as Vancouver absolutely dominated Philly. Henrik Sedin earned three assists and Roberto Luongo made 35 saves to dominate this game between two possible Cup contenders.

Video: Phil Kessel displays incredible hand-eye coordination on goal

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This has been a tough postseason for Phil Kessel haters.

The supposed “choker” is on a team that’s in the Eastern Conference Final, but Kessel obviously isn’t just in for the ride with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He scored his 18th point in 17 postseason games by scoring the 1-0 goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6.

(Watch that goal in the video above.)

It was a dramatic first period, with a Jonathan Drouin goal getting disallowed and Andrei Vasilevskiy making some huge saves on tough chances.

Can Pittsburgh protect this slim lead with 1-0 down one period? We’ll see, but either way, what a great postseason for Kessel.

Judge for yourself: Was Drouin’s would-be 1-0 goal offside?

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To start the seemingly pivotal stretch, Andrei Vasilevskiy made an outstanding save on Evgeni Malkin on what sure looked like a scary chance.

The play swiftly shifted from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s end to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ side of the ice, and it seemed like Jonathan Drouin scored a big 1-0 goal in Game 6.

As it turns out, the goal was disallowed thanks to an offside goal review.

Here are a few viewpoints on that moment in GIF form … you can get a fuller view via the video above.

The general feeling among those who don’t have a horse in the race is that it was the right call. (Lightning fans were, uh, not happy.)

Lightning coach believes Drouin ‘is going to be dominant in this league’

TAMPA, FL - APRIL 30:  Jonathan Drouin #27 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates his goal against the New York Islanders  during the first period in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 30, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images)
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At some point, it will probably be kind of boring to hear members of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization praise Jonathan Drouin.

At least if Drouin re-signs with the Bolts after quite the affirming postseason and his ascension amid injuries.

These days? It’s still sort of entertaining.

In the latest case, Jon Cooper was asked to compare the development paths for Nikita Kucherov vs. Drouin. After empathizing with the pressure Drouin carries as a high-end pick (vs. Kucherov’s ability to come in under the radar), Cooper had some very positive things to say about No. 27.

” … So many people think, well, you’re just going to step in the league at 18 and be dominant,” Cooper said. “I truly believe Jonathan is going to be dominant in this league, but it’s hard to do at 18. He had to work through it, and that’s it.”

Drouin, now at 21, has 12 points in 15 playoff games.

In other Lightning news, it sounds like the team will roll with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, an alignment that has been working well lately and also came through at times during the 2015 postseason.

The Penguins, meanwhile, replace Beau Bennett with Conor Sheary.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Tampa Bay Lightning – Game 6

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 22:  Tyler Johnson #9 of the Tampa Bay Lightning collides with Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 22, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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Tonight could be the final game of the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. You can catch Game 6 via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 6 is on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Bolts lead the series 3-2.

Here’s some relevant reading material to get you ready for tonight’s game:

Malkin guaranteed a Penguins win in Game 6

Lightning coach doesn’t seem flustered by Malkin’s guarantee

Kucherov continues to be clutch for the Bolts this postseason

Marc-Andre Fleury: ‘I should have been better’ in Game 5