Cam Talbot

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Goalie nods: It’s Anderson vs. Price for first place in the Atlantic

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The Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators are locked in a fierce fight for the top spot in the Atlantic Division, and they will have one more chance to take advantage of a head-to-head matchup on Saturday night.

It will be the fifth and final meeting of the regular season between the two teams — and third in the past eight days — as the two teams enter the night separated by just a single point in the standing (Montreal has a one point lead).

Montreal won the previous two head-to-head meetings this month, topping Ottawa in a shootout on March 18 then coming back the next night with a 4-1 win.

As expected, both teams will be going with their No. 1 goaltenders on Saturday night with the Senators turning to Craig Anderson and the Canadiens starting Carey Price.

With wins in eight of his past 11 starts, a stretch that has seen him surrender more than two goals in a game just two times, Price is once again playing at that Vezina Trophy level we have seen from him in years past. His overall numbers for the season may not be quite as dominant as we have seen over the past couple of years but right now he is one of his zones where he looks nearly unbeatable.

Anderson has been on a similar roll for the Senators in recent weeks and has only lost three of his past 12 starts … two of them came at the hands of the Canadiens.

Elsewhere on Saturday…

— It was Richard Bachman vs Darcy Kuemper in Minnesota for the Vancouver Canucks-Wild game, while Sergei Bobrovsky went against Michal Neuvirth in the Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Philadelphia Flyers game.

Braden Holtby will be in net for the Washington Capitals when they host Mike Smith and the Arizona Coyotes.

— With Tuukka Rask out for the Boston Bruins’ huge game against the New York Islanders, Anton Khudobin will get the call. No word yet from the Islanders on who they will start after going with Jaroslav Halak on Friday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Eddie Lack was the first goalie off the ice for the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday and is expected to start against Cory Schneider and the New Jersey Devils.

— No word yet from the Chicago Blackhawks or Florida Panthers for their game.

Frederik Andersen looks for his third shutout in a row when he starts for the Toronto Maple Leafs in their game against the Buffalo Sabres. Robin Lehner gets the call for the Sabres.

Brian Elliott is back in net for the Calgary Flames after having his personal 11-game winning streak snapped against the Washington Capitals this past week. He faces his former team, the St. Louis Blues, who will be starting Jake Allen.

Martin Jones gets the start for the San Jose Sharks when they visit Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators.

— It is a rare night off for Cam Talbot in Edmonton as Lauent Brossoit will make his first start since Feb. 21 when he gets the start against the Colorado Avalanche. He has made just two relief appearances since then. It will be just his third start of the season. The Avalanche have yet to announce their starter for the game.

Antti Raanta goes for the New York Rangers when they visit the Los Angeles Kings. Jonathan Quick is in the crease for the Kings.

Another demoralizing loss for the Avalanche

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DENVER (AP) Laurent Brossoit didn’t get a lot of action when he came into the game, but the backup goalie’s presence sparked a rare third-period comeback for the Edmonton Oilers.

Drake Caggiula and Jordan Eberle scored 1:10 apart to break a tie late in the third period, and the Oilers rallied to beat the Colorado Avalanche 7-4 on Thursday night.

Eberle scored twice in Edmonton’s five-goal third period and also added an assist. Zack Kassian and Leon Draisaitl also scored in the rally that moved Edmonton into a tie with Anaheim for second in the Pacific Division with 89 points.

“The first two periods we weren’t at our best,” said Caggiula, who had his first goal since Jan. 26. “We had pretty tough talk among ourselves. We had the resiliency to come back and have our best performance at the end.”

Brossoit came in relief of Cam Talbot for the second straight night to start the third period and stopped all six shots he faced for his second career victory. It was enough to let his teammates come through with a five-goal outburst in the third and improve to 6-17-3 when trailing entering the final 20 minutes.

“It’s not easy, the games like this when I’m coming in relief,” Brossoit said. “We just changed our energy level, you could tell that everyone was doing the details and little things and battling.”

