Missed opportunities for Caps, Habs tonight

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Rarely can one clip symbolize a tough loss for two different teams, but I think Joe Pavelski’s goal on Braden Holtby ties a nice bow around missed opportunities for both the Washington Capitals and Montreal Canadiens:

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The San Jose Sharks topped the Capitals 5-3, but as just about any onlooker will tell you, the score was deceptively close. Washington essentially scored two garbage goals to put a little makeup on an ugly loss. (They did throw 30 shots on goal through two periods, which they hadn’t done in almost a year according to Neil Greenberg, so at least there’s that.)

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You might be surprised to learn that the Montreal Canadiens were crawling back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture coming into Monday. Hope was building as they were within seven points of the eighth-place Toronto Maple Leafs after winning four games in a row, but they’ll remain that far behind while Toronto gains a game in hand.

Kirk Muller won his reunion with Montreal as Carolina generated a 5-3 win.

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The Caps’ match against the Sharks could have helped Washington make up for its stumbles in the Southeast Division race by at least getting them in the top eight. Things just got worse instead, though, because the Sharks slammed the lid hard on that opportunity.

East bubble update

If we’re going to give Montreal a half-serious look at the playoffs, perhaps it’s appropriate to at least ponder Carolina’s chances. (It’s probably not very realistic, though.) Here’s how the East bubble looks right now:

7. Ottawa: 28-22-8 for 64 points in 58 Games Played
8. Toronto: 28-22-6 for 62 points in 56 GP

9. Washington: 28-23-5 for 61 points in 56 GP
10. Winnipeg: 26-25-6 for 58 points in 57 GP

11. Montreal: 23-25-9 for 55 points in 57 GP
12. Tampa Bay: 24-25-6 for 54 points in 55 GP
13. Buffalo: 24-25-6 for 54 points in 55 GP
14. NY Islanders: 23-24-8 for 54 points in 55 GP

15. Carolina: 21-25-11 for 53 points in 57 GP

As you can see, the teams are separated into four groups which could be described as such: currently in the playoffs (7-8), knocking on the door (9-10), long shots (11-14) and just-about mathematically eliminated (Carolina).

Get your WINnipeg memes ready

Looking at the list, the biggest winner of Monday might just be the inactive Winnipeg Jets. They have two winnable games (vs. Islanders and at Minnesota Wild) followed by eight consecutive home games and 11 of 13 in Winnipeg.

(If there was such thing as gambling on media trends, I’d bet my imaginary mortgage on a stream of “How about those Jets” type headlines in a week or two.)

Final thoughts on Caps, Habs

Washington’s one bright side is that Toronto has a three-game losing streak of its own, so the Capitals are merely idling rather than sliding. Still, if they miss the playoffs, they’ll look back at runs like these to explain why.

Montreal’s probably just trying to save face, though, unless you really believe in miracles.

Devils fans help singer who forgot words to national anthem (Video)

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The biggest save of the night at Prudential Center on Friday didn’t come from either goaltender, but rather New Jersey Devils fans in attendance for their game against the San Jose Sharks.

Lauralie Mufute began singing the national anthem but midway through forgot the words. That’s when the crowd of 14,381 picked up where the 14-year-old left off and finished the song.

A great job by the crowd in what certainly was a terrifying moment for the young performer.

These flaps happen, as we’ve seen many times before in different situations. It’s always good to know the crowd can act as backup singers in times of need.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Ovechkin’s blast lifts Capitals in OT, Sheary speeds by Panthers

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Player of the night: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

Alex Ovechkin has already reached double digits in goals scored in this new campaign. The Capitals’ star recorded his 10th goal of the season on Friday and it counted as the overtime winner against the Detroit Red Wings.

The Capitals trailed late in the third period, but T.J. Oshie scored the tying goal and Ovechkin won it on a power play less than two minutes into the extra period, as he deployed that famous one-timer slap shot from his off-wing. This time, Petr Mrazek was victimized by the wicked slapper.

