The NHL returned to action on Wednesday after the three day Christmas break but it was to sad news as goaltending legend Johnny Bower passed away Tuesday at the age of 93.
Bower backstopped the Toronto Maple Leafs to four Stanley Cups in the 1960’s and growing up in that time, I will always remember Bill Hewitt announcing the game and just hearing “And Bower makes the save” brought joy to Toronto fans.
Bower was a rarity as he began the second portion of his NHL career with Toronto at the age of 33, after a full season with the Rangers at the age of 29 and seven more games in the next two seasons.
He was a fixture for the Cleveland Barons of the AHL and still holds (another record that will never be broken) the league record for career wins with 359.
But as mentioned earlier, at age 33, a time when most athletes are retiring or are getting ready to retire, Bower started a 12-year career that would land him in the Hockey Hall of Fame six years after retiring in 1970 at the age of 45.
He had 250 wins in the NHL when so many games ended in ties and won a couple of Vezina Trophies in addition to the Cups and perfected the poke check, something no goalie seems to be able to do with any regularity in this day and age.
He became an ambassador of the Maple Leafs as well as the game of hockey.
He will be missed.
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BOSTON 5 OTTAWA 1
It’s a nice Christmas treat when you can come back from the break and double your goal count. That’s exactly what happened to Riley Nash as he scored twice and added an assist to lead the Bruins to a 5-1 win over Ottawa.
Tuukka Rask stopped 25-of-26 shots and is 9-0-1 in his last ten. He started off the season at 3-8-2 and has been outstanding since as he has lowered his GAA to 2.23 and raised his save percentage to .920.
Craig Anderson made only 18 saves for Ottawa.
Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk had two assists while Heinen and Backes had two point nights. Heinen was a plus-four.
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NEW JERSEY 3 DETROIT 1
Nico Hischier scored twice in the first period to lead the Devils to a 3-1 win over Detroit. The rookie center who was taken first overall this season is up to seven goals and centering the top line in New Jersey.
Cory Schneider was strong in the Devils net as he turned aside 31 shots with only Justin Abdelkader able to beat him in the second period. Schneider is 6-0 of late as the Devils remain in first place in the Metropolitan Division.
Sami Vatanen with his first in a New Jersey uniform, clinched the game with an empty net goal.
Jimmy Howard stopped 29-of-31 shots in taking the loss.
Taylor Hall had a couple of assists in the win.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS 3 BUFFALO 2 (Overtime)
Mathew Barzal is having a great rookie season and it continued on Wednesday as he scored the overtime winner to give the Islanders a 3-2 win over Buffalo. Barzal has 13 goals and 36 points in 37 games and while Brock Boeser and Clayton Keller seem to get most of the publicity for the Calder Trophy, Barzal is neck-and-neck with Boeser and well ahead of Keller.
Josh Bailey had a two-point night including the game-tying goal to send it into overtime and has 11 goals and 48 points keep him in a tie with teammate John Tavares who had two assists, for second place in NHL scoring. They each have 48 points, three behind Nikita Kucherov of the Lightning.
Jason Chimera opened the scoring for New York with only his second goal of the season but Zemgus Girgensons with his third and Kyle Okposo (the former Islander) with his sixth, gave the Sabres a 2-1 lead with only 8:27 left in the third.
PITTSBURGH 5 COLUMBUS 4 (Shootout)
Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby each scored in the shootout while the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to score on both attempts as the Penguins scored twice late in the third to tie the game at 4 and send it into overtime and eventually the win 5-4 in the shootout.
Malkin led the way for Pittsburgh with a goal and two assists in the third period while Phil Kessel had a goal and an assist in the third.
Murray made 29 saves for the win. He is not having a good season, especially where he was taken in most drafts. He is 14-10-1, which is fine but his 2.94 GAA and .904 save percentage are weak.
Sergei Bobrovsky made 33 saves in giving up four goals with two coming on the Pittsburgh power play. He is 18-10-3 with a 2.41 GAA and a .921 save percentage.
