Cross Checks: Phoenix Coyotes

Avalanche threatening to bury the Blues

April, 11, 2014
4/11/14
10:00
AM ET
Avalanche 4, Canucks 2
* Paul Stastny (COL): 2 goals (25); 3rd multi-goal game of season.
* Stastny: 25 goals are most since rookie season (28).
* Avalanche: Tied with Blues atop Central Division (own tiebreaker, 47-43 in regulation wins).

Kings 3, Oilers 0
* Marian Gaborik (LA): 2 goals (11); 1st multi-goal game this season (42nd career).
* Martin Jones (LA): 17 saves in 4th shutout this season.
* Kings: 13th shutout this season (leads NHL).

Wild 4, Blues 2
* Blues: Lost season-high 4 straight games.
* Wild: Remain locked into first Wild Card spot in Western Conference.
* Kyle Brodziak (MIN): 2 goals, first multi-goal game this season.
* Ryan Miller (STL): Allowed 4 goals on 13 shots; .813 save pct over past 3 games (12 goals on 64 shots).

Predators 2, Coyotes 0
* Predators: 4-0-1 in last 5 games (have already been eliminated from playoffs).
* Coyotes: Winless in last 6 games.

Lightning 4, Flyers 2
* Lightning: 3-0-0 versus Flyers this season; won 6 straight home games versus Flyers.
* Lightning: 97 points, third-most in a season in franchise history and most since 2010-11 (103 points).

Rangers 2, Sabres 1
* Rangers: Won 9 of last 12 games after losing 6 of previous 9 (2 points behind Lightning for 4th place in East).
* Rick Nash (NYR): Scored game-winning goal with 1:42 left (team-leading 26th goal of season).
* Mats Zuccarello (NYR): 4G, 5A during 6-game point streak.

The postseason just got a little Wild

April, 9, 2014
4/09/14
10:11
AM ET
Wild 4, Bruins 3 (SO)
* Wild: 5-0-1 in last six games, clinch playoff berth with win.
* Jason Pominville (MIN): Two goals (third multi-goal game this season); no goals in previous seven games.
* Bruins: 114 points (most in NHL).

Stars 3, Predators 2 (SO)
* Tyler Seguin: Game-deciding goal in fourth round of SO; second SO goal this season (2-7).
* Stars: 89 points, hold second Western Conference Wild Card (two points ahead of Coyotes).
* Jamie Benn (DAL): Goal (34); third straight game with a goal.
* Predators: Rliminated from playoffs with loss.

Blue Jackets 4, Coyotes 3 (OT)
* Ryan Johansen (CBJ): Second GW OT goal this season (Mar. 29 vs CAR).
* Blue Jackets: 89 points, hold second Eastern Conference Wild Card; 4-1-1 in last 6 games.
* Coyotes: 0-2-3 in last five games.

Red Wings 4, Sabres 2
* Red Wings: 90 points, hold first of two Eastern Conference Wild Card spots.
* Red Wings: 4-0 vs Sabres this season.
* Red Wings: Three goals in third period.
* Mike Babcock (DET): 414th win with team; most in franchise history.

Flyers 5, Panthers 2
* Flyers: Clinch playoff berth with win (17th appearance in last 19 seasons).
* Flyers: Outscored FLA 4-0 in second period (entered with minus-12 goal differential in second period this season).
* Claude Giroux (PHI): Two goals (had two in previous 15 games).
* Vincent Lecavalier (PHI): Goal, assist; reaches 20-goal mark for 13th time in 15-year career.

Rangers 4, Hurricanes 1
* Rangers: Won 11 of last 12 games versus Hurricanes.
* Rangers: 8-2-1 in last 11 games overall.
* Brad Richards (NYR): Two PPG; reaches 20-goal mark for 10th time in 13 NHL seasons.
* Martin St. Louis (NYR): Three assists; first three-point game as member of Rangers.

Capitals 4, Blues 1
* Capitals: First win in regulation since March 18.
* Alex Ovechkin (WSH): Goal, two assists; fifth season with 50+ goals (most among active players, t-6th all-time)
* Nicklas Backstrom (WSH): Two goals, second multi-goal game this season and first since Nov. 1.
* Blues: Lost 3 straight for first time all season

Most 50-Goal Seasons in First 9 Seasons - NHL History

Mike Bossy 9
Wayne Gretzky 8
Guy Lafleur 6
Alex Ovechkin 5
Brett Hull 5

The Dallas Stars will hit the ice about 90 minutes after the Phoenix Coyotes get going in Columbus on Tuesday night, meaning the Stars will already know what’s going on in that game.

Stars captain Jamie Benn isn’t going to lie: There’s some scoreboard watching going on these days with his team beginning the last week of the regular season one point ahead of the Coyotes for the final wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference.

"It’s kind of hard not to look at the scoreboard," Benn told ESPN.com Monday afternoon. "We’ve been saying it around the room, though, we don’t want to rely on other teams to win games for us or lose games for us. It’s up to us. We definitely have a chance to get into the playoffs ourselves, and we don’t want to be relying on other teams to do our work for us."

No question, meanwhile, the Coyotes will also want to check out how the Stars are faring at home against Nashville on Tuesday night.

"We’ll definitely take the odd glimpse at the scoreboard," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said after his team arrived in Columbus Monday afternoon. "Each team controls their own destiny this week, but at the same time, it’s not like you wouldn’t rather ... get in more comfortably."

