Kevin Poulin

Riding the Zamboni – Friday, January 21st

Here are recaps of Friday’s 7:30 pm ET games. We’ll take a look at the Dallas Stars-Calgary Flames contest later on.

Montreal 7, Ottawa 1

Talk about two teams going in completely different directions. The Habs are only one point behind the Bruins for the Northeast Division lead as they’ve spun off a 7-1-2 run in their last 10 games. Meanwhile, the Senators are now win-less in five games, with a 1-7-2 mark in their last 10.

The stark contrast between these two clubs was highlighted on Friday night, as the Canadiens scored the last five goals after a respectably competitive 2-1 first period. Alex Kovalev returned after missing six games with a knee injury but obviously didn’t help Ottawa much.

Tomas Plekanec scored two goals while Andrei Kostitsyn and Max Pacioretty scored a goal and an assist each. Carey Price stopped 33 out of 34 shots while the Habs power play was an efficient 2 for 3 in the game.

NY Islanders 5, Buffalo 2

While these wins might be considering “consolation prizes” at this point for the draft lottery bound Islanders, the young team certainly could use a confidence boost after years of losing and losing often. They’re far from a playoff team right now, but they’ve been a bit frisky as of late.

The Islanders scored the game’s first four goals before Nathan Gerbe provided two tallies in only five seconds for the Sabres. It wasn’t enough to help Buffalo earn a last minute comeback, though, as Michael Grabner iced the game with an empty-netter. Kevin Poulin stopped 26 out of 28 shots for the Isles.

Tampa Bay 2, Florida 1 (SO)

You have to wonder how a team with a negative goal differential will fair in the playoffs, but the Lightning are scrapping their way to valuable wins. They’re now on a three game winning streak, all thanks to shootout wins against the Panthers, Thrashers and Blue Jackets.

It sounds like Dominic Moore’s shootout goal was a bit controversial in this game, but the Lightning won the “skills competition” based on that tally all the same.

In a rare night of good goaltending by someone not named Dwayne Roloson, the Lightning received stellar netminding via Dan Ellis. He stopped 29 out of 30 shots and was perfect in the shootout. Tomas Vokoun wasn’t as busy, but he stopped 19 out of 20 and only allowed that debatable Moore goal in the shootout.

Pavelski’s late goal helps Sharks grab 2-0 series lead over Preds

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The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.

The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.

Here’s the goal:

Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.

Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.

Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.

Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.

The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.

Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.

The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.

Video: Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved by his visor after taking Shea Weber shot to the face

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It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.

After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.

In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.

You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.

Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:

It sounds like Olli Maatta won’t be ready for Game 3

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You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.

After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.

“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.

“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”

After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.

“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”

And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.

Related:

Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

Brooks Orpik suspended three games for hit on Olli Maatta

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Brooks Orpik has been suspended for three games for his hit on Olli Maatta (top). The Caps defenseman will be forced to miss Games 3, 4 and 5 of the best-of-seven series against the Penguins.

Orpik delivered a late, high hit to Maatta in Game 2. The Penguins defenseman was wobbly getting off the ice and he was unable to return to the game.

Here’s how the Department of Players Safety saw the play:

“Orpik steps up to pressure Bonino, who quickly moves the puck to Maatta. Orpik peels off Bonino to pressure Maatta, who releases a shot from the top of the circle. The two continue on their path toward the goal line, as the puck is kicked into the slot. A full second after Maatta releases the puck, Orpik delivers a high, forceful hit making significant head contact. This is interference.”

To watch the NHL’s Department of Player Safety’s full explanation, click the video below.

This is the third time Orpik’s been suspended in his NHL career.