Cam Tucker

Video: Joe Thornton ejected for spearing Stastny

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Another game tonight, and another major penalty assessed.

San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton was tossed during the second period after he speared St. Louis Blues forward Paul Stastny away from the puck. Thornton was given a major penalty and a game misconduct for the incident.

At the end of December, Thornton was penalized for a vicious two-handed slash on Derek Forbort of the L.A. Kings.

There’s been a few notable major penalties from today’s schedule of games.

Andrew Shaw was penalized for a late, blindside hit on Jesper Fast in the Habs-Rangers game. Prior to that, Philadelphia Flyers forward Jakub Voracek was given a major penalty for boarding Kevan Miller of the Boston Bruins.

Video: Antti Niemi given the hook after awful start tonight for Stars

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Antti Niemi got the start for the Dallas Stars on Saturday. He didn’t even make it past the five-minute mark before getting the hook.

Niemi allowed three goals on three shots against the Minnesota Wild. In 4:01 of ice time. It didn’t take long for Lindy Ruff to get him out of the net, having seen enough. By that time, the damage had pretty much been done.

The Stars fell behind four goals before the game was 13 minutes old. They did manage to come back and tie the game in the third period, only to give up the go-ahead goal to Jason Zucker just two minutes later. In the end, Dallas, a team chasing a Wild Card spot in the West, lost 5-4 in regulation.

It’s easy to pile on the Stars for their goaltending issues. They have been covered extensively (click here, here and here) on PHT. Niemi has a save percentage of .907 and Lehtonen just .898 this season.

As a team, Dallas is in the bottom half of the league in scoring. Dallas is also among the worst teams defensively. And the Stars, a team that has been plagued by injuries, have been wildly inconsistent throughout this season.

From the Dallas Morning News:

The result is the Stars slip to .500 for the 15th time this season. Dallas is 18-18-8, still in the pack of six teams battling for the two playoff wildcard spots in the Western Conference, but making no real statement with their play.

“I think you have to say it has to be,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said when asked if the .500 run was indicative of the season. “It was good to see there was no quit. That could have been an ugly game, but coming out in the second the way we did was good to see. But we creep a little bit above and then lose a tough one. We haven’t been able to push through and put a string of games together.”

The Stars are three points out of a playoff spot.

Quick-strike offense: Habs rally with three goals in 62 seconds to beat Rangers

MONTREAL, QC - DECEMBER 10:  Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates his hat-trick goal with teammate Alexander Radulov #47 during the NHL game against the Colorado Avalanche at the Bell Centre on December 10, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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MONTREAL (AP) Alexei Emelin, Max Pacioretty and Paul Byron scored in a 62-second span of the third period to lift the Montreal Canadiens over the New York Rangers 5-4 on Saturday night.

Alex Galchenyuk scored in his return after injuring his knee Dec. 4, and Brian Flynn also had a goal for Montreal.

Brandon Pirri, Rick Nash, J.T. Miler and Derek Stepan scored for the Rangers, who were coming off a 4-2 loss at home to Toronto on Friday night. It was the first time in eight occasions New York failed to win the second of back-to-back games this season. It also ended a four-game winning run in road games.

The Rangers’ Antti Raanta played for the first time since Dec. 29 but left in the first period with a lower-body injury after stopping 10 of 10 shots. Henrik Lundqvist replaced him and allowed five goals on 22 shots a night after losing to the Maple Leafs.

Emelin’s wrist shot from the left point went in off defenseman Adam Clendening‘s back 10:53 into the third frame. Pacioretty then got his 20th of the season on a breakaway only 36 seconds later and, only 26 seconds after that, Byron backhanded the puck in front, and it went in off Clendening’s stick.

New York got one back at 14:53 when Mats Zuccarello tipped the puck out and Stepan batted it in out of the air at the side of the net.

Montreal had Galchenyuk and Andrew Shaw back from injuries, but Shaw’s game lasted only 16:56 before he was tossed. Shaw’s interference penalty nullified a Montreal goal at 4:00, and then he knocked Jesper Fast over with an open ice-hit and fought Miller, drawing an interference major, a fighting major and a game misconduct. Fast was shaken up but stayed in the game.

