The NHL’s Metropolitan Division has become a tight race to the finish of the regulation. That is not necessarily a result of good hockey as much as all the teams below the Penguins scrambling for precious points. On Friday, the New York Rangers went to Columbus for Rick Nash’s first visit since leaving the Blue Jackets. His current team skated off with a 3-1 win.
“It was a great game, a lot of fun,” Nash said. “But I’m definitely glad it’s over.”
All the scoring came in the third period. And the Jackets grabbed the first lead when Nick Foligno capped a Rangers miscommunication in their own zone and beat Henrik Lundqvist with a writer from the slot.
The Rangers responded to the goal with their own just 44 seconds later off the stick of Derek Stepan.
Derick Brassard got the game-winner at 11:31 off a wrap-around that eluded Sergie Bobrovsky.
But in Nash’s return there was cheers and boos and efforts to unhinge the Ranger winger. In a rare show of emotion, Nash dropped the mitts with the smaller Matt Calvert.
“It shows a lot of character. We loved it,” Brassard said. “He’s our best player, but when the game’s on the line and your best player is showing emotion like that, it lifts the team.”
It seems Calvert was egging for a fight.
Nash was feisty all game long and tangled with Bobrovsky as well.
“The two crosschecks to the head, the slew foot and the fact that he said he’s going with me no matter what,” said Nash, 6-foot-4, 213 pounds. “He didn’t care. That was enough to set me off.”
Calvert’s version of events was quite different.
“He took a cheap shot at our goalie and we really didn’t have a chance to respond because the linesmen jumped in,” said Calvert, 5-foot-