Strange officiating overshadows Sharks’ shootout win vs. Kings

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The San Jose Sharks edged the Los Angeles Kings 6-5 via the shootout in a game that began strangely and only grew more bizarre. Sure, it was at times an utterly fantastic contest, yet it will be marred in many eyes because of some odd calls – or lack of calls – by an officiating crew blasted by the likes of mega-agent Alan Walsh.

The night’s most controversial moment came when Ryane Clowe clearly touched the puck from the bench during a late Los Angeles Kings rush. Here are a couple shots I managed to capture from NHL Game Center Live:

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Here is a shot from afar:

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Jon Wold does a fantastic job of capturing it frame-by-frame here. NHL.com added video of the incident, so enjoy it with the Kings’ announcers reactions as an added bonus:

CSNBayArea.com’s Kevin Kurz caught up with Clowe after the game, but he essentially took Dave Chapelle’s advice and plead the fifth. Drew Doughty wasn’t so shy with his assessment of the incident, as he told Rich Hammond:

“It’s like running on a football field and hitting someone during play,” Doughty said. “I don’t see why it’s any different than that.”

(Note: I’d say it’s more like running on a football field and knocking down an attempted pass – no one got hurt, after all.)

Even Kings team governor Tim Leiweke spoke out about it, as Hammond also captures.

“It’s a shame that a guy can cheat and get away with it in a game this important.”

Well, wow. It’s difficult to say what received more criticism: yet another fantastic bit of hate settled by a skills competition or that missed call (which would have been a two-minute minor penalty, for all the hoopla).

Actually, that’s not true; the missed call pretty much ruled the day. The Royal Half probably captured the mood the best with his reaction:

“Congrats to Ryan Clowe on winning the San Jose Sharks 6th Man Award!”

Hopefully NHL officials round into playoff form by April 11 or there will be many long – and angrier – nights on Twitter. Speaking of which, The Fourth Period’s Dennis Bernstein floated an interesting question: should Clowe actually be suspended for his action? Chew on that in the comments as we take a look at how that lost point could affect the West and Pacific:

The impact

Now that the West’s top eight has been settled, it’s all about playoff positioning. Here’s where everyone whose spot is still considerably subject to change stands now. (Note: I’ll save you deep analysis right now so your head doesn’t explode.)

“3” Los Angeles: 94 points, 34 regulation/OT wins, one game left
4. Nashville: 102 points, 42 reg/OT, one game
5. Detroit: 101 points, 39 reg/OT, one game
6. Chicago: 99 points, 38 reg/OT, one game
7. San Jose: 94 points, 33 reg/OT, one game
8. Phoenix: 93 points, 34 reg/OT, TWO games

As you can see, there’s a lot of potential for change. Any of the Kings, Sharks and Coyotes could swap spots. Phoenix can now “control its destiny” with those two remaining games while the Blackhawks could take the fifth spot with a regulation win against the Red Wings on Saturday.

There are a lot of moving parts, but at least you can snuggle with this bit of simplicity: those eight teams represent the playoff picture, as muddy as it is. Then again, that’s the only real bummer from a busy Thursday; postseason arrangements rather than berths are only on the line going forward.

Ducks deny rally, end Penguins’ winning streak

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When Ondrej Kase cashed in on another breakaway opportunity for the Ducks to make it 4-1 in the second period, it looked like that goal would be icing on the cake for Anaheim. Even if it would be especially pretty frosting.

Instead, that stylish goal ended up being critical, as the Pittsburgh Penguins nearly rallied in the third period to at least send Wednesday’s game to overtime. John Gibson ended up holding down the fort, and with an empty-netter in the dying seconds, the Ducks ended up beating the Penguins 5-3.

You could call it a game of periods and close calls.

The Penguins entered the first intermission thanks to a 1-0 Evgeni Malkin goal, but the Ducks dominated the middle frame with their first four-goal period of 2017-18. The Penguins’ prolific power play helped them stay in the game (2-for-4, with both goals coming during that third-period comeback bid), but the rally fell short. Pittsburgh’s winning streak ended at four victories.

Some bounces went both ways, as Antoine Vermette nearly scored for the Ducks while Carl Hagelin suffered a near-miss. So maybe those missed opportunities cancel each other out?

From the Ducks’ perspective, this is the latest argument in favor of this team being a threat now that key pieces have returned to the lineup. This win begins what they hope is a successful five-game homestand, as Anaheim still needs to battle for its own playoff hopes.

The Penguins can’t ruminate on this loss for very long. They head to Los Angeles to face what must be a frustrated Kings team (four straight defeats, only two wins in their last eight games) on Thursday, with little reason to expect any mercy.

This last stretch of wins improved the Penguins’ outlook, but dropping games in back-to-back nights could make things tense again in a hurry. You can check out that Penguins – Kings game on NBCSN Thursday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Willie O’Ree celebrates 60th anniversary of debut with Bruins

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BOSTON (AP) Hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree was honored in Boston on Wednesday on the 60th anniversary of the Bruins forward breaking the NHL’s color barrier.

At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day”. O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.

Walsh called O’Ree a Boston legend who changed the city for the better and thanked him for his courage. As part of the celebration, the city dedicated a new street hockey rink in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood to be known as Willie O’Ree Rink.

A native of Canada, O’Ree, 82, had four goals and 10 assists in 45 games over parts of two NHL seasons. He spent a total of 21 years in pro hockey.

For the past two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.

More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Bruins cruise vs. Canadiens in Julien’s return to Boston

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Don’t blame Claude Julien if Wednesday made him think of better times, and not just because it was his welcome back night in Boston.

Coming into this one, it was a tale of two teams going in opposite directions, and the teams stuck to their scripts. The Boston Bruins remain red-hot with a 4-1 win, while the Montreal Canadiens are mired in mediocrity .. or worse?

When you’re as disappointing as the Canadiens have been, plenty of things are going wrong. It was a weak start even with a 1-0 lead and 1-1 first period in mind, and it obviously didn’t get any better.

Nights like these have to sting for Julien, a coach known for his sophisticated systems and eye for defensive detail.

There are questions about Max Pacioretty possibly being trade bait. People wonder if Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galchenyuk fit as centers, or if neither work that way. Yet, these performances make you realize that as exasperated as management must be, they may also appreciate more specific distractions.

Because, frankly, this was a team … non-effort.

Then again, the Bruins are a red-hot squad, so maybe they shine an especially harsh light on the Habs’ haplessness?

Boston generated a 32-22 shots on goal advantage in this one, with multiple contributors stepping up. Big guns came through (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were among the goal scorers, Patrice Bergeron collected two assists), while David Backes and others added to the fun.

It was the kind of effort Julien would have been very happy with, if it didn’t come at his expense.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Anaheim Ducks

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PROJECTED LINEUPS

Pittsburgh Penguins

Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Canadiens vs. Bruins; Penguins vs. Ducks]

Ducks

Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Derek GrantRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase

Chris WagnerAntoine VermetteJ.T. Brown

Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour

Starting goalie: John Gibson