Stars widen Pacific lead after sinking Canucks

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For most of this season, the Dallas Stars seemed like they were dreaming big merely because they were aiming for a playoff spot. After Tuesday, you’d be foolish to dismiss the team’s chances of taking the third seed.

Dallas came into the night with a tie-breaker lead in the Pacific Division, but logic argued its lead would dissolve. Instead, the Stars legitimized it – first and foremost with a resounding 5-2 victory against the Vancouver Canucks.

Sharks, Coyotes blow it

That wasn’t the only plus for the scrappy team, though, as their closest competition lost to lowly teams. The San Jose Sharks salvaged a charity point from the Edmonton Oilers (3-2 in a shootout), while the Phoenix Coyotes managed to flub another lay-up against Columbus. (The Blue Jackets swatted them away 3-2.)

Stars make a statement

The Stars could have receded in a Northwest trio of road games; instead, they went 3-0 even with Richard Bachman starting against Vancouver. The backup had an excuse to be rusty after playing in just his third game since Feb. 2, but Zack Kassian failed to expose that 24 seconds into the game on a penalty shot.

Dallas is combining fortuitous bounces with underrated talent to defy expectations.Mike Ribeiro doesn’t exactly have a sterling retribution in many circles, but it’s pretty tough to argue with his three-point output tonight.

The Stars’ 7-0-1 streak is a startling counterpoint to the claims that they needed to fully embrace “seller” status at the trade deadline.

Bigger picture

Even with all those good feelings flowing, the cushion isn’t exactly huge. The foreboding Los Angeles Kings kept it from being a perfect evening with a decisive win of their own. The Kings gutted out a 5-4 victory against the Predators in Nashville.

With that in mind, let’s piece together the Pacific puzzle (current West position in parenthesis):

Dallas (3): 77 points with 15 games remaining
Phoenix (7): 75 points with 15 GR
San Jose (8): 74 points with 17 GR
Los Angeles (9): 74 points with 16 GR

Yup, that’s not a large margin of error. Say what you will about the lack of a “truly elite” Pacific team, the division still managed to produce four borderline playoff teams. (Oh yeah, and one scary spoiler team in the Anaheim Ducks.)

No mic? No problem: Oilers fans sing American, Canadian national anthems

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There was apparently an issue with a microphone used for the national anthems prior to Game 3 between the Ducks and Oilers in Edmonton.

Canadian country music star Brett Kissel was supposed to perform the anthems, however, as he stepped up to the mic, he soon discovered that there seemed to be a malfunction.

With some quick encouragement from Kissel, fans at Rogers Place stole the show with stirring renditions of both the American and Canadian national anthems.

Here is the Star Spangled Banner:

Here is O Canada:

Sami Vatanen returns to Ducks lineup vs. Oilers

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Good news for the Anaheim Ducks, who trail the Edmonton Oilers 2-0 in their second round series.

Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen returns to the lineup Sunday for Game 3 — his first game since April 13, which was the opener of Anaheim’s first-round series with Calgary, because of an upper-body injury.

However, the Ducks will be without Kevin Bieksa, who is dealing with a lower-body injury.

Predators stifle Blues to take back series lead

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The Nashville Predators have snapped their one-game funk in these Stanley Cup playoffs, taking back the series lead over the St. Louis Blues.

For long stretches of Sunday’s contest, the Predators kept the puck away from and stifled the Blues, including a stretch of almost nine minutes at the beginning of the second period in which St. Louis failed to register a shot attempt.

The Predators’ 3-1 victory in Game 3 was eventually secured on an unbelievably dominant shift late in the third period.

Joel Edmundson‘s (costly) turnover led to a dizzying attack from Predators, who had sustained puck possession inside the St. Louis zone for about 1:10.

By the end, Edmundson and Colton Parayko had exhausted themselves as the Predators tossed the puck around with increasing ease before Roman Josi halted the madness with a slap shot to the top corner, giving Nashville a two-goal lead.

That continues an impressive trend for the Predators.

They have scored nine goals in this series, with at least one defenseman contributing directly with either a goal or an assist on eight of those goals. Nashville’s group of blueliners — including Ryan Ellis, who has been on quite a productive roll throughout these playoffs — have combined for 11 points through three games in this series.

This series resumes Tuesday in Nashville, with the Predators leading 2-1.

VIDEO: Ryan Ellis continues his incredible postseason run for Predators

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Playing in Nashville over the years it has been easy for Ryan Ellis to get overlooked, always playing in the shadow of bigger name stars on the team’s blue line.

Shea Weber (before he was traded). Roman Josi. P.K. Subban.

But Ellis has been a major part of the Predators’ blue line and he had a career-year in 2016-17, setting new personal bests in goals (16) and points (38) while matching his previous career high in assists (22).

He has continued that strong play in the postseason and is currently the team’s leading scorer after he netted his third goal of the playoffs (and eighth total point) on Sunday afternoon to give the Predators a 1-0 lead over the St. Louis Blues.

You can see it in the video above.

After being held without a point in the Predators’ first playoff game, Ellis has now picked up at least one point in every playoff game since them and is now riding a six-game point streak.

The first half of Sunday’s game has been a defensive clinic by the Predators, by the way, limiting St. Louis to just 10 shots on goal through the first 34 minutes, and none through the first 14 minutes of the second period.

The Predators extended their lead to 2-0 in the second period when Cody McLeod deflected in his first goal of the playoffs to give the Predators some unexpected scoring depth. He had just five goals in 59 games during the regular season between the Predators and Colorado Avalanche.