Riding the Zamboni – March 15; Sharks, Kings, Coyotes win and keep West wild

Los Angeles 4 – Nashville 2

Anze Kopitar celebrated breaking the franchise record for consecutive games played by scoring a goal and adding an assist in helping the Kings climb to fourth in the West. Captain Dustin Brown also had a goal and a helper while Jonathan Bernier stopped 30 shots to earn the win. The Kings didn’t put a lot of shots on goal, but were able to get tough around the net and score. Pekka Rinne stopped just 14 shots in the loss as the Predators failed to gain any ground on the eighth spot in the conference. For the Kings, it wrapped up a four game road trip in which they went 4-0-0 on.

San Jose 6 – Dallas 3

A rough loss for Dallas as they looked to slide up the standings in the West and catch up to the Sharks in the Division. Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley each had a pair of goals (with an empty netter for each of them) while Joe Pavelski had four assists. The Sharks maintain a three point lead on L.A. and Phoenix while Dallas remains in seventh place in the West six points behind San Jose in the division race. Jamie Benn continued to carry the offense for Dallas with a goal and two assists. The goal was his 20th of the season. Antti Niemi made 34 saves in the win.

Phoenix 4 – Calgary 3

The Coyotes are staying hot in the West and delivered a punch to the Flames as they cling to the eighth seed in the West. Lee Stempniak, Keith Yandle, Michal Rozsival, and Eric Belanger each had a goal while Vernon Fiddler had two assists as the Coyotes held off a late flurry by Calgary to win. Ilya Bryzgalov had 24 saves in the win. Calgary leads Nashville by one point and Anaheim by two points for the eighth spot in the West. Phoenix is tied with Los Angeles and in fifth place.

Carolina 1 – Buffalo 0

Cam Ward was out of his mind tonight stopping 40 shots on his way to earning his third shutout of the season and bringing the Hurricanes to within two points of the Sabres for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. Brandon Sutter had the game’s lone goal late in the first period as the Sabres were unable to put anything by Ward. With the Rangers win, the Sabres were left alone in eighth place and allowed Carolina to sneak a bit closer to them in the standings. A chance for Buffalo to put some distance between themselves and the pack of teams chasing them went by the wayside tonight with the loss.

New Jersey 4 – Atlanta 2

Philadelphia 3 – Florida 2

It was harrowing at times, but the Flyers were able to stay on top of the Eastern Conference by eking out a win thanks to a two goal game from Jeff Carter. Carter’s two second period goals helped them over come a short-lived 2-1 Panthers lead. Brian Boucher stopped 20 shots in the win. Stephen Weiss and Dmitry Kulikov scored for Florida while Tomas Vokoun stopped 28 shots in the loss.

Boston 3 – Columbus 2 (F/SO)

Rich Peverley’s late short-handed goal tied things up for the Bruins as they struggled with Columbus all night long and helped the overcome Scottie Upshall’s third period goal that put the Jackets ahead for just a few minutes. In the shootout, Tyler Seguin would score the deciding goal to give Boston the win that snapped their four game losing skid. Tuukka Rask was outstanding in goal for Boston stopping 34 shots and everything he saw in the shootout. David Krejci had a goal in regulation for the Bruins as did Grant Clitsome for Columbus. Steve Mason stopped 27 shots in the loss. Boston forward Brad Marchand may be facing league discipline for delivering an elbow to the back of R.J. Umberger’s head. No penalty was called on the play.

Washington 4 – Montreal 2

NY Rangers 6 – NY Islanders 3

Marian Gaborik got the monkey off his back scoring two goals in helping the Rangers gain ground on Buffalo in the Eastern Conference race and take sole possession of seventh place. For Gaborik it gives him 20 goals on the season and perhaps hope that he can keep the offense going the rest of the way. Erik Christensen, Ryan Callahan, and Bryan McCabe each had a goal and an assist as the Rangers peppered both Al Montoya and Nathan Lawson in this game with 47 shots on goal. Matt Moulson scored his 30th goal of the year for the Isles while John Tavares added his 26th of the year. Tavares and Moulson each had two assists as well.

