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Erik Karlsson doesn’t seem too concerned with current goal drought

Entering the All-Star break with 39 points in his first 47 games this season, Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson is once again one of the NHL’s top scoring defensemen (currently second behind only Brent Burns).

Seeing him at the top of the defensemen leaderboard once again, and seeing him on track to record another 65-point season, might make it a little surprising to learn that it has been 20 games, dating all the way back to Dec. 7, since he last scored a goal. That makes this the second longest goal-scoring drought of his career following a 29-game drought that took place in the middle of his rookie season when he was still only 19 years old.

That slump currently has him on pace for one of the lowest goal totals (12) of his career after scoring at least 16 in four of the past five, including a couple of 20-goal campaigns.

On Saturday, Karlsson talked about his recent slump (via the Ottawa Citizen) and how it does not really concern him at the moment because the team is continuing to win  hockey games.

“I’ve been around long enough to know things like this are going to happen,” Karlsson said. “I haven’t been needing to score that many goals in order for us to win. At the end of the day, that’s the thing you can’t take away from it. Still trying out there, but we’ve been playing good hockey. Guys have been stepping up. We’ve been getting a lot of creativity and goal scoring from different guys. Obviously that’s huge for us.”

The Senators have continued to win, owning a 10-6-4 record during his drought to help the team remain in the top three of the Atlantic Division while still having multiple games in hand on the teams that are chasing them for a playoff spot (along with a pretty decent cushion in terms of points).

But Karlsson is also right when he says “things like this are going to happen.”

While 20 games without a goal might be one of the longer droughts of his career, he has gone at least 10 games without a goal in every season of his career with the lone exception being the aforementioned 2012-13 season that was shortened by the NHL lockout and an injury. Seven previous times he went more than 14 games in a row without goal, including two different stretches (14 and 18 games) last season when he put together one of the the most dominant offensive seasons in the history of the league for a defenseman. Even the best forwards in the NHL only score in 30 to 40 percent of their games. The only two players in the NHL that have scored at least one goal in more than 40 percent of their games since the start of the 2015-16 season are Alex Ovechkin (46 percent) and Sidney Crosby (41 percent). When even the best forwards are only scoring a goal in a third of their games that leaves a lot of open space for extend goal-less streaks.

What separates the elite players like Karlsson from everybody else is their ability to not only score goals in bunches during the hot streaks that can carry a team, but to also impact play when they are not putting the puck in the net. Even without a goal in 20 games Karlsson still has 12 helpers during that stretch and remains not only the second leading scoring defenseman in hockey, but is also still the leading scorer on the Senators.

He is still the player that drives their offense.

If his past goal droughts are any indication he is going to bust out of this one soon, and when he does, he is probably going to have a surge that helps balance it out. Following his 14-game drought last season he went for five goals in the next five games and then scored two goals in three games following the 18-game drought. He scored five goals in seven games following a 15-game drought in 2014-15.

Video: Price takes out his frustration, as the Habs were crushed again

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It’s gone from bad, to worse, to an absolute nightmare for the Montreal Canadiens.

A three-game trip through California is never fun for opposing teams, but this was misery for the Habs. They were outscored a combined 16-5 in three games against the Sharks, Kings and Ducks, with few, if any positives beyond the second period in a 6-2 loss in Anaheim on Friday.

Montreal hasn’t won since its season opener on Oct. 5, and is now on a seven-game losing skid, unable to generate much offensively with a league worst 10 goals scored through seven games before tonight, while giving up plenty of goals at the other end.

That is a recipe for disaster and even though it’s still early in the season, this has to be a major concern for coach Claude Julien and, in particular, general manager Marc Bergevin.

Read more: Is there a trade to be made between the Penguins and Canadiens?

Down by three after the first period, Montreal had 30 shots on goal during the middle frame and managed to trim Anaheim’s lead down to one heading into the third period. And then, just when it seemed like maybe they were on a path toward an inspirational comeback on the road, it all fell apart.

Three straight goals for Anaheim, with journeyman forward Derek Grant scoring the first two goals of his NHL career — in game No. 93.

