Minnesota Wild v St. Louis Blues

Blame game: Halak, Mason, Kesler each shoulder load after last night’s losses


The St. Louis Blues, Philadelphia Flyers and Vancouver Canucks all suffered defeats on Thursday night, with only Philadelphia — thanks to the shootout — managing to steal a point.

Interestingly, a key member of each clubbed stepped up postgame and said they were responsible for their team’s respective loss. First up is St. Louis’ Jaroslav Halak, who shouldered the blame for a 4-1 home defeat to Los Angeles following this goal from Trevor Lewis:

“I made a mistake at the worst possible time, when the game was on the line for us,” Halak said, per NHL.com. “I’ll take the blame for this one. It’s unacceptable to make a mistake like that, especially in the third period. We lost because of me.”

Next up is another goalie — Philly’s Steve Mason — who allowed three regulation goals, then another three in the shootout against Nashville in an eventual 4-3 defeat.

“The guys gave me two opportunities to win the game, and I couldn’t do it,” he said, per CSN Philly. “So I let them down tonight.”

The Preds actually out-shot the Flyers on the night and were the better team for stretches of the game, but Mason was largely outplayed by Carter Hutton, who turned in a save of the year candidate on Michael Raffl midway through the second period.

Finally, there’s Kesler, who took the brunt of a team-wide slump that’s seen Vancouver score just once in three games. The Canucks lost to the Coyotes 1-0 last night, capping off a terrible road swing in which they lost 9-1 to Anaheim and 1-0 in Los Angeles.

“We had a couple of good looks late in the game, but we’ve got to find a way to score,” said Kesler, per The Province. “It’s getting old. It starts with myself, Hank and Danny. We have to lead the way and we’re not getting it done. The power play was bad tonight. It’s one thing to not score, but we didn’t generate momentum. It pisses you off.

“The trip was horrendous. It was awful. I’m pissed off right now. I need to be better, we need to be better as a group. The way we played pisses you off.”

Devils send ’15 first-rounder Zacha back to junior

2015 NHL Draft - Round One

Pavel Zacha was this close to making his NHL debut.

Just days prior to opening their season against the Jets, the Devils returned Zacha — the sixth overall pick at this year’s draft — back to his junior club in OHL Sarnia.

The move comes after Zacha, 18, impressed throughout training camp and the preseason. He appeared in four exhibition games for New Jersey, scoring one point while endearing himself to the organizational brass, coaching staff and players.

“He understands the game. He plays with a maturity. It’s crazy to think an 18-year-old coming out of high school is up here and playing with the maturity and understanding of the game with the new system,” Kyle Palmieri told NJ.com. “I think he’s got a lot of raw talent there as a power forward. He’s got the body for it, the puck-handling skills and the nose for the net.”

At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Zacha has the frame and physical stature to play at the NHL level, and looked the part for long stretches of the exhibition season, getting turns on New Jersey’s top line.

The decision to send him back to junior is probably the right one, however.

Zacha only turned 18 in April and has limited experience even at the OHL level; ’14-15 was his first year with Sarnia, though he did appear in 38 Czech League games (for Liberec) the season prior.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.