pacific division race

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Flames cough up costly loss to Kings

Todd McLellan’s crew can argue that they are better than their record indicates. Even so, the Flames may rue a loss like this to the Kings, with Los Angeles winning 5-3 on Wednesday.

Flames could regret this loss to Kings

Calgary came into the night with a chance to distance themselves in the Pacific and West bubble races. Instead, the Flames dropped from the Pacific’s third spot, and squandered quite a bit of margin for error:

Pacific 3: Golden Knights (28-22-8, 64 points in 58 games played)

West Wild 1: Flames (29-23-6, 64 points, 58 GP)
West Wild 2: Coyotes (28-23-8, 64 points, 59 GP)

9th: Jets (29-24-5, 63, 58 GP)
10th: Wild (27-23-6, 60, 56 GP)
11th: Predators (26-22-7, 59, 55 GP)
12th: Blackhawks [in progress] (25-23-8, 58 in 56 GP)

Again, the Kings stand as a scrappier opponent than their worst-in-the-West record indicates. Really, they could carry real upset potential down the stretch.

Even so, the Kings beat the Flames in three of four games this season, with Calgary only managing three of a possible eight points. Los Angeles broke a five-game losing streak and earned just their second win in 12 games. Since Dec. 19, the Kings are now 5-15-2.

Flames missed opportunities in loss to Kings

A few factors stand out in Calgary’s defeat:

  • The Flames began the game a little flat, losing the shots on battle 13-8 during the first period. Eventually Calgary finished with an edge of 38-33.
  • Calvin Peterson was sharp for the Kings … aside from the Flames’ 1-0 goal. Yes, Calgary opened with a lead.
  • The teams combined for the first three goals in less than 90 seconds, including two Kings goals in 39 seconds. David Rittich looked incensed by the Flames’ defensive lapses during that span.
  • Calgary received a lengthy 5-on-3 power play opportunity during the third period, but couldn’t connect.

Quite a night for Kurtis MacDermid

Players stood out for both teams, even beyond Peterson. Elias Lindholm gave the Flames life with two late goals, cutting the Kings’ lead to 3-2 and 4-3. Jeff Carter nabbed an all-too-rare point, scoring the game-winning goal. MacDermid may not forget this one, though:

  • MacDermid fought with Milan Lucic early in the game. No word on if they fought because of a joke about Lucic’s frosted tips.
  • While it wasn’t the game-winner, MacDermid’s 3-1 goal was significant.
  • Overall, he finished with that goal, the fight, a +3 rating, three hits, and a blocked shot in 12:17 of time on ice.

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.

Phoenix Coyotes take Pacific Division for first time

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The Phoenix Coyotes’ future in Glendale might be cloudy, but their future on the ice never looked better. Los Angeles Kings may always wonder “what if?” Ryane Clowe didn’t interfere with that puck, but now the Kings and Sharks only have the seventh seed to fight over tonight because the Coyotes just won the Pacific Division thanks to a 4-1 victory against the Minnesota Wild.

Much like another non-traditional franchise, this marks the Coyotes’ first division title. Really, it’s a wonderful peak for the impressive Dave Tippett era.

Of course, there’s a big but: they haven’t won a playoff series under Tippett’s watch just yet. To climb that mountain, they must defeat the sixth-seeded (and star-packed) Chicago Blackhawks as the third seed. Stay tuned for more on that upcoming series.

West playoff picture complete: Sharks, Kings and Coyotes are in

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With the Pacific Division title still up for grabs, it’s unfair to say that the Nashville Predators’ 2-0 win against the Dallas Stars killed the drama of matches like the Los Angeles Kings-San Jose Sharks home-and-home series. Still, the Predators’ pursuit of home ice advantage* sure made things a lot less interesting.

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Update: the Columbus Blue Jackets continue to revel in their role as spoilers; they eliminated the Colorado Avalanche with a 5-2 win.

What it clinched:

Playoff spots for the Phoenix Coyotes, Kings and Sharks.

Who’s eliminated:

The Stars would max out at 91 points, so the Predators hammered the final nail in their season. The Avalanche can only get 90, so they’re done too – and against a team that’s far less dangerous (although almost as dangerous lately).

Why there’s still some drama:

Again, the good news is that Pacific – and thus, the third seed – is still up for grabs. (Also, the seventh seed serves as a solid consolation prize.)

