Canucks dominate third period, take 1-0 series lead over Sharks with 3-2 win

The Vancouver Canucks went into the third period down 2-1 but simply outlasted the San Jose Sharks in the final frame. CSN’s Ray Ratto points out that the Canucks took 21 of the last 28 shots in Game 1, as the home team wore down their talented opponents.

Many wondered if the Sharks’ seven-game tussle with the Detroit Red Wings caused that weak finish, but that seems like a flimsy excuse. It disrespects the physical game the Canucks bring to the ice (they were credited with 38 hits) and seems like a “too bad, so sad” complaint since San Jose had plenty of opportunities to earn some rest earlier in that second round series.

Let’s not forget that the Canucks were in a similar situation (but with two less nights of rest) against the Nashville Predators in Round 2, yet they prevailed in that Game 1.

Vancouver 3, San Jose 2; Canucks lead series 1-0

No doubt about it, the Canucks wanted more from the Sedin twins going into this series. The duplicate duo seemed to gain confidence as the contest went on (much like their team). Daniel Sedin didn’t manage to find the net, but his six shots on goal indicate that he was involved in much of the play. Henrik Sedin might have been the MVP of the game, though. Henrik earned a secondary assist on Kevin Bieksa’s game-tying goal and then cashed in on a brilliant Christian Ehrhoff pass to put home the game-winning goal on the power play.

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A look at the goalies

Roberto Luongo should thank his teammates for pulling out the win tonight, because he was responsible for the type of goal that can earn a “goat” label. Luongo and the Canucks defense experienced a lapse in communication late in the first period, leading to an ill-fated pass that landed right on Joe Thornton’s stick and into Vancouver’s net. The Canucks went into the first intermission with a bitter taste in their mouths down 1-0.

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Antti Niemi was brilliant at times in a losing effort, making 35 saves. Still, he showed that Luongo isn’t the only goalie who struggles to move the puck, as his failed clear helped to set up Maxim Lapierre’s 1-1 goal.

Sharks build a small lead

Early on in this game, it seemed like the Sharks were going to get the “easy” goals. Along with that gimme for Thornton, Patrick Marleau was able to score on the power play to give San Jose a 2-1 lead going into the third.

Niemi’s most brilliant moments probably came late in the second period, as he made some gorgeous saves and survived a rugby-like scrum.

Canucks dominate third

Some will say that San Jose “choked” in the third, but it’s more appropriate to say that Vancouver took over. Henrik Sedin sent a pass to Alexander Burrows, who set up Kevin Bieksa for an odd angle goal Niemi probably regrets. Sedin then scored that PP game-winner about a minute later, rapidly changing the tone of the game.

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Outlook for both teams

The Canucks took care of business tonight and must feel content about their efforts. They played their game – and perhaps most importantly – didn’t sit on their lead when they earned it 8:21 into the third. Ryan Kesler didn’t get on the board, but the team was still able to win because of their quality depth and Henrik Sedin’s much-anticipated production.

The Sharks cannot be happy with coughing up another third period lead, even if they were tired. The Canucks are a deeper team than Detroit and a more explosive one that Los Angeles, so they must finish stronger. The Sharks converted on their only power play, so they can look at that as a silver lining since they’ll almost certainly get more opportunities in future games.

On the bright side for those blaming fatigue, the two teams will play on Wednesday instead of the traditional two-day turnaround. We’ll see if the Sharks can take advantage of that extra rest or if the Canucks will remain too much for that talented San Jose squad to handle.

The Buzzer: Schwartz the hero, Gibson blanks Flames, Bruins clinch

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Players of the Night:

Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues: The Blues needed a win on Wednesday. They’ll need a few more still if they’re to push for the playoffs, but Schwartz scored a third-period equalizer and then the overtime winner 30 seconds into the extra frame to keep pace with the Anaheim Ducks (who won) for the second and final wildcard spot in the Western Conference.

John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks: Gibson posted his third shutout in his past seven starts — and fourth of the season — saving¬†all 29 shots that came his way in a 4-0 triumph of the Calgary Flames.

Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins: Malkin continued his pursuit of the Hart Trophy, netting a goal and adding an assist for his 41st goal (three back of Alex Ovechkin) and 91st point (three back of Nikita Kucherov).

Highlights of the Night:

Sidney Crosby did a thing – a very nice thing:

Jaden Schwartz, end-to-end to end the game:


Factoids of the Night:


Penguins 5, Canadiens 3

Coyotes 4, Buffalo 1

Blues 2, Bruins 1 (OT)

Ducks 4, Flames 0

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Blues move closer to playoffs with OT win; Bruins clinch

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Maybe the St. Louis Blues aren’t dead in the water after all.

In fact, despite selling off Paul Stastny at the trade deadline following two brutal loses that were part of a larger free fall at the time, the Blues have found another gear with just weeks left in the NHL season.

The Blues pulled themselves to within one point of the second and final wildcard spot in the Western Conference with a 2-1 overtime win against the depleted Boston Bruins on Wednesday Night Rivalry on the NHL on NBCSN.

The Bruins held the lead for two periods and change before Jaden Schwartz scored mid-way through the third period to tie the game and then 30 seconds into overtime to seal the win and move one-point behind the Anaheim Ducks (who were still in action against the Calgary Flames.)

