Goalie controversy in Anaheim? Andersen earns the shutout versus Bruins

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — While Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau has gone out of his way to downplay any potential goaltending controversy, the continued outstanding play of Frederik Andersen keeps the questions coming.

Andersen made 38 saves to earn his fifth career shutout in the Ducks’ 4-0 victory over the Boston Bruins on Friday night.

Boudreau broke from the usual rotation in goal when John Gibson felt slightly ill before the game. Andersen seized the opportunity, picking up his 15th win in 17 starts to keep the pressure on in their friendly goaltending rivalry heading toward the playoffs.

“It wasn’t supposed to be his start,” Boudreau said. “Some of the 10-bell chances that they had, I’m sure they were shaking their head after he stopped them.”

Andersen punctuated a night of big stops with two emphatic saves in the second period. After Patrice Bergeron plowed into Andersen while firing a one-timer into the Dane’s chest and dislodging the net, Andersen made a backhanded glove save while falling forward to deny Loui Eriksson.

“I just focus on being ready,” Andersen said. “It’s not in my hands. I just play to the best of my capability and everything is going to take care of itself.”

Boudreau doesn’t have to make any decisions right now, but he acknowledged the Ducks could deploy both Gibson and Andersen during the postseason.

“It doesn’t happen too often, but I don’t think too often you have goalies as equal as we have,” Boudreau said.

Instead, Boudreau tinkered with the offense by playing Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf together again. Anaheim got goals from Jamie McGinn, Ryan Kesler, Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell.

Jonas Gustavsson stopped 22 shots for the Bruins, who dropped consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 11-13. With losses in the first two stops of a three-game California road swing, Boston remained three points behind Atlantic Division-leading Florida.

“We didn’t play a bad game,” Boston forward Brad Marchand said. “They got a couple of early ones, and their goalie made a few really big saves at the right time. They’re a big team. When you’ve got that many big guys with that much skill, sometimes it’s tough to take the puck away from them.”

McGinn was credited with Anaheim’s opening goal early in the first period, the beneficiary of effective positioning in front of the net and a couple of lucky bounces. Perry’s shot hit Boston defenseman Adam McQuaid in the leg before redirecting off McGinn and Torey Krug as they wrestled at the top of the crease.

McGinn has four goals in nine games since being traded from Buffalo.

Anaheim added to its advantage 76 seconds later when Kesler put in a rebound off Andrew Cogliano‘s breakaway shot for his 16th goal.

Lindholm scored 58 seconds into the third, capitalizing on Getzlaf’s pinpoint pass after the Anaheim captain ripped the puck away from John-Michael Liles behind the goal. Rakell notched his 19th goal of the season in the closing minutes.

Before heading out on a five-game Canadian road trip, Anaheim cut its deficit to four points behind the Los Angeles Kings for the Pacific Division lead with 12 games remaining.

Anaheim has earned a point in 11 of its last 12 home games. After losing four of their previous five games during their first poor stretch of play since Christmas, the Ducks avoided consecutive home losses in regulation for the first time since Oct. 14-16.

Longtime Ducks forward Matt Beleskey returned to Anaheim for the first time since signing with Boston as a free agent last summer, but barely avoided a serious injury. Beleskey was accidentally hit in the face by Simon Despres‘ stick late in the first period, dropping him to the ice in pain.

Beleskey, who returned to begin the second period wearing a clear visor, was drafted by Anaheim and played seven seasons with the Ducks before joining Boston.

“It was fun. Well, it was fun to come back here,” Beleskey said of his return. “Obviously, the outcome is not what you want, but it was kind of weird sitting on the other bench tonight, but the first one is out of the way, and I’ve got to move on.”

NOTES: Anaheim has won five consecutive games against Boston, including three straight at home. … Boston dropped to 6-3-1 in the first of back-to-back games this season. … Zdeno Chara got into a fight on his 39th birthday. The Boston captain tussled with Clayton Stoner for his first fighting major since the 2013-14 season.

The Buzzer: Stars Wars Storm Surge; Bob beats Blue Jackets

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Three Stars

1. Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes

Heading into Saturday, Aho only scored in one goal (a goal and an assist) in his past five contests. He made up for that dry spell in a big way against the Wild, generating a hat trick plus two assists.

His third goal was an empty-netter, but Aho’s first tally ended up being the game-winner. Aho was really clicking with Teuvo Teravainen, who finished the night with three assists.

Aho now has 27 points through his first 30 games in 2019-20.

2. Alex Killorn, Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning made life miserable for the Sharks on Saturday, feasting by way of a 7-1 score.

Killorn was a big part of that, generating a goal and three assists for four points. Killorn now has three goals and three assists for six points during a three-game streak, giving Killorn 22 points in 25 games in 2019-20.

As effective as Killorn has been over the years, his career-high is 47 points. Chances are, he’s going to slow down (example a 15.7 shooting percentage so far this season, against a 10.5 career average), but if reasonably healthy, Killorn should blow that previous number out of the water.

There were other Lightning players who played really well, as you’d expect from a blowout. Steven Stamkos ranked among those who collected three points, while Andrei Vasilevskiy made 37 saves to exaggerate the distance between the two teams.

3. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Really, you can take your pick between Malkin and Jake Guentzel, as they both enjoyed one-goal, two-assist nights on Saturday, and they both clearly play off each other quite well. As much as Guentzel has been conjoined to Sidney Crosby during his young (and underappreciated) career, it seems like he can click with Malkin, too. Obviously, it’s not difficult to transition from one “NHL 100” player to another who should have made the “NHL 100,” yet … we’ve seen wingers who cannot find chemistry with one or more of Malkin and Crosby. So credit to Guentzel for being deadly with both, and likely making life a little easier for each of them.

Malkin now has a fantastic 26 points in just 19 games, and may very well have his biggest year in a while if he can stay healthy — an uncomfortably familiar phrase for the Penguins for quite some time. (Heck, even spanning back to Mario Lemieux.)

Guentzel now has 31 points in 30 games, and a solid chance to exceed last season’s excellent career-high of 76 points.

Highlight of the Night

Uh, you think the Kings were expecting Johnny Gaudreau to pass when he did? (Don’t lie.) This is just a tremendous combination of speed, skill, and vision as he set up Sean Monahan:

Star Wars Storm Surge

Yay or nay on the Star Wars-themed Storm Surge from the Hurricanes? I’d say solid enough, although it lacked a Bunch of Baby Yoda so … maybe not ideal.

Factoids

  • The Blue Jackets spoiled Sergei Bobrovsky‘s shutout bid a bit more than halfway through the third period. Still, Bob had a strong night with 33 saves. Hot take: Columbus is still probably relieved to not be spending to the tune of Bob’s $10M AAV, considering how infrequently Bob has looked this good.
  • NHL PR notes that the Avalanche extended a point streak to 14 games, while they also gave the Bruins their first regulation loss at home this season.
  • Brady Tkachuk received a fine from the Department of Player Safety for cross-checking Scott Laughton. More on that wild game here.
  • A bit esoteric, but interesting, from NHL PR: Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid are the fifth pair to generate at least 300 points each in 320 games or fewer. They’re the first pairing to pull that off since Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin.

Scores

PHI 4 – OTT 3
VAN 6 – BUF 5 (OT)
COL 4 – BOS 1
PIT 5 – DET 3
TBL 7 – SJS 1
FLA 4 – CBJ 1
CAR 6 – MIN 2
TOR 5 – STL 2
NSH 6 – NJD 4
DAL 3 – NYI 1
CGY 4 – LAK 3

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

P.K. Subban gets a warm tribute during his return to Nashville

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It would have been silly for Nashville Predators fans to boo P.K. Subban during his return to “Smashville.”

Subban didn’t choose to be traded from Montreal to Nashville, and he didn’t elect to be sent from Nashville to the New Jersey Devils, either.

Sports fans aren’t always so rational, though. Really, it makes sense: spending so much money, time, and emotional energy on a game isn’t exactly the most rational thing to do. So there was some concern about how Subban would be received, especially since he’s already booed in an honestly uncomfortably large number of NHL arenas already.

Subban and others can breathe a sigh of relief, though, as while not everyone greeted Subban with open arms in as literal a way as Roman Josi did with their hug on Saturday, the team gave Subban a fantastic welcome back tribute video:

Not only does that video include some of Subban’s great moments during his three seasons with the Predators (that Stanley Cup Final appearance, a Norris Trophy win), it also captures some of the off-the-ice qualities that make Subban so fun and entertaining (and make people sometimes get perplexingly, maybe troublingly mad about him). He got up and decided to sing some Johnny Cash upon arriving in Nashville, was a fantastic charitable presence, and was a lot of fun.

(No Listerine was spilled in the making of the ad, but you can’t have it all.)

Anyway, good on the Predators and their fans for welcoming P.K. back.

As a reminder, Montreal Canadiens fans greeted him with love upon his return, too:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Avs’ rising star Cale Makar shaken by hit from Bruins’ Marchand

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The Colorado Avalanche have done a masterful job, for the most part, when it comes to rolling with injury-related punches to key players such as Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. They have to hope that Saturday didn’t send another such haymaker their way.

Rising star defenseman Cale Makar (who just fell under a point per game on Saturday with 28 in 29 contests) was clearly shaken up by a hard hit by Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand.

It didn’t seem like a heinous hit by Marchand, although there are some who wonder if it was a bit high.

Either way, Makar’s reaction is troubling. You can see him shake his head multiple times following the hit, which gives the impression that he could have suffered a concussion. That doesn’t guarantee that Makar did, but it’s a situation to watch — and one the Avalanche should absolutely be careful about.

The Avalanche ended up beating the Bruins 4-1 on Saturday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Laila Anderson, bone marrow donor attend Blues game

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If it got a “little dusty” at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis on Saturday, that’s understandable, because the continued story of Laila Anderson meeting Kenton Felmlee, her bone marrow donor, is sure to make most get a case of heightened allergies.

(Is that a leak from the ceiling? /Sobs)

Anyway, Felmlee was Anderson’s guest during Saturday’s Toronto Maple Leafs – St. Louis Blues game, giving the two another chance to bond, and beyond that, for Anderson to thank Felmlee for helping her in her battle with the rare immune disease HLH.

It’s great stuff, even if the actual Blues game isn’t going so great for St. Louis.

This longer clip from their first meeting earlier this week is worth watching, unless you don’t want people to see you openly weeping’n’stuff:

(Personally, I’d say it’s worth it.)

MORE ON LAILA ANDERSON AND THE BLUES:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.