AP

The Buzzer: Price passes Plante; hats off for Jenner, Gaudreau

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Three Stars

1. Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames. The Calgary Flames kept pace with the San Jose Sharks in the Pacific Division race with a 9-4 win over the New Jersey Devils, featuring the NHL’s first six-point game since the 2013-14 season from Johnny Gaudreau. Read all about it here.

2. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens. The list of Hall of Famers and legendary goalies to play for the Montreal Canadiens organization is a lengthy and impressive one. It is a who’s who list of some of the greatest goalies in the history of the league, and Carey Price now officially has more wins than all of them. By stopping 20 of the 21 shots he faced in a 3-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night, Price earned the 315th win of his career and moved him ahead of Hall of Famer Jacques Plante for sole possession of first place on the team’s all-time wins list.

3. Boone Jenner, Columbus Blue Jackets. The Columbus Blue Jackets’ offense has gone cold in the games after the trade deadline and it has put them in a tough spot when it comes to making the playoffs, especially with a tough schedule still remaining down the stretch. The offense finally clicked on Tuesday night in a 7-4 win over the Boston Bruins — who have now lost two regulation games in a row after going 19 consecutive games without one — that was highlighted by a hat trick from Boone Jenner to give him 15 goals on the season.

Highlights of the Night

Joe Pavelski scored the game-winning goal for the San Jose Sharks with just 3.6 seconds remaining in their 5-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets.

The Pittsburgh Penguins stormed back for a 5-3 win over the Washington Capitals thanks in part to a pair of goals from Sidney Crosby. The first of those two goals was a beauty.

Some highlights from Carey Price’s milestone night for the Montreal Canadiens.

This is not really a “highlight” in the traditional sense, but it is still worth watching as MacKenzie Blackwood’s water bottle did not cooperate.

Daniel Sprong has not always put it all together at the NHL level, but there is no denying his talent when he does. His goal on Tuesday was the game-winner for the Anaheim Ducks in their 3-2 win over the Nashville Predators.

Factoids

  • Believe it, the Arizona Coyotes are in a playoff spot thanks to their 3-1 win over the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night, and Oliver-Ekman Larsson scored his 10th goal of the season. He is one of just four defenders, joining a list that includes Brent Burns, Roman Josi, and Mark Giordano, to score at least 10 goals in each of the past six seasons. [NHL PR]
  • Ben Bishop is on an incredible run for the Dallas Stars and quietly putting together a Vezina Trophy caliber season. He recorded his third consecutive shutout on Tuesday night, helping the Stars top the Buffalo Sabres. [NHL PR]
  • Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin are the fourth pair of players to each record 1,000 points after being selected No. 1 and 2 overall in an NHL draft year. Malking recorded his 1,000th point on Tuesday night, while Ovechkin recorded his 1,200th point in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 5-3 win. [NHL PR]

Scores

Dallas Stars 2, Buffalo Sabres 0

Pittsburgh Penguins 5, Washington Capitals 3

Columbus Blue Jackets 7, Boston Bruins 4

Montreal Canadiens 3, Detroit Red Wings 1

Arizona Coyotes 3, St. Louis Blues 1

San Jose Sharks 5, Winnipeg Jets 4

Calgary Flames 9, New Jersey Devils 4

Anaheim Ducks 3, Nashville Predators 2

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.

Push for the Playoffs: Blue Jackets enter ‘playoff mode’ in final month

Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2018-19 NHL season. We’ll highlight the current playoff picture in both conferences, take a look at what the first-round matchups might look like, see who’s leading the race for the best odds in the draft lottery and more.

Maybe getting away from Nationwide Arena will do the Columbus Blue Jackets some good? After a weekend that saw them drop games to the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets, the Blue Jackets hit the road to play in New Jersey and Pittsburgh. But more importantly, Tuesday night they’ll begin a stretch with six of seven games coming against opponents holding Eastern Conference playoff spots.

