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US edges Latvia in OT, Slovakia tops France at hockey worlds

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HERNING, Denmark (AP) Cam Atkinson scored in overtime to give the United States a 3-2 win over Latvia on Thursday, its fourth straight victory at the ice hockey world championship.

In another tight game, Slovakia kept its hopes alive for a quarterfinal spot by topping France 3-1, with Michal Cajkovsky scoring the final goal into an empty net.

Chris Kreider gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead when he knocked in a loose puck on a power play, but Latvia defenseman Uvis Balinskis ended goalie Keith Kinkaid‘s bid for a third straight shutout with a deflected shot with 2:03 remaining in the first period.

Latvia then went ahead in the middle period through Andris Dzerins, but Colin White tied it for the U.S. with a slap shot that went between the pads of goalie Elvis Merzlikins.

Captain Patrick Kane and forward Alex DeBrincat finished with two assists.

The U.S. jumped to the top of Group B with 10 points followed by Finland on nine. Canada is another point back and had a game in hand against Norway later Thursday.

Slovakia has seven points in fourth place of Group A in Copenhagen. Sweden tops that group with 12, followed by Russia and Switzerland on nine. Russia faced the Czech Republic later Thursday.

US blanks Germany, Russia routs Belarus at ice hockey worlds

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HERNING, Denmark (AP) — The United States beat Germany 3-0 to stay unbeaten and Russia shut out a third straight opponent at the world ice hockey championship on Monday.

Russia routed Belarus 6-0.

U.S. captain Patrick Kane broke the deadlock against Germany and assisted on the other two goals in the hard-fought Group B game in Herning.

Germany goalie Niklas Treutle didn’t allow the U.S. to score from 11 shots on goal in the first period. Treutle’s teammates also killed three penalties in the second period. Kane finally made the breakthrough midway through the game on another power play with a one-timer to the roof of the net.

”It was a great pass from Johnny (Gaudreau), it was fun to be on the receiving end of that one,” Kane said.

”It was a big goal. Zero-zero against a team like Germany that came out really strong and they kind of hanged around there.”

Just over two minutes later, Derek Ryan added an insurance goal also on a power play. In the final period, Kane found his NHL teammate Alex DeBrincat in front of the net for the third goal.

”It’s awesome to play with (Kane),” DeBrincat said. ”He gets so many chances in a game. It’s pretty hard not to score.”

U.S. goalie Keith Kinkaid stopped 24 shots for his second straight shutout.

It was the third consecutive defeat for Germany, the runner- up at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The U.S. team faces Latvia next.

Veteran captain Pavel Datsyuk led the high-scoring Russians with two goals against Belarus in Group A in Copenhagen.

Maxim Shalunov, Ilya Kablukov, Maxim Mamin and Kirill Kaprizov also scored. Russia has 20 goals in three games.

Later Monday, Canada faced host Denmark in Herning, and defending champion Sweden played France in Copenhagen.

No change in Chicago: Blackhawks bringing Quenneville, Bowman back

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The Chicago Blackhawks won’t be overreacting to one bad season after a decade of success. On Thursday, team president John McDonough announced that both head coach Joel Quenneville and general manager Stan Bowman will return for the 2018-19 NHL season.

“I believe in continuity [and] they’ve had an incredible body of success,” McDonough said via the Chicago Sun-Times. “We’re not tethered to the past. This has been a very disappointing year and our expectations are incredibly high. We’re not going to deviate from those expectations. But I believe both Stan and Joel are the guys that are going to bring this back.”

[Which NHL teams will make a coaching change after the season?]

The Blackhawks will finish last in the Central Division and miss out on the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The biggest blow to their hopes was losing Crawford, who has been out since December with an upper-body injury. “We expect him to be fine” was the line from Quenneville this week about the goaltender’s status.

Quenneville still has two years and $12 million left on his contract, and if he would have been canned his unemployment wouldn’t have lasted very long considering the number of potential coaching changes that could happen around the league. Bowman, meanwhile, will have a busy summer with plenty of decisions to make. Chicago doesn’t have many contracts to deal with in the off-season, but Bowman’s focus could be trying to find ways to get out from some heavy contracts to bring in some new faces and hope it’s a different outcome next season.

Alex DeBrincat, Vinnie Hinostroza, Dylan Sikura and Nick Schmaltz represent some of the fresh blood that’s been productive this season, and the hope is they can be part of that next core in Chicago. In the meantime, the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Brandon Saad and Crawford are taking up nearly $40 million cap space. Those seem like the safest bets to remain on the roster. So will Brent Seabrook and Artem Anisimov find themselves available? Are there any untouchables beyond Kane and Toews?

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Blackhawks top Blues; Sabres clinch 31st; Ducks, Kings playoff-bound

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Player of the Night: Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks

Before Wednesday’s game against the St. Louis Blues, DeBrincat said the Blackhawks wanted to “crush their hopes,” referring to the Blues’ playoff chances. Well, they did just that in dramatic fashion overcoming a 3-1 deficit to win 4-3. DeBrincat played a big role in the come back, scoring the game-tying goal with 11:30 to go and then assisting on Duncan Keith‘s winner with 8.5 seconds left.

Highlight of the Night: Duncan Keith, soul crusher:

MISC:

• Blake Hillman’s first NHL goal came shorthanded and helped cut the Blues’ lead to 3-2. He’s the fifth Blackhawks to record their first career goal this season.

• The Blackhawks win meant that the Los Angeles Kings clinched a playoff spot.

Alex Burrows and Ryan Dzingel each had a goal and an assist as the Ottawa Senators doubled up the Buffalo Sabres 4-2. Matt Duchene put home his team-leading 27th goal of the season.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

• With the loss the Buffalo Sabres secured 31st in the NHL and will now have the top odds (18.5 percent) in the NHL Draft Lottery, which will be held later this month. This is the third time in five years that Buffalo has finished in that position.

• Via the AP, the “Sabres’ league-worst 11 home wins matched a franchise low for any year, including the lockout-shortened 48-game 2012-13 season, when Buffalo went 11-10-3. Buffalo also went 11-19-9 during a 78-game season in 1971-72.”

Ondrej Kase put home a rebound with 3:56 left to snap a 1-1 tie and help give the Anaheim Ducks a 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild. The victory also meant that Anaheim clinched a playoff spot for the sixth straight year.

• The Ducks now hold the third spot in the Pacific Division, one point behind the San Jose Sharks.

Factoid of the Night:

Scores:
Senators 4, Sabres 2
Blackhawks 4, Blues 3
Ducks 3, Wild 1

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Duncan Keith’s late winner helps strike blow to Blues’ playoff hopes

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Duncan Keith‘s goal with 8.5 seconds to go broke a 3-3 tie and gave the Chicago Blackhawks a 4-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues Wednesday night.

The Blues are still in pursuit of a wild card spot in the Western Conference, but with the loss remain a point behind the Colorado Avalanche with two games to go, including a Saturday night tilt vs. the Avs.

Chicago wanted to play spoiler for their Central Division rivals, with Blackhawks forward Alex DeBrincat saying before the game, “They’re a good team and they’re fighting for a playoff spot right now. We’re not going out there and just letting them take it. We want to crush their hopes.”

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

It was looking good for the Blues early in the second period when Vladimir Tarasenko gave the home side a 3-1 lead. But St. Louis and Jake Allen began to falter minutes later. Blackhawks rookie Blake Hillman jumped into the rush and scored his first NHL goal with Chicago on a power play to cut the deficit to 3-2 midway through the period.

With DeBrincat wanting to “crush their hopes,” he backed up his words and tied the game with 11:30 to go, thanks to some more questionable goaltending by Allen.

The self-destruction of the Blues continued as Chris Butler took a holding penalty with two minutes to go. The Blackhawks waited until the very end of that power play to capitalize, with Keith finally notching his second goal of the season and also sending the Los Angeles Kings to playoffs in the process.

Your thoughts, Doug Armstrong?

And as if the Blues haven’t been demonized enough by the Blackhawks, the two teams meet again Friday night at United Center. How soon will St. Louis be able to erase this one from memory and focus on the two biggest games of their season this weekend?

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.