Cam Tucker

Petr Mrazek, Brian Boyle
AP Photo

Lightning strikes as Red Wings give up ‘free goals’

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The Detroit Red Wings have nine games remaining in their regular season. Nine games in which to keep their franchise playoff streak going.

That streak sits at 24 years. But it’s in jeopardy of ending this spring. The Red Wings no longer occupy a top-three spot in the Atlantic Division. They’re also not in a Wild Card spot right now.

They were crushed 6-2 by the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. They were down 2-0 before the game was even 10 minutes old and Jimmy Howard was pulled after allowing Tampa Bay’s third goal of the game less than a minute into the second period.

The loss was bad enough. The early goals? Those didn’t sit well with Detroit’s coach, either.

“I thought we came out fine, but we talked about not giving up any free chances, and we gave up free chances for two goals,” Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashilll told the Detroit Free Press.

“You can’t give up free goals like that.”

Detroit’s regulation loss combined with Philadelphia’s shootout loss on Tuesday means the Flyers are in the final Wild Card spot in the East — for now, anyway. Both teams are tied with 83 points, but the Flyers have a game in hand.

Phaneuf (lower-body injury) ruled out for Senators versus Islanders

The Ottawa Senators will be without defenseman Dion Phaneuf when they take on the New York Islanders later this evening.

Phaneuf left Tuesday’s game against the Washington Capitals with a lower-body injury and did not return.

From the Ottawa Sun:

He was hit by Brooks Orpik in the second and didn’t return with a lower-body injury. He won’t be able to play Wednesday against the New York Islanders so the club has recalled blueliner Fred Claesson from Binghamton.

In 20 games with the Senators since a blockbuster trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Phaneuf has scored once and added seven assists.

The Senators fell flat in a 4-2 loss to the Capitals, who clinched top spot in the Eastern Conference with that victory.

Ottawa’s defeat came just hours after the team’s owner, Eugene Melnyk, put just about everyone in the organization on notice for potential change this off-season, with the Senators seven points out of a playoff spot and with eight games remaining on their schedule.

PHT Morning Skate: Can you stick handle behind your back? Well, Rickard Rakell can . . .

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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.

— Anaheim Ducks forward Rickard Rakell actually stick handled behind his back, switching his stick between his left and right hands while trying to move the puck out of the defensive zone. OK, it’s one thing to do this in practice. But a game? In the defensive zone? That’s kind of awesome.

— How good has Brian Elliott been for the St. Louis Blues in his last 10 starts? Pretty good. Having just returned from injury, he also made 37 saves on Tuesday, as the Blues shut out the San Jose Sharks.

— The Arizona Coyotes extended their point streak versus the Edmonton Oilers to 23 games (!!). (Arizona Sports – 98.7 FM)

— The good news for the Edmonton Oilers? Connor McDavid had two assists on Tuesday. The 19-year-old rookie phenom is up to 42 points in his first 39 career NHL games.

— The bad news for the Edmonton Oilers? Ryan Nugent-Hopkins left the game after his third shift in the second period and didn’t return.

— A melee erupted in a minor hockey game after a linesman allegedly taunted and attacked a player, says the coach. (The Canadian Press)

 

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.”