Pittsburgh Penguins v New Jersey Devils

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.

Clarke MacArthur helped off ice during Sens scrimmage

BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 8: Clarke MacArthur #16 of the Ottawa Senators skates with the puck during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center on October 8, 2015 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/ Getty Images)
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Rough news for the Ottawa Senators on Sunday: forward Clarke MacArthur needed help off the ice following a big hit during a team scrimmage.

The hit was delivered by Patrick Sieloff, prompting an immediate response from Bobby Ryan, according to The Hockey News’ Murray Pam.

MacArthur has been hoping to return to NHL action after some serious concussion issues, so this is a troubling situation. More than a few people wonder if this might end his career.

Team Europe is happy to play underdog role

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TORONTO (AP) When the World Cup of Hockey started, Team Europe was not picked as a team to beat.

In fact, the unique team made up of eight nations outside of the continent’s traditional hockey powers was expected to be out of the best-on-best tournament.

Team Europe had other plans.

The blended group of players opened the tournament with a 3-0 win over the U.S. and then beat the Czech Republic in overtime to seal a spot in the semifinals before losing to Canada.

“I know nobody really expected us to be here right now,” Danish and Detroit Red Wings forward Frans Nielsen said Saturday. “But when you look in the room and go over the team, there’s not a lot of players better than (Anze) Kopitar in this tournament. We got (Marian) Hossa. We got some good guys on the backend and good goaltending.”

The Europeans will face Sweden on Sunday for a spot in the best-of-three finals against the winner of Saturday night’s Canada-Russia game.

When Team Europe players have faced Sweden for their countries – Switzerland, Denmark, Slovakia, France, Germany, Slovenia, Austria and Norway – in previous, they didn’t have a legitimate chance to win.

They do now.

A veteran group of skaters and a star in Kopitar along with Slovak and New York Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak give them a shot on any sheet of ice.

“He’s the kind of goalie that almost every night, he gives you a chance to win,” said Nielsen, who played with Halak in New York. “And, he’ll make that save when you need it.”

Team Europe coach Ralph Krueger said he’ll likely save his rah-rah speeches for another team because this one simply doesn’t need it.

Krueger began to sense something special was in store for Team Europe nearly a year ago when several candidates to be on the team met when Boston and the New York Islanders played. When the entire group gathered nearly three weeks ago in Quebec, Krueger got even more excited about the natural chemistry the team already had from their shared experiences.

“We didn’t have to do a lot of extra team-building,” Krueger said. “It just happened with a combination of leadership and personalities and character and will – of pure will – of these eight nations that are forever underdogs, forever going home when the final four is staged, forever watching other teams play in finals of best of best. That opportunity has fueled the fire that taken us here.”

Follow Larry Lage at http://www.twitter.com/larrylage and follow his work at http://www.bigstory.ap.org/content/larry-lage

Sadly, Crosby praise still comes at Ovechkin’s expense

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 24: Alex Ovechkin #8 and Sidney Crosby #87 shake hands following Team Canada's  5-3 victory to move on to the finals during the World Cup of Hockey at the semifinal game during the World Cup of Hockey tournament at Air Canada Centre on September 24, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)
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Here’s a homework assignment for you: praise Sidney Crosby‘s incredible work without downgrading Alex Ovechkin.

Yes, it’s not easy.

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun presented an interesting column that spotlighted an admittedly “tired narrative” while still ultimately pumping up Crosby at Ovechkin’s expense.

LeBrun quoted anonymous executives who, yes, trotted out tired narratives. One executive did the baseball thing in making it Crosby (“five-tool guy”) vs. Ovechkin (“home run hitter”) while another equated it to a full-court player vs. a “half-court” player.

It’s all … well, tiresome.

Ovechkin may not have had the greatest game of his life on Saturday, but watching that game, was the takeaway really that he let Russia down? That the difference between the two teams was, in any way, about Crosby over Ovechkin?

You can throw out all sorts of stats or lean on the eye test to note how over-matched Russia really was in that game. Or you can consider the defensemen Russia dressed in a best-on-best clash:

Dmitry Kulikov, Dmitry Orlov, Nikita Zaitsev, Alexey Marchenko, Alexei Emelin, Andrei Markov and Nikita Nesterov.

Yikes.