When general manager Jarmo Kekalainen went bold and all-in at the trade deadline, it upped the pressure on the season. Columbus was already on the playoff bubble and now with those moves it’s playoffs or bust. It’s a gamble, but it’s better than seeing another team be conservative late in the year.

“We’re kind of in playoff mode,” said head coach John Tortorella on Monday. “I think when coaches get into playoff mode, I always call it being with them. I think we’ve pushed the buttons and kicked and prodded and yelled and screamed and hugged during the regular season. But I think we’re in a situation right now … we’ve got to do this together.”

The pressure is on in Columbus, and Tortorella is preparing his players to deal with the pressure that will come with the final month of the season. Every game night there will be important points to be had, or dropped.

“You find out about yourself,” Tortorella said. “That’s what we all strive to do as coaches and athletes in the sporting world is to be thrust into those situations and see if you can sink or swim.”

IF PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Lightning vs. Canadiens
Bruins vs. Maple Leafs
Capitals vs. Penguins
Islanders vs. Hurricanes

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Flames vs. Wild
Sharks vs. Golden Knights
Jets vs. Stars
Predators vs. Blues

TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS
Hurricanes at Bruins, 7 p.m. ET
Blue Jackets at Devils, 7 p.m. ET
Senators at Islanders, 7 p.m. ET
Panthers at Penguins, 7 p.m. ET
Jets at Lightning, 7:30 p.m. ET
Wild at Predators, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN; live stream)
Rangers at Stars, 8:30 p.m. ET
Red Wings at Avalanche, 9 p.m. ET
Ducks at Coyotes, 9 p.m. ET
Canadiens at Kings, 10:30 p.m. ET

EASTERN CONFERENCE

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Sports Club Stats)
Lightning – 100 percent
Maple Leafs – 100 percent
Bruins – 100 percent
Islanders – 98.7 percent
Capitals – 97.1 percent
Penguins – 89.7 percent
Hurricanes – 88.3 percent
Canadiens – 65 percent
Blue Jackets – 53.8 percent
Flyers – 5.9 percent
Panthers – 0.8 percent
Sabres – 0.8 percent
Rangers – 0.1 percent
Devils – 0 percent
Red Wings – 0 percent
Senators – 0 percent

WESTERN CONFERENCE

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Sports Club Stats)
Flames – 100 percent
Sharks – 100 percent
Jets – 100 percent
Predators – 99.6 percent
Golden Knights – 96.2 percent
Blues – 95.3 percent
Stars – 77.1 percent
Coyotes – 45.8 percent
Wild – 41.7 percent
Avalanche – 38.5 percent
Oilers – 3.7 percent
Canucks – 1.3 percent
Blackhawks – 0.9 percent
Ducks – 0 percent
Kings – 0 percent

JACK OR KAAPO? THE DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE
Senators – 18.5 percent
Red Wings – 13.5 percent
Kings – 11.5 percent
Devils – 9.5 percent
Ducks – 8.5 percent
Canucks – 7.5 percent
Blackhawks – 6.5 percent
Oilers – 6 percent
Rangers – 5 percent
Sabres – 3.5 percent
Avalanche – 3 percent
Panthers – 2.5 percent
Coyotes – 2 percent
Flyers – 1.5 percent
Blue Jackets – 1 percent**
(*OTT’s 2019 first-round pick owned by COL)
(**CBJ’s 2019 lottery-protected first-round pick is owned by OTT. If top three, moves to 2020)

ART ROSS RACE
Nikita Kucherov, Lightning – 106 points
Patrick Kane, Blackhawks – 94 points
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 92 points
Johnny Gaudreau, Flames – 84 points
Sidney Crosby, Penguins – 83 points
Leon Draisaitl, 83 points

ROCKET RICHARD RACE
Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – 45 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 41 goals
Patrick Kane, Blackhawks – 40 goals
John Tavares, Maple Leafs – 37 goals
Jeff Skinner, Sabres – 36 goals
Joe Pavelski, Sharks – 36 goals

————

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: Armia hat trick; Sheary revenge

AP
2 Comments

Three Stars

1. Joel Armia, Montreal Canadiens. Joel Armia entered play on Friday night with only seven goals in his first 39 games this season, so he probably wouldn’t have been the player you would have expected to drive the offense in the Montreal Canadiens’ 4-2 win over the New York Rangers. But there he was, recording the first ever hat trick of his career to help the Canadiens get a massive two points in the standings as they look to distance themselves between the other Wild Card contenders in the Eastern Conference.

