Races stay close in NHL

The closer teams get to the post season in the NHL the more at stake every time it takes the ice it seems. Four of the five Midwest teams had a win one – lose one weekend while the Blackhawks were undefeated, but played just once.

Here is a look at the weekend (March 13-15, 2015) for all five teams in alphabetical order


Saturday – Blackhawks 6 at Sharks 2

Like most games, this one was huge for both teams. The Hawks kept alive its hopes of gaining home ice advantage through the first round of playoffs while hurting the chances of the host Sharks who entered, and left the weekend on the outside of the playoff bubble.

The Hawks stepped up when needed in this one, outshooting its host 17-9 in the third and scoring four unanswered goals to turn a 2-2 nailbiter into a lopsided 6-2 victory at the SAP Center in San Jose.

Both teams scored in both the first and second, Chicago grabbing the lead both times with the Sharks battling back to tie it.

Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith had the first two goals and Brandon Saad deposited the game winner 81 seconds into the final period when he took a pass at the blue line, split the defense and went in alone, beating former Hawks’ goaltender Antii Niemi with a nice deke move.

Bryan Bickell hammered a one-timer home after receiving a pass from Brad Richards to give the guests its first two goal cushion before the five minute mark of the period and Sharp drilled his second of the game from the top of the right side faceoff circle to pad the lead with just 4:50 to go. The Sharks pulled Niemi early looking for a miracle but Marian Hossa sank an empty netter to put this one away.

The win along with a two game split for the Wild and Preds on the weekend leaves the playoff situation the same, but takes away some time to make a move. The Hawks remain five up on the fourth place Wild and five down on the Preds but have played one less game than the Wild and three less than Nashville.

The Hawks have won three straight, including both on a quick Western swing and the team has picked up at least a point in each of its past five games. The Hawks get a quick game in on home ice Tuesday against the Islanders before embarking on a four game week-long road trip beginning Wednesday at Madison Square Gardens.


Friday – Oilers 4 at Blue Jackets 5

The Jackets stretched its winning streak to three games with this shootout win, Alexander Wennberg ending it with his fifth round goal, the only one of 10 to find the mesh.

The Jackets looked to be well on its way with a 2-0 lead after a period, but teams were even at 3-3 after two.

Marko Dano opened the scoring just 43 seconds in and Cam Atkinson put one in on powerplay three seconds from the first period buzzer. Goals by Jordan Eberle and Derek Roy – both on Oiler powerplays – had teams even before Artem Anisimov put the Jackets in front again with 3:09 to go in the second. Andrew Ference tied it again in the final minute of the period and Nail Yakupov put the Oilers in front for the first time 3:26 into the final frame.

Hartnell scored his 20th of the season and third in the past three games pouncing on a rebound out of a scramble in front and lifting it over the pad of Edmonton goaltender Ben Scrivens to tie the game and ultimately force a scoreless overtime and shootout.

Sunday – Blue Jackets 2 at Hurricanes 3

The Jackets started its winning streak at Raleigh last week and the Canes returned the favor, snapping the streak at Columbus on Sunday.

The host Jackets carried a 1-0 lead out of the first period – barely – as Nick Foligno fired his own rebound through the pads of Anton Khudobin from the side of the goal just as the period’s final second ticked off of the clock.

Justin Faulk tied the game on a powerplay at the 8:11 mark and Ron Hainsey gave the Canes its first lead a little over a minute later.

Scott Hartnell connected on his fourth in four games to knot the score but it was Marko Dano creating the goal with a couple of nice dangles to get clear of the Carolina defense and finally using a backhand pass to leave Hartnell a simple tap in.

Brad Malone responded for the Canes 93 seconds later and the visitors carried that out of the second, then relied on Khudobin for 11 third period saves to make it stand up as the game winner.

The playoffs are no longer a legitimate possibility for the 13th place Jackets, but they will look to feed off of a successful week when they begin a three game trip to Western Canada at Edmonton on Wednesday.


Friday — Red Wings 2 at Flyers 7

The Wings could not have got a four-game road trip off to a worse start, dropping a 7-2 decision in Philly to open the weekend at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Flyers grabbed a 2-0 first period lead but Justin Abdelkader, one of the Wings’ hottest players of late pulled one back early in the second. He and Henrik Zetterberg paid a price for the goal – Zetterberg running into a heavy check right after his pass through the neutral zone sprung Abdelkader who went in on the right side and deposited the put through the wickets on Steve Mason in the Philly goal. However, he also was tripped up on the stick of Niklas Grossman on the play and slammed into the boards himself.

Brayden Schenn scored the next two and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare added another before Erik Cole finally counted a pp goal for the Wings to make it a 5-2 game with 9:03 to go.

If there were any thoughts of a comeback, they were squashed by Matt Read’s pp goal for the Flyers and Zac Rinaldo wrapped it up with his first of the season 2:42 from the final buzzer.

