Riding the Zamboni – Saturday, January 8th

Philadelphia 2 – New Jersey 1

Brian Boucher did his job in holding off the woeful Devils. It was a game effort from the NHL’s worst team, but much like most of their other games it would turn out to be a loss in the end. James van Riemsdyk and Daniel Briere scored for Philly while Boucher saved 34 shots in the win. The two quick first period goals from Philly chased Johan Hedberg from the game and Martin Brodeur came off the bench to shut things down to the tune of 19 saves. The win was Philly’s third straight while the Devils dropped their fourth in row.

NY Islanders 4 – Colorado 3

John Tavares kept the Islanders from losing a heartbreaker by scoring his 14th goal of the season in overtime to give the Isles the win. Rookie Jeremy Colliton scored twice, his first two goals since 2005-2006, for the Islanders to help lead the way. The Isles had three power play goals on the night while Kevin Poulin earned his first NHL victory by stopping 34 shots. Milan Hejduk scored twice, including a goal with four seconds left to tie it up to lead the Avs. Enforcer David Koci also scored his first goal of the year to make sure that we all keep an eye out for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Tampa Bay 2 – Ottawa 1

Dwayne Roloson made up for his bad night against Pittsburgh in a big way tonight to hold off the spunky Sens. Roloson made 31 saves and the Lightning came back from a 1-0 hole in the third thanks to goals from Adam Hall and Martin St. Louis.

Minnesota 4 – Pittsburgh 0

Of course you predicted this outcome. Jose Theodore stops all 26 shots he faces en route to shutting out the Sidney Crosby-less Penguins. Martin Havlat scored his 10th goal of the year while Cal Clutterbuck scored his 13th to help lead the Wild to the win. Very quietly now the Wild are taking care of business coming off of wins over Boston and now Pittsburgh and winning four in a row. The Penguins, meanwhile, have lost four of their last five and fall behind the Flyers in the Atlantic Division.

Washington 3 – Florida 2

The Caps big guns came out to play as Mike Green and Alex Ovechkin each tallied goals en route to the win over a tough Florida squad. Winter Classic hero Eric Fehr continued his hot play of late scoring the Caps’ first goal of the night. Semyon Varlamov stopped 25 shots to earn the win. Florida’s most pleasant surprise this year, Mike Santorelli, scored his 11th goal of the year in the loss.

Montreal 3 – Boston 2 (F/OT)

The Bruins had a 2-0 lead in the third period. Key word: had. Goals by Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta, with Gionta’s coming with under a minute to play, tied it up for the Habs. In overtime, it was Max Pacioretty putting home the game-winner before kicking off a post-game fracas with Zdeno Chara who took exception to Pacioretty’s presence on the ice. Whether it was frustration or not, the Bruins found a way to lose another tough game and fell into a first place tie in the Northeast Division with the rival Habs.

NY Rangers 2 – St. Louis 1

The Rangers offense was still somewhat absent, but they got enough with goals from Derek Stepan and Sean Avery to hold off the Blues. Martin Biron stopped 24 shots on the way to the win. The victory marks the Rangers’ third in a row and pulls them to within three points of Pittsburgh for second in the Atlantic Division.

Buffalo 2 – Phoenix 1 (F/OT)

Jason LaBarbera’s luck as an emergency starter ran out tonight as Drew Stafford’s overtime goal propelled Buffalo to their fourth win in five games. Ryan Miller stopped 33 shots on the way to the win while Jordan Leopold added a goal and an assist. Scottie Upshall scored his 12th goal of the season. LaBarbera stopped 30 shots in the tough loss.

Nashville 2 – San Jose 1

Pekka Rinne stood on his head in leading Nashville to victory. Rinne stopped 42 shots and allowed only a Logan Couture goal, his 19th of the season, on the way to a road trip sweep for the Predators. Sergei Kostitsyn’s third period goal was the game-winner early in the third period. The Predators close out their west coast swing going 3-0-0 and maintaining their five game win streak.

Detroit 2 – Vancouver 1 (F/SO)

Call it a statement game from the injury-laden Red Wings. Without Brad Stuart, Chris Osgood, and Dan Cleary the Wings were able to ride incredible goaltending from Jimmy Howard and a goal by Johan Franzen to get to the shootout. Jiri Hudler’s shootout goal was the only one of the skills competition part of the game and earned the Red Wings the victory. Daniel Sedin had Vancouver’s lone goal in regulation for Vancouver. For Detroit, the win is a big one and keeps them holding strong in the Western Conference.

Los Angeles 6 – Columbus 4

The Kings were able to snap their five game losing streak by jumping out to a 4-0 lead on the Jackets and fighting off a late surge by the Jackets to win 6-4. Jarret Stoll scored two goals while Jack Johnson added three assists to lead the Kings to victory. Justin Williams and Ryan Smyth each had a goal and an assist for the Kings while Jon Quick stopped 30 shots in the win. Rick Nash had two goals for Columbus in the loss while Mathieu Garon had30 saves.

