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Chara ‘disappointed’ after what might be final Olympic appearance

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Zdeno Chara — Slovakia’s flag bearer at the opening ceremonies — is leaving the Games on a sour note.

Slovakia was eliminated on Tuesday with a 5-3 loss to the Czechs, ending Chara’s shot at a medal in what might be his last Winter Olympics.

“You never know. We’ll see how it’s going to play out,” he said of future participation. “As of right now, I don’t look that much ahead. Right now I’m just disappointed we didn’t perform better.”

After a captivating effort in Vancouver that saw the Slovaks place fourth — their highest-ever finish — the team was unable to capture similar magic in Sochi. Slovakia was routed 7-1 by the Americans in the tournament opener, lost 3-1 to Slovenia in a massive upset, then rallied to take the Russians to a shootout… before losing that, too.

In the playoff game against the Czechs, Slovakia fell behind 4-0 before a late rally cut the deficit to one. Chara and company were unable to come any closer, though, and finished the Olympics in 11th place.

“We were not able, besides the game against Russia, to put 60 minutes together,” Chara explained. “This game, we lost the beginning of the game. They got ahead 3-0 (in the first period); obviously it’s a tough game to come back from, being behind three goals.”

Chara turns 37 in March and would be nearing his 41st birthday by the time the Pyeongchang Olympics roll around in 2018. His age, plus the uncertainty of future NHL participation, mean Sochi could’ve been his last kick at the can.

Chara’s been to the Olympics three times — 2006, ’10 and ’14 — and is one of his country’s greatest players. Once he’s done competing internationally, though, the future of Slovakian hockey gets murky; he, along with veterans Marian Hossa, Michal Handzus, Tomas Kopecky and Peter Budaj are all on the wrong side of 30 and there’s a dearth of young prospects on the horizon. Tomas Tatar, Richard Panik, Martin Marincin and Tomas Jurco essentially represent the best current Slovak youngsters in the NHL; Columbus’ Marko Dano (27th overall, ’13) is one to watch for the future but, in 2012, not a single Slovak prospect was drafted.

As such, Chara recognized Sochi as a missed opportunity for one final shot at international glory.

“We had a really rough game against the U.S. and that put us down a bit mentally, the confidence wasn’t there,” he said, per IIHF.com. “But we bounced back against Russia in probably our best game of the tournament. 

“We thought we would follow that up tonight, but we didn’t really do it.”

Video: Canucks escape Arizona with another win for the moms

at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
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With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.

After beating the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canucks held on for the 2-1 victory in Arizona on Wednesday, despite being without Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alex Edler (broken fibula) and Derek Dorsett, who was scratched from the lineup due to illness, as per Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.

It was only a few days ago, following a home loss to the Calgary Flames, that it felt like the Canucks’ playoff hopes were essentially dashed. They fielded their healthiest lineup in months and couldn’t score and couldn’t win.

Two quick wins later, they’re two points out of a Wild Card spot in the West, despite getting outshot in Arizona.

Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”