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I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.

Thornton gets 1,000th assist as Sharks hurt Jets’ playoff chances

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If you’re in the mood to troll a San Jose Sharks fan celebrating Joe Thornton‘s 1,000th assist and a nice win, note that the team indirectly helped the hated Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings on Monday.

Yes, by beating the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 in regulation, they improved the outlook for other West wild card hopefuls, from the Stars and Kings to other teams like the St. Louis Blues.

Of course, the Sharks also fattened their lead in the Pacific to the point that it’s looking like a pretty robust edge, so you probably won’t get much mileage out of trolling. Here’s how the race for the last West spot looks now:

Final wild card spot in West: Blues, 69 points in 64 games

Kings – 68 in 65 GP
Jets – 66 in 67 GP
Stars – 64 in 66 GP (after beating the Capitals)
Canucks – 63 in 65 GP

Nights like these make you wonder if it will ultimately come down to the Kings vs. Blues, especially with the Calgary Flames more interested in seeding in the Pacific than wild card concerns at 76 points. Winnipeg’s chances of making a real push took a blow in this one.

Meanwhile, Thornton became the 13th player to collect at least 1,000 assists. There was some nice symmetry to “Jumbo Joe” doing so in his 900th game as a member of the Sharks (1,432 overall).

It came on an empty-netter scored by … you probably guessed it, Joe Pavelski:

Senators grab significant regulation win against Bruins

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The Montreal Canadiens have gotten back on track, so it remains to be seen if the Ottawa Senators really have a chance to win the Atlantic. Either way, they got a pretty big win on Monday.

Ottawa managed to beat the Boston Bruins in regulation (4-2), strengthening their lead for second in the division while also putting the top spot in reasonable reach:

Atlantic’s top four

1. Canadiens – 82 points in 66 games played
2. Senators – 78 in 64 GP
3. Bruins – 74 in 66 GP

Maple Leafs – 70 in 64 GP

As you can see, this win leaves the Senators comfortably ahead of the Bruins with more points and more games in hand. They also have games in hand to make things interesting with Montreal.

The Bruins, meanwhile, must worry about the Maple Leafs taking the third spot a little bit more after this outcome.

Ottawa is riding some nice play from Alex Burrows (one goal, one assist) along with expected contributions from the likes of Mike Hoffman and Erik Karlsson. Craig Anderson also enjoyed a strong Monday:

Boston has to be pretty happy about the way things have been going lately (including a solid 8-3-0 mark under Bruce Cassidy), but the edge went to Ottawa tonight.

Lehtonen, Stars end Capitals’ home streak at 15 games

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If you look at the Dallas Stars’ season record, you wouldn’t think they would be the team to end the Washington Capitals’ remarkable 15-game run of wins at home. If you consider the season Kari Lehtonen‘s been having, you wouldn’t expect him to be the main reason why.

That was very much the case on Monday, however, as Lehtonen put together a remarkable performance (stopping 42 out of 44 shots) as Dallas held on for a 4-2 win against Washington.

For whatever reason, the Stars just have the Capitals’ number (and looking at his splits, Lehtonen’s been pretty good against Washington in general).

Meanwhile, Braden Holtby seems to struggle against the Stars:

(More on Holtby’s tough night here.)

Hmm, maybe we should have seen this coming, after all? Dallas has that streak against Washington, and this marks the second-consecutive 40+ save win for Lehtonen.

While there was frustration for the Capitals, the outcome enlivens the Stars more than it hurts Washington. They still seem like a long shot to make a run, but a playoff push seems at least conceivable:

Last wild card spot: Blues, 69 points in 64 games played

Kings – 68 points in 65 GP
Jets – 66 in 66 (in action against the Sharks)
Stars: 64 in 66
Canucks – 63 in 65

A five-point difference sounds easier to surmount than it really is, at least in an era of frequent “three-point games,” but at least the Stars have some hope.

And, with the way that top players like Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and John Klingberg are heating up, the Stars could be a scary dark horse. Just imagine if this “great goaltending” thing isn’t just a passing fad …

A rare off night for Holtby ends early

Braden Holtby has been one of the hottest goalies in the NHL, helping the Washington Capitals amass the league’s best record and a blazing 15-game winning streak at home. Monday’s game against the Dallas Stars reminds us that even the best have off nights.

Holtby barely made it into the second period of tonight’s start before Barry Trotz had seen enough.

You can see the 3-0 Jason Spezza goal that chased Holtby in the video above. There was also a Devin Shore goal to start things off with some controversy, as Holtby believed goalie interference took place. It just wasn’t his night.

The Capitals haven’t beaten the Stars at home in quite a while, and they face an uphill battle in trying to do so tonight. They do have a little more than a period to make it happen, however, so you never know.

Fight forever: Tanner Glass vs. Luke Witkowski (Video)

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You don’t see long, brutal slug-fests very often in the NHL these days. Then again, Monday does serve as the first 2016-17 New York Rangers appearance for Tanner Glass … so maybe it isn’t a coincidence that we also saw one of the season’s bigger bouts.

Glass wasted little time in dropping the gloves during tonight’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and he found a worthy combatant in Luke Witkowski.

Watch in awe as these two just hit each other over and over again, though Witkowski wisely keeps his helmet on. (You can also see it in video form above.)

… But this hoss-like moment where the two call off the officials will probably draw the biggest smiles/fist-pumps from fight lovers:

/cowers in fear