Jhonas Enroth

Shootout thrillers: Sabres beat Habs, Flyers finally win against Lightning

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At this time in the season, every “three point game” really nags on contending teams watching on the sidelines. Two of today’s most interesting Eastern Conference showdowns required extensive shootouts, with the Buffalo Sabres besting the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 while the Philadelphia Flyers earned their first win of the season against the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3.

Buffalo 3, Montreal 2 (SO)

Jhonas Enroth is no Ryan Miller, but he was good enough (32 saves) to keep the scrappy Sabres undefeated in shootouts. Even if it took 10 rounds for Buffalo to best Carey Price and the Canadiens.

It wasn’t easy by any means, as Buffalo looked like they might be in a little trouble after allowing goals by Max Pacioretty and Benoit Pouliot to start the game. Yet Drew Stafford keeps putting this team on his back, scoring his 24th goal of the season on the power play. (Although he didn’t manage another hat trick this time around, the slacker.)

Jason Pominville came up big as well scoring the game-tying goal while Jochen Hecht scored the deciding goal the shootout 4-3 in the 10th round.

The Sabres now find themselves in ninth place in the East, only two points behind the Carolina Hurricanes with two games in hand. They’re now 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, as the team keeps finding ways to win. Meanwhile Montreal missed an opportunity to take the Northeast Division lead after the Boston Bruins lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Both Boston and Montreal are tied at 69 points, but the Bruins have one game in hand.

Philadelphia 4, Tampa Bay 3 (SO)

The East’s first ranked Flyers finally beat the second-ranked Lightning in this one, even if Tampa Bay gave them a serious run for their money. Philadelphia built a 3-1 lead, but the Bolts tied it up in a frenetic middle frame in which the two teams combined for five goals.

(Then again, these two explosive squads have traded blows before, although the Lightning got the best of that last slugfest.)

Kimmo Timonen ended up scoring the shootout winner in the seventh round. James van Riemsdyk produced a Gordie Howe hat trick for Philly while Dominic Moore had a goal in regulation and in the shootout for Tampa. Kris Versteeg was held pointless in his Flyers debut with 17:44 of ice time.

The Flyers are now two points behind the Vancouver Canucks in the Presidents Trophy race, while they now have a five point lead over the Lightning (for the first seed) and Pittsburgh Penguins (for the Atlantic Division title).

It’s not all bad for the Lightning, though, as they now hold a six point lead over the struggling Washington Capitals for the top spot in the Southeast. They’re still squeezing a lot of points out of this 12-game homestand, but we’ll see if they have the killer instinct to keep pushing.

Video: Jets’ Stafford suspended one game for ‘forceful, reckless’ high-stick

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The NHL has dinged Winnipeg forward Drew Stafford one game for his ugly high stick on Colorado’s Nick Holden over the weekend.

“While we accept Stafford’s assertion that he did not intentionally strike Holden in the face, he is responsible for the consequences of swinging his stick in such a forceful and reckless fashion,” the Department of Player Safety explained.

Stafford, who wasn’t penalized on the play, will now miss Winnipeg’s next game — tonight, in St. Louis — and will be eligible to return on Thursday when the Jets host the Bruins.

Stafford will also forfeit $23,387.10 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Big Buff, Big Bucks: Jets ink Byfuglien to five-year, $38 million extension

Dustin Byfuglien
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One of the most prized trade deadline targets is no longer.

On Monday, Winnipeg locked in pending UFA d-man Dustin Byfuglien to a five-year, $38 million extension, one that carries a $7.6M cap hit and makes him the highest-paid player on the team.

Byfuglien, 30, was in the last of a five-year, $26 million deal with a $5.2M average annual cap hit. One of the league’s most unique players — a 6-foot-5, 265 pounder that’s played forward and defense, and participated in this year’s fastest skater All-Star skills competition — his bio from the Jets’ release pretty much sums up how much he means to the club:

[Byfuglien] has recorded 32 points (15G, 17A) so far this season while appearing in all 52 games and sits in a tie for second amongst all NHL defencemen with his 15 goals.

Byfuglien leads the Jets so far this season in shots (163), penalty minutes (78) and ice time (24:14 per game).

The native of Roseau, MN, was named to the 2016 NHL All-Star Game in Nashville, TN where he recorded a goal and an assist for the Central Division team.

Byfuglien has been named to the All-Star Game in each of the last four seasons that the game has taken place (2011, 2012, 2015, 2016).

The deal keeps Byfuglien in Winnipeg through 2022 and is the latest long-term deal on the blueline: Tobias Enstrom is at $5.75M per through 2018, and Tyler Myers is at $5.5M per through ’19.

With this move done, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff can now turn his attention to another prized pending UFA: Andrew Ladd, the club’s captain and another player that’s believed to have high interest around the league as a trade deadline rental.

Slumping Wild want ‘a little home cooking’ from ‘restless’ fan base

Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo argues a call in the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators Tuesday, March 17, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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The Minnesota Wild are in a funk right now.

They’re 3-10-3 in their last 16 games, three points back of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference and just put key blueliner Jonas Brodin on IR with a broken foot.

So, clearly, the team and head coach Mike Yeo are hoping for better times ahead, and Yeo hopes they begin tonight when the Wild kick off a three-game homestand with a date against Central Division rivals Dallas.

It’s interesting that Yeo’s addressing the Xcel faithful, while also acknowledging fans are irked by the team’s recent play. The timing of these remarks comes with the Wild boasting a good record at home (14-8-3) but having really struggled on the road — Minnesota has just nine away wins this year, the fewest among all Central teams.

Of course, there could be other reasons Yeo’s trying to get fans pumped for the upcoming home swing.

The next three games at Xcel are of the measuring stick variety. Dallas currently sits third overall in the NHL and boasts the league’s highest scoring offense (the Stars have also beat the Wild three out of four times this season already).

After the Dallas game, there’s another big one — the NHL’s top team, Washington, comes to town on Thursday.

After the Caps game, Boston — 7-2-1 in its last 10 — takes on the Wild in a Saturday matinee.

Foley is ‘9.5’ out of 10 confident that NHL will expand to Vegas

LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 10:  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (L) and Fidelity National Financial Inc. Chairman and President of Hockey Vision Las Vegas Bill Foley pose during a news conference at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino announcing the launch of a season ticket drive to try to gauge if there is enough interest in Las Vegas to support an NHL team on February 10, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A Las Vegas franchise would play in a USD 375 million, 20,000-seat arena being built on the Strip by MGM Resorts International and AEG that is scheduled to open in the spring of 2016.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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On a scale of 1 to 10, Bill Foley is “9.5” confident that the NHL will grant him an expansion team for Las Vegas.

That was the main takeaway from an interview Foley did with KSNV NBC in Las Vegas.

At the same time, despite his high level of confidence, Foley would appreciate an answer sooner rather than later — especially if the team is to start playing in 2017-18.

” I don’t want to give the league too much time,” he said, smiling. “They’re doing their job, they’re doing their process and so on. We would really like to have the word by June.”

Foley was asked what he believed to be the biggest “concern” the NHL had about expansion. He replied that it was a matter of whether the league expanded by one team or two (Quebec City has also applied for a franchise), but also the expansion draft.

“Who’s available in the draft? Are players with no-trade clauses…are they going to be part of the draft or not part of the draft?” Foley wondered. “So the owners and the league have a lot of things to do and to figure out.”

Full video of the interview can be found here.

Related: Bettman rejects notion that the NHL is waiting for Seattle