Thursday, January 31, 2013
Need to know: Hawks lose, Yakupov scores
By Scott Burnside
• Finally a blemish, slight at that, on the record of the Chicago Blackhawks. After chasing Minnesota Wild starter Josh Harding in the first period Wednesday night, the Blackhawks could not hold on to a one-goal lead and fell to the Wild 3-2 in a shootout. It marked the first loss of any kind for the 6-0-1 Blackhawks, whose visit to the Xcel Energy Center marked the first of six straight away from home. Niklas Backstrom came on in relief of Harding and stopped all 28 shots he faced and two of three shootout attempts to run his record to 3-1-1. With the Blackhawks’ loss, San Jose is the last team with a pristine record, at 6-0-0. Chicago visits San Jose next Tuesday.
• No Jason Spezza, no Sergei Gonchar, no worries for the surging Ottawa Senators, who defeated the red-hot Montreal Canadiens 5-1. The Senators moved to 5-1-1 and stopped the Canadiens’ winning streak at four games in the process. It was a disappointing night for Habs coach Michel Therrien, who saw his team score first but then unravel in the discipline department and give up two power-play goals in less than two minutes in the second period. Craig Anderson continues to provide stellar netminding for Ottawa, as he stopped 31 of 32 shots. Anderson has an otherworldly .967 save percentage and 0.99 GAA.
• Rookie Nail Yakupov scored the overtime winner for the Edmonton Oilers as they snuck by the Phoenix Coyotes 2-1 in Glendale, Ariz. The goal was the fourth of this young campaign for the first overall pick in last June’s draft. (No sliding celebration this time, by the way.) The Oilers continued to impress moving to 4-2 on the season with their second straight win. The Yotes were without Steve Sullivan, Martin Hanzal and starting netminder Mike Smith, who is expected to return to action this weekend. Chad Johnson, getting his second straight start for the Coyotes after pitching a shutout against Nashville earlier in the week, stopped 19 of 21. For those keeping score at home, the Coyotes' announced attendance was 12,955, as the team’s ownership saga staggers toward nowhere in particular.
• Goaltending controversy? In Vancouver? Ha, ha, ha. Not much. Roberto Luongo got his second straight start for the Canucks and stopped all 24 Colorado shots en route to a 3-0 victory. It was the former Vezina Trophy finalist’s first win of the season for a Vancouver team that has struggled to find consistency. The dilemma for GM Mike Gillis is that the better Luongo plays, the more attractive he might become to teams looking to acquire the veteran netminder, but it becomes harder to justify trading your hot goalie. Cory Schneider is 2-2 with an .897 save percentage and 3.13 GAA. As for Colorado, the loss was their third straight and unless they find a way to produce some offense (don’t they have an unsigned RFA named Ryan O'Reilly who might help?) they are quickly going to find themselves buried in the Western Conference standings. The Avs are tied for last place in the league in goals per game and 29th in power-play efficiency, converting on a paltry 5.3 percent of their opportunities.