James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Lightning show signs of life in comeback win vs. Blues

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been stumbling for much of this season, to the point where even a tough loss sometimes prompted quite a bit of optimism. We’ve wondered if they were starting to figure things out before, only to see them take a step back.

Still, those positive quotes are trickling out again after the Lightning fought back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the St. Louis Blues 5-2 on Thursday.

“We’re trending upward,” Brian Boyle said, according to the Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith. “But we still need to make up some ground. We’ve got to go on a run.”

It’s tougher to scoff at the Lightning looking at the glass as half-full when you see the sort of things Jonathan Drouin can accomplish:

As the Bolts note, even Drouin’s empty-netters are fun to watch.

On a side note, Wade Megan didn’t just make his remarkable debut for the Blues. He also scored in his first NHL game:

Perhaps the Lightning can echo Megan’s career arc and show that they won’t give up.

Jaromir Jagr breaks tie with Mark Messier for second all-time in scoring

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With an assist on Aleksander Barkov‘s goal on Thursday, Jaromir Jagr generated the 1,888th point of his legendary NHL career. In doing so, he broke his tie with Mark Messier and now stands alone at No. 2 all-time for points in league history.

Wayne Gretzky’s in first with an almost unthinkable 2,857 points so … Jagr would need to inspire years of old jokes to flirt with that mark.

Regardless, it’s an incredible achievement, one Jagr managed in his 1,663rd regular season game. The 44-year-old didn’t force people to wait very long for him to break his tie with Messier, as he hit 1,887 points on Tuesday.

As you can tell from the video above, it wasn’t a beauty. The quote Jagr provided regarding it was pretty fantastic, however:

Statement made? Blue Jackets take first in Metro by pummeling Penguins

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Sorry, Torts. People are probably going to make a pretty big deal about this one.

The Columbus Blue Jackets didn’t just beat the Pittsburgh Penguins to win their 11th consecutive game and move – at least briefly – to first place in the Metropolitan Division. They absolutely dominated the Penguins in the process, beating them 7-1.

(They’re also considered in first in the entire league thanks to tiebreakers. So yeah.)

In doing so, the Blue Jackets followed some interesting patterns:

The usual suspects: Cam Atkinson scored his 15th goal of 2016-17, extending his career-high point streak to eight games. Brandon Saad also generated his 12th goal of the season.

Others stepping up: Scott Hartnell grabbed the headlines, however, showing surprising speed during one goal and ultimately generating a rare hat trick.

Teams also must shudder at the thought of Boone Jenner possibly raising his level of play to a level that may approach his 2014-15 breakout.

Bob keyed in: As usual, Sergei Bobrovsky was sharp, even if the Blue Jackets didn’t necessarily need a near-perfect game from him.

Blowing out good teams: Let’s consider some of Columbus’ lopsided wins in 2016-17:

Nov. 4: That 10-0 shellacking of Al Montoya and the Canadiens.
Nov. 12: An 8-4 drubbing of the Blues.
Nov. 29: Handing a demoralizing 5-1 loss to the Lightning.
Dec. 10: Beating the Islanders 6-2.
Thursday night: Pummeling the Penguins.

The Blue Jackets fattened their 3-1 lead to a 6-1 edge with three goals in less than a minute during a staggering run in the third, and they scored four goals six-and-a-half minutes to start that opening frame. Ridiculous. College football pundits couldn’t keep up with the fun.

Columbus already came into the night with the best goal differential in the league, and now it’s at a resounding +44.

The Blue Jackets aren’t just “hanging in there.” Yes, their Metro lead is slim right now, but they hold games-in-hand advantages over their division peers.

And, again, they’re rolling over teams. Just ask the Penguins.

More: Sidney Crosby‘s impressive but ultimately irrelevant goal.

The Wild would like to remind you that they’re red-hot, too

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The Minnesota Wild and Devan Dubnyk are walking similar paths: they’re among the league’s best, yet others are hogging the headlines.

In Dubnyk’s case, he’s putting up Hart Trophy-level work together this season, yet he didn’t enjoy Carey Price‘s record-breaking start to a season and he lacks the highlight reel prowess of Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid.

When it comes to acknowledging the Wild’s winning ways, they’re being overshadowed by even more explosive teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets/really the Metropolitan Division in general.

Wherever they figure on the marquee, there’s no denying that the Wild and their goalie are on a tear. Minnesota’s now on a nine-game winning streak after beating the headline-hogging Habs. They beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 tonight.

Oh yeah, Dubnyk also got the best of Price, a comparison the two goalies were aware of.

Much like the Blue Jackets and other hot teams, the Wild’s run has been impressive even if you look back. After falling to 9-7-2 on Nov. 21, the Wild have generated a point in all but one game, going 11-1-3 during that span.

The Chicago Blackhawks still lead the Central Division, but Minnesota could make things really tight considering their games in hand. Chicago’s probably taking notice of Minnesota’s torrid pace, then.

Devils respond to criticism, blank Flyers

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It sure looks like the New Jersey Devils are playing (bad wording) harder. Or at least meaner.

A night after management questioned their work ethic, the Devils stormed out of the gate against the Philadelphia Flyers, building a 2-0 lead through the first period of Thursday’s game.

Maybe just as importantly, they responded to a hit that shook up Sergey Kalinin with plenty of passion directed at Brandon Manning and the rest of the Flyers.

You can see the scene in the video above and some of the other stuff in GIF form here:

As the Record’s Andrew Gross notes, the Devils and Flyers combined for 46 penalty minutes in the first period alone.