Ovechkin is now only two goals behind the entire Montreal Canadiens team — in the same amount of games.

Highlight of the night:

What a weapon speed is in today’s National Hockey League. Conor Sheary illustrated that once again, as he saw a little bit of room down the left side and flew around Alex Petrovic before making a move to the backhand on James Reimer. That goal counted as the eventual winner, as the Penguins defeated the Panthers 4-3. Earlier in the third period, Sheary and Roberto Luongo came together near the Florida net, causing Luongo’s right hand to get caught against the post, injuring the Panthers’ netminder.

Factoid of the night:

It was a milestone night in Winnipeg for Blake Wheeler and coach Paul Maurice.

Scores:

Vancouver 4, Buffalo 2

San Jose 3, New Jersey 0

Washington 4, Detroit 3 (OT)

Pittsburgh 4, Florida 3

Winnipeg 4, Minnesota 3

Anaheim 6, Montreal 2

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Video: Price takes out his frustration, as the Habs were crushed again

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It’s gone from bad, to worse, to an absolute nightmare for the Montreal Canadiens.

A three-game trip through California is never fun for opposing teams, but this was misery for the Habs. They were outscored a combined 16-5 in three games against the Sharks, Kings and Ducks, with few, if any positives beyond the second period in a 6-2 loss in Anaheim on Friday.

Montreal hasn’t won since its season opener on Oct. 5, and is now on a seven-game losing skid, unable to generate much offensively with a league worst 10 goals scored through seven games before tonight, while giving up plenty of goals at the other end.

That is a recipe for disaster and even though it’s still early in the season, this has to be a major concern for coach Claude Julien and, in particular, general manager Marc Bergevin.

Read more: Is there a trade to be made between the Penguins and Canadiens?

Down by three after the first period, Montreal had 30 shots on goal during the middle frame and managed to trim Anaheim’s lead down to one heading into the third period. And then, just when it seemed like maybe they were on a path toward an inspirational comeback on the road, it all fell apart.

Three straight goals for Anaheim, with journeyman forward Derek Grant scoring the first two goals of his NHL career — in game No. 93.

As you can probably tell from the clip below, Carey Price was visibly irritated, as he whacked his goalie stick against the post after the sixth Anaheim goal.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Canucks defeat the Sabres, as the losing continues in Buffalo

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The Buffalo Sabres remain stuck on just a single win to begin the season. Jack Eichel is sick of losing, but the losing continues.

Returning home from a four-game road trip out west, the Sabres had an opportunity ahead of them to get back into the win column. The Vancouver Canucks, hardly a powerhouse in any way, were in town. They had played — and lost — the night before in Boston. And then the Sabres went out and were thoroughly outplayed in a 4-2 loss that, one could argue, flattered the hosts.

They weren’t able to take advantage of an early lead after Justin Bailey was allowed access to the net off the rush. They couldn’t hold the lead after Eichel dangled Ben Hutton and then scored on a shot Jacob Markstrom should’ve stopped. They gave up yet another short-handed goal, putting that number at six for the Sabres just eight games into the season.

Instead, Buffalo spent most of the night in its own end, giving up 37 shots through two periods. Hard to pin this, in any way, on goalie Chad Johnson.

“First of all, I thought we didn’t defend well and close quick enough in our defensive zone. We were a little bit slow there tonight. We need to be more aggressive and on the puck,” said head coach Phil Housley after the game.

While the Sabres were badly outplayed, one of the deciding moments in this game was a controversial video review in the second period. Vancouver took the lead on a goal from Daniel Sedin, although Housley challenged for a potential offside after it looked like Jake Virtanen didn’t have control of the puck as he entered the zone.

The linesmen looked over the play for a lengthy review before officials came to the conclusion that Virtanen did have control of the puck as he broke in over the blue line. The goal stood and the Canucks controlled the remainder of the game.

“I disagree with the call, totally,” said Housley. “In my opinion, he knocks the puck out of the air. He never has possession.

“But I call that 10 out of 10 times offside and I would continue to challenge that again.”

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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