The St. Louis Blues opened up a five-point lead over the Vancouver Canucks in the battle for the first seed in the Western Conference with a 2-1 victory versus Columbus on Sunday. Jaroslav Halak saved 33 shots en route to winning his eighth straight start.
St. Louis’ goaltenders have been dominant since Ken Hitchcock took over as head coach. However, they’ve been exceptional this month even by the high standard that they’ve set. In six March games, neither of the Blues’ netminders have allowed more than one goal in a single game. On March 1, Vancouver beat St. Louis 2-0, but the Canucks’ Chris Higgins scored on an empty net.
Curtis Sanford got roughed up by the Blues in his start against them on Saturday in the first half of this home-and-home series. He fared better in Sunday’s outing, but Sanford is still searching for his first win since Feb. 7.
Patrik Berglund and David Perron each scored a goal for the Blues. Andy McDonald registered an assist to extend his point streak to five games. On Columbus’ side, Mark Letestu is now on a four-game point streak after netting the squad’s only goal.
St. Louis’ work is far from done if they want to end up with the top record in the Western Conference, but it’s fair to say that the first seed is there’s to lose. Meanwhile, with another loss, the Blue Jackets will have a tough time just getting out of the NHL’s basement.
Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers
McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.
With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:
1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP
As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.
Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.
The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.
Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.
Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)
Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.
Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.
McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).
The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.
They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.
The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.
Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.
The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.
The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.
Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style