Los Angeles Kings v San Jose Sharks - Game Five

PHT Morning Skate: Three teams face elimination in Game 6s

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Sunday’s Game 6 action wound up being suddenly dramatic with the Blues and Stars sent packing, the latter in stunning fashion. Tonight could wind up being similar with three Game 6s involving three teams on the brink of elimination.

While the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets seem to be more up against the wall, the Los Angeles Kings seem to be sitting prettier after convincing wins in the past two games. There may not be any panic with the Pittsburgh Penguins or Colorado Avalanche, but the San Jose Sharks might be feeling the heat. Having to try and settle down on the road might prove tricky.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,250 Fantasy Hockey league for Monday’s NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $250. Starts Monday at 7pm ETHere’s the FanDuel link.

Game 6: Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins [Pittsburgh leads series 3-2] (7:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

The Penguins sure looked a bit more like the team we thought they’d be in winning Game 5. It wasn’t a blowout win, but their 3-1 victory saw them dominate the Blue Jackets in shots and scoring chances. Game 6 sets up to be a bit trickier at Nationwide Arena and perhaps the question is how Marc-Andre Fleury will handle being back at the scene of a tremendous letdown in Game 4.

Fleury will need to be sharp if how Sergei Bobrovsky’s play in Game 5 is any indication. Bobrovsky stopped 48 shots in the loss and looked every bit the guy who won the Vezina Trophy last season. While Bob has been able to keep Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby from scoring goals, it’ll be up to his team to figure out their own offensive attack in Game 6. If Columbus can’t figure that out, a handshake line may appear later tonight.

Game 6: Minnesota Wild vs. Colorado Avalanche [Colorado leads series 3-2] (9:00 p.m. ET — CNBC)

Minnesota’s Game 5 loss had to be an especially bitter pill to swallow. Giving up the lead late and then losing in overtime, albeit in controversial fashion, would stick in the craw of a lot of teams. Expect that to be the case for the Wild back home as they’ll use that as motivation to force a Game 7.

The Avs continue to get stellar play from Semyon Varlamov in goal and Nathan MacKinnon up front. MacKinnon is up to 10 points in this series and has been a full-blown menace to the Wild. Add in that there’s a chance Matt Duchene comes back, and suddenly Minnesota’s situation looks more dire.

After Zach Parise found the net in Game 5, it’s time for Jason Pominville and Mikko Koivu to do the same. Crazy to think after Ilya Bryzgalov’s rocky start in the series, Darcy Kuemper has been the rock they can lean on. They’ll need him to outduel Varlamov the rest of the way.

Game 6: Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks [San Jose leads series 3-2] (10:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

After being up 3-0 in the series, the Sharks suddenly don’t look quite like the powerhouse they were. The Kings have taken it to the Sharks in the past two games and suddenly this series has all the markings of one destine to go seven games and provide for either a massive sigh of relief in San Jose or an incredible collapse.

If the Sharks are to avoid the latter, it may be on Alex Stalock to steady things in Game 6. Starting San Jose’s backup goalie may be coach Todd McLellan’s one play to make to get his team to focus. Antti Niemi didn’t look very good in Game 5 and Stalock settled things down.

McLellan might have other problems if Marc-Edouard Vlasic is unable to play. The Sharks top defenseman left Game 5 and the Kings were able to take full advantage of his absence. Jeff Carter’s highlight reel power play goal was evidence enough of that.

With how the Kings are clicking and how Jonathan Quick has settled down after a terrible start to the series, it feels like a must-win game for both teams.

Sharks defeat Hurricanes, but Vlasic exits game with lower-body injury

Marc-Edouard Vlasic
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Talk about the ideal start.

Patrick Marleau scored just 12 seconds into the first period and the San Jose Sharks had a 2-1 lead before Saturday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes was even four minutes old.

The Sharks held on for a 4-3 win over the Hurricanes, Kevin Labanc‘s goal late in the second period standing as the winner, as the two teams traded three goals in the span of just over three minutes.

It remains awfully crowded in the Pacific Division. The Flames lead with 34 points, while the Sharks, Ducks and Oilers are all one point back.

The victory came with bad news for the Sharks.

Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game in the second period and didn’t return. He’s now day-to-day with a lower-body injury, according to coach Pete DeBoer following the win.

Flames dominate the Jets to take over top spot in the Pacific Division

CALGARY, AB - DECEMBER 10: Dougie Hamilton #27 of the Calgary Flames celebrates after scoring his team's third goal against the Winnipeg Jets during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on December 10, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Is there a changing of the guard in the Pacific Division?