As Doan pointed out, both the Stars and Coyotes indeed control their own fate. Dallas is one point ahead and owns the ROW (regulation and overtime wins) tiebreaker, but the Stars and Coyotes finish the regular season against each other Sunday night in Glendale. Therefore, a perfect 4-0-0 record this week clinches the final playoff spot for that team.

"We’d much rather be in Dallas’ position right now than ours, but at the same time, we’re happy we at least control our own destiny," Doan said. "If we find a way to win our games, we’re OK. If we don’t, we’ll have only ourselves to blame."

Quite frankly, with three home games on tap before Sunday’s finale, the Stars sure hope that game in Glendale is meaningless, which would be the case if the Coyotes have one more loss in regulation this week while the Stars win those three home games versus Nashville, Columbus and St. Louis.

"It’s definitely three big games that you have to take advantage of, especially when you’re this close to the playoffs," Benn said. "We’ve got a pretty good home record [21-10-7]. We’re not looking too far ahead to that game against Phoenix. Hopefully it won’t mean anything and we’ll already be in the playoffs by then."

The Coyotes have road games in Columbus and Nashville, followed by back-to-back home games with San Jose and Dallas to close out the regular season.

Neither club has set the world on fire of late, with the Stars missing a golden chance to pad their lead by losing at 29th-place Florida on Sunday and the Coyotes going winless their last four games (0-2-2).

We asked a Western Conference team scout to give us his breakdown of this race. "I'll tell you, it is splitting hairs with these two teams," he wrote via email. "This time of the year, you like a more veteran team to withstand the pressure of making/missing the playoffs, so that goes in favor of Phoenix. Dallas has a much better winning percentage against the remaining teams they play. Phoenix has gotten a lot of mileage out [of] their power play this year and they haven't been as stingy defensively but have improved lately. Dallas is at home three of their last four games and should be hungry to get into the playoffs.

"Analytical people might suggest Phoenix has the upper hand, but I think Dallas gets in. Might be having been on the outside looking in for so long or the extra motivation of the [Rich] Peverley situation. I also think [Kari] Lehtonen can be a wall back there."

The Coyotes haven’t had starting goalie Mike Smith since he injured his knee March 24, but backup Thomas Greiss can’t be blamed for the recent struggles, Doan said.

"He’s been amazing, he’s been really good, it’s got nothing to do with him," said the Coyotes captain. "We’re just not scoring right now."

As in scoring four goals in their last four games. That’s not going to cut it, regardless of who’s in net.

The Stars, meanwhile, are trying to shed a half-decade of misery, as Dallas has missed the playoffs five straight seasons. Finally making the playoffs would matter a ton to that franchise.

"It would mean a lot," said Benn, who is having an outstanding season. "Especially for the players, and the fans as well. They deserve playoff hockey and we want to give it to them."

There’s some leadership coming through over the phone line, loud and clear.

Benn hasn’t yet played an NHL playoff game. But he returned from Sochi, Russia, with an Olympic gold medal hanging around his neck, and the experience he gained playing in those pressure-packed games could come in handy this week.

"You know, I learned a lot over there," Benn said. "We had such a great group of leaders and guys on that team. It’s definitely a different feeling playing those winner-take-all, one-game playoffs. It’s an experience I can bring back in terms of playing in those high-pressure situations in the games that mean the most. It’s going to feel the same this week; you definitely have to win or else you feel like you haven’t done anything."

The reality is that more people picked the Coyotes to make the playoffs this season -- not so much the rebuilding Stars. But the disappointment would be felt equally in both dressing rooms, regardless of differing preseason expectations.

For the Coyotes, Western Conference finalists just two years ago, there’s the added incentive of having new owners who finally stabilized the franchise last summer. Throwing them the odd playoff date would be a nice gesture.

"Yeah, without a doubt, that’s something you think about and you’re aware of," Doan said. "You appreciate what they’ve done for us and you know the playoffs are big for any team, especially for us trying to build in our market going forward."

From that perspective, both of these markets could use that playoff buzz, both needing to build up their respective fan bases.

Lots on the line, indeed, this week for both franchises.

"It’s a time where you have to enjoy it and have fun with it; just enjoy the challenge that’s ahead of us," Benn said.

"It’s going to be a fun week," Doan echoed.

Well, for one team anyway.
Not wild about Heatley
Hard decisions ahead for Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo as he struggles to find a place for veteran winger Dany Heatley -- or, more to the point, determine if there's a place at all for the former multiple 50-goal scorer. Heatley was a healthy scratch for two games in the past week, but with injuries to a few of his teammates, he was back in the lineup in Thursday's shootout loss to Chicago. Still, Heatley played just 8:49 and was a minus-1. He has only 12 goals this season and has gone 15 straight games without a goal. The move makes one wonder what Heatley's short-term role will be as the Wild look to lock up the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference -- which would mean a first-round date with the Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks or St. Louis Blues (it would be Anaheim as of Friday). Beyond that, Heatley is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, although what will the market be for an aging sniper whose production has slowly declined in recent years? Still, until this season, Heatley had never scored fewer than 24 goals in any full NHL season.

