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Happy New Year! Blue Jackets end 2016 with 15th straight win

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The Columbus Blue Jackets capped off 2016 in style.

In a historic New Year’s Eve match-up against the Minnesota Wild, the Blue Jackets extended their winning streak to 15 games.

I know, right?

With only two playoff appearances in franchise history, the Blue Jackets finished 27th overall in the standings to close out the 2015-16 season. John Tortorella, their coach, was at one point early this season the most likely of all NHL coaches to be fired first.

There didn’t seem to be much optimism about the Blue Jackets — a team with plenty of youth on its roster.

But this has turned into a remarkable run, and an unexpected one, too. The power play ranks as the best in the league at 28 per cent. Sergei Bobrovsky, the winning goalie versus the Wild, has been heavily relied on and he’s responded by posting a .934 save percentage coming into Saturday’s contest. Their young defenseman have been very good. Rookie Zach Werenski has continued to impress and Seth Jones is up to seven goals on the season.

On Saturday, they faced a Wild team that had won 12 in a row. The Blue Jackets and Wild. The two hottest teams in the league at the end of 2016.

This time, the Blue Jackets took the win by a final of 4-2 in a feisty one.

Among the great stories in Columbus has been the play of Cam Atkinson. He continued that against the Wild, scoring twice, giving him 17 goals on the season. The Blue Jackets, with goals from Jack Johnson and Atkinson, scored 15 seconds apart in the middle period, opening up a three-goal lead.

The Wild tried to fight back. Jason Zucker‘s breakaway goal 24 seconds into the third period appeared to give them life. But they couldn’t beat Bobrovsky after that, and the Blue Jackets held on.

They end 2016 leading the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins for top spot in the Metropolitan Division.

What does 2017 have in store for the Blue Jackets? They are serving notice it could be a big year for them.

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.