2. Conor Sheary Buffalo Sabres. The Pittsburgh Penguins are in trouble, and on Friday night lost their second game in a week where they held a lead in the final five minutes. The player that ended up topping them in this game was one they traded over the summer. Conor Sheary, who spent the past three seasons playing in Pittsburgh, including two as a Stanley Cup champion, scored a pair of goals on Friday including the game-winning goal in overtime. The Penguins traded him and Matt Hunwick to the Sabres in what amounted to a salary dump trade and it ended up working against them on Friday.

3. Marcus Sorensen, San Jose Sharks. The San Jose Sharks gained a little bit of ground on the Calgary Flames in the Pacific Division race on Friday night with a 4-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche. Joe Pavelski‘s late power play goal goes in the books as the game-winner, but Marcus Sorensen had a big night with a pair of goals. It is the first two-goal game of his career.

Highlights of the Night

His team did not get the extra point it so badly needed but Sidney Crosby did score a pretty ridiculous power play goal for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Check out the passing display here by the Vegas Golden Knights to score on the power play against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night.

Just because it is worth seeing one more time, Evander Holyfield took part in the Carolina Hurricanes’ most recent Storm Surge celebration.

Factoids

  • Carey Price is now one win away from tying Jacques Plante for the most wins in franchise history. [NHL PR]
  • Alex Ovechkin scored his 45th goal of the season, giving him nine 45-goal seasons which is the most in NHL history. That goal was also 106th game-winning goal of his career, tying him with Patrick Marleau for the seventh-most all-time. [NHL PR]
  • Sebastien Aho scored the game-winning goal for the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night, and it was not only one of the weirdest goals we will see in the NHL all season, it was also his fourth shorthanded goal of the season. That is tied for the second most in a single season in franchise history, going all the way back to the Hartford Whalers days. [NHL PR]

Scores

Buffalo Sabres 4, Pittsburgh Penguins 3 (OT)

Philadelphia Flyers 6, New Jersey Devils 3

Washington Capitals 3, New York Islanders 1

Montreal Canadiens 4, New York Rangers 2

Carolina Hurricanes 5, St. Louis Blues 2

Winnipeg Jets 5, Nashville Predators 3

Vegas Golden Knights 3, Anaheim Ducks 0

San Jose Sharks 4, Colorado Avalanche 3

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.

Erik Karlsson injury scares should send Sharks message about rest

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People love to celebrate the toughness of hockey players, but sometimes, there comes a point where it’s better to be smart.

There’s an “easier said than done” element when it comes to considering “best practices.” For instance, if your team is barely holding onto a playoff spot, it might be tough to rest that crucial starting goalie.

The San Jose Sharks aren’t really in that position, though. While they’d like to catch the Calgary Flames for the top spot in the Pacific, a round of home-ice advantage looks pretty safe for them as of Tuesday, so they have the luxury to make wise decisions.

And here’s the wise decision, if you ask me (among others, including PHT’s Adam Gretz): the Sharks need to rest Erik Karlsson.

So far this season, Karlsson’s missed 10 games thanks to a nagging groin injury. Via The Sports Forecaster’s helpful listings, nine of those missed games came from mid-January to mid-February, and then the issues cropped up again right before the trade deadline.

After missing one more game, Karlsson returned for Tuesday’s contest against the Boston Bruins, and seemed to tweak that injury once again.

Now, it wouldn’t be surprising if Karlsson gritted his teeth to return to that game against the Bruins, or miss minimal time. But this issue sure seems like it’s lingering for the 28-year-old star.