Speaking of the Wild
We saw the Wild in St. Louis last week and wondered about their goaltending. Since then, rookie Darcy Kuemper went down with an injury and Ilya Bryzgalov has moved into the starter's role, at least temporarily, while Josh Harding returned to practice. There's no timetable for Harding's return and Bryzgalov has put together strong performances and is 4-0-3 since coming over from the Edmonton Oilers. Not that goaltending won't continue to be a storyline for the Wild, but the bigger issue might be generating enough offense to stay close in a first-round series: Mikael Granlund, an Olympic hero for the Finns and an important part of the Wild's attack, is out of the lineup after suffering what appeared to be a head injury against the Los Angeles Kings. With Heatley a non-factor offensively, the pressure will grow for the Wild’s young players to step forward. Needless to say, it's a lot to ask at this stage of the season.

Benn leading the charge for Stars
The Dallas Stars have put themselves in excellent position to end a five-year playoff drought, and a large part of the resurgence has, of course, been because of the play of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock, a member of Canada's Olympic coaching staff, was bemoaning the education Benn received with the gold-medal-winning Canadian squad in Sochi earlier this year. Benn, who wasn't even invited to Team Canada's August orientation camp, was one of the team's best forwards in Sochi, ultimately playing on an imposing line with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks. "I could see him watching guys" throughout the tournament, Hitchcock said. "He picked up a lot of education that I think he's going to use against us for the rest of his life," the Blues coach added, only half-jokingly. There is a good chance the Stars and the Blues will meet in the first round of the playoffs.

Tim Thomas' transition going well
The Stars, of course, were part of the 11 goaltender transactions involving 10 goaltenders (Jaroslav Halak was moved twice) leading to the trade deadline, acquiring former Vezina Trophy and Conn Smythe winner Tim Thomas. We caught up with Thomas in St. Louis and he talked about the ease with which he was able to make the move from Florida to Dallas, even if it was an unusual period given the number of goalies who changed locations. "I think it probably depends on the situation; for me, stepping in here, it was very comfortable transition," Thomas said, noting former Boston Bruins teammates Seguin and Rich Peverley helped immensely. He also knew Ray Whitney from previously working on the Garth Brooks Foundation one summer. And he'd played with Erik Cole at the world championships one year and briefly roomed with him. Then, in a reminder of just how tight the goaltending fraternity is, Thomas described having met Stars netminding coach Mike Valley years ago when Valley was considering playing in Europe and spoke to Thomas about the experience. "When he was still playing, I had talked to him once when he was debating on whether he should go and play in Sweden," Thomas said. "He came to Sweden and that was the year I was playing in Sweden, so he stayed at my house for a night." The veteran goalie even recalled having run into the Stars' equipment manager in Houston in the old International Hockey League back in the day. "There were a lot of things that made it feel real comfortable really fast," he said. "It was great. Very easy transition."

Legwand easing in too
David Legwand went to high school in Grosse Pointe, Mich., and played junior hockey in nearby Plymouth before the Nashville Predators selected him with the second overall pick in the 1998 draft. Until a month ago, he'd played all of his 956 regular-season games in a Predators jersey. But if he was going to find himself in a new jersey at the trade deadline, it was more than a little fitting that it would be the winged wheel of the Detroit Red Wings. Throw in a heated battle for a playoff berth and the fact Legwand was simply able to move into the home he and his family have had in the Detroit area for years and, well, you couldn't ask for a more seamless transition. "It's been exciting," Legwand told ESPN.com. "No one wants to play the last 10 or 15 games for nothing." With the Predators headed for a second straight season out of the playoffs, Legwand admitted that agreeing to a trade from the only team he's known was difficult, but he is enjoying the emotion of the Red Wings' battle to return to the playoffs for a 23rd straight season. Although he's 33 and headed to unrestricted free agency this summer, Legwand is suddenly among the grizzled veterans of a Wings squad that has relied on untested but talented youth to help carry the team in the face of injuries to established players Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen. Indeed, Legwand points out, were it not for those injuries, the Wings probably wouldn't have needed his services. Whether or not he ends up staying with his hometown team, Legwand has certainly helped his market value with three goals and seven assists in his first 15 games.

Coyotes howling at the playoffs
Remember back in training camp, when we all delivered our Stanley Cup predictions? Remember when I suggested the Phoenix Coyotes could run the table in the spring of 2014? Ha-ha. OK, I remember it too. Lots of things have conspired to keep the Yotes on the other side of the playoff bubble heading into the final week of the regular season. And while there's still time to turn things around, the injury to Mike Smith and the sudden disappearance of the offense are major stumbling blocks. Of all the players who have been major disappointments in the NHL this season, it would be difficult to find a guy who has delivered less when it matters most than Mike Ribeiro. I remember having multiple heated discussions with my pal Craig Custance about whether the Capitals should try to retain Ribeiro's services long term after a strong season playing second-line center behind Nicklas Backstrom. Well, the Caps have their own issues, but it looks as if they did right by passing on Ribeiro, who has been a colossal disappointment in the desert. He has just one goal in his last 20 games and has recently been a healthy scratch -- all of this after signing a four-year deal worth $22 million last offseason. It's not really part of the Coyotes’ financial master plan to buy out players, but Ribeiro has a lot of ground to make up if he's still with the team next season, especially if his lack of production contributes to the Coyotes' missing the playoffs.

Pavelski is quite a tricky player this season

March, 26, 2014
3/26/14
9:49
AM ET
Sharks 5, Oilers 2
* Joe Pavelski (SJ): Third hat trick of the season; Pavelski and the Stars' Tyler Seguin are the only players with three this season.
* Sharks: At least one point in 12 of last 13 games.
* Sharks: Four-point lead over Ducks in Pacific Division (SJ has played 3 more games than ANA).

