Alex Tanguay, Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen

Western playoff chaos: Flames stay alive, Blackhawks take a fall, Stars win controversially

Things in the Western Conference playoff race could’ve been figured out rather quickly if the Anaheim Ducks pulled off a regulation win over the Dallas Stars today. Fittingly enough for how things have gone all season in the West, that didn’t happen and even more shenanigans went down to make things a even more jumbled up than they were already.

Tampa Bay 2 – Chicago 0

The Blackhawks had a chance to help their odds of making the playoffs by pulling off a win. Instead they were stymied by Mike Smith and his 31-save shutout while Vincent Lecavalier scored a power play goal in the second period while Nate Thompson scored an empty net goal to help the Lightning lock up at worst the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. For Chicago, two points would’ve allowed them to hang on to their three point advantage over Calgary in the race for the eighth seed. Instead, they’re now just up on the Flames by one point. Fortunately for Chicago, they’ve got two games in hand over Calgary and can better secure their spot in the West, but they’ve also got Dallas to worry about too as the Stars trail them by three points with four games left. Corey Crawford made just 13 saves in the loss for Chicago.

Calgary 2 – Colorado 1

Calgary kept their slim hopes of the playoffs alive by winning yet again. Alex Tanguay had a goal and an assist to lead the Flames while Miikka Kiprusoff made 34 saves to help keep Calgary’s slim hopes alive. The downside for Calgary is that they’ve got just two games left and they’ll need to win them both as both Chicago and Dallas below them have two games in hand on the Flames to either catch up to or extend their lead in the West on the Flames. Anaheim who is two points up on Calgary has three games left in the season. It’s an uphill climb for Calgary and they’re running out of games fast, but they’re still alive which is more than we thought of them just a week ago.

Dallas 4 – Anaheim 3

In the most exciting game of the night, the Stars withstood Corey Perry’s 47th goal of the year and two waved off goals in the final three minutes to hang on and beat Anaheim to keep their hopes of the playoffs alive. Mike Ribeiro scored twice to lead the Stars while Brenden Morrow added a goal and two assists and Kari Lehtonen saved 24 shots to get the win. Anaheim twice thought they tied the game late but a goalie interference call on Saku Koivu wiped out an apparent Teemu Selanne goal and a hand pass wiped out an apparent Bobby Ryan goal with under a minute to go.

Anaheim’s loss in regulation didn’t allow Nashville, Los Angeles, and Phoenix to clinch playoff spots and allowed Dallas a glimmer of hope of still making the playoffs. With the Ducks hanging on to the seventh spot by two points over Calgary and four on Dallas, they’re not out of the woods yet by far. Will this loss come back to haunt them? We’ll find out in the next seven days.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.