Lubomir Visnovsky

Riding the Zamboni – Friday, March 4

New Jersey 2, Pittsburgh 1 (OT)

The Devils improved their record to 19-2-2 in their last 23 games as they continue to cling to their slim playoff hopes. Ilya Kovalchuk with yet another game-winning goal; for those keeping track at home, that’s 6 GWGs in the Devils last 12 games. In addition to Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac was able to shine bright with a goal and a fight. New Jersey followed the same script they’ve been using for two months—great defense, good goaltending, and timely goal scoring.

NY Rangers 4, Ottawa 1

A trip to Kanata, ON was just what the Rangers needed to cure their 3-game losing streak. The Blueshirts used a two goal in 12 seconds explosion to blow the game wide open against the last place Senators. In fact, they jumped out to a 4-0 lead before the Sens broke up the shutout effort—but the result was never really in doubt. Henrik Lundqvist will just have to settle for 28 out of 29 saves.

Craig Anderson was less than spectacular in what turned out to be his worst game as a Senator. Anderson had a 1.16 goals against average in 6 games with his new team going into the game, but never looked like that goaltender as he was shaky throughout. Hey, at least Sergei Gonchar scored!

Chicago 5, Carolina 2

All of the signs were there for the Hurricanes. They were coming off an emotional overtime victory. They were playing the second game of a back-to-back. They were using a back-up goaltender that hadn’t started in 25 games. Would they be able to overcome all of that and beat the defending Stanley Cup champs? Absolutely not.
Whenever a team gives up 3 goals in four and half minutes, it’s going to tough to climb back into the game. The three goals by the Hawks pushed a 2-1 lead to an insurmountable 5-1 lead. They got balanced scoring that looked a lot like the team that lifted the Cup last season. Not a bad way to start the first of five straight games against the Eastern Conference.

Calgary 4, Columbus 3

Not many games feature two penalty shots by the same team—and even rarer to see a team fail on both opportunities. It was the first time in 25 years that a team missed two penalty shots in the same game. They probably should have just stopped there and realized it wasn’t going to be their night. They are now 0-for-4 on penalty shots in their last 5 games. Not surprisingly, they’re also riding a 4 game losing streak during the most important time of the season.

The folks up in Calgary summed up the win like this: Kipper > Mason; Calgary special teams > Columbus special teams. It’s hard to argue when Kiprusoff faces 40 shots, the power play scored twice on a 4-minute power play, and the penalty kill survived 3 shorthanded situations. All of that added up to a win that moved the Flames up to the 5th spot in the West. Of course, things change every few hours in the West—so don’t pay too much attention.

Anaheim 4, Dallas 3 (OT)

Lubomir Visnovsky scored his first hat trick in Ducks history, including a power play goal with 3.8 seconds left in overtime, to give Anaheim an important two points. The win helped the Ducks inch closer and tied them with both the Predators and Stars with 75 points. They’ve picked a perfect time for a 3-game winning streak during a 7-game homestand against six Western Conference opponents.

Even though the Stars earned a point in the OT loss, they’ll be disappointed that they blew a 3-1 lead in the 3rd period and let the Ducks get two points. Kari Lehtonen was great in the 1st period and played well, but it didn’t matter as the Ducks scored on two power plays and a beautiful passing play in the last 25 minutes. No rest for the weary though—they turn around and play against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night. Good luck with that.

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    Replacing Beauchemin with Bieksa hasn’t worked out so great for Anaheim

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    Are the Anaheim Ducks missing Francois Beauchemin more than they thought they might?

    It’s a question we’ve been hearing more and more lately, as the Ducks’ goal-scoring woes of October have been replaced by defensive issues in November.

    Anaheim is 3-4-2 in its last nine games. The Ducks have allowed 27 goals in regulation during that stretch — that’s three per game on average — plus two more in a pair of overtime losses.

    In a related story, per the O.C. Register, here’s what coach Bruce Boudreau said the other day about offseason acquisition Kevin Bieksa:

    “He’s a veteran guy that has to fight his way out of this. We count on him to not make mistakes. We will go as far as guys like him take us.”

    Bieksa, 34, is minus-7 in his last four games combined. True, he’s forced to play a lot of hard minutes against good players. But then, that’s exactly what he was brought in to do. The Ducks even gave him a two-year, $8 million extension, locking him up through 2017-18.

    Now consider what Boudreau said during last year’s playoff run, about the guy Bieksa was brought in to replace:

    “He’s the voice. Everybody else is so young. [He] is the voice back there.”

    And Beauchemin was more than just a talker. He led the Ducks in ice time. He had nine assists in 16 playoff games. Bottom line: he was a big part of a team that fell one win shy of making the Stanley Cup Final.

    Beauchemin, of course, signed a three-year deal with Colorado on July 1, for a cap hit of $4.5 million. So far, he’s been as advertised for the Avs. The 35-year-old has two goals and 10 assists. He gets the most ice time on the team, an average of 23:33.

    Looking back, Anaheim GM Bob Murray never did want to lose Beauchemin. The Ducks just weren’t prepared to offer what the Avs did.

    “Beauch’ has been a pretty good warrior for us,” Murray said in June. “He has a one-time chance for free agency and maybe somebody will give him $5 million.… I couldn’t do that.”

    One has to wonder now if Murray wishes he’d found a way.

    The Ducks host the Blackhawks tonight on NBCSN.

    Devils sign veteran Kennedy to one-year, $600K deal

    Tyler Kennedy, Lee Stempniak
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    A second forward has converted a PTO with New Jersey into a shiny new contract.

    Tyler Kennedy, who’s on his second professional tryout with the club, has agreed to a one-year, two-way deal worth $600,000 at the NHL level, the Devils announced on Friday.

    Kennedy, 29, first caught on with the Devils in the preseason, only to be released in early October. He then rejoined the club on a second PTO in mid-November, and earned himself a deal from GM Ray Shero (previously, the two were together in the Pittsburgh organization).

    A former 20-goal scorer with the Pens, Kennedy fell on hard times last year. It began in San Jose — where he never fit in Todd McLellan’s plans — and ended on Long Island, where he sat for over half of the Isles’ opening-round playoff loss to the Caps.

    As for where he’ll fit in the Devils lineup?

    Kennedy said he’s ready to play tonight — the Devils take on Montreal — and it’s possible Stefan Matteau could be scratched, allowing Kennedy to stpe into a bottom-six forward role.

    As for how the Devils will free a roster spot — Jiri Tlusty remains on IR with a shoulder issue, while David Schlemko could be away from the club for a bit, as his wife is due to give birth.

    Rangers park Boyle, Stalberg in press box for Thanksgiving Showdown

    Washington Capitals v New York Rangers - Game Seven
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    I’m not going to make the “it really is Black Friday for Dan Boyle and Viktor Stalberg” joke, but had to recognize it as a semi-viable lede.

    So that’s out of the way.

    Now, onto the business at hand — per the New York Daily News, Boyle and Stalberg will be scratched today when the Rangers take on the Bruins in the annual Thanksgiving Showdown (1 p.m. ET, NBC). Dylan McIlrath will draw in on defense for Boyle, while Emerson Etem will take Stalberg’s spot up front.

    It’s not really surprising Alain Vigneault made some lineup changes.

    The Blueshirts’ last outing was arguably their worst of the season — a 5-1 home loss to the Canadiens, a game in which Boyle finished minus-2 and Stalberg played the least among all Rangers skaters, with just 11:20 TOI.

    More: Dan Boyle isn’t thrilled with all these healthy scratches

    What’s more, McIlrath hasn’t played in nearly two weeks (Nov. 15, versus Toronto). It’s been even longer for Etem — he’s been out of the lineup since a win over the Blues on Nov. 12.

    Related: Just a friendly reminder about Friday’s Bruins-Rangers Thanksgiving Showdown, on NBC

    Goal-starved Flyers recall AHL Phantoms leading scorer Cousins

    Nazem Kadri

    Desperate for offense, Philly made a fairly noteworthy move on Friday — Nick Cousins has been brought up from the minors.

    Cousins, 22, has been a solid scorer at the AHL level in each of the last two seasons. He led Lehigh Valley with 56 points in 64 games in ’14-15 and, this year, has 18 through 15 — putting him in a tie for seventh in league scoring.

    The former OHL Sault Ste. Marie standout does have some NHL experience, having played 11 games for the Flyers last season. He averaged just under nine minutes per game over that span, and failed to register a point.

    Looking ahead, Cousins could make his season debut today, when Philly hosts the Preds. Right now it’s unclear where he’d fit in the lineup.

    To make room for Cousins on the roster, the Flyers sent Taylor Leier down to the Phantoms.