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.

PHT Morning Skate: Sharks name stray cat after captain Joe Pavelski

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

–The stray cat that ran onto the ice prior to Game 1 between the Sharks and Preds has been named after Joe Pavelski. (Associated Press)

–Speaking of that black cat, here’s a mountain of pucks shaped like the cat. (The Score)

–When Lukas Head was younger, he played with Steven Stamkos and P.K. Subban. Here’s his story. (Toronto Star)

–Watch the highlights from yesterday’s game between the Stars and Blues. (Top)

–A look behind the scenes of the NHL draft lottery. (Canadian Press)

–Two-time Olympic gold medalist Sharon Szabados loves curing and the Oilers and she was forced to make a tough choice on Saturday. (Sportsnet)

Pascal Dupuis, who was named one of the Masterton Trophy finalists, is adjusting to retirement. (NHL.com)

Pavelski’s late goal helps Sharks grab 2-0 series lead over Preds

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The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.

The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.

Here’s the goal:

Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.

Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.

Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.

Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.

The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.

Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.

The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.

Video: Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved by his visor after taking Shea Weber shot to the face

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It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.

After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.

In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.

You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.

It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:

Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:

It sounds like Olli Maatta won’t be ready for Game 3

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You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.

After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.

“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.

“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”

After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.

“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”

And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.

Related:

Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta