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 defeat Hurricanes, but Vlasic exits game with lower-body injury

    Marc-Edouard Vlasic
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    Talk about the ideal start.

    Patrick Marleau scored just 12 seconds into the first period and the San Jose Sharks had a 2-1 lead before Saturday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes was even four minutes old.

    The Sharks held on for a 4-3 win over the Hurricanes, Kevin Labanc‘s goal late in the second period standing as the winner, as the two teams traded three goals in the span of just over three minutes.

    It remains awfully crowded in the Pacific Division. The Flames lead with 34 points, while the Sharks, Ducks and Oilers are all one point back.

    The victory came with bad news for the Sharks.

    Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game in the second period and didn’t return. He’s now day-to-day with a lower-body injury, according to coach Pete DeBoer following the win.

    Flames dominate the Jets to take over top spot in the Pacific Division

    CALGARY, AB - DECEMBER 10: Dougie Hamilton #27 of the Calgary Flames celebrates after scoring his team's third goal against the Winnipeg Jets during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on December 10, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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    Is there a changing of the guard in the Pacific Division?

    It’s the middle of December and the Calgary Flames, now with six straight wins, lead the same division dominated last season by the California powers in Anaheim, San Jose and L.A. The Edmonton Oilers have been inconsistent at times this season but they are right there, too, one point back. Same goes for the Ducks. The Sharks and Kings are definitely in contention.

    There is plenty of hockey remaining in the season. Plenty of chances for change in the NHL’s division standings, including in the Pacific. But there’s no denying the Flames are on an impressive run.

    Late last month, they had a particularly frustrating loss to Philadelphia and coach Glen Gulutzan voiced his displeasure about it. They followed that up the next day with an overtime loss to the Islanders. Prior to that weekend, there had been rumblings about the future of Gulutzan with the club, despite being only a few months into his tenure.

    But since then, the Flames have yet to lose. They continued their winning streak with a convincing 6-2 victory over the visiting Jets on Saturday.

    Dougie Hamilton — remember all that trade speculation surrounding the Flames defenseman and Brian Burke’s classic response? — had two goals for Calgary. Chad Johnson was solid in net again. It was a pretty dominant performance all around.

    Frustrating night for the Jets and it showed when Dustin Byfuglien dropped the gloves with Garnet Hathaway late in the third period.

    There are more difficult tests ahead for Calgary.

    The Flames face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday and then the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.

    In previous seasons, a Friday night game between the Flames and Blue Jackets in the middle of December might not garner much interest. But they are both among the hottest teams in the league right now and it’s likely not many would’ve predicted that a short time ago.

    Video: Perlini’s first NHL goal helps lift Coyotes over Predators

    GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 10:  Brendan Perlini #29 of the Arizona Coyotes reacts alongside Calle Jarnkrok #19 of the Nashville Predators after Perlini scored his first career goal during the second period of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on December 10, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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    The Arizona Coyotes have moved out of last place in the NHL’s overall standings, courtesy a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

    Minus forward Max Domi, placed on IR and expected to be out on a week-to-week basis, the Coyotes got a 44-save performance from goalie Mike Smith and recently recalled forward Brendan Perlini pitched in with his first career NHL goal.

    That goal gave Arizona a 3-1 lead. Thanks to the play of Smith, the Coyotes wouldn’t relinquish the lead, snapping a six-game losing skid.

    It wasn’t all good news for the Coyotes.

    Defenseman Connor Murphy played only 4:12. He left the game with an upper-body injury and didn’t return. Per reports, Murphy is considered day-to-day at this point.

    The Blue Jackets just keep on winning

    COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Zach Werenski #8 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is congratulated by Cam Atkinson #13 of the Columbus Blue Jackets after scoring his first career NHL goal during the third period of the game against the San Jose Sharks on October 15, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. San Jose defeated Columbus 3-2. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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    COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Jack Johnson, Cam Atkinson and Seth Jones each had a goal and an assist as the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the New York Islanders 6-2 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

    Josh Anderson, Brandon Saad and Lukas Sedlak also scored for Columbus and Sergei Bobrovsky had 25 saves.

    Josh Bailey and John Tavares scored for New York, which had earned a point in a season-high five straight games (4-0-1). Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves until he was pulled after the Blue Jackets scored four consecutive goals in the third period.

    Anderson put Columbus ahead 3-2 at 2:19 when he picked off a defensive pass and banged it in from the slot seconds after coming onto the ice for his shift.

    Saad, Sedlak and Jones scored in a 5-minute span to make it 6-2 with 5:37 to go.

    New York’s third-string goalie Jean-Francois Berube then replaced Halak and stopped the one shot he faced in his season debut.

    The Islanders came out quick and it took Columbus a while to get going. New York took a 1-0 lead 5:59 in when a defensive pass by the Blue Jackets’ Sam Gagner at the boards was deflected by Bailey, and the popup was bobbled by Bobrovsky into the net. Bailey was given credit for an unassisted goal.

    The Blue Jackets tied it up on a power play with 6:01 left in the first when Johnson wound up from just inside the neutral zone and fired a bullet past Halak. It was Johnson’s first goal of the season.

    Columbus’ Brandon Dubinsky and New York’s Travis Harmonic went to the penalty box for 5 minutes each when both threw down the gloves and threw punches near the end of the first quarter.

    Columbus took a 2-1 lead when a speeding Atkinson took a pass from Johnson in the neutral zone and beat Halak on the breakaway 10:16 into the second. New York tied with 7:28 left in the period when Tavares lifted the puck over Bobrovsky’s pad from in front of the net.

    The Blue Jackets took off in the third period.

    After Anderson gave Columbus the lead for good, Saad made it 4-2 on a wrister from the high slot at 9:23.

    Sedlak, who scored his first NHL goal on Friday night, scored another when he tapped in a loose puck with 7:21 to go. Jones capped it with just over 5 1/2 minutes remaining.