TGIF: Why Lightning fans can be upset with St. Louis

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Saturday: Boston at Tampa Bay (7 p.m. ET)

If I were a Lightning fan, I’m not sure which Martin St. Louis quote would bother me the most. Would it be this? “I felt it was time to look out for me” (after Steve Yzerman didn’t originally name St. Louis to Team Canada, as if it was some sort of egregious oversight, which it wasn’t.) Or, would it be this? “It’s not like I’ve played a ton of playoff hockey in the last little while, and as you get older you want to get more kicks at the can.” Tough call there. As much as the woe-is-me routine really rubs the wrong way, I think I’d have to go with the second one. Because newsflash, Marty: YOU’D HAVE HAD A KICK AT THE CAN IF YOU’D STAYED IN TAMPA BAY. It’s unfortunate the Lightning and Rangers don’t have a very good chance at meeting in the playoffs, because that would be something. It could still happen, but just looking at the standings, there’d need to be an upset or two.

Saturday: Phoenix at Washington (7 p.m. ET)

The only reason I picked this game is because I wanted to show the empty-net goal from the Capitals’ 6-4 loss to the Flyers on Wednesday:

What you just saw was a 6-on-5 for Washington, which somehow allowed itself to get outnumbered 3 to 2 in the corner, with a predictable result.

source:

In case you’re wondering who to blame there, no, it wasn’t Alex Ovechkin’s fault. That was Joel Ward’s responsibility to recognize the situation, and he was way too late to wake up.

Why does it always seem to be the Capitals that make these kinds of mistakes?

Saturday: Minnesota at Dallas (8:30 p.m. ET)

Everyone knew it was going to take time for the Stars to climb their way back up the Dallas sports hierarchy, but there sure were a lot of empty seats for last night’s 6-1 win over Vancouver. I wonder if that was kind of disappointing for the players considering the importance of the game, and how well they performed in it. The Stars’ average attendance this season is just 13,978, which is higher than only one team in the entire NHL, the Phoenix Coyotes (13,357). Making the playoffs for the first time since 2008 would help generate some buzz in Big D, obviously. I wouldn’t even put it past the Stars to pull a first-round upset. This is a good, exciting team. Hopefully it translates into better crowds soon.

Saturday: Calgary at Vancouver (10 p.m. ET)

Why do you need to watch this game between two non-playoff teams? Because if the Canucks lose to the Flames, at home and on national TV, Kevin Bieksa and company are going to experience a brand new “rock bottom.” By the way, here’s something that rarely gets mentioned when Vancouver’s management team is taken to task: when the Canucks gave Roberto Luongo that 12-year, $64 million contract in 2009, it was basically a big middle finger to the powers that be in the NHL head office. Gary Bettman hated those front-loaded structures, and he didn’t make that a secret. While the Luongo contract didn’t technically violate the terms of the CBA, it definitely violated the spirit, and Mike Gillis, along with ownership, were naïve to think there wouldn’t be consequences. Enter the cap-recapture penalty in the new CBA, a.k.a. Bettman’s Revenge, which was a huge barrier to trading Luongo last summer, and could still hurt the Canucks down the line.

Sunday: Detroit at NY Rangers (12:30 p.m. ET)

On NBC. Streaming live, too. When I read the story about the weak Canadian dollar possibly resulting in a lower-than-expected salary cap for next season, the first player that came to mind was Brad Richards. I’ve written about this before. The way their cap situation looks right now, and especially if the cap doesn’t go up as much as originally expected, the Rangers will almost certainly have to use their remaining compliance buyout on the 33-year-old center. But here’s the thing: Richards is also New York’s leading scorer, with 44 points in 63 games. If he does become an unrestricted free agent, there won’t be any shortage of suitors for his services.

Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

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He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

From the AHL:

With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

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The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

“Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

The Ducks defeated the Jets on Friday, moving into a tie with the Sharks at 91 points.

San Jose’s struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.