Goalie Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators looks on as he defends the goal against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on March 30, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Predators 1-0 in overtime.
(March 29, 2013 - Source: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images North America)

Preds’ Weber: We’ve let goalies down all year

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Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne kicked out 29 of 31 shots last night, but his teammates couldn’t find the back of the net.

So he lost. Again.

Rinne has enjoyed just one victory in his last eight starts despite the fact that he’s surrendered two or fewer goals in six of those games.

“All year, we let him down all year,” Predators captain Shea Weber said. “We let (Chris Mason) down.

“It’s not their fault, they battle for us every night, they make huge saves, and we have to do a better job for those guys.”

Nashville has been shutout three times in its last five games, but that’s just a small sample of a much larger problem. When it comes to scoring goals, no team has struggled more this season. The Predators rank dead last with an average of 2.23 goals per contest.

On the plus side 18-year-old forward Filip Forsberg made his NHL debut for the Predators on Sunday. He wasn’t able to get a point, but he has plenty of upside and could be part of the long-term solution in Nashville.

The Canucks are injured, on the road, and desperate for wins

A shot by New Jersey Devils defenseman Ben Lovejoy, not pictured, is seen before entering the net of Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom (25), of Sweden, during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, in Newark, N.J. Also seen are Devils' John Moore (2) and Canucks' Ben Hutton (27). (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
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The Vancouver Canucks are in a tough spot.

Again.

After Tuesday’s loss in New Jersey, they sit five points back of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

They also have four games left on a very tough road trip.

Oh, and they’re down three defensemen — Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, and Philip Larsen — and three forwards — Jannik Hansen, Derek Dorsett and Anton Rodin.

But other than that, everything’s going great.

Tonight, the Canucks will take on the Lightning in Tampa Bay. Three more games at Florida, Washington, and Carolina await.

There is good news, though, as Larsen does not seem to be seriously injured after taking that devastating hit from Taylor Hall. The 27-year-old defenseman was medically cleared to return to Vancouver. He’ll be replaced tonight by little-used Alex Biega.

But the Canucks (11-13-2) need to find a way to stay in the playoff race, because it doesn’t get any easier once they got home, with visits from Tampa Bay, Columbus, and Winnipeg (twice). By the Christmas break, they could easily be in an even bigger hole, and that would make things very interesting indeed.

That’s because, earlier this week, GM Jim Benning told The Province newspaper that he will not be approaching any of his players about waiving their no-trade clauses. That includes Alex Burrows, a pending unrestricted free agent who’s been among the Canucks’ best this season. A versatile forward with playoff experience, Burrows could theoretically bring a decent return at the deadline.

“Now that Jim said that, well, for me, I love my teammates, I love my team and I love this organization,” Burrows said, per the Vancouver Sun. “But at the same time, things can change quickly in this business. I’ve learned that before. I learned that last year, last summer. So for me, it’s take it one day at a time.”

Things could certainly change if the team falls short, especially after ownership committed $36 million to Loui Eriksson in free agency. The Canucks are right up against the salary cap. So far, they have refused to tear it down and rebuild, a la Toronto and Buffalo.

Which is to say, if the Canucks are out of the playoff race by the deadline, management (and ownership) may have to reconsider their stances. Because after last season’s deadline disaster, they really can’t afford another.

The best way to avoid such a scenario would be to stay in the race and play the “meaningful games in March” that they’re still aiming to play. That starts tonight in Tampa, against a team with some desperation of its own. The Lightning have just one win in their last six, so they won’t be taking their opponents lightly.

And that could be more bad news for the Canucks.

Darling, a pending UFA, ‘excited’ for starting goalie audition

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling deflects a shot during the second half of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
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When most think of next summer’s potential free agent goalie class, names like Ben Bishop and Ryan Miller tend to top the list.

But there’s another pending UFA ‘tender that’s made a name for himself lately: Scott Darling.

Darling has been Chicago’s goalie of record in each of the last three games, as Corey Crawford recovers from an appendectomy. He’s fared very well, stopping 79 of 84 shots, and recorded his first shutout of the year in Tuesday’s 4-0 win over the Coyotes.

Needless to say, Darling is stoked about the opportunity at hand.

“I’m excited for the challenge,” he told the Chicago Tribune, when asked about his feelings on carrying a starter’s workload.

Darling is 5-2-1 on the year, with a 2.39 GAA and .919 save percentage. Those are pretty good numbers to head into free agency with, and he’s got some other things going for him as well — specifically, his size (6-foot-5, 200 pounds) and age (turns 28 later this month).

One has to think an ideal situation for Darling would be the one Chad Johnson‘s found in Calgary. Signed this summer (a relatively modest $1.7M pact) to be Brian Elliott‘s backup, Johnson — a 30-year-old journeyman — had an opportunity to carry the No. 1 workload after Elliott got off to a horrendous start.