Avalanche 5, Predators 4 (COL wins SO, 2-1)
* Gabriel Landeskog (COL): Two goals and game-winning shootout goal; 23 goals on season are career-high.
* Avalanche: Win ends 3-game losing streak (0-2-1).
* Matt Cullen, Roman Josi (NSH): Two goals each.

Blackhawks 4, Stars 2
* Blackhawks: 1-2 on power play; 1-17 on power play previous four games.
* Patrick Sharp (CHI): Two assists; four goals, six assists in four games against Stars this season.
* Tyler Seguin (DAL): Assist; nine-game point streak (seven goals, 10 assists during streak).
* Ryan Garbutt (DAL): Two goals (13, 14); second multi-goal game of season and career (108th career game).
* Stars: Loss clinches playoff spot for Ducks (idle).

Canadiens 2, Sabres 0
* Canadiens: 4-0 vs Sabres this season (only three goals allowed).
* Canadiens: Won five straight versus Sabres; won three straight games overall.
* Max Pacioretty (MTL): 32nd goal of season, one shy of career high (33 in 2011-12).
* Carey Price: 24 saves, fifth shutout of season (second career 30-win season; 38 wins in 2010-11).

FROM ELIAS: Carey Price made 24 saves as he led the Canadiens to a 2–0 win against the Sabres in Montreal. It was Price’s fifth shutout of the season and his 20th clean sheet for the Canadiens over the last four seasons. (He had eight in 2010–11, three in 2011–12 and four in 2012–13.) Price is the first Montreal goaltender to register at least 20 shutouts over a four-season span since Ken Dryden did so over the final four seasons of his NHL career (28 from 1975–76 through 1978–79).

Blue Jackets 4, Red Wings 2
* Blue Jackets: Two power play goals; were 0-for-35 on power play in previous nine games.
* Ryan Johansen (CBJ): Two goals (29); sixth career multi-goal game (fourth this season).
* Red Wings: 4+ goals allowed in seven of past 12 games.

Kings 5, Capitals 4 (LA wins SO, 2-0)
* Alex Ovechkin (WSH): Two goals (48), assist; ninth multi-goal game this season (only second such game the Capitals have lost).
* Kings: 12-3-0 in past 15 games; won seven straight road games overall.
* Kings: Trailed 3-1 entering third period.
* Capitals: Second loss in past six games (both came in shootouts).

Blues 5, Maple Leafs 3
* David Backes (STL): Second career hat trick, first of season; fourth multi-goal game of season.
* Blues: 40-2-5 (.861 win pct) when scoring first; ranks second in NHL.
* Jonathan Bernier (TOR): 44 saves; third loss with at least 44 saves this season, tied for most in NHL.
* Maple Leafs: Lost six straight, allowing 21 goals during stretch; have scored three goals or less in each.

Coyotes 3, Penguins 2
* Coyotes: 2-0-0 versus Penguins this season.
* Coyotes: 8-3-1 in past 12 games.
* Sidney Crosby (PIT): Assist; three goals, four assists in past five games.
* Evgeni Malkin (PIT): DNP due to sprained foot.


Well it could have certainly been worse.

The Phoenix Coyotes said Tuesday that netminder Mike Smith was day to day with a lower body injury -- which is believed to be a right knee injury.

The early guess-timate I'm hearing is seven to 10 days after an initial MRI was done Tuesday, which is much better than the way it looked Monday night with Smith writhing in pain on the ice.

But we won't know an exact time frame until Smith is re-evaluated Friday in Phoenix.

Don't worry, Bruins, you're still on top

March, 25, 2014
3/25/14
9:53
AM ET
Canadiens 2, Bruins 1 (SO)
* Bruins: Loss snaps 12-game win streak; had been their longest win streak since 1970-71.
* Bruins: Despite loss, the one point earned moves them ahead of St. Louis for most in the NHL.
* Canadiens: Won three straight on road; 5-1-0 over last six games overall

Rangers 4, Coyotes 3 (OT)
* Ryan McDonagh (NYR): Second career OT goal, third GW goal this season; two assists, including on game-tying goal in regulation.
* Dan Girardi (NYR): Game-tying goal (5) with 3:28 left in regulation.
* Rangers: Fourth straight win; move into second place in Metropolitan Division).

From Elias: The Rangers trailed, 3-2, with time running out in their game against the Phoenix Coyotes but they rallied to win, 4-3, thanks to a tying goal by defenseman Dan Girardi with 3:28 remaining in the third period and an overtime goal by fellow defenseman Ryan McDonagh. It was the first time in Rangers history that they won a game in overtime after tying the score in the final five minutes of the third period and both the tying and winning goals were scored by defensemen.

Flames 2, Sharks 1 (SO)
* Sharks: Clinch playoff berth with one point Monday.
* Sharks: Loss ends four-game road win streak.
* Karri Ramo (CGY): Fifth straight win; saved 33 of 34 shots.

Stars 2, Jets 1
* Tyler Seguin (DAL): Goal (32); ninth straight game with a point (7 G, 9 A)
* Stars: Second straight win (0-3-1 in previous four games).