It’s the middle of December and the Calgary Flames, now with six straight wins, lead the same division dominated last season by the California powers in Anaheim, San Jose and L.A. The Edmonton Oilers have been inconsistent at times this season but they are right there, too, one point back. Same goes for the Ducks. The Sharks and Kings are definitely in contention.

There is plenty of hockey remaining in the season. Plenty of chances for change in the NHL’s division standings, including in the Pacific. But there’s no denying the Flames are on an impressive run.

Late last month, they had a particularly frustrating loss to Philadelphia and coach Glen Gulutzan voiced his displeasure about it. They followed that up the next day with an overtime loss to the Islanders. Prior to that weekend, there had been rumblings about the future of Gulutzan with the club, despite being only a few months into his tenure.

But since then, the Flames have yet to lose. They continued their winning streak with a convincing 6-2 victory over the visiting Jets on Saturday.

Dougie Hamilton — remember all that trade speculation surrounding the Flames defenseman and Brian Burke’s classic response? — had two goals for Calgary. Chad Johnson was solid in net again. It was a pretty dominant performance all around.

Frustrating night for the Jets and it showed when Dustin Byfuglien dropped the gloves with Garnet Hathaway late in the third period.

There are more difficult tests ahead for Calgary.

The Flames face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday and then the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.

In previous seasons, a Friday night game between the Flames and Blue Jackets in the middle of December might not garner much interest. But they are both among the hottest teams in the league right now and it’s likely not many would’ve predicted that a short time ago.

Video: Perlini’s first NHL goal helps lift Coyotes over Predators

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 10:  Brendan Perlini #29 of the Arizona Coyotes reacts alongside Calle Jarnkrok #19 of the Nashville Predators after Perlini scored his first career goal during the second period of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on December 10, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Arizona Coyotes have moved out of last place in the NHL’s overall standings, courtesy a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Minus forward Max Domi, placed on IR and expected to be out on a week-to-week basis, the Coyotes got a 44-save performance from goalie Mike Smith and recently recalled forward Brendan Perlini pitched in with his first career NHL goal.

That goal gave Arizona a 3-1 lead. Thanks to the play of Smith, the Coyotes wouldn’t relinquish the lead, snapping a six-game losing skid.

It wasn’t all good news for the Coyotes.

Defenseman Connor Murphy played only 4:12. He left the game with an upper-body injury and didn’t return. Per reports, Murphy is considered day-to-day at this point.

The Blue Jackets just keep on winning

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Zach Werenski #8 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is congratulated by Cam Atkinson #13 of the Columbus Blue Jackets after scoring his first career NHL goal during the third period of the game against the San Jose Sharks on October 15, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. San Jose defeated Columbus 3-2. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Jack Johnson, Cam Atkinson and Seth Jones each had a goal and an assist as the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the New York Islanders 6-2 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

Josh Anderson, Brandon Saad and Lukas Sedlak also scored for Columbus and Sergei Bobrovsky had 25 saves.

Josh Bailey and John Tavares scored for New York, which had earned a point in a season-high five straight games (4-0-1). Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves until he was pulled after the Blue Jackets scored four consecutive goals in the third period.

Anderson put Columbus ahead 3-2 at 2:19 when he picked off a defensive pass and banged it in from the slot seconds after coming onto the ice for his shift.

Saad, Sedlak and Jones scored in a 5-minute span to make it 6-2 with 5:37 to go.

New York’s third-string goalie Jean-Francois Berube then replaced Halak and stopped the one shot he faced in his season debut.

The Islanders came out quick and it took Columbus a while to get going. New York took a 1-0 lead 5:59 in when a defensive pass by the Blue Jackets’ Sam Gagner at the boards was deflected by Bailey, and the popup was bobbled by Bobrovsky into the net. Bailey was given credit for an unassisted goal.

The Blue Jackets tied it up on a power play with 6:01 left in the first when Johnson wound up from just inside the neutral zone and fired a bullet past Halak. It was Johnson’s first goal of the season.

Columbus’ Brandon Dubinsky and New York’s Travis Harmonic went to the penalty box for 5 minutes each when both threw down the gloves and threw punches near the end of the first quarter.

Columbus took a 2-1 lead when a speeding Atkinson took a pass from Johnson in the neutral zone and beat Halak on the breakaway 10:16 into the second. New York tied with 7:28 left in the period when Tavares lifted the puck over Bobrovsky’s pad from in front of the net.

The Blue Jackets took off in the third period.

After Anderson gave Columbus the lead for good, Saad made it 4-2 on a wrister from the high slot at 9:23.

Sedlak, who scored his first NHL goal on Friday night, scored another when he tapped in a loose puck with 7:21 to go. Jones capped it with just over 5 1/2 minutes remaining.