That’s three straight OT wins for the Blues, who were without Vladimir Tarasenko due to injury.

The point for the Bruins was important, despite the loss, as they have now clinched a playoff spot, moving four points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Atlantic Division lead.

The Bruins were still missing Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk and Rick Nash on Wednesday, yet still figured out a way to obtain something despite a stacked infirmary.

And part of that help is coming from a surprising place.

Last week at this time, Ryan Donato was a Harvard student, fresh off a five-goal performance at the Olympics for Team USA.

By Sunday, he was still a Harvard student but had signed an entry-level NHL contract with the Boston Bruins. On Monday, still a Havard student and now an NHLer for 24 hours, Donato scored his first NHL goal and added two assists in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

On Tuesday, Donato was back in class — you guessed it — as a Harvard student, an NHL player who had been excused from practice by the team that signed him two days earlier and scored his first NHL goal a night before.

On Wednesday, Donato scored again.

Meanwhile, the NHL could take a deeper look at a second-period hit to the head Brayden Schenn by on David Krejci.

Schenn was handed a two-minute charging penalty on the play, and Krejci stayed in the game, but judging by the above video, there was definite contact to the head and it appears Krejci was fortunate to be able to get up and skate away.

NBCSN’s Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones talked about if Schenn deserves to be suspended for the hit.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Sidney Crosby scores incredible goal, again (video)

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Oh, Sidney.

Just when you thought you’ve seen everything from Crosby, he has this uncanny knack and making sure you haven’t forgotten who he is and makes sure, once again, that you never will.

Crosby did Crosby things one again on Wednesday night against the Montreal Canadiens. I can save you the explanation of the second-period goal, since it’s pretty incredible and, as a consequence, tough to explain in words.

Let’s roll some of the footage here, shall we?

And another angle:

Carey Price didn’t have a chance.

Crosby has grown pretty good at batting pucks out of mid-air. Poor Antti Niemi:

Remember this from John Tavares?

It was pretty special too and done in similar fashion:

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Panthers hold keys to playoff fate

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Few teams have been hotter than the Florida Panthers down the stretch, something that had to be the case for the Cats to be in the spot they are currently in.

No, they’re not in a playoff spot at the moment — as a Wednesday they sit one point back of the New Jersey Devils for the second and final wildcard spot into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But a massive game awaits them on Thursday against one of the few teams that have been hotter than them in the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have strung together nine straight wins.

The Panthers hold two games in hand over the Devils, who squandered an opportunity to increase their slim lead in a 6-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. New Jersey has struggled as of late, going 4-6-0 in their past 10, including back-to-back losses now. The Panthers, meanwhile, eviscerated the Ottawa Senators 7-2 to pull within a point of them. Florida is five points back of the Philadelphia Flyers and six points behind their opponents on Thursday in Ohio. To thicken the plot, Florida holds three games in hand on Philly and Columbus.

Since the All-Star break, the Panthers have gone 18-5-1, have scored more 5-on-5 goals than any other team with 35 and are third in expected goals percentage during that time. The Florida Sun-Sentinel also points out that the Panthers have more points since the ASG out of any Eastern Conference team and the great goal differential (plus-27).

With 11 games to go, the Panthers sit in the driver’s seat when it comes to their own playoff fate.

Panthers coach Bob Boughner slightly downplayed the Columbus game in a conference call with the media on Wednesday.

“This time of year, it’s easy for these guys to get up for games, obviously how important they are,” he said. “It’s not going to be nothing over-the-top, extra special than what we normally do to prepare for a team. Obviously, it is an important game, but we have 10 more important games coming in.”

Despite losing key pieces in Jonathan Marchesseault and Reilly Smith over the summer — both are having career years with the Vegas Golden Knights — the current crop for the Panthers appear to have bought into Boughner’s message. And with Roberto Luongo healthy after missing two-and-a-half months with a groin injury, Florida is peaking at the right time.

“I think if you ask the guys, they’re having the time of their lives, having lots of fun,” Boughner said. “Let’s face it, we’ve been playing playoff hockey here for the last couple of months, just trying to dig in and scrape for points every night.”

Coming into Tuesday’s game, Luongo had gone 8-2-1 with a 2.51 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage with two shutouts in his past 11 starts — vintage Luongo, who’s been down this road before.

“Lu means everything to our team, obviously,” Boughner said, adding that Luongo will be in the driver’s seat in Florida’s last 11 games.

“He’s going to play a lot of hockey,” he said, saying it will be in the realm of an 80/20 split between Luongo and backup James Reimer.

Boughner said Aleksander Barkov — who has eight goals and 26 points in his past 19 games — is his vote for the Selke Trophy and that Keith Yandle is the glue that helps keep the room together. Evgenii Dadonov, who has 12 goals and 13 assists in his past 19 games, shouldn’t be forgotten.

Boughner said when the team was struggling earlier this season, consistency was the most frustrating part — noting that the team couldn’t string together more than two wins in a row.

“There was too much individual work going on,” he said. “It took us a long time to sort of get the team convinced with sticking with the process and playing as a team… less selfishness and more about the team.”

That changed with a five-game winning streak in the last half of December.

“That’s probably where the light went on,” Boughner said.

It’s burned brightly ever since.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck