James O'Brien

St. Louis Blues' Dmitrij Jaskin, of Russia, maneuvers around Chicago Blackhawks' Marcus Kruger (16), of Sweden, during the second period of an NHL preseason hockey game Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry – Blackhawks at Blues

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As much as the race for the Central Division’s title appeared to come down to the Dallas Stars or Chicago Blackhawks, the St. Louis Blues have struggled through injuries and other challenges to stay in the mix.

At the moment, the Blues have 85 points in 67 games played, just two points behind Chicago. St. Louis is three behind Dallas, yet the Blues hold a game in hand.

With that, it’s pretty obvious that tonight’s game is important, especially for the Blues.

Beyond the playoff implications, there’s plenty of talent on both sides, including a matchup of two stellar scorers in Patrick Kane vs. Vladimir Tarasenko.

You can watch the game on NBCSN and stream it via the link below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Ducks’ 11-game winning streak is over thanks to the Capitals

Washington Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie (77) scores against Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson (36) during an overtime shootout in an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Monday, March 7, 2016. The Capitals won 2-1. (AP Photo/Christine Cotter)
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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) If the Washington Capitals and the Anaheim Ducks meet in the Stanley Cup Final, they’re glad there won’t be a skills competition to decide the winner.

After 65 tense minutes in a virtually even meeting of regular-season heavyweights, the Capitals used the shootout to come out on top.

T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom scored in the shootout, and the Capitals stopped the Ducks’ franchise-best winning streak at 11 games with 2-1 victory Monday night.

Andre Burakovsky scored the tying goal early in the third period for the NHL-leading Capitals, who also ended Anaheim’s eight-game home winning streak with their sixth consecutive victory over the Ducks. The teams traded hard hits and quality scoring chances for 65 minutes of high-level hockey.

“It was two good teams battling it out,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said. “It was a good test for us, because I didn’t know what we would have (in the tank), fifth game in seven nights and getting across the country. We were in shock in the first 30 seconds of the game, but other than that it’s sort of been our team. We don’t get too rattled. Good on them.”

Braden Holtby made 27 saves and stopped two more in the shootout. Oshie atoned for an overtime penalty with the U.S. Olympic shootout star’s fourth goal in five attempts this season, and after Corey Perry scored to keep the Ducks alive, Backstrom ended it.

“Not quite playoff hockey, but it was right there,” Oshie said. “Maybe one of the closer ones we have had this season. They are a great team. They come at you in a couple different ways. Goaltending on both sides of the ice was great. That was a good battle and tight finish at the end there.”

Ryan Getzlaf scored on Anaheim’s first shot, and John Gibson stopped 30 shots to lower his goals-against average to an NHL-best 2.05.

One game after Anaheim punctuated its spectacular post-Christmas surge by taking away the Pacific Division lead from the Los Angeles Kings with a gritty victory at Staples Center, the Ducks finished with 64 scoreless minutes, but still earned a point in their 14th consecutive game since Feb. 8.

“I thought it was a great hockey game,” Getzlaf said. “We’re talking about two great teams that are playing well. We were able to go out and compete.”

The longest winning streak in franchise history ended, but Anaheim is 18-1-2 over its past 21 games and 25-4-3 since Christmas.

“It’s stressful winning every game, because you try so hard to keep that going,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It wears you out.”

Getzlaf put the Ducks ahead 60 seconds after the opening faceoff with his 10th goal of the season, slipping a rising shot through traffic during a delayed penalty to Alex Ovechkin.

The teams played high-level hockey for most of the ensuing 39 scoreless minutes. The Ducks tried to match center Ryan Kesler‘s line against the Capitals’ powerhouse top line, and Ovechkin didn’t manage a shot on goal in the first two periods.

“It was kind of frustrating, but hockey is going to be like that in the playoffs,” Ovechkin said. “Nobody wants to give us a chance to stay in the zone and do what we can do best. We just have to find a way to be ready for that kind of stuff.”

Burakovsky evened it 41 seconds into the third period.

“A streak is a streak, but it’s not do-or-die right now,” Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. “We’re trying to get points and move up in the standings, but more importantly, play the right way.”

