James O'Brien

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

Rare gaffes, including Lundqvist allowing center-ice goal (Video)

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Most of the time, players like Henrik Lundqvist and Aaron Ekblad seem almost superhuman. It’s part of what makes it so fun to watch them.

Still, if you’re slogging through a tough week, sometimes it’s also fun to watch them struggle. They’re like us, after all!

(Hey, whatever gets you through the week.)

Lundqvist and Ekblad both had moments they’d like to forget on Thursday.

For King Henrik, it was a dreaded center-ice goal by the Buffalo Sabres, which you can watch in glee/horror in the video above this post’s headline.

There were two big backhanders on the other goal of notice. Henrik Zetterberg did some great work with his, yet you wonder if the Red Wings were ribbing Ekblad a little for his own, erm, “backhand cheese.”

OK, maybe they were just tweeting about Zetterberg’s backhander. Right?

Just a brutal night for Justin Williams

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Justin Williams earned the clutch nickname of “Mr. Game 7” by developing quite the timing when it comes to scoring goals. Every now and then, the bounces go the other way, even for him.

Thursday was an example of that, as he seemingly scored a 1-0 goal for the Washington Capitals, but actually did so just a frame too late.

Here’s the would-be goal in question:

The NHL did a great job capturing the moment. Yeah, that was close:

It was one of those nights for Williams and the Capitals. The Islanders won 3-0, and Williams suffered this hit by Cal Clutterbuck:

Help coming? Stralman returns for Lightning tonight

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After their third loss in a row and fourth defeat in five games, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brian Boyle said, “I’d love to play against us right now. It’s easy.”

With some injuries still irking them, it’s naive to say that one return will turn everything around, yet the Lightning have to be thrilled to get underrated defenseman Anton Stralman back in the lineup against the St. Louis Blues tonight.

That’s the word from head coach Jon Cooper to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times.

During this three-game skid, the Lightning allowed 38 shots on goal twice and 30 once; they’ve given up at least 30 in their last seven games.

Could Stralman help stop some of the bleeding? Maybe.

Joel Vermin and Michael Bournival are also in the mix, with Andrei Vasilevskiy getting the start, according to Smith.

Sharks strengthen Pacific lead, end Kings’ streak at five

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The NHL’s only substantial winning streak is over, as the San Jose Sharks ended the Los Angeles Kings’ run at five games.

In beating the Kings 4-1 on Wednesday, the Sharks now lead the Pacific Division by three points and are only three points behind the Blackhawks for the top spot in the West.

They’ve been on a very nice run of their own, winning five of six; their only loss during this span came via a 3-2 defeat to the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.

“I feel we’re finding our stride,” Logan Couture said, according to CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz. “Inconsistent at the start, but I think we’re playing some of our better hockey right now.”

The Sharks enjoyed a two-goal performance from Logan Couture alongside Ryan Carpenter’s first NHL tally and the second of Kevin Labanc‘s career.

Martin Jones was also sharp, though he had some help from the likes of Brent Burns:

The Sharks get to play three of their next four at home. After visiting the Coyotes in Arizona tomorrow, the Kings get a three-game homestand in Los Angeles, too.

For the time being, it looks like both teams are in a good situation to duke it out for Pacific Division positioning.

The Sharks clearly took the edge in that regard tonight.

Is there even any doubt Chad Johnson is the Flames’ guy?

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The beauty of the Calgary Flames bringing in two goalies without long-term contracts is that they enjoy rare flexibility. That means being able to run with Chad Johnson, even if Brian Elliott‘s the guy with “All-Star” on his resume.

It’s probably reasonable to watch this situation, but at this point, it’s extremely difficult to deny that Johnson is the man for the Flames. At least right now.

Wednesday presented the latest exhibit, as Johnson stopped 39 Toronto Maple Leafs shots in a 3-0 win for Calgary.

With that, he now has three shutouts in November, matching some admittedly specific team history:

Maybe more importantly, head coach Glen Gulutzan acknowledges that Johnson bailed the Flames out more than once on Wednesday. This was the most exciting example:

Here’s the thing: with a career .918 save percentage, it’s possible that Johnson’s been worthy of a chance to be “the guy” for some time. In Elliott’s struggles, the Flames may have stumbled upon their brick wall.