Andrej Sekera had a goal and two assists, Milan Lucic also scored for Edmonton, which lost to the Ducks on Wednesday but salvaged the two-game road trip.

The Oilers tied it early in the third and then scored three times in the final 2:11. Caggiula beat Jeremy Smith on a pretty pass from Draisaitl to give Edmonton a 5-4 lead, Eberle added to it and Draisaitl scored into an empty net in the final minute to seal it.

Mikko Rantanen had two goals, J.T. Compher and Rene Bourque had a goal each and Nathan MacKinnon finished with two assists for Colorado.

“We were in complete control of the hockey game. We get a big kill that we needed at 4-4, the game’s still there for us,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “With the exception of one or two shifts we just didn’t push.”

The Avalanche got early goals from Rantanen and Compher to take a 2-0 lead but Edmonton tied it with goals by Sekera and Lucic 57 seconds apart spanning the first and second periods.

Rantanen broke the tie at 4:22 of the second with his second of the night, and Bourque’s 12th of the season at 17:45 made it 4-2.

Talbot gave way to Brossoit to start the third, but it was Edmonton’s offense that sparked the comeback. Kassian started it when he snuck behind Smith to knock in the puck sitting in front of the empty net at 2:44 of the third.

“I feel like it happens every game. We lead in the third period, and then we just give up easy goals,” Rantanen said. “We could have probably kept four of those away but we can’t do it.”

Eberle, who assisted on Lucic’s goal, tied it at 4:34 with his 15th of the season.

“I didn’t think we were the best team and we were lucky enough to win the game,” Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. “Had a little bit of puck luck.”

 

Goalie nods: Vezina candidates clash as Bobrovsky faces Holtby

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Sergei Bobrovsky leads the NHL in GAA, at 2.04. Braden Holtby sits second, at 2.05.

Bobrovsky leads the NHL in wins, with 39. Holtby sits second, with 37.

Holtby leads the NHL in shutouts, with eight. Bobrovsky sits third, with six.

Perhaps you see where this is going.

Tonight, the two will square off in a much-anticipated game, as the Jackets travel to Washington to take on the Caps.

“It’s a great opponent,” Bobrovsky said, per NHL.com. “It’s going to be interesting. It’s one of the best teams in the League, so we’ll see. We’ll see who’s going to be better.”

Holtby is the reigning Vezina winner, while Bobrovsky captured the trophy three years prior. Both have already been unofficially shortlisted for this season’s award — along with Devan Dubnyk and, perhaps, Cam Talbot — but tonight’s game is about much, much more than goaltending.

The Caps head into the tilt two points up on Columbus for first spot in the NHL (and just one up on Pittsburgh). Columbus has made it clear it would love to capture the first Preisdents’ Trophy in franchise history, and a victory tonight would be a big step towards it. The Jackets, Penguins and Capitals all have 10 games left in their respective seasons, and Columbus will have one more shot at each this year.

Elsewhere…

— The Bolts begin a back-to-back set tonight, and will start Peter Budaj against the Bruins. Tuukka Rask will likely be in for the B’s, after allowing three goals on just 22 shots in a loss to Ottawa on Tuesday.

Keith Kinkaid, who’s seen more playing time that usual down the stretch, will get another start when the Devils take on the Leafs in New Jersey. Curtis McElhinney goes for the Leafs, after Frederik Andersen beat Columbus last night.

— It’s Matt Murray versus Mike Condon as the Penguins take on the Sens.

Eddie Lack, who’s played very well since being verbally lambasted by head coach Bill Peters, looks to start when the ‘Canes take on the Habs in Montreal. Carey Price will be in goal for the Canadiens.

— After Reto Berra’s first start in over a year on Tuesday, the Panthers will go back to James Reimer against Arizona. The visiting Coyotes will start Mike Smith.

Ryan Miller goes up against his old Blues teammates as the Canucks visit St. Louis. Jake Allen, who continues to be one of the better comeback stories this season, looks for his seventh win in his last eight starts.

