James O'Brien

Jets win wild one against Preds, but is Byfuglien hurt?

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What a weird one in Winnipeg.

In the grand scheme of things, the biggest development may just be a possible injury for Dustin Byfuglien. After scoring two goals, Byfuglien took an ugly-looking fall that certainly raises some concerns.

Either way, Jets – Predators is a clash between two frustrated teams that also happen to boast some serious firepower, and it showed on Thursday in Winnipeg’s eventual 5-4 OT win.

Nashville opened the scoring with Kevin Fiala’s first goal, but the Jets went on a tear in the second period.

Byfuglien scored two of those goals, sandwiched in between Bryan Little‘s tally, and it was 3-1 heading into the third. Nikolaj Ehlers 4-1 goal seemed to scream “Everyone’s really going to bury the Predators after this one.”

Instead, things just got … strange.

Ryan Johansen fed into his reputation of being something of a double-edged sword in this one.

His detractors will trash him for a surprising unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, but they’ll struggle to shrug their shoulders at his three-point night.

That included an assist on James Neal‘s tying goal, which happened with just 14 seconds left.

A Predators team that’s gained a lot of scorn erased a 4-1 deficit with only 14 minutes left in the third. Oh yeah, there was even a span of 3-on-3 hockey … in regulation.

A lot to take in, right?

Winnipeg salvaged what would have been a highly embarrassing affair when Blake Wheeler scored the overtime-winner a little less than a minute into extra time. They can say “it could have been worse,” although they may only whisper such a thought if Byfuglien misses serious time.

With that, both desperate teams get something to take away from Thursday’s games, yet each coach can still go red in the face screaming about the many, many mistakes on both sides.

Seriously, though, it was an oddball game.

Quenneville passes Arbour for second all-time; Blackhawks make it 9

Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville acknowledges the crowd's cheers by holding up the game puck after the Blackhawks' 3-2 win over the Nashville Predators in an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, in Chicago. The win gives Quenneville’s his 782nd career win, tying him with New York Islanders coach Al Arbour for second on the NHL’s all-time victory list. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
AP
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Coach Q stands alone in second place, and the Chicago Blackhawks continue to look like … well, the Chicago Blackhawks team we’ve come to expect.

It wasn’t easy, mind you, as the Blackhawks beat the Montreal Canadiens by the slim margin of 2-1, with all of the contest’s goals coming in the opening frame.

That’s the Blackhawks ninth consecutive victory, which leaves them a breath behind the Dallas Stars for first place in the Central (the Stars hold a games-in-hand advantage).

Just as impressively, this gives Joel Quenneville the 783rd regular season coaching win of his already-outstanding career. This latest win breaks his tie with New York Islanders legend Al Arbour, so Coach Q is all alone in second place for coaching wins.

Again, that doesn’t mean it was easy.

Corey Crawford continues to demand more notoriety with his outstanding play, stopping 39 out of 40 shots (including all 29 in the final two frames, when the Habs were hoping to tie things up).

It also wasn’t easy for Marian Hossa, another player who bounced back from being bloodied tonight:

***

Not that long ago, this match would have been hyped as a potential 2016 Stanley Cup Final preview.

That’s still a possibility, but right now, the Canadiens are really struggling (and sometimes just suffering from bad luck beyond the obvious blow of missing Carey Price).

They really weren’t bad tonight, yet the larger body of work is a little troubling.

The Blackhawks, on the other hand, are more than holding up their end of that bargain.

Caps and everyone else: Kuznetsov stands out in latest Washington win

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On a night when the Washington Capitals honored the leading Russian goal-scorer in NHL history (Alex Ovechkin), another ravishing Russian stole the show.

Evgeny Kuznetsov was absolutely brilliant on Thursday, generating three points in Washington’s 4-1 win against the Vancouver Canucks.

Two of those plays were works of art, from the goal you an see above to the nice assist featured below.

Heck, the kid’s even capable of providing amusing interviews about cigars and whiskey.

In a way, Kuznetsov is part of the reason this Capitals team is scarier than ever. It’s not just about Alex Ovechkin, as “The Great Eight” can have the occasional off-night.

Naturally, it doesn’t hurt that Braden Holtby may end up being as obvious a 2016 Vezina winner as Carey Price was last season.

This win widens Washington’s gap between themselves and everyone else; as of this writing, the slightly stumbling Stars are seven standings point behind the Caps for the most in the NHL. (Washington has 69 now.)

Really, it seems like the biggest worries of the moment are the sort of things you drum up when you’re enjoying a sporting surplus.

“Are we peaking at the wrong time?”

Those may be the sort of things especially worrisome Washington fans might be batting around, yet most of the worrying takes place on the other end of the ice each night.

Islanders move to Metro’s second spot by edging Rangers

New York Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak (41) deflects a shot on the goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Rangers, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
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The New York Islanders saw one of their players dodge a scary injury bullet. They found themselves down 1-0 against the New York Rangers, too.

Rather than folding, the Islanders instead rode a three-goal third period to a 3-1 win, with that wounded player (Adam Pelech) grabbing his first career point in the process.

With that, the Islanders took the Metropolitan Division’s second position from the Rangers, who now sit in third.

(Think of that tantalizing situation: if the playoffs began today, the Isles would have home-ice advantage against the Rangers.)

The Islanders have been on-again, off-again this season, yet perhaps this is the sort of spark that may help them gain consistency. It doesn’t hurt that they play four of their next five games in Brooklyn, either.

The gap between the Isles and Rangers is tiny (New York can gain the tiebreaker by winning with its game in hand), but that’s not necessarily the point.

The Islanders need to start generating momentum to prove that they’re more than just a team with potential, so gutting out wins like these can really start to build up that necessary confidence.

Another hockey tough moment: Adam Pelech shakes off skate to face

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For those (*cough* grumpy people *cough cough*) who roll their eyes as the rest of us gape in awe at various feats of hockey toughness, allow this hearty apology.

Feel free to move along.

Others will fatten their file of awe-inspiring moments with this moment.

Adam Pelech of the New York Islanders had the misfortune of taking Derek Stepan‘s skate to his face on Thursday. You can see it in the video above. It’s pretty scary.

You can also see it in GIF form:

Pelech didn’t miss much time, and from at least one observer, seems to be doing just fine too:

Yep, these guys are tough.

Update: To really flesh out the narrative, he grabbed his first NHL point in the same game.