Search your soul for a second and ask: how uneasy would an NHL team feel about that group of blueliners? Such a collection would struggle against one of the league’s 30 squads, let alone against a virtual All-Star team.

Is Crosby better than Ovechkin? There’s a strong chance that is the case, because of the whole “Crosby probably being the best player of his generation” thing.

How about this for a daring idea, though: why not enjoy the work of both players?

Ovechkin is easily the best sniper of his generation, and with 82 points in 84 career playoff games, sure seems like a strong big-game player. As we all know, hockey is a team sport, yet the blame falls on Ovechkin again and again.

Instead, let’s give Crosby and the rest of his brilliant teammates our attention, as we’ve seen here, here and here.

Datsyuk made some magic in North American ‘final act’

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MAY 19: Pavel Datsyuk #13 of Russia skates against Germany at Ice Palace on May 19, 2016 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Anna Sergeeva/Getty Images)
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TORONTO (AP) Pavel Datsyuk’s North American magic show had one final act.

Months after deciding to leave the NHL and go home to Russia, the Detroit Red Wings great showed off his fanciful skillset one last time on this side of the ocean at the World Cup of Hockey. A lower-body injury may have cut his tournament short but not before another remarkable performance against players 15 to 20 years younger.

Datsyuk’s legs aren’t what they used to be at age 38, but he was a difference maker killing penalties and keeping up with the pace of a lightning-fast end-to-end victory against Team North America that helped Russia advance. He missed Russia’s round-robin finale Thursday against Finland and was scratched again from the lineup Saturday night against Canada.

Datsyuk left a lasting memory on the NHL, especially to his peers who appreciate his play the most from watching him up close.

“Oh, he’s unbelievable,” said Russian star Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins. “You do not see much what he (can) do because he’s so professional. He’s (the) most professional I’ve ever seen.”

Datsyuk had 314 goals and 604 assists in 953 games for the Red Wings over 14 seasons. But his play with the puck is more memorable than the points he scored with it, so much so that Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri, used to recognize Datsyuk as “the magic man.”

Mike Babcock, who coached Datsyuk in Detroit before joining the Toronto Maple Leafs, said the Russian was a pleasure to be around and someone he learned a lot from. Babcock, who’s coaching Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews with Canada for a third time, knows Datsyuk wasn’t as prodigious as those stars who were elite as teenagers but said he made a major impact when he entered the NHL at age 21.

“His span, I don’t know how many years it was, in my opinion he was the best forward in hockey in that time,” Babcock said Thursday. “Lots of people would say somebody else scored more points. He was the best player in hockey up front for a period of time with and without the puck.”

Datsyuk made it look as if he had the puck on a string and was among the best at knocking it away from opponents. Four times he won the Lady Byng Trophy awarded to the player who exemplifies sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of ability.

That standard hasn’t faded. Russia coach Oleg Znarok said in Datsyuk’s case, “age doesn’t matter.”

“He is responsible for a lot of roles on our team like penalty kill,” he said through an interpreter. “Definitely one of the best players.”

Datsyuk signed with SKA St. Petersburg to finish his playing career in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. He has great respect from the game’s top players, and those who played with him understand that the most.

“Talking with guys on (the U.S.) team and guys that I’ve come across, (they know) just how good he is with the puck and his takeaways,” former Red Wings teammate Justin Abdelkader said. “He practices every day. A lot of people don’t see, but he’s always playing after games, small-area games or 1-on-1 with players. It just shows his commitment and how good he is.”

As exciting as watching Datsyuk in games has been for fans for over a decade, Abdelkader isn’t the only player in awe of his practice habits. Russian teammate Vladislav Namestnikov called Datsyuk “unreal” and figures he’ll get better just from soaking in how his elder prepares for games in the gym and after practice.

Injuries have hampered Datsyuk and he was traded at the draft – to the Arizona Coyotes to give Detroit cap relief. He’s on the Coyotes’ roster this season despite playing in the KHL, where he already has seven points in six games.

Datsyuk leaving with one year left on his contract may have rubbed some people the wrong way, but Babcock points out it happened for the right reason.

“Age catches up to all of us,” Babcock said. “But he’s still an effective player and he’s chosen to go home to be around his family and that’s good for Pavel.”

Follow Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno .