Nylander’s OT penalty shot sends Blackhawks to another loss

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The Chicago Blackhawks and Toronto Maple Leafs both entered Wednesday’s game mired in slumps, and, well, somebody had to win this one.

That somebody turned out to be the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime, 3-2, thanks to a William Nylander penalty shot just six seconds into the extra period.

Right off the opening faceoff Nylander found himself on a breakaway only to have his shot attempt disrupted by a Duncan Keith slash.

Nylander was awarded the penalty shot and beat Blackhawks goaltender Jeff Glass for the goal.

For Nylander it was his 10th goal of the season and snapped what had been a five-game goal drought. It was also just his second goal in the past 12 games.

The Maple Leafs held a 2-1 lead midway through the third period and lost it when Nick Schmaltz scored to tie the game on a controversial goal that was reviewed for goaltender interference. As Schmaltz scored, Blackhawks forward Artem Anisimov fell on top of Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen. Toronto coach Mike Babcock immediately challenged the play for goaltender interference but the play was upheld.

Here is a look at it. Judge for yourself if it should have counted.

While the Maple Leafs are pretty solid in their playoff position after Wednesday’s win (they are now 13 points ahead of the fourth-place team in the Atlantic Division), it is a completely different story for the Blackhawks.

The big story for them is that they have now lost four games in a row and five of their past six.

They are 4-9-1 over the past month and even with the point they picked up on Wednesday night still sit six points out of the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference with still four teams ahead of them.

Getting at least one point helps a little, but it is not going to be anywhere enough. They need wins. A lot of them. They need to start getting them fast.

It is not just the point deficit that is the problem, it is the fact we are beyond the halfway point of the season and there are still a number of teams ahead of them. Those points are almost impossible to make up at this point in the season.

After Wednesday’s game the Blackhawks have 51 points through their first 48 games of the season. Over the past five 82-game seasons (skipping over the 2012-13 lockout season) there have been 70 teams that had 52 points or less through their first 48 games. Only 10 of them ended up making the playoffs. That is less than 15 percent. If you’re a Blackhawks fan and want to feel a little optimistic after Wednesday’s game, that extra point did help a little because had they not gained it and been stuck on 50 points through 48 games. Only seven percent of those teams made the playoffs over that stretch.

That is the mountain the Blackhawks are facing right now, and they are still without their starting goalie for the foreseeable future.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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.

Canucks’ Miller scored an awesome water bottle breaker in OT

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Over time, you can become jaded as a sports (and specifically hockey) fan.

Stories about abusive coaches, lockouts, fans booing players for simply no longer being on their teams — it can sap some of the joy of the game.

Thankfully, we have highlights, and I can’t think of many simpler joys than someone scoring a goal and absolutely obliterating the goalie’s water bottle in the process. (As long as no one gets too dehydrated in the making of such films.)

Vancouver Canucks winger J.T. Miller did it one better on Saturday: he scored an important goal that way. Miller presented the ultra-rare OTBBGWG (overtime bottle-breaking game-winning goal) as the Canucks beat the Buffalo Sabres 6-5 in OT.

Bask in the glory of that goal in the video above this post’s headline. Here’s a fun alternate angle:

By the way, Miller continues to be a deadly offensive weapon for the Canucks. This one-goal, one-assist output extended his current point streak to an impressive eight games (5G, 6A for 11 points). Overall, Miller has 31 points in 30 games during his first season in Vancouver.

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.