Author: James O'Brien

Joe Pavelski, Ilya Bryzgalov

Sharks chase Bryzgalov, down Ducks

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The San Jose Sharks have just had the Anaheim Ducks’ number lately. That continued in a big way on Thursday, as they prevailed 6-3.

Just take a look at two stats that exemplify the fact that it wasn’t all on Ilya Bryzgalov.

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There were some out there who wondered if Bryzgalov was getting unfair treatment when he went into the 2014-15 season without an NHL contract. On a night like this, it’s difficult to imagine him playing at the highest level next year.

The San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks came into Thursday’s second period tied 1-1 and then things just fell apart for Bryzgalov & Co. It wasn’t all Bryzgalov’s fault, yet it’s still hard not to focus on him after he gave up six goals on 25 shots.

Some of those tallies were just pretty, like this great bit of puck movement that set up Joe Pavelski’s power-play goal:

Others were just rough to watch, like this Matt Irwin tally:

The Ducks probably wanted Bryzgalov to stick it out, but that was just getting uncomfortable.

Bryzgalov came in with a 1-2-0 record and a lousy .854 save percentage, yet his last start showed some promise. That’s gone away now.

The last two goals allowed were especially rough:

Oof.

Update: The Ducks scored a couple garbage goals to make the score more respectable, but there weren’t really any fireworks in the third period. The Sharks ultimately took the game 6-3.

OK, one eventful thing happened in the later moments:

Trade: Blackhawks, Canucks swap defensemen in Forsling, Clendening

Chicago Blackhawks v Calgary Flames
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The Blackhawks and Canucks traded defensemen on Thursday night with Gustav Forsling going to Chicago while Adam Clendening joins the Vancouver fold.

Clendening, 22, was the 36th pick of the 2011 NHL Draft. He appeared in four NHL games this season with Chicago (one goal, one assist) and 38 games with the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs. He’s been a solid point producer at the AHL level.

Forsling, 18, was the 126th pick of the 2014 NHL Draft. He’s been playing for Linkopings HC in Sweden, but it sounds like his work in the 2015 World Junior Championships caught Chicago’s eye.

“We are excited to add Gustav to a strong group of young talent in our organization,” Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman said. “He was one of the best players at the World Junior Championships a few weeks ago and this season has emerged as a regular contributor in the top professional league in Sweden. He’s an offensive defenseman that plays very well on the power play and has a big shot.”

Lightning ride Paquette’s first hat trick to Atlantic lead

Cedric Paquette
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The Tampa Bay Lightning boast such an array of young forwards that Cedric Paquette doesn’t usually come to mind.

He made enough of an impression with his first career hat trick that he may be on the tip of more tongues, however. If nothing else, he probably won’t be anonymous to the Detroit Red Wings.

The first goal came about two minutes into the contest:

The second came in the waning moments of the first period:

Finally, he netted a hat trick showing great patience on this shorthanded odd-man rush:

It wasn’t just his first hat trick … it was also his first goal in quite some time.

Update: The Lightning ended up scoring another goal to beat the Red Wings 5-1. The Montreal Canadiens won their game against the New York Rangers, making the top of the Atlantic Division quite the battle:

Lightning: 66 points, 31 wins, 29 regulation/OT wins in 50 games played
Canadiens: 65 points, 31 wins, 26 ROW in 47 GP
Red Wings: 65 points, 28 wins, 26 ROW in 49 GP

After playing the Blue Jackets in Tampa Bay on Saturday, the Lightning will enter a challenging February. They play every game against (mostly) tough Western Conference opponents with many of those games coming on the road.

That won’t be easy, but so far, the Lightning have passed most of their tests on the road to becoming a legitimate Eastern contender.

Price wins goalie duel vs. Lundqvist as Habs edge Rangers

Carey Price,
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In a tight, tense contest, it ultimately came down to Carey Price vs. Henrik Lundqvist. The Montreal Canadiens ultimately got the last laugh by beating the New York Rangers 1-0 on Thursday night.

A controversial goal review ended up being something of an afterthought (except for Dale Weise) as Price turned aside all 23 shots for his 28th career shutout. The Rangers had won 10 of 15 against the Canadiens at Madison Square Garden, but Montreal came out on top tonight.

Lundqvist was almost as sharp as Price in net, although he’d probably want to have Max Pacioretty’s game-winning goal back:

This marks a second straight loss for the Rangers, both coming after the All-Star break. Montreal, meanwhile, is on a roll with four straight victories. They’re also 14-3-1 in their last 18 games.

Leafs’ luck: Bernier gives up long distance goal, things unravel in third

Jonathan Bernier
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Yikes. Sometimes that’s all you can really say about an especially bad goal.

Every tally has been precious for the offense-starved Toronto Maple Leafs, so giving up a soft one hurts that much more. That’s exactly what happened early in the third period tonight, as Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored from his own blue line on a sleepy Jonathan Bernier:

Rule of thumb: when people are bringing up Vesa Toskala’s name in Toronto, you know things are going poorly.

Update: Yep, the third period ended up being pretty rough for the Maple Leafs overall.

Phil Kessel first-period goal wasn’t nearly enough for the Maple Leafs to secure a standings point. Martin Hanzal scored the game-winner at the 3:47 mark of the third period and Sam Gagner found the net for an insurance tally with three-and-a-half minutes left.

Almost as disturbing for Toronto is that a flailing Arizona team hogged the puck. The Coyotes generated a 45-25 shot advantage on Thursday with a 21-6 second period being most glaring (even without featuring a single goal).

It’s one thing to be dominated by a contending team; it’s another to be handled thoroughly by a squad seemingly in free-fall mode. Bad times for the Maple Leafs.