NHL Daily: Defense Optional Night in Review

NHL Sports
League-wide scoring has dropped year after year since the 05-06 season, but if the league continues to have nights like Thursday’s, that could quickly change. Nine teams scored four or more goals on a very busy Thursday night for the NHL.

Recaps –

Henrique’s Pair Leads Devils to VictoryNew Jersey Devils 5, Columbus Blue Jackets 2

Adam Henrique’s powerplay goal capped off a span of three goals in under three minutes for the New Jersey Devils midway through in the first period. Henrique also added a shorthanded tally in the second to give some the Devils some breathing room after Marian Gaborik brought the Blue Jackets to within one.

The win tied New Jersey with Columbus in the standings, a fact that caused scrums to break out at the end of the first and third periods.

Grabner’s Two Shorthanded Tallies Down Maple LeafsNew York Islanders 5, Toronto Maple Leafs 4 (OT)

The Islanders were concerned about their ability to score without franchise center, John Tavares. For one night, at least, those concerns were for naught. Michael Grabner scored two shorthanded goals on the same penalty kill and Lubomir Visnovsky scored in overtime after a Maple Leaf turnover, one of the many for the club on the night.

Maples Leafs coach, Randy Carlyle, was incensed after the game at his team’s turnovers. “We gave them three goals,” he said “You can’t win in the NHL giving three goals away.”

Talbot Puts on a Show in Rangers WinNew York Rangers 2, Chicago Blackhawks 1

One of the most consistent aspects of the New York Rangers over the past couple years has been their goaltending. Usually, that refers to superstar goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, but on Thursday night, Cam Talbot took the reins and led his team to victory. The young backup goaltender made 31 saves and Rick Nash scored the game winner with just over 5 minutes remaining in the third to give the Rangers a much needed two points.

Chicago missed their opportunity to take first place in the Central division, remaining tied with the St. Louis Blues with 84 points apiece.

Five Goal Second Period Propels SharksSan Jose Sharks 7, Philadelphia Flyers 2

Joe Pavelski’s hattrick in the second period turned a close game into a blowout, as the San Jose Sharks dominated the red-hot Philadelphia Flyers. Pavelski now has a career-high 32 goals on the season, putting him right behind Washington winger Alexander Ovechkin in terms of league goalscoring.

The game echoed the last game between two teams, when the Flyers scored four unanswered goals in the third period to win 5-2.

Canadiens Topple Penguins in a Shootout Montreal Canadiens 6, Pittsburgh Penguins 5 (SO)

Peter Budaj faced 32 shots in regulation and overtime and stopped all three shooters in the shootout to complete the comeback for the Canadiens. Montreal overcame a one goal deficit four times in the game, including the game-tying goal from Daniel Briere with just over six minutes left in regulation.

Briere only had nine minutes of icetime the entire night, but he made the most of it. In addition to the game-tying goal, he contributed two assists and earned the first star of the night.

Struggling Senators Fall to the Red WingsDetroit Red Wings 6, Ottawa Senators 1

The Ottawa Senators entered the Olympic break after a 7-2 loss to the Boston Bruins and had the entire two weeks to simmer and think about the loss. This game was not the response they were hoping for. Johan Franzen had a hattrick and Jonas Gustavsson made 37 saves as the Red Wings took control of the game early and never looked back.

The game became a little chippy in the third period, when Chris Neil and Franzen both received 10 minute misconduct penalties as tempers boiled over.

Panthers Comeback Falls Short Against WashingtonWashington Capitals 5, Florida Panthers 4.

Alexander Ovechkin scored his 41st goal of the season late in the third period after a turnover in the Panthers defensive zone led to a two-on-one directly in front of Panther’s goaltender, Tim Thomas. The goal salvaged a win for the Capitals, on a night when they blew a two-goal lead twice. The win brought the Capitals to within one point of a playoff spot in the Eastern conference.

The goal also extended the woes of the Panthers, who have effectively exited the playoff race. They have lost six of their last seven games.

Predators Shutdown Lightning to Start Homestand Nashville Predators 3, Tampa Bay Lightning 2

The Predators have never been known for their offensive talent, preferring instead to take the defensive style of play. But Thursday, their offensive guns won the night as Nashville struck three times on the powerplay to overcome an early two-goal deficit. Tampa Bay was held to only 16 shots in the game, and only seven in the final two periods.

Nashville ranks seventh in the league in powerplay proficiency, but their coach knows that the club is not going to always have games like the one on Thursday. “Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t,” said Barry Trotz.

Winnipeg Continues Winning WaysWinnipeg Jets 3, Phoenix Coyotes 2 (SO)

Olli Jokinen and Devin Setoguchi scored in the shootout to get the Jets the win in a closely contested game. The win is the tenth for Winnipeg since hiring coach Paul Maurice on January 13. The wins have put the Jets back into the playoff race, hoping to make the postseason for the first time since 2007.

