Early ride on the Zamboni – Tuesday, March 22

NY Rangers 1, Florida 0

The Rangers rode a Brandon Dubinsky goal halfway through the 3rd period to beat the Panthers 1-0 and increase their current winning streak to five. Henrik Lundqvist only needed 22 saves to earn his NHL-leading 10th shutout on the season. On the other end of the rink, Tomas Vokoun stopped 32 of the 33 shots he faced—but it wasn’t enough. New York’s seventh win in their last eight games has them only three points behind the Canadiens for 6th place in the Eastern Conference.

Carolina 4, Ottawa 3

If Eric Staal and Paul Maurice wanted to scare the entire Hurricanes’ fan base, mission accomplished when Carolina’s head coach pulled his captain for “precautionary reasons” in the 3rd period of their victory against the Ottawa Senators. After they fell behind 2-0, the Canes were able to ride a pair of goals from Chad LaRose to an important win to help keep pace with the 8th place Sabres.

From the Sens perspective, the game was a case of good news/bad news. The bad news is they are only a single loss from being mathematically eliminated. However, the bright side is the loss put them in the 29th overall spot—and the #2 overall draft pick. So there’s that.

Boston 4, New Jersey 1

The Devils started the game by outshooting the Bruins 12-1. Ilya Kovalchuk started the scoring with his 27th goal of the year. If the game could have ended there, Jacques Lemaire would be a much happier man than he is tonight. The Bruins responded with the next FOUR as they earned the victory and held onto the top spot in the Northeast Division.

The loss “dropped” the Devils to 24-6-2 over their last 32 games. More importantly, the loss drops them nine points behind the 8th placed Buffalo Sabres. If they were to win-out for the rest of the season, they’d only be able to muster 90 points for the season. Chances are that won’t be enough to make to the NHL’s second season.

NY Islanders 5, Tampa Bay 2

The Lightning continued their slide by losing to the Isles and dropping to 2-4-4 in their last 10 games. Nate Thompson started things off right by scoring about a minute into the game; yet after that the Islanders scored 4 straight to run away with the game. Al Montoya continued his stellar play with New York by stopping 36 shots and Michael Grabner scored his 31st goal of the season as he continues to make a case for the Calder Trophy. Aside from individual play, the team improved to 6-1-3 in their last 10 games as well. Good goaltending, scoring in bunches, and a pair of shorthanded goals. Where was this for the first few months of the season?

Washington 5, Philadelphia 4 (SO)

The Caps jumped out to a 3-0 start, blew the three goal lead, and then looked unbeatable in the shootout to earn the two points. If they could have won the game in regulation they would have caught the Flyers for 1st place in the East. As it stands, they’ll have to settle for a big win and their eleventh win in their last twelve games. Not a bad way to start the home-stretch without the injured Alexander Ovechkin.

The Flyers’ day started out badly when they heard Jody Shelley will be out for 4 weeks with a fractured orbital bone. From there, Sergei Bobrovsky gave up 3 goals in just over a period of action. Things didn’t start to get better until they scored four straight goals to make it a game. They couldn’t finish it off for the victory, but after the way the day started, one point is better than they could have expected.

Buffalo 2, Montreal 0

It probably shouldn’t be a huge surprise when Carey Price and Ryan Miller treat fans to a low-scoring goaltending display. By the time the game ended, Ryan Miller won the duel of netminders as he stopped 31 shots to earn his 4th shutout in 2011; but Nathan Gerbe upstaged them both. The diminutive forward had a beautiful redirection goal to give the Sabres the 1-0 lead halfway through the 2nd period; only to be topped by a great individual effort to score into an empty net to cap off the Sabres’ victory. The win allowed Buffalo to maintain their 3 point lead on the 9th place Carolina Hurricanes as both teams were victorious on Tuesday night.

Sabres’ center Paul Gaustad summed up the night the best: “Both goalies played great. Ours played a little bit better.”

The Buzzer: Kane gets first hatty, Predators first to clinch

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Players of the Night:

Evander Kane, San Jose Sharks: It took him 565 NHL games and three teams, but Kane now has his first NHL hat trick. Then he made sure to grab his first four-goal NHL game for the hell of it. Kane has five goals and 10 points in eight games since the trade deadline, the most of any player dealt this year on deadline day.

Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators: Hoffman had an assist in regulation and then one-timed his fifth game-winning goal of the season in overtime to help the Senators past the Dallas Stars.

Nashville Predators: For no other reason than they claimed first blood in a 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche, becoming the first team this season to clinch a playoff spot.

Highlights of the Night:

Bravo, Johnny:

Kane’s hat trick goal:



Factoids of the Night:


Senators 3, Stars 2 (OT)

Capitals 6, Islanders 3

Predators 4, Avalanche 2

Sharks 7, Flames 4

Ducks 4, Red Wings 2

Wild 4, Golden Knights 2

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Rangers getting a good look at the future, despite playoff disappointment

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Silver linings for teams far off the playoff line are few and far between at this time of the year.

But if there is one that can be taken for any team looking at re-tooling or rebuilding for next season, it’s the ability to take a look at the future crop against NHL adversaries.

The New York Rangers are one of these teams. They declared themselves open for business prior to the trade deadline and dealt away some big names, including Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh, for some younger talent.

They’re also facing a challenge with aging goaltender Henrik Lundqvist who, as great as he is, won’t win the battle with Father Time.

