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The Buzzer: Blue Jackets clinch with Panarin’s help

Three stars

1. Artemi Panarin, Columbus Blue Jackets

Panarin scored one of the filthier goals you’ll see to give the Blue Jackets a 2-1 lead in the third period.

From there, he nearly scored on a couple of occasions in overtime after the New York Rangers tied the game 2-2 with six seconds left in the third. And in the shootout, Panarin fired the winner, a pinpoint accurate shot that went bar down.

2. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

Another two goals helped the Blackhawks to a dominant 6-1 win against the playoff-bound Dallas Stars.

Kane’s had an incredible season (along to with Jonathan Toews, whose two assists helped him set a new career-high in that category).

3. John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks

He’s likely going to get robbed of the Vezina, so here’s a star for an incredible season.

Gibson has endured a season without a defense or much scoring in front of him and still has 26 wins, an impressive save percentage and unreal underlying statistics that have him ranked with the best in the league.

Gibson made 37 assists for the Ducks in a 5-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Friday. The Ducks finished 11-5-1 in their final 17 games. Gibson had seven wins in his last nine starts.

Highlights of the night

Sam Steel continues to shine:

Panarin’s shootout winner:

Bob’s best:

Kane’s wrister:

Factoids

Scores

Blue Jackets 3, Rangers 2 (SO)
Blackhawks 6, Stars 1
Duck 5, Kings 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

The Buzzer: Toews dazzles; Tkachuk hits 45

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Three stars

1. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

Some thought he was petering out as an elite hockey player in the NHL. Few expected the type of season Toews is having.

Captain Serious scored his career-high 35th goal of the season and added the only goal that mattered in the shootout to push the Blackhawks past the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday Night Hockey. Toews now has a career high in goals and points and needs one assist to make it a career-high hat trick with helper No. 45.

A season for the haters.

2. Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa Senators 

The Senators are playing for next year (or perhaps three years down the road), and Tkachuk is set to feature in Ottawa’s lineup for a long time, which is a good thing.

Tkachuk had a goal and an assist to given him 45 points in 69 games in his rookie season. It’s been a trying year in Ottawa on and off the ice, but Tkachuk has been a bright spot.

3. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

Another goal (his 42nd) and another assist (his 65th) came off the stick of Kane in Chicago’s win.

Kane came into the game with 105 points, one shy of his career-best 106 that he set in 2015-16 when he won the Art Ross. He won’t win that award this season, Nikita Kucherov has that locked up, but Kane’s two points established a new career mark with 107.

Highlights of the night

This is tremendous:

This, too:

Getzlaf can still fake out defenders:

Kane’s sick mitts:

Factoids

Scores

Senators 4, Rangers 1
Blackhawks 4, Blues 3 (SO)
Ducks 3, Flames 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

Blackhawks outlast Blues in shootout win

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The chances of the St. Louis Blues going from last place in the National Hockey League just after the New Year began to finish first in the Central Division at regular season’s end took a bit of a hit on Wednesday Night Hockey.

The Blues dropped a 4-3 shootout decision to the Chicago Blackhawks, who were punted from playoff contention a night earlier.

Wednesday’s game on NBCSN was St. Louis’ game-in-hand on the Nashville Predators and the Winnipeg Jets. A win would have put them level on 96 points with their two of Central rivals, but they only managed one point to put them on 95 with two games remaining. Essentially, they will need Winnipeg and Nashville to each drop their two remaining games and find wins in their own two remaining to steal the division crown.

Both Nashville and Winnipeg are in action on Thursday.

Jonathan Toews was the start of the show, opening the scoring in the first period off a slick feed from Patrick Kane for his 35th. The goal gave Toews a new career high, surpassing the total of 34 he set 10 years ago.

Toews then scored the only goal of the shootout to give Chicago the win.

Some figured Toews fell off last year after his worst statistical season outside of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign. Instead, the 30-year-old has set a new career high in goals and points and has matched a career mark in assists, needing just one more for the career-high hat trick.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

St. Louis was a stubborn bunch in this game. They trailed 3-1 in the third period thanks to Kane’s 42nd but watched as David Perron brought the game to 3-2 and then Tyler Bozak scored with 38.9 seconds showing on the game clock to force overtime.

Cam Ward got the start for the Blackhawks in what could be his final in the NHL. There’s a thought out there that the 35-year-old could hang ’em up after his 699th NHL appearance.

The start was Ward’s first in a month, with an injury keeping him out of action for a good chunk of that. Still, the veteran backstop turned aside 37 shots in win No. 333 in his 14-year NHL career.

The Blues went with Jake Allen, who made 35 saves. St. Louis plays the second half of a back to back against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, and it’s expected that rookie wonder Jordan Binnington will get the call there.

St. Louis still needs to make sure they get another point, regardless of where they finish, just in case the Dallas Stars win out. Dallas (91 points) could move into third place in the division if everything went right for them and everything went wrong for the Blues.

A final note: Kane set a new career-high in points with 107, eclipsing the 106 that won him the Art Ross in 2015-16.


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

NHL Playoff picture after Sunday: Flames win West; Movement in East

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For the final week of the 2018-19 NHL regular season we will take an updated look at the Stanley Cup Playoff picture — what the standings look like, the potential matchups, who clinched, and set the stage for Monday’s biggest games.

On Sunday, the Flames clinched both the Pacific Division title and the top spot in the West overall. With Calgary confirmed as the number one seed in the Pacific, we get an official playoff matchup: San Jose Sharks (two seed) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (three seed). Yes, that is indeed very exciting.

Those ended up being the only clinching moments, but there was significant movement in the East, with Pittsburgh beating Carolina and Columbus smoking the Sabres. Pittsburgh remains in the third Metro spot, while Columbus takes the first wild-card spot, seeing Carolina drop to the second wild card — for now.


X – Clinched Playoff Spot, Y – Clinched Division, Z – Clinched Conference

Sunday’s playoff clinchers

  • Nothing new clinching-wise in the East, but the lower ranks of the playoff standings shuffled.
  • Pittsburgh beat Carolina in regulation, putting them in the driver’s seat to lock down the Metro’s third seed.
  • Columbus battered Buffalo in regulation, so with Carolina producing zero points, the Blue Jackets leapt to the first wild-card spot on Sunday.
  • Carolina’s loss pushes them to the final wild-card spot, and leaves the idle Canadiens only back one point, with both teams down to three games remaining apiece. Is it all because the Hurricanes killed the “Storm Surge?” (Checks earpiece) Scientifically? Yes.


X – Clinched Playoff Spot, Y – Clinched Division, Z – Clinched Conference

Sunday’s playoff clinchers

  • The Flames clinched the Pacific Division, and also the top spot in the West.
  • With that, it’s Sharks – Golden Knights in the first round.
  • The Coyotes won, so the Stars will have to wait to clinch.

SUNDAY’S SCORES
New York Rangers 3, Philadelphia Flyers 0 (more)
Arizona Coyotes 4, Minnesota Wild 0 (more)
Pittsburgh Penguins 3, Carolina Hurricanes 1
Columbus Blue Jackets 4, Buffalo Sabres 0
Detroit Red Wings 6, Boston Bruins 3 (more)
Calgary Flames 5, San Jose Sharks 3

IF THE PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY
Lightning vs. Hurricanes
Capitals vs. Blue Jackets
Islanders vs. Penguins
Bruins vs. Maple Leafs

Flames vs. Avalanche
Jets vs. Stars
Sharks vs. Golden Knights — series matchup clinched
Predators vs. Blues

MONDAY’S BIGGEST GAMES

Washington Capitals at Florida Panthers (7 p.m. ET): The Panthers are already out, so they’ll try to spoil Washington’s bid to really lock down the Metro title. The Capitals have won four games in a row, and with Alex Ovechkin already beyond the 50-goal mark, locking down the top spot might just give them the leeway

Maple Leafs at New York Islanders (7 p.m. ET): The Maple Leafs don’t have much of a chance to take the second seed in the Atlantic from Boston, and the Isles face a tough challenge in trying to win the Metro from Washington, but both teams are in the hunt enough that this game holds some relevance. Oh yeah, and it’s not like emotions will be stagnant; a certain John Tavares is once again set to get a very warm welcome from Islanders fans on Monday.

Colorado Avalanche at St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN): The Avs beat the Coyotes via a shootout on Friday, so they have some breathing room, but Arizona made sure that Colorado cannot just mosey into the last stretch of the season. The Avs’ edge is one standings point and one game in hand on Arizona, so losing here – particularly in regulation – would really hurt. The Blues have a ton of motivation, too, as they have a shot at winning the Central Division outright if they continue their hot streak. This should be a heated one on NBCSN.

Winnipeg Jets at Chicago Blackhawks (8:30 p.m. ET): With 94 standings points, the Jets have a two-point edge on the Blues, while they hold a game in hand over Nashville. That’s not a large margin of error for the Central Division title. They’ll be facing a Blackhawks team with very, very slim playoff hopes, so expect desperation from Jonathan Toews & Co.

Edmonton Oilers at Vegas Golden Knights (10 p.m. ET): The Golden Knights are locked in to the third seed, and might be wise to rest some players. The Edmonton Oilers’ hopes are even slimmer than Chicago’s, so they’ll be desperate … but they’re also kind of a mess.

Then again, aren’t we all?

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.

WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks face Avalanche on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Sunday night’s matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and Chicago Blackhawks. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Avalanche head into Sunday in a solid position, as they hold a one-point lead and game in hand on the closest teams behind them vying for the West’s second wild-card spot. That rosy outlook can change in a big way if the Avs can’t beat the Blackhawks, though.

Looking at The Push for the Playoffs, things don’t look very good — at all — for Chicago, but this proud team likely isn’t waving the white flag on the 2018-19 season just yet. Beating the Avalanche (particularly in regulation) would certainly improve their odds of making an unlikely run, too.

With the stakes in mind – not to mention the star power in Nathan MacKinnon, Patrick Kane, and Jonathan Toews – this should be a fun one at the United Center.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Colorado Avalanche at Chicago Blackhawks
Where: United Center
When: Sunday, March 24, 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Avs-Blackhawks stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINES

AVALANCHE

Derick Brassard — Nathan MacKinnon — J.T. Compher

Colin WilsonCarl SoderbergAndrew Agozzino

Alexander KerfootTyson JostMatt Calvert

Gabriel BourqueSven Andrighetto

Samuel GirardErik Johnson

Ian ColeTyson Barrie

Nikita ZadorovPatrik Nemeth

Ryan Graves

Starting goalie: Philipp Grubauer

[More: check out this preview for Sunday’s game.]

BLACKHAWKS

Dylan Sikura — Jonathan Toews — Patrick Kane

Alex DeBrincatDylan StromeBrendan Perlini

Brandon SaadArtem AnisimovDominik Kahun

Chris KunitzDavid KampfMarcus Kruger

Duncan KeithBrent Seabrook

Carl DahlstromErik Gustafsson

Gustav ForslingConnor Murphy

Starting goalie: Corey Crawford

Gord Miller (play-by-play) and Joe Micheletti (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from United Center in Chicago, Ill. Pre-game coverage starts at 7 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Keith Jones and Jeremy Roenick.

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.