Just A Thought
@ESPN_Burnside: Talk about measuring a win against the cost of said win. The Toronto Maple Leafs continue to surprise in the post-Olympic NHL, ending the Los Angeles Kings' eight-game win streak with a gutsy 3-2, come-from-behind win at the Staples Center on Thursday. But No. 1 goaltender -- and former Kings backup -- Jonathan Bernier left the game after the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return. James Reimer, the forgotten man in the Leafs' net, came on in relief and overcame a collision with Jarret Stoll to turn in a sparkling 31-save performance to help Toronto overcome a 2-0 deficit. It was Reimer's first win since Jan. 21. The question now is how long Bernier will be out of action. He was to be re-evaluated Friday. As for the Leafs as a whole, the road win was another step toward securing home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs as the second seed in the Atlantic Division, even if it came in a most unlikely fashion.
@CraigCustance:I have nothing against the shootout. In fact, I like it. I've never changed the channel when a game goes to the shootout and always notice that every fan is on their feet in an arena where a game goes to a shootout. Still, I hated to see a great game between the San Jose Sharks and Columbus Blue Jackets end in a shootout Thursday night. That one needed at least five more minutes of overtime, because the entertainment level was off the charts. You had one of the West's hottest teams in San Jose exchanging punches with a Columbus team that is trying to prove to the world it's for real, in a Nationwide Arena that was absolutely electric. It didn't seem right that it ended the way it did, with a 4-3 shootout win for the Sharks. But even in the loss, the Blue Jackets continued to bolster their case, and are now tied with the Rangers for second in the Metropolitan Division. Nationwide won't be an easy building to play in if the Blue Jackets make the playoffs.
@Real_ESPNLeBrun: Craig, it's as if you read my Blue Jackets column from Thursday! They're playing some inspired hockey these days, that's for sure. One team that wasn't playing great hockey lately was the Tampa Bay Lightning, who got a huge 5-4 win over the Florida Panthers on Thursday, including Steven Stamkos' first goal since coming back from a broken leg. The Lightning and Canadiens are now tied at 77 points as the jockeying continues with Toronto (80 points) to figure out which teams will finish second and third in the Atlantic Division. Will Tampa to ruin the Habs-Leafs playoff matchup so many people are dreaming about? Could be.
@KatieStrangESPN: It really does feel as if the Boston Bruins have emerged as the team to beat in the Eastern Conference, and after Thursday's 2-1 win over Phoenix, they have the points to prove it. The Bruins' seventh consecutive win gives them 93 points and pushes them past the Pittsburgh Penguins atop the standings. Veterans Zdeno Chara and Jarome Iginla tallied in the first period, and a superb Bruins penalty-killing effort negated all five power-play opportunities for the Coyotes to preserve Boston's lead. And goaltender Tuukka Rask continues to have a terrific season, turning in an impeccable performance in the team's recent back-to-back set. Rask, who is 30-14-4 and leads the league with six shutouts, stopped 56 of 58 shots faced in the two games combined. Sure looks like the road to the Cup in the East will go through Boston again this spring.
Quote Me On That
"We knew he was going to bring some energy and some bite back into our lineup. Whether he felt his best or not, it certainly looked like he didn't miss a beat. We kind of needed a little extra jump, and he seems to have brought it."
-- Blues D Alex Pietrangelo on the return of Vladimir Sobotka
"I wouldn't blow it up too big. I just came in and did my job. Every time you go in is an opportunity."
-- Maple Leafs G James Reimer on a win in relief of Jonathan Bernier
• Sharks: Win gives them 93 points on season, tied with Ducks for most in Pacific Division.
• Bruins: Seven consecutive wins is longest win streak since 2011-12 (also seven games).
• Rangers: 2-4-1 in last seven games.
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