Riding the Zamboni – January 26th; Flames roll on, Kings win in shootout

Los Angeles 3 – San Jose 2 (F/SO)

In what was an important showdown between Pacific teams looking to get back in the playoff race and out of a collective funk, it was the Kings coming out on top in the skills competition. Jarret Stoll’s shootout goal gave the Kings the win, but it was Alexei Ponikarovsky who tied the game in the third for L.A. The Sharks rallied to take the lead in the second period after Ryan Smyth’s goal kicked off the scoring. Ryane Clowe and Devin Setoguchi put the Sharks up 2-1 with goals 39 seconds apart in the second. The Sharks kept that lead until halfway through the third when Ponikarovsky leveled it. Jon Quick played shaky but strong stopping 22 shots and everything he saw in the shootout. Antti Niemi saved just 18 on the night.

Calgary 4 – St. Louis 1

David Moss scored twice to give Calgary their fourth straight win. The all-star break might be coming at the worst time possible for the resurgent Flames as they’ve gotten themselves back in the mix in the playoff race in the West. Miikka Kiprusoff was huge tonight stopping 28 shots to preserve the win. Phillip McRae scored his first NHL goal for the Blues.

Phoenix 5 – Colorado 2

The fans in Colorado went home about 12 shades of angry after seeing the Coyotes seemingly get the benefit of most calls in Denver en route to the win. Eric Belanger scored twice and Keith Yandle had a goal and an assist to get Phoenix the victory. Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 29 in the win. Peter Budaj was chased from the start after giving up two goals in his first nine shots. Craig Anderson replaced him and allowed two more goals while stopping 25 shots. Matt Duchene and Ryan Stoa had the goals for Colorado as they continue to play inconsistently while the Canucks pull away in the Northwest.

Dallas 3 – Edmonton 1

The Stars have to be happy to see the Oilers these days. Dallas was able to rebound from their sound beating on Monday night to take out Edmonton thanks to Brenden Morrow’s two goals. Adam Burish added a third and Kari Lehtonen stopped 34 shots to earn the win. Dallas was able to solidify their lead in the Pacific Division with the win as they lead Anaheim by five points at the break. Edmonton, meanwhile, is the one team in the West that is distantly removed from the playoff race. Maybe they can ask to be moved to the East to fit in better there.

Detroit 3 – New Jersey 1

Detroit got the go-ahead goal from Valtteri Filppula early in the third while Johan Franzen scored his 21st of the season to give Detroit an important win heading into break. New Jersey thought they tied the game late in the third, but Ilya Kovalchuk’s rebound goal was disallowed seemingly because of the “intent to blow” rule. Jimmy Howard played strong all game saving 23 shots. Martin Brodeur stopped 26 in the loss.

Atlanta 1 – Washington 0

Boston 2 – Florida 1

It might not have been pretty but a win is a win for the Bruins. Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic scored, his 20th of the year, to lead the Bruins to victory over Florida. Bryan Allen was the only guy for Florida to beat Tim Thomas for a goal as Thomas saved 34 in the victory. Tomas Vokoun was no slouch himself stopping 33 shots. The Bruins go into the break with a four point lead on Montreal for the Northeast lead.

Vancouver 2 – Nashville 1

Carolina 4 – NY Islanders 2

With another snowstorm wrecking Long Island, a small crowd got to see Eric Staal score twice and lead the Hurricanes to victory over the Islanders. 4,976 fans braved the poor weather and saw Staal’s three point night show that he’s ready to captain his team in the All-Star Game on Sunday while potential All-Star draft pick Cam Ward stopped 23 shots to get the win. Michael Grabner scored his 15th goal of the year for the Isles while Rick DiPietro saved 27 shots in the loss.

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.

Their 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.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.

Video: Friday night fights between Bolts and Red Wings

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Not much offense — actually, just one goal midway through the second period as of the writing of this post — between the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday.

But there has definitely been some animosity between the two clubs.

Tempers flared late in the first period, with Adam Erne and Andreas Athanasiou getting involved in a spirited scrap — and Athanasiou unsuccessful in his attempt at the take-down.

The bad blood continued in the second period with Greg McKegg and Anthony Mantha getting involved in a fight, and Mantha — given the instigator — landing a couple of shots with McKegg on the ice.

 

NHL, MLB player unions support U.S. women hockey players’ boycott

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Unions representing NHL and Major League Baseball players are backing U.S. Women’s National Hockey team players’ decision to boycott next week’s world championships because of a wage dispute.

The NHL Players’ Association posted a note on its Twitter account on Friday saying it supports the U.S. players while panning USA Hockey’s bid to stock the team with replacements. The NHLPA says the decision to go with replacement players “would only serve to make relations, now and in the future, much worse.”

Earlier in the day, the MLB Players Association encouraged all women hockey players to stand united behind their national team colleagues.

Read more: USA Hockey says it will not offer living wage, as dispute with women’s national team continues

The Twitter messages were posted a day after USA Hockey announced it would begin gauging interest of replacement players to compete at the tournament, which opens next Friday in Plymouth, Michigan.

Players are seeking a four-year contract that includes payments outside the six-month Olympic period.