Penguins 2, Flames 1: Chris Kunitz and Matt Niskanen scored for Pittsburgh, which rolled along until a very special third-period goal by Mikael Backlund made the game somewhat interesting. Congratulations are in order! The goal ended a home-ice scoreless drought of 196 minutes and 59 seconds for Calgary, a new team record. Wait, don't clap yet. The Flames set not one, but two records tonight, as their sixth-straight home loss is also a new team record. Now you can clap. But do not clap for the useless Canadian curmudgeon Sidney Crosby, who did not score and whose seven-game point streak came crashing to a teary end.
Lightning 6, Flyers 3: Tampa Bay snapped Philly's surprising 10-game win streak and moved into a first-place tie with Boston atop the Atlantic Division. Ryan Malone had two goals, Martin St. Louis added one, Matt Carle had two assists and a +6 (!) rating, while Alex Killorn, Teddy Purcell, and consonant king Valtteri Filppula each had a goal and an assist for Tampa Bay. We should probably credit an assist to Steve Mason, who was pulled early for the third time this season. Do not be deceived by his boy-band good looks, as any member of N'SYNC would have been more effective in goal. Jakub Voracek scored twice, Wayne Simmonds remains en fuego with his ninth goal in the past 10 games, and Claude Giroux had two assists and six shots on goal for the Flyers.
Devils 2, Panthers 1 (OT): With 2.1 seconds remaining in overtime, Marek Zidlicky took a pass from Jaromir Jagr and one-timed it past Tim Thomas with a high corner game-winning goal. It was a strategically designed and perfectly executed play, starting with a crucial face-off win by Travis Zajac. The assist was Jagr's 1,724th point, which moved him into seventh-place all-time in the NHL and ahead of former teammate Mario Lemieux. All of this paled in comparison to Shaq driving a zamboni.
Senators 2, Predators 1 (SO): After Ottawa's Kyle Turris and Nashville's Mike Fisher scored in regulation, the Senators won in a shootout behind goals by Mika Zibanejad and Jason Spezza. Craig Anderson was excellent, stopping 32 shots with a .970 SV%, including Viktor Stalberg's penalty shot in the first period. Quite frankly, the Predators should just forfeit if they don't score in overtime; they have not won a shootout all season, and worse, their shooters have only scored once in 18 chances. Keep an eye on Cory Conacher. Not just because he was born with his bladder on the outside of his body, but because he finally seems to be heating up. I had high hopes for the sophomore, but he has been awful this season - that is, until he was a healthy scratch on December 19th. In the nine games since, he has two goals and five assists, doubling his points for the season, along with a +3 rating, six penalty minutes, 12 shots on goal, and five hits.
Canadiens 2, Blackhawks 1 (OT): Montreal somehow kept Chicago's crazy offense to only 20 shots on goal, riding Andrei Markov's two goals to victory. The game-winner came off a deflected pass from Max Pacioretty with 3:32 left in overtime. Marian Hossa scored for Chicago, with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp earning assists on the play. Although he lost, Corey Crawford was otherwise acrobatically awesome. Check out this sprawled-on-his-back-no-stick-kick save robbing Lars Eller:
Blue Jackets 6, Jets 3: Boone Jenner and Mark Letestu each scored twice, James Wisniewski and Derek MacKenzie each had two assists, while Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno, Eric O'Dell, and Tobias Enstrom also chipped in goals for Columbus. Wisniewski, in particular, stuffed the stat sheet, adding a +2 rating, three shots, three blocked shots, four penalty minutes, and two hits. The Jets shuffled around their lines tonight, sporting Big Buff Byfuglien at right wing, but they were still ineffective. After their fifth-straight loss, captain Andrew Ladd gave reporters an "I was awful tonight" speech, warming the hearts of fantasy owners everywhere. His profound insight ("I wasn't very good so I need to be a lot better") was reminiscent of Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday. Update (2:45 p.m.): The Jets fired coach Claude Noel today. Despite Winnipeg's lackluster play, the move is somewhat surprising since they extended Noel's contract less than seven months ago. In his place, the team signed Paul Maurice, former coach of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Avalanche 4, Wild 2: After missing two games with a bruised shoulder, Ryan O'Reilly made all the difference for Colorado, scoring twice along with the game-winner. Gabriel Landeskog and Maxime Talbot also lit the lamp for the Avalanche, while Erik Johnson had a nice night with a +1 rating, one shot, five blocked shots, two penalty minutes, one hit, 3:42 in power-play time (second most on the team), and a whopping 25:39 on the ice. Except for a 40-second span in the second period when Charlie Coyle scored two goals, Minnesota was anything but wild.
Ducks 5, Coyotes 3: In an animal kingdom upset pitting the waddling versus the wily, the Ducks beat the Coyotes on Saturday night, marking Jonas Hiller's 13th straight victory, the NHL's longest streak. Hampus Lindholm had two power-play goals, Sami Vatanen scored, Ryan Getzlaf chipped one in before leaving the game with a lower-body injury, and of course, as soon as I drop Dustin Penner, he obviously scored a goal and an assist. Super helper Mathieu Perreault had three assists and his super helper buddy Corey Perry had two, while Francois Beauchemin set a team record with 11 blocked shots for Anaheim. Martin Hanzal, Mike Ribeiro, and Lauri Korpikoski were not completely horrible for Phoenix, each scoring on a Radim Vrbata assist. Thomas Greiss, on the other hand, was.
Red Wings 3, Kings 1: Riley Sheahan knocked in his first NHL goal, the pleasantly surprising Tomas Tatar broke the tie with his 10th goal of the season, and Daniel Cleary added some insurance to cap off the win for Detroit. Tatar pointed to the sky after he scored, in tribute to his recently deceased father Jan; he is flying to Slovakia today for the funeral. Drew Doughty scored the one sad goal for Los Angeles. their seventh loss in the past nine games.
Bruins 1, Sharks 0: Carl Soderberg's third-period goal was enough for Boston as Tuukka Rask locked down his fifth shutout of the season. He out-dueled his Finnish Olympic teammate, Antti Niemi, who made 21 saves for the Sharks. Tommy Wingels had two shots, one blocked shot, and an absurd 10 hits. This game marked the return of Shawn Thornton, who finished with one shot and one blocked shot in 8:42 on the ice. He did not attack or stab anyone with a skate. You can clap again.