Sunday, April 4, 2010

Saturday's NHL action: Atlantic flip-flop; East teams want in after all

Change at the top, then back to normal
--Jordan Leopold caught Johan Hedberg off-guard, throwing a puck at the net that squeaked through the goalie known as Moose for his first goal as a Penguin and the overtime winner as Pittsburgh downed Atlanta, 4-3, to dent the Thrashers' playoff hopes. Sidney Crosby had three assists. Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar each returned to the lineup by scoring a goal and assist. The Penguins briefly jumped to the top of the Atlantic Division. Atlanta is still just a point out of a playoff spot but has just three games left, compared to four for the other competitors.

--New Jersey reclaimed the division lead by embarrassing and eliminating Carolina in Raleigh, 4-0. It was the second straight home game the Hurricanes lost by that score and they are now out of the playoff picture. Martin Brodeur made 26 saves and four Devils had a goal and assist, chiefly Zach Parise and Patrik Elias.

Wait, we changed our minds
A couple days ago, no one in the East wanted to win to improve their playoff positioning. That wasn't the case Saturday.

--Jaroslav Halak made 29 saves for his second shutout in two nights, Dominic "I was traded for a second-rounder" Moore posted two assists and Montreal knocked off Buffalo, 3-0. The Canadiens, in sixth place, moved four points clear of No. 9 New York.

--Miroslav Satan deflected Zdeno Chara's slapper in overtime for his second goal of the game and Boston defeated Toronto, 2-1. Tuukka Rask made 28 saves as the Bruins moved into seventh place with 84 points. Phil Kessel, by the way, finished the season series against his old team with no goals, one assist and a minus-5 rating in six games.

--A four-goal third period, capped by Marian Gaborik's 41st goal into an empty net, gave the Rangers a 4-1 win over Florida as New York says, "Hey, don't forget about us." New York, 5-0-1 in its last six, and Philadelphia both have 82 points, with the Flyers holding the No. 8 spot by having more wins. The Panthers were eliminated.

In other action
--Ryan Suter's goal just 16 seconds into overtime lifted Nashville past Detroit, 4-3, after the Red Wings had tied the score at 3-3 with 37 ticks remaining in regulation. The Predators, led by Pekka Rinne's 28 saves, clinched a playoff spot. Barry Trotz coached his 900th game, becoming the sixth person to reach that milestone with one team, and won his 410th game, tied with Scotty Bowman for sixth-most with one team.
--John Tavares had a goal and assist, Martin Biron made 28 saves and the Islanders surprisingly handled Ottawa without a problem, 4-1. Mathematically, New York remains alive but is six points out with four games left. The Senators missed a chance to put pressure on Buffalo in the division.
--Jose Thedore stopped 34 shots and Washington survived two Antoine Vermette goals to hold off Columbus, 3-2.
--Carlo Colaiacovo broke a 1-1 tie midway through the third period and St. Louis kept alive its meager playoff hopes with a 2-1 win over Dallas. The Blues are four out with four to go. The Stars fell five out with three to play.
--It took eight rounds and 14 straight skaters without a goal but Phoenix defeated Edmonton, 3-2 in a shootout. Matthew Lombardi, who scored in regulation, had the only shootout goal. The Coyotes moved closer to clinching the fourth seed.
--Saku Koivu scored a power play goal with 1:32 remaining to force overtime and then netted the only goal in the shootout to help Anaheim knock off Los Angeles, 2-1. The Ducks are in the same position as the Blues.

Stat of the night
9 - Phoenix went 0-for-9 on the power play, including four chances in the third period when leading 2-1. According to the Coyotes telecast, the nine failed power plays is a league-high this season for attempts without a goal. Also, props to the Phoenix fans as the game was announced as the third straight sellout. I pointed out when attendance sucked so I'll point out when it was good.

Quote of the night
"There's been points here in the last 10 games where we lose and we think, 'Oh, the season is done. We're this far out.' Then we put a good streak together and win three games in a row, and all of the sudden, we're right back in it. Then we lose a game, and all of the sudden, you're right back out again. We win tonight and things just get more interesting."
Blues goalie Chris Mason, who made 24 saves

Notable games
Sunday, April 4 (4 games)
Three of the four games Sunday feature someone fighting for their playoff lives. First, the NBC game at 12:30 p.m. features Detroit at Philadelphia. The Red Wings can clinch a playoff spot while the Flyers can maintain their rather tenuous grip on the eighth spot. At 3 p.m., Calgary tries to sneak past Colorado when it plays Chicago. Those same Avalanche play host to San Jose at 8 p.m.

Happy Easter. Unless you don't celebrate Easter. In which case, happy April 4. Unless you're in a time zone where it's already April 5. In which case, screw you, you time-traveling jerk.

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