The Night that Was:
The New Jersey Devils had lost four of their last five going into their game with Chicago last night, but the Blackhawks were looking to avoid losing back-to-back games since late February. Petr Sykora’s 18th opened the scoring in the first period on the power play, and after a scoreless second, Brent Seabrook’s 8th tied things up in the third. After a scoreless overtime things moved to a shootout. Patrik Elias and Patrick Sharp traded goals in the third round and after a scoreless fourth, Travis Zajac scored the winner in the fifth round and Andrew Shaw was stopped. Martin Brodeur made 37 saves for the win, while Corey Crawford made 21 saves in a losing effort.
Buffalo and Washington were tied for 8th heading into last night and this one would decide who would hold that final playoff spot for the time being. From the outset it wasn’t really in doubt. Cody McCormick’s first regular season goal since last February opened the scoring, while Drew Stafford’s 18th was the second of the first period. Thomas Vanek (25) and Jason Pominville (29) scored in the second to offset Alexander Semin’s 19th, and Stafford would add his second of the game in the third to give the Sabres a 5-1 win. Ryan Miller made 44 saves for the victory, his fifth-straight, as Stafford and Tyler Ennis finished with two points each.
Dreams of the playoffs officially died last night in Toronto. The Maple Leafs surrendered two first period goals as Jussi Jokinen and Tim Brent both scored their 12th goals of the season for Carolina. 37 seconds into the second Jay Harrison would score his 9th, chasing Jonas Gustavsson from the net and forcing the Leafs to send in Jussi Rynnas. The emergency callup stopped all 10 shots he faced, as Carolina would beat Toronto 3-0. Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu finished with two points each and Cam Ward made 30 saves for the shutout.
The St. Louis Blues are the class of the Western Conference and they proved why last night against Nashville. After a scoreless first, Jamie Langenbrunner’s 6th got the Blues out to a 1-0 lead. Then, 4:47 into the third David Perron scored a beauty for his 17th of the season and TJ Oshie added his 19th with four minutes to go. Brian Elliott stopped 24 shots for his third-straight shutout and ninth of the season. Oshie and David Backes both finished with two-point evenings.
If anyone’s going to score for the Tampa Bay Lightning it seems like it’ll be Steven Stamkos. Stamkos scored his 54th of the season 5:03 into last night’s game before Shawn Thornton’s 5th tied things up. Dennis Seidenberg (4) gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead in the second and after Stamkos’ 55th tied it early in the third, Benoit Pouliot (14), Brad Marchand (26), and Rich Peverley (10) scored to earn Boston a 5-2 win. Zdeno Chara finished with three assists and David Krejci added a pair as Tim Thomas had to make just 16 saves. Martin St. Louis assisted on both of Stamkos’ goals.
The New York Islanders staged the upset of the night last night. Frans Nielsen (16) and Michael Grabner (17) scored in the first period and after Tyler Kennedy (10) and James Neal (36) tied it in the second, the Islanders rattled off three-straight goals. Kyle Okposo (18), David UIlstrom (4), and Nielsen all scored, and despite Neal getting his second in the third period, it wouldn’t get any closer than 5-3. Neal and Evgeni Malkin had two points each while Nielsen and Josh Bailey had three points and Okposo and Dylan Reese had two each. Both teams used two goalies last night, as Marc-Andre Fleury was crashed into by his own defenseman on the fifth goal, and Evgeni Nabokov clipped skates with Chris Kunitz in the second period.
The Florida Panthers needed a win over last-place Montreal last night, but beating the Canadiens proved to be no easy feat. Wojtek Wolski opened the scoring with his fourth, but the Habs tied it up on Erik Cole’s 31st just a minute later. Louis Leblanc scored his fifth late in the second, but Mikael Samuelsson made short work of that 2-1 Canadiens lead with his 12th at 12:48 of the third. Overtime was scoreless so they went to a shootout where Wolski was the only one to score. Carey Price and Scott Clemmensen both had good evenings, as Price stopped 34 shots and Clemmensen stopped 27.
The New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild were separated by 29 points at the beginning of the night and, not surprisingly, the Rangers had extended it to 31 points by the end of the night. The Rangers led 1-0 after one thanks to Brian Boyle’s eighth, but the Wild tied things up twice in the second. The first time was thanks to Kyle Brodziak’s 20th, and after Marian Gaborik’s 38th gave New York the lead again, Mikko Koivu’s 11th tied it up again. The third would belong to the Rangers though as Ruslan Fedotenko’s 9th would stand as the game winner in a 3-2 final. Ryan McDonagh would finish with two assists as Henrik Lundqvist made 24 saves.
What’s on Tonight?
The New York Rangers keep the road trip going against the Winnipeg Jets while Detroit and Columbus hook up in one that’s little more than a divisional matchup. Los Angeles and Calgary are one and two points out of the playoffs respectively in the West, so this one will be big, while Dallas and Edmonton go toe-to-toe as well. Colorado travels to Vancouver (who have already clinched their division) and San Jose looks for a very important two points against the Anaheim Ducks.
The Injury Bug:
-Taylor Hall’s season is over. Hall will undergo surgery for a shoulder injury he has suffered from for a long time. Hall hasn’t played since suffering a concussion in a game against Calgary.
-Ilya Bryzgalov has a chip fracture in his right foot and will miss at least one game. It isn’t considered serious however, so it’s likely he returns to the net this weekend.
-James Reimer is out with an upper-body injury. Nothing more has been released on his condition, but the Leafs made an emergency call-up yesterday, recalling Jussi Rynnas.
-Both Martin Erat and Jordin Tootoo are out with uppder-body injuries. Erat skated yesterday but Tootoo didn’t.
News, Notes, and Rumours
The Overlooked Fantasy Line(s) of the Night:
Two New York Islanders had big nights last night that you may not have heard about. Josh Bailey finished the evening with three assists and a +3 rating (his night included one power play assist) while Dylan Reese also had a pair of assists. Both of Reese’s assists came at even-strength and he finished the night with a +1 rating.