Cam Tucker

Elliott and the Blues shut out the Sharks

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Brian Elliott made 37 saves in his second straight shutout since returning from an injury and Robby Fabbri scored the lone goal midway through the third period to give the St. Louis Blues a 1-0 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night.

Elliott has stopped all 56 shots he has faced against Vancouver and San Jose after missing nearly four weeks with a knee injury suffered in a loss to the Sharks last month. His return helped the Blues finish their road trip with a 3-2-0 record to remain two points behind Central Division-leading Dallas. St. Louis is four points ahead of third-place Chicago.

Martin Jones made 23 saves but the Sharks failed to convert on a late two-man advantage and missed an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth. More importantly, San Jose failed to gain ground in the Pacific Division after Los Angeles and Anaheim lost earlier in the night. The Sharks remain one point behind the second-place Ducks and five in back of the Kings.

The game was a tightly played defensive contest before St. Louis finally broke through midway through the third period. Troy Brouwer flipped the puck out of his defensive zone into neutral ice and Fabbri gained possession. He skated into the offensive zone, settled the puck in the faceoff circle and beat Jones with a high shot to the short side for his 17th goal of the season.

Fabbri’s status had been in doubt after he left practice early Monday with a lower-body injury, but he was healthy enough to play and came through with the key play to give St. Louis the win.

But it didn’t come easy as the Blues had to survive a late penalty kill when Carl Gunnarsson shot the puck over the glass for a delay of game with 2:45 remaining. David Backes then was called for a high-stick with 1:23 remaining, giving San Jose 38 seconds of a 6-on-3 advantage with Jones pulled.

The game had good pace early with the Blues spending lots of time in the Sharks zone. But San Jose took over the play late in the first and carried it over into the second period, holding St. Louis without a shot on goal for more than 9 minutes.

The Sharks had two power plays starting late in the first but failed to get anything past Elliott. The Blues picked up their play late in the second after drawing a high-sticking penalty from Dainius Zubrus. Alex Pietrangelo had St. Louis’ best chance but missed the net with a backhand when he was alone in front.

The Sharks nearly picked up a short-handed goal. Joel Ward was taken down on a partial breakaway by David Backes but the referees let the play go and the game remained scoreless through two periods.

NOTES: The Sharks had not allowed a goal for 132:23 before Fabbri scored. … The road team won all three games this season between the teams with San Jose winning twice in St. Louis in February. … Sharks D Marc-Edouard Vlasic (lower body) and F Matt Nieto (hand) missed their third straight games.

‘We’re playing some of our best hockey right now’: Stars clinch playoff berth

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The Dallas Stars are officially in the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Clinching a post-season berth was simply a formality for them at this point in the season. Now riding a three-game winning streak, the Stars currently lead the Central Division, and their 6-2 win on the road in Chicago on Tuesday opened up a six-point gap between them and the struggling Blackhawks.

So, what’s next for the high-scoring Stars? Top spot in the West heading into the playoffs is definitely a possibility. What are they capable of in the playoffs? For now, their quite pleased with the way they’re playing down the stretch.

“We’re playing some of our best hockey right now through the depth of the lineup,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff told the Dallas Morning News.

“There’s a lot of good things, special teams, our goalie has made some big saves. There’s a lot of things that allow you to win a game.”

Meanwhile, in Chicago…

The Blackhawks, defending Stanley Cup champs, have won only three times in their past 10 games. They were booed off the ice in their own building after giving up four goals on 15 shots to the Stars in the opening 20 minutes, chasing goalie Scott Darling from the Chicago crease.

Said Chicago’s captain Jonathan Toews to the Chicago Sun-Times: “We remind ourselves we have to work through it — that’s the only we it’s going to get better and we’ll go from there. We know what we’re capable of this year and once we get to the postseason, we’ll remind ourselves of that and look at the big picture and try to take it shift-by-shift and get out of this little funk we’re in.”

 

Capitals clinch: Washington wraps up top spot in Metropolitan Division, Eastern Conference

OTTAWA, Ontario — Alex Ovechkin scored his 43rd goal and the Washington Capitals clinched the Metropolitan Division and the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a 4-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.

