James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Jonathan Toews: Still lethal in overtime

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Onlookers described the game as wild, yet the result was familiar enough that the tough-to-please may have yawned.

Yeah, yeah, it was a crazy game … but Jonathan Toews won it for Chicago, just like usual. “Captain Serious” earned his fifth overtime game-winner to help the Blackhawks edged the Arizona Coyotes 5-4 in OT.

Ho hum, right?

OK, well maybe it wasn’t all by-the-book.

Although, there was that one time that Coach Q got pretty mad and

Stars win in OT, but lose Spezza to lower-body injury

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Thursday was a good news/bad news kind of night for the Dallas Stars in a 4-3 overtime win against the Colorado Avalanche.

The good: John Klingberg exploited a Tyson Barrie turnover in overtime to score an unassisted 3-on-1 clincher, the sort of tally that probably leaves goaltenders muttering heinous things about the 3-on-3 format.

Check out that goal in the embed below via the NHL.

The bad: Jason Spezza left the game with a lower-body injury and did not return.

The team didn’t specify how bad the injury might be, so it’s too early to get especially worried. It’s certainly a concern, however, as the Stars have enjoyed the luxury of the secondary scoring Spezza often provides.

Video: Another NHL official gets checked

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Here’s hoping checks on NHL officials don’t “happen in threes.”

It’s a little early to call it a trend, but another ref got bumped by a hockey player. Let’s go out on a limb and say that Brendan Smith‘s accidental hit was more, um, clearly accidental than what Dennis Wideman did.

(Feel free to disagree in the comments, though. You can see the video for yourself.)

The Florida Panthers ended up beating the Detroit Red Wings 6-3, so a bad night overall for Smith & Co.

Yep, Connor McDavid is fueling some Oilers’ optimism

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Yes, it’s probably hasty for the Edmonton Oilers to be looking up hopefully at the Western Conference standings. Seeing two wins shouldn’t sway you during the haul that is an 82-game campaign.

Even so, it’s tough to blame a team and fan base that’s so far removed from meaningful wins (at least beyond the draft lottery).

It’s also true that they’ve absolutely crushed their opponents in Connor McDavid‘s two games back.

After beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-1 on Tuesday, the Oilers hammered the Ottawa Senators by a lopsided score of 7-2.

After scoring a fantastic goal and adding two assists against Columbus, McDavid generated two more assists on Thursday (both on Jordan Eberle goals) to help Edmonton hammer Ottawa.

It’s foolish to say it’s all No. 97, as only one forward and four skaters failed to score for the Oilers. Still, Oilers fans can say “We’d be closer if Connor didn’t get hurt,” as this burst coincides with his glorious return.

Those murmurs are less interesting than the quieter voices arguing that maybe they can make the playoffs regardless. Without any “What if?” assertions.

Again, it’s not the most realistic thought; Sports Club Stats puts them at a 1.7 percent chance of making the postseason as of this writing.

On the other hand, the Anaheim Ducks aren’t THAT far ahead of the Oilers for the Pacific’s plum third seed, so who knows?

Such thoughts are more enticing than imagining another draft pick, if nothing else.

(Even if, chances are, they’ll likely ultimately settle for another lottery ticket.)

Jagr, Luongo, Panthers keep doing special things

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With all due respect to John Vanbiesbrouck’s plastic rat group, the 2015-16 version of the Florida Panthers may be the franchise at its most special.

Either way, it’s been quite a phenomenal run as of late.

Thursday’s 6-3 win against the Detroit Red Wings stands as noteworthy both from team and individual standpoints.

Jaromir Jagr: The Mulleted Marvel generated the 1,110th assist of his illustrious career, and he didn’t take the night off after hitting that milestone. He ended up scoring a goal and two assists overall.

He’s really breathing down history’s neck:

Roberto Luongo: Speaking of history, Luongo reminds us that he’s carving out quite the special place of his own, as he’s now alone in seventh place all-time for wins.

Panthers: It probably feels special enough for the Panthers to beat a gold-standard franchise in the Red Wings by such a margin. The more exciting part for Panthers fans is that it’s just the continuation of a trend. They’re now 17-3-1 in their past 21 games and are on a five-game winning streak.

Whatever way you slice it, the Panthers are providing memorable moments whether you focus on the past, present or future.