As you can probably tell from the clip below, Carey Price was visibly irritated, as he whacked his goalie stick against the post after the sixth Anaheim goal.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Canucks defeat the Sabres, as the losing continues in Buffalo

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The Buffalo Sabres remain stuck on just a single win to begin the season. Jack Eichel is sick of losing, but the losing continues.

Returning home from a four-game road trip out west, the Sabres had an opportunity ahead of them to get back into the win column. The Vancouver Canucks, hardly a powerhouse in any way, were in town. They had played — and lost — the night before in Boston. And then the Sabres went out and were thoroughly outplayed in a 4-2 loss that, one could argue, flattered the hosts.

They weren’t able to take advantage of an early lead after Justin Bailey was allowed access to the net off the rush. They couldn’t hold the lead after Eichel dangled Ben Hutton and then scored on a shot Jacob Markstrom should’ve stopped. They gave up yet another short-handed goal, putting that number at six for the Sabres just eight games into the season.

Instead, Buffalo spent most of the night in its own end, giving up 37 shots through two periods. Hard to pin this, in any way, on goalie Chad Johnson.

“First of all, I thought we didn’t defend well and close quick enough in our defensive zone. We were a little bit slow there tonight. We need to be more aggressive and on the puck,” said head coach Phil Housley after the game.

While the Sabres were badly outplayed, one of the deciding moments in this game was a controversial video review in the second period. Vancouver took the lead on a goal from Daniel Sedin, although Housley challenged for a potential offside after it looked like Jake Virtanen didn’t have control of the puck as he entered the zone.

The linesmen looked over the play for a lengthy review before officials came to the conclusion that Virtanen did have control of the puck as he broke in over the blue line. The goal stood and the Canucks controlled the remainder of the game.

“I disagree with the call, totally,” said Housley. “In my opinion, he knocks the puck out of the air. He never has possession.

“But I call that 10 out of 10 times offside and I would continue to challenge that again.”

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Roberto Luongo leaves game with apparent injury, as Panthers fall to Penguins

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The Florida Panthers lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. Making matters worse was the fact their goalie Roberto Luongo left the game in the third period with an apparent hand injury.

The injury occurred after a collision in the crease with Penguins forward Conor Sheary.

Luongo immediately went down to the ice in pain. A replay from above the net showed Luongo’s right hand getting caught in an awkward position against the post after coming into contact with Sheary as he cut through in front of the crease in pursuit of the puck.

The injury forced James Reimer off the bench and into the game with the Panthers trailing by a goal. MacKenzie Weegar tied the game for Florida before Sheary scored the eventual winner about eight minutes later, on a night when the Penguins fired 48 shots on the two Panthers goalies.

Luongo gave up three goals on 36 shots before leaving the game. The Panthers now head out on the road. They’ll visit the Washington Capitals on Saturday.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Video: More offside drama had Sabres coach Phil Housley up in arms

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Just hours after the NHL admitted to an offside challenge error, there was another controversy during the Sabres-Canucks game on Friday.

Vancouver appeared to take the lead on a Daniel Sedin goal. However, Buffalo coach Phil Housley challenged the play for offside, after replays showed Jake Virtanen may not have had complete control of the puck as he broke in over the blue line.

The following challenge resulted in a brutally long review. For Buffalo, it was also unsuccessful as, surprisingly, officials deemed Virtanen did have control of the puck as he entered the zone. The goal counted, Vancouver took the lead.

Housley was not happy about it.

Not only was the challenge unsuccessful, but the Sabres were penalized for delay of game as a result.

From the NHL:

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with the Linesman, NHL Hockey Operations staff confirmed that Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had possession and control of the puck as he entered the attacking zone prior to the goal. According to Rule 83.1, “a player actually controlling the puck who shall cross the line ahead of the puck shall not be considered ‘off-side,’ provided he had possession and control of the puck prior to his skates crossing the blue line.”

Therefore the original call stands – good goal Vancouver Canucks.

It took 4:27 to come to a decision, too.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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