Senators 4, Lightning 3 (SO)
From Elias:

Most Goals Through 400 Career Games (active players)

Alex Ovechkin 273
Teemu Selanne 258
Steven Stamkos 229<<
>>Includes Monday

Most Games With 3+ Pts, defensemen this season
Erik Karlsson 4
Victor Hedman 3
Andrei Markov 3
P.K. Subban 3

It would have been a damn good reason never to have a pregame ceremony again, considering the New York Rangers fell behind 2-0 to the Phoenix Coyotes following a tribute to goaltender Henrik Lundqvist’s recent franchise records.

But the Rangers and Lundqvist regrouped after an abysmal first period, filling the emotional void that was lacking in the first 20 minutes of play and recovering to knock off the Coyotes for their fourth consecutive win.

The 4-3 overtime victory, sealed by defenseman Ryan McDonagh’s rebound goal 1:56 into OT, moved the Rangers past the Philadelphia Flyers and into second place in the Metropolitan Division standings. It also showed the type of mental fortitude this team will need down the stretch with the playoffs looming.

[+] EnlargeHenrik Lundqvist
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesHenrik Lundqvist and the Rangers endured an emotional night at MSG.
“It just got dead for a good 10 minutes,” alternate captain Brad Richards said of the team’s drained emotions after Lundqvist’s ceremony. “I don’t know if it was a lull or what happened there, but the building was quiet and when it’s quiet you’ve got to create your own [energy].

“It just creates that atmosphere where it’s on us to create that momentum and get the crowd back in it. And we eventually did that,” Richards continued. “That was a great point. Before Christmas, I think we probably would’ve gone the other way and lose that game by three or four.”

The Rangers didn’t surrender, though, despite a feeble first-period effort. With goals from Richards and Derick Brassard, the Rangers erased a 2-0 deficit. With Thomas Greiss in goal to replace an injured Mike Smith, the Rangers knotted the score again in the third on Dan Girardi’s tying goal with 3:28 remaining in regulation.

And the Blueshirts’ blue line came up big again in overtime as McDonagh notched the winner, his 13th goal of the season.

“In a game where it was pretty ugly in the first period and we weren’t playing with that pace we are accustomed to, and that we need, [we] slowly but surely got our groove going,” McDonagh said. “We continued to create offensive chances, wear them down, and find a way to tie it up late and get one in overtime, so it’s a great effort by everyone.”

Coach Alain Vigneault was pleased that his team displayed pluck in fighting back into the game, rather than rolling over and ceding a critical two points. The Rangers now lead the Flyers by one point heading into Wednesday’s match between the two division rivals, though the Flyers have a game in hand.

“Says a lot about our group,” Vigneault said.

A loss may have also robbed Lundqvist of reflecting positively on what he called a “one-in-a-lifetime experience” in his pregame ceremony. The 32-year-old netminder was recognized in front of a home crowd for breaking both Mike Richter’s all-time wins record and Eddie Giacomin’s shutout record last week.

With a win safely secure, he can breathe easy about the way the team responded after that temporary distraction.

“Again, we responded the right way in the third. That’s a sign of us being focused on the right things and what we need to do,” Lundqvist said. “It’s a great feeling.”
Reimer soap opera continues
From the moment Game 7 of the opening round of the playoffs ended with Bruins center Patrice Bergeron's overtime winner eliminating the Toronto Maple Leafs, it's clear that the Leafs -- or at least those Leafs wearing suits -- have had little use for netminder James Reimer. Even though Reimer was a catalyst for the Leafs ending an ugly seven-year playoff absence last season, he was seen in some quarters as the scapegoat for the Leafs’ horrific collapse in Game 7 against Boston. Never mind that the Leafs never would have gotten close to a Game 7 without Reimer's play, which helped erase a 3-1 series deficit, or during the regular season, when he turned in a .924 save percentage. Still, the Leafs obtained Los Angeles Kings backup Jonathan Bernier in the offseason and their faith was well-placed, as Bernier has established himself as the No. 1 guy for a Leafs team looking for a second straight playoff appearance. But when Bernier went down with an injury a couple of weeks ago, Reimer once again became the man and immediately backstopped the Leafs to an impressive win over Los Angeles. But after a loss against Detroit on Tuesday, coach Randy Carlyle was lukewarm at best when asked to describe Reimer's play, saying Reimer was "just OK." “Just OK” is coachspeak for "I wish we’d had someone else in net." That was followed up by another lackluster performance by both Reimer and the Leafs' defense in a 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Toronto on Wednesday. Can you say crisis of confidence? The Leafs still hold down the top wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, but they are just four points ahead of ninth-place Washington and the Caps have a game in hand. The Leafs might not like Reimer, and the restricted free agent seems destined to be tending goal somewhere else next season, but they sure need him now.

Silver lining
We were pleased to see the International Olympic Committee agree that Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom would not be denied a silver medal in spite of testing positive for a banned substance -- an allergy medicine Backstrom said he's been taking for seven years -- in the days leading up to the gold-medal game between Sweden and Canada in Sochi last month. What would be nicer is if the IOC, which acknowledged that there was no indication Backstrom was trying to enhance his performance, came up with an explanation of how it took four days -- twice as long as normal -- for the test to come back and why it came to pass that the IOC drug-testing folks pulled Backstrom from warming up at the rink before the gold-medal game for a hearing that ultimately led to his missing the loss to Canada. Lots of blame to go around -- why on earth would Swedish doctors OK Backstrom to take the medication if they knew there was even a remote chance he might exceed acceptable levels for in-competition testing? -- but the IOC also shares culpability in marring what was otherwise a well-run hockey tournament in Sochi. If, as Swedish officials claimed at the time, the IOC was hoping for a positive test to make a point, to put fear into other athletes, then shame on the IOC. Regardless, shame on the IOC for failing to see the bigger picture, which is how their tardiness and intransigence surrounding the positive test altered the competitive balance in the Olympics' marquee moment. Would Backstrom's presence have changed the outcome of the game won 3-0 by Canada? Not likely. Canada was simply too good. But Backstrom was the Swedes' top center and should have been on the ice that Sunday in Sochi. Shame he wasn't, even if he is going to get a silver medal for his troubles.

