<span class="vcard">Mike Halford</span>

Jonathan Toews, Ryan Garbutt, Erik Gustafsson, Jonathan Quick

‘Hawks catch fire in third, snap Kings’ seven-game winning streak

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Looks like Chicago’s offense is finding it’s groove.

Buoyed by some new-look lines and a stellar outing from Corey Crawford, the ‘Hawks dispatched of Los Angeles 4-2 on Monday at the United Center, snapping a two-game losing streak while halting the Kings’ win streak at seven.

Prior to tonight’s game, Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville fired up the ol’ line blender and moved Artemi Panarin to the top unit alongside Jonathan Toews and Ryan Garbutt. That gave Teuvo Teravainen the chance to take Panarin’s spot on the Patrick KaneArtem Anisimov line.

The moves paid off.

Toews, Anisimov and Kane all finished with two points, while Teravainen scored the game-winner midway through the third. Panarin and Garbutt both added assists.

Then there was Crawford.

The veteran netminder continued his solid start to the season with a 33-save effort, 19 of those coming in a hectic third period in which the Kings out-shot the Blackhawks by seven, but couldn’t beat “Crow.”

Speaking of those Kings, they’ll likely be disappointed by tonight’s result, regardless of all their success of late. They had a fairly wide advantage in shots — 35 to Chicago’s 26 — and held a one-goal lead going into the final period, before Chicago exploded for three goals.

Alec Martinez and Anze Kopitar scored for L.A., while Jake Muzzin finished with a pair of assists. Jonathan Quick stopped 22 shots in the loss.

Reim time: Leafs stun Western Conference-leading Stars

Valeri Nichushkin; James Reimer
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This hasn’t been a banner year for James Reimer.

Until Monday night, that is.

Reimer, who came into tonight’s action with a .876 save percentage and 3.24 GAA, stopped 43 of 44 shots to give the Leafs a 4-1 win over the red-hot Dallas Stars.

It was a terrific effort, and the kind of goaltending that’s eluded Toronto of late. The Leafs came into tonight’s action have surrendered 16 goals in their last four games, and this marked the club’s first 40-plus-save effort of the year.

But tonight wasn’t just about Reimer.

The Leafs scored four goals for just the third time this season, and the first time in six games. Joffrey Lupul led the way with a pair of goals — including the game-winner just 21 seconds into the middle frame — while Morgan Reilly and Brad Boyes both finished with multi-point efforts.

Dallas responded with a goal from Jamie Benn, his NHL-best 10th of the year. Having come into tonight with wins in eight of their last nine — and firing 44 shots at a very in-form goalie — the Stars will lament the loss, but won’t be too broken up about it.

Toronto, meanwhile, will be elated with the result

Tonight’s win was just the Leafs’ second of the season and, ergo, just the second of the Mike Babcock era. It was a much-needed victory; prior to, Babcock gave a pretty sobering analysis of where his team was at.

“We’re at the 10-game mark. We’ve won one game,” he said, per the Star. “We’ve been in lots of games. There’s been three games I felt that they are un-Leaf-like. Maybe they are Leaf-like, but that’s not what we’re going to get used to.

“We’ve got to be way better.”

For one night, anyway, the Maple Leafs were.

Tarasenko to return Tuesday versus Kings

150708-Vladimir-Tarasenko

Turns out Vladimir Tarasenko‘s absence will be brief.

The Blues sniper, who sat out Saturday’s game against Minnesota with a lower-body injury, will be back in the lineup for tomorrow’s game against the Kings (8:30 p.m., NBCSN).

Tarasenko was hurt in a win over the Ducks last week, but managed to finish that game before sitting out the Wild tilt. The Blues didn’t seem overly concerned with Tarasenko’s health; on Saturday, head coach Ken Hitchcock joked that the lower-body ailment would keep the Russian out for “the month of October.”

Saturday, of course, was Oct. 31.

Tarasenko is off to a terrific start this season, leading the 8-2-1 Blues with six goals and 10 points. His production is a big reason the club’s been able to withstand the losses of injured forwards Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund and Jaden Schwartz.

Video: Ruff’s successful challenge wipes out Leafs’ go-ahead goal

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Brad Boyes and the Toronto Maple Leafs thought they’d raced out to a 2-1 lead on Dallas in the first period of tonight’s game.

But Lindy Ruff had other ideas.

Dallas’ bench boss orchestrated a successful coach’s challenge to wipe out what would’ve been Boyes second of the night, correctly noting that Leafs center Byron Froese had gone offside prior to the puck going in.

From the NHL’s Situation Room Blog:

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with NHL Hockey Operations staff, the Linesman determined that Toronto’s Byron Froese was off-side prior to the goal.

According to Rule 78.7, “The standard for overturning the call in the event of a ‘GOAL’ call on the ice is that the Linesman, after reviewing any and all available replays and consulting with the Toronto Video Room, determines that one or more Players on the attacking team preceded the puck into the attacking zone prior to the goal being scored and that, as a result, the play should have been stopped for an “Off-side” infraction; where this standard is met, the goal will be disallowed.”

Therefore the original call is overturned – no goal Toronto Maple Leafs.

The clock is re-set to show 4:28 (15:32 elapsed time), when the off-side infraction occurred.

Since the Coach’s Challenge resulted in the original call being overturned, the Dallas Stars retain their time-out.

Earlier, Boyes and Froese had connected on the game’s opening goal, with the latter setting up the former at the 8:24 mark. It was Boyes’ first goal as a Leaf and Froese’s first point in the NHL.

Just under a minute later, Jamie Benn scored his league-high 10th goal to even the score at 1-1.

Kings say Kopitar extension ‘too close to not get it done’

Los Angeles Kings v New York Rangers
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It sounds like slowly, but surely, the Anze Kopitar extension in L.A. will happen.

“He’s everything we covet as a King,” Kings VP of hockey ops Mike Futa told Sportsnet’s Hockey Central. “It’s too close to not get it done. We’ll find a way to get it done.”

The Kopitar extension has dragged on for months now, something we’ve covered thoroughly — see here, here, here and here.

It’s been dragged out for a reason. Several reasons, actually.

The Kings were in a salary cap quagmire for quite some time, waiting on resolutions for both Slava Voynov and Mike Richards. It also stands to reason Kopitar’s ask is massive, given 1) all he’s accomplished during his time as a King, 2) the fact L.A. has openly praised how much he means to the organization, and 3) the mega-deals signed by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in Chicago.

More, from TSN’s Bob McKenzie (courtesy Today’s Slapshot):

“Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane make $10.5 million per year, each. Anze Kopitar knows he’s not going to get that.

“But Malkin has the next-highest AAV, post-lockout, at 9.5. What’s the sweet spot between 9.5 and 10.5. I’m going to guess that it starts with a 10.”

Those kinds of dollars can lead to a complex negotiation.

GM Dean Lombardi has to balance between paying Kopitar what he’s worth, yet also keeping an eye toward the future, as he Kings still have some mighty big, mighty long contracts on the books — Dustin Brown and Jeff Carter through 2022, Marian Gaborik through ’21.

Lombardi also needs to account for contracts for talented youngsters like Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, who are RFAs in ’18.

As for Futa’s remarks, he certainly timed them well.

Recent reports from both TSN and Sportsnet suggested contract talks had stalled between the two sides, and that Kopitar wasn’t happy about it.

“We’re obviously working through it,” Futa explained. “He wants to stay here; we want him to stay here. Sometimes negotiations take a little longer than you like.”