Ilya Kovalchuk, Jason Arnott, Mark Fayne, Henrik Tallinder

Ilya Kovalchuk helps Jacques Lemaire win game #600 in overtime over Toronto

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If ever there was a more proper way for Devils coach Jacques Lemaire to win his 600th game, doing so in a rather uneventful 2-1 overtime win over Toronto made for as appropriate of a statement as any. Making things even more ironic was seeing high-powered scorer Ilya Kovalchuk net the game-winner in the extra session helping the Devils to their third straight win and helping the team improve to 11-1-2 in their last 14 games.

Lemaire is famous for making his mark with the Devils during the mid-90s winning a Stanley Cup in 1995 courtesy of the infamous neutral zone trap. With the Devils playing a much more aggressive forecheck these days and an offense-stifling brand of hockey is giving Devils fans a reason to be excited again while their opponents are having flashbacks to a darker era. For Lemaire, however, the effort he’s putting in with these Devils in pulling them out of the basement and making some fans get hopeful for a run at the playoffs it might be his best coaching job to date.

Johan Hedberg led the way in goal for New Jersey while Martin Brodeur is out stopping 31 of 32 shots. James Reimer proved to be the hard luck loser for the Leafs in stopping 37 shots. Dainius Zubrus also scored for New Jersey while Nikolai Kulemin got Toronto’s lone goal thanks to a great set up by Phil Kessel.

With the win, the Devils are 13 points behind Carolina for the eighth seed in the East. It’s a long way to catch up for them, but with Carolina fighting inconsistency, Atlanta stumbling badly, and teams like Florida and Buffalo trying to keep pace the possibility of making the playoffs, as slim as it seems, still exists for the Devils. When they’re playing as tough as they are now and with Lemaire at the helm, you have to wonder why can’t the Devils make the playoffs. Mathematically is seems nearly improbable, but funnier things have happened.

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.