Another Burke in the system
Had a chance to talk to Sean Burke, the longtime NHL netminder who has found a home in Phoenix as a goaltending coach, where he's credited with helping Ilya Bryzgalov become an elite netminder and reviving the career of Canadian Olympian Mike Smith, who has been dynamite for the last six weeks or so as the Coyotes try to sneak into the postseason. The conversation turned to Burke's son Brendan, who was drafted by the Coyotes with the 163rd overall pick in last June’s draft. Sometimes familial draft picks, especially those picks that come late in the draft, are done as a kind of favor. But Brendan Burke, a goaltender like his father, has shown an impressive aptitude for the game and has evolved into the top netminder for the Portland Winterhawks, one of the top major junior teams in North America. We talked to Winterhawks coach and GM Mike Johnston, who was an assistant/associate coach in Vancouver and then Los Angeles and who had Sean Burke at a couple of World Championship tournaments, and Johnston said he thinks there are more than a few similarities between father and son on and off the ice, both in terms of mannerisms and approach to the game. "It's remarkable how similar they are," he said. Brendan grew up playing minor hockey in the Phoenix area and paid his dues in Portland before becoming the starter this season. "This year he was our starter and he was our guy. And he knew it was his time to take over," Johnston said. A bout of mononucleosis set Brendan back a few weeks, but he returned to action last week for the final games of the regular season and is now poised to lead a powerful Portland team into the playoffs. Johnston, who coached Seth Jones, the fourth overall pick in June and the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones, said there is something about growing up around pro sport that helps a young athlete cope. "I think, mentally, they're able to handle a lot of situations," Johnston said.

Classy move by the Sharks
And, finally, kudos to the San Jose Sharks for helping to produce a memorable moment for 18-year-old longtime fan Sam Tageson, who suffers from a congenital heart defect but who was offered a one-day "contract" by the Sharks. Tageson took part in the morning skate and then skated with the team through the team’s trademark shark head onto the ice before their game Tuesday against Florida. If you ever wonder what these moments mean, catch the video of Tageson breaking down on the bench as fans gave him a loud ovation. Powerful stuff.

The Desert Dogs are barking up a storm

March, 18, 2014
3/18/14
9:47
AM ET
Coyotes 4, Kings 3
* Jeff Halpern (PHX): GW goal (first this season, fourth goal overall)
* Coyotes: Won six of last eight games.
* Kings: Lost three straight games following eight-game win streak.

FROM ELIAS: The Coyotes, visiting the Kings, scored the game’s first two goals and its last two goals, those last two coming in the third period of Phoenix’s 4-3 victory. It marked the first time in more than five years that the Kings had taken a lead into the third period at home, only to leave the Staples Center without earning a point. The last such instance came on Dec. 1, 2008, when the Maple Leafs scored three third-period goals to win 3-1.

Bruins 4, Wild 1
* Bruins: Won nine straight games (allowed 13 goals in those games).
* Jarome Iginla (BOS): Two goals; six goals, assist in five-game point-scoring streak.
* Tuuka Rask (BOS): 33 saves; allowed one goal in each of last three starts.
* Bruins: First home win against a team from Minnesota since January 27, 1992 (against the then-Minnesota North Stars).

FROM ELIAS: Jarome Iginla scored two goals in the Bruins’ win against Minnesota on Monday, after doing the same in Boston’s victory against Carolina on Saturday. It’s the sixth time in Iginla’s NHL career that he has scored at least two goals in each of two consecutive team games in one season, and the first time he’s done so for a team other than Calgary. The last of his five pairs of back-to-back multiple-goal games for the Flames came back in November 2010. Iginla is the second player to produce two straight multi-goal games for the Bruins this season, joining Brad Marchand, who did it on January 19-20.

FROM ELIAS: Tuukka Rask earned first-star honors by making 33 saves in his 4-1 victory over the Wild in Boston, thereby extending the Bruins’ winning streak to nine games. Rask’s latest victory maintained his season-long pattern of stinginess in interconference games at TD Garden. Rask is 7-1-2 with a 1.17 goals-against average in his 10 home games against Western Conference teams; he has allowed a total of just 12 goals in those games, with no more than two goals allowed in any of them.

Blues 3, Jets 1
* Blues: First team to reach 100 points this season; 8-0-1 since start of March.
* Brenden Morrow (STL): Foal (11); first goal since Feb. 8 (scoreless previous nine games).
* David Backes (STL): Two goals (22, 23) in third period after score was tied at 1-1; one goal in his previous 12 games.
* Jets: 1-3-3 in past seven games.

