If the playoffs began tonight, the New York Rangers would have home-ice advantage against the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the 2014 postseason. The simplest numbers would argue that would be bad news for the Flyers.
With Wednesday’s 3-1 win, the Rangers now hold an eight-game winning streak against the Flyers at Madison Square Garden. The NBCSN telecast points out that Claude Giroux hasn’t scored a goal in that specific span, which is hard to fathom for a superstar who ranks as one of the hottest players in the league (especially lately).
Return of the King
It’s probably unfair to boil it all down to goalies (particularly considering the fact that Steve Mason just saw a four-game winning streak end and has generally been strong since February), but those who do will point out a much stronger night for Henrik Lundqvist. The Swede seems to be finding his game, with the greatest evidence being that he held off the Flyers in the first period despite Philly’s 15 opening-frame shots.
Especially unfair folks will milk a goal Mason would like to have back:
That victory gives the Rangers a five-game winning streak and a three-point lead over the Flyers for second place in the Metropolitan Division, although it’s far from settled since Philly holds two games in hand.
Those remaining 10 contests could prove challenging, however. Philly could very well slip back into the wild card fray, as a Friday home game against Toronto holds serious weight. After that, it’s a Sunday home game against Boston (on NBC) followed by a road-heavy April schedule.
The Rangers are red-hot and face an interesting closing stretch. While they play four in a row on the road beginning on Friday, it starts with two cellar dwellers (Calgary and Edmonton) before Alain Vigneault returns to Vancouver on April Fool’s Day (just wait for the jokes there) and then an interesting road test against Colorado. If the Rangers can stay hot there, it could be a lucrative finish to the season, as they face three teams outside of the playoff picture at home and then finish the season on the road against Montreal.
Long story short, this win is helpful for the Rangers and irritating for Philly – especially if you take it as an omen – yet both teams still have plenty of work to do.
PHOENIX (AP) Columbus pummeled Mike Smith with a franchise-record 60 shots, Alexander Wennberg scored with 2:16 left in the third period and the Blue Jackets beat the Arizona Coyotes 3-2 in a shootout Saturday night.
Smith set a franchise record with 58 saves, but the Coyotes still lost their third straight.
Shane Doan got his 399th career goal and Radim Vrbata also scored for Arizona, which was playing its eighth overtime game in 23 contests.
Doan put Arizona ahead 2-1 at 11:04 of the second when he redirected Michael Stone‘s lobbed shot from just inside the blue line along the right boards.
Wennberg tied it at 2 by backhanding the puck between Smith’s pads off a pass from Brandon Saad.
The Blue Jackets needed only 13 seconds to take the lead in the first period. Jenner took a pass from Jack Johnson between the hashes and fired over Smith’s glove.
Smith made 47 saves between the two Columbus goals and 21 in the third period alone.
After failing to take advantage of a two-man advantage late in the first, the Coyotes evened the score on Vrbata’s rising shot off McElhinney’s blocker from the left faceoff circle for a power-play goal 63 seconds into the second period.
Smith helped preserve the lead with 5:30 left in the second, stopping Saad’s breakaway attempt with a sprawling pad save.
Don Cherry weighed in on it Saturday. As you might expect, he wasn’t in favor of the decision. Meanwhile, the Panthers lost 2-0 to the Ottawa Senators in a game that completely swung in favor of the hosts in the span of just 19 seconds.
Erik Karlsson and Derick Brassard scored early in the first period, giving Ottawa a two-goal lead and that was the only scoring of the evening.
On taking over from Gallant, interim coach Tom Rowe said, per the Sun Sentinel: “This isn’t a knock on Gerard, because he did a great job.
“I just thought some guys weren’t bringing it the way they’re capable of bringing it every single night. A little too much inconsistency. They’d come out one period and play great. Another period they just sit back a little bit too tentative.”
That second paragraph is interesting.
Against the Senators, the Panthers had a slow start, illustrated by their 19-second lapse leading to the Ottawa goals. The Panthers found their game in the second period but tested Mike Condon with only 24 shots on goal by the end of the night.
They also couldn’t capitalize on a five-on-three power play in the second period.
“It’s a tough one to swallow,” said Keith Yandle, per the Miami Herald. “They had a good start, and sometimes you have to weather the storm throughout courses of games, and they did a good job in the first 10 or 12 minutes. If you look at the second period we were better.”
There were anxious moments for the Panthers, as defenseman Aaron Ekblad took a puck to the face in the second period. He missed about two minutes of game time, but did require stitches, according to Rowe.
Avs’ D-man Johnson suffers broken fibula, out six to eight weeks
It’s obviously devastating news for Colorado, which recently had its effort ripped by coach Jared Bednar. Issues with consistency and work ethic have been around since Patrick Roy was in charge.
The Avalanche have struggled since the beginning of the season after a late-summer coaching change, but they now occupy last place in the Western Conference with five straight losses.
Johnson has 11 points, which ties him with Tyson Barrie for the team lead among defenseman in that category.
In addition to playing 22 minutes a night, which is a substantial loss because he plays on both the penalty kill and power play, he’s also one of only two blue liners with the Avalanche to have even-strength puck possession numbers greater than 50 per cent.
The difficult times for the Avalanche continue.
Video: Caggiula (finally) scores his first NHL goal
Drake Caggiula had to wait to make his NHL debut because of a hip injury suffered in pre-season. He had to wait even longer for his first NHL goal.
On Saturday, the wait for the latter ended.
Playing in just his eighth career NHL game, the North Dakota product and NCAA Frozen Four MOP — pursued by at least half a dozen teams as a college free agent — ripped home a wrist shot from the slot on the power play for career goal No. 1 in the big league.
That goal gave Edmonton a 1-0 lead over the visiting Anaheim Ducks.