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‘Bread’ is the man in playoff surge for the Blue Jackets

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Artemi Panarin turned out to be everything the Columbus Blue Jackets were looking for when they traded for him last summer: A dead-eye sniper and deft puck distributor who can get game-breaking goals and make everyone around him better.

And, the Blue Jackets hope, a guy who can get them deeper into the playoffs.

So far, so good. Columbus heads home to Nationwide Arena after taking a 2-0 lead over Washington in their first-round series on Sunday night, a come-from-behind 5-4 overtime win in which Panarin contributed a pair of key assists.

That came three nights after Panarin won the series opener in overtime. With two assists already in regulation, he drove down the left side, slipped past Capitals defenseman Dimitry Orlov and snapped a shot over goalie Philipp Grubauer‘s shoulder.

”There’s very few people who can make that shot,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said.

”He can make a play from nothing,” Orlov said. ”He’s so smooth.”

The Blue Jackets probably wouldn’t be playing in the postseason without the 26-year-old Russian they call the ”Bread Man.” He was a steady presence and consistent scorer through a bumpy season of slumps and injuries to other key players.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Panarin led Columbus with 27 goals and 55 assists, and his 82 points were the most in a single season in franchise history. His plus/minus of 23 and average of just over 20 minutes on the ice per game were career highs.

Panarin – sounds like Panera Bread, hence the hockey nickname of ”Bread Man” or just ”Bread” – has embraced being a featured star after playing in the large shadow of Patrick Kane in Chicago in his first two years in the league.

”In Chicago, I played with Kane and got a lot of assists from him,” Panarin said. ”But I always wanted something more, to put more of the game on myself and be more accountable for the result. Here, I got that, what I wanted.”

Panarin, who won the Calder Trophy as the top rookie in the NHL in 2015-16, was acquired from the Black Hawks last June along with forward Tyler Motte for forward Brandon Saad and goalie Anton Forsberg. Saad was a reliable player for Columbus for two seasons.

”Bread is a different type player because he can make a special play to win a game,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. ”I just think for you to get through and find your way and try to be a better playoff team, you have to have some players that are dynamic. You’re not coaching it, they just see something, they seize a moment and they win you a game. Or they make a huge play to get you back in the game in another way.”

With the Blue Jackets on a power play and down 3-2 in the second period on Sunday, Panarin dribbled the puck and patiently waited for a lane to open up before delivering a pinpoint circle-to-circle pass to Cam Atkinson , who scored the tying goal.

Panarin’s line mates, veteran winger Atkinson and 19-year-old rookie center Pierre-Luc Dubois, have benefited from his skills. Atkinson – who had two goals on Sunday – has come on strong after missing time with injuries, finishing the regular season with 14 goals and 14 assists in February and March. Dubois had 20 goals and 28 assists in the regular season, making him the most productive rookie in Blue Jackets history.

Panarin makes $6 million a year on a contract that runs through next season. He’ll be due a sizeable salary bump if the Blue Jackets decide to keep him around after that.

So far, he’s been an ideal fit.

”When they first traded me, of course for a couple days, I worried,” he said. ”But then I calmed down and understood that this is all good for me. I understood that here I would progress as a player first and foremost. What’s most important to me isn’t money, but the whole game.”

Associated Press Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno in Washington contributed to this report.

More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

USHL team invites Blackhawks’ Scott Foster to be their ’emergency accountant’

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Let’s hope that because it’s a holiday weekend Scott Foster was given Friday off, or at least allowed to leave early from his job at Golub Capital in order to recover and celebrate a pretty neat achievement from the night before.

On Thursday, Foster became a sensation when he was called into action by the Chicago Blackhawks. Serving as the team’s emergency backup goaltender, he was brought into the game when Collin Delia, starting in place of Anton Forsberg, who suffered a pre-game injury, started cramping in the third period.

Foster, an accountant and beer leaguer who played at Western Michigan over a decade ago, went from his spot in the Blackhawks’ press box to pulling on the pads and playing the final 14:01, stopping all seven shots he faced and earning first star honors during a 6-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets.

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

The Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League can’t sign Foster due to the fact that its a league for 16-21 year olds. Foster is 36, so the only way he can be part of the team is to put his skills from his day job to good use for the junior hockey team.

On Friday, the Steel proposed to Foster that he should come join the team as the their emergency accountant.

“If Scott can handle itemized deductions as well as he handles a Dustin Byfuglien slap shot, he’ll be a great asset,” said Steel President Dan Lehv in a release that is chock-full of accounting puns. “To perform like he did, in the height of tax season, really showed us how well he can balance things.”

If Foster prefers to remain at Golub Capital, the Steel are hoping he will at least accept their invitation to do the ceremonial face-off honors before their Fan Appreciation Night game on April 13. From the sounds of it, he appears to be someone who isn’t intimidated by many situations. That’d be a good asset for the Steel to add to their organization.

“You think there’d be a lot of pressure,” Foster said Thursday night. “But really, tomorrow, I’m going to wake up, I’m going to button up my shirt and I’m going to go back to my day job. What pressure is there for me?”

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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: Two NHL debuts in the same net in the same game

Associated Press

Players of the Night:

Scott Foster, Chicago Blackhawks: You will likely never see this name in this spot again, so you’re reading history. Foster stopped all seven shots he faced in an emergency relief appearance against the Winnipeg Jets. The 36-year-old accountant was summoned after Collin Delia was injured with 14:01 remaining in the third period. Anton Forsberg, who was supposed to get the nod, was injured in warmup. Enter the accountant by day, who stopped shots off the sticks of Dustin Byfuglien and Patrik Laine and was named the games first star.

Pierre-Luc Dubois, Columbus Blue Jackets: Dubois registered his first NHL hat trick and made some Blue Jackets history along the way. Dubois set a new Columbus rookie record for goals with 18, surpassing the previous mark of 17 set by Rick Nash during the 2002-03 season. If Dubois can finish out the season strong, he can pass the points mark of 47 set by Zach Werenski last season. Dubois has 44 points now.

Jeff Carter, Los Angeles Kings: Joining Dubois in the hat trick department was Carter, who potted three goals, one in each period, to help see of the Arizona Coyotes in a 4-2 win. The victory helped move the Kings two points head of the Anaheim Ducks for third place in the Pacific Division. On Friday, both teams will meet in what Carter called the “game of the year” following Thursday’s win.

Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild: Dumba scored and added three assists in the first four-point night by the Wild defenseman in franchise history. His production also propelling the Wild to a vital win as they try to lock down the third spot in the Central Division.

Highlight of the Night:

This, by far:

Other Highlights of the Night:

Poke check:

Rask throwing bombs:

Aw, man. This would have been incredible. It was already incredible.

Solid effort and feed from Granlund:

This is just getting silly now:

Factoids of the Night:

Scores:

Blue Jackets 5, Flames 1

Blackhawks 6, Jets 2

Wild 5, Stars 2

Predators 5, Sharks 3

Senators 3, Panthers 2 (OT)

Penguins 4, Devils 3 (OT)

Red Wings 6, Sabres 3

Bruins 4, Lightning 2

Canucks 2, Oilers 1

Kings 4, Coyotes 2


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Scott Foster, accountant by day, makes NHL debut with Blackhawks

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Scott Foster’s night probably started the same way it does every night there’s a Chicago Blackhawks game in the Windy City.

He arrived at the arena as the emergency goalie with his equipment in tow before depositing it somewhere for safe keeping. Then, he makes his way up to the press box, gets his free meal with a guest he brought and settles down to watch the game from high above the ice surface at United Center.

Rinse and repeat.

Except for Thursday.

All of that preamble likely happened for Foster. He probably arrived at the rink at the same time, ate a nice press box meal and then settled into his comfy seat. But it’s unlikely he ever thought he’d be throwing his gear on, nevermind stepping onto the ice in his first professional hockey game.

That dream got one step closer to become a reality when Anton Forsberg going down in warm up, Foster likely took the rest of his pre-game meal in a to-go bag.

And when Collin Delia (also making his first pro start) went down injured in the third period with a 6-2 lead against the Winnipeg Jets, Foster likely threw up whatever he ate into the nearest garbage bin and then put his mask over his face before walking down the tunnel, past names like Kane and Keith and onto the ice in front of 20,000-plus.

You could say he was ready:

Foster then had some fun with his post-game media scrum:

Foster isn’t an easy man to find with a Google search. His HockeyDB page is pretty much it. He’s listed as a 6-foot, 185-pound goalie from Sarnia, Ont., who hasn’t played a meaningful game since the 2005-06 season when he was at Western Michigan.

That was well over a decade ago.

As of Thursday, Foster now has an update to add to that website.

Foster made seven saves on seven shots in his 14:01 of fame.

Look at Joel Quenneville’s smile:

And guess who was the night’s No. 1 star.

You can’t make this stuff up.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Kane scores late winner as Blackhawks down Bruins 3-1

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For the Chicago Blackhawks to avoid a three-game losing skid, they’d have to beat a team that had just won six straight at home.

Luckily for the Blackhawks, the schedule lured the Boston Bruins away from the comfortable confines of TD Garden on Sunday and killed two birds with one stone, simultaneously ending both streaks in a 3-1 triumph at United Center in the Windy City.

The Blackhawks regrouped quickly, going 50-plus minutes without allowing a goal on Sunday, a day after allowing seven goals to the same Bruins team, including four unanswered en route to a 7-4 loss.

Chicago led from the 7:26 mark of the first period as Artem Anisimov deflected a point shot past Bruins netminder Anton Khudobin for a 1-0 lead.

Perhaps a little fatigue caught up with the Bruins and maybe the well ran a little dry.

Boston has had to make due without Patrice Bergeron and Charlie McAvoy, both nursing injuries, and David Backes, who is out due to suspension.

On Sunday, Brad Marchand‘s name was added to the list the walking wounded, after he was made a late scratch with an upper-body injury prior to the game.

It was a tad suspect after Marchand clotheslined Anthony Duclair on Saturday if the first game of the home-and-home, leading to an injury for the latter that’s ruled him out for 1-2 weeks. Perhaps the Bruins didn’t want to risk any retribution.

But even a Bruins team hampered by injury is still a good Bruins team as witnessed in Saturday’s win.

Despite all the scoring missing from the lineup, an old friend stepped up just after the mid-way mark of the third period.

Zdeno Chara let a wrist shot go that finally solved Anton Forsberg, who stopped 31-of-32 in the game.

Chara’s impact was felt again minutes later after an ill-advised high-sticking penalty gave the Blackhawks a four-minute power play.

Patrick Kane wasted no time snatching back the lead, firing a snapshot bar down past Khudobin for the go-ahead marker that would eventually be the game-winner.

Brent Seabrook would add the insurance marker with 1:05 left, putting the third goal past Khudobin, who negotiation 36-of-39 shots sent his way.

The Bruins trailed the Tampa Bay Lightning by six points heading into Sunday’s game, but owned three games in-hand. So chalk this one up as a missed opportunity to gain some ground against a team that won’t be playing in the playoffs this season.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck