Islanders dominate Penguins 9-3 in fight-filled, chaotic game

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Perhaps it was “carry-over” from that raucous goalie fight between Brent Johnson and Rick DiPietro. It certainly didn’t help things that the New York Islanders took 6-0 and 8-2 leads over the pugilistic Pittsburgh Penguins. (The score ultimately was 9-3 in favor of the Islanders.) Obviously, Trevor Gillies’ hit on Eric Tangradi also stoked the flames. Then again, maybe the two teams just decided that they wanted to top the carnage of this week’s Montreal Canadiens-Boston Bruins game.

(Click here for at least some footage of the wild fights. Also click here.)

Either way, the Pens-Isles game was a chaotic affair, resulting in a staggering 346 penalty minutes. At some point the Penguins’ bench was so empty that it’s possible that coaches and trainers outnumbered players when Pittsburgh had four players on the ice in the game’s waning moments.

The game was full of fisticuffs, but it could probably be broken down into two major melees. The worst one took place when Islanders enforcer Michael Haley bludgeoned Maxime Talbot and then challenged goalie Johnson, who was saved by Eric Godard, who left Pittsburgh’s bench.

Godard is almost certainly to receive a 10-game suspension and a hefty fine for leaving the bench and being the “third man in,” but the two teams might face some other discipline for what degenerated into an outright-embarrassing bouts of considerable violence.

The Islanders obviously had less to lose considering the fact that they’re far outside the playoff race, but they’ll certainly appreciate the added bonus of a lopsided win. What might be lost in the fracas fest is that three young Islanders crossed the 20-goal plateau in this game: John Tavares, Matt Moulson and Michael Grabner hit that mark. Johnson and Marc-Andre Fleury both appeared in the game for Pittsburgh, but Mikko Koskinen was the only man in the Isles’ net (stopping 35 out of 38 shots).

While the Long Island bunch are playing for pride, the Penguins must be worried. They’ve lost three of their last four games, only scoring six goals while allowing 17 in that span.

We’ll keep you updated regarding any suspensions, fines or other discipline that might result from this game. Both team play on Sunday (the Penguins in New York against the Rangers; the Islanders in Buffalo against the Sabres), so the league will likely be forced to make judgments on Saturday.

The two teams only have one more game left on the schedule: at Nassau Coliseum on Friday, April 8th. That will be the second-to-last game of the season for both teams, so it will be interesting to see how the playoff-likely Penguins approach that game. Whichever way Pittsburgh handles the situation, the league will likely have its eyes on that one after tonight’s rambunctious contest.

Eddie Lack expects to be released from hospital on Monday night

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As scary as the situation was for Carolina Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack, the good news continues to pour in.

First, the Hurricanes provided an update that he had “full feeling in his extremities” while under observation at a hospital. This followed the promising sign that he was able to give a “thumbs up” gesture while being taken off the ice on a stretcher after the Hurricanes’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

The best news came late on Monday night, however, as Lack himself tweeted that he expects to head back home as early as this late evening/early morning:

That’s fantastic news. Video of that scary collision with Andreas Athanasiou can be seen in the video above this post’s headline.

Blues, Flames take care of business (Islanders … do not)

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For a while there, it seemed like the idle Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs would be Monday’s “winners.” That changed when the Carolina Hurricanes salvaged a standings point and the Tampa Bay Lightning stormed back to beat the Blackhawks.

Still, there were some teams who came through (beyond the Lightning) and those who fell flat, so let’s cover some of the results in short.

West teams get it done

Unlike their counterparts out East, West teams jockeying for position avoided “unforced errors” in losing to non-playoff teams.

The St. Louis Blues beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 while the Calgary Flames topped the Colorado Avalanche 4-2. Johnny Gaudreau generated his 200th point (and 201st) in Calgary’s win, while Alex Steen generated four assists. (Vladimir Tarasenko also enjoyed a three-point night.)

This keeps the Blues and Flames in position to advance. St. Louis is one point behind the Nashville Predators for third in the Central while the Flames are a point behind both the Sharks and Oilers for second and third in the Pacific (while remaining in shouting distance of the division title).

East teams stumble, some get over it

Again, the Lightning fought through hurdles to win and the Hurricanes managed that “charity point.”

Overall, East teams struggled. The New York Islanders fell to the Predators by a score of 3-1. Your mileage may vary on the Florida Panthers’ chances, especially after they fell 4-2 to the Buffalo Sabres.

Brian Gionta scored in his 1,000th game as Buffalo won, by the way.

Here’s what the race for the final spot in the East looks like after tonight:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Victor Hedman might just force his way into the Norris argument

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For quite some time this season, the Norris Trophy race felt a bit like “Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and [insert token finalist].” As it turns out, Victor Hedman is making it a pretty interesting three-horse race.

With Burns and Karlsson idle on Monday, Hedman continued to go on the best offensive tear of his already-impressive career, contributing three assists to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

As much credit as forwards Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin deserve in pushing Tampa Bay in Steven Stamkos‘ absence, Hedman has been an all-world blueliner for a Lightning team with a defense that isn’t really surrounding him with great talent.

He’s serving as a workhorse when his team needs him the most:

Now, when you look at the numbers, it’s probably fair to say that Hedman comes in third among the likely finalists in simple categories:

Brent Burns: 27 goals (!), 72 points in 75 games, +16 rating, 24:52 time-on-ice average

Erik Karlsson: 14 goals, 67 points in 74 games, +7, 26:53 minutes per game (fourth highest average in the NHL)

Victor Hedman: 15 goals, 65 points in 72 games, +2 rating, came into Monday with average of 24:15 minutes per game.

Looking at those breakdowns, you might wonder why someone wouldn’t just flippantly hand Hedman the “bronze medal” and a pat on the back … but things get more interesting if you ponder the all-around impact of those three.

Now, traditional-thinkers who slam risky defensemen for their mistakes often overstate such arguments. Both Burns and Karlsson tilt the ice in their teams’ favors, usually to profound degrees.

Still … Hedman locks opponents down to a truly elite degree and scores at a similar rate. Hedman could very well own the “two-way” argument; you could perhaps see his case most clearly when you compare his “HERO” chart to those of Burns and Karlsson, especially from the perspective of conceding shots.

Again, Burns remains the likely winner, and he would be a deserving one. You could make a solid Hart Trophy argument for Burns, in addition to tabbing him as the Norris frontrunner.

Even so, voters would be wise to take Hedman’s case seriously, especially as the Lightning continue their improbable playoff push.

Lightning storm back against Blackhawks, finish one point out of playoffs

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Who would have thought that the Tampa Bay Lightning would rally back from a 4-1 deficit tonight? Then again, who expected them to be so close to a playoff spot mere weeks ago, when they were sellers at the trade deadline?

The Lightning continue to show that they won’t just roll over and die, scoring four unanswered goals to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime on Monday.

While Jonathan Drouin was a catalyst for the second-period rally, it was an unlikely scorer who clinched the victory, as Yanni Gourde ended a thrilling run of 3-on-3 chances with the overtime-winner.

Really, it might have been fitting. Things looked glum when Tomas Jurco scored his first goal of the season against the Lightning, then the mood was totally flipped when Gourde’s second tally of 2016-17 grabbed a huge win.

With the Islanders losing to the Predators, the Hurricanes only managing a “loser point” against the Red Wings and the Bruins idle, Tampa Bay is a breath away from a playoff berth:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Yes, all of a sudden, a long-shot postseason run seems quite attainable.

Maybe the Lightning would prefer it if we kept counting them out, though?