Pittsburgh 5 – Ottawa 1

Safe to say that yes, Ottawa is that bad and the Penguins were more than happy to take advantage of that as they look to keep up in jockeying for position in the East playoffs. Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy each had a goal and an assist while Chris Kunitz had three assists and Paul Martin and Dustin Jeffrey had two helpers. Zbynek Michalek scored his third goal in the last four games bringing his season total to… Three. Brent Johnson made 21 saves to earn the win.

Unbeaten no more: Canucks fall to Kings in shootout for first loss

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 22:  Tanner Pearson #70 of the Los Angeles Kings celebrates his goal with Nic Dowd #26 and Dustin Brown #23 in front of Alexander Edler #23 of the Vancouver Canucks to take a 2-0 lead during the first period at Staples Center on October 22, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

One of the biggest early surprises of the 2016-17 NHL season was the fact the Vancouver Canucks were the NHL’s only unbeaten team entering play on Saturday. Not Washington. Not Pittsburgh. Not Tampa Bay. Not Chicago. Not Dallas.


Their stunning four-game winning streak to open the season came to an end on Saturday night when they opened up a brief two-game road trip in Los Angeles with a 4-3 shootout loss to the Kings, handing them first loss of the season and making it so all 30 NHL teams now have at least one loss this season.

The Canucks have made a habit so far this season out of falling behind early and rallying for overtime or shootout wins, and they nearly did it again on Saturday. After spotting the Kings a 3-0 lead early in the second period Vancouver came back with three consecutive goals, including a game-tying goal from defenseman Alex Edler in the final minute to send the game to overtime. But the Canucks know that is not a sustainable long-term strategy and that eventually their luck in those games is going to run out.

On Saturday, it kind of did.

Tanner Pearson scored the only goal in the shootout to give the Kings the win.

As tough as this two-game road trip through Los Angeles and Anaheim looks, playing both teams within 24 hours, the Canucks seemed to catch a little bit of a break when the Kings had to turn to Peter Budaj, their third string goalie, after Jeff Zatkoff was injured in the morning skate on Saturday. With regular starting goalie Jonathan Quick already sidelined it seemed to be a good opportunity for the Canucks to extend their winning streak against a goalie that has only played 38 games in the NHL since the start of the 2012-13 season (with below average numbers during that stretch).

But Budaj was able to do just enough to get the win, stopping 22 out of 25 shots through regulation and overtime and not giving up any goals in the shootout.

Even with the loss, the Canucks still managed to pick up a point and have earned nine out of a possible 10 points to start the season. No matter how they did it, collecting points like that is never a bad thing. They have now played four overtime games this season and the one game that did not go overtime was still decided by a single goal. If nothing else you have to give them a ton of credit for keeping things interesting.

The Canucks are back in action on Sunday against the Ducks before returning home for a three-game homestand.

Juuse Saros helps Predators shut down, dominate the champs

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 28:  In his first career NHL game goalie Juuse Saros #1 of the Nashville Predators plays against the Buffalo Sabres at Bridgestone Arena on November 28, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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Weird times in Nashville right now as a significant portion of the Predators’ roster is sidelined by food poisoning. They went into Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh without Mike Fisher, Craig Smith, Colton Sissons and starting goaltender Pekka Rinne all out of the lineup. That meant a bunch of call-ups and a rookie goaltender getting the start against the defending Stanley Cup champions.

While the Penguins were also playing without Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang, it is still a very formidable lineup (one that just rallied to beat San Jose the other night). That is part of what made Nashville’s 5-1 win so convincing and impressive.

The Predators used a four-goal second period, including a pair of goals from Kevin Fiala, to pick up their second win of the season and what is easily their most impressive of the two.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was the play of 21-year-old goalie Juuse Saros, playing in only his second NHL game.

