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.

Animal activists protest Ducks’ Stoner over grizzly bear hunt

Keith Fialcowitz

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — A small group of vocal protesters gathered outside Honda Center on Monday night to call for the suspension of Anaheim Ducks defenseman Clayton Stoner, who faces charges in Canada of illegally obtaining a license to shoot a grizzly bear.

While Ducks fans entered the rink for their home opener against Vancouver, about 20 protesters held signs and shouted slogans condemning Stoner. He faces five charges related to the 2013 hunt on British Columbia’s central coast.

“Killing is not a sport! Play a real sport!” the protesters shouted in unison. “Shame on the Ducks!”

Judie Mancuso, the president of Social Compassion in Legislation, compared Stoner to quarterback Michael Vick and Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer, whose killing of a beloved lion in Zimbabwe sparked an international outcry.

“The entire globe is against trophy hunting right now,” Mancuso said. “If most of these hockey fans understood that was the issue, I think most of them would be on our side.”

Wildlife groups and First Nations leaders have been outraged by Stoner’s killing of the bear, named Cheeky. Stoner defended his actions at the time when graphic photos of the kill were publicized, but he hasn’t commented recently.

The protesters were serenaded by chants of Stoner’s name by many fans, while others stopped to look at the signs. Mancuso said her group hopes to raise awareness of Stoner’s legal troubles.

“If people didn’t have outrage with the NFL, Michael Vick would have gotten away with it,” Mancuso said. “The only way that anything is going to happen is if we do this. If there’s not public outcry, nothing is going to happen, so we’ve got to try.”

Stoner grew up on Vancouver Island, but hasn’t lived in the province full-time for several years, which authorities say made him ineligible for the hunting license used to take the bear. He played for the Minnesota Wild at the time of the shooting.

Stoner faces two counts of knowingly making a false statement to obtain a hunting license and one count apiece of hunting without a license, hunting out of season and unlawful possession of dead wildlife. His case is set for Nov. 13 in Vancouver.

The 30-year-old Stoner was in the Ducks’ lineup for their home opener, and he fought Brandon Prust in the opening minutes. Stoner is beginning his sixth full NHL season and his second with Anaheim after signing a four-year, $13 million deal as a free agent before last season.

Related: Ducks d-man Stoner charged with unlawful grizzly bear hunt

NHL on NBCSN: Red Wings face Lightning in ’15 playoff rematch

Steven Stamkos, Henrik Zetterberg
AP Photo

NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2015-16 campaign tonight when the Detroit Red Wings host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can stream the game online here.

The Lightning made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015, but their journey almost ended in the first round at the hands of the Red Wings. Detroit shutout Tampa Bay twice in that series and the two squads were locked in a scoreless tie until the third period of Game 7.

Despite the fact that the Red Wings were a mere hair away from advancing instead of Tampa Bay, the Lightning are often mentioned as serious Cup contenders while Detroit is typically regarded as a good, but not amazing team. However, that gap isn’t entirely unjustified.

After all, Tampa Bay has a very effective core of forwards that features Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat. If the highly regarded Jonathan Drouin, 20, is able to build off of his strong start to the 2015-16 campaign then the Lightning’s offense could be even more dangerous this season.

Detroit certainly has some offensive star power too in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, but the duo is 35 and 37 years old respectively. On top of that, injuries have been a recurring issue for Datsyuk, who isn’t expected to make his season debut until November after undergoing ankle surgery.

As good as those two forwards still are, the Red Wings have to hope that their younger players will be able to lead the charge sooner rather than later. The good news is that 19-year-old Dylan Larkin‘s campaign is off to a strong start with three points in two games while 23-year-old Teemu Pulkkinen scored twice on Saturday.

The Red Wings have opened the season with back-to-back wins against Toronto and Carolina, but tonight’s game represents their biggest test to date. Meanwhile, the Lightning are similarly undefeated after three games, but this contest will be particularly trying for them given that it’s their third game in four days.