Monday, March 29, 2010

Sunday's NHL action: West race maybe not over yet

As the West turns
So, that drama that Detroit took out of the Western Conference playoff race with its torrid winning pace? It's sort of back. With a new face.

A four-goal first period propelled Calgary to a shocking 5-3 victory at Washington - which has league-lows in home losses (nine) and home regulation losses (five) - and put the Flames four points behind No. 8 Colorado following the Avalanche's 4-3 loss to San Jose. Calgary was coming off a 5-0 loss to Boston that had people like me saying the Flames were done.

Goals by Ales Kotalik, Ian White and Jay Bouwmeester (you read right, Jay Bouwmeester actually scored) in the first 10:34 resulted in a goaltending change by Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, but Calgary got another late marker in the first period from Niklas Hagman.

Alex Ovechkin netted his 46th to get Washington on the board before Rene Bourque put the Flames ahead, 5-2. Bourque finished with three points. Washington got the next two goals, from Dave Steckel and Mathieu Perreault, but could not tie the score. The Capitals out-shot the Flames 20-2 in the third period but Miikka Kiprusoff (31 saves) held the fort.

Ovechkin also had an assist to hit the 100-point mark.

In the Colorado game, Devin Setoguchi struck twice for the Sharks, who played without Joe Thornton. Dan Boyle and Jed Ortmeyer also scored for San Jose and Thomas Greiss made 42 saves. Peter Mueller scored twice and Kevin Porter once for the Avalanche, who have lost two straight games but have a game in hand on Calgary.

In the East
--Sidney Crosby scored his 46th and 47th goals of the season, added one in a shootout and Pittsburgh got past Toronto, 5-4. The Penguins, who got a career-high three assists from Brooks Orpik of all people, needed a Matt Cooke goal with 2:48 to play to force overtime. Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel had a goal and assist each for the Maple Leafs.
--In a virtual must-win situation after an 0-4-1 stretch, Philadelphia torched New Jersey, 5-1. Five different players scored and Brian Boucher made 32 saves for the Flyers. Class act Daniel Carcillo took a match penalty for attempt to injure against David Clarkson late in the game. Even when they're the ones routing people, Philly just can't behave.

The results put Philadelphia in sixth place, up from eighth, and Pittsburgh and New Jersey once again swapped places, with the Penguins moving to second and the Devils dropping to fourth. New Jersey is two points back with a game in hand and the same wins total. The loss by the Devils also secured first place in the East for Washington.

--Keith Tkachuk's goal on his 38th birthday broke a 1-1 tie and St. Louis edged Edmonton, 2-1.
--Steve Mason's 33 saves held off Chicago as Columbus earned a 4-2 victory. Jakub Voracek had two goals and an assist. The Blackhawks be struggle-ling at 3-5-2 in their last 10.

Stat of the night
2.33 - Bouwmeester is making $2.333 million per goal this season. He has a $7 million salary and three goals. Good work if you can get it.

Quote of the night
From the Associated Press recap on the Calgary-Washington game: Even more stunning was the fickle display by some Capitals fans. The runaway top team in the standings actually heard boos on the way to the locker room.

Bonus quote
"I asked at the bench, 'What does he do?' And I got eight different answers. So I didn't know, I guess he's that good of a player you don't know what he's going to try."
Toronto goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, talking about Crosby's success in shootouts. Crosby is 8-for-10 this season. Giguere made 41 saves.

Marquee matchup
Monday, March 29 (5 games)
Buffalo (41-23-10) at Boston (34-28-12), 7 p.m. ET, Versus. A win ties the Bruins at 82 points with Philadelphia and Montreal with a game in hand on both, so technically Boston can jump from eighth to sixth. The Sabres push to finish second in the East.

Teams looking to play spoiler Monday include Florida (against Nashville) and Minnesota (against Los Angeles.)

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