Brian Little, Brian Boucher

Tonight in the Eastern Conference bubble: Thrashers win, Devils and Leafs fall

With a busy St. Patrick Day’s slate of 11 games tonight, it might be easier to follow the action if we break the results down into digestible chunks (especially if you’re also ingesting plenty of green beer). With that in mind, let’s take a look at the three games that affected the Eastern Conference playoff bubble tonight.

Atlanta 4, Philadelphia 3 (OT)

Luckily for the still-alive-but-barely Thrashers, “style points” are not yet a playoffs tie-breaker. Atlanta coughed up three one-goal leads against the East’s best team, but ultimately managed to squeeze out two crucial points.

The best part for the Thrashers is that they gave up that one “charity point” to a team so far ahead of them it won’t matter.

Ron Hainsey collected two assists for Atlanta while Daniel Briere scored two goals and one assist for the Chris Pronger-less Flyers. If the Thrashers make the playoffs, it won’t be on the strength of their regulation play (their goal differential is -30). It will be on the strength of the charity point, as they have 12 points from overtime or shootout losses and four shootout wins.

Florida 4, Toronto 0

While the Thrashers were opportunistic with their shootout win, the two other major bubble teams couldn’t earn a single point against struggling teams.

The Maple Leafs showed how much they need James Reimer’s above average netminding, as they just couldn’t get it done against the Panthers with Jean-Sebastien Giguere getting the start.

Sergei Samsonov and Stephen Weiss scored a goal and an assist each while Scott Clemmensen earned a 24-save shutout to win the game for Florida. Whether this win fuels delusions of a playoff run or counts as a satisfying moment as a “spoiler” is up to the Panthers.

Ottawa 3, New Jersey 1

On paper, this looked like an easy win for the ludicrously hot Devils.

After all, the Senators are one of the East’s cellar dwellers and they weren’t even able to start their possible goalie of the future Craig Anderson tonight. Instead, it was Curtis McElhinney between the pipes.

McElhinney ended up being up to the task, as he stopped 33 out of 34 New Jersey shots, only allowing a Brian Rolston slapper to beat him during this game. Chris Neil scored twice (one being an empty netter) in the third period while Ryan Shannon provided Ottawa’s other goal.

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So with those three games, the Eastern Conference bubble looks like this (via NBC’s NHL standings page).

(click to enlarge)

So, as you can see, the Devils really missed an opportunity tonight. They still might have a better chance than the Thrashers and Maple Leafs because of total wins and games remaining, though. Overall, the current playoff teams (New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres) are clearly the favorites to earn the last two spots in the East while the Devils and Buffalo Sabres probably have the best chance to usurp them.

Stars, Rangers do their Caps – Pens impression in wild win for Dallas

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If you watched only Tuesday’s Dallas Stars – New York Rangers game and yesterday’s manic Washington Capitals contest, you might believe that you were transported to the days of the 1988 Smythe Division.

Just ask Justin Williams.

That Penguins – Capitals game ended with an 8-7 overtime victory for Pittsburgh, while tonight’s 7-6 win for the Stars against the Rangers wasn’t far behind.

All the goals

Henrik Lundqvist gave up seven goals, eventually giving way to Magnus Hellberg in the third period. It’s been a rough go of things lately for the future Hall of Famer, with tonight marking the low point.

The Stars opened up leads of 3-1 in the first period and 7-3 through the first two frames, but as you can guess from the score, the Rangers stormed back with three goals in a surprisingly tight third period.

Kari Lehtonen saved the day for the Stars, stopping 12 of 12 after taking over about halfway through the third for Antti Niemi.

Much like with the Penguins – Capitals clash, it was about more than just seeing a lot of goals.

More than just a high-scoring game

Cody Eakin and Chris Kreider were in the thick of things. Eakin scored his first goal of 2016-17, a 7-3 tally that absurdly ended up being the game-winner. Kreider began the Rangers’ rally with his 18th goal of the season, hit Eakin with his own helmet during a fight and created his typical brand of chaos.

As much as this might sting the Rangers, and as concerned as they may be about Lundqvist’s play, at least it looks like Ryan McDonagh avoided injury despite this scary fall:

OK, so these four teams dropped the gauntlet for wild games this week. Who’s going to carry the torch on Wednesday?

Report: Islanders granted permission to interview Gerard Gallant

NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 29:  Head coach Gerard Gallant of the Florida Panthers speaks during Media Day for the 2016 NHL All-Star Game at Bridgestone Arena on January 29, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Gerard Gallant might not go long between head coaching gigs.

The New York Islanders have received permission to speak with Gallant, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Gallant was an assistant coach with the Islanders from 2007 to 2009, so there’s some familiarity there with GM Garth Snow (it was early on in his reign). Gallant was unceremoniously fired by the Florida Panthers in late November, with plenty of rumors circulating that he didn’t jive well with the franchise’s analytics-driven mindset. Gallant denied those claims, for whatever that’s worth.

(If such rumblings are true, perhaps Gallant would agree with the questionable logic of giving limited, but heavy-hitting forward Cal Clutterbuck a contract extension. That would be an interesting question to ask him during an interview, eh?)

Doug Weight is currently considered the Islanders interim head coach after the firing of Jack Capuano.

About the only bummer for everyone outside of Weight is that the Islanders already played their three games against the Panthers this season, so we’d have to wait until 2017-18 for whatever drama would come of that.

Robin Lehner’s furious anger seemingly directed at Sabres after being pulled

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Update: There’s now full video to get a better sense of Robin Lehner‘s behavior.

The Maple Leafs ended up beating the Sabres 4-3 after Buffalo made the game awfully interesting.

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Late last season, Ben Scrivens expressed relief in avoiding a fight with Robin Lehner, the Buffalo Sabres goalie he called “a bit of a psycho.” It sure seemed like the Sabres were the target of his frightening anger on Tuesday.

Lehner really didn’t seem too happy after being pulled from the game, whether that anger was directed at Dan Bylsma, his Sabres teammates or … everyone?

Watch him rage out after getting the hook following Toronto’s three-goal outburst in about nine minutes:

/Cowers in fear.

Onlookers seem to believe that the tension was real.

Raise your hand if you wouldn’t want to be around Lehner right now. Here’s the impressive Auston Matthews 3-2 goal that ended his night early:

Jared Spurgeon shows he has hands like a surgeon (Video)

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Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon has a pretty good knack for scoring goals, especially considering the fact that he doesn’t always take a ton of shots.

Maybe Bruce Boudreau should consider asking him to fire away a little more often.

You won’t see many prettier examples of hand-eye coordination than Spurgeon’s power-play goal from Tuesday’s game against the New Jersey Devils, which gave the Wild a 1-0 lead. Watch it in the video above.

It’s almost impressive enough to justify rhyming his last name with surgeon. You know, theoretically.