Sure, it’s not as thrilling as just about everyone fighting tooth-and-nail for a playoff spot, but notching the No. 3 spot can be a huge advantage – especially if the Vancouver Canucks and/or St. Louis Blues stumble in early playoff rounds. Still, it’s stunning to realize that the Stars could have been right there too if they took care of their late-season business.

* Nashville’s win and Detroit’s 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils means that the Predators only need a point to clinch the fourth seed and the huge (especially in negative way for the Red Wings) home ice advantage in their likely upcoming series. Of course, there’s also a chance the Chicago Blackhawks could slide into the fifth seed; check out this breakdown from On the Forecheck for all the headache-inducing details.

Drew Doughty admits Kings want to spoil Sharks’ playoffs chances

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For all the criticism the NHL’s schedule receives, the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks’ home-and-home finale is a slice of brilliance. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty told CSNBayArea.com’s Kevin Kurz that the team would like nothing more than to spoil San Jose’s seemingly solid playoff chances during this duo of duels.

“We definitely want to do whatever we can to knock them out of the playoff picture,” Doughty said. “We want third place, and that’s what we’re going to play for. These two games mean a lot, not only for third place but just being able to push a team like that out of the playoffs is a big momentum boost for us.”

As Doughty points out, spite isn’t necessarily the main fuel driving the Kings. Much like the Sharks, two regulation losses and two Dallas Stars wins could boot them out of the postseason altogether. Getting a point would safeguard Los Angeles from such a fate, yet Jonathan Quick wants the team to set its goals higher.

“We have to prepare for tomorrow and get ready to get two points. We can’t be satisfied with just getting one point and getting in, we want to keep moving up. We want to win the division, and get that home ice.”

The Sharks are the most home-dependent of the Pacific contenders, but there’s no doubt that all of the contenders could benefit greatly from winning the third seed. The biggest difference is that Los Angeles holds tiebreaker advantages over San Jose and Phoenix, meaning that it has the most control of the race – even beyond the potential to knock the hated Sharks out of the playoffs

Sharks sweep huge home-and-home vs. Stars

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Going into their home-and-home series, the Dallas Stars had a chance to essentially bury the San Jose Sharks. Instead, their bitter division rivals shoveled two huge regulation losses on top of them, including today’s soul-crushing 5-2 decision.

(In fact, Stars coach Glen Gulutzan didn’t say anything to the team after the loss because emotions were too high.)

Two of the standout moments came in the third period where San Jose was just a little bit better than Dallas. Jamie Benn received a partial breakaway and made a nice backhand move but Antti Niemi got his stick down to prevent a heart-stopper when it was 3-2. Just moments later, Joe Thornton scored his 17th goal of the season to make it 4-2 and essentially lock it down.

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The “clutch” criticisms of Thornton continue to wither away as he’s coming up big for San Jose in later months; he has 18 points in February and generated 15 in March. (He’s quietly putting together another nice season as his 75 points ties him for 14th overall in the NHL.)

What’s next for Dallas, San Jose

Now, it’s true that much like the Colorado Avalanche, the Stars aren’t technically done. They’re now simply reduced to last week in the NFL-type scenarios where they root for different teams to win and lose at different times while needing to squeeze every point they can out of two remaining games.

By a similar token, the Sharks aren’t assured of a spot. Here’s what the West situation looks like at the moment, with a crucial Columbus Blue Jackets-Phoenix Coyotes still to be determined:

3. Los Angeles – 93 points, 34 regulation/OT wins, two games left

7. San Jose – 92 points, 33 regulation/OT wins, two games left
8. Phoenix – 91, 33 regulation/OT wins, three games left (one tonight)

9. Dallas – 89, 35 regulation/OT wins, two games left
10. Colorado – 88, 32 regulation/OT wins, two games left

Depending upon how the Coyotes fare, the Sharks’ home-and-home series against the Los Angeles Kings might just decide the Pacific Division title. Meanwhile, Dallas essentially must hope that one of the three teams ahead of them finishes with as few points as possible (to keep it simple).

The Stars face the Predators in Nashville and host the St. Louis Blues in their last two games, so those are tough draws from both the quality of opponent and the fact that they cannot influence other bubble teams. Dallas had its chance to do that and watched both games go up in smoke – in regulation.