The Vancouver Canucks, fighting for their playoff lives, which are fading faster with each passing game, didn’t get the breaks against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday.
In the second period, the Lightning opened up a three-goal lead thanks to a pair of goals off Canucks’ defenseman Ryan Stanton. Worst part was the Lightning capitalized at one end, while the Canucks, just seconds earlier, were unable to finish on their chances.
Ondrej Palat gave Tampa Bay a two-goal lead, as his pass on a two-on-one rush was directed in off a sprawled Stanton. Just seconds earlier, at the other end, Canucks’ defenseman Kevin Bieksa couldn’t handle a Jordan Schroeder as he got in all alone on Lightning goalie Ben Bishop.
Here’s the second goal, credited Valtteri Filppula. His pass went off Stanton’s foot and past Canucks’ goalie Eddie Lack.
Common theme here, but this time it was Vancouver forward Zack Kassian denied on a point-blank scoring chance thanks to a brilliant save from Bishop.
Whenever you groan at what seems like a quiet trade market, take a step back and ask yourself this: “Who is really out of it?”
For a while there, it felt reasonable to dismiss the chances of teams like the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. Now? There’s probably only a handful of teams that can really be comfortable, at this very point, with calling themselves sellers.
The Islanders took care of their business with a 3-1 win against the fading (probably selling?) Detroit Red Wings, even with Petr Mrazek making a save like this.
Meanwhile, Ben Bishop might just be putting his game together (while Nikita Kucherov‘s game remains very much together) as the Tampa Bay Lightning throttled the Edmonton Oilers 4-1. Bishop might just end up being indispensable – or at least not worth trading – as he’s on a five-game winning streak.
#tblightning Yzerman said before season there was real possibility Ben Bishop is here all year. "And it's not a bad option."
Wow, that’s crazy-close. Naturally, teams like the Islanders and Flyers lack the luxury of having a third spot in reasonable reach – unless things get truly wild – but that’s quite the congested group of playoff hopefuls.
And, sure, the Bolts are among those facing longer odds, but the way things keep swinging wildly this season, who knows? Especially with a team with a track record of success and high expectations like the Lightning.
* – We’ll arbitrarily cut off the East race at the Devils, but just in case you’re wondering, they have 60 points, the Red Wings have 58 and the Hurricanes have 56. Also, the Ottawa Senators hold the second spot in the Atlantic with 70 points and the Montreal Canadiens lead the division with 72, so that group could see quite a bit of movement over the last quarter of the season.
Forsberg’s hat trick, own-goal highlights Predators’ wild OT loss to Flames
While it was an up-and-down night for both the Flames and Predators, Pekka Rinne‘s evening was pretty much uniformly dismal.
Rinne was pulled early in the second period after giving up four goals on 13 shots, making way for Juuse Saros (who actually ended up gtting tagged with the loss).
The Flames can breathe a sigh of relief after winning the game despite coughing up a big lead, improving to 64 points and strengthening their grip on the second wild card spot. That “charity point” comes in handy for Nashville, leaving the Predators with 65 points and a game in hand on the Flames.
If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.
It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.
Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:
Central Division title chase
1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)
Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.
Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).
The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.
Also, tonight marked a nice milestone for Joel Quenneville:
Hockey fans tend to get their radars up about over-hyping things, particularly promising rookies.
Is it hasty, then, to wonder if there’s something to a rivalry between Auston Matthews (and the Maple Leafs) vs. Patrik Laine (plus the Jets)? If nothing else, the two have come up big in two very exciting games.
Back in October, Laine generated a hat trick as the Jets beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. This time around, it was another 5-4 overtime decision … only Matthews and the Maple Leafs took this round.
This isn’t to take anything away from Laine’s performance, mind you. He scored two goals on Tuesday, becoming the rare modern rookie to muster 30 goals. He reminded hockey fans that he only needs the smallest window to make you pay with his deadly, world-class shot.
MORE on that goal and the violence that ensued here.
But Matthews wouldn’t be denied, either, and fittingly did so in a quieter fashion. (Virtually everyone seems a little quieter when Laine’s around, it seems.)
The Maple Leafs’ outstanding rookie managed three assists in this game, giving him 52 points in 59 games. He also has six points in a three-game run and eight in his past five.
Auston Matthews is highest scoring teenage rookie in #Leafs history but now has up to 23 GP left to get 15 points & break a franchise record pic.twitter.com/wBG3j9f7id