Sunday – Red Wings 5 Penguins 1

Fans may not be surprised by a weekend split for the Wings, but likely expected the win to be in Philly.

The Wings though, made up for Friday’s crushing loss with almost as lopsided win at the Consol Energy Center.

Since coming to the Wings at the trade deadline, Mark Zidlicky has made his presence felt and he played a part in helping his team to a 2-0 first period lead Sunday.

The first goal came just 81 seconds into the game as Riley Sheahan got his stick on a point shot by Zidlicky and tipped it past Marc-Andre Fleury in the Penguins’ goal. Fleury managed to hold off another shot by Zidlicky from the right point later as it bounced over his shoulder but not all of the way in despite a scramble in front.

Zidlicky also picked up an assist on the team’s second goal, a rocket from the top of the left side faceoff circle by Teemu Pulkinen that squeezed through a small opening on the blocker side and the Wings carried a 2-0 cushion out of the frame.

The defenseman collected his third straight point, one timing a pass from Henrik Zetterberg home from the top of the faceoff circle as he drifted in on a powerplay 39 seconds into the second period. Henrik Zetterberg tapped in a nice feed from Gustav Nyquist on the left side at the 7:44 mark to give the guests a 4-0 cushion and send Fleury to the bench in favor of Tomas Greiss.

Pulkinen hammered home another goal for the Wings from almost the exact same spot as his first, 3:02 into the third and the host Penguins gained some consolation as David Perron snapped the shutout bid of Petr Mrazek who stopped 27 of 28 with a little over 10 minutes to play.

The Wings will leave Pennsylvania and head to Florida for two more road games, off until Thursday when they play the Panthers, then wrapping up at Tampa Bay for a key divisional game on Friday.


Friday – Ducks 2 at Wild 1

The Wild have been hot of late, but the Xcel Energy Center was not friendly, the host Wild wrapping up a quick 1-2 homestand with a tough 2-1 loss against the visiting Ducks on Friday night.

The Wild held a 33-24 edge in shots, including a 16-7 margin in the opening period, but it was the Ducks carrying a 1-0 lead to the second thanks to a Francois Beauchemin one-timer on a drop pass by Jakob Silfverberg in the final minute of the frame.

What turned out to be the only shot to get by John Gibson was a bit of a weird one. Thomas Vanek fired a bad angle shot that Gibson got a piece of from the right side. The puck however bounced off of the top of his pad and continued to Zach Parise who jammed it in on the left side of the goal.

That goal game with 8:29 to go in the middle period but the Ducks went in front again just over two minutes later with a deflection and that was the final goal of the game.

Saturday – Wild 3 at St. Louis 1  

The Wild hit the road Saturday and broke back into the win column with a big win at the Scottrade Center.

Devan Dubnyk has been stellar between the pipes and Saturday was his best yet as he stopped 41 shots in his 27th straight game between the pipes for the Wild and helped his team earn a 3-1 over the division leading Blues.

Teams were scoreless through the first period and David Backes opened the scoring 4:57 into the middle frame, tipping a point shot by Alex Steen for the only goal that would get by Duby on the night.

The lead lasted 46 seconds before Thomas Vanek lifted a pass from Justin Fontaine over the glove of Brian Elliott in the Blues’ goal to tie it up. Teams were still locked in a 1-1 draw heading to the third.

The Wild put the game away with two goals in 17 seconds with a little more than six minutes to play the contest. Nino Niederreiter got to the rebound of a shot by Mikko Koivu for the first goal and Kyle Brodziak backhanded a loose puck in front of the goal for the other.

Having played both the Conference’s top two teams on the weekend, the Wild will continue the trend, traveling to Nashville for a Tuesday night game in Nashville against the Predators, then return home to face the Capitals two nights later.

St. Louis

Saturday – Wild 3 at Blues 1

See above (Wild)

Sunday – Blues 3 at Stars 0

The Blues hit the road after the tough loss Saturday and took its frustrations out on the Stars with a shutout win at the American Airlines Center Sunday.

Jake Allen earned the goose egg, turning aside all 28 of the Stars’ chances, but Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen matched him shot for shot into the final frame.

Vladimir Tarasenko finally opened it up in the fifth minute of the third working his way in the top of the zone back and forth before his wrister from the middle at the top of the rings beat Lehtonen on the glove side.

Alex Steen one-timed a pass from Alex Pietrangelo home from just inside the faceoff circle on the right side to pad the lead with his 20th of the year and T.J. Oshie made it official with his empty netter to get himself within a goal of 20 as well.

The Blues – now sit even with the Preds in points but two behind the Conference leading Ducks – with two games in hand on both teams. The team will stay on the road for its next five, in Calgary Tuesday and Winnipeg Thursday, then continuing with stops in Minneapolis, Detroit and Pittsburgh.

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