Mike Richards, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, with an empty net, also scored for the Capitals. Braden Holtby stopped 28 shots.

Chris Wideman and Mika Zibanejad scored for the Senators. Craig Anderson made 18 saves.

The loss will likely fuel the controversy started by owner Eugene Melnyk earlier in the morning when he told reporters changes could be expected during the offseason. Melnyk called the season, “just a total roller coaster of hope and despair.”

The Senators also lost defenseman Dion Phaneuf as he took a hit from Brooks Orpik in the second period. Phaneuf managed to play a few more shifts, but did not return for the third period because of a lower-body injury.

Trailing 3-1, the Senators’ best opportunity in the third came on the power play, but Ottawa has struggled with the man advantage – going 0-for-27 through 10 games and 0 for 4 on Tuesday.

Zibanejad gave life to the crowd, scoring at 18:27 from a sharp angle as the puck went in off Holtby. But the Senators were unable to complete the comeback and Oshie iced the game with an empty-net goal.

Washington led 3-0 before the Senators got on board midway through the second as Wideman managed to get a shot through traffic to beat Holtby.

The Senators fell behind by three goals in the first period.

Washington opened the scoring at 2:32 after a couple of bad defensive plays left Richards all alone out front. Ovechkin then scored his 43rd of the season on the power play midway through the period after taking a great pass from Marcus Johansson to bury it past Anderson. Just over two minutes later, Backstrom made it 3-0.

The Senators’ best opportunity to get back in the game came with a 1:03 two-man advantage late in the period, but they were unable to create any great chances.

NOTES: Ottawa RW Chris Neil was a late scratch because of illness. Ryan Dzingel played in his place. Mark Stone wore an `A’ in Neil’s absence. Washington C Michael Latta, RW Stanislav Galiev and D Nate Schmidt were healthy scratches.

Wild leapfrog Avalanche back into final playoff position with win over Kings

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The race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference has turned into a back-and-forth battle between two Central Division teams — the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche.

With a 2-1 victory over the L.A. Kings on Tuesday, the Wild move back into the final, um, Wild Card spot in the conference by a single point over Colorado. Less than a week ago, coach John Torchetti expressed his disappointment following a bad 7-4 loss to the low-scoring Devils, which was Minnesota’s fourth defeat in five games.

Since then, the Wild have won three straight. They’ve needed the shootout to do so on two of those occasions, with all three wins coming in one-goal games.

Devan Dubnyk is a big reason — the only reason, you could argue — why the Wild were victorious Tuesday. Minnesota jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Erik Haula and Mikko Koivu and then relied on Dubnyk to hold on, as he made 38 saves. The Kings dominated puck possession and outshot the Wild 39-18.

“Yeah, it’s frustrating, but it’s not really a different effort. It was a great effort last night, too. It’s difficult when you look up at the clock and it’s eight shots and you’re down two-cob,” said Kings coach Darryl Sutter, as per LA Kings Insider.

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The Kings, who had previously won four straight prior to this Central Division trip, have now lost on back-to-back nights.

 

It’s been a while: Canucks’ scoring drought reaches franchise low 228 minutes

Vancouver Canucks v Winnipeg Jets
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Remember when the Vancouver Canucks made NHL history in February with four straight 5-2 losses?

Apparently, it could get worse. And it’s getting worse.

After a 2-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets in an Auston Matthews Bowl game Tuesday, the Canucks, firmly in rebuild mode, have now been shut out in three straight games, which is only the second time in franchise history that has happened.

They’ve lost five straight games. They’re now the fourth worst team in the NHL’s overall standings and three points up on last-place Toronto.

They also haven’t scored in 228 minutes. That, according to Sportsnet Stats, is a franchise record.

Difficult times.

Their performance versus the Jets followed a 3-0 loss to St. Louis on Saturday in which the Canucks were outshot 50-19 and Daniel Sedin blasted his team for a poor effort. In Winnipeg, they were outshot 49-28.