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Western playoff picture: Blackhawks pick up huge comeback win, Flames keep pace

Western Conference playoff race

z – 1. Vancouver – 113 pts
x – 2. San Jose – 99 pts
3. Detroit – 98 pts
4. Phoenix – 96 pts
5. Los Angeles – 94 pts
6. Nashville – 94 pts
7. Anaheim – 93 pts
8. Chicago – 92 pts
9. Calgary – 89 pts
10. Dallas – 87 pts

z – clinched conference title
x – clinched playoff spot

Chicago 4, Columbus 3 (SO)

The Blackhawks started the game looking like a desperate team that knew they needed a win to solidify their playoff chances. They scored a pair of goals in the first six minutes of the first period—but then they seemingly shut it down and allowed the Blue Jackets to climb back into the game. Columbus increased their energy level (and watched the Blackhawks lower theirs) as they took the game for the next 40 minutes of action. But after surrendering the go-ahead goal halfway through the 3rd period, the Blackhawks caught a huge break when Bryan Bickell scored on an extremely stoppable shot from the outside. From there, the Hawks played a strong overtime period and eventually won the game in a shootout.

The win was huge as it kept the Flames three points behind the Blackhawks for the 8th and final playoff spot. Dallas fans had to hate the outcome, as well, as the idle Stars fell 5 points behind the Hawks with only 6 games to play.

Calgary 3, St. Louis 2

Leaders have a way of showing up with their best performances when their teams need them the most. Not surprisingly, in a game the Flames desperately needed to keep their dwindling playoff chances alive, Jarome Iginla played on of his best of the season. He dominated on both sides of the rink en route to 2 goal, 1 assist night in a winning effort. It’s a good thing the Flames won as well—Chicago’s come-from-behind win means the Flames needed this win to stay only three points behind the Hawks with three games left in the regular season. Alex Tanguay summed up the Flames battle down the stretch:

“We’re still crossing our fingers. Maybe we do get lucky and something good happens to us. Who knows? As far as we’re concerned we’ve worked so hard . . . we’re going to try to push it to the very end.

“If worse comes to worst, we can say that we’ve accomplished great things since Christmas. We’re certainly frustrated not to have started the year like we’ve played the last half of the season. It is what it is, our situation. We’re hoping that we can just squeeze in.”

The win also marked Daymond Langkow’s return to the ice after missing more than a year.

Colorado 4, Phoenix 3 (SO)

The Coyotes fell behind in the game 2-0 before storming back to score three straight goals. Captain Shane Doan scored the go-ahead goal with 7:37 left in the game. At the time, it just looked like another example of the Avalanche snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. But Friday night would be different.

Ryan O’Reilly scored on the Avs only third period shot with just under 5 minutes left to pull even. After a scoreless overtime, O’Reilly proceeded to put his finishing touches on the game as he was the only man to score in the shootout. The win was Peter Budaj’s 100th of his career and was only the third win in their last 17 games (all coming via shootout).

With the shootout loss, the Coyotes still picked up a single point in the standings to pad their 4th place position. Phoenix now has a two-point lead on both the Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators with only three games left on their schedule. Surely they would have hoped to earn two points against the lowly Avalanche, but after falling behind by a pair of goals, one point in the standings is better than none.

Flames keep showing life, Stars stumble once again

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If you think the Dallas Stars are struggling because of defense more than anything else, then you’ll make sure to keep the video above “on file.”

There Kari Lehtonen was, helpless on a 2-on-0 rush for the Calgary Flames, which Johnny Gaudreau finished with calm and ease. For some, that goal is the symbol of the Stars’ season.

Either way, it was a painful goal in the Flames’ 2-1 win against the Stars. Calgary won despite Dallas firing 30 shots on goal versus the Flames’ 20.

One team climbing, the other stumbling

With that, the Flames are now on a four-game winning streak. Since falling to 5-10-1 on Nov. 12, the Flames have gone 9-3-1 in their last 13 games, pushing them to 14-13-2 overall. Gaudreau coming back is the icing on the cake after Chad Johnson really took charge of the Flames’ top job.

