It was not a busy schedule in the NHL but it was an important one in the East as the Maple Leafs solidified their spot in the playoffs and the Islanders inched closer to the post-season, both at the possible expense of the Boston Bruins.
Let's get to the action!!!
Editor's Note: Rotoworld’s Season Pass is now available for the low price of $19.99. You get plenty of extra articles including the minor league report, the junior report and much, much more. Buy it now!
TORONTO 5 COLUMBUS 2
The Maple Leafs were in trouble a couple of weeks ago as they picked up only one point on a three game Western road trip in California and seemed in dire straits to make the playoffs.
But that was then. Since then, Toronto has gone 6-1-1 including Wednesday’s 5-2 win over the Blue Jackets in Columbus and have leapfrogged the Boston Bruins into third place in the Atlantic Division. They are currently a point ahead of Boston with still a game in hand.
The Maple Leafs got off to a 2-0 lead in the first period as Leo Komarov and Auston Matthews found paydirt. It was Matthews’ 33rd goal of the season and he is only one goal behind Wendel Clark’s Toronto rookie record set in the 1985-86 season. William Nylander extended his point streak to nine games with an assist on the goal, tying Gus Bodnar among others for the Leafs rookie mark.
An interesting side note in that Bodnar holds the NHL record for the fastest three assists, and he set the mark with the Blackhawks as Bill Mosienko scored three times in 21 seconds with Bodnar assisting on all three.
Back to the game. The Blue Jackets got themselves back into it early in the second when David Savard picked up his sixth of the season only 43 seconds into the second and Brandon Saad scored his 21st just over six minutes later. It was Saad’s first goal in nine games.
But Nylander scored the eventual game winner with a snapper that beat Joonas Korpisalo. It was his 20th of the season and he has 54 points, fourth best in the NHL behind Patrik Laine with 60 and teammates Matthews (58) and Mitch Marner 56. The Leafs have a tremendous amount of talented youth on their squad.
Coach Mike Babcock almost got the Leafs into trouble as he didn’t place a man in the penalty box early in the third when Roman Polak had a five minute major for boarding and a game misconduct. The major turned into almost a seven minute power play as there was not a whistle for the Leafs to place a player in the box. Fortunately Brian Boyle was smart enough to shoot the puck into the Columbus bench to allow the Leafs to go to five aside near the eight minute mark of the period.
Frederik Andersen was terrific as usual in net as he won his 30th of the season. He is 30-15-14 with a 2.64 GAA and a .919 save percentage and has given the Maple Leafs the goaltending they have been missing for the most part since the days of Ed Belfour.
Korpisalo was in the Columbus cage and stopped 27 of 31 shots. He is 6-4-0 with a 2.85 GAA and a .905 save percentage.
Oliver Bjorkstrand did not return to the game after he was knocked into the boards by Polak. Consider him day-to-day for now. Polak will have a disciplinary hearing with the NHL on Thursday and should be suspended.
Jake Gardiner had two assists for Toronto.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS 3 NEW YORK RANGERS 2
The battle of New York saw the Islanders end up on top and keep their playoff hopes alive as they moved to within two points of the Boston Bruins for the second wild card and still have a game in hand.
Mats Zuccarello got the Rangers off to a 1-0 led in the second as he scored on the power play at the 2:46 mark. Anders Lee with his 27th, tied it up just 54 seconds later but Rick Nash restored the Rangers lead with his 20th of the season. That ended the scoring in the second.
The Islanders overcame the deficit and won when they scored twice in the third starting with Nikolay Kulemin’s 12th of the season at the 5:01 mark. Andrew Ladd’s 20th of the season was the winner as Lee and John Tavares drew the assists. Both Islanders goals in the third were on the power play.
Thomas Greiss was sensational in net for the Islanders as he stopped 34 shots to go to 25-16-5 with a 2.67 GAA and a .914 save percentage.
Antti Raanta picked up the loss for the Rangers who now have lost seven straight at home (0-5-2). He is 15-8-2 with a 2.35 GAA and a .919 save percentage.
Anthony Beauvillier had two assists in the game and has 13 this season.
Chris Kreider had five hits in the game.
ANAHEIM 4 EDMONTON 3
The Anaheim Ducks scored twice in the first and twice in the second to defeat the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 Wednesday.
Mark Letestu scored the only goal of the third and it was on the power play with only seven seconds remaining so the Oilers really did not get a good opportunity to tie it up.
McDavid had a big game with the goal and a couple of helpers. He has 85 points including 59 assists and leads the NHL in scoring, four points ahead of Sidney Crosby.
Lindholm also had a pair of assists to go with his goal for Anaheim but it gave him only six goals and 17 points.
Jonathan Bernier once again was in the Anaheim net and he stopped 29 shots in picking up his 16th win of the season. He has been stellar in the Ducks cage as he has played great since John Gibson went down with a lower body injury. Bernier has the 16 wins in 27 starts but had only 12 wins with Toronto last season in 36 starts.
Cam Talbot gave up all four goals on only 18 shots before he was replaced at the 11:23 mark of the second after Rakell's eventual game winner. He was replaced by Laurent Brossoit who stopped all 16 shots directed his way.
Cam Fowler had eight shots on goal for Anaheim.