Updated: March 25, 2014, 10:54 PM ET

Just A Thought

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Scott Burnside@ESPN_Burnside: If the Phoenix Coyotes manage to sneak into the postseason they'll look back on Tuesday's 3-2 win in Pittsburgh as a game that was an emotional difference-maker. The win came 24 hours after they had blown a 2-0 lead and lost in overtime to the New York Rangers. Worse, star netminder Mike Smith, who has been carrying the team since the first of February, left in the third period of the Rangers game with a knee injury that will likely keep him out of action for a week to 10 days. Uh-oh. But backup netminder Thomas Greiss stopped 23 of 25 Pittsburgh shots as the Coyotes made a one-goal lead stand up through a scoreless third period. The Yotes blocked 18 shots and got a couple of assists from captain Shane Doan en route to the much-needed two points. The win, coupled with a 4-2 loss by Dallas to Chicago, pushed the Coyotes three points up on the Stars, who do have a game in hand. The two teams face each other in the final game of the regular season on April 13.


Craig Custance@CraigCustance: If you go back and read the work of writer Tim Sassone from when the Blackhawks were at their worst -- he covered the team for over 25 years, including some dark days -- there's complete honesty. At all times. If a player wasn't good, he'd say it. If he thought the organization wasn't being completely forthcoming about something, he'd say that, too. You could trust Sassone, and countless Blackhawks fans did exactly that for years. The 58-year-old Daily Herald beat writer died Tuesday, news that crushed hockey fans and writers not only in Chicago but all across North America, as tributes poured out on Twitter. Sassone was a pro's pro. He never made the story about himself and the total silence from Chicago fans, some of the loudest in the world, during a moment before Tuesday's night's game proved again how respected and appreciated he was by fans. By everyone, really. In a tribute to Sassone, Daily Herald writer Mike Spellman shared a story about a moment after the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in Philadelphia and were on the ice celebrating a Cup that took decades to win. Sassone was on the ice doing what he did -- reporting the story -- when Patrick Sharp stopped celebrating with his teammates to shake Tim's hand. Players appreciate honesty. Players appreciate integrity and hard work. That was Tim Sassone.


Pierre LeBrun@Real_ESPNLeBrun: And just like that, the Eastern Conference wild-card race has four teams sitting at 80 points, with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings on top and the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs on the outside looking in. This should be an exciting scramble to the end, and all four teams were in action Tuesday in the NHL's version of March Madness. The Blue Jackets produced a huge 4-2 home win over the Red Wings, getting a winner from Cam Atkinson that didn't come without controversy, with the goal allowed despite the net being clearly off its moorings. The NHL's war-room email to media, which it produces on all video reviews, went like this: "According to rule 63.6 'In the event that the goal post is displaced, either deliberately or accidentally, prior to the puck crossing the normal positions of the goal posts, the referee may award a goal. In order to award a goal in this situation, the goal post must have been displaced by the actions of a defending player, the puck must have been shot (or the player must be in the act of shooting) at the goal prior to the goal post being displaced, and it must be determined that the puck would have entered the net between the normal position of the goal posts. The goal frame is considered to be displaced if either or both goal pegs are no longer in their respective holes in the ice, or the net has come completely off one or both pegs, prior to or as the puck enters the goal.' This is not a reviewable call. Good goal Columbus." Not sure I agree with it, but props to the Jackets for recovering from an awful loss to the Islanders on Sunday. The Caps? They got a point thanks to a late tying goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov, his first in the NHL, but if they miss the playoffs by a point they'll rue the night they wasted a 3-1 lead over the visiting Los Angeles Kings. Then there's Toronto. Oh, my. The reeling Maple Leafs couldn't stop the bleeding despite scoring the opening goal for the first time in eight games, as the visiting St. Louis Blues putting on a checking and puck possession clinic in a 5-3 win in which Leafs starting goalie Jonathan Bernier came back from a five-game injury absence. Even Bernier couldn't save his slumping team on this night. The Blues peppered him with 23 shots on goal in the opening period as Toronto produced another abysmal defensive effort. The Leafs play at Philadelphia on Friday night and host Detroit on Saturday, and must produce at least two points in those games to hang on to their playoff hopes.


Katie Strang@KatieStrangESPN: Meanwhile, Greiss and the Coyotes prevented the Pittsburgh Penguins from clinching a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, which they would have secured with a win. We have no doubt the Pens will lock up a playoff spot soon and their seat atop the Metropolitan Division does not seem at risk -- they lead the second-place Rangers by 13 points -- but dropping five of the last seven games is no way to build momentum rounding the final turn before the playoffs. The loss was also goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury's fifth straight; he has not recorded a win since a 32-save shutout against Washington on March 11. Fleury (34-17-4, 2.37 GAA, .915 SV PCT) has had a strong regular season for the Pens, but the last thing they need is his confidence to start waning now. He remains one of the biggest question marks for the Pens this spring. You have to wonder if he's been rattled by this recent stretch, having surrendered 16 goals in his last five starts.

Picture This

Jaroslav HalakRob Carr/Getty ImagesTry as he might, Jaroslav Halak couldn't hide after allowing a goal against the Kings.

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