Thursday, March 18, 2010

NHL Recap 3-17-10: Devils sweep Penguins; Chicago keeps losing (players)

Pittsburgh gift-wraps New Jersey sweep
The Devils brought out their retro, Christmas-color uniforms for their March 17 tilt against Pittsburgh. The Penguins apparently thought that meant to bring gifts.

New Jersey capitalized on a series of horrendous turnovers, scoring its first four goals off bad plays by Pittsburgh, in an eventual 5-2 victory that allowed the Devils to reclaim first place in the Atlantic Division and sweep the six-game series (all in regulation) with the Penguins.

Pittsburgh actually scored first, on a Chris Kunitz goal, before a ridiculous play by Kris Letang helped set up a breakaway by Danius Zubrus to tie the game. Late in the first period, it was Bill Guerin turning the puck over at neutral ice, freeing Paul Martin in on a breakaway for his first goal of the season in his first game back since missing 59.

Consecutive giveaways on the power play provided two shorthanded breakaways for New Jersey. The first, by Travis Zajac, was saved by Marc-Andre Fleury but the second one, just a few ticks later, Patrik Elias converted. Another bonehead Pittsburgh play later on set up a 4-on-2 rush for the Devils, finished off by Zach Parise.

And actually, another turnover led to Rob Niedermayer's empty net goal but the game was decided by then so it didn't have as much significance.

Ruslan Fedotenko had a goal for the Penguins.

Birthday wishes for Ryan, bad times for Chicago
It sucks to be the Blackhawks right now.

Bobby Ryan scored two goals on his 23rd birthday and Anaheim dealt Chicago its third straight loss, 4-2, but not many people were talking about that.

Former Blackhawk defenseman James Wisniewski leveled a malicious hit on Canadian Olympian Brent Seabrook, who'd dealt Corey Perry a big hit just seconds earlier. Seabrook appeared to be knocked unconscious by the hit and had a dazed look as he fell to the ice. Words I've seen describing the aftermath include "stomach-wrenching" and "nauseating." I would concur with those sentiments.

Seabrook left the game and did not return. Wisniewski made a bee-line towards the Chicago D-man from the faceoff circle and launched himself at Seabrook. Wisniewski was assessed a minor for charging, which is ridiculous.

Seabrook and Marian Hossa had goals for Chicago. Saku Koivu and Todd Marchant scored for the Ducks, who got 39 saves from Jonas Hiller. The Blackhawks were also unhappy on Koivu's goal, the eventual winner, after Perry seemed to get away with a cross check.

Calgary staying in it
Backup goalie Vesa Toskala made 32 saves, Rene Bourque scored once shorthanded and again on the power play, and Calgary netted a big victory, 3-2 at Colorado. The Flames are a point back of Detroit, which has a game in hand.

Stat of the night
22-5 - Goal margin for New Jersey in its season sweep against Pittsburgh. The Penguins are 12-2-1 against every other division opponent. The Devils are 7-7-1 against the other three teams. I'm going to go throw up now.

Quote of the night
"Wisniewski had two fights tonight. He was probably the first star in our minds, as far as involvement in the game."
Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle. I don't really think I need to add any editorializing. Sigh. Go Ducks.

Notable games
Thursday, March 18 (11 games)
-Pittsburgh (41-24-5) at Boston (31-26-12), 7 p.m. ET. Matt Cooke's first game against Boston. A who's-who of NHL front-office stars, including Bill McCreary and Colin Campbell, are expected to be in attendance.

-St. Louis (32-28-9) at NY Rangers (31-30-9), 7 p.m. Two teams battling for their playoff lives.

-San Jose (43-16-10) at Vancouver (43-24-3), 10 p.m. Two of the West's top three.

Key playoff pairings: Ottawa-Atlanta; Buffalo-Tampa Bay; Minnesota-Nashville; Philadelphia-Dallas.

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