Good day, cats and kittens. With a flight in mere hours, I’m just going to cut to the chase and dive into the treacherous recap waters for your infotainment.
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CANADIENS 3, LIGHTNING 0
-- Is Montreal embracing a spoiler role? After beating the desperate Red Wings 4-3 on Tuesday, they hurt the Lightning's first-place chances with a 3-0 decision.
On the bright side for the Bolts, if Montreal IS indeed a dangerous spoiler, they play back-to-back games against the Panthers start to begin April. Granted, there's one more date between the Lightning and Habs, so maybe Montreal will only provide so much help.
-- His one loss in the past four games was ugly (five goals allowed in two periods vs. the Rangers on March 26), yet Mike Condon seems to be on a roll. By making all 26 saves, he got his first shutout of a bumpy debut season in the NHL.
-- Every time it seems like we're ready to see Rising Star Tyler Johnson once more, he takes a step back into Undrafted Meek Tyler Johnson. Thursday was especially rough, as he failed to generate a SOG while being on the ice for all three Montreal goals, getting a -3 rating.
PANTHERS 3, DEVILS 2
-- Florida wins this game, so now the Panthers have more than a tiebreaker-type lead for the Atlantic crown. They'll need to ask home fans not to throw plastic rats, as that apparently cost them a couple penalties on Thursday. Not as big of a deal against the impotent Devils, but that could border on sabotage in the playoffs.
-- Fantastic game for the Panthers' top line. Jonathan Huberdeau was out front with two goals, a +3 rating and five SOG, giving him 18 goals on the season (while extending his goal streak to four games (5G, 1A).
Jaromir Jagr collected two helpers while Aleksander Barkov notched a goal of his own. Injuries were disruptive at times for this trio, but if they go into the playoffs with confidence, they're up there among dangerous line combos.
-- Aaron Ekblad ended a six-game pointless streak with an assist. By all accounts, he's a legit star of the future for a promising Panthers team.
PENGUINS 5, PREDATORS 2
-- Sometimes it's as much about finishing hot streak as it is putting together a great season.
That might just be the path of the both Phil Kessel and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Kessel potted two goals in this game, giving him quite the four-game run:
4G, 5A, +7, 20 SOG.
Grabbing at least four SOG in all of those games makes me think that Kessel's confidence as high. I know a lot of people are disappointed in Phil the Thrill (not sure what I was thinking in pegging him for 40+ goals, ouchies), but let's be honest. The Penguins acquired him for the big games more than anything else.
With 21 points in 22 career playoff games, you better believe that the potential is there.
Oh, by the way ... the Penguins have won 10 of 11. So they're red-hot as a team.
-- After winning five of six games, the Predators are flubbing these chances to solidify their playoff run with three straight defeats, allowing a combined 14 goals.
This was an especially rough outing, as the Penguins generated a 41-24 SOG advantage and won the special teams battle.
-- James Neal faced former teams in the Stars on Tuesday and the Penguins on Thursday. He scored a goal and an assist vs. Pittsburgh after grabbing an assist vs. the Stars.
A Kessel-like sign of confidence, by the way: 19 SOG in the last three games, at least five SOG in his past five games. Niiice.
-- Speaking of players vs. former teams, Patric Hornqvist collected his 19th goal against the Predators, who picked him last overall in a draft. Solid pick there.
-- Ryan Johansen in Nashville update: with a goal and an assist, he has 29 points in 38 games with the Predators. It's a great time to revisit this as he had 26 points in 38 games with Columbus this season before being traded to the Preds.
HURRICANES 4, RANGERS 3
-- Heading into the second period down 1-0, the Rangers had a strong middle frame by making the score 3-2. Unfortunately for New York - who, like Nashville, failed to clinch a playoff spot - the Canes scored two third-period goals to win the game in regulation.
-- Jeff Skinner scored the tying tally, his 27th goal of the season. If the Hurricanes grow rather than fade heading into next season, he's a guy to watch.
(He also had an assist in this game.)
-- Justin Faulk from October to December: 14 goals, 30 points in 38 games. He fizzled out quite a bit in 2016, generating two goals (including last night's tally) and four assists in 22 games.
Health was likely a factor, and hitting 16 goals gives him a new and impressive career-high, but maybe a minor buyer beware there.
SABRES 4, LEAFS 1
-- A story that was related to someone I know (I swear this isn't a "I know this guy who [insert embarrassing symptoms that are actually mine]" type situation):
This person was in a press box and stumbled upon a debate. A scout vehemently believed that Cal O'Reilly had better potential than Ryan O'Reilly. The person disagreed with that scout. The scout said "Well, I'm the scout."
I think that scout worked for the Colorado Avalanche, but I'll ask that person. Maybe that scout isn't doing much working any longer, actually.
Anyway, Cal was the great O'Reilly for one night. He scored two goals, with one assisted by his star bro.
