Buffalo Sabres v Winnipeg Jets

Jets win big bubble battle vs. Buffalo

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The Jets might not be the most balanced team, but unless you’re a jilted Atlanta Thrashers fan, it’s pretty tough to argue with the magic they can conjure in Winnipeg.

Tonight provided another example of that special sensation. The Buffalo Sabres tied a tight game up 1-1 late in the second period, but it didn’t crush the Jets’ spirit. They wore down what seemed to be a withering Buffalo team in an impressive third period as Blake Wheeler and Chris Thorburn scored thrilling goals to generate a 3-1 win. (Cam Charron broke down the Jets’ impressive third period in a way that made my brain melt a little here.)

Bubble update

This game keeps the Jets healthy while bumping Buffalo’s shaky hopes down a peg. Here’s a quick look at the East’s bottom seed situation after Winnipeg’s win.

8. Winnipeg: 72 points, 32 wins (28 in regulation/OT) with 15 games remaining

9. Washington: 69 points, 32 wins (31 in regulation/OT) with 17 GR
10. Tampa Bay: 68 points, 31 wins (29 in regulation/OT) with 17 GR
11. Buffalo: 68 points, 30 wins (24 in regulation/OT) with 16 GR
12. Toronto: 67 points, 30 wins (27 in regulation/OT) with 17 GR

Note: you could probably reach for the New York Islanders too, but let’s keep it simple for now.

Looking at the standings, the Jets certainly made the Sabres a lesser threat tonight. Washington and Tampa Bay seem to bring similar strengths as challengers from a tie-breaker standpoint, with the Capitals holding a slight lead while the Lightning carry a lot more momentum.

***

Again, it’s charming to see the Jets make a real “go” of this run, but their road record is the elephant in the room. They’re not alone in the lowly Southeast, however, as the Florida Panthers are the only team with a respectable away mark (15 road wins) compared to 11 for the Jets, Capitals and Lightning.

As great as it would be for Winnipeg fans to see the team make it to the playoffs in its first season back in the NHL, that run could be awfully short if this home-road disparity doesn’t clear up.

PHT Morning Skate: Sharks name stray cat after captain Joe Pavelski

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

–The stray cat that ran onto the ice prior to Game 1 between the Sharks and Preds has been named after Joe Pavelski. (Associated Press)

–Speaking of that black cat, here’s a mountain of pucks shaped like the cat. (The Score)

–When Lukas Head was younger, he played with Steven Stamkos and P.K. Subban. Here’s his story. (Toronto Star)

–Watch the highlights from yesterday’s game between the Stars and Blues. (Top)

–A look behind the scenes of the NHL draft lottery. (Canadian Press)

–Two-time Olympic gold medalist Sharon Szabados loves curing and the Oilers and she was forced to make a tough choice on Saturday. (Sportsnet)

Pascal Dupuis, who was named one of the Masterton Trophy finalists, is adjusting to retirement. (NHL.com)

Pavelski’s late goal helps Sharks grab 2-0 series lead over Preds

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The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.

The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.

Here’s the goal:

Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.

Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.

Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.

Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.

The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.

Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.

The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.

Video: Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved by his visor after taking Shea Weber shot to the face

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It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.

After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.

In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.

You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.

It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:

Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:

It sounds like Olli Maatta won’t be ready for Game 3

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You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.

After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.

“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.

“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”

After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.

“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”

And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.

Related:

Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta