Alex Tanguay

PHT Time Machine: Karma bites fan who mocked Steve Sullivan

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Throughout the season we will be taking an occasional look back at some significant moments in NHL history. This is the PHT Time Machine. Today we look back to when a fan mocked Steve Sullivan for getting hit in the face by a high stick … and was then later hit in the face by a puck.

With the Chicago Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche facing off on Wednesday Night Hockey (watch live on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET) we are hopping in the ole time machine to take a quick look back at the most absurd moment to happen between these two teams. Yes, it’s the Steve Sullivan fan incident from Jan. 26, 2001, when a heckler in the stands ended up getting a taste of his own medicine.

Chapter 1: The matchup

During the 2000-01 season the Blackhawks and Avalanche were two trains going in two very different directions.

The Blackhawks were stuck in the middle of the most irrelevant stretch in franchise history and looking completely hopeless. It was an impossibly bad 10-year run where they made the playoffs one time, were in the process of ruining the relationship with fans, and were on their fifth different head coach in four years.

The Avalanche, meanwhile, were one of the elite teams in the league. They had an All-Star laden roster that was five years removed from a Stanley Cup, had been in the Western Conference Final three more times since then, and were on their way to winning a second Stanley Cup a few months later.

It was a mismatch, and the game started exactly as you would expect with with the Avalanche racing out to an early 3-0 lead.

Chapter 2: Steve Sullivan gets high-sticked

It was at that point, midway through the second period, that an otherwise random high-sticking incident took place involving Sullivan and Avalanche forward Alex Tanguay.

As Tanguay attempted to clear the puck out of the Avalanche zone, his stick inadvertently clipped Sullivan in the face leaving a cut on the bridge of his nose. When Sullivan skated back to the bench, slumped over and in pain with a towel to his face, a glass-banger in the front row decided to start heckling the injured forward.

It did not go unnoticed by Sullivan.

Steve Sullivan Fan Incident

Banging on the glass is annoying, but I’m not going to stop you.

If you want to try to heckle the other team, just keep it clean and within the lines of good taste. You’re the fan paying the money to sit in the good seats, do what you want (again, within reason).

A good rule of thumb, though, is do not mock the injured players.

Chapter 3: Sullivan gets some revenge on the scoreboard

Maybe he was feeling some extra motivation. Maybe it was some good luck. Whatever the case, Sullivan did his best to bring the Blackhawks closer on the scoreboard by scoring a pair of shorthanded goals against Patrick Roy on the same penalty kill to cut the deficit to 3-2 late in the second period.

Sullivan was one of the few bright spots on an otherwise bad Blackhawks team, finishing the season with 34 goals including a league-leading eight shorthanded goals.

A good way for a player to silence a heckler is to do something during the game that impacts the result. For a few minutes, it looked like Sullivan might be able to do that. But again, the gap in talent between these two teams was so much that not even two shorthanded goals in less than a minute were enough to swing the result in Chicago’s favor (the Avalanche went on to win 5-2).

Chapter 4: Sullivan strikes back

It turned out to the best way to get even for Sullivan in this case was simply the opportunity to return the favor.

With the second period coming to a close, Roy attempted to clear the puck off the glass and accidentally put it in the stands where it hit an unsuspecting fan in the head.

You will never guess which fan it ended up hitting.

In the video posted above, Sullivan points out that he didn’t realize what happened until teammate Tony Amonte pointed it out to him. Sullivan then skated over to the glass and shared some “choice words” with the fan who had done the same earlier in the period.

Probably the best part of the exchange is the fans wife/girlfriend/friend holding the towel on the fan’s head, laughing, and giving Sullivan a thumbs up.

You can see everything, as well as Sullivan’s commentary, in the video above.

For more stories from the PHT Time Machine, click here.

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.

NHL on NBCSN: Sharks, Avs hope to keep distant playoff hopes alive

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign tonight with a doubleheader. The second game of that series will see the San Jose Sharks host the Colorado Avalanche at the SAP Center, starting at 10:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

Even in a best-case scenario, it’s difficult to imagine the Colorado Avalanche or San Jose Sharks storming to a playoff berth this season. Many members of each team seem to know that.

According to Sports Club Stats, the Avs boast a .1 percent chance to make the postseason while the Sharks have a 2.6 percent chance. You get the impression that mathematical elimination will just be a formality at some point.

Matt Duchene told the Denver Post that the Avalanche just want to make every game count, a sentiment that’s likely echoed by the Sharks.

“We’re both still fighting, and it’s not over until it’s over,” Duchene said. “We’re not done until we’re mathematically eliminated. If we go 6-0 in the last six games, we’re going to give ourselves a shot. We have to make these games count — all six of them.”