Now, Johnson is one of the NHL’s hottest goalies, and essentially the Flames’ starter.

As the situation in Calgary has shown, having two capable netminders is extremely important. Earlier this week, Brough highlighted five backup ‘tenders that aren’t getting the job done — suggesting there should be a healthy market for Darling’s services this summer.

Should he continue to play well, of course.

Two late goals allows Ducks to beat ‘Canes in shootout

Anaheim Ducks' Nick Ritchie, left, celebrates his goal as he skates past Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward, right, and Jay McClement during the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Anaheim, Calif. The Ducks won 6-5 in shootout. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Former Anaheim Ducks great Teemu Selanne had a philosophy about scoring goals. The Ducks are hoping his “ketchup bottle theory” applies to star winger Corey Perry.

Perry and Nick Ritchie scored late in the third period to tie it and rookie Ondrej Kase got the deciding goal in a shootout, lifting the Ducks over the Carolina Hurricanes 6-5 on Wednesday night.

After Ritchie deflected in Cam Fowler‘s shot with 3:59 left in the third, Perry got his fifth goal of the season with 2:28 remaining to tie it at 5.

“It’s nice to see it hit the back of the net for once, and not the goalie,” Perry said.

Perry, who scored 34 goals last year and won the Hart Trophy with 50 in 2010-11, hadn’t scored since Oct. 25, but said he’s hoping this goal leads to more.

“There was a player that I coached before and his name was Teemu Selanne,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “He used to say that goal scoring was like pouring ketchup out of the ketchup bottle. Once it starts to flow, then it comes readily.”

It was the first non-regulation win for the Ducks this season and it was aided by Anaheim’s young core. Kase slickly deked to his backhand before lifting his shootout attempt over Cam Ward. Stefan Noesen, recalled from San Diego of the American Hockey League earlier in the day, got his first NHL goal, and Andrew Cogliano and Ryan Kesler also scored for Anaheim. John Gibson made 29 saves.

“The light went on and I threw my hands up,” Noesen said. “It was all of the emotions from two long years coming through at once.”

Teuvo Teravainen scored twice for the Hurricanes, and Jay McClement, Sebastian Aho and Brett Pesce also had goals. Ward made 33 saves while Carolina matched a season high with five goals.

“There were a couple breakdowns,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said. “At times, I thought we did a real good job at controlling the tempo of the game. We had the puck lots. But we need to do a better job defensively and have a better awareness away from the puck.”

Pesce scored on a slap shot 4:46 into the third period to give the Hurricanes a 4-2 lead. Kesler scored about four minutes later to cut the deficit, but Teravainen’s second goal a minute later made it 5-3.

Noesen scored at 13:52 in the second period to make it 3-2. Joseph Cramarossa and Kase, Noesen’s former San Diego Gulls teammates and roommate, were credited with the assists.

“They’re both two of my pretty good friends,” Noesen said. “I think no matter what happens, it was special. Seeing Cram’ being the first one to come hug me and get the puck, that was awesome.”

     Read more: The Ducks have a youth movement of their own

Less than two minutes after McClement broke a 1-1 tie with a backhand around Gibson at 10:10 in the second period, Aho broke away, faked a shot and backhanded it over Gibson to make it 3-1.

With 38 seconds left in the first period, Teravainen tied it at 1 with a power-play goal. Jaccob Slavin couldn’t get a stick on a pass and instead used his skate to get it over to the right circle, where Teravainen found it and ripped a slap shot past Gibson.

Cogliano put the Ducks on the board with just over three minutes left in the first, when he went five-hole on Ward with his own rebound, his seventh of the season.

 

Erik Karlsson hit another impressive milestone

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Erik Karlsson‘s had a terrific career in the NHL so far and he’s still just 26 years old.

He already owns two Norris Trophies (2011-12, 2014-15) and his ability to move the puck and put up points from the blue line is second to none.

Last year, Karlsson played in all 82 games and he finished with an incredible 82 points.

He’s on pace to do exactly the same thing this year, as he’s scored 27 points in the first 27 games of the season. Only Connor McDavid, Nikita Kucherov and Evgeni Malkin have more points than the Sens defenseman in 2016-17.

So with that in mind, it’s not surprising that Karlsson’s crushing some important franchise records so early in his career.

In Wednesday’s game against San Jose, Karlsson became the team’s all-time leading scorer among defensemen with  412 points.

Wade Redden, who held the record before Karlsson, picked up 410 points as a Senator, but he accomplished that in 332 more games. That’s equivalent to four more seasons.

Predictably, he downplayed the accomplishment.

“Right now, not much,” Karlsson said of his new record, per the Ottawa Sun. “It’s fun in a way, but it’s something that you reflect back on when your career is over. Hopefully mine isn’t for a long time.”

Here’s something about Karlsson you might not have known: He currently leads the league in blocked shots with 78, which is eight more than Flames defenseman Mark Giordano, who’s second.