Howard

Alfredsson praises ‘outstanding’ Howard after shutting out B’s

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Jimmy Howard’s 25-save shutout in Game 1 of the Detroit-Boston series earned plenty of praise, perhaps none higher than the stuff Daniel Alfredsson heaped on.

“Our goaltender was outstanding,” Alfredsson said, per MLive.com. “Theirs was really good. It was one individual effort that made the difference today.”

Howard’s shutout, the third of his playoff career, came in a game where goals and scoring chances were at a premium. Afterward, players from both sides remarked on how tight-checking and suffocating the style of play was at times — following an opening period in which the two teams combined for 20 shots, both the Wings and Bruins tightened up over the final 40 minutes and combined for a mere 29 shots on goal in the second and third periods.

“There weren’t any secrets in tonight’s game,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said. “Both teams played tight — don’t think there was any surprise out there today. Everybody’s got to find a way to create more, and that’s going to be the challenge in this series.”

Another challenge, at least following Game 1, is figuring out how to beat Howard.

While a 25-save shutout behind a tight-checking unit isn’t the stuff of legend, Howard’s play is still a positive development for Detroit. One, the team will be pleased to see him playing well after a so-so regular season in which his GAA ballooned to 2.66 — this after going 2.13 and 2.12 in each of the last two seasons — while his save percentage dipped to .910 (after a career-best .923 in 2013).

Two, it could be a return to the playoff form.

Howard was a major catalyst for Detroit’s run to the Western Conference semis, pushing eventual Cup champs Chicago to overtime of Game 7. He actually bettered his regular-season save percentage in the playoffs (.924) and, despite facing an average of 33 shots per game against the ‘Hawks, only allowed 15 goals over the seven games and finished with a .937 save percentage.

Wings head coach Mike Babcock alluded to Howard’s history of postseason success in the post-game presser.

“He’s done it for us in the past in playoff time,” Babcock said. “We just expect it.”

Video: Canucks escape Arizona with another win for the moms

at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
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With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.

After beating the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canucks held on for the 2-1 victory in Arizona on Wednesday, despite being without Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alex Edler (broken fibula) and Derek Dorsett, who was scratched from the lineup due to illness, as per Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.

It was only a few days ago, following a home loss to the Calgary Flames, that it felt like the Canucks’ playoff hopes were essentially dashed. They fielded their healthiest lineup in months and couldn’t score and couldn’t win.

Two quick wins later, they’re two points out of a Wild Card spot in the West, despite getting outshot in Arizona.

Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”