Erik Cole

Erik Cole meets the Montreal media

One of the most sought-after free agents this year made his triumphant first appearance in front of the local media on Thursday. Erik Cole seemingly said all of the right things as he met with the (sometimes) over-bearing Montreal media. He even said the right things in the right language. Never underestimate the importance of a few French words to make a good first impression in Quebec. While skating with some kids at a summer hockey camp, he told reporters: “I am proud to play for a team that has such passionate fans,” in a local language.

He certainly knows how to make a first impression.

He continued making friends as he spoke about his excitement to play in the Bell Centre 41 times every year. It was one of the major reasons he chose to sign his 4-year, $18 million contract with Montreal on the first day of free agency.

“Playing in that building…there was always something special about it, an aura that you sensed every time you played there. The arena, the city and the fans, there’s such an energy in Montreal. It’s nice to be here and nice to get this chance. It’s strange how things work out. I’m just thrilled.”

The excitement is certainly a two-way street. The Habs were excited to successfully land a top-end player who has proven over the course of his career to be a consistent point producer. He had 26 goals and 26 assists for the Carolina Hurricanes last season while playing a top-line role. Throughout his career he’s absolutely killed the Canadiens; when healthy, he’s a guy who’s good for 20+ goals and 50+ points. Besides, it wasn’t just the points that he put up—it was the timing of his points. He was fourth in the league with 9 game-winning goals last season.

There are certainly a few question marks around Erik Cole and his ability to withstand the pressures of a Canadian hockey market. In his only professional stint outside of Carolina, Cole struggled with only 27 points in 63 for the Edmonton Oilers in 2008-09. He was traded back to Carolina towards the end of the season and like a switch had been flipped, he picked up right where he left off the season before. Many people have openly questioned whether Cole folded under the constant pressure of the hockey media in Canada. He thinks it had more to do with a new city and less to do with the specific market he joined.

“I was a player adjusting to a new environment after being with one organization for a number of years, so it took some time to get comfortable and to figure things out and to be comfortable with the coach and what he was looking for out of me. The day I got traded, the conversation with (Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini) and (coach Craig MacTavish) was that, especially over the past couple of months, it certainly wasn’t about my play because I was playing really well. It was about managing assets and that’s what they felt they needed to do. To be perfectly honest, at the time I would have been more than happy to stay.”

We’ll find out pretty quickly if he’ll be able to withstand the pressures of the Montreal media. They may love him today for his great quotes and honesty, but honeymoon periods don’t usually last very long. If he gets off to a slow start, the critics will be questioning his contract faster than you can say “bleu blanc et rouge.”

On paper he’s exactly the type of players the Canadiens need up front. In a few months, we’ll see if he’s as good as advertised.

The Predators are on a roll

DENVER, CO - MARCH 05:  Filip Forsberg #9 of the Nashville Predators awaits a face off against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on March 5, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Predators defeated the Avalanche 5-2.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Filip Forsberg scored twice, including the tiebreaking goal in the third, and the Nashville Predators rallied from two goals down to beat the Minnesota Wild 4-2 Sunday night.

Forsberg took a pretty feed from Ryan Ellis and one-timed it from the left circle past Darcy Kuemper with 6:36 left to put Nashville up 3-2.

It was Kuemper’s first-career loss in five starts against the Predators, who have won six of seven and wrapped up a five-game road trip with four wins.

Ryan Johansen added an empty netter for Nashville, and James Neal also had a goal. Pekka Rinne stopped 21 shots for Nashville.

Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville scored for the Wild. Kuemper, starting in place of regular starter Devan Dubnyk, had 28 saves as Minnesota fell into a first-place tie with Chicago atop the Western Conference.

Forsberg tied it at 2:20 of the third on a backhander past Kuemper’s stick side.

Minnesota started fast, pulling ahead 2-0 just 7:31 into the game. Granlund scored his 11th just over two minutes in. Pominville added his seventh five minutes later.

But seven games in 10 days appeared to catch up with the Wild in the second as Nashville outshot Minnesota 10-4 in the period and controlled the puck effectively.

Neal pulled the Predators to 2-1 with his team-leading 16th goal of the season 2:25 into the period.

