Riding the Zamboni – Thursday, February 23rd

Buffalo 4, Atlanta 1

In a battle between a team with a new owner vs. a team looking for an owner, it was Buffalo who came out victorious. The Terry Pegula era started just about as well as Sabres fans dreamed as the home team skated away with the 4-1 win. Two goals by Paul Gaustad and Jason Pominville 30 seconds apart was all Buffalo really needed. The loss was the Thrashers’ fourth in a row and dropped them to 10th in the Eastern Conference; Atlanta only has 6 wins in their last 26 games.

Ottawa 5, Florida 1

The Sens had lost 10 straight at home going into the game—but those were games without Craig Anderson. Another stellar performance and a scoring explosion Sens fans haven’t seen in a while lead to an absolute route. Bobby Butler potted a couple and the defense was a solid as it’s been in about a month.

Worse than just the loss in the standings, newly acquired forward Jack Skille went down with a high-ankle sprain and is expected to be out of the line-up for an extended period of time. When it rains, it pours.

When we look back at this game in a month or two, it will probably be in terms of draft positioning. But for a night, all is right in Ottawa. Since the Sens have won two straight, can we call it a streak?

San Jose 3, Pittsburgh 2 (OT)

There was a lengthy 20 minute delay before the 2nd period started as they couldn’t get the lights to turn back on at the CONSOL Energy Center; but not even a power problem could slow down the surging Sharks. After their 3-2 OT victory in Pittsburgh, they have now won 5 straight and are 14-2-1 in their last 17 games.

It was the first game in a Penguins uniform for James Neal and Matt Niskanen. After Logan Couture missed a shot at an empty net, Tyler Kennedy put in a rebound with 50 seconds left to force OT. It looked like there could be a storybook ending—until Patrick Marleau banged home a rebound with 5 seconds left in the overtime period.

Tampa Bay 8, Phoenix 3

With all due respect to the Sharks and Pens, this was the night’s marquee match-up. The key word in that sentence is “was” (as in past tense). The Lightning blew the doors open early as they dropped a 5 spot on the Coyotes before the 1st period was over. Maybe it was the back-up goaltender in net and maybe it was the back-to-back games against the two best teams in the Eastern Conference, but the game never was in doubt. Teddy Purcell kicked off the scoring 2 minutes into the game en route to a hat trick. Vinny Lecavalier had 4 assists and 5 points. Hey, if a team is going to blow an 8-game winning streak, at least they did it in style.

Edmonton 5, Colorado 1

We knew it would be tough for the Avs to bring the same kind of intensity after an emotional, come-from-behind victory against the Blues. Back-to-backs are tough, but even tougher when the teams just made a blockbuster trade and there are storylines all over the place. Yes, the Oilers may be playing better lately, but losing 5-1 at home is not the sign of a team that came ready to play. Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, and Tom Gilbert all had multi-point games as the Oilers scored early and often.

We should have expected a high scoring game when the two worst defensive teams in the league (in terms of GA/G) took the ice. At least one team followed through.

Los Angeles 3, Anaheim 2

Going into the game, the Ducks had given up 7, 5, and 9 goals in their last three games. On the other hand, the Kings were shutout in their last game against the Islanders—so something had to give. Split the difference and the Kings scored three goals en route to their victory to cap off their franchise-long road trip (in which they finished 6-1-3). The win for the Kings was fueled by a game-winning goal from one of the most unlikely sources: shutdown defenseman Willie Mitchell. On the other hand, the Ducks lost for the fourth straight game and fell out of a playoff spot for the first time in two months. They gave a great effort with both Saku Koivu and Ryan Getzlaf out for the game—but at this point in the season, they need wins. Thankfully for Ducks fans, both players should be back for their next game.

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    The Buzzer: Celebrating genius of McDavid, Bergeron, Karlsson

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    Player of the Night: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

    Nico Hischier collected two goals and an assist in a blistering effort as the Devils beat the Senators in overtime. Erik Karlsson almost ruined things for New Jersey with three assists. Andrei Vasilevskiy pitched an impressive 43-save shutout as the Lightning edged the Blue Jackets. Ben Bishop narrowly kept Clayton Keller and Derek Stepan from even bigger nights, yet each player scored two goals and one assist apiece in a slim Stars win vs. the Coyotes.

    Even Bergeron’s teammates made some waves.

    There were great choices for player of the night, but ultimately, Bergeron’s return to the Bruins lineup stands tallest. He scored a goal and three assists, soothing injury-bummed Bruins fans as part of Boston’s victory against Vancouver.

    Bergeron didn’t ease right in. He won half of his draws, fired six shots on goal, and almost logged 21 minutes of ice time. Maybe he can hold things together for Boston?

    Highlight of the Night: Connor McDavid‘s ridiculous assist

    This post goes into greater detail on that and Edmonton’s win, so we’ll just stick this GIF in here because you need to see it either way:

    OK, but to avoid an overly redundant buzzer, check Hischier here, David Pastrnak‘s great goal, and Mikhail Sergachev‘s big night. And, as a bonus, Will Butcher must have nodded to Karlsson after sending this ridiculous outlet pass:

    Outstanding.