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Despite their current predicaments, the two teams boast some talent that could entertain on NBCSN tonight.

The Sharks employ a group of forwards that are talented enough that it’s tough to believe they’ll almost certainly be watching the playoffs on TV with the rest of us. For all the controversy surrounding Joe Thornton, he’s had a great season feeding Joe Pavelski while Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture also rank as big offensive threats. Don’t forget dragon-loving hybrid defenseman Brent Burns, either.

Colorado isn’t far behind.

It’s been a disappointing season for the likes of Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon, yet the Avalanche are enjoying production from veterans (Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay) and guys deep in their primes (Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly).

Expect to see two desperate hockey teams on NBCSN tonight, then.

With ‘Game 7’ win against Flames, Avs still barely in playoff race

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The Colorado Avalanche still have a chance of making the playoffs, even if it is a small one, after earning a 3-2 victory against the Calgary Flames last night.

After a scoreless first, Alex Tanguay and Ryan O’Reilly each found the back of the net to give the Avalanche a 2-0 lead going into the second intermission. As has often been the case this season, Calgary battled back in the final frame, but this time it wasn’t enough.

“It’s a huge win. We knew it was a Game 7 before the game, for us,” Tanguay said, per the team’s website. “We look at the standings, we know that we’re going to get ourselves to that 95-96 points in order to have a chance at getting into the playoffs. It’s going to take a lot of wins until the end of the year. Tonight was crucial. It’s a team we’re battling with. We’ll take it.”

Tanguay wasn’t overselling the importance of this game. Had the Avalanche lost, they would have found themselves seven points back in the Wild Card race with just 13 games remaining. Being five points shy of the second Wild Card seed Winnipeg Jets isn’t great either — especially with Los Angeles and San Jose between those two clubs — but at least the Avalanche still have a fighting chance.

He’s also right in the sense that it will probably take 95 or 96 points for Colorado to make the postseason. Sports Club Stats doesn’t give Colorado better than even chances of making the playoffs with anything less than 96 points, which would require a 10-2-1 or 9-1-3 record for the rest of the campaign.

In other words, the Avalanche have plenty of crucial games ahead of them. The next is Thursday against Arizona.

Video: Avs’ playoff hopes fade as Kings inch closer to wild card

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Brayden McNabb had a career-high three-point night chasing Calvin Pickard in the L.A. Kings’ 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday night.

McNabb’s second of the season at 14:15 of the first period stood to be the winner. The goal, which gave the Kings a 3-1 lead, ended Pickard’s night early.

The Avs’ rookie goaltender allowed three goals on the game’s first eight shots and was replaced by Reto Berra. Berra made 20 saves in relief.

With the win, the Kings (32-21-13) move to within one point of the second wild card spot in the Western Conference. L.A. also has a game in hand on Winnipeg. The Kings are now 3-0-1 in their last four.

L.A. is tied with Calgary (77 points) in the Pacific Division, but the Flames hold the tie break.

The loss drops the Avs (30-26-11) seven points back of a wild card spot.

Marian Gaborik and Jeff Carter had first period goals for the Kings. Kyle Clifford, who had a goal and an assist in the win, scored in the second. Jake Muzzin added his seventh of the season in the third.

Justin Williams had a pair of assists.

Tyson Barrie and Alex Tanguay had the Avs’ goals.

Jonathan Quick improved to 28-17-11 on the season with a 21 save performance.

Boyle, Tanguay to play in 1,000th NHL games tonight

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Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle and Colorado forward Alex Tanguay will both hit the 1,000 games-played mark tonight. Tanguay, 35, will become the 299th player in NHL history to reach the milestone when the Avs take on the Pens; Boyle, 39, will be the 298th when the Rangers play in Detroit.

Boyle, an undrafted free agent that played his way onto the Florida Panthers 16 years ago, has emerged as one of the better offensive defensemen of his era and achieved a remarkably high level of individual and team success, capturing the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2003-04 and a gold medal as a member of Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

Boyle’s best statistical season came in 2006-07, when he scored a career-high 20 goals and 63 points for the Lightning, and finished fourth in Norris voting.

Tanguay’s path to the NHL was dramatically different. The 12th overall pick at the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Tanguay burst onto the scene as a 20-year-old and scored 51 points in his rookie year, finishing fifth in Calder voting. A year later, he scored 21 points in 23 playoff games as Colorado captured the 2001 Stanley Cup and, during the 2006-07 campaign in Calgary, scored a career-high 81 points.

Both players are relatively well traveled. Boyle spent time with the Panthers, Lightning and Sharks before landing with the Rangers this year; Tanguay began with the Avs, then played for the Flames, Lightning and Habs before returning to Colorado last season.