Rick Nash, Anton Stralman, Jared Boll, Derek MacKenzie, Jan Hejda

Early ride on the Zamboni – Saturday, March 12

Pittsburgh, Montreal 3, Pittsburgh 0

Someone should have told the Penguins this was a matinee tilt. The Habs scored 46 seconds into the game and as the rest of the game would show, that would be enough. In fact, the Pens had difficulties at the beginning of both the 1st and 2nd periods as they gave up early goals. Carey Price bounced back nicely from the Halak/Price hype-fest in St. Louis as he earned his 8th shutout of the season. The best news of the day for the Penguins was that Crosby made it to the rink today. Unfortunately, he was in the press box and not on the bench—they could have used some offense today.

Florida 4, Tampa Bay 3 (OT)

This looked like a game that could have helped the Lightning stop the bleeding. Apparently the Florida Panthers didn’t get the memo.
The Lightning started slow and rallied to come back in the 3rd period and send the game to overtime. But once there, Jason Garrison flipped a backhander over a sprawling Mike Smith for the game-winner with 16 seconds left for the victorious Panthers. The loss dropped the Lightning to 1-4-3 over their last 7 and 3 points behind the Southeast Division leading Washington Capitals. Hey, at least Steven Stamkos scored another goal.

Toronto 4, Buffalo 3

James Reimer made 39 saves, Phil Kessel scored the game winner, and the Maple Leafs pulled within 4 points of the last playoff spot. Not only did they pick the right time to end their 3-game losing streak, but they picked the right team to do it against. Nothing like beating the team you’re chasing to help out in the standings. The Leafs came from behind in the 3rd period as they got two quick goals from Mikhail Grabovski and Phil Kessel to stick the dagger in the Sabres.

The loss was a sour way to end an otherwise successful 7 game road trip. Including the loss in Toronto, they were still able to finish 4-2-1 away from Buffalo. The good news was Carolina lost as well and they were able to hang onto the 8th seed.

Atlanta 5, Philadelphia 4 (OT)

The Flyers took a 3-0 lead into the 3rd period against the Thrashers. Surprisingly, it wasn’t enough. Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and Tobias Enstrom all scored to put Atlanta in a position to make it interesting. Then Andrew Ladd scored with 44 seconds left to tie the game; Ron Hainsey scored on a beautiful top-shelf, backhand redirection early in OT to cap the comeback and sent Flyers fans home disappointed.

If you only saw the first 40 minutes of the game, you may have been tempted to turn the game off in the 2nd intermission. The Flyers were not only leading—but carried the play in the 2nd period and seemingly had control of the game as they looked for their 3rd straight win. Even though Ville Leino contributed a hat trick and the Flyers earned the loser point for 91 on the season (and still in 1st place in the East), there’s no doubt they let a point get away.

New Jersey 3, NY Islanders 2 (OT)

Another game, another Devils win. If this team won any games before January, they’d be the favorites in the Eastern Conference and maybe the NHL to make a run for the Cup. As it is, they’ll have to settle for the title “team no one wants to have to face in the playoffs.” For the Isles, it’s loses like these that absolutely kill their ever dwindling playoff hopes.

The Devils dominated the game outshooting the Isles 35-15, but still needed a 3rd period goal from David Clarkson to force it to extra time. The win pushes their record during this historic run to an incredible 22-3-2 in their last 27. More importantly, the win puts them only 6 points out of the final playoff spot. The only question is if they started too late.

Columbus 3, Carolina 2

Going into the game, the Hurricanes had lost 3 straight and the Blue Jackets were winless in their last 7 games. As they say, something had to give. Luckily for the Blue Jackets, it was their winless streak that went out the window as they escaped Raleigh with a win and held the Hurricanes at 9th place in the standings (2 points behind the 8th seed).

Steve Mason was able to bounce back after losing a night ago at home against the Kings and Derek MacKenzie was able to pot 2 (including the rare game-winning, empty-net goal) as the Jackets did what they could to try to remain within striking distance in the West. Carolina, on the other hand, had a tough night on the power play. More specifically, they had a tough time on the 5-on-3 power play as they failed three separate times on Saturday night. Super-rookie Jeff Skinner finally scored their first goal of the game halfway through the 3rd, but it was too little too late.

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    Metro’s best? Capitals keep winning, pass Rangers for division lead

    Jonathan Bernier; Matt Niskanen; Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau
    1 Comment

    If you want to summarize the Capitals – Maple Leafs game in one sentence, you could do worse than:

    “Washington is hot as Jonathan Bernier is cold.”

    The Caps reeled off a 4-2 win against Toronto on Saturday, giving them five straight wins. They also jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division today, as they keep climbing while the New York Rangers are experiencing some growing pains.

    Again, James Reimer can’t get healthy and back in Toronto’s net too soon:

    With this win, Washington is now 17-5-1, leading the Metro by one point with 35 standings points. They also hold a game in hand against the Rangers, and no other Metro team even has 30 right now.

    Measuring stick stretch begins

    Tonight’s game began a “prove-it” month-and-change for Washington.

    This contest began a three-game road trip, and they’ll also play six of seven away from Washington.

    It’s pretty rough through the start of 2016, really. The Capitals will only enjoy three home games through Jan. 9.

    In other words, the Capitals seem like a convincing East contender, but look out if they remain hot through the next 5-6 weeks.

    Video: Evgeni Malkin leaves Oilers spinning


    Yes, there’s a lot of drama surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins, whether it’s founded on serious problems or merely speculation.

    It’s easy to get swept up in all of that and ignore the fact that, hey, they still have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Those two can really heal wounds with their on-ice play, and in Saturday’s case, Malkin is taking over against the Edmonton Oilers.

    His spin-o-rama goal above was a real jaw-dropper. He also scored Pittsburgh’s second tally:

    These highlights feel like Malkin’s way of saying “It’s going to be just fine.”

    Update: It wasn’t enough for a win, however, as the Oilers beat the Penguins 3-2 via a shootout.

    Lightning’s first fight this season: Ryan Callahan vs. Kyle Okposo

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    Fighting is down more or less across the board in the NHL, but the Tampa Bay Lightning might be the franchise least interested in dropping the gloves.

    Ryan Callahan vs. Kyle Okposo already has some name recognition to it, yet it gets some bonus points for being the Bolts’ first fighting major of 2015-16.

    It … probably loses those bonus points in being run-of-the-mill.

    Hey, be fair; the Lightning are clearly out of practice.

    Oilers GM doesn’t want to force a trade for the sake of a trade

    Peter Chiarelli

    It must be a helpless feeling to sit idly by while your team continues to flail, but such emotions are what opposing GMs love to prey on.

    Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli hasn’t been around through much of the suffering for this hapless franchise, yet that doesn’t mean he’s immune to the calls for improvement. To his credit, he’s not buckling under that pressure.

    You can see and hear his full comments below:

    If you don’t feel like playing the video, the message is simple enough.

    Chiarelli isn’t happy with Edmonton’s record – he hasn’t “seen progression” in ways that he was expecting, but again … he doesn’t want to force moves.

    Long story short, he can “sleep at night,” even if he’s disappointed.

    Is he right to take a relaxed approach, though? Maybe it’s time to blow up a part of what isn’t working? Have some fun armchair GM’ing on this one.