Early Ride on the Zamboni – Friday, February 25th

It’s a busy Friday in the NHL, with nine games overall. To make the results more digestible, we thought it might be wise to break up the recaps into two time frame-specific chunks. Here are summaries of the first six games, then.

Carolina 4, Pittsburgh 1

In a nostalgia-tinged reunion match between Cory Stillman (back with the Canes) and Alexei Kovalev (returning to the Penguins), Stillman’s team came out well ahead. Erik Cole seemed to benefit from the reunion of the Eric Staal-Stillman-Cole line, as he scored a goal and an assist in the game. Meanwhile Kovalev (zero points and two obstruction-type penalties) and Marc-Andre Fleury (pulled halfway through the game) had nights they’d prefer to forget.

NY Rangers 6, Washington 0

Speaking of nights they would like to forget, the Capitals had yet another against the Rangers. Erik Christensen scored two goals and two assists while Henrik Lundqvist pitched a 35-save shutout to embarrass Washington once again (they also beat the Caps 7-0 in a game documented beautifully by HBO in its 24/7 series).

There was at least one regrettable moment for the Rangers, though, as Derek Stepan elbowed Mike Green in a play that might get some attention from the league’s disciplinarians. We’ll keep you updated on that situation either later tonight or sometime tomorrow.

Columbus 5, Phoenix 3

Maybe that Matt Calvert kid is something to special? He earned a recent Goal of the Night award and took over this game between playoff contenders, scoring a hat trick and an assist to help the Blue Jackets beat the Coyotes. Columbus is absolutely getting hot right now; they’ve won three straight, five of six and earned at least one point in nine of their last 10 games. The Jackets are now at 68 points, two behind the ridiculous logjam for sixth through 11th place in the West.

Buffalo 4, Ottawa 2

The Senators already seem like a more competent team with Craig Anderson in net, but stopping 35 out of 38 shots wasn’t good enough to earn Ottawa a win against desperate Buffalo tonight. Ryan Miller ended up getting the victory (and an assist) in the game, making 29 saves. This win allows the Sabres to stay three points behind the Hurricanes for eighth place in the East.

Tampa Bay 2, New Jersey 1

Tonight was a bad night for the Devils. It’s bad enough that New Jersey lost a tight game with the Lightning, but every other active Eastern bubble team gained at least a point on them (even Atlanta and Florida went to a shootout, twisting the knife a little deeper). Tampa Bay more or less won the game in less than a minute, as Martin St. Louis and Simon Gagne scored rapid fire goals in the beginning of the second period. Mark Fayne scored for the Devils in the third, but it was not meant to be, wasting a 28-for-30 performance by Johan Hedberg.

Florida 2, Atlanta 1 (SO)

It’s hard to imagine the Panthers making a big run for the playoffs (after all, they seem to fall just-short every season), so this seems more like a blow to Atlanta’s fading playoff hopes that a boost to Florida’s flimsy postseason dreams. You really never know the way this season is going, though.

Transactions seemed to dominate this game. Newly acquired Thrashers forward Blake Wheeler scored in regulation and the shootout while trade target Tomas Vokoun made an outstanding 45 out of 46 saves and waived-yet-right-back forward Steve Bernier scored the shootout winner for the Panthers.

No mic? No problem: Oilers fans sing American, Canadian national anthems

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There was apparently an issue with a microphone used for the national anthems prior to Game 3 between the Ducks and Oilers in Edmonton.

Canadian country music star Brett Kissel was supposed to perform the anthems, however, as he stepped up to the mic, he soon discovered there was a malfunction.

With some quick encouragement from Kissel, fans at Rogers Place stole the show with stirring renditions of both the American and Canadian national anthems.

Here is the Star Spangled Banner:

Here is O Canada:

Sami Vatanen returns to Ducks lineup vs. Oilers

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Good news for the Anaheim Ducks, who trail the Edmonton Oilers 2-0 in their second round series.

Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen returns to the lineup Sunday for Game 3 — his first game since April 13, which was the opener of Anaheim’s first-round series with Calgary, because of an upper-body injury.

However, the Ducks will be without Kevin Bieksa, who is dealing with a lower-body injury.

A familiar tune: Predators stifle Blues to take back series lead

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The Nashville Predators have snapped their one-game funk in these Stanley Cup playoffs, taking back the series lead over the St. Louis Blues.

For long stretches of Sunday’s contest, the Predators kept the puck away from and stifled the Blues, including a stretch of almost nine minutes at the beginning of the second period in which St. Louis failed to register a shot attempt.

The Predators’ 3-1 victory in Game 3 was eventually secured on an unbelievably dominant shift late in the third period.

Joel Edmundson‘s (costly) turnover led to a dizzying attack from Predators, who had sustained puck possession inside the St. Louis zone for about 1:10.

By the end, Edmundson and Colton Parayko had exhausted themselves as the Predators tossed the puck around with increasing ease before Roman Josi halted the madness with a slap shot to the top corner, giving Nashville a two-goal lead.

That continues an impressive trend for the Predators.

They have scored nine goals in this series, with at least one defenseman contributing directly with either a goal or an assist on eight of those goals. Nashville’s group of blueliners — including Ryan Ellis, who has been on quite a productive roll throughout these playoffs — have combined for 11 points through three games in this series.

This series resumes Tuesday in Nashville, with the Predators leading 2-1.

VIDEO: Ryan Ellis continues his incredible postseason run for Predators

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Playing in Nashville over the years it has been easy for Ryan Ellis to get overlooked, always playing in the shadow of bigger name stars on the team’s blue line.

Shea Weber (before he was traded). Roman Josi. P.K. Subban.

But Ellis has been a major part of the Predators’ blue line and he had a career-year in 2016-17, setting new personal bests in goals (16) and points (38) while matching his previous career high in assists (22).

He has continued that strong play in the postseason and is currently the team’s leading scorer after he netted his third goal of the playoffs (and eighth total point) on Sunday afternoon to give the Predators a 1-0 lead over the St. Louis Blues.

You can see it in the video above.

After being held without a point in the Predators’ first playoff game, Ellis has now picked up at least one point in every playoff game since them and is now riding a six-game point streak.

The first half of Sunday’s game has been a defensive clinic by the Predators, by the way, limiting St. Louis to just 10 shots on goal through the first 34 minutes, and none through the first 14 minutes of the second period.

The Predators extended their lead to 2-0 in the second period when Cody McLeod deflected in his first goal of the playoffs to give the Predators some unexpected scoring depth. He had just five goals in 59 games during the regular season between the Predators and Colorado Avalanche.