Buffalo Sabres captain Brian Gionta had an eventful game against the New York Islanders. He got two shots on goal, which sadly accounted for 20% of Buffalo’s total, and he was involved in a bizarre incident in the first period.
Gionta’s stick ended up getting caught in Frans Nielsen’s skate, knocking the 30-year-old forward to the ice. Buffalo’s captain continued to skate forward, dragging Nielsen from one end of the ice to the other as he tried to free his stick.
Nielsen, who was playing in his 500th game, was fine and went on to record an assist in the Islanders’ 3-2 victory.
That certainly doesn’t happen every game, but when it does it doesn’t always result in one player dragging the other. For example, Edmonton forward Nail Yakupov got his stick caught in Ryan Ellis’ skate earlier this season and stopped playing to help untangle the Predators’ defenseman:
Scott Hannan also got his stick stuck in Rick Nash’s skate back in March 2014, but in that case Hannan let go of his stick:
Florida had a 2-0 edge through 40 minutes and outshot the Predators 15-4 in the third frame. What ultimately sank the Panthers was a hooking penalty from Derek MacKenzie and a slashing call against Tomas Kopecky. Nashville isn’t known for its strong power play, but Seth Jones and Filip Forsberg capitalized on those opportunities.
That was Forsberg’s 18th goal of the season. The Calder Trophy frontrunner now leads all rookies with 48 points in 53 games. He came up big again in the shootout by scoring the deciding goal in the fourth round.
With that, Nashville has now won four of its last five games to improve to 35-12-6 this season. If Anaheim loses against Tampa Bay today, then the Predators will have the best record in the NHL.
By contrast the Panthers have been struggling lately with just three wins over their last 11 games. They’re six points shy of a playoff spot and will be further behind than that if Boston beats Montreal tonight (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis is on a scouting tour looking for trade partners.
Nonis was in Nashville on Thursday night watching the Predators and Anaheim Ducks. He also took in Saturday’s Kings-Lightning game in Tampa Bay.
According to Sportsnet’s Damien Cox (via Elliotte Friedman), the Leafs are nowhere close to contract extensions with Cody Franson, Mike Santorelli or Daniel Winnik. All three are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents after this season and are available via trade.
Additionally, the Leafs are reportedly willing to part ways with center Tyler Bozak. Friedman said he’s hearing the 28-year-olds name in trade rumors. Bozak has three years remaining on his five-year, $21 million contract, which carries a cap hit of $4.2 million.
Despite rumors of Brendan Shanahan looking for Nonis’ replacement, the 48-year-old executive is expected to remain in his position through the trade deadline.
Colin Wilson hasn’t gotten a ton of credit for the Nashville Predators’ big improvement this season, but he’s really found chemistry alongside Mike Fisher. He faced a setback on Saturday, however, as he suffered an upper-body injury and will not return against the New York Rangers.
Wilson was injured by what was regarded as a clean Daniel Girardi hit.
He wasn’t the only player to get banged up in this one, either, as Jesper Fast suffered a leg injury from an Anton Volchenkov check. He also will not return on Saturday.
The game wasn’t all ugly despite those losses. The pace of the game was often frantic, and there were goals like Ryan McDonagh’s undressing of Eric Nystrom:
Update: Mike Ribeiro scored the game-winner for the 700th point of his NHL career.
The Predators goaltender showed his rust early when he bungled a rebound attempt that led to Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg scoring a shorthanded goal just 3:08 minutes into the contest.
“It wasn’t a great start,” Rinne said, per the Predators’ website. “Obviously, right away I put us behind the eight ball. Originally, I probably felt a little rusty, but after that start, I felt all right. A few unlucky bounces and a couple of tips; not the way that you want to start.”
He finished with 21 saves on 25 shots. At the other end of the ice, Anaheim netminder Frederik Andersen turned aside an incredible 44 of 46 shots.
With that, Anaheim has now claimed eight of its last 10 games to improve to 34-12-6. That gives the Ducks a two-point edge over Nashville and puts them atop the NHL’s standings. Outside of Nashville, Anaheim also has fierce competition for the Presidents’ Trophy in St. Louis and Tampa Bay. That being said, even if the Ducks are successful in finishing with the best record in the NHL, they will still be judged almost exclusively on their playoff performance.
After all, the Ducks have had some great regular seasons over the last couple of years. They just need to demonstrate that they’re ready to carry that into the playoffs.