FROM ELIAS: David Backes took only two shots on goal and scored on both of them to lead the Blues to a 3-1 win over the Jets. That was the 16th time that Backes has scored two or more goals in an NHL game, but only the third of them in which he scored on every shot he put on target. The others were two-goal games against Columbus in Feb. 2007 (his first multi-goal game in the NHL) and against Anaheim in March 2012.

Lightning 4, Canucks 3
* Lightning: 2-0 versus Canucks this season.
* Ondrej Palat (TB): Goal, assist; four goals and five assists in a five-game point-scoring streak.

FROM ELIAS: Rookie Ondrej Palat contributed a goal and an assist in the Lightning’s 4-3 win over the Canucks. Palat leads all NHL rookies with 13 multiple-point games this season, one more than Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon. Ten of Palat’s multiple-point games have come over his last 28 games.

Sharks just keep on swimming, swimming

March, 14, 2014
3/14/14
9:58
AM ET
Sharks 4, Blue Jackets 3 (SO)
* Sharks: Won four straight games
* Sharks: win gives SJ 93 pts on season, tied with Ducks for most in Pacific Division
* Patrick Marleau (SJ): Two goals; 60th multi-goal game of career (tied for eighth-most among active players).
* Sharks: 1-3 on power play; entered game 1-23 on PP since Olympics.

From Elias: Patrick Marleau scored a pair of goals for the Sharks in their shootout win at Columbus. Remarkably, it was Marleau's first multi-goal game since he began the lockout-delayed 2012-13 NHL season by scoring two goals in each of San Jose's first four games (Jan. 20-26, 2013).

Maple Leafs 3, Kings 2
* Kings: Loss snaps 8-game win streak.
* Kings: Led 2-0, allowed 3 unanswered.
* James Reimer (TOR): Saved all 31 shots he faced; came in to start 2nd period after Jonathan Bernier left with injury

Wild 2, Rangers 1
* Wild: Snap three-game winless streak (0-1-2 past three games).
* Rangers: 2-4-1 in past seven games.
* Zach Parise (MIN): Game-winning goal; four goals in last six games.
* Darcy Kuemper (MIN): 29 saves; 6-1-1 in past eight starts

Bruins 2, Coyotes 1
* Bruins: Seven consecutive wins; longest win streak since 2011-12 (also seven games).
* Zdeno Chara (BOS): Scored 16th goal; three shy of career-high 19 goals.
* Shane Doan (PHX): Played his 1,300th game (54th all-time)

The Sharks had Penguin for dinner

March, 7, 2014
3/07/14
10:06
AM ET
Sharks 5, Penguins 3
* Sharks: Outscored Penguins 4-1 in third period.
* Sharks: At least one point in six of last seven games.
* Brent Burns (SJ): Two goals; three goals in last two games following 19-game drought.
* Olli Maatta (PIT): First career two-goal game; has four goals in last five games.

Avalanche 3, Red Wings 2 (F/OT)
* Avalanche: Won four straight; 14-5-0 in last 19 games.
* Andre Benoit (COL): First career OT goal.
* Nathan MacKinnon (COL): Assist on winning goal; 13-game point streak (breaks Wayne Gretzky's record for longest by 18-year-old).
* Red Wings: Ninth home loss this season in OT or shootout (11-11-9 at home).

Coyotes 5, Canadiens 2
* Coyotes: Snap a 14-game winless streak (0-9-5) against the Habs; hadn't beaten Montreal since Dec. 9, 1998.
* Radim Vrbata (PHX): Two goals; third multi-goal game of season.
* Coyotes: Most goals since 6-0 win over Flames on Jan. 7; had scored two or fewer in seven straight.
* P.K. Subban (MTL): Two assists; Two goals, four assists during four-game point streak.

Sabres 3, Lightning 1
* Sabres: Won four of five games since Olympic break.
* Tyler Myers (BUF): Goal, assist; three goals, three assists in last four games.
* Steven Stamkos (TB): No points, 5 shots in 21:03 of ice time; returned after missing 45 games with broken leg.
* Ryan Callahan (TB): No points, 4 shots in 16:33 of ice time in Lightning debut.

Bruins 3, Capitals 0
* Bruins: Won three in a row; improve to 30-5-1 when scoring first.
* Tuukka Rask (BOS): Sixth shutout of season (leads NHL).
* Gregory Campbell (BOS): Goal (7); Four goals in past four games after none in previous 12.
* Capitals: Three-game winless (two losses, tie) streak after winning previous four in a row.
Bruins 6, Panthers 2
* Milan Lucic (BOS): Two goals (15); third multi-goal game this season.
* David Krejci (BOS): Goal (11), two assists; second three-point game of season (other was Saturday vs. Flyers).
* Bruins: Third straight game with six goals (also scored six in wins over Flyers on Saturday and Islanders on Monday); fourth six-goal game of season.
* Bruins: 5-0-1 in last six games (won last four); won last six meetings versus Panthers (last loss was March 15, 2012).

Wild 4, Ducks 2
* Wild: 9-3-1 in last 13 games following six-game losing streak.
* Ducks: Second home loss in last three games (started season 20-0-2 at home).
* Zach Parise (MIN): Goal, two assists; three points ties season high.

Coyotes 3, Kings 0
* Oliver Ekman-Larsson (PHX): Two goals; third career multi-goal game (first this season).
* Antoine Vermette (PHX): goal, assist; five straight games with a point.
* Kings: lost six of last seven games.
* Coyotes: Third shutout this season (all have come this month).

