Toronto Maple Leafs v Edmonton Oilers

Poll: Which has been the most disappointing Canadian team?

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If the NHL playoffs started today, the Montreal Canadiens would be the only Canadian team to qualify.

By itself, that’s a story. There are seven teams from Canada in the league, and it’s not like they’re at a huge financial disadvantage compared to their American brethren. Only the Ottawa Senators have what might be deemed attendance issues. The rest play in front of full houses, and the tickets aren’t cheap.

On top of that is the fact a Canadian team hasn’t won the Stanley Cup since 1993. Which is, frankly, one of the more amazing droughts in pro sports. Five times since 1993 a Canadian team has been to the Cup final, and five times it’s lost. And…AND…four times it’s lost in seven games, including twice by the Canucks, a team that’s never won the Cup.

Which brings us to the poll. We’re not going to include Montreal, for obvious reasons. And we’re also not going to include Calgary, because a vote for the Flames — a team nobody expected anything from this season — would just be downright wrong.

So here are the five candidates:

Ottawa — Lost the face of the franchise, Daniel Alfredsson, to Detroit over money, and also because he thought the Wings had a better chance to win. The Sens have been absolutely dreadful since the Olympic break and would need an absolute miracle to make the playoffs.

Winnipeg — Showed signs of life when Claude Noel was fired and replaced by Paul Maurice. Alas, the Jets have since gone back into a slumber, winning just twice in their last 11 games. The things is, this team is far from bereft of talent. If it played in a big Canadian market, its failures would get a lot more attention.

Vancouver — On pace to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008. We’re not going to list all the things that have contributed to the Canucks’ nightmarish season, but if we had to pick a low point, it would probably be allowing seven third-period goals to the Islanders…at home…in a must-win game…that they led 3-0 after two periods. Because you really hate to do that.

Toronto — The Leafs are still alive in the playoff race, but we had to include them in the poll because they’re on the verge of their third epic choke job in the last three seasons. In 2011-12, it was a regular-season collapse. Last year, the collapse came in Game 7 of the first round. Even if they do manage to sneak in to the postseason, serious concerns will remain about a team that gives up more shots than any in the league and seems to wilt under the pressure of playing in Toronto.

Edmonton — This was supposed to be the season the Oilers — featuring three first overall picks — made a legitimate run at the playoffs. Instead, they’ll probably finish ahead of only one team, the Buffalo Sabres. The sight of fans throwing jerseys on the ice hasn’t helped the situation. Nor did the water fight between the star player and rookie coach.

OK, go vote:

Sharks scratch Flames’ big lead, Calgary wins anyway

Calgary Flames' Mikael Backlund (11) chases down the puck against San Jose Sharks' Tomas Hertl (48) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
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If you turned off Thursday’s Calgary Flames – San Jose Sharks game early, you’ll probably be stunned to see that Calgary won 6-5 via a shootout.

For instance:

  • A Sharks fan may have bitterly called it a night when Calgary went up 4-1.
  • Conversely, a Flames devotee might have retired after San Jose took a 5-4 lead, possibly with a broken remote.

The Flames only trailed for about two minutes before scoring the last “real” goal of the game, eventually taking their third straight win thanks to a shootout triumph.

It’s been a strange ride for Calgary, with its most recent win happening after Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Lance Bouma were punished with a healthy scratch. As strange as this game was, the “charity point” can leave both teams looking through a lot of film, yet with something gained as well.

Ultimately, the message may very well be: don’t sleep on these teams.

(In less positive news, Karri Ramo is injured, and it doesn’t look good.

Jonas Hiller closing out the game on a hot streak could be pretty important if Ramo’s out for some time.)

By winning fifth straight, Caps extend Wild’s slump to seven losses

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Alex Ovechkin scored three times in the second period for his 14th career hat trick, and the Washington Capitals beat the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on Thursday night.

Ovechkin, who leads the league with 34 goals, has 13 in his past 13 games. Nicklas Backstrom had three assists and Jason Chimera added an empty-netter for Washington, which improved to a league-best 20-5-2 on the road.

Braden Holtby made 33 saves for the Capitals, who won their fifth consecutive game and became the first team to reach 40 victories this season.

Charlie Coyle, Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund scored for the Wild, but Minnesota lost for the 12th time in its past 13 games (1-10-2). Devan Dubnyk made 29 saves for the Wild, who have lost seven in a row at home (0-4-3).

Ovechkin’s third goal, which deflected off both the post and the back of Dubnyk into the net, was upheld following a coach’s challenge. Wild coach Mike Yeo challenged that the puck had left the zone for offsides, but the call stood after a review showed that Backstrom stopped the puck before it crossed the blue line.

The goal gave Ovechkin his first hat trick since he scored four goals against Tampa Bay on Dec. 10, 2013.

It wasn’t the only fortunate bounce for Ovechkin on the night, and the five-time 50-goal scorer capitalized on each opportunity.

A shot from T.J. Oshie deflected off of Minnesota forward Zach Parise across the ice right to Ovechkin in the left faceoff circle and Ovechkin quickly snapped off a shot to beat Dubnyk, who couldn’t get across the crease to get into position. Three minutes later, Ovechkin scored on the power play when a point shot bounced off the end boards right to Ovechkin in front of the net.

The tally provided some relief for the Capitals’ surprisingly ineffective power play. Washington had one power play in its previous six games, an empty-netter for the only goal in its previous 20 power-play chances. The Capitals were 1 of 5 on the power play on Thursday.

Coyle scored for the fifth time in eight games in the second, but second periods have doomed the Wild during their slump. Minnesota has been outscored 13-3 in the period in five straight losses.

Suter scored his sixth goal of the season on the power play in the third as Minnesota went 1 of 5 with the man advantage.

NOTES: Washington C Evgeny Kuznetsov left in the third period after he was hit in the face by the stick of Mikael Granlund off a faceoff. … Backstrom has 20 points in his last 17 games. … Minnesota D Jared Spurgeon missed his second straight game with an unspecified deep bruise. Spurgeon has returned to practice, but was held out again. … Holtby is 27-1-3 in his last 31 games with two shutouts, a 2.10 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

Watch the Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp tribute video

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Over the years, the Chicago Blackhawks have been forced to let some important players leave to keep their core together, which ultimately meant parting ways with Patrick Sharp.

The talented winger now wears a Dallas Stars jersey, so Blackhawks fans must face the reality of watching Sharp ply his trade for a formidable Central Division opponent.

Even if that might feel awkward, Blackhawks fans gave Sharp (and Johnny Oduya) a warm reception in Chicago on Thursday.

CSNChicago.com provides video of that ovation, which you can see in the clip above.

The Stars currently lead the Blackhawks 4-2, thanks in large part to Patrick … Eaves.

Ovechkin’s 14th career hat trick helps him make more history

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Death, taxes and Alex Ovechkin winning the Maurice Richard Trophy.

OK, the third thing on that list isn’t technically inevitable. It just feels that way lately in the NHL.

It’s unclear if the Washington Capitals can hold on against the Minnesota Wild, but we know for certain that Ovechkin already has a hat trick, the 14th of his high-scoring career.

(He also passed Jean Beliveau for 39th all-time in goals with his 509th, as NHL.com notes.)

This propels Ovechkin to the goals lead as of this writing, as he already has 34. As impressive as Patrick Kane has been, No. 8 is heating up, and may just edge No. 88 if Ovechkin can remain healthy.

One has to feel a little sympathy for the struggling Wild. They played well but lost against the Dallas Stars earlier this week and now must deal with Ovechkin and the just-as-hot Capitals.

Update: Minnesota managed three goals, but it wasn’t enough, as Washington got the edge 4-3.