Sunday, March 21, 2010

NHL Recap 3-20-10: Who let the Thrashers back in?; Coyotes comeback stuns Chicago

Reports of Atlanta's demise were greatly exaggerated
Just a few days ago, many people, including yours truly, all but wrote off Atlanta from being part of the playoff picture. The Thrashers apparently took exception to that.

Colby Armstrong's second straight two-goal game helped Atlanta earn its third consecutive victory, 5-2 over Philadelphia, and the Thrashers are now just one point behind Boston for eighth in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins have a game in hand and the two teams meet Tuesday.

Just a week ago, Atlanta was mired in an 0-5-1 stretch that made the playoffs seem a pipe dream. Now it's beaten Buffalo, Ottawa and Philadelphia - all playoff teams as of today - in succession.

Niclas Bergfors scored his 20th of the season, Nik Antropov posted a goal and two points for the fourth straight game, and Bryan Little also scored. Tobias Enstrom and Clarke MacArthur each had two assists and Johan Hedberg made 25 saves.

Daniel Carcillo and Blair Betts scored for the Flyers, who are in a three-way tie with Montreal and Ottawa at 79 points.

Deja vu for Chicago
Stop me if you've heard this before, but Chicago experienced another late collapse.

Phoenix twice came back from two-goal deficits and earned its eighth straight win, moving just one point behind San Jose in the division and two back of West leader Chicago after knocking off the Blackhawks, 5-4 in a shootout.

Goals by Troy Brouwer and Patrick Kane gave Chicago a 2-0 lead before Wojtek Wolski and Lee Stempniak scored to tie the game. Just 1:22 after Stempniak's goal in the third period, Andrew Ladd caught Ilya Bryzgalov napping for a 3-2 lead. Then, 73 seconds later, Patrick Sharp restored Chicago's two-goal lead.

Cue dramatic music.

Stempniak netted his second of the game three minutes later, then Adrian Aucoin tied the game at 4-4 with 5:07 to play. In overtime, the Coyotes' Matthew Lombardi was awarded a penalty shot but was stopped by Antti Niemi, then Phoenix had an apparent game-winner by Vernon Fiddler waived off because Fiddler kicked the puck into the net.

The game went to a shootout, where Radim Vrbata was the only skater on either team to score. Bryzgalov's save on Sharp gave Phoenix the win.

Around the league
--Ottawa's Jason Spezza had a hat trick and assist but Dallas earned an important victory, 5-4 over the Senators in regulation. Brad Richards scored twice.
--Ryan Miller fended off 31 shots, Tyler Myers posted two assists and Buffalo defeated Florida, 3-1.
--Jose Theodore stopped 33 shots, Alex Ovechkin scored his 45th goal in his first game back from suspension and Washington downed Tampa Bay, 3-1.

Clean sheets
--Ty Conklin made 29 saves and Alexander Steen's goal with 13 seconds left in the first period held up as St. Louis knocked off New Jersey, 1-0.
--Pekka Rinne and Steve Mason matched save for save until overtime, when Nashville's Cody Franson slipped a shot past Mason for a 1-0 Predators victory over Columbus. Rinne made 33 saves and Mason stopped 30 shots.
--Jonathan Quick posted his fourth shutout by stopping 26 shots to lead Los Angeles to a much-needed win, 1-0 over the Islanders. Brad Richardson had the only goal for the Kings, who had led the Flames by just four points before the victory.

Working late
--Jamie McBain's first career goal couldn't have come much more dramatically. His slapper from the point off a mad scramble got past Marc-Andre Fleury with 1.5 seconds remaining in overtime (0.9 officially) and Carolina upended Pittsburgh for the third time this season, 3-2.
--Nikolai Kulemin and John Mitchell tallied in the shootout, Jonas Gustuvasson stopped two shooters and Toronto earned its third straight win, and sixth in the last seven, 3-2 over Montreal. Brian Gionta scored twice for the Habs.
--Holy crap. More Detroit magic. One night after earning a point by scoring with 0.5 second left against Edmonton, the Red Wings did it again when Henrik Zetterberg netted the overtime winner with 0.3 second on the clock and Detroit stunned Vancouver, 4-3, to move two points ahead of Calgary. Valtteri Filppula had a goal and two assists for Detroit. Bob Luongo stopped 50 shots in defeat.

Stat of the night
14 - Consecutive wins for Nashville at home over Columbus.

Quote of the night
"It's embarrassing. There's really no other way to say it or talk about it."
Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith. The Blackhawks are still 29-1-3 when leading after two. The losses are happening more frequently of late though.

Notable games
Sunday, March 21 (9 games)
-NY Rangers (31-31-9) at Boston (31-27-12), 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC. Don't expect much in the entertainment category, but this is a matchup of No. 8 vs. No. 10 in the East.

-Calgary (36-26-9) at Minnesota (34-31-6), 3 p.m. A regulation loss could be the final nail in the Wild's coffin.

-Atlanta (31-29-11) at Philadelphia (37-29-5), 7 p.m. Depending what happens in the first game on this list, the Thrashers could jump into the eighth spot.

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