If the Sharks were desperately fighting for every point, resting Karlsson would be a tougher sell. Instead, San Jose’s pretty comfortably placed in second place in the Pacific, while leaping to first would be a challenge:

Standings heading into Tuesday’s action

Three points is a tougher hurdle to clear than you might think, at least this late in the season, particularly since the Flames also hold a game in hand on the Sharks. Vegas is much more likely to fall out of the Pacific’s top three than catch San Jose.

So why not rest Karlsson, a player who’s clearly struggling with groin issues?

Really, the Sharks should be especially interested in the advantages of rest that we’ve seen embraced in other leagues, such as with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich deployed such methods during their most competitive days, and that seemed to pay off.

The Sharks have a lot going for them, but aside from a few exceptions like rising 22-year-old winger Timo Meier, this isn’t a young team. Brent Burns is older than casual fans might think at 33. Marc-Edouard Vlasic is 31, and Karlsson is 28, and both of those defensemen have accrued a ton of mileage for their age. Joe Pavelski is somehow 34. Even Gustav Nyquist isn’t a spring chicken – at least in a league that demands speed like the NHL does these days – at 29.

(In other words, 39-year-old Joe Thornton isn’t the only guy battling Father Time in San Jose.)

At minimum, it just makes overwhelming sense for the Sharks to play it safe with a player who’s clearly not at 100-percent in Karlsson. Would you rather risk burnout to marginally improve odds of winning your division, or would you rather give your talented – but aging – roster as good a chance as possible at being fully healthy during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when you’re in for grueling battles every other night?

Plenty of other teams should be thinking about resting their big-minute guys (looking at you, Lightning), but the signs are basically neon flashing lights for the Sharks with Karlsson.

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.

The Buzzer: Pavelski hits 35; Kuemper wins fourth straight

Associated Press
1 Comment

Three stars

1. Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks

Pavelski cares little about being 34, he’s just going to score and score and score some more.

Pavelski notched his first hat trick of the season, and goals No. 33, 34 and 35 in a 5-3 win for the San Jose Sharks at the Detroit Red Wings.

With 19 games remaining for the Sharks in the regular season, it appears that Pavelski will reach his career-high mark of 41 sent during the 2013-14 season. The way he’s been scoring this season, he might just set a new career mark.

This is a dirty tip, by the way:

2. Darcy Kuemper, Arizona Coyotes

Kuemper was solid against the Winnipeg Jets in a 4-1 win, allowing a single, unstoppable shot from Patrik Laine as he stopped 34 of 35 shots.

The Coyotes took advantage of the Jets, and Kuemper made sure they had all the confidence on the back end, stopping 11 shots on the power play, including a couple from Laine, who has returned to picking his spots again.

The win was huge for the Coyotes, who are now three points back of the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference. They’re right there, along with several other teams in a remarkably tight race.

Kuemper has won his past four starts now, allowing two goals or fewer in each of them.

3. Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild 

Dubnyk had some pretty atrocious outings prior to his current three-game heater.

But the formidable Devan Dubnyk appears to be back between the pipes in Minnesota, and not a moment too soon.

Dubnyk turned aside 27 shots in a 2-1 overtime win against the St. Louis Blues, giving the Wild their third-straight win (and first on home ice in six tries). The Wild are in the thick of it in the race for a wildcard spot in the Western Conference, so Minnesota is going to need a lot more of this down the stretch drive. Dubnyk is capable of playing this week, and for extended periods. This will need to be one of those.

Highlights of the night

Sure, it was an empty-net goal, but that’s as good as those get off a backhand from behind the center line:

Well-deserved:

Here’s the tribute video for Doan:

Behind many of Patrik Laine’s goals is an elite pass from Blake Wheeler:

Donato’d

Sweet hands:

Factoids

Scores

Capitals 6, Rangers 5 (OT)
Stars 4, Blackhawks 3
Sharks 5, Red Wings 3
Wild 2, Blues 1 (OT)
Flames 2, Senators 1
Coyotes 4, Jets 1


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