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.

Video: Pavelski gives Sharks the lead as they look to clinch berth in Stanley Cup Final

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Perseverance paid off for the San Jose Sharks.

Joe Pavelski gave the Sharks the lead in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final, pushing home a loose puck on Brian Elliott after Joe Thornton was unable to convert on the breakaway seconds before.

For Pavelski, that’s his league-leading 13th goal of these playoffs.

The Sharks can clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history with a win tonight.

San Jose increased its lead to two goals, as Joel Ward capitalized early in the second period.

Canucks trade Jared McCann to the Panthers for Erik Gudbranson

ANAHEIM, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Jared McCann #91 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on during a game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on November 30, 2015 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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The Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers have made a trade — and it’s a big one.

As per Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, the two main components are forward Jared McCann, who just completed his rookie season with the Canucks, and 24-year-old defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who has played five seasons with the Florida Panthers.

Here are the details:

McCann is the second draft selection of the Jim Benning-Trevor Linden era, taken 24th overall in 2014. As a 19-year-old rookie armed with a big-league wrist shot, he scored nine goals and 18 points while averaging 12:31 of ice time per game in 69 games.

The Canucks had the option of sending McCann back to junior last season and not burning a year of his entry-level deal, but they chose to keep him in Vancouver for the entire year.

One particular aspect of his development, particularly this off-season, was a need to get physically stronger, which was something that could be exposed at times in the defensive end against bigger forwards.

Gudbranson, selected third overall in 2010 and signed to a one-year, $3.5 million extension earlier this month, certainly gives the Canucks size on the back end at six-foot-five-inches tall, a physical presence and a right shot on the blue line, but he has managed only 13 points as a single-season career best and that was in 2014-15.

The Canucks also gave up two picks in this year’s draft.

 

Vasilevskiy ‘is the big reason we’re in Game 7,’ says Bolts coach Cooper

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It has been an Eastern Conference Final full of twists and turns in the plot.

Exhibit A: The goaltending situation for both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins. 

That began right away, in the first period of Game 1 when Ben Bishop was stretchered off the ice with a lower-body injury. Since then, Andrei Vasilevskiy has been The Guy for the Lightning, which will face the Penguins in a Game 7, winner-take-all contest, in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Of the many storylines heading into this contest, one that stands out is it’s expected to be a goaltending duel between the 21-year-old Vasilevskiy and the Matt Murray, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Wednesday.

(Remember when Penguins coach Mike Sullivan went with Marc-Andre Fleury to start over Murray in Game 5, only to switch back to Murray for a must-win Game 6? Another plot twist.)

Bolts head coach Jon Cooper had previously left the door open to the possibility that Bishop could return in this series. On Wednesday, however, he told reporters he’ll meet with his staff but does not anticipate Bishop being in for Game 7.

“I think Andrei is the big reason we’re in Game 7,” said Cooper.

“He’s made big save after big save for us. The one thing that I do like that’s happened to him finally in this series is, you know, he finally started a playoff game and won, whereas his other playoff wins were always in relief, and he’s won in Pittsburgh. So you’ve got to like the kid feels pretty comfortable playing there, and we like that.”

WATCH LIVE: Blues at Sharks – Game 6

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues, Brent Burns #88 of the San Jose Sharks, and Joe Thornton #19 argue with a referee during the second period in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The San Jose Sharks can make franchise history on home ice tonight against the St. Louis Blues. Win, and the Sharks clinch their first ever trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Lose, and it’s back to St. Louis for a deciding Game 7 in the Western Conference Final.

You can catch tonight’s Game 6 on NBCSN (9 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Tarasenko needs to start ‘playing within the system’: Hitch

On the brink of elimination, Blues turn back to Elliott

The Blues could sure use a goal or two from Tarasenko

Stanley Cup Final to begin Monday