Cam Ward is starting to make the Carolina Hurricanes a real headache of a spoiler team, but the Buffalo Sabres narrowly escaped that challenge by eking out a 3-2 OT win tonight.
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Tough to Ward off
Ward has been a thorn in the side of Eastern Conference playoff bubble challengers in the last two nights. It’s easy to beat up on the Washington Capitals for losing another important game on Tuesday, but Ward needed to stop 46 out of 49 shots for the Canes to beat the Caps in overtime. With just 24 hours of rest, Ward nearly repeated the feat against Buffalo but his 39-for-42 output fell just a bit short.
With this win, the Buffalo Sabres’ playoff hopes keep kicking. Seeing the Toronto Maple Leafs drop a 3-2 regulation loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins won’t hurt, either. Here’s your bubble update:
8. Winnipeg: 72 points, 15 games remaining
9. Washington: 70 points, 16 GR
10. Buffalo: 70 points, 15 GR
11. Tampa Bay: 68 points, 16 GR
12. Toronto: 67 points, 15 GR
Perhaps the most promising element is that the Sabres are the hottest team of the bunch. Buffalo is an impressive 7-1-2 in its last 10 games and is right up there with Washington and Tampa Bay in the “on paper talent” category.
Better yet, the Capitals and Jets face some scheduling stumbling blocks, the Maple Leafs remain in something of an identity crisis and the Lightning will be without their most competent goalie for perhaps the rest of the season.
It hasn’t always been pretty, but Buffalo is in a great spot to make the playoffs with an improbable end run down the stretch. If you’re the New York Rangers, do you really want to see Ryan Miller and a varied offensive attack in the first round?
The Boston Bruins keep flipping the script.
In Wednesday’s case, it swerved to a “Cinderella” story, as little-known forward Frank Vatrano scored two of Boston’s three goals – including the overtime clincher – as the B’s beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 (OT).
Here’s his first goal of the night:
While this is his overtime game-winner:
It wasn’t a perfect night for the 21-year-old, yet it may have been a convincing one.
The Bruins continue to begin a month on a sour note before ending up with impressive sprees.
October: 0-3-0 start, finished month with four straight wins and victories in six of seven contests.
November: 0-3-0 start, losses in four of five; currently on a four-game winning strek with victories in five of six.
Boston faces a challenge in closing this month out against the Rangers on Friday, and it’s possible that this trend may continue, as they begin December with a three-game road trip through Western Canada.
More than anything else, the safest bet with the Bruins is for ups and downs.
Controversy just seems to find the Pittsburgh Penguins. Credit Sidney Crosby & Co. for responding with a win on Wednesday.
Crosby generated two pretty goals, including this slam-dunk slapper:
… While Evgeni Malkin‘s overtime-winner stood as the Penguins managed a 4-3 overtime win against the St. Louis Blues tonight.
(You can see Malkin’s OT-clincher in the video above this post.)
Will this win and strong performance from Crosby silence murmurs about his relationship with Mario Lemieux? Probably not, yet it likely turns the volume down in some ways, including killing the “Is he struggling because of distractions” storyline.
You know, at least for a little while. Maybe.
Claude Giroux isn’t the nastiest, most physical captain the Philadelphia Flyers have employed. Even so, he can be feisty at times.
Wednesday showed that, as he clearly wasn’t happy with an earlier Nick Leddy hit, and eventually got the New York Islanders defenseman to drop his gloves.
You can see the fight and the check that inspired that scrap in the video above.
It’s the fourth fight Giroux has been a part of, with his most recent adversary being may his most bitter rival.
Not a heavyweight bout between Giroux and Leddy, mind you, but sometimes it’s amusing to soak in such a rare sight.
Update: The fight may have inspired the Islanders more than the Flyers, as they bested Philly 3-1 on Wednesday.
Carter Hutton is getting something that might make fellow Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne jealous: goal support.
Still, there was at least one moment where Rinne was likely happy to be on the bench, as Hutton was left flipping during this collision with Buffalo Sabres forward Marcus Foligno:
Remarkably, Hutton remained in the game.
If you’re the type who loves adding to your “hockey players are tough” files, put this under the goalies section.
Check out this incredible shot of that moment:
Update: The Predators held off the Buffalo Sabres to win 3-2.