Riding the Zamboni – March 9; Caps keep streaking, Ducks knock off Rangers

Washington 5 – Edmonton 0

Make it six in a row for the Capitals. Alex Ovechkin had two goals (one of which being a beauty) and an assist while Eric Fehr had two goals of his own to lead the offense. Rookie Braden Holtby earned his first career shutout stopping 22 shots against the NHL’s worst team. The Caps maintained their two point lead on Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division as the Lightning also won tonight.

Anaheim 5 – NY Rangers 2

Bobby Ryan had himself a good night scoring a goal and adding three assists in leading the Ducks to victory. Ryan’s four point night was the most impressive of many big nights for the Ducks. Lubomir Visnovsky continues to impress as he had two goals and an assist. Corey Perry likewise had two goals and an assist. Dan Ellis made 30 saves for the Ducks in the win. Marian Gaborik scored his 18th goal of the year while Brandon Dubinsky scored his 20th for New York.

Los Angeles 2 – Detroit 1

The Kings won an important one for themselves thanks to second period goals from Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. Detroit has a bit to complain about on Brown’s goal as officials missed a clear high stick to the face of Nick Lidstrom courtesy of Michal Handzus just moments before Brown tipped home the eventual game winning goal. Jonathan Quick made it all stand up for L.A. stopping 28 shots. Darren Helm scored his 10th goal of the year for Detroit who lost a point off their lead on Chicago as the Blackhawks lost in a shootout.  Detroit leads Chicago by five points in the Central and holds a two point lead on San Jose for the second seed in the West.

Tampa Bay 4 – Chicago 3 (F/SO)

Calgary 4 – Dallas 3 (F/SO)

Curtis Glencross’ shootout goal was the decider in Calgary’s win over Dallas. Calgary did hold a 3-0 at one point in the first period and appeared ready to roll over the Stars. As has been typical of late for Dallas, they were able to whittle away and finally tie the game in the third thanks to Tomas Vincour’s first career NHL goal. Both Miikka Kiprusoff and Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 shots in the game. Lehtonen did not fare as well in the shootout giving up two goals on three shots. Brad Richards had no points and was a -1 for Dallas in his first game back after suffering a concussion.

Atlanta 3 – Carolina 2 (F/OT)

A thriller in Carolina saw the Thrashers pick up their second straight win thanks to Tim Stapleton’s overtime game-winner. Carolina rallied from a 2-0 early deficit thanks to goals from Troy Bodie in the second and  yet another clutch goal from Erik Cole in the third to tie it.  Ondrej Pavelec was outstanding in goal for Atlanta stopping 35 shots to earn the win. Carolina sits tied with the Rangers with 72 points in the East while Atlanta is to within five points of New York for the eighth spot in the East.

St. Louis 4 – Columbus 3 (F/OT)

Another night, another soul crushing defeat for Columbus as they saw their 3-1 lead after two periods evaporate in the third and ultimately lose in overtime thanks to Chris Stewart. Stewart tied the game 6:23 into the third scoring his 21st goal, minutes after Ian Cole scored his first NHL goal to cut the lead to one. In overtime, Stewart would fool the Columbus defense and snipe a wicked backhand shot past Mathieu Garon to win it for the Blues with his 22nd goal of the season. Jaroslav Halak earned the win in goal for St. Louis stopping just 19 shots.

Ducks deny rally, end Penguins’ winning streak

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When Ondrej Kase cashed in on another breakaway opportunity for the Ducks to make it 4-1 in the second period, it looked like that goal would be icing on the cake for Anaheim. Even if it would be especially pretty frosting.

Instead, that stylish goal ended up being critical, as the Pittsburgh Penguins nearly rallied in the third period to at least send Wednesday’s game to overtime. John Gibson ended up holding down the fort, and with an empty-netter in the dying seconds, the Ducks ended up beating the Penguins 5-3.

You could call it a game of periods and close calls.

The Penguins entered the first intermission thanks to a 1-0 Evgeni Malkin goal, but the Ducks dominated the middle frame with their first four-goal period of 2017-18. The Penguins’ prolific power play helped them stay in the game (2-for-4, with both goals coming during that third-period comeback bid), but the rally fell short. Pittsburgh’s winning streak ended at four victories.

Some bounces went both ways, as Antoine Vermette nearly scored for the Ducks while Carl Hagelin suffered a near-miss. So maybe those missed opportunities cancel each other out?

From the Ducks’ perspective, this is the latest argument in favor of this team being a threat now that key pieces have returned to the lineup. This win begins what they hope is a successful five-game homestand, as Anaheim still needs to battle for its own playoff hopes.

The Penguins can’t ruminate on this loss for very long. They head to Los Angeles to face what must be a frustrated Kings team (four straight defeats, only two wins in their last eight games) on Thursday, with little reason to expect any mercy.

This last stretch of wins improved the Penguins’ outlook, but dropping games in back-to-back nights could make things tense again in a hurry. You can check out that Penguins – Kings game on NBCSN Thursday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Willie O’Ree celebrates 60th anniversary of debut with Bruins

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BOSTON (AP) Hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree was honored in Boston on Wednesday on the 60th anniversary of the Bruins forward breaking the NHL’s color barrier.

At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day”. O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.

Walsh called O’Ree a Boston legend who changed the city for the better and thanked him for his courage. As part of the celebration, the city dedicated a new street hockey rink in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood to be known as Willie O’Ree Rink.

A native of Canada, O’Ree, 82, had four goals and 10 assists in 45 games over parts of two NHL seasons. He spent a total of 21 years in pro hockey.

For the past two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.

More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Bruins cruise vs. Canadiens in Julien’s return to Boston

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Don’t blame Claude Julien if Wednesday made him think of better times, and not just because it was his welcome back night in Boston.

Coming into this one, it was a tale of two teams going in opposite directions, and the teams stuck to their scripts. The Boston Bruins remain red-hot with a 4-1 win, while the Montreal Canadiens are mired in mediocrity .. or worse?

When you’re as disappointing as the Canadiens have been, plenty of things are going wrong. It was a weak start even with a 1-0 lead and 1-1 first period in mind, and it obviously didn’t get any better.

Nights like these have to sting for Julien, a coach known for his sophisticated systems and eye for defensive detail.

There are questions about Max Pacioretty possibly being trade bait. People wonder if Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galchenyuk fit as centers, or if neither work that way. Yet, these performances make you realize that as exasperated as management must be, they may also appreciate more specific distractions.

Because, frankly, this was a team … non-effort.

Then again, the Bruins are a red-hot squad, so maybe they shine an especially harsh light on the Habs’ haplessness?

Boston generated a 32-22 shots on goal advantage in this one, with multiple contributors stepping up. Big guns came through (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were among the goal scorers, Patrice Bergeron collected two assists), while David Backes and others added to the fun.

It was the kind of effort Julien would have been very happy with, if it didn’t come at his expense.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Anaheim Ducks

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PROJECTED LINEUPS

Pittsburgh Penguins

Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Canadiens vs. Bruins; Penguins vs. Ducks]

Ducks

Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Derek GrantRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase

Chris WagnerAntoine VermetteJ.T. Brown

Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour

Starting goalie: John Gibson