Two teams going in very different directions met at PNC Arena tonight… and continued on their respective paths.
The Carolina Hurricanes beat Toronto 6-1 on Thursday, earning their fifth straight win and — perhaps most significantly — temporarily overtook the Leafs for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Toronto, which has lost three in a row, is now sitting outside the playoff picture for the first time this season.
The Leafs only have themselves to blame for this fall from grace. They came out flat on Tuesday and the ‘Canes jumped all over it, scoring three first-period goals before John-Michael Liles — the former Leaf — scored his first goal as a ‘Cane early in the second period to give his club a 4-1 lead.
Jordan Staal then scored shorthanded 35 seconds into the third period before rookie Elias Lindholm finished things off on a late power play to make it 6-1, rubbing further salt in Toronto’s wounds.
While the ‘Canes are flying high and in the midst of their best stretch of the season, the Leafs are experiencing one of their worst. Toronto has been outscored 18-5 over the last three games and their strength this season — goaltending — has faltered badly, as both Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer have been sub-par during the winless slide.
For Carolina, Jeff Skinner continued his torrid pace by scoring once again, and now has 17 goals in his last 17 games. The ‘Canes also got a three-point night from Lindholm (in his first game back from World Juniors duty) and four points from Staal, who was named the game’s first star.
Sometimes, the Nashville Predators were unlucky in November. Sometimes they were just bad.
Either way, they’re likely glad to step into December, and they’ve already gotten a big bounce. Watch how close this near-goal was into crossing the red line before Pekka Rinne barely stopped it with a well-placed goalie stick.
You can also see it up close via this GIF:
Here’s the NHL Situation Room Blog explanation for it remaining a no-goal:
At 13:06 of the first period in the Coyotes/Predators game, the Situation Room initiated a video review to further examine a play from 11:57. Video review confirmed the call on the ice that the puck did not cross the Nashville goal line. No goal Coyotes.
Alexei Emelin has been in and out of the Montreal Canadiens lineup, but this wasn’t the way they wanted him to keep his legs fresh.
The hard-hitting defenseman received a game misconduct and five-minute major penalty for a late hit on Columbus Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert on Tuesday.
So far, it sounds like Calvert may be OK.
You can see video of that hit above, as well as a GIF of the infraction via My Regular Face.
Many believe that Emelin should not have been ejected.
Injuries have been a regular problem for Joffrey Lupul for much of his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and it doesn’t look like that’s changing in 2015-16.
The team placed him on injured reserve retroactive to Nov. 28, calling up Rich Clune in the process.
This IR stint means that Lupul will miss at least three games for Toronto.
From the sound of things, it’s a nagging issue, as NHL.com notes.
“He’s been having the same problem here for a bit,” Mike Babcock told media members on Sunday. “He doesn’t seem to be getting the power back that they thought, so we’re just trying to monitor it the best we can.”
Leafs Nation points out that Lupul has missed about one-third of Toronto’s contests since suffering a separated shoulder in April 2012.
At 32, there’s still time for Lupul to fight through this, although injuries generally accumulate with age.
Will Ryan Suter say something foolish during tonight’s game? Is Brent Burns‘ beard so long that it’s finally starting to scrape the ice?
We’ll find out the answer to those questions and more during Tuesday’s NBCSN doubleheader.
Need to follow the two games online? Never fear.
Game 1: Minnesota Wild at Chicago Blackhawks
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Game 2: Pittsburgh Penguins at San Jose Sharks
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