    You know what? Enjoy Bishop robbing Derek Stepan as a bonus bonus.

    Misc.

    Click here for Erik Gudbranson‘s hit and fight. Zack Kassian‘s hit on Ryan Hartman is mentioned there, but just in case you missed it, here it is one more time:

    Factoids of the night

    Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators continued their hot streak by blanking the Flyers. Rinne enjoys a milestone moment:

    Two impressive bits regarding how dominant McDavid and Karlsson have been:

    Scores and more

    Bruins 6, Canucks 3 (more)

    Devils 5, Senators 4 [OT] (more)

    Islanders 4, Rangers 3 [SO]

    Predators 1, Flyers 0

    Lightning 2, Blue Jackets 0 (more)

    Oilers 2, Blackhawks 1 [OT] (more)

    Blues 4, Avalanche 3

    Hurricanes 2, Flames 1

    Stars 5, Coyotes 4

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Should Erik Gudbranson get suspended for boarding Frank Vatrano?

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    The Boston Bruins power play made Erik Gudbranson and the Vancouver Canucks pay with three goals during the major for his hit on Frank Vatrano, but the NHL might decide to go further.

    The NHL’s Department of Player Safety confirmed that Gudbranson, 25, will receive a Friday hearing for the boarding check. The league tends to be vague about this, but Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that it’s expected to being an interview over the phone, rather than the in-person variety that can bring about harsher punishments.

    Vatrano returned to the Bruins’ eventual 6-3 win against the Canucks, yet there’s a chance that he might have a setback. (Knowing Boston’s recent luck, don’t count on good news until you see it.)

    Watch the video and Gudbranson’s fight with Tim Schaller in the video above, via Hockey Fights.

    Fans responded to that announcement by pointing out one of Thursday’s other questionable hits: Zack Kassian on Ryan Hartman, which only drew a minor penalty:

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    McDavid dazzles again, Oilers break slump with OT win vs. Blackhawks

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    Update: The Edmonton Oilers ended up needing every bit of Connor McDavid‘s brilliance, as goals weren’t coming easily against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.

    (Even though, as you can see with that highlight-reel assist, McDavid often makes it look easy.)

    McDavid also managed a secondary assist on Mark Letestu‘s overtime-winner, ending the Edmonton Oilers’ losing streak at four games. The Blackhawks continue to be resourceful in getting standings points, in this case falling 2-1 in OT.

    Anton Forsberg made 40 of 42 saves, but it wasn’t enough against a driven group led by number 97.

    Here’s the OT goal.

    If you haven’t seen the more amazing of McDavid’s two helpers, do yourself a favor and check it out. You won’t regret it.

    ***

    Connor McDavid’s speed and skill are glorious, but the thing that makes him extra-sensational is just how unstoppable he seems. Even against some of the NHL’s best.

    To start the season, McDavid made very-solid Calgary Flames defenseman T.J. Brodie look downright permeable during the most impressive goal in his opening-night hat trick.

    If that wasn’t impressive enough, the superstar tore through the Chicago Blackhawks – including certain future Hall of Famer Duncan Keith – and then sent absolutely obscene pass to Patrick Maroon for an easy goal.

    You know how people used to say that a fire hydrant could score 50 goals with Mario Lemieux? We might need to bump that down to 30 for modern hockey, but either way, Maroon might laugh uncomfortably at such jokes.

    If you prefer your jaw-droppers in GIF form, drop away:

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Bergeron bombastic in return, but Bruins lose Krejci to injury

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    The roller coaster isn’t slowing down for the Boston Bruins.

    With Tuukka Rask‘s concussion looming over the proceedings, the Bruins gave fans some reason to celebrate; Patrice Bergeron scored a goal and three assists in an impressive 6-3 output by the B’s top guns against the overmatched Vancouver Canucks.

    Even Anders Bjork enjoyed some measure of redemption after bowling over Rask in practice, as the young player scored two goals and an assist despite being limited to 12:29 TOI.

    Other big guns like Brad Marchand did their increasingly reliable damage, with David Pastrnak probably providing the most exhilarating goal of the contest:

    Yeah, that might get some attention from Canucks coach Travis Green in film sessions, assuming he doesn’t just burn the tape.

    Bergeron broke down his night to Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy after the game:

    The Bruins really made Erik Gudbranson and the Canucks pay for boarding Frank Vatrano, as they scored three power-play goals on the major penalty. Vatrano’s another health situation to watch, although it’s heartening that he returned during the game.

    MORE: Gudbranson faces hearing for hit

    ***

    So … solid stuff overall, as the Bruins provided ample evidence that they might have the weapons to scrap through all this bad luck.

    Then again, if opponents can slow the top-end guys, you wonder what kind of supporting cast the Bruins will have left through this run of attrition. David Krejci is the latest name to land on Boston’s troubling list of walking wounded.

    Here’s hoping that it isn’t a big issue for a veteran center who’s dealt with nagging injuries in recent years.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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