Riding the Zamboni – Thursday, January 20th; Brodeur with a shutout, Sabres stun Boston

New Jersey 2 – Pittsburgh 0

We know that the Penguins came into this game a bit beat up. Without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, they looked like just a rather ordinary team and the last place Devils were happy to take advantage of that. Brian Rolston and Nick Palmieri’s first period goals were more than enough for Martin Brodeur. Brodeur made 23 saves on the way to a shutout win over the Penguins.

Philadelphia 6 – Ottawa 2

A blowout win by the Flyers erupted into fight night in Philadelphia  between these old school rivals. Mike Richards led the way with two goals and two assists for Philadelphia while Sergei Bobrovsky had 25 saves to lead the way for the win in goal. Things got ugly in the third period with the Senators well out of the game. Five fights broke out late in the third period and the game resembled a Flyers-Sens game of old. Still, for Ottawa the fights were at the least a moral victory in a game where Sens goalie Brian Elliott was flat out poor stopping just 16 of 22 shots. Mike Brodeur relieved him stopping the one shot he faced in the game. Chris Pronger had two assists and was a +1 in his first game back after a broken foot injury.

Buffalo 4 – Boston 2

After such impressive wins over Carolina in a home-and-home series, the Bruins were flat out outplayed by the Sabres tonight and Thomas Vanek had a big hand in that for Buffalo. Vanek had a goal and an assist to lead the way for Buffalo who are on fire of late and now just six points out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. The one guy who might’ve stole the spotlight away from Vanek was goalie Ryan Miller. Miller saved 38 shots to earn the win for the Sabres who are now 7-2-1 in their last ten games.

Detroit 4 – St. Louis 3 (F/OT)

Detroit had a 3-0 lead at one point in this game with Jimmy Howard back in goal, but the Blues were able to bounce back and send the game to overtime. In the extra session, Darren Helm was able to finish the Blues off with an overtime goal to give the Wings the victory on the road. Howard made 26 saves to earn the win while Jaroslav Halak made 25 saves in the loss. Jiri Hudler was the sneak offensive star for Detroit with three assists while Valtteri Filppula had two helpers. Patrik Berglund continued his hot play of late with a goal and an assist for St. Louis.

Carolina 4 – NY Rangers 1

What a difference a day makes. On Wednesday, the Rangers were solving their offensive woes and whooping up on the Maple Leafs and the following night they’re getting shutdown by the Hurricanes in Raleigh. Cam Ward stopped 37 shots while four different players tallied goals for the win. Chad LaRose and Jeff Skinner each had a goal and an assist for the Hurricanes to lead the offense. Brandon Prust tallied the Rangers lone goal.

Washington 2 – NY Islanders 1

It may not be pretty. but it’s a win for the Caps. Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and an assist while Alex Ovechkin had two assists to give surprise starter Braden Holtby the 24-save victory over the Islanders. Michael Grabner scored the Isles only goal while Rick DiPietro saved 22 shots in the loss.

Nashville 5 – Colorado 1

David Legwand and Cody Franson each had a goal and an assist for the Predators while Pekka Rinne stopped 32 of 33 shots he saw to pace Nashville to victory. Kyle Cumiskey’s first game back from injury for Colorado didn’t go so hot as he finished with a -2 rating while Craig Anderson stopped just 23 shots in the loss. Nashville has won nine of their last 11 games.

Dallas 4 – Edmonton 2

The Stars continue to roll right along in the West. Jamie Benn and Adam Burish each had a goal and an assist to lead the Stars over Edmonton. Kari Lehtonen had 30 saves on the night to earn the victory. Edmonton’s Jeff Petry scored his first NHL goal while Nikolai Khabibulin saved just 20 shots in the loss.

Tampa Bay 3 – Atlanta 2 (F/SO)

A big win for Tampa Bay as they stayed one point ahead of Washington in the Southeast Division. Steve Stamkos ripped two more goals in regulation giving him 37 on the season. Dominic Moore scored the game-winner in the shootout for Tampa Bay. Dwayne Roloson made 27 saves in regulation for the win. Ondrej Pavelec made 29 saves in the skills competition loss. Niclas Bergfors and Anthony Stewart scored for the Thrashers.

