Cam Tucker

‘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
Getty Images
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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.

Flyers can’t hold late two-goal lead in loss to Blue Jackets, which could be costly to playoff hopes

Steve Mason, Andrew MacDonald, Oliver Bjorkstrand
AP Photo
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It was the win that got away.

Facing the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday and less than two minutes away from a regulation win, the Philadelphia Flyers couldn’t lock up two critical points in their chase for a playoff position.

Within the span of 1:04 in the third period, the Flyers watched as their two-goal lead deteriorated. Boone Jenner got Columbus on the board and Cam Atkinson tied the game with eight seconds remaining in regulation.

Overtime solved nothing. In the end, Philadelphia lost by a final score of 3-2 in the shootout. Jenner was the only player to score in the breakaway contest.

Here’s the league’s explanation of Jenner’s regulation goal:

At 18:56 of the third period in the Flyers/Blue Jackets game, video review supported the referee’s call on the ice that Boone Jenner’s stick was at or below the level of the crossbar when he deflected the puck into the Philadelphia net. According to Rule 38.4 (vi) “The determining factor is where the puck makes contact with the stick in relation to the crossbar. If the puck makes contact with the portion of the stick that is at or below the level of the crossbar and enters the goal, this goal shall be allowed.” Good goal Columbus.

Just like that. So close to a win, only to see it end in a shootout loss. The Flyers still earn the single point.

The Flyers even got help on the out-of-town scoreboard, as the Tampa Bay Lightning crushed the Red Wings by a score of 6-2. Had the Flyers won their game, they would’ve moved one point ahead of Detroit for that final Wild Card spot.

As it stands now, the Flyers still move into the Wild Card. They’re tied in points (83) with the Red Wings, with a game in hand.