Blackhawks steal shootout win in Columbus, deal another blow to Dallas and Calgary playoff hopes

There’s a saying in life, “rather be lucky than good.” Whoever first said that probably felt the same way most Blackhawks fans feel tonight. After a game where they were badly outplayed by the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Blackhawks got a late goal in the 3rd period to tie the game and were able to finish off the win in a shootout. A loss would have seen their lead shrink to a single point in the standings as the Flames beat the Blues. Instead, the win leaves the defending Stanley Cup champs with a three-point cushion in the Western Conference with only three games for the Flames to catch them. The win also helped increase their lead over the idle Dallas Stars to five points with only six games left on the Stars schedule.

The night certainly didn’t look like it would be problematic as Chicago got off to a great start. The Hawks scored a pair of goals by Patrick Kane and Brent Seabrook within the first 6 minutes of the first period and just had the look of a game that could get out of hand in a hurry. Instead of finishing off the struggling Blue Jackets, the Hawks let them hang around and only lead 2-1 after the first period.

The second period was worse. Six different Blackhawks took penalties in the middle frame. SIX. They looked out of sorts while Columbus looked like the desperate team that needed the points for a playoff spot. Derick Brassard ended up scoring on a 5-on-3 power play to finally tie the game up. When the Jackets eventually took the lead in the 3rd period, it looked like it was only a matter of time before the Hawks were in the locker room explaining how things went tragically wrong.

But just when things looked like they were going to end badly, the Hockey Gods threw the Blackhawks a bone. Bryan Bickell took an outlet pass from Duncan Keith, skated up the left wing and beat Mathieu Garon with a shot that can only be classified as a “bad” goal. If you listened closely in Nationwide Arena, you could almost hear the groans coming from Calgary and Dallas. The break was all Chicago needed to send the game to extra time (and earning a point). Once in OT, they found their game—if it wasn’t for Mathieu Garon trying to redeem himself, they would have ended the game before the shootout. Regardless, Corey Crawford stopped every shot he saw in the shootout, Viktor Stalberg snuck a backhander behind the Columbus netminder, and the Blackhawks escaped with the two points they came for.

At this point in the season, nothing matters except for the result. Did the Blackhawks deserve to win the game? Probably not. Did they completely shut it down after exploding for two goals to start the game? Absolutely. But none of that matters. Two points are two points.

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    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

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    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.