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Price: Gudlevskis had ‘one of the best goaltending performances I’ve ever seen’

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And so begins the legend of Kristers Gudlevskis.

Prior to the Olympics, few knew about the 21-year-old Latvian goalie plying his trade in the Tampa Bay organization. Heck, few even knew about Gudlevskis during the Olympics — veteran netminder Edgars Masalskis played the majority of Latvia’s games leading up to the quarterfinals, including Tuesday’s surprise defeat of Switzerland.

But on Wednesday, the hockey world was introduced to Gudlevskis as he stopped 55 of 57 shots in a tight loss to Canada.

“Their goaltender played awesome,” Carey Price said, per IIHF.com. “That was one of the best goaltending performances I’ve ever seen in a long time. He played a heck of a game.”

Which begs the question — who is this guy?

Well, Gudlevskis has kicked around the Bolts organization this year, spending time in both the AHL and ECHL before getting called up to Tampa Bay just prior to the Olympic break, when he dressed as a backup. He was a fifth-round pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft that once played for a Latvian league team named HK Ogre (seriously) and, prior to the Olympics, had only represented the senior national team once before, at the 2013 Worlds.

Then came today’s breakthrough effort.

The 55-save epic was a single-game high for this tournament and one of the most dominant goaltending performances we’ve seen in recent Winter Games. Gudlevskis made 15 saves in the first, 19 in the second and 22 in the third — and it was during the third when fatigue began to show, as the Latvian trainer was summoned onto the ice to tend to Gudlevskis just prior to Shea Weber’s eventual game-winning goal.

Following the game, the Latvian goalie tried to deflect praise to his teammates, but did acknowledge it was probably the best game he’d ever played.

“We did a great job, we tried. We left all our strength out there,” he said, per the Olympic News Service. “There is not enough. It was exciting and hard.

“The guys did such a great job the other night [versus Switzerland], and I just wanted to give them an opportunity to win today.”

In saying that, Gudlevskis did allow for a brief moment of introspection, conceding this was a huge moment in his career.

“This is the highest level we are going to play,” he explained. “This is even a higher level than NHL and, if you can play here, you can play everywhere. It really means a lot for me.”

Devils unveil ‘The Salute’ statue in honor of Martin Brodeur

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The New Jersey Devils on Monday unveiled ‘The Salute’ — a statue paying homage to one of the greatest goalies in NHL history, Martin Brodeur, who will have his No. 30 uniform retired Tuesday at Prudential Center.

“Looking at the pictures of my career and some of the events that meant a lot to me, I always saluted the fans,” Brodeur, a three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Devils, told the Fire and Ice blog.

“That picture, at different times, in different jerseys, actually, like with Team Canada, it all came to that same pose.”

More on the statue from the Devils:

The 900-pound bronze statue was created by renowned sculpture and artist Jon Krawczyk, who worked with Brodeur on the design. Krawczyk, a Boonton Township, N.J. native and lifelong Devils fan, who also created the hockey statue on Championship Plaza outside of Prudential Center, personally drove “The Salute” from his Malibu, Cali. studio to the arena late last week.

Video: Panthers furious after Abdelkader ‘cheap shot’ hit on Barkov

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The Florida Panthers are fuming after their skilled 20-year-old forward Aleksander Barkov left Monday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings following a hit from Justin Abdelkader.

Abdelkader caught Barkov with a hard hit near the goal line as the Panthers player tried to move the puck up ice early in the second period.

The only call on the play was to Panthers’ blue liner Alex Petrovic for the retaliatory cross check on Abdelkader. Barkov left the game and didn’t return with an upper-body injury.

Members of the Panthers irate with the hit, and the fact there was no call.

“It was a cheap hit, I don’t know how the ref didn’t call it,” Nick Bjugstad told the Miami Herald. “It was frustrating, the whole bench felt that way. We’re not happy with it. It turned the game around. Barkov has tough shoes to fill. It looked pretty serious. We’ll see how the league handles it and I think they will. I just don’t know how it wasn’t handled on the ice.”

“You hate to lose your top player, but that’s part of the game,” added Panthers’ head coach Gerard Gallant.

“We’re disappointed to lose him. I thought it was a cheap shot but the referees didn’t see it that way and explained to me it was a clean check. It’s tough. It happens quick and we get to see the replay. I think it’ll be looked at. [Abdelkader] left his feet a little and got him in the jaw.”

The Panthers gave up three goals in the third period in a 3-0 loss to the Red Wings.

Penguins thump the Ducks as Crosby’s hot streak continues

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In a meeting between two clubs enjoying hot streaks and their own subsequent climbs through the standings, the Pittsburgh Penguins bested the Anaheim Ducks courtesy another dominant Sidney Crosby performance on Monday.

After that slow start, Crosby has put together a growing number of dominant performances of late.

The latest, a four-point night, helped the Penguins to a 6-2 final over the Ducks, stopping Anaheim’s winning streak at six games.

— He extended his scoring streak to a career best seven games, and did so with two beauty goals versus the Ducks.

— From Dec. 18 to Feb. 8, he’s appeared in 21 games. In that span, he’s recorded 34 points.

— Crosby is now into the top five among NHL players in points, with 53 in 51 games this season.

He wasn’t the only Pittsburgh player to have a big night. Keep in mind, Evgeni Malkin wasn’t even in the lineup due to a lower-body injury.

Ten different Penguins players recorded points. In addition to Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang had multi-point efforts, and four players — Kunitz, Crosby, Olli Maatta and Patric Hornqvist — were plus-four.

The Penguins now move into third in the Metropolitan Division, while the New York Islanders slip into the first Wild Card spot in the East. Pittsburgh’s lead over the Islanders, however, is only one point.

The Islanders also have a game in hand.

Panthers’ Barkov (upper-body injury) leaves game versus Red Wings

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The Florida Panthers will be without Aleksander Barkov for the remainder of their game versus the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.

As per multiple reports, Barkov will not return due to an upper-body injury suffered after a hit from Justin Abdelkader early in the second period.

Abdelkader wasn’t given a penalty on the play. Barkov didn’t play another shift after that hit.

In 42 games this season, the 20-year-old Barkov has 16 goals and 35 points.