Cam Tucker

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Head coach Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning reacts against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jason Behnken/Getty Images)

The Bolts are in ‘uncharted territory,’ as losses pile up and playoff hopes fade

3 Comments

It’s crunch time for the Tampa Bay Lightning. It has been for a while.

And yet, for a team considered a possible Stanley Cup contender this season after lengthy playoff runs in consecutive years, the Lightning remain in danger of missing the 2017 playoffs.

Their hopes of a post-season berth took another hit Thursday.

They got on the board first, thanks to a goal from Tyler Johnson. But the lead didn’t last long and the Ottawa Senators came storming back for a 5-2 victory in Tampa Bay. The Bolts are now 15th out of 16 teams in the Eastern Conference, and an already difficult road to qualify for the playoffs gets even worse.

“The results take a toll on you night after night,” Brian Boyle told the Tampa Bay Times.

“‘Infuriating’ is a good word to describe this stretch. We can’t take the attitude that we’re getting kicked while we’re down, because I don’t think any other team is feeling sorry for us right now and is going to give us a charity win along the way.”

The result was bad enough.

But the Lightning manufactured only 21 shots on goal and only seven in the third period. To their credit, the Senators, under coach Guy Boucher, don’t give up many shots on goal at five-0n-five, sitting seventh in the league in shots-against, per stats.hockeyanalysis.com.

The Lightning also don’t have their best scorer, Steven Stamkos, in the lineup. He’s been out since mid-November following knee surgery and general manager Steve Yzerman isn’t yet setting a firm return date for his star forward.

“This group’s never been through this before. So it’s kind of uncharted territory for them,” said coach Jon Cooper. “Lot of guys in the room are used to winning a lot and … it tests you a little bit.

“Right now, it’s tough for them because it seems every time we start taking a step forward, we take two back.”

Read bumps the slump, Flyers stifle the Habs

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 02:  Matt Read #24 of the Philadelphia Flyers takes the puck in the second period against the Ottawa Senators at the Wells Fargo Center on April 2, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
4 Comments

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Matt Read scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period to end his long drought and lead the Philadelphia Flyers to a 3-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.

Claude Giroux also scored and Sean Couturier had an empty-netter in the final seconds for the Flyers, who opened a five-game homestand – their longest of the season – by winning their fourth in the last five.

Nikita Nesterov scored for the Atlantic Division-leading Canadiens. Montreal’s 16 shots were a season low and also marked the fewest Philadelphia has allowed in a game this season.

Following Tuesday’s disheartening 5-1 loss at Carolina in which the Flyers had just six shots through 2 1/2 periods, coach Dave Hakstol benched 23-year-old defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and 19-year-old forward Travis Konecny.

Hakstol kept Read in the lineup, however, even though the Philadelphia forward hadn’t scored a goal since Nov. 3.

Read put Philadelphia in front with a perfectly placed slap shot from the slot on a 3-on-2 break with 16:28 left. Couturier set up the chance and Read finished it by beating Carey Price over his right shoulder into the top corner of the net.

Michal Neuvirth kept Philadelphia in front with a strong save on Paul Byron from close range 3 1/2 minutes later.

Neuvirth didn’t have a lot of work, finishing with 15 saves to help the Flyers improve to 10-0-1 in their last 11 home games against Montreal.

Price stopped 21 shots.

This is an important homestand for the Flyers, who began the day with a tenuous hold on the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot. Philadelphia was one point in front of Toronto for the second wild card, but eight teams were within seven points of the Flyers.

Giroux tied it on the power play with 2:10 left in the second period. The captain’s wrist shot from the top of the left circle trickled through Price’s legs.

Nesterov, playing his second game for the Canadiens, scored his fourth of the season and first since being acquired from Tampa Bay last Thursday on a slap shot 4:51 in.

Alex Galchenyuk, returning from a three-game absence due to a knee injury, made a cross-ice pass and Nesterov fired the puck past Neuvirth.

Video: Patrick Marleau’s 500th career goal was a beauty

1 Comment

Welcome to the 500-goal club, Patrick Marleau.

The 37-year-old Marleau beat Ryan Miller with a perfect wrist shot in the first period against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday to hit the career milestone. Great pass, too, from Joe Pavelski for the assist.

Marleau’s path to 500 goals — he’s the 45th player in NHL history to achieve the feat — has accelerated in recent days. He scored four goals against Colorado on Jan. 23, and now has seven goals in his last five games. He’s up to 19 goals on the season.

Lundqvist and the Rangers rebound to defeat Sabres

4 Comments

Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers struggled in their first game back from the All-Star break. That was Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Thursday’s contest against the Buffalo Sabres presented a totally different story for both goalie and team.

After getting pulled against the Blue Jackets — three goals allowed on 16 shots — Lundqvist was outstanding for the Rangers in a 2-1 overtime road victory over the Sabres. Chris Kreider scored the winning goal with just over a minute remaining in the extra period.

Despite the low score, the two teams combined for 81 shots on goal and it was the goalies that came up huge for their respective clubs. Robin Lehner made 42 saves and had no chance on the Kreider winner — a quick one-timer. That’s goal No. 20 for him this season.

Lundqvist made some key saves, especially in the third period as the Rangers tried to maintain the lead. He was beaten only once as Cody Franson tied the game on a wrist shot through a screen. Still, a 36-save performance is what the Rangers needed, especially after their loss to Columbus.

The Rangers move to within two points of Pittsburgh for third in the Metropolitan Division.

Video: Looks like another long night in Arizona as Hossa dangles through Coyotes

3 Comments

Difficult first period for Mike Smith and the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday.

Smith allowed three goals on 14 shots, as the visiting Chicago Blackhawks opened up a 3-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes. Maybe the term ‘difficult’ doesn’t quite capture it all.

Marian Hossa wrapped up the scoring for Chicago, as he took a pass in the neutral zone, then zipped through the Coyotes defense and beat Smith stick side. It looked all too easy for Hossa. Shaping up to be another long night in Arizona for the rebuilding Coyotes.

Oh, and how about the season Hossa is having? With the increased speed and talented, youthful players, the NHL game these days is always referred to as a young man’s game.

There are exceptions, of course. Hossa being one of them.

He’s 38 years old, but now has 19 goals this season, which is a huge improvement from his 13-goal campaign a year ago. Hitting the 30-goal mark is definitely a possibility. He last achieved that single-season milestone in the 2013-14 season.