March is here and with it the race for the playoffs should start heating up. With nine games today, there was a ton of action to behold.
The scores: Capitals 3-2 Penguins ; Bruins 2-1 Flames ; Hurricanes 3-1 Devils ; Oilers 2-1 Sabres ; Blues 4-3 Senators ; Predators 5-3 Stars ; Wild 6-3 Avalanche
Matt Niskanen scored the winner during a third-period power play and the Washington Capitals beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 tonight in an entertaining, back-and-forth showdown that could be a first-round playoff preview. Mike Richards and Evgeny Kuznetsov also scored for the NHL-leading Capitals, and Braden Holtby made 28 saves while becoming the first goaltender in franchise history with consecutive 40-win seasons. His glove stop on Carl Hagelin with 32.8 seconds left preserved the victory. After losing to the defending Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, Washington again avoided losing back-to-back games in regulation. Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist scored for Pittsburgh, which holds the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. Backup goaltender Matt Murray stopped 34 of the 37 shots he faced.
Patrice Bergeron scored a tiebreaking goal with 3:24 left in the third period and the Boston Bruins beat the Calgary Flames 2-1 tonight Landon Ferraro also scored for Boston and Tuukka Rask stopped 24 of 25 shots as the Bruins won for the third time in four games. Jakub Nakladal's first career goal was the only score for the Flames, who lost their sixth straight. Joni Ortio had 23 saves for Calgary, but had little chance on the game-winner as Bergeron one-timed a pass from Torey Krug from high in the slot.
Joakim Nordstrom scored on a rebound with 1:29 left and the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the New Jersey Devils 3-1 tonight in a game between teams fading from playoff contention. Derek Ryan, playing his first NHL game at age 29, also scored as the Hurricanes snapped a three-game skid and won for the third time in eight games. Eddie Lack was outstanding in making 29 saves, and Nathan Gerbe scored into an empty net with 21.2 seconds to go. Adam Henrique scored for New Jersey, which lost its third straight and sixth in seven games. Cory Schneider had 17 saves.
Connor McDavid scored his second goal in overtime to lead the Edmonton Oilers to a 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres tonight in an anticipated matchup against another top rookie, Jack Eichel. Cam Talbot made 31 saves for the Oilers, and Edmonton began a four-game trip with its second straight win. McDavid and Eichel provided a buzz for this one even though the Oilers and Sabres are among the NHL's bottom five teams. McDavid was the first pick in last year's draft, and Eichel went second, and both players are considered potentially generational talents. McDavid scored 22 seconds into the game and then got the winner by blowing past Buffalo's defense seconds after Eichel spun around a defender and missed just wide with a twirling backhand shot. Cal O'Reilly scored his first goal of the season for the Sabres, and Robin Lehner made 39 saves.
Patrik Berglund scored the shootout winner in the 11th round and the St. Louis Blues beat the Senators 4-3 tonight. Trailing 3-0, the Senators scored three unanswered goals to force overtime, including a goal by Jean-Gabriel Pageau with less than a second left in the third period. Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson made 28 saves on 31 shots before leaving the game at the 13:41 mark of the second period. Andrew Hammond stopped 17 shots in relief of Anderson and made a number of huge saves to keep the Senators in the game. Ryan Dzingel also scored for Ottawa. Jaden Schwartz, with a goal and two assists, led the Blues, while Dmitrij Jaskin and Vladimir Tarasenko also scored. Jake Allen stopped 40 shots.
Shea Weber had a goal and two assists in his return following a three-game absence and the Nashville Predators beat the Dallas Stars 5-3 tonight. Weber has 12 power-play goals this season. He had been out with a lower-body injury. Craig Smith and James Neal each had a goal and an assist, and Calle Jarnkrok and Mattias Ekholm also scored for Nashville, which has won a season-high five straight. Pekke Rinne made 35 saves Antoine Roussel had a goal and an assist and Jason Spezza and Vernon Fiddler also scored for Dallas, which has lost its last four games.
Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter each scored twice to give the Minnesota Wild a 6-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche tonight and possession of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Coyle scored the game-winner at 5:34 of the third period after Zach Parise knocked down the puck at mid-ice, rushed toward the other end and fed a streaking Coyle, who tapped it into an open net. Colorado and Minnesota both have 68 points, but the Wild have played one fewer game and are technically ahead in the standings. Jarome Iginla scored on a one-timer 33 seconds into the game to give Colorado an early lead. It was his 19th goal of the season and 608th of his career, tying Dino Ciccarelli for 17th place on the NHL list.
Reilly Smith had two goals and Jaromir Jagr scored the winner to send the Florida Panthers past the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 tonight. Smith's goals were his 20th and 21st of the season for Florida, which snapped a first-place tie with Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division. Jagr scored his 21st, and Vincent Trocheck assisted on both of Smith's goals.
Dustin Byfuglien and rookie Andrew Copp scored in the second period for Winnipeg, which lost its fifth straight home game. Roberto Luongo made 30 saves for the Panthers, who improved to 1-1-1 on a five-game road trip.
At the time of writing, the Islanders lead the Canucks 2-1 after two periods. I will post an update when the game is finished.
That is all for tonight! Let me know if you want to be tagged in future VSNA cards. See ya tomorrow!