Chad Johnson gives Brian Elliott a night off as Calgary takes on Nashville. Looks as though the Preds are going back to Pekka Rinne, after he earned his third straight win over the Coyotes on Monday.

— It’s Steve Mason versus Devan Dubnyk as Philly travels to Minnesota.

Corey Crawford will look to bounce back after allowing four goals on 10 shots (and getting hooked) against Vancouver on Tuesday. The visiting Stars look like they’ll go with Kari Lehtonen.

— Some thought Cam Talbot, the NHL’s leader in starts, would get a rest tonight in Colorado after getting hooked against Anaheim last night. Nope. Talbot’s back in, going up against Jeremy Smith for the Avs.

— In the late game, Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck gets back in goal after Michael Hutchinson scored a rare win on Tuesday. He’ll be in against Ben Bishop, who looks to keep the Kings’ faint playoff hopes alive.

Goalie nods: Raanta goes back-to-back in Battle of New York

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Another chapter in one of the league’s most storied rivalries will be written tonight, when the Isles take on the Rangers at MSG.

And in goal, it’ll be Thomas Greiss against Antti Raanta.

Raanta, the goalie of record in seven of the Rangers’ last eight games, gets the call even though Henrik Lundqvist is reportedly healthy enough to return from his hip injury. Lundqvist is expected to resume playing on the club’s upcoming three-game California swing through Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose.

So that means tonight’s game falls to Raanta, who continues to put up solid numbers. He’s now at 15-7-2 on the year with a 2.32 GAA and .920 save percentage, and has allowed three goals or fewer in each of his last five appearances. That includes last night’s 3-2 OT loss to the Devils, in which he made 26 saves.

Greiss, meanwhile, is coming off a very good performance in Saturday’s 3-2 OT loss to the Jackets. He stopped 35 of 38 shots for a .921 save percentage, and knows he’ll need to be as good — or better — as the Isles are in desperate need of points.

The Isles head into tonight’s action three points back of the Maple Leafs for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Elsewhere…

— Toronto won’t start former Blue Jacket Curtis McElhinney tonight, when it visits Columbus. Instead, head coach Mike Babcock will continue to roll with the red-hot Frederik Andersen, who’s coming off a 33-save win against Boston on Monday. For the Jackets, Joonas Korpisalo looks to be in goal.

Jonathan Bernier continues to pile up the starts in Anaheim, with John Gibson still nursing his lower-body injury. Bernier will get the call when the Ducks host the Oilers tonight. And guess who’s in for Edmonton? If you guessed anybody other than Cam Talbot, you haven’t been reading this column often enough.

Kings’ playoff hopes take a royal beating

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Monday was a bad night for the Los Angeles Kings even beyond being shut out 2-0 by the Edmonton Oilers.

This concludes a tough 48 hours for the Kings after they also fell 5-2 to the Calgary Flames on Sunday. Really, they’ve been slipping for some time; they’re now just 7-10-3 since Feb. 5.

The frustrations really might be growing, as it wasn’t as though there was zero effort. They fired 35 shots on Cam Talbot, but the Oilers goalie was up to the task, giving him two straight shutouts.

Again, it’s not just a matter of the Kings falling in regulation. The Nashville Predators also beat the Arizona Coyotes 3-1 on Monday, moving at least briefly ahead of the St. Louis Blues for third in the Central. The Predators now have 83 standings points (in 72 games played), shifting the Kings’ view to the Blues:

First wild card: Flames – 86 points in 72 games
Second wild card: Blues – 81 points in 71 GP

Kings – 75 points in 72 GP

Los Angeles doesn’t have any games remaining vs. the Blues or Predators, and while they face Calgary twice, the gap is likely too large between the Kings and Flames at this point.

This isn’t to say that the Kings are totally out of it, but it’s another rough night for their chances. Sports Club Stats gives them an eight percent chance to make the playoffs, down two percent in one night.