Cam Tucker


Video: Phil Kessel opens scoring against his old team, as Maple Leafs look to clinch playoff spot

How is this for a potential angle — Phil Kessel coming back to haunt the Toronto Maple Leafs, his former team, as they look to clinch a playoff spot in the final weekend of the regular season?

With a win versus the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight, the Maple Leafs are in. They would lock up a post-season berth with a young and talented core led up front by Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.

Of course, the Penguins and Kessel have a chance to spoil the party.

Kessel, who played 446 regular season games for Toronto before being traded to Pittsburgh in a blockbuster — and ripped in the media — and was part of the Maple Leafs’ shocking playoff collapse in 2013, opened the scoring just 6:11 into the first period.

He deployed that terrific wrist shot past the blocker of Frederik Andersen, giving Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead.

Anxious Maple Leafs fans quickly rejoiced 29 seconds later, though, as James van Riemsdyk scored to tie the game, showing tremendous hand-eye coordination and a pretty good wrist shot of his own.

The play was reviewed for a possible offside, but the goal stood.

Bruins lose to Capitals in a potential first-round playoff match-up


The Boston Bruins’ regular season is over. But they must wait just a little bit longer for an opponent in the opening round of the playoffs to be determined.

They could face the Ottawa Senators, starting that potential series on the road.

Or, depending on what happens with the Toronto Maple Leafs later tonight and tomorrow, the Bruins could fall into the final wild card spot and be forced to face Alex Ovechkin, Braden Holtby and the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals in Round One.

With Brad Marchand out the lineup, as he finished his suspension for spearing, the Bruins lost 3-1 to the Capitals on Saturday. They were also outshot 32-22. Kevin Shattenkirk and Justin Williams scored just 3:01 apart in the second period to give Washington the lead — and eventually the win.

The Bruins are currently third in the Atlantic Division with 95 points.

Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs host the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight and Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday. If Toronto can get three of four points this weekend, they would finish the season with 96 points and would play the Senators in the opening round, leaving Boston to deal with the Capitals.

Meanwhile, there is now concern for Boston’s 20-year-old rookie defenseman Brandon Carlo, who left Saturday’s contest and didn’t return after he was hurt on a hit into the boards from Ovechkin.

The Bruins were already without Torey Krug on the blue line. He was injured Thursday, and the Bruins can ill afford to be without him when the playoffs get going next week.

“We’re not going to be able to replace what he does,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “He’s a special talent — power play, first pass, breakout, neutral-zone transition, all of those things — so the onus will be on us to make sure we make the necessary reads in our breakout.”

Video: Minnesota was the perfect place to grow up playing hockey, says Nick Bjugstad

Well before he was a first-round draft pick of the Florida Panthers, Nick Bjugstad developed his skills growing up in Blaine, a suburb of Minneapolis, in Minnesota.

It was the perfect place to grow up playing hockey.

“It’s the State of Hockey for a reason. Everyone loves it there,” he said in an interview for Kraft Hockeyville.

“My family had me in skates when I was like three years old. Lots of people had rinks, always playing street hockey. Lot of little fights that the neighbors got to witness.”

The state of Minnesota is well represented among the West Finalists and in the Top 10 for Kraft Hockeyville.

Bjugstad played his high school hockey for Blaine, before moving to the University of Minnesota for three years. Taken 19th overall in the 2010 draft, Bjugstad has played 278 games for the Panthers, with 62 goals and 128 points.

“I think it made us better hockey players being able to play a lot of street hockey,” he said. “I just love everything about Minnesota. I think eventually one day I’ll end up trying to coach a high school team there.”

Frozen Four: Denver to face Minnesota-Duluth for NCAA title


The stage is now set for the NCAA title game in Chicago.

Denver and Minnesota-Duluth were both victorious in their respective semifinal games on Thursday, advancing to the Frozen Four championship contest, which goes Saturday at the United Center.

San Jose Sharks prospect Dylan Gambrell, selected in the second round, 60th overall, in last year’s NHL Draft, had two goals for Denver, which dominated Notre Dame by a final score of 6-1.

“I don’t really know what to say. I’m just amazed at the effort that our team produced in a big-time moment against a really, really good college hockey team,” said Denver coach Jim Montgomery, per ESPN.

Minnesota-Duluth didn’t quite have it so easy in its semifinal.

Senior forward Alex Iafallo scored on a deflection with 26 seconds remaining in regulation, sending the Bulldogs to a thrilling 2-1 victory over Harvard.

“It’s kind of been our MO all year, another tight hockey game, another one-goal game,” said Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin, per US College Hockey Online. “And just real exciting to be moving on.”

The finale now pits two of the top teams in the NCAA rankings — Denver was No. 1, and Minnesota-Duluth was No. 3 — against each other for the championship.

Lucic rocks the Sharks with a huge hit, fight and natural hat trick


Milan Lucic made his presence felt late in the first period of Thursday’s game against the Sharks by sending Chris Tierney flying through the air with a massive body check.

He was then immediately challenged to a fight with Micheal Haley.

Clean hit. Followed by a lengthy fight.

But Lucic wasn’t done there.

He delivered a natural hat trick in the third period, scoring the tying goal, the eventual winning goal and the insurance goal in a 4-2 victory over the Sharks, who were without Logan Couture and Joe Thornton and held to just 15 shots on goal on home ice. Connor McDavid also had two points, and at 20 years of age, he currently leads the NHL with 97 points.

The Oilers remain mathematically in the hunt for first place in the Pacific Division, four points back of Anaheim with two games remaining in their regular season and a game in hand on the Ducks.

It should only help the Oilers’ cause that they finish the season with a home-and-home set against a bad Vancouver Canucks team that has lost six straight.

Lucic is in the first year of a massive seven-year, $42 million deal that he signed as a free agent last summer. He’s now up to 23 goals and 48 points — 25 of those points have come on the power play.

“His play tonight was tremendous,” said coach Todd McLellan. “We’re lucky to have him at this time of year. It’s exactly what we brought him in for.”