The Rangers needed only four seconds into a power play to get the opening goal when Pirri wired a shot off a goalpost and in at 12:24 of the first period.

Galchenyuk scored 3:08 into the second with a deflection of Mark Barberio‘s point shot, but Nash got it back on a disputed goal at 6:20.

Carey Price made a brilliant save on Kevin Hayes‘ breakaway, but then Hayes got a skate caught in Price’s pads. Hayes appeared to pull Price out of the crease, allowing Nash to score into an empty net. After video review, it was ruled a good goal, and the sellout Bell Centre crowd booed long and loud.

Montreal got it back at 7:58 when Flynn scored from a scramble in front of Lundqvist, but Miller put New York back ahead when he finished a short-handed 2-on-1 with Hayes after Galchenyuk lost the puck on the right point. It marked the seventh time in eight games that Price has allowed three or more goals.

Storming into the playoff race: Hurricanes win fourth straight

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 08:  Derek Ryan #33 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrates his short handed goal with Brock McGinn #23 and Derek Ryan #33 for a 2-0 lead over the Los Angeles Kings during the second period at Staples Center on December 8, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Here come the Hurricanes.

On Saturday, Carolina won its fourth consecutive game, defeating the New York Islanders 7-4. The Hurricanes had seven different goal scorers, capping off a four-game sweep on this home stand.

The Sabres and Islanders represent two clubs the surging Hurricanes need to exploit at this point in the season. They managed 12 goals in two games in a back-to-back situation, and this recent run of wins has Carolina knocking on the door of a playoff position in the Eastern Conference.

The Hurricanes sit a single point behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the second Wild Card spot.

The Hurricanes had a slow start to their season. Playing a bulk of their early games on the road didn’t help. But, one of the top puck possession teams in the league at even strength, they’re making a move in the standings.

Jeff Skinner is having a great season for Carolina. They got contributions from many others Saturday. Brock McGinn had a four-point night and three other players — Jordan Staal, Elias Lindholm and Lee Stempniak — had three-point performances.

This point was made earlier this week at PHT, but the Hurricanes have been dominant on home ice, and that continued versus the Islanders.

“I think at home … it seems we’re playing a pretty complete game. We don’t give much up. Tonight, early on, we did and I thought we tightened things up,” said Stempniak. “Our strength lies in our skating and it seems like at home we find our legs and skate offensively.”

Letang injured versus Red Wings, as Penguins suffer third straight loss

Kris Letang
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Difficult few days here for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The defending champs suffered their third consecutive loss — the third loss in the last four days — as they fell 6-3 to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. Worse yet, for the Penguins, was that their best defenseman Kris Letang left the game in the first period with an apparent injury.

Letang, who opened the scoring just 27 seconds in, was hurt less than four minutes into the game after he got tangled up with Thomas Vanek in the defensive zone.

The Penguins blue liner left the game and then briefly returned before leaving for good later in the first period. He played just 2:06. There was no update on Letang after the game.

The Penguins eventually gave up four straight goals to Detroit in the final 21 minutes. The highlight of this game: Andreas Athanasiou going on an end-to-end rush and then going top shelf on Marc-Andre Fleury to give Detroit its first lead.

That goal counts as the winner.

The Penguins thought they had tied it up in the third period, but the goal was overturned due to goalie interference.

From the NHL:

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with NHL Hockey Operations staff, the Referee determined that Malkin’s actions caused Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader to contact Coreau before the puck crossed the goal line, preventing him from doing his job in the crease. The decision was made in accordance with Rule 78.7 which states in part: “The standard for overturning the call in the event of a ‘GOAL’ call on the ice is that the Referee … determines that the goal should have been disallowed due to ‘Interference on the Goalkeeper,’ as described in Rules 69.1, 69.3 and 69.4.”

Therefore the original call is overturned – no goal Pittsburgh Penguins.

Up next for the Penguins: A home game Monday against the Washington Capitals, now winners of eight in a row.