Avs rip Stewart after Sarich scrap, celebration

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The Colorado Avalanche were in a sour mood following Thursday’s 7-3 blowout loss to St. Louis — but the hard feelings weren’t just about the scoreline.

The Avs took exception to a second-period tilt between Chris Stewart and Cory Sarich, in which the St. Louis forward scored a comprehensive victory:

The post-fight celebration irked a number of Colorado players, as did Stewart’s choice in dance partners. Colorado had a pair of tough guys in the lineup on Thursday — Cody McLeod and Patrick Bordeleau, who’ve combined for seven of the team’s 13 fights this season — though Sarich is no stranger to the scrap game, having already dropped the gloves twice this season.

Regardless, the Avs were choked.

“There is no brains,” defenseman Jan Hejaa said about Stewart, as per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It’s just a guy who fights his whole life.”

“It’s a little gutless by him,” added goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere. “But it’s an emotional game and these things will happen.”

(Making this all the more interesting is that Stewart was drafted by Colorado, spent his first two-and-a-half seasons with the Avs and was teammates with a number of current players.)

The testy contest featured two other fights — Matt Duchene going with Vladimir Sobotka, Ryan Reaves dropping ’em with McLeod — and the two teams combined for 80 penalty minutes.

UPDATE: For a little more context on the scrap and aftermath, here’s Adrian Dater of the Denver Post

The game got very rough in the second, starting with a big Patrick Bordeleau hit on Blues defender Ian Cole in a 4-1 game. A few seconds later, Stewart dropped the gloves with 35-year-old Avs defenseman Cory Sarich. Stewart won the fight, and then raised his arms to the crowd like a WWE wrestler.

Later, Bordeleau was given a 10-minute misconduct penalty simply for lining up next to Stewart for what would have been a probable fight.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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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).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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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

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too.¬†They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.