Report: Nathan Horton accused of throwing a water bottle at Lightning fans

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As endearing as it was to see the Tampa Bay Lightning win Game 6 with such a spirited effort, a lot of the good feelings were ruined by a dispiriting showing by fans. Lightning fans made a misguided show of affection by showering the St. Pete Times Forum ice with noise-making devices that were called “rally drums” but looked like some evil manipulation of tennis rackets. (Hopefully the Lightning brass will do away with that promotion if the Lightning make it to the Stanley Cup finals or the franchise could suffer further embarrassment.)

Apparently that already-ugly situation was even worse than it looked, at least if one report is correct. Mike Corcoran of Lightning Insider posted two videos that seemingly capture* Nathan Horton throwing a water bottle at Tampa Bay fans.

It’s unclear what the NHL would do if Horton did, indeed, throw a bottle at fans. While these situations are far from equal, it brings to mind a few situations in the past.

  • Rick Rypien received a six-game suspension for essentially grabbing a Minnesota Wild fan. Obviously, that offense was more serious than Horton’s alleged water bottle toss.
  • John Tortorella earned a one-game suspension for Game 6 of the New York Rangers’ 2009 series against the Washington Capitals for squirting a water bottle and throwing it at a Caps fan. Here is what Colin Campbell said about the incident at the time.

“While it is a difficult decision to suspend a coach at this point in a playoff series, it has been made clear to all of our players, coaches and other bench personnel that the National Hockey League cannot — and will not — tolerate any physical contact with fans,” league disciplinarian Colin Campbell said in a statement last night. “We do not take this action lightly.”

That stance could be referenced liberally if the Horton footage is given legitimate credence.

It seems like Horton’s situation is most similar to what happened with Tortorella, but there are some differences. Tortorella is a coach, so one could argue that he is held to a (slightly?) higher standard than a player. The footage of Torts having a problem with the fan was far more official than the patchwork video evidence as well. There also might be more concern about suspending a player versus suspending a coach, especially since that suspension would come during a game that would decide which team represents the East in the Stanley Cup finals instead of a first round match.

There’s no guarantee that the league will need to address this situation at all since the evidence might be deemed shaky, but we’ll let you know if something happens. It’s an ugly situation for both sides: players must keep their cool and fans need to at least have a modicum of respect for the opposing team.

If there’s one silver lining to this story, it’s the possible end of those dopey rally drums (or whatever they are called) in Tampa Bay. If this somehow leads to the demise of Thunderstix too, then Horton’s work might transition from an embarrassment to indirect public service.

* – I use the phrase “seemingly capture” because it’s difficult to make a lot of the action out in the grainy video.

PHT Morning Skate: Ovechkin will be rocking incredible custom skates for Russian Heritage Night

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–With only a few weeks remaining in the regular season, we’re starting to get a better idea of who will be in and out of the playoffs. With that being said, The Hockey News put together a list of five players that could benefit from playing on another team. Devils goalie Cory Schneider is at the top of the list. Schneider’s been solid since joining New Jersey, but the team hasn’t had much success. (The Hockey News)

Erik Karlsson has always been known as an offensive defenseman, but this year, he’s made several defensive improvements to his game. The changes have made him so effective that his head coach, Guy Boucher, believes he should be in the running for a Hart Trophy. (Canadian Press)

–The Washington Capitals will be hosting a Russian Heritage Night tonight. During the pre-game warmup, Alex Ovechkin will be rocking these custom skates honoring his home land and his American home. He’ll be auctioning off the skates too. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

–The New York Islanders trailed the Rangers 2-1 heading into the third period, but thanks to goals by Nikolay Kulemin and Andrew Ladd, they were able to come out on top. You can watch the highlights from last night’s “Battle of New York” by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Vegas GM George McPhee chatted with Sportsnet’s Gene Principe about being able to build a team from scratch. McPhee called the experience “fantastic” and “really neat”. He also discussed his vision for the team and how he’s approaching the expansion draft. (Sportsnet)

–The Detroit Red Wings have been a model franchise for quite some time, but they’ve on the verge of going through some pretty big changes. First, Joe Louis Arena will be closing its doors and secondly, their long playoff streak will be coming to an end this season. Sports Illustrated takes a deeper look at the old barn and the third-longest playoff streak in pro sports. (Sports Illustrated)

–Many people feel like the Calder Trophy race will come down to Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, but Bob McKenzie says there’s more than two worthy candidates because Zach Werenski has been equally good this season. But who is McKenzie leaning toward?

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

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.