San Jose Sharks v Los Angeles Kings - Game Three

PHT Morning Skate: Sharks go for the sweep

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If you missed it, there was plenty of drama last night.

The Blue Jackets and Stars overcame big deficits to tie their respective series against Columbus and Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Chicago and St. Louis went to overtime for the third time in four games and this time it was the defending champion Blackhawks that came out on top.

As a result we now have three series that stand at 2-2. We might have two more series tied before the end of the night…

Game 4: Boston Bruins at Detroit Red Wings [Boston leads series 2-1] (8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

Detroit won the first game thanks to a strong performance by goaltender Jimmy Howard and Pavel Datsyuk’s — as San Jose’s Logan Couture put it — filthy move late in the contest. Since then though, it’s been all Boston.

The Bruins outscored Detroit 7-1 over Games 2 and 3. The Red Wings have been to the playoffs for 23 straight campaigns, but they were led there this season by a young and largely inexperienced core, and lately that’s shined through in a bad way. Conversely the Bruins have played like they belong.

Henrik Zetterberg might return for Game 4 and that would certainly be a huge boost to the Red Wings. Either way though, Detroit needs more out of its young core before time runs out.

Game 4: Colorado Avalanche at Minnesota Wild [Colorado leads series 2-1] (9:30 p.m. ET, CNBC)

The Avalanche absolutely overwhelmed goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov in the first two games, but they haven’t figured out his replacement, Darcy Kuemper, yet. That resulted in Colorado losing Game 3 because the Wild were given the time to bombard Semyon Varlamov until they finally beat him on their 46th shot on goal.

Colorado has a strong offense and Minnesota can’t count on Kuemper posting another shutout. At the same time, the Avalanche are in a tough spot after the Wild’s Matt Cooke took out defenseman Tyson Barrie with a knee-on-knee hit. Both players have now been taken out of the series — Barrie because of a MCL injury; Cooke due to a suspension — but Colorado’s loss will likely sting more.

Cooke was serving as a third line forward while Barrie logged over 20 minutes in each of the Avalanche’s first two playoff games. Barrie was also a key contributor offensively during the regular season with 38 points in 64 games.

The loss has forced the Avalanche to make adjustments, but one surprise change was the call up of 2010 first-rounder Joey Hishon, who will make his NHL debut tonight.

Game 4: San Jose Sharks at Los Angeles Kings [San Jose leads series 3-0] (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

San Jose didn’t dominate Game 3 like it did in the first two contests of this series, but the Sharks still came away with an overtime win. Kings coach Darryl Sutter pledged that his squad “won’t go away quietly,” but can they really hope to come back?

Only three teams have ever bounced back from a 3-0 deficit, but it helps that Los Angeles has two players — Mike Richards and Jeff Carter — that previously pulled it off when they were members of the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers. The two are living reminders for the Kings that this series is still winnable.

Meanwhile, the Sharks will go for the sweep. They have four chances obviously, but they’re worried about what might happen if they let the Kings retake any ground.

Raanta rewards Rangers for starts over Lundqvist by blanking Blackhawks

VANCOUVER, BC - NOVEMBER 15: Goalie Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers shares a laugh with teammate Antti Raanta #32 after defeating the Vancouver Canucks 7-2 in NHL action on November 15, 2016 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
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If someone told you that the New York Rangers started a goalie on back-to-back nights, and that goalie wasn’t Henrik Lundqvist, you’d probably wonder if he was hurt or retired.

Nope. It just so happens that Antti Raanta is playing at an incredibly high level, Alain Vigneault noticed, and that decision paid dividends on Friday night. Raanta won both nights of a back-to-back, allowing a single goal (with the Rangers protecting him, being that he only needed to stop 43 of 44 shots during that span).

Raanta and the Rangers blanked the Chicago Blackhawks with a 1-0 overtime win, at least briefly climbing to first place in the massively competitive Metro Division:

1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP

Nick Holden ended up scoring the only goal of the game:

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks lost but at least salvaged a standings point and it seems like Patrick Kane is OK after this injury scare:

Raanta improved to 7-1-0 on the season, allowing two goals or less in all but one of his appearances so far this season. That’s the kind of work you’d expect to see if you’re going sit a guy who’s, you know, a living legend.

Blue Jackets remain in thick of things in Metro on tough night for Red Wings

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 01:  Boone Jenner #38 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is congratulated by his teammates after scoring the go ahead goal against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on December 1, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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As the Columbus Blue Jackets keep rolling, the Detroit Red Wings are probably just happy to get Friday behind them.

For the second straight game, the Blue Jackets beat their opponent 4-1.

They’re now on a five-game winning streak, and like the climbing St. Louis Blues, things look great if you go back a little further. They’re 10-1-2 in their last 13 games and 13-2-3 since November began.

Columbus is now at 16-5-4, giving them 36 standings points. They’re once again in breathing distance of leading the Metro Division when you consider games in hand.

Update: Here’s how the standings look after the Rangers beat the Blackhawks 1-0 in overtime:

1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP

That’s a stout division, and the Blue Jackets remain shockingly effective. Then again, with results like these over and over again, it might be time to merely expect such impressive work.

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For Detroit, it was a rough night. Jonathan Ericsson couldn’t play, Mike Green was a little banged up and Petr Mrazek was pulled for Jimmy Howard. This goal summarized some of their struggles:

Blues blaze through Devils, even in New Jersey

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 09: (L-R) Brad Hunt #77, Robby Fabbri #15 and Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues celebrate Fabri's first period goal against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 9, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The New Jersey Devils have been incredibly difficult to beat at home. Lately, the St. Louis Blues have been on a roll just about anywhere.

On Friday night, the Blues were the hotter team, handing the Devils their first home loss in regulation in 2016-17. And it wasn’t particularly close, with St. Louis winning 4-1.

It’s a convenient time to note that the Blues rank among the hottest teams in the NHL. Most recently, they’re 5-1-1 in their last seven games, but they’ve been especially impressive since they flirted with .500 at 7-6-3. Beginning with a 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 15, the Blues are on a 8-2-1 tear.

This leaves them second in the Central with a 16-8-4 record.

That’s impressive stuff.

This 4-1 win was quite the showcase for Robby Fabbri and Vladimir Tarasenko, in particular. Tarasenko collected three assists while Fabbri scored two goals on Friday night. His second goal was particularly slick:

The Blues are right in saying that this was a pretty fitting opportunity to drop a “Holy Jumpin.”

Oh yeah, don’t forget about Jake Allen, either.

Leon Draisaitl continues hot streak with silky smooth goal (Video)

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Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”

Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).

Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.

Read more about his rise here.

Update: The Wild were able to shake off that goal, ultimately beating the Oilers 3-2 via a shootout.