Author: James O'Brien

P.K. Subban, Carey Price

Habs ride brilliant Price performance to win vs. Isles

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If you look at Saturday’s Montreal Canadiens – New York Islanders game as a showcase between two potential Hart Trophy candidates (rather than two East contenders), then Carey Price got the best of John Tavares tonight.

Price was brilliant once again for Montreal, stopping 35 out of 36 shots as the Habs beat the Islanders 3-1. Tavares created some great chances – as usual – yet Price was game for all of his six shots on net.

Price’s stop on Matt Martin was probably the sexiest highlight of them all, though:

In reality, this wasn’t just about two stars, especially since there were plenty of other standout talents on the ice like P.K. Subban. It was a great night for Max Pacioretty (a goal on a gaffe by Michal Neuvirth) and a not-so-great evening for Kyle Okposo and Johnny Boychuk, who both suffered with -3 ratings.

The out-of-town scoreboard was also friendly to the Canadiens and unfriendly to the Islanders. While the Tampa Bay Lightning muffed their chance to keep pace with Montreal, the New York Rangers took care of business against the Buffalo Sabres. That leaves the Habs strongly in first place in the Atlantic Division while the Isles face an uphill battle to catch the Rangers in the Metro.

Both teams seem like they’re on the upswing overall, but it was Montreal that took a step forward tonight.

Kucherov goes from hero to goat as Jets best Bolts

Dallas Stars v Tampa Bay Lightning
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For a while there, it looked like Nikita Kucherov might have made the difference for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. Some would counter that he eventually did so for the Winnipeg Jets, instead.

Kucherov scored his 26th goal of 2014-15 in the third period to finally break the ice in Saturday’s game, yet his major penalty for boarding Tobias Enstrom opened the door for Winnipeg to tie the contest and eventually win 2-1.

Here’s video of the check:

Enstrom returned late in the contest, and some argue that the Jets blueliner put himself in a vulnerable position on the check, for whatever that’s worth. Kucherov described the situation as an accident:

It’s probably not totally fair to pin things on Kucherov, really, especially since it was such a close game before he scored his goal and took that penalty.

Regardless, the bottom line is that Drew Stafford scored the tying tally on the power play and Blake Wheeler notched the game winner.

One other sure thing: the Jets moved back into the West’s final wild card spot … at least as of this writing. The Jets now have 80 points with 69 games played while the Los Angeles Kings are at 79 points in 67 contests (with their 68th just underway against the Nashville Predators).

Perhaps Ondrej Pavelec feels a touch amused by this situation? During the same week that he gave up a turning point goal, he saw the opposing team take a self-destructive penalty to help his team win.

Either way, Winnipeg really needed this one, and they got a big win in a dramatic fashion.

Quick study: Rangers’ Skapski nabs shutout in second NHL start

New York Rangers v Buffalo Sabres
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Few probably heard of Mackenzie Skapski before February – many probably remarked “That can’t be a real name” – but he’s done a nice job in his first career NHL starts.

Three weeks after winning in his league debut with the New York Rangers, he stopped all 20 Buffalo Sabres shots for his first career shutout as New York blanked Buffalo 2-0 on Saturday.

Yes, it’s true that the degree of difficulty wasn’t awfully high, considering the low volume of shots and the low regard of the Sabres as an opponent.

Still, after leaning so heavily on Cam Talbot, the Rangers have to feel a little bit better about turning to their oddly named third option when needed.

Again, it’s clear that he’s doing the most with his opportunities so far:

Hey, he’s already getting ragged on by teammates, too:

Could Dan Ellis be the next out-of-nowhere sensation?

Dallas Stars v Florida Panthers
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If there’s a building goaltending narrative in 2014-15, it’s been about netminders unexpectedly redeeming themselves or almost appearing out of the blue.

Devan Dubnyk went from a wayward soul last season to a possible Vezina nominee for the Minnesota Wild. The New York Rangers somehow didn’t miss a beat when Cam Talbot took over for Henrik Lundqvist. The question in Ottawa went from “Who is Andrew Hammond?” to “How do we beat him?”

It’s pretty early to add the man who was the Florida Panthers’ third goalie to the mix, but Dan Ellis certainly made a case that he should be in the argument with another strong performance Saturday.

Ellis stopped all 27 Carolina Hurricanes shots to grab a 2-0 win for Florida. He’s now currently on a three-game winning streak (and is 3-0-1 since taking over) after spending most of his year in the AHL.

Ellis, 34, comes into this situation in a fittingly weird way, as Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya were injured in the same odd game.

He doesn’t fit into the story of many others who were virtually unproven – Ellis now has 208 regular season games under his belt – yet the league soured enough on him that he wasn’t offered one of 60 NHL goaltending jobs to start 2014-15.

The Panthers still face a very, very long shot to get into the postseason, especially as Tuukka Rask really builds back into “totally worth $7 million” form.

If nothing else, it’s a cool story that follows an interesting pattern, though.

Zetterberg hopes Red Wings have hit ‘rock bottom’

Detroit Red Wings v Philadelphia Flyers
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Here’s an understatement: things haven’t been going well for the Detroit Red Wings lately.

With Saturday’s embarrassing 7-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Red Wings have now dropped four of their last five games. In that span, Detroit has been outscored 22-13.

For a team that once looked ahead of where head coach Mike Babcock expected it to be, this has to be a troubling sign. Then again, sometimes things have to get grim before they get better.

“Hopefully we’ve hit rock bottom,” Henrik Zetterberg said, according to the Detroit Free-Press’ Helene St. James.

Zetterberg hopes that it’s as bad as things get. Babcock labels the loss as “an exclamation point.”

Will things turn around soon? That remains to be seen.

They turn around and face the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Sunday. After that, it’s a mini-road run through Florida as they take on the Panthers on Thursday and the Lightning on Friday.

(Two back-to-backs, even spread pretty far apart, aren’t necessarily ideal.)

Really, the best chance for the Red Wings to really turn around may come starting next weekend. From March 22 – April 7, eight of 10 Red Wings games take place at home.

Is that a guarantee that Detroit will rebound in late March, or that they can’t start getting it together starting tomorrow? Now, as we know with hockey, surprises could be around the corner. The Red Wings merely hope that they are positive ones.