Needing to fill holes at several positions, the Rangers have been able to take a good look at a couple of promising prospects, including what may well be their future between the pipes.

New York has played rookie Alexandar Georgiev six times and owns a 3-2-0 record since he played his first NHL game on Feb. 22. Despite picking up the loss, Georgiev allowed just two goals on 40 shots for a .950 save percentage.

He’d give up four in his next start the following night, but since then has amassed three straight wins, including a 37-save performance on Wednesday against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. He’ll be called upon again on Saturday, another test and another chance for evaluation.

The inital analysis is promising. Georgiev is sitting on a very respectable .929 save percentage in his brief time in the NHL and he’s already turning heads around the league.

NHL.com’s Kevin Woodley’s wrote that Georgiev is taking after the likes of Andrei Vasilevskiy, Semyon Varlamov and Sergei Bobrovsky — some pretty good company.

Blueshirt Banter’s Tom Urtz Jr. took a really deep dive in Georgiev, concluding by calling him a “pleasant surprise.”

There’s a lot to like about him, his potential is visible, and the circumstances are set up in his favor for him to be able to prove himself more in an extended setting next season,” Urtz Jr. wrote.

Shifting to the men in the rearguard, Neal Pionk is making the most the big minutes he’s been getting over the past 17 games, and he’s starting to produce.

Pionk is on a three-game point streak with five assists during that span.

Also 22 and also undrafted, Pionk, like Georgiev, is showing real promise on defense.

“He competes hard and he’s got a good skill set,” Vigneault told NYRangers.com on Friday. “He can make that good pass and there’s no doubt that in his college and prior to that, he was considered an offensive defenseman. He’d join the rush and was good on the power play, so there is some upside there with him. We need to continue to work at his game and continue to improve it.”

The Rangers appear to have some budding young talent and an array of players to build around with the likes Pavel Buchnevich, Vladislav Namestnikov and Jimmy Vesey — assuming they sign the latter two who are set to become RFAs at the end of this season.

And perhaps most importantly, the Rangers, who have long held the distinction as a team where old players go to get older, seem to finally be favoring youth over past-their-prime talent.

That’s good news for Rangers fans.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Ducks lose Bieksa for 2-5 weeks

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Anaheim Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa will be out for two to five weeks after surgery to remove scar tissue from his left hand.

Bieksa is having surgery Friday, the Ducks announced.

The 36-year-old Bieksa has eight assists in 59 games this season for Anaheim, which is fighting to get into playoff position with three weeks left in the regular season.

Anaheim recalled defenseman Korbinian Holzer from its AHL affiliate in San Diego before facing the Detroit Red Wings at Honda Center on Friday night.

The Ducks have won five consecutive Pacific Division titles and made five straight postseason appearances, reaching the Western Conference finals last season. But Anaheim (35-24-12) began this weekend out of playoff position and in fourth place in the Pacific.

More AP NHL: http://www.apnews.com/tags/NHLhockey

Canadiens need to look in mirror before moving forward


The Montreal Canadiens have been a colossal disappointment in 2017-18. Instead of building on their first-round playoff exit from last year, the Habs have bottomed out as one of the worst teams in the league from day one of the season.

The highs have been short and the lows have been long, but it sounds like current general manager Marc Bergevin will get an opportunity to improve his underwhelming roster. As owner and team president Geoff Molson reiterated at a team foundation event on Friday morning, Bergevin isn’t going anywhere.

“It has not been a satisfactory season so far,” Molson told PHT on Friday morning. “Marc and I both know that, the whole organization knows that. And I think if you asked every player, every coach and every person that’s involved, they’d all say the same thing. We have to get better. Marc knows that and I tell him that. He acknowledges that and he agrees with it, of course.

“There’s no question that I think Marc is very capable of accomplishing that, but he and I both know that this season’s been unsatisfactory.”

Don’t be mistaken, Molson also said the team will make adjustments to the way they operate before the start of next season. Someone is going to take the fall for this disaster, but it won’t be Bergevin.

When asked if the Canadiens have to make the playoffs next season, Molson hesitated before saying that he wasn’t sure how he wanted to express himself regarding next season. Those are things he wants to answer closer to next fall, but he also added that it’s important for the team to always do everything they can to be competitive every year.

Like most teams, the Habs will be in the mix for John Tavares if he becomes a free agent on July 1st. Whether or not they rebuild or retool might depend on if they can land Tavares, which has be considered a serious long shot at this point. But if he does decide to join former Team Canada teammates Carey Price and Shea Weber in Montreal, the Canadiens would once again be seen as legitimate playoff hopefuls.

“Do we need a franchise player? Probably,” said Molson, without ever mentioning the Islanders forward’s name. “And that’s something I see as an opportunity for us.”

Who knows what the plan is if they can’t land Tavares in free agency. All we really know for sure, is that the owner expects everyone to be better heading into next season. Molson isn’t putting the blame on any one particular person, but he acknowledged several times that the way this season unfolded was not acceptable.

“I’m not really going to point any fingers,” said Molson.

“So you can look at players, you can look at coaching, you can look at scouting, you can look at player development, you can look at the general manager, you could look everywhere and say there are areas to improve, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

It’ll be interesting to see just how long it takes for those improvements to turn into on-ice success for a that hasn’t won a Stanley Cup in 25 years.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.