The West’s next round is now set (and wide-open)

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Saturday was a great day for fans of brevity and revenge.

Three of a possible three series ended on this day, with the Rangers dispatching the Canadiens, the Blues eliminating the “better” Wild, and the Oilers knocking off the Sharks in six.

The Rangers await either the Bruins or Senators and the Penguins face the winner of the Leafs – Capitals series out East, but we now know how the West shakes out.

St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators

Both teams provided some of the upsets of this young postseason. Each features a red-hot goalie in Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne. Interesting.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers

There will be a lot of orange. We may also see a ton of goals with Ryan Getzlaf on fire, Oscar Klefbom headlining the list of unhealthy players and Connor McDavid possibly able to really take off against a Ducks defense that is beat up in its own right.

It’s already been a strange season out West, with the Kings missing the playoffs and first-round exits for the Sharks and Blackhawks. Get ready – and giddy – for things to get even weirder as the postseason goes along.

Oilers win first series since 2006 after Sharks fall crossbar short of overtime

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After making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers weren’t just “happy to be there.” They confirmed as much by eliminating the San Jose Sharks with a 3-1 victory in Game 6, winning the series 4-2.

Yes, those young Oilers just eliminated the team that represented the West in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Wow.

Ultimately, winning the breakaway battle in the second period indeed made the difference. Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored on their chances in the middle frame while Patrick Marleau could not; Slepyshev’s 2-0 goal ultimately became the series-clincher.

Now, that’s not to say that Marleau was a drag on San Jose. If this is it for one of the faces of the franchise, he had a great 2016-17, including generating the Sharks’ final goal of the postseason.

The Shark Tank was alive after Marleau reduced the Oilers’ lead to 2-1, and more than a few blood pressures rose – both in Edmonton and San Jose – after the Sharks got this close to tying things up.

Wow.

With this result, the West is set. The St. Louis Blues will take on the Nashville Predators while the Oilers face the Anaheim Ducks.

As much as people try to put the training wheels on Connor McDavid & Co., the West is wide-open enough that it’s not so outrageous to imagine a big run for Edmonton.

Beating the Sharks is a pretty nice way of adding an exclamation point to that statement win. And hey … they beat the Sharks last time around, too.

Canadiens sound a lot like Wild after playoff exit (without ‘better team’ talk)

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Much like the Minnesota Wild earlier on Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens are stunned to approach the golf courses so rapidly.

Many of the responses after the New York Rangers eliminated them in Game 6 sound a lot like what the Wild uttered, though there’s no potential bulletin board material like Bruce Boudreau’s line about the better team failing to win four games.

Max Pacioretty viewed this early exit as a “missed opportunity” and never really believed that an elimination was coming.

Claude Julien provided parallel comments to Bruce Boudreau, believing that Montreal generated chances but lacked “finish.”

Brendan Gallagher? He worries that this might have been the Canadiens’ best chance, something the Wild must also worry about with a difficult offseason ahead.

Now, it’s likely that most teams speak about being shocked and expecting better after being booted from the postseason.

Still, these reactions do shine a light on the staggering nature of some of these exits. Will the likes of the Blackhawks, Canadiens and Wild struggle to be in such prime positions in the future? With the Sharks needing a comeback against the Oilers, could the trend continue on Saturday?

The bottom line is that, instead of preparing for a Game 7 after winning the Atlantic Division, the Canadiens are packing up their stuff and worrying about re-signing Carey Price. That’s a pretty stunning turnaround, regardless of the soundbytes available.

Video: Draisaitl, Slepyshev score on breakaways, Talbot spurns Marleau

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Some playoff games or even series come down to something as stupidly simple as one team taking advantage of their opportunities while the other fails to capitalize on chances.

If Game 6 of the Oilers – Sharks series follows the story of the second period, then San Jose may join Saturday’s stream of eliminated teams.

It’s not fair to boil it down to three breakaways, but some might feel that way.

Leon Draisaitl looked like a gritty, strong veteran during his first career playoff goal, bulling his way to the net for 1-0 breakaway tally. About a minute later, Anton Slepyshev was even more alone against Martin Jones, and he scored his first postseason goal to make it 2-0.

That stings for the Sharks, and it doesn’t help that they had a similar chance not long after. This time around, Patrick Marleau couldn’t beat Cam Talbot, so it remained 2-0 for Edmonton.

That’s the same score as the game enters the third period, even with some dangerous late chances for the Sharks.

If the Sharks don’t score at least two goals in the third, their push to return to the Stanley Cup Final could end in the first round.