andrewladdgetty

East update: Jets put heat on Rangers for eighth spot

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By almost any measure, Tuesday was a rough night for the New York Rangers. As you’ll see from this roundup, just about every bubble team advanced their causes except for the Broadway Blueshirts.

Ottawa 3, Carolina 2

The Ottawa Senators suffered from a five-game swoon, but it looks like they’re getting it together. Craig Anderson was fantastic once again (32 out of 34 saves), yet the most promising sign might have been this pretty goal from recently returned winger Milan Michalek:

NY Islanders 5, Florida 2

After narrowly losing Saturday’s tense game against the Rangers, the New York Islanders dominated the lowly Florida Panthers 5-2 in one of those “games you have to win.” Speedy forward Michael Grabner is one of those guys who can make the Long Island bunch that much more dangerous, so fans must be pleased that he scored twice on Tuesday.

Philadelphia 4, NY Rangers 2 (click here)

Winnipeg 4, Tampa Bay 3 (SO)

The Winnipeg Jets looked like they might cough up a two-goal lead in this one, but they managed to win in the skills competition to prevail 4-3 (SO). That gives the streaky Jets four wins in a row after they dropped five consecutive losses. Andrew Ladd (two goals and one assists) and Blake Wheeler (one goal and two assists) stood out for the Jets while Steven Stamkos stayed right behind goals leader Alex Ovechkin with his 27th goal of the season.

This win keeps the Jets four points behind the surging Capitals for the Southeast Division lead, yet as you can see from these updated standings, they’re most obviously breathing down the Rangers’ necks:

6. Ottawa: 22-14-16 for 50 points, six games left (18 regulation/OT wins)
7. NY Islanders: 22-16-5 for 49 points, five games left (19 ROW)
8. NY Rangers: 21-17-4 for 46 points, six games left (17 ROW)
9. Winnipeg: 22-19-2 for 46 points, five games left (20 ROW)

The Flyers and Buffalo Sabres might be too far behind, yet the Rangers must note that those two teams are still stringing enough wins together to not be totally disregarded.

***

With the Islanders potentially threatening for the Senators’ sixth spot and the Jets keeping the heat on both the Rangers and (to a lesser extent) the Capitals, this could be a wild finish in the East.

Hockey tough: Mark Stone shakes off skate to face, scores

Ottawa Senators right wing Mark Stone celebrates his game winning goal during overtime against the Boston Bruins during an NHL hockey game in Ottawa, Ontario, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016.  The Senators defeated the Bruins 2-1. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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You’d think the reaction to taking a skate to the face would be something like “Not coming back to that game, getting some ice and maybe do some soul-searching.”

Nope, not in the NHL, at least.

In this league, the real reaction is almost always to come back to the same game … and barely miss a beat.

Ottawa Senators Mark Stone provides the latest example of hockey toughness, as he bounced back almost immediately from this.

What did he do? He scored a nice goal in the Senators’ 6-1 blowout of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Latest way the Wild lost? Killed by penalty kill

Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk sits on the ice after giving up a goal to St. Louis Blues' Jori Lehtera, of Finland, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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It’s said that variety is the spice of life, yet it seems to be the spite of the Minnesota Wild.

As head coach Mike Yeo said, this struggling team appears to find a new way to lose virtually every night. That couldn’t have happened once again on Saturday, when they fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues, could it?

Actually …

If you ask Jarret Stoll, the latest problem was the penalty kill.

Honestly, Stoll may have been too specific, likely trying to throw his own unit under the bus. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that Minnesota’s special teams let them down.

Indeed, the Wild struggled to limit the Blues’ power play, which went an unsettling 3-for-6. That said, Minnesota had a chance to trade blows with St. Louis. Instead, the Wild managed one power-play goal on seven opportunities.

The silver lining is that the Wild believe that they showed more fight than this fragile bunch had been generating before.

On the other hand, with Jonas Brodin on IR and Jared Spurgeon apparently hurt, that silver lining may not be so easy to see.

Statement in Blackhawks’ blowout of Stars? Coach Q says they’re even

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Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.

The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.

You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.

At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.

Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.

(Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)

As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.

Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.

Brad Marchand wins it … on a penalty shot … in overtime

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Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.

Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.

Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:

That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.

Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.