James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Momentum lost: Kings chase Andersen, crush Leafs

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Sometimes, when you’re climbing the ladder as a young team, an experienced group will push you down a rung or two every now and then.

That seems to be happening with Frederik Andersen and the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.

Andersen & Co. carried a three-game winning streak into tonight’s game, but the embattled new Maple Leafs goalie couldn’t even make it through this entire contest against Los Angeles. Mike Babcock decided to give Andersen the hook after he gave up four goals on 26 shots.

Three of those tallies came in the second period, with Jeff Carter‘s 4-0 goal being the last straw.

Now, it’s not to say that this is all on Andersen’s head.

The Maple Leafs have been outmatched in this game more or less from the start. Early on, the Kings generated a 9-1 shots advantage, and Peter Budaj has only had to make eight stops as of this writing.

It’s as if the Kings are saying “Not yet, kids.”

Update: It didn’t get any prettier in the third, as the Kings poured it on for a 7-0 win. Yikes.

“We embarrassed ourselves today,” Babcock said, according to the Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle.

Video: McDavid’s speed takes over early vs. Pens

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Just like virtually everyone else, Sidney Crosby notes that Connor McDavid‘s speed stands out among his many, many impressive qualities.

It didn’t take long for McDavid to show what he can do in Tuesday’s intriguing matchup between the Edmonton Oilers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Through the first 20 minutes, McDavid easily made up for an early mistake by racking up two assists thanks to his speed and the sort of transition game that can allow for. Both of his linemates (Jordan Eberle and Patrick Maroon) have a goal and an assist apiece as they’ve really shown a knack for working well with No. 97.

The most exhilarating of the two goals – Maroon’s tally – can be seen in the video above.

His speed was also on full display in setting up Eberle’s 1-1 tally:

Should we expect more magic from the first matchup between No. 87 and No. 97? Let’s hope so.

Yakupov’s growing pains continue with healthy scratches

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The St. Louis Blues received a lot of plaudits and the Edmonton Oilers drew a lot of scorn for the Nail Yakupov trade. Especially when he scored a goal early in his run with St. Louis.

Quietly, Yakupov’s still on a pretty bumpy path to redemption, however.

The top pick of the 2012 NHL Draft has been a healthy scratch since Nov. 3 and has been only averaging about 10:30 minutes per night, something he’s not too happy about.

“It’s not my decision I’m not playing,” Yakupov said after Tuesday’s practice, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Obviously I couldn’t be happy about it. So, it’s a coach’s decision and nothing I can do about it.”

The story is a little amusing at times, as he repeatedly says he won’t complain about it … while kind of complaining about it.

(Maybe a language barrier thing?)

With Ty Rattie struggling to get into the lineup as well, it’s a good time to note that being benched by the Blues is probably less of an insult that by a lesser team.

That’s probably not much solace for Yakupov, who’s trying to salvage his career with his latest contract set to expire, but all he can do is wait at this point. And try not to gripe too loudly.

Panthers earn a solid 3-1 win against Lightning

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SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) Reilly Smith scored a tiebreaking goal with 4:28 left, Roberto Luongo made 34 saves and the Florida Panthers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 on Monday night.

Jonathan Marchessault got his seventh goal and Derek MacKenzie also scored for the Panthers.

Smith made it 2-1 after grabbing the puck inside the blue line away from Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman. His shot from the left circle beat goalie Ben Bishop on the stick side.

Ondrej Palat scored for the Lightning, and Bishop stopped 29 shots.

MacKenzie scored an empty-netter with 36 seconds left.

The Lightning tied it at 1 on Palat’s goal 1:15 into the third. Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic lost control of the puck behind the net, and it drifted into the crease. Palat slid the loose puck across the goal line under Luongo’s pad.

The Panthers led 1-0 on a power-play goal by Marchessault. His shot from above the right circle went between Bishop’s pads 3:10 in. Marchessault leads the Panthers in goals and points (13).

Jaromir Jagr returned to Florida’s lineup after missing the last two periods of the game at Washington on Saturday with a groin injury.

The Panthers should get more help soon. Jussi Jokinen (knee) is expected back for Thursday’s game against San Jose, and Nick Bjugstad (broken hand) could return next week. Jonathan Huberdeau is still months away because of a lower-leg injury, though.

Florida started this season with two victories but hasn’t won consecutive games since, opening play Monday in last place in the eight-team Atlantic Division – which it won last season.

“I’m satisfied with the effort and with the play,” Panthers president of hockey operations Dale Tallon said in an impromptu state-of-the-team address after the first period. “Just got to get healthy. … Everybody’s contributing. A few breaks here and there, we could be above .500. We’ve got to keep our head above water here, keep producing, keep getting better until we get healthy. And then we can make a good run.”

Notes: The Panthers recalled D Jakub Kindl from AHL Springfield on Sunday. … D Steven Kampfer was placed on waivers on Sunday, cleared waivers, and was a healthy scratch for the 12th time in 13 games. … The Lightning recalled F Cory Conacher from AHL Syracuse on Sunday. … F Jonathan Drouin missed his third consecutive game with an upper-body injury.

UP NEXT:

Lightning: Host the New York Islanders on Thursday night.

Panthers: Host San Jose on Thursday night.

Rask, power play help Julien get 400th win as Bruins coach

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The Boston Bruins only scored three power-play goals through 11 games so far in 2016-17. They doubled that total by scoring three on Monday alone.

Boston really might not have needed that many, either, as Tuukka Rask remained red-hot with a shutout in a 4-0 defeat of the Buffalo Sabres.

It wasn’t a cruise of a shutout, either, with Rask needing to make 32 stops for his second goose egg of the season. You can dice up Rask’s numbers in a variety of ways, but let’s keep it simple: he has a sparkling 7-1-0 record and great individual stats.

Nights like these from Rask (and Tim Thomas, among others) have greatly benefited head coach Claude Julien, who won his 400th game as Bruins head coach via this contest.

Even-strength scoring machines Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak connected on the man advantage, yet David Krejci‘s power-play goal was likely the most important, big-picture-wise. Krejci finally scored his first goal of 2016-17 on a night where that happened more than once around the league.

He scored it with authority, too:

The Bruins are now 7-5-0 thanks to a stretch of four wins in five contests, and it’s not coincidence that Rask is heavily involved.

Now, if they can get that power play to produce more often, Julien’s wins totals will really start to climb.