Toronto 5 – Anaheim 2

A night after getting ripped 7-0 by the Rangers, the Leafs were able to put that behind them and earn Jean-Sebastien Giguere the win against his former team. Clarke MacArthur had a goal and two assists and Mikhail Grabovsky scored twice to lead the way for Toronto. Giguere saved 26 to earn the victory against the team that traded him last season. Jonas Hiller stopped 32 shots in the loss for the Ducks.

San Jose 2 – Vancouver 1 (F/SO)

It may have come in a shootout, but for the Sharks a win is a win just the same and just the thing they needed against the West-leading Canucks. Logan Couture had the Sharks lone goal in regulation while Joe Pavelski scored the winner in the shootout. Antti Niemi made 36 saves to get the win. Roberto Luongo was outstanding in the loss making 45 saves. Henrik Sedin had the lone regulation goal for Vancouver. The win is San Jose’s third in a row.

Phoenix 2 – Los Angeles 0

In what turned out to be a tight game, Ilya Bryzgalov was brilliant making 36 saves in earning his third shutout of the year. Martin Hanzal and Lee Stempniak each scored for Phoenix but it was Hanzal’s goal that has the Kings and their GM Dean Lombardi steaming mad as it was scored with an apparent high stick. Replay didn’t disallow it and the officials call on the ice stood. For the Kings their losing ways continue and Jon Quick’s 13-save night looks even uglier on paper because of it. The Kings have lost three in a row and 10 of their last 12 games as they continue to slip down the Western standings.

Nikita Kucherov is trying to carry the Lightning to the playoffs

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Every time you think the Tampa Bay Lightning’s playoff chances might be finished this season, they always find a way to keep them alive and stay in the race.

Thanks to their 2-1 overtime win against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night, the Lightning were able to keep pace with the New York Islanders and move to within a single point of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference as we prepare to enter the final weeks of the regular season. It is still pretty amazing to think about them being this close to a playoff spot when you consider the injuries the team has dealt with this season. Steven Stamkos, their best player, has not played since November. Their center depth has been decimated in recent weeks with Tyler Johnson, Cedric Paquette and Vladislav Namestnikov all missing significant time in the month of March. They traded Ben Bishop, Brian Boyle and Valtteri Filppula at the trade deadline for nothing that will help this current team.

And yet, here they are, still right in the thick of the playoff race.

If they are able to pull this off and get one of the eight spots in the Eastern Conference is going to be because Nikita Kucherov has pretty much put the team on his back over the past month and single handedly carried it to one.

Kucherov scored another massive goal on Friday night when he scored the overtime winner in Detroit, and is currently in the middle of a four-game stretch where he has scored a goal in every game (for a total of seven) and recorded multiple points in each one (for a total of nine). If you go back over the past month, a stretch where the Lightning have managed to go 10-5-1 over a 16-game stretch to remain in the race, Kucherov has been the best offensive player in the league by a wide margin.

Since that stretch began on Feb. 20, Kucherov has scored 17 goals (four more than any other player in the league) and recorded 29 total points (eight more than any other player) to be the single biggest driving force behind the Lightning offense. His 29 points during that stretch mean he has had a hand (scoring or assisting) in 66 percent of the team’s goals (they have 44 during that stretch). He has scored close to 40 percent of them himself.

It is all part of an incredible season that has seen Kucherov climb to the top-five in the league in scoring even though he has missed seven games.

His 1.16 point per game average is third in the league among players that have played at least 60 games, trailing only Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid, and he is only 0.02 points off of McDavid’s pace. He is doing that while owning a 56 percent Corsi percentage that is in the top-25 of the entire league.

He has been one of the most dominant players in the league this season, and has taken his game to an entirely new level in the past month just when the Lightning have needed it most. If they get in, it’s going to be because of him.

Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

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He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

From the AHL:

With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

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The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

“Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

The Ducks defeated the Jets on Friday, moving into a tie with the Sharks at 91 points.

San Jose’s struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.