During a similar span, the Stars can’t seem to get it together. Dallas stood at 6-6-3 after beating the Oilers 3-2 on Nov. 11. They’re now 10-11-6, essentially standing in place as a .500 team.

Dallas can’t seem to get momentum going, a thought that might have left them envious of the team on the other end of the ice on Tuesday.

Canadiens are facing some turbulence (and mostly passing the test)

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 6: Patrik Berglund #21 of the St. Louis Blues checks Tomas Plekanec #14 of the Montreal Canadiens at the Scottrade Center on December 6, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/ Getty Images)
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The Montreal Canadiens aren’t in crisis mode, but as far as this so-far outstanding 2016-17 season goes, they are finally facing some adversity.

Alex Galchenyuk, one of their most promising young players, is out indefinitely. There are murmurs that captain Max Pacioretty isn’t getting along with head coach Michel Therrien.* Tuesday presented a body blow or two to boot.

For one thing, the Canadiens gave up a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 to the St. Louis Blues in overtime. Jaden Schwartz grabbed an assist and scored the game’s last two goals, including the OT-winner:

Losing to a contender like the Blues, especially while still grabbing a “charity point,” isn’t that big of a deal. A possible David Desharnais injury makes things a little dicey, however:

Really, though, it’s not all that bad for Montreal. They managed a 2-2-1 mark during a five-game road trip heavy on quality opponents.

Also: six of their next seven games come at home, where they’re 12-1-1. So things will look brighter soon enough.

Still, with some injuries and a big road trip to end 2016 and start 2017, there may be some moments where Montreal looks vulnerable.

Ultimately, fighting through stretches like these could very well benefit the Habs later on.

* – Ah, the old standby: “Player X isn’t seeing eye-to-eye with Therrien.”

From the Blues’ side:

Ristolainen, Kane, O’Reilly push Sabres past McDavid and the Oilers

EDMONTON, AB - OCTOBER 16:  Rasmus Ristolainen #55, Matt Moulson #26, Sam Reinhart #23, Kyle Okposo #21 and Ryan OÕReilly #90 of the Buffalo Sabres celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers on October 16, 2016 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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On Tuesday, it wasn’t just about Jack Eichel vs. Connor McDavid. Instead, it was a clash between a fleet of young scorers who were in their prime, with the Buffalo Sabres coming up on top against the Edmonton Oilers.

In particular, high-scoring defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, power forward Evander Kane and two-way center Ryan O'Reilly made the difference in Buffalo’s 4-3 overtime win.

Ristolainen’s first goal of 2016-17 was a big one, as it clinched the contest in OT:

Evander Kane scored two goals of his own, including one in the dying seconds of regulation to allow Buffalo to get a standings point (and then a second) in the first place.

Kane finished with two goals, O’Reilly generated two assists and Ristolainen managed a one-goal, two-assist performance.

It would be wrong to say that the marquee names didn’t show up at all. McDavid generated two assists and Eichel also nabbed a helper.

You’d be correct in saying that other young players stole the show, though, and the Sabres were the biggest beneficiaries.

Video: Brent Seabrook shaken up after awkward fall

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It wasn’t nearly as scary as the falls suffered by Travis Zajac or Philip Larsen, but the Chicago Blackhawks are still holding their breath when it comes to defenseman Brent Seabrook.

As you can see from the video above, Seabrook was tripped up by Jordan Martinook of the Arizona Coyotes during a simple puck battle. Seabrook was shaken up after falling awkwardly on that play.

At the moment, it’s unclear if this will be an ongoing issue or if the Blackhawks avoided a costly injury.

Martinook was not penalized.

CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers notes that Seabrook wasn’t out to begin the third period. So far, not so good.

The Blackhawks beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-0, so the silver lining for Chicago is that they won.