CAROLINA 3 MONTREAL 1
It certainly appears that Cam Ward has taken over the net for the Carolina Hurricanes. Ward, who started the season as the backup to Scott Darling, won his fifth straight and third in the last week as Darling has found himself nailed to the bench. Of course, giving up eight goals in a game as Darling did eight nights ago, tend to make goaltending decisions easy for a coach.
Nevertheless, Ward has been great for Carolina this season, and once again on Wednesday as he stopped 23 shots to push his record to 9-2-1 with a 2.65 GAA and a .914 save percentage.
Sebastian Aho scored twice for the Hurricanes, the winner on the power play and an empty netter to clinch it. Teuvo Teravainen opened the scoring for Carolina while Alex Galchenyuk with the lone goal for Montreal, scored his ninth of the season.
Carey Price made 33 saves in the loss.
NASHVILLE 2 ST. LOUIS 1
Calle Jarnkrok’s 10th goal of the season in the second period was the winner as the Predators won for the first time in four outings, knocking off St. Louis 2-1.
Pekka Rinne was stellar in the Predators net as he stopped 29 shots for the win.
Craig Smith got things started in the first period with his 13th of the season for Nashville while Jarnkrok’s goal in the second extended the lead to 2 goals.
Vladimir Sobotka scored his seventh in the third period to deprive Rinne of his shutout but that was all the scoring there would be in the game.
Jake Allen stopped 24 shots in taking the loss.
Roberto Bortuzzo and Scott Hartnell partook in a fight and each got five for fighting.
MINNESOTA 4 DALLAS 2
Alex Stalock stopped 24 shots for the win as he evened his record at 7-7-1.
Ben Bishop made 27 stops in taking the loss.
Charlie Coyle had a pair of assists.
WINNIPEG 4 EDMONTON 3
Joel Armia scored twice to lead the Winnipeg Jets to a 4-3 win over Edmonton Wednesday. It was a bittersweet win for the Jets who lost Mark Scheifele to an upper body injury in the second period. He did not return. While more will be known on Thursday, coach Paul Maurice did not think it looked good.
Connor Hellebuyck faced only 25 shots in giving up three goals but picked up the win as it was enough to boost his record to 19-4-5 with a 2.46 GAA and a .919 save percentage.
Cam Talbot lost for the first time in eight games as he had a seven game winning streak broken. Talbot is 14-11-1 with a 2.89 GAA and a .907 save percentage.
Leon Draisaitl had a goal and an assist for the Oilers. Jesse Puljujarvi and Jujhar Khaira each got their seventh of the season. Puljujarvi had seven shots on goal as he seems to be clicking with Connor McDavid. He also saw time on the second power play, a rarity this season for the Finn.
NEW YORK RANGERS 1 WASHINGTON 0 (Shootout)
Ondrej Pavelec stopped all 30 shots and the Zee boys each scored in the shootout to lead the Rangers to a 1-0 win over Washington.
In a battle of the backups, Philipp Grubauer made 37 saves in regulation and overtime but was unable to stop Mats Zuccarello and Mika Zibanejad in the shootout as Pavelec stopped T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin to garner the win.
Ryan McDonagh had four hits and seven blocked shots in the win.
Chris Kreider left the game after the first period with an undisclosed injury and did not return.
ARIZONA 3 COLORADO 1
Antti Raanta stopped 25 shots to lead the Arizona Coyotes to a rare win as they beat Colorado 3-1.
Varlamov made 22 saves for the loss.
Mikko Rantanen scored the only goal for Colorado as he picked up his 11th of the season.
The Coyotes did not turn the puck over at all according to the stats while the Avs had seven giveaways.
VEGAS 4 ANAHEIM 1
Malcolm Subban stopped 27 shots to pick up his ninth win of the season as the Vegas Golden Knights continued their dream season with a 4-1 win over Anaheim.
After Rickard Rakell opened the scoring with his 11th of the season, the Golden Knights struck for one in each of the first two periods and two in the third. Former Duck Shea Theodore tied the game at one in the first with his third of the year.
John Gibson took the loss as he stopped 24 shots.
Oscar Lindberg picked up his first assist of the season after scoring seven times this season for Vegas.
Brayden McNabb had eight hits and six blocked shots for the Golden Knights.