Flames 5, Blackhawks 4
* Flames: Won three straight games for first time this season.
* Mikael Backlund (CGY): Second career multi-goal game (first since Oct. 21, 2010).
* Blackhawks: Lost season-high four straight games.
* Marian Hossa (CHI): Two goals; third multi-goal game of season.

Capitals 5, Sabres 4 (OT)
* Capitals: 2-5-2 in last nine games (won two straight).
* Sabres: 0-4-2 in last six home games.
* Mike Green (WSH): Eighth career overtime goal; he's now scored exactly one in each of the last five seasons.
* Alex Ovechkin (WSH): Seventh multi-goal game of season (most in NHL).

Maple Leafs 3, Lightning 2
* Maple Leafs: Won four straight home games.
* Lightning: Three-game win streak snapped.
* James van Riemsdyk (TOR): Go-ahead goal; has six goals in last 10 games (21st goal of season).
* Nazem Kadri (TOR): Second multi-goal game of season (other was against the Stars on Dec. 5).
* Jonathan Bernier (TOR): 40 saves; 5-1-1 in last seven appearances.

Flyers 5, Red Wings 0
* Flyers: largest shutout victory in series history and first shutout over the Red Wings since 2001.
* From Elias: Steve Mason's four shutouts against the Red Wings are the most by any active goaltender and twice as many as he's recorded against any other NHL team.

W2W4: A coaching debut and Pacific rivals

January, 13, 2014
1/13/14
4:58
PM ET
Flames (15-24-6) at Hurricanes (19-17-9) -- 7 p.m.
Calgary beat Carolina in overtime earlier this season.
The Hurricanes have won three straight at home, while Jeff Skinner has four goals and three assists in those games.
Thirteen of the Flames' 15 wins were by a one-goal margin.
Jiri Hudler has one goals and two assits in his past four games.


Lightning (27-14-4) at Blue Jackets (21-20-4) -- 7 p.m.
The Jackets shutout the Lightning at home earlier this season. They are 3-1-0 at home against the Lightning in the shootout era.
Columbus' three-game win streak is its longest of the season.
Tampa Bay is 18-3-1 when scoring first.
The Lightning are 7-1-0 in their past eight road games and they have outscored their opponents 30-15.
Matt Carle is on a six-game point streak with eight assists in that span.


Coyotes (21-14-9) at Jets (19-23-5) -- 8 p.m.
These teams have not played since December 2011 when the Jets won at home.
The Jets have won 10 games by a one-goal margin this season. The Coyotes are 9-0-9 in one-goal games.
Paul Maurice takes over as head coach with Winnipeg in the midst of a five-game losing streak.
Dustin Byfuglien was moved to forward on Saturday for the first full game since he signed with the Jets. He has one goal and two assists in his past two games.
The Coyotes are 1-0-3 in their past four road games.
Radim Vrbata has five assists in his past three games.


Canucks (24-13-9) at Kings (27-14-5) -- 10:30 p.m.
The Kings are 3-0-0 against the Canucks this season and are 4-1-0 in their past five home games against the team from Vancouver.
Los Angeles is 2-for-40 on the power play in its past 13 home games.
Mike Richards and Tyler Toffoli both have two goals and two assists against Vancouver this season.
The Canucks have the league's best penalty kill (89.1 percent).
Jason Garrison has one goals and two assists in his past three games.
Ryan Kesler and Henrik Sedin both have one goals and one assists against Los Angeles this season.

Information courtesy of Kevin Gibson/TSN
Ducks 4, Predators 3
* Teemu Selanne (ANA): go-ahead PPG (5) with 1:08 left in second period.
* Ryan Getzlaf (ANA): Two goals (22), assist; sixth game with three or more points this season (four such games all of last season).
* Ducks: Fifth straight win; 18-2-2 in last 22 games

Kings 4, Bruins 2
* Justin Williams (LA): PPG (14) and assist (14) in 800th career game.
* Kings: Second win in last eight games.
* Bruins: Have lost two straight and four of their last six games.

Hurricanes 6, Maple Leafs 1
* Hurricanes: fifth straight win (previous four all by one goal); their longest win streak in the last four seasons.
* Jordan Staal (CAR): goal (10); career-high tying three assists.
* Jeff Skinner (CAR): goal (21); assist (11 points in his last five games).
* Maple Leafs: Have lost three straight games by a combined 18-5 margin.

Capitals 4, Lightning 3
* Eric Fehr (WSH): Two goals (8), including go-ahead goal with 52 seconds left in third period.
* Teams switched ends in the middle of each period due to ice issues at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
* Capitals: snap four-game winless streak; won last five meetings vs Lightning (2-0-0 this season).
From Elias: Fehr is only the second Washington player in the last nine seasons to score a tiebreaking goal in the final minute of the third period. The only other Capital to do that since 2005–06 was Alexander Semin on Nov. 6, 2008, against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Wild 4, Coyotes 1
From Elias: Minnesota rookie Justin Fontaine completed his first NHL hat trick. Fontaine, who turned 26 on November 6, is the oldest player to record a hat trick in his first season in the NHL since March 22, 2003, when Edmonton’s Fernando Pisani scored three goals in a game against the Capitals.

Devils 1, Stars 0
From Elias: Cory Schneider recorded the 12th shutout of his NHL career and his third shutout of the season. Five of Schneider's last nine shutouts have been 1–0 wins: three of his last six clean sheets for the Canucks and two of three this season for the Devils.

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