Saros stopped 34 of the 35 shots he faced to pick up his very first NHL win. Things got off to a rough start for him when Nashville’s defense got caught up the ice and created an odd-man rush for the Penguins that resulted in a Scott Wilson goal less than a minute into the game. After that one blemish on the scoresheet Saros was flawless the rest of the night.

It was a really special night for Saros not only because of the win and the way he played, but because Marc-Andre Fleury started at the other end of the ice for Pittsburgh. Saros said after the game that Fleury has been an idol of his.

The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Predators after a season-opening win against Chicago. Even though it’s been a slow start, this should still be a team that is going to compete for the Western Conference crown once they get their full roster on the ice.

The Maple Leafs fell apart late (again)

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 15:  James Reimer #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks to stop a shot by Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on February 15, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Maple leafs 7-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

No matter how much young talent the Toronto Maple Leafs have on their roster (and they have a lot) this was still always going to be another long season. The organization is on the right track, but it’s not where it needs to be just quite yet.

There will be flashes of brilliance and potential, but there are still going to be some pretty significant growing pains and a lot of frustration along the way.

Just five games into the season, they have already experienced plenty of the latter.

First there was rookie sensation Auston Matthews scoring four goals in his NHL debut and the team still finding a way to lose the game.

Then there was the game in Winnipeg where they jumped out to a 4-0 lead and then ended up losing in overtime. Earlier this week they let another third period lead slip away against Minnesota.

On Saturday, they added another one to the list in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

For 57 minutes it looked as if the young Maple Leafs were going to add to the Blackhawks’ early season woes as they held a 4-2 lead and seemed to be in control of the game. The young players were scoring goals, they were the latest team to beat the Blackhawks’ shoddy penalty killing unit, and they seemed on their way to a big early season win on the road against a top team.

Then everything fell apart. Again.

Chicago’s Artem Anisimov scored with less than three minutes to play to cut the deficit to one.

Then just one minute later Richard Panik (former Toronto Maple Leaf Richard Panik) continued his early season goal scoring surge by netting his league leading sixth goal of the year to tie the game and send it to overtime.

After the two teams failed to score in the 3-on-3, it went to a shootout where Jonathan Toews and Artemi Panarin scored goals to help the Blackhawks get back into the win column and sent the Maple Leafs home with another tough loss.

If you’re an optimist in Toronto you have to look at the fact that this young, talented Maple Leafs team has at least earned a point in all but one of its first five games.

They are competing, they are showing signs of being an entertaining team with a strong foundation in place.

They have actually had the lead going into the third period of every game they have played.

Yet here they are, five games into the season, still sitting with only one win.

The Jimmy Vesey show leads Rangers over Capitals

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 06: Jimmy Vesey #26 of the New York Rangers waits for the faceoff against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden on October 6, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin had the big highlight early in the game on Saturday night, but it was New York Rangers rookie Jimmy Vesey that ended up stealing the show.

Vesey scored a pair of goals for the Rangers — the first multi-goal game of his career —  to help lead his team to a 4-2 win in Washington.

Even though he had never played a game in the NHL before this season, Vesey was still one of the most sought after free agents this summer after he completed his college career at Harvard. He eventually signed an entry level deal with the Rangers, and given how much attention his free agency saga generated it seemed hard to believe that he could ever match the hype. Especially given the track record of players signed as free agents coming out of college (it’s not a great one).

It’s obviously still very early in his career, but so far Vesey has not disappointed in New York.

Saturday was by far his best performance of the season, scoring both of his goals just three minutes apart in the second period. The first goal tied the game at two to help erase a two-goal deficit, and then his second goal proved to be the game winner.

It was also a heck of a play.

Rick Nash would add an empty net goal late in the third period to put the game away for the Rangers while Henrik Lundqvist stopped 26 of the 28 shots he faced.

For Washington, the loss is its first regulation loss of the season and snaps what had been a three-game winning streak.