Coyotes goaltender, Mike Smith, took the loss in his first game back from representing Team Canada in the Olympics. It was Smith’s league-leading 50th start of the season.

Special Teams Doom Carolina Against DallasDallas Stars 4, Carolina Hurricanes 1

Carolina’s powerplay has been an issue of concern for seasons on end, costing them games they could and should be winning. Now, in addition to not scoring with the man advantage, they are getting scored on the powerplay as well. Brenden Dillon and Jamie Benn scored shorthanded goals to lead the Stars to an easy victory over the struggling Hurricanes.

Carolina had an opportunity to get back into the game when Antoine Roussel was given a five minute major and a game misconduct for charging Carolina goaltender, Anton Khudobin. But the ineffective Hurricanes powerplay remained as such.

Quick Shuts the Door Against FlamesLos Angeles Kings 2, Calgary Flames 0

Jonathan Quick played almost every game for Team USA in the Sochi Olympic games. He was given the night off on Wednesday, when the Kings faced the Avalanche, but showed no signs of rust on Thursday night. Quick stopped all 25 shots he faced on the night and Dustin Brown would get the eventual game-winner just three minutes into the contest.

The Flames, who had won five straight at home before this game, started rookie goaltender Joni Ortio for his first NHL game, who had an admirable performance himself, stopping 22 out of 24 shots.

Oilers Shutout Again as They Fall to the WildMinnesota Wild 3, Edmonton Oilers 0

The Edmonton Oilers have picked first overall the past three years, and they currently own the worst record in the league, making a fourth year at number one possible. Performances like the one they had against the Wild on Thursday night will not help change that fate. Minnesota goaltender Darcy Kuemper made 21 saves to earn his second career shutout and Mikael Granlund retained his scoring touch from the Sochi Olympics by scoring the gamewinner on this night.

The Oilers are used to seeing zeros on the scoreboard, as this was the eighth time they have been shutout this season, including the fifth time at home.

Previews –

Final Farewell for Miller? – San Jose Sharks at Buffalo Sabres

The game will be the final home game for the Buffalo Sabres before the NHL trade deadline on March 5. The Buffalo general manager, Tim Murray, has stated his club is “open for business” and it is expected they will be an active participant at the deadline. For Sabres fans, this may be the last time they see longtime goaltender for the team, Ryan Miller, in a Sabres uniform.

San Jose is coming off a decisive 7-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night. Joe Pavelski scored a hattrick, while Logan Couture and Raffi Torres added two goals of their own.

Bounceback Effort Needed for Both Teams – Phoenix Coyotes at Colorado Avalanche

Both teams lost their respective first games coming back from the Olympic break. The Avalanche surrendered six goals in a loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday, while the Coyotes lost a nail biter in a shootout to the Winnipeg Jets Thursday night. Phoenix coach, Dave Tippett, said that the will and desperation his team played with against the Jets will have to be present in every game remaining in the NHL schedule.

Colorado rookie, Nathan McKinnon, comes into the game on a nine-game point streak, giving him 22 goals and 45 points on the season. Both statistics lead the league for rookies, leaving many people believing that McKinnon is the favorite to win the Calder trophy for the league’s best rookie.

Injury-Riddled Teams Face Off – Minnesota Wild at Vancouver Canucks

If Vancouver is going to make the playoffs this year, they will have to end a four-game losing streak to the Minnesota Wild. The Wild won the only meeting between the two teams this season, a 3-2 shootout win in December, and come into the game having won three in a row. The Canucks have lost seven of their last eight games, but they come into tonight’s game after a 1-0 shutout win against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday.

Both teams are dealing with a plague of injuries, with Minnesota having lost both their starting and backup goaltenders and their captain and first line center, Mikko Koivu. Vancouver’s defense has taken a hit after losing defensemen Yannick Weber, Christopher Tanev and Andrew Alberts.

Top Ranked Western Teams Battle for Top Spot – St. Louis Blues at Anaheim Ducks

Both teams have their eye on the President’s Trophy, an award given to the team with the NHL’s best record at the end of the season. The Ducks sit three points ahead of the Blues at the top of the Pacific division and on top of the league, but St. Louis has currently played three less games than the Anaheim club, giving them the opportunity to pass the Ducks by winning all games in hand. Winning the game on Friday night will bring them that much closer to passing the Ducks.

Anaheim is the last team to return to action after the Olympic break, which will help many of their key players. Star forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were gold medalists for Team Canada and veteran winger, Teemu Selanne, was named the Olympic tournament’s most valuable player when Finland won the bronze medal.

By Jonathan Gardner


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