Nashville Predators goalie Rinne blocks shot from Vancouver Canucks Sedin during their NHL hockey game in Vancouver

Riding the Zamboni – Thursday, March 3

Edmonton 4, Columbus 2

The Edmonton Oilers might not be a very good team in the standings, but they sure can be fun to watch. When they’re on their game, they show tons of potential for the future and play an exciting brand of hockey. Lead by Taylor Hall’s Gordie Howe hat trick, the Oilers jumped out to a 3-0 lead, chased Jackets’ goaltender Steve Mason, and held on for the win. They may be reduced to the spoiler role—but they’re playing it well. Unfortunately, they may be doing it without Hall pending the results of his MRI on Friday.

The Blue Jackets came into Edmonton needing points if they wanted to keep pace in the playoff hunt. Inexplicitly, they came out flat and never really deserved to win a game they could have used. Jackets coach Scott Arniel summed it up best:

“We didn’t come to compete. We didn’t win many one-on-one battles, our power-play (0-of-5) stunk. We did a lot of ugly things tonight, really out of character of what we’ve been doing the last month and a half.”

Nashville 3, Vancouver 0

The two best defenses in the Western Conference got together and through 40 minutes no one could score a goal. But in the 3rd period, the Predators broke loose, scored three unanswered, and beat the best team in the league in their own barn. Blake Geoffrion scored his 2nd career goal two minutes into the final period which proved to be enough. Patrick Hornqvist had a sweet goal and an empty netter sealed the deal. The game had the look and feel of a playoff game with the two teams playing such a tight brand of hockey. No doubt it’s a good sign for fans in Nashville that the Preds were able to go into a hostile environment and play their style of game.

San Jose 3, Detroit 1

Wasn’t it only a few months ago that people were wondering what was wrong with the San Jose Sharks? Those complaints seem like a distant memory nowadays. With their exciting win over the Detroit Red Wings, the Sharks have now won eight straight and are leading the hotly contested Pacific Division. Over the stretch, the Sharks are only giving up 1.63 goals per game. Of course, when Dany Heatley scores a pair of goals and Patrick Marleau has a goal and an assist, it’s a little easier to win a few.

Detroit finished their 3-games-in-4-nights California stretch with a 1-1-1 record. Joey MacDonald gave his team a chance to win, but the Wings simply couldn’t score enough to earn the win. There’s a reason why back-to-backs are so difficult for NHL teams.

Los Angeles 1, Phoenix 0

The Kings and Coyotes gave fans at Staples Center a taste of what playoff hockey will look like next month. Both teams had to fight for every inch of ice until the Kings were able to take advantage of a power play to score the only goal of the game. If you like low-scoring games that are heavily influenced by special teams, then this was right up your alley.

With the win, Los Angeles is 12-2-3 in their last 17 games. Jonathan Bernier earned his 2nd shutout of the year. They started the game in 8th place; one Jarret Stoll goal later and the Kings are in 5th place. If they lost, they would have been in 9th. Needless to say, the Dustin Penner era is off to a pretty good start.

Who says the playoffs don’t start until April?

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    Sharks scratch Flames’ big lead, Calgary wins anyway

    Calgary Flames' Mikael Backlund (11) chases down the puck against San Jose Sharks' Tomas Hertl (48) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
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    If you turned off Thursday’s Calgary Flames – San Jose Sharks game early, you’ll probably be stunned to see that Calgary won 6-5 via a shootout.

    For instance:

    • A Sharks fan may have bitterly called it a night when Calgary went up 4-1.
    • Conversely, a Flames devotee might have retired after San Jose took a 5-4 lead, possibly with a broken remote.

    The Flames only trailed for about two minutes before scoring the last “real” goal of the game, eventually taking their third straight win thanks to a shootout triumph.

    It’s been a strange ride for Calgary, with its most recent win happening after Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Lance Bouma were punished with a healthy scratch. As strange as this game was, the “charity point” can leave both teams looking through a lot of film, yet with something gained as well.

    Ultimately, the message may very well be: don’t sleep on these teams.

    (In less positive news, Karri Ramo is injured, and it doesn’t look good.

    Jonas Hiller closing out the game on a hot streak could be pretty important if Ramo’s out for some time.)

    By winning fifth straight, Caps extend Wild’s slump to seven losses

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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — Alex Ovechkin scored three times in the second period for his 14th career hat trick, and the Washington Capitals beat the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on Thursday night.

    Ovechkin, who leads the league with 34 goals, has 13 in his past 13 games. Nicklas Backstrom had three assists and Jason Chimera added an empty-netter for Washington, which improved to a league-best 20-5-2 on the road.

    Braden Holtby made 33 saves for the Capitals, who won their fifth consecutive game and became the first team to reach 40 victories this season.

    Charlie Coyle, Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund scored for the Wild, but Minnesota lost for the 12th time in its past 13 games (1-10-2). Devan Dubnyk made 29 saves for the Wild, who have lost seven in a row at home (0-4-3).

    Ovechkin’s third goal, which deflected off both the post and the back of Dubnyk into the net, was upheld following a coach’s challenge. Wild coach Mike Yeo challenged that the puck had left the zone for offsides, but the call stood after a review showed that Backstrom stopped the puck before it crossed the blue line.

    The goal gave Ovechkin his first hat trick since he scored four goals against Tampa Bay on Dec. 10, 2013.

    It wasn’t the only fortunate bounce for Ovechkin on the night, and the five-time 50-goal scorer capitalized on each opportunity.

    A shot from T.J. Oshie deflected off of Minnesota forward Zach Parise across the ice right to Ovechkin in the left faceoff circle and Ovechkin quickly snapped off a shot to beat Dubnyk, who couldn’t get across the crease to get into position. Three minutes later, Ovechkin scored on the power play when a point shot bounced off the end boards right to Ovechkin in front of the net.

    The tally provided some relief for the Capitals’ surprisingly ineffective power play. Washington had one power play in its previous six games, an empty-netter for the only goal in its previous 20 power-play chances. The Capitals were 1 of 5 on the power play on Thursday.

    Coyle scored for the fifth time in eight games in the second, but second periods have doomed the Wild during their slump. Minnesota has been outscored 13-3 in the period in five straight losses.

    Suter scored his sixth goal of the season on the power play in the third as Minnesota went 1 of 5 with the man advantage.

    NOTES: Washington C Evgeny Kuznetsov left in the third period after he was hit in the face by the stick of Mikael Granlund off a faceoff. … Backstrom has 20 points in his last 17 games. … Minnesota D Jared Spurgeon missed his second straight game with an unspecified deep bruise. Spurgeon has returned to practice, but was held out again. … Holtby is 27-1-3 in his last 31 games with two shutouts, a 2.10 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

    Watch the Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp tribute video

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    Over the years, the Chicago Blackhawks have been forced to let some important players leave to keep their core together, which ultimately meant parting ways with Patrick Sharp.

    The talented winger now wears a Dallas Stars jersey, so Blackhawks fans must face the reality of watching Sharp ply his trade for a formidable Central Division opponent.

    Even if that might feel awkward, Blackhawks fans gave Sharp (and Johnny Oduya) a warm reception in Chicago on Thursday.

    CSNChicago.com provides video of that ovation, which you can see in the clip above.

    The Stars currently lead the Blackhawks 4-2, thanks in large part to Patrick … Eaves.

    Ovechkin’s 14th career hat trick helps him make more history

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    Death, taxes and Alex Ovechkin winning the Maurice Richard Trophy.

    OK, the third thing on that list isn’t technically inevitable. It just feels that way lately in the NHL.

    It’s unclear if the Washington Capitals can hold on against the Minnesota Wild, but we know for certain that Ovechkin already has a hat trick, the 14th of his high-scoring career.

    (He also passed Jean Beliveau for 39th all-time in goals with his 509th, as NHL.com notes.)

    This propels Ovechkin to the goals lead as of this writing, as he already has 34. As impressive as Patrick Kane has been, No. 8 is heating up, and may just edge No. 88 if Ovechkin can remain healthy.

    One has to feel a little sympathy for the struggling Wild. They played well but lost against the Dallas Stars earlier this week and now must deal with Ovechkin and the just-as-hot Capitals.

    Update: Minnesota managed three goals, but it wasn’t enough, as Washington got the edge 4-3.