Ryan Miller shuts out Philadelphia, gives Buffalo a 1-0 series lead

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All season long Buffalo’s Ryan Miller has looked a little bit off. After a Vezina Trophy winning season last year and an Olympic tournament that saw him lead the way for Team USA, it only made sense that he would have a bit of a down year this year.

Leave it to Miller to make his biggest impression of the season when it started to matter the most as he stopped 35 shots in Game 1 of the playoffs to lead the Sabres to victory 1-0 over Philadelphia. The shutout was Miller’s second in his career in the playoffs and while he didn’t get a lot of offensive support tonight, he got just enough from Patrick Kaleta of all people to get the win.

The loss for Philadelphia continues a bad trend that carried them through the final month of the season as the Flyers struggled to the end. The Flyers closed their year from February 26 til the end of the regular season going 7-8-6 and now they’re dealing with a red hot Sabres team that finished their season strong.

Some of you may have given us some grief for going against the Flyers as long as they’re playing without Chris Pronger, but tonight was a prime example of how things can change without their best defenseman as it was Danny Syvret who was caught not defending Kaleta on the game’s only goal.

It’s unfortunate for Philadelphia as James van Riemsdyk played an outstanding game for the Flyers. They’ll need more of that from him as the playoffs roll on. While the stars are always counted on to be big performers, getting production from the depth players goes a long way.

For Buffalo, stealing home ice advantage away from Philadelphia goes a long way for them as they’ll at least head back to Buffalo for Game 3 with a split in the series and at most with a 2-0 lead and the Flyers on the ropes. Either way, seeing Miller shut things down does wonders for the Sabres confidence on a night when their offense was able to muster just one goal.

If the Flyers want to get wins in the playoffs, fixing their power play would go a long way towards helping that out. The Sabres were 0-5 with the man advantage and looked bad on all of them. It’s been an issue for the Flyers all season as their power play ranks out as the sixth worst one amongst teams in the playoffs during the regular season scoring just 16.6% of the time. Against Buffalo tonight they looked like a mishmash of players attempting to do something but that something wasn’t putting the puck in the net.

While Buffalo would love to see the offense pick up, if Miller plays outstanding like he did all playoffs… Buffalo looks a lot scarier to face.

Fight video: Brouwer makes Watson pay for Hathaway hit

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Austin Watson nodded with recognition after landing a questionable hit on Garnet Hathaway on Saturday, as he understood why Troy Brouwer demanded immediate retribution.

And, as you can see from the video above the headline, Brouwer got that bloody payback after beating Watson in a fight.

Watson (who isn’t that far removed from a two-game suspension) was ejected for his hit. It wasn’t the only nasty moment between the Nashville Predators and Calgary Flames, either, as the toxic exchanges included Anthony Bitetto‘s ugly cross-check on Sam Bennett.

(Video or a GIF of Bitetto’s hit will be added if it becomes available.)

Some other penalties reduced some of the advantage for the Flames, but they ultimately still received serious man-advantage opportunities amid all of the violence, and they weren’t able to convert.

The best news is that Hathaway might end up being OK after a scary-looking check. He returned to the game during the third period.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Should Erik Johnson be suspended for ugly play on Namestnikov?

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Vladislav Namestnikov has been the Mikael Renberg equivalent on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Legion of Doom with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov for much of this season, complimenting those two scorers with strong work of his own.

The Lightning were lighting up the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night, perhaps frustrating Erik Johnson and others. Whatever the explanation might be, it was a pretty ugly sight when Johnson slashed and then boarded Namestnikov, earning those two penalties plus a game misconduct.

Plenty of people believe that supplemental discipline would be merited for Johnson’s actions. For what it’s worth, “Names” did return to action in the third period. We’ve seen instances where players return only to be hurt anyway, so we’ll see if the nifty winger sees any delayed issues.

Johnson, 29, was suspended for two games by the NHL back in 2014, but has a generally clean history otherwise.

The Lightning ultimately ended up beating the Avalanche 6-5, as Nathan MacKinnon almost led a rally with two power-play goals.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Senators blank Canadiens in NHL 100 Classic

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One win, even in the frosty outdoors for the NHL 100 Classic, only means so much.

Still, the Ottawa Senators probably experienced some ice-cold relief on Saturday, beating the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 during a tightly defended outdoor bout.

It was 0-0 for much of the game until Jean-Gabriel Pageau tipped an Erik Karlsson shot for the first goal with about five minutes remaining in the second period. Bobby Ryan then capitalized on a rough Jonathan Drouin turnover to make it 2-0, while an empty-netter iced the icy evening for Ottawa.

For a night, it was a fun time, and Karlsson reminded us what all the fuss is about, as he logged a ridiculous 32:55 of ice time. And he seemed to be having a good time doing it.

This night laid the “Canadian” on thick, with Bryan Adams performing during the event, and Gary Bettman posing for photos with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

via Getty

Weird, but OK then.

Generally speaking, things haven’t been that OK for the Senators lately. Such headaches did surface during this frosty-mug-on-ice event, as owner Eugene Melnyk inspired a #Melnykout hashtag on Twitter, not to mention icy barbs like these.

Fair criticisms about the Sens’ bigger picture aside, Ottawa looked nice tonight, with Karlsson shining and Craig Anderson pitching a rare shutout outdoors (shutoutdoors)?

Carey Price generated some nice saves of his own, but couldn’t will Montreal to win in his 10th consecutive start. The Habs rarely got things going against the Senators, seen most easily in Ottawa’s 38-28 advantage in shots on goal.

Nights like these make a bigger impact on fans’ memories and bottom lines, but this marks consecutive wins for the Senators either way. Considering the fact that the Senators hadn’t put back-to-back wins together since they faced the Avalanche in two contests in Sweden, it might not be a big deal, yet it’s far better than the nothing they’ve been coming up with far too often lately.

Also

In other news from the event, Mario Lemieux’s “five goals, five different ways” was named as the NHL’s greatest moment, voted by fans:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Sadly, Capitals aren’t selling this collection of Christmas songs

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Let’s be honest, virtually any time a team gets its players to embrace a holiday theme, it’s in the name of goofiness. And bless NHL teams for this.

When it comes to Movember, you get the fantastic combination of mustaches and charitable contributions.

The holidays are rapidly approaching (hey, I see that Amazon tab open), so we’ll start to see various New Year’s/Christmas/Festivus/etc.-themed fun. Even with that in mind, the Washington Capitals will be tough to top with their collection of Christmas tunes.

Sadly, there’s no Volume 1:

Question: which performance stood out to you the most? While Braden Holtby was fantastic (with a Tomas Plekanec-level turtleneck game), the simple entertainment of watching Alex Ovechkin sing is tough to top.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.