-- Johan Larsson scored two goals of his own. It's pretty weird to see a game populated by scorers who have less than 10 goals on the season in late March, yet that was the case, as Larsson was the only one close (now at nine) while O'Reilly is at 3 in 2015-16 and Brooks Laich scored his second.
You might not believe this, but these two teams are putrid.
-- Apparently Garret Sparks was listed as a defenseman on FanDuel Thursday (the scout told me). Hey, at least he lost so people aren't too up and arms, right?
/Peeks outside to see mob gathering with torches.
ISLANDERS 4, BLUE JACKETS 3
-- Is Thomas Greiss back on track?
After losing four straight games, Greiss is now on a two-game winning streak. His season stats are still fantastic, but I'm guessing he would have dealt with a lot of jeering if the Isles tumbled out of the playoffs.
(I'd say they're just about a lock by now.)
Thomas Hickey isn't really a usual suspect for the Isles, but he pitched in the GWG.
-- Boone Jenner might be a terminator robot.
He shook off a painful-looking puck to the face on March 28 and barely missed a shift. That did interrupt a three-game point streak, but Jenner got right back to business with a goal and an assist in a losing effort.
He's one goal away from his first 30-goal campaign, and with 75 PIM, he may have a bright future as a power forward.
SENATORS 3, WILD 2
-- This ends a six-game winning streak for the red-hot Wild. They squandered an opportunity to put an almost crushing distance between themselves and the Avalanche, who are five points behind Minnesota with now a game in hand.
The Avs face a Capitals team chasing records on Friday while Minnesota takes on desperate Detroit. Advantage Avs? (They'll need every one they can get.)
Aside: the Wild are a +19 on the season while Colorado is -13. If the Wild hold on and take the final wild card spot, it might be something approaching puck justice.
-- Erik Haula didn't cool off, though. His remarkable point streak is now at 10 games with 11 points during that span. That almost matches his production from all of last season (14 points in 72 games). Pretty flabbergasting.
The Wild might really have something in the 182nd pick of the 2009 NHL Draft ... but I'm bewildered as far as forecasting his 2016-17 season.
-- As usual, Erik Karlsson was awesome, so let's shift attention to Jean-Gabriel Pageau. He scored a goal and two assists in this game, factoring into all three tallies for Ottawa. He's another tough guy to peg, value-wise.
-- Zach Parise, meanwhile, remains dependable both from a fantasy standpoint and for the Wild. He scored his 25th goal and 50th point of the season, giving him eight points in his past five games.
STARS 4, COYOTES 1
-- For the first time in his career (and the first time for the Stars since Mike Modano), Jamie Benn hit the 40-goal mark. He also generated an assist, so he has 87 points, matching last season's career-high. That won't be enough to win another Art Ross, yet Benn's probably been even better this season.
-- Did Ales Hemsky find the fountain of youth? And not slip in it, as he's wont to do? He generated two assists on Thursday, extending his point streak to six games. Hemsky also has 13 points in his past 12 contests.
He's long been one of those guys whose talent sort of staggers all tired-eyed out of hibernation here and there, but this is surprising.
And delightful, if you're the Dallas Stars.
-- Things have been rough lately for John Klingberg (including an assist during a seven-game slump), yet he grabbed two assists on Thursday to give him three helpers in his last three games. The Stars must cross their fingers that he goes into the playoffs on a high, healthy note.
-- Patrick Sharp hit the 20-goal mark during his debut season with Dallas. After a 43-point season during his final campaign with Chicago, he's at 52 points and counting in 2015-16.
KINGS 3, FLAMES 0
-- I feel infinitely better about my Ducks over Penguins preseason Stanley Cup pick, yet if you put my dog on the line/put a gun to my head/other terrible scenario that you REALLY SHOULD NOT act upon ... I'd probably pick the Kings to win it all.
-- They're especially scary with Jeff Carter roaring into April. He had another three-point game (two goals, one assist) on Thursday, giving him seven points in his past four games. At 58 points, he's four points short of matching his best season with the Kings (62 points in 2014-15).
It's kind of hard to believe that he was traded to Los Angeles way back in 2011-12, isn't it? Feels more recent for some reason.
-- Anze Kopitar enjoyed a strong Thursday, too, collecting two assists. He now has 70 points, because that's what he does.
-- Jonathan Quick didn't need to work too hard for his fifth shutout of the season, only making 21 saves. He's one win shy of 40 victories as he just tied a career-high with 39 wins.
CANUCKS 4, SHARKS 2
-- Vancouver saved a little face in ending its epic losing streak, spurning the Sharks. Daniel Sedin approaches 30 goals with his 28th of 2015-16 while Jannik Hansen collected an assist to go along with his 20th goal of 2015-16.
-- Logan Couture backed up his first career hat trick with another goal on Thursday. Injuries derailed his season, yet if you think the Sharks have a chance to go long, Couture could be a nice bargain in playoff pools.
(Relatively speaking, of course.)