Alex Burrows, Pekka Rinne

Western playoff picture stays murky: Canucks clinch West; Yotes hurt Stars chances

Western Conference playoff race

z – 1. Vancouver – 111 pts
2. Detroit – 98 pts
3. San Jose – 97 pts
4. Phoenix – 95 pts
5. Los Angeles – 94 pts
6. Nashville – 92 pts
7. Anaheim – 91 pts
8. Chicago – 90 pts
9. Dallas – 87 pts
10. Calgary – 87 pts

z – clinched conference title
y – clinched division title
x – clinched playoff spot

Vancouver 3 – Nashville 1

It started off sketchy for Vancouver when Mike Fisher scored in the second period to give the Preds a 1-0 lead, but once the third rolled around, Luongo did his thing (16 saves) while Alex Burrows scored two goals and Aaron Rome added a third to give Vancouver the win and home ice throughout the Western Conference playoffs. For Nashville, the loss is tough because they had a chance to slide up the West standings and inch a little closer to Detroit. Instead, they stay in neutral while the Canucks stay on fire having won nine of their last ten games. They just keep winning in spite of injuries and that just frightens us.

Phoenix 2 – Dallas 1 (F/SO)

Is it too late to start an Ilya Bryzgalov for Vezina campaign? The Coyotes goaltender stopped 44 shots tonight while leading his team into the shootout where he was victimized by the same guy that got him in regulation, Jamie Benn, but Radim Vrbata and Ray Whitney would score on Kari Lehtonen (26 saves) in the skills competition to give Phoenix the win. While the Stars got a point, they’re still on the outside of the playoff picture. At the very least they’ve got the tiebreaker with Calgary for the time being. For the Coyotes, they move back to two point behind the Sharks and stay ahead of the Kings in the Pacific Division.

Los Angeles 2 – Edmonton 0

Game one without Anze Kopitar went well for L.A. and it was captain Dustin Brown who led the way with two goals while Trevor Lewis added two assists. Jonathan Bernier earned his third shutout of the year stopping 32 shots and getting the win for the Kings. While getting the win without Kopitar is great, let’s see what the Kings can do against Vancouver on Thursday before we go declaring how OK they’ll be without their top scorer. So no, we won’t be crowning the Kings just yet. (Sorry, we had to do it)

Boston 3 – Chicago 0

Remember all the momentum the Blackhawks earned after their overtime win over Detroit yesterday? Yeah… So much for that. The Blackhawks were stoned by Tim Thomas and his 32 saves as he earned his ninth shutout of the year.  Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk, and Nathan Horton each had goals for the Bruins as they improved their own standing in the Eastern Conference race. For Chicago, failing to add any points helps keep Dallas and Calgary in the race for the playoffs. We’re sure at least Dallas is thankful for that since they can’t get out of their own way lately.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.

Islanders believe Boyle should be suspended for hit before OT goal

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Thomas Hickey is involved in a controversial hit, yet the greater debate may revolve around the one he received rather than the one he delivered.

In the second period, the New York Islanders defenseman connected for a thunderous hit on Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin, which sidelined Drouin for a chunk of Game 3.

Many believe that hit was legal:

The Islanders are upset about the Brian Boyle hit on Hickey in overtime, which came moments before Boyle scored the game-winning goal. You can see the full sequence here, with the hit happening around the 50-second mark:

Islanders head coach Jack Capuano believes that it was a suspension-worthy hit.

You’re not going to believe this, but the Lightning disagree.

Boyle clearly didn’t receive a penalty on that sequence, yet one would imagine that the league will at least take a look at that hit.

Lightning take dramatic OT win vs. Islanders, go up 2-1 in series

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Brian Boyle was part of the fight before Game 3 even started … and then he ended it in overtime.

In a Tampa Bay Lightning win in which they just kept rolling with the New York Islanders’ punches, it only seems fitting that Boyle battled to land a big hit and then score the clinching goal for a 5-4 overtime victory.

This gives the Lightning a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4.

Also fitting? Boyle landed a big hit on Thomas Hickey, the guy who sidelined Jonathan Drouin for a chunk of this contest.

That sequence prompted a brief goal review, but it ultimately stood:

(Was that Boyle hit on Hickey dirty, by the way?)

Drama was in the air from the beginning, yet Drouin really stole the show when he came back from what some believe was a concussion to assist on Nikita Kucherov‘s last-minute goal, which sent the game to overtime.

In some ways, this win feels like a microcosm of the Lightning’s season. They keep getting hit in the mouth with injuries and near-injuries, yet they just won’t stay down.

The Islanders saw three leads disappear in this contest, but one would think that they won’t roll over, either.