Cam Tucker

Detroit Red Wings v Columbus Blue Jackets
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That’s a big win for the Detroit Red Wings

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The Detroit Red Wings needed that.

For right now, at least, the Red Wings are back in that final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference after earning a win and two points over the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team mired near the bottom of the conference standings, on Thursday.

The Red Wings, with only five wins in their last 10 games, move one point over the red-hot Philadelphia Flyers following their 3-1 win over Columbus. The Flyers, on a blistering pace right now with eight wins in the last 10 games, still have two games in hand.

Henrik Zetterberg and Darren Helm scored to break the game wide open in the third period and Jimmy Howard stopped all but one of the 28 shots he faced.

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Penguins learning to be ‘comfortable’ in close games as playoffs approach

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers
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PITTSBURGH (AP) The Pittsburgh Penguins know the freewheeling portion of the regular season – or what passes for it these days – is gone.

If Pittsburgh wants to reach the postseason for a 10th straight year by surviving a chaotic Eastern Conference playoff race, the Penguins understand they’re going to have to play the kind of disciplined hockey they’ve occasionally abandoned.

Three-plus periods against the New York Islanders provided a timely refresher.

Kris Letang scored the only goal of the shootout with a pretty backhand past rookie goalie Jean-Francois Berube as Pittsburgh slipped past New York 2-1 to strengthen its hold on the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

“Toward the end of the year, it’s going to be games like that, one-goal games,” Letang said. “You have to be comfortable in those.”

The Penguins certainly looked at ease. Pittsburgh controlled play for long stretches and didn’t get rattled after New York’s Kyle Okposo tied it with 5:45 remaining.

The Penguins dominated overtime and Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside Frans Nielsen, Okposo and John Tavares as the Penguins earned a little payback a week removed from a 2-1 loss in Brooklyn.

“Even though we let in a score at the end, we didn’t panic or do anything stupid,” said Fleury, who finished with 25 saves. “We just played good at the end of the third, a great overtime.”

Chris Kunitz scored his 14th goal of the season in the 800th game of his career while Sidney Crosby picked up the secondary assist to extend his points streak to nine games. The Penguins have won three straight and 7 of 10.

Berube made 33 stops in his third NHL start, including several in the extra period after Okposo’s score in the third sent the game to overtime. The Islanders failed to pick up the additional point when they couldn’t solve Fleury in the shootout.

“It would’ve been nice to get two, obviously,” defenseman Travis Hamonic said. “It’s a pretty obvious thing, but you get them the best way you can this year. You try to gather them and I think we battled hard, certainly. It’s not easy battling back in this building against a really good team.”

The Islanders came in riding a 7-2-1 surge, including a raucous three-goal third-period rally on Monday night against Florida that has provided them with a little wiggle room above the frantic fray below as the Penguins, Flyers and Red Wings vie for the final two Eastern Conference playoff spots.

The Penguins will have to make the push for a playoff spot without center Evgeni Malkin, out 6 to 8 weeks with an upper-body injury. His teammates put together an inspired performance in their first game without him on Sunday, a 5-3 triumph over the Rangers that provided a boost in the middle of a nine-game run against Metropolitan Division opponents.

Pittsburgh wasn’t quite as dynamic two days later on home ice thanks in part to the steady play by Berube, who hardly looked like a guy intimidated by being thrust into a playoff-type atmosphere. The Penguins spent the majority of the game in New York’s end. During one sequence in the second period, the Penguins played keep-away in the Islanders’ zone for more than 90 seconds.

Berube’s ability to see the puck through traffic kept Pittsburgh at bay, though he could do nothing to stop Kunitz from getting the type of goal emblematic of his 12-year career. The game was scoreless in the middle of the first when Crosby slipped a pass to Brian Dumoulin at the point.

The defenseman wristed a floater toward the goal and Kunitz – who has spent more than a decade planted in front of the net – reached out and deflected the puck by Berube for his 238th NHL goal, many of them from within a stride or two of the blue paint.

“It’s nice when the (defense) throws pucks there that are tipable,” Kunitz said. “It wasn’t going on net but at least you have a chance to put it on net and it just worked out in our favor.”

Pittsburgh’s defense and another typically solid effort on home ice by Fleury made it stand until late in the third period when Okposo tied it at the end of a scramble in front of the Pittsburgh goaltender.

NOTES: The Islanders went 1 for 3 on the power play. The Penguins were 0 for 3 with the man advantage. … Playing for the second time in as many nights, New York coach Jack Capuano decided to sit centers Brock Nelson and Shane Prince in favor of fresher legs in Steve Bernier and Mikhail Grabovski, out since Feb. 19 with an upper-body injury. … The Penguins scratched center Scott Wilson and defenseman Derrick Pouliot. … Pittsburgh hosts Carolina on Thursday. … New York travels to Nashville on Thursday.

PHT Morning Skate: Panthers’ Trocheck loses three teeth versus Habs

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

— First, the good news for Vincent Trocheck: He scored his 21st goal of the season and added an assist as the Florida Panthers took over the Atlantic Division lead with a win over the Montreal Canadiens. The bad news? He lost three teeth. (Video above)

— Sidebar to the Panthers win: Jaromir Jagr is up to 1,111 assists in his career after Tuesday’s win.

— Canucks prospect defenseman Nikita Tryamkin, who stands six-foot-eight-inches tall, makes his NHL debut on Wednesday, even if his conditioning isn’t up to the standards of head coach Willie Desjardins. (Vancouver Sun)

— The Dallas Stars were beaten by the L.A. Kings on Tuesday, but they also didn’t have Patrick Sharp or John Klingberg due to injury. That could change soon, which is promising news for the Stars. (Dallas Morning News)

— It’s St. Patrick’s Day on Thursday. Brent Burns is in the spirit! (BarDown)

 

Video: Sharks hold on to defeat Bruins, Brent Burns sets new franchise record

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Brent Burns — and that beard of his — has set a new San Jose Sharks franchise record. And in doing so, he helped his team defeat the Boston Bruins by a final score of 3-2 on Tuesday.

Burns scored the tying goal in the second period and assisted on the eventual winner from Joonas Donskoi in the third, giving the affable Sharks’ defenseman 64 points on the season.

He’s still nine points back of Senators’ blue liner Erik Karlsson, who leads all NHL defensemen with 73 points after a three-point performance and OT winner on Tuesday, as he takes another run at the Norris Trophy.

The loss, combined with a Florida Panthers win over the Montreal Canadiens, puts the Bruins second in the Atlantic Division. Boston nearly tied the game right at the buzzer but Torey Krug was denied by James Reimer on a last-second opportunity off the rush.

The Sharks might have a tougher time trying to win the Pacific Division, especially after the L.A. Kings thoroughly beat Chicago and Dallas on back-to-back nights on the road, sending a statement to the rest of the league, and the Anaheim Ducks have won seven of their last 10 games.

San Jose stays five points back of L.A. for that division.

Video: Karlsson’s OT winner sets Senators franchise history

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Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson capped off his team’s improbable last-second, third-period comeback against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.

And, as per the NHL, his OT winner to give Ottawa a 3-2 victory made Senators franchise history. Karlsson also finished the night with three points, giving him 73 in 71 games this season. He leads all NHL defensemen in points and could be in line for his third Norris Trophy.