You can’t blame Kings coach Darryl Sutter for lacking answers right now.
His team — currently in ninth place with 72 points — is right in the thick of a Western Conference playoff chase that includes seventh-place Dallas (75 points), eighth-place San Jose (73), 10th-place Colorado (72) and 11th-place Calgary (70).
So when LA Kings Insider asked Sutter who he was cheering for prior to Sunday’s Stars-Flames matchup, Sutter responded accordingly:
“Can they both get nothing?’’
Unfortunately, the answer was an emphatic no. The Stars won 3-2 in a shootout, meaning both got points out of the deal — proving the race is tighter than ever, teams are fighting hard to stay live and nobody seems to be dropping out.
“There ain’t no weak sisters,” Sutter explained. “You try to take care of your own, and get a little help. A better way to look at it is, it’s better to get it down to three or four teams.
“That’s probably a better way of looking at it.’’
Comparatively speaking, this year’s Western Conference chase is on par with last season’s:
And, if you’ll recall, things got pretty wild down the stretch. Chicago plummeted to eighth (Dallas, in sixth place on Mar. 5, fell out entirely) while Anaheim surged into fourth, Nashville into fifth and LA to seventh. Calgary fell to 10th.
The Buzzer: McDavid dominates; Fleury’s unlucky return
The Edmonton Oilers have at least started to show some signs of life in recent games. They were shutout on Sunday night in Toronto, but sandwiched around that game were a convincing 6-2 win in Montreal and then a thoroughly dominating 7-2 win in Columbus on Tuesday night that left Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella completely speechless.
Leading the way for the Oilers was captain Connor McDavid as he went off with a four-point night.
The four points are a season high for him and the fifth time this season he has recorded at least three points.
That performance gives him 39 points in 31 games on the season and currently has him third in the NHL scoring race, three points behind Tampa Bay Lightning teammates Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.
Marc-Andre Fleury made is return to the Vegas Golden Knights net and looked great, stopping 35 of the 37 shots he faced. Unfortunately that was not enough to get Vegas a win as they fell in a shootout to the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-2.
One of those two shots in regulation that beat him? It was this.
That is unfortunate.
Still, that is another point for Vegas as they continue their push for a playoff spot in the Western Conference during their inaugural season in the NHL.
Highlight Of The Night
The Philadelphia Flyers were 4-2 winners over the Toronto Maple Leafs and have now, suddenly, won four games in a row following a 10-game losing streak.
They picked up the winner on Tuesday thanks to this goal that featured a crazy between-the-legs pass.
— By stopping all 32 shots he faced against the St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy picked up his 20th win of the season. He is just the sixth goalie in NHL history to win at least 20 games within his first 25 starts of a season. [NHL Public Relations]
— Matt Cullen scored his 250th career goal in the Minnesota Wild’s 2-1 shootout win over the Calgary Flames, making him the 29th American-born player in NHL history to reach that mark. [Minnesota Wild PR]
— Carolina Hurricanes goalies Cam Ward recorded his 300th career win on Tuesday night in their 3-2 shootout win over the Vegas Golden Knights. He is the fifth active goaltender to reach that mark. [NHL Public Relations]
Tuesday’s game in St. Louis was a showdown featuring the top two teams in the NHL.
In the end it was the Lightning picking up the 3-0 win to extend their current winning streak to five games and to reclaim sole possession of the No. 1 spot in the NHL.
Their win improves them to 22-6-2 on the season and puts them two points ahead of the Blues despite having played two fewer games.
It was another impressive showing for Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy who has been one of the underrated stars of this year’s Lightning team. Most of the attention has been directed to forwards Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov (and deservedly so!) but let’s not lose sight of the fact that Vasilevskiy, in his first full season as the Lighting’s full-time starter, has been one of the best goalies in the league so far.
Tuesday’s game was his third shutout of the season, and after his 32-save performance against the Blues his .933 save percentage is among the best in the NHL, while his 20 wins (in only 25 starts) are tops in the league. Nobody else in the league has more than 17.
While Vasilevskiy was shining in net again, Kucherov scored his 21st goal of the season to move back into a tie with Alex Ovechkin for the top spot in the league. It was also his 42nd point which moved him into a tie with Stamkos for the league lead.
Brayden Point also continued his breakout season by opening the scoring with his 13th goal of the season. He also added an assist on Tyler Johnson‘s third period goal.
CALGARY, Alberta (AP) Former NHL defenseman Zarley Zalapski has died at age 49, according to the Calgary Flames. No cause of death was given.
Zalapski, a native of Edmonton, played 637 NHL games for Calgary, Pittsburgh, Hartford, Montreal and Philadelphia from 1987 to 2000.
He was with the Flames from 1993 to 1998.
“We are proud that Zarley wore the Flames jersey, made Calgary his home following his playing career, represented our alumni executive and we will always remember him as a member of the Flames family,” Flames president and chief executive officer Ken King said Tuesday in a statement.
“This is a terrible loss of a man with great character who truly loved the game of hockey. We express our sincere condolences to the Zalapski family.”
Zalapski was a member of the Canadian team that finished fourth in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.
He had 99 goals, 285 assists and 684 penalty minutes in the NHL. Zalapski was named to the all-rookie team in 1989 and participated in the NHL All-Star Game in 1993.
Zalapski played stints in Austria and Switzerland after his NHL career and appeared in 11 games for the United Hockey League’s Kalamazoo Wings in 2004-05.
He was the fourth overall pick by the Penguins in the 1986 entry draft.