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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    Vasilevskiy shines again as Lightning take top spot in NHL

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    Tuesday’s game in St. Louis was a showdown featuring the top two teams in the NHL.

    In the end it was the Lightning picking up the 3-0 win to extend their current winning streak to five games and to reclaim sole possession of the No. 1 spot in the NHL.

    Their win improves them to 22-6-2 on the season and puts them two points ahead of the Blues despite having played two fewer games.

    It was another impressive showing for Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy who has been one of the underrated stars of this year’s Lightning team. Most of the attention has been directed to forwards Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov (and deservedly so!) but let’s not lose sight of the fact that Vasilevskiy, in his first full season as the Lighting’s full-time starter, has been one of the best goalies in the league so far.

    Tuesday’s game was his third shutout of the season, and after his 32-save performance against the Blues his .933 save percentage is among the best in the NHL, while his 20 wins (in only 25 starts) are tops in the league. Nobody else in the league has more than 17.

    While Vasilevskiy was shining in net again, Kucherov scored his 21st goal of the season to move back into a tie with Alex Ovechkin for the top spot in the league. It was also his 42nd point which moved him into a tie with Stamkos for the league lead.

    Brayden Point also continued his breakout season by opening the scoring with his 13th goal of the season. He also added an assist on Tyler Johnson‘s third period goal.

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    John Tortorella had no time for questions after blowout loss (Video)

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    Since being hired by the Columbus Blue Jackets John Tortorella has seemed to be a kinder, gentler coach.

    The blow ups and battles with the media don’t seem to happen as much. We don’t get as many rants.

    He just does not seem as angry all the time.

    Losing 7-2 at home to the Edmonton Oilers, however, might change a few things.

    That it was happened to the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night and Tortorella was in no mood to answer question about the game.

    His press conference consisted of him stepping to the podium, saying there is no point in answering questions about the game, then leaving.

    Here it is in all of its glory.

    The only question we have: Is this shorter than the night he said the New York Rangers “sucked from head to toe?”

    (Oddly enough, that game was also against the Edmonton Oilers).

    That press conference lasted, roughly, 14 seconds from the time he started talking until the time he walked away (and also included the line “I know you have a job to do”).

    Tonight’s comes in at just around 12 seconds. So we might have a record for the shortest John Tortorella press conference of all time.

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    Former NHL defenseman Zarley Zalapski dies at 49

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    CALGARY, Alberta (AP) Former NHL defenseman Zarley Zalapski has died at age 49, according to the Calgary Flames. No cause of death was given.

    Zalapski, a native of Edmonton, played 637 NHL games for Calgary, Pittsburgh, Hartford, Montreal and Philadelphia from 1987 to 2000.

    He was with the Flames from 1993 to 1998.

    “We are proud that Zarley wore the Flames jersey, made Calgary his home following his playing career, represented our alumni executive and we will always remember him as a member of the Flames family,” Flames president and chief executive officer Ken King said Tuesday in a statement.

    “This is a terrible loss of a man with great character who truly loved the game of hockey. We express our sincere condolences to the Zalapski family.”

    Zalapski was a member of the Canadian team that finished fourth in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.

    He had 99 goals, 285 assists and 684 penalty minutes in the NHL. Zalapski was named to the all-rookie team in 1989 and participated in the NHL All-Star Game in 1993.

    Zalapski played stints in Austria and Switzerland after his NHL career and appeared in 11 games for the United Hockey League’s Kalamazoo Wings in 2004-05.

    He was the fourth overall pick by the Penguins in the 1986 entry draft.

    Taylor Hall puts on a show as Devils end Kings’ winning streak

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    The New Jersey Devils put an end to the Los Angeles Kings’ eight-game winning streak on Tuesday night with a rather convincing 5-1 win.

    The Devils dominated in pretty much every aspect of the game, limiting the Kings to just 17 shots on goal and scoring five goals against a team that had not allowed more than two goals (and never more than three) during its winning streak.

    The star of the game for the Devils was most certainly forward Taylor Hall.

    Hall continued what could be a career year with a pair of goals, including this highlight reel play in the second period that saw him force a turnover, split through the Kings’ defense (including Drew Doughty!), then beat Jonathan Quick with a backhander.

    With that performance on Tuesday Hall is now up to 11 goals and 31 total points on the season.

    His first year with the Devils wasn’t quite what he or the team wanted, but he has bounced back in a big way this season. His performance, along with the development of young players Nico Hischier, Will Butcher, and Jesper Bratt have the Devils back on track to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season.

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.