Late letdown costs Canucks versus their old rivals from Chicago

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 22: Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrtaes a third period goal against the Vancouver Canucks at the United Center on January 22, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Canucks 4-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Sure, the Vancouver Canucks clawed back against an old rival, the Chicago Blackhawks, on Sunday.

But, thanks to a late letdown in regulation, they missed out on a great opportunity to move into a playoff position.

Down a pair of goals in the third period, the Canucks managed to come back in hostile territory. It started with a Troy Stecher power play goal. Bo Horvat, in the lineup two days after getting hit in the back of the head with a slap shot, tied it up for Vancouver just 46 seconds later.

But the chance for at least a single point slipped at the worst possible time, as Jonathan Toews scored with 1:18 left in regulation and then set up an empty net goal from Marian Hossa just a few seconds later to secure the 4-2 win.

The Canucks remain stuck at five wins — just five wins — on the road. They have the 29th-ranked road record in the entire NHL. Only the Arizona Coyotes have been worse away from home ice. So, that’s a problem that needs to be fixed down the stretch.

Vancouver had a chance to move into a wild card spot. Instead, they let the Blackhawks regain momentum as the period went on, and as a result, they remain on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture for right now.

Corey Crawford earned his 200th career win, making 26 saves. That’s a milestone night for him. For Toews, that’s his most productive night of the season, as he factored into all four Chicago goals, which, of course, included the winner.

This has been a difficult year for Toews. He’s been injured. His point production has been down.

Video: Giroux bumps scoring slump to give Flyers the OT win

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The Philadelphia Flyers needed a win.

So overtime against the New York Islanders seemed like a perfect time for captain Claude Giroux to bust his scoring slump.

Without a goal in his last 12 games, or since Dec. 21 before the holiday break, Giroux finished the Flyers comeback with an overtime goal to give Philly a 3-2 victory on Sunday. Jakub Voracek did great work along the boards to force a turnover from John Tavares, and Shayne Gostisbehere followed up his chance with a quick pass to a wide-open Giroux at the top of the crease.

That comeback win — Philly trailed by two goals early in the second period — bumps the Flyers back into a wild card spot.

Steve Mason had a big game in net for Philly, with 36 saves, while the Flyers fired 47 shots on goal toward Thomas Greiss, although it’s a difficult task trying to re-set and stop Giroux — an accomplished scorer in the NHL — on the doorstep.

Goals, goals and more goals! Blue Jackets outlast Senators for overtime win

COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 19:  Mike Condon #1 of the Ottawa Senators stops a shot from Cam Atkinson #13 of the Columbus Blue Jackets as Mike Hoffman #68 of the Ottawa Senators skates back on defense during the third period on January 19, 2017 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Ottawa defeated Columbus 2-0. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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Plenty of goals. A little three-on-three overtime. Seemed like an enjoyable afternoon of hockey between the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets.

Well, maybe the goalies, Mike Condon and Joonas Korpisalo, didn’t enjoy it as much.

The Blue Jackets prevailed for a 7-6 overtime win, with Cam Atkinson scoring just 1:09 into the extra period. That’s his 23rd goal of the season. Only two players — Jeff Carter (24) and Sidney Crosby (28) — have scored more goals than Atkinson this season.

With the win, and the Capitals sitting idle today, the Blue Jackets move back into a tie with Washington at 68 points in the fight for first place in the Metropolitan Division.

There were some anxious moments for Columbus.

Rookie defenseman Zach Werenski was hurt blocking a shot in the third period. He briefly left the game, unable to put any pressure on his right leg as he was helped off.

The good news: He only missed a few minutes, returning late in regulation and for the overtime as well, which is important for the Blue Jackets.

Despite his rookie status, and being a 19-year-old blue liner, Werenski is having an impressive season with six goals and 26 points in 45 games before Sunday.

“The thing that has impressed me the most about him is he’s a bit unflappable,” coach John Tortorella said earlier this season.

“He’s made a couple of huge mistakes in a game and he comes to the bench, shakes it off and then goes out and makes a great play. For a 19-year-old playing that position and the amount of time he’s getting in key situations with this organization, it’s pretty impressive.”