Sunday, December 27, 2009

NHL Recap 12-26-09: Caps win East showdown; Hawks take West

Had to get them eventually
Anyone who might not have been too impressed with the quality of Washington's schedule or the Capitals' play against tougher teams had to change their tune a little after Washington downed New Jersey, 4-1, in a showdown of two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin each had a goal and two assists to power Washington's attack, which included 40 shots on Martin Brodeur. Michal Neuvirth made his third straight start in net for the Capitals, who avoided being swept by the Devils after having lost the first three meetings, and the youngster made 29 saves.

Cancel the parade
A week ago, Nashville was tied for first place in the Western Conference with 47 points.

Now the Predators are fifth.

A three-goal second period helped give Chicago a 4-1 win over Nashville and handed the Predators their second straight loss, dropping them six points behind Western leaders Chicago and San Jose, who both have 53 points.

Four different players scored for the Blackhawks: Dustin Byfuglien, Patrick Kane, Andrew Ladd and Patrick Sharp. Jonathan Toews and Tomas Kopecky each had two assists and Cristobal Huet made 25 saves.

Martin Erat scored his 13th for Nashville.

Stars of the night
--Todd Bertuzzi scored twice and Jimmy Howard made 28 saves to give Detroit a 2-1 lead over Columbus.
--Vincent Lecavalier set up three goals and Ryan Malone's 19th of the season was the difference in Tampa Bay's 4-3 win over Atlanta. Nik Antropov and Ilya Kovalchuk had a goal and assist each for the Thrashers.
--Guillaume Latendresse scored the first and last goal for Minnesota, which hung on for a 4-3 win over St. Louis, which got a goal and assist from Patrik Berglund.
--Peter Budaj stopped 39 shots and Chris Stewart scored twice to lead Colorado over Dallas, 4-1.
--Daniel Sedin scored once and set up two others for Vancouver in a 4-1 win over Edmonton. Henrik Sedin had one goal and one assist.
--Patrick Marleau scored twice, Joe Thornton assisted on three goals and Dany Heatley netted his 23rd plus added two assists in San Jose's 5-2 smackdown of Anaheim. The Sharks scored the game's first five goals. Marleau's goals were the 300th and 301st of his career.

Working late
--In its first game without captain Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa launched 40 shots on Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller, but needed a shootout to down the Sabres, 3-2. Alex Kovalev and Mike Fisher converted in the tiebreaker after Ryan Shannon and Chris Neil scored for the Senators. The Sabres erased a 2-0 deficit on goals by Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville.
--Philadelphia blew a 3-0 lead in the final 10:36 of regulation but recovered to defeat Carolina, 4-3 in a shootout. The Flyers stars came out, as Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Daniel Briere all scored. Jussi Jokinen netted twice for the Hurricanes, who played former teammate Michael Leighton, who made 37 saves. Briere and Richards scored in the shootout.
--The Islanders conceded a goal in the final minute of the third period to the Rangers but Kyle Okposo's tally in the last minute of overtime gave New York a 3-2 win over New York. Heh. The Isles held a 2-0 lead before squeaking out the win. Brandon Dubinsky had both Rangers goals.
--What's with blowing 2-0 leads but winning anyway? Montreal led 2-0 before needing Andrei Kostitsyn's goal 34 seconds into overtime for a 3-2 win over Toronto. Scott Gomez had a goal and an assist, Andrei Markov had two helpers and Jaroslav Halak made 47 saves in his fourth straight start for Montreal. Halak has stopped 180 of 186 shots during his current four-game win streak.

Taking deposits
If the playoffs started today, the fourth seed from the Western Conference, the last recipient of home-ice advantage, would be the Phoenix Coyotes. Los Angeles fans were ecstatic upon the return of Ryan Smyth and an expected surge to the top, but Phoenix shut down the Kings, 3-2, limiting the visitors to 25 shots.

Adrian Aucoin, Martin Hanzal and Keith Yandle scored for Phoenix. Dustin Brown and Michal Handzus had goals for the Kings, who welcomed Smyth back only to lose Justin Williams to a broken leg on just his second shift of the game. The duo was part of one of the NHL's top lines early in the season with Anze Kopitar.

The win was the Coyotes' franchise-record tying ninth straight at home.

Non-3 Stars Selection
Gomez. Third star was Toronto's Mike Komisarek, Kostitsyn was second and Halak first.

Stat of the night
201:04 - Time, in minutes and seconds, since the Red Wings last had a lead before Bertuzzi's second goal of the game 2:44 into the third period.

Quote of the night
"Usually games like this you try to run as fast as you can out of the building."

-Gomez. Toronto out-shot Montreal, 49-23. That seems to be a theme for both teams. The Canadiens give up more shots than they allow almost each night, and sometimes they win. The Leafs are constantly putting up huge shot totals but rarely getting wins. That probably means something, but I don't know what.

This was the sixth time Toronto has registered 40 shots or more on goal and it leads the NHL in shots per game at 34.1. Conversely, Montreal is 28th (third-worst) in shots allowed per game at 32.6. Montreal's last four games, shots allowed: 40, 50, 47, 49. Bonus stats of the night. Yikes.

Notable games
Sunday, Dec. 27 (6 games)
-Nashville (22-13-7) at Chicago (25-9-3), 7 p.m. ET, a chance for the Preds to get some revenge.

-Vancouver (22-16-0) at Calgary (20-11-5), 8 p.m. The Flames, after such a um, hot November, are in danger of being passed in the standings by the Canucks, who are the only NHL team not to have an overtime/shootout loss. They've had only two games go beyond regulation, both shootout victories, both back in October.

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