NOTES: Boudreau, the Capitals’ former coach and the Ducks’ current boss, was honored during the game for his 400th career victory two days ago. Boudreau won four consecutive division titles in his first NHL coaching job in Washington, but won just two playoff series before getting fired. The Ducks hired him two days later, and he has won three straight Pacific Division titles along with three playoff series, falling one game short of the Stanley Cup Final last summer. … The Ducks visit Washington on April 10 for the regular-season finale. The game was postponed from Jan. 22 after a massive snowstorm hit the D.C. area. … Getzlaf’s goal was his 10th of the season, giving him double-digit goals in each of his 11 NHL seasons.

Varlamov responds to Roy’s challenge, Avs keep pace in wild card race

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About the only positive things the Arizona Coyotes can probably say, at least from a big picture standpoint, is that they’re better off losing now.

Otherwise, Monday was a pretty brutal night for the Coyotes. They didn’t just lose the game to the Colorado Avalanche; Oliver Ekman-Larsson also suffered an upper-body injury and didn’t return.

The Avs, on the other hand, kept themselves in the thick of the race for the West’s final wild card spot with this 3-1 victory.

Technically, the Minnesota Wild hold that last wild card spot because they have a game in hand. Still, the Avalanche hold certain tiebreaker advantages if the Wild end their next game where both teams are right now: tied at 72 points.

Semyon Varlamov played brilliantly after being called out by head coach Patrick Roy, stopping 37 out of 38 shots.

Beyond that performance, it was a combination of quality finishing and good luck for Colorado, as seen on this goal when a would-be penalty against the Avalanche ended up instead being a goal in their favor:

It wasn’t pretty, but Julien sets Bruins coaching wins record at 388

Boston Bruins center Noel Acciari, middle, gets set to put his helmet on, flanked by teammate Jimmy Hayes (11) and Brett Connolly (14) while Bruins head coach Claude Julien looks on prior to an NHL hockey game against the Calgary Flames, Tuesday, March 1, 2016, in Boston. It is Acciari's first game as a Bruin. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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If most of Claude Julien’s wins were like these … well, he probably wouldn’t have more wins than any other Boston Bruins coach.

Still, Monday’s bumpy 5-4 overtime victory against the Florida Panthers does count, giving Julien a Bruins-record 388 victories.

You know you’ve done something special when you pass a person who had a trophy named after him, as the Bruins noted with Julien:

BOSTON BRUINS TOP FIVE ALL-TIME COACHING WINS LEADERS
1. Claude Julien, 388
2. Art Ross, 387
3. Milt Schmidt, 245
4. Don Cherry, 231
5. Gerry Cheevers, 204

The game itself was one that might have left Julien screaming a little paint off of locker room walls.

The Bruins built 3-0 and 4-1 leads in the first period, yet the Panthers came screaming back – maybe with motivation from Shawn Thornton‘s fight, maybe not – and forced the game into overtime.

That was the part that probably left Julien frowning. The smiling part: Lee Stempniak made an impact for his new team, scoring the Bruins’ overtime-winner.

The Panthers remain ahead of the Bruins for second place in the Atlantic, but this could be quite the race to watch.

Maybe Julien will make a little more history in the process?

Related: Speaking of history, Jaromir Jagr passed Gordie Howe for third all-time in points during this game.

Flyers nail crucial homestand, end Bolts’ record winning streak at nine

Philadelphia Flyers' Shayne Gostisbehere (53) skates with the puck as Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos (91) gives chase during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, March 7, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
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Before the Philadelphia Flyers began this six-game homestand, Jakub Voracek said they needed to grab at least 10 out of a 12 possible points. They did just that after Monday’s impressive win against the red-hot Tampa Bay Lightning.

That’s not to say that it was easy, however.

Andrei Vasilevskiy played a brilliant game in keeping the Lightning competitive even though the Flyers amassed a lopsided shot advantage. Ultimately, the Flyers overwhelmed Tampa Bay, stopping the Lightning’s franchise-best nine-game winning streak by a score of 4-2.

The big hero for the Flyers was a familiar one: Shayne Gostisbehere scored Philly’s first two goals when it seemed like Vasi might just shut them down entirely.

(OK, if you want to quibble, you could call Claude Giroux the hero with his two assists.)

The Flyers won five of six during this homestand, bumping the thought of a playoff push from “too optimistic” to “perfectly reasonable.”

Philly gets a little breather before they face the Lightning in Tampa Bay to start what looks like a scary streak: seven of the Flyers’ next nine games are on the road.

Don’t blame the Flyers for putting those thoughts on the backburner right now, especially with a nice break. They needed these wins, and they got (most of) them.