Canucks hang on after hectic finish, take 2-0 series lead over Blackhawks

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It wasn’t the kind of dominant win the Vancouver Canucks might have wanted to profoundly shake the Chicago Blackhawks from their psyches, but the Presidents’ Trophy winners will gladly take a 2-0 series lead from tonight’s win.

Vancouver 4, Chicago 3; Canucks lead series 2-0.

This Game 2 contest featured a mixture of the expected (a great performance by Hart Trophy frontrunner Daniel Sedin, who scored twice and recorded an assist) and the unexpected (Sedin’s goals being answered by two Ben Smith rebound goals, the first playoff tallies of his career). For a while, it seemed like the ‘Hawks might go into Game 3 wondering if they could solve Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo. By the end, there were many left wondering if Luongo still needs to get that monkey off his back.

Viktor Stalberg’s goal might have been the best microcosm of the surprising sources of Chicago offense, as the forward’s quick release caught Luongo off-guard … but also surprised Stalberg, as he took a noticeable amount of time to realize he scored a goal.

Ultimately, the Blackhawks made too many mistakes, especially when the Sedin twins were on the ice. Daniel had his three points and Henrik showed up too, providing two helpers. Chicago rarely had a solution for the pairing beyond “Let’s hope Corey Crawford can handle it.”

Crawford had some great moments despite allowing four goals on 27 shots, but Luongo did enough to win again, stopping 23 out of 26.

The best team from the 2010-11 season has the defending Stanley Cup champions in a tough situation, but the Blackhawks host the next two games at the United Center, an arena that has been a House of Horrors for Luongo and the Canucks the past few playoff years. Perhaps Chicago built a little confidence in giving Vancouver a late run in Game 2, but the bottom line is that they must match the Canucks’ efforts with two home wins of their own if they have a chance to make this a series.

It’s been a thrilling (if occasionally messy) first two games, but we’ll see if Chicago can get back into this series in the next two games.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too.¬†They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.