Mike Knuble, Niklas Hjalmarsson

Riding the Zamboni – Friday, March 18th

NY Rangers 6, Montreal 3

The Rangers posted a 5 spot in the first period against the Habs, chased Carey Price, and earned their third straight win. The five goals from five different goal scorers in the opening frame was the best start in 11 years as the Blueshirts were able to put the game on cruise control after the opening stanza. Unfortunately, Benoit Pouliot collided with Henrik Lundqvist with only about 3 minutes remaining. Lundqvist stayed in the game but had a sore neck that started to stiffen up as the game concluded. The victory is nice—but New York will need Lundqvist at 100% if they want to do anything more than simply make the playoffs.

Washington 3, New Jersey 0

The good news for the Devils was they controlled the game in their retro jerseys on throwback night in Newark. The bad news is they were unable to get any pucks past Michal Neuvirth and lost for the second time in as many nights. A few months ago, a performance like this would be a sign of better things to come for a struggling team. But nowadays, the Devils are desperate to earn every single point they can. On a night when they failed to earn a point, it doesn’t really matter how well they played.

For the Capitals, the win was their 10th in 11 games. Neuvirth balanced his play between good, great, and spectacular throughout the night. Mike Knuble provided all the scoring the Caps would need as he potted a pair to pull the Capitals into a tie for the Eastern Conference lead. Now if Neuvirth could just erase those three games in hand the Flyers own, then he’d really be amazing.

Carolina 3, NY Islanders 2 (OT)

This just in: Cam Ward is a pretty good goaltender. Ward earned the #1 star of the game; but he just as easily could have won the #2 and #3 stars as well. He made just enough saves – 33 in fact – giving the Canes a chance to win with only about a minute left in overtime. Joni Pitkanen picked up his second point of the night on the game winner that pushed Carolina into a tie for the 8th and final playoff spot in the East.

For the Islanders, it was a tough loss to handle as they threw everything but the kitchen sink at Ward. Michael Grabner had a goal, an assist, and 9 total shots on goal in the game. But alas, it wasn’t enough.

Phoenix 3, Vancouver 1

All good things eventually come to an end—and for the Vancouver Canucks, it was their 7-game winning streak that came to an end on Friday night. Even though they didn’t have the same fire they’ve had over the last two weeks as they were clinching a playoff spot, they still managed to put 47 shots on goal. Moreover, it took a 5-minute major penalty halfway through the 3rd period for the Coyotes to finally break through (twice) as they rode two power play goals and an empty netter to the win. They game was much more important for the Coyotes as the win pushed them to 4th place in the Western Conference. Their fifth straight win also pulled them within a single point of the Pacific Division leading San Jose Sharks. On the other hand, the Canucks clinched a playoff spot in their last game.

Blue Jackets’ Wennberg done for night with upper-body injury

Alexander Wennberg, Jay Bouwmeester
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It wouldn’t be a regular season game without a Columbus Blue Jackets injury, right?

OK, the Blue Jackets hope that 2015-16 looks different from the medically challenged mess of last season, but at least one player is banged up tonight.

Alexander Wennberg suffered an upper-body injury and won’t return on Friday, as the team noted.

There’s no word yet regarding how serious the issue might be. It looks like he might have suffered an injury thanks to a Chris Kreider check:

Naturally, the Blue Jackets must hope that this doesn’t begin another trend.

Kings grab goalie insurance by signing Budaj

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: Jhonas Enroth #1 and Peter Budaj #31 of the Los Angeles Kings stretch before a game against the Arizona Coyotes at STAPLES Center on September 22, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI via Getty Images)
via Los Angeles Kings
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In slightly less interesting Los Angeles Kings news than the latest in the Mike Richards fiasco, the team handed Peter Budaj a one-year, two-way deal on Friday.

The veteran goalie’s contract pays $575K on the NHL level and $100K in the AHL (though it’s $150K guaranteed), according to Hockey’s Cap.

At the moment, it sounds like Budaj will be third on the Kings’ goalie depth chart. That says as much about how things have been going lately for Los Angeles than Budaj’s work on a PTO.

As noted above, one of the more significant moves in Budaj’s favor came when the New York Islanders claimed Jean-Francois Berube off of waivers this week.

The Kings actually waived Budaj before signing him, so this has to be a relief to a goalie with a fairly robust resume as a backup.

All apologies to Budaj, but it’s probably true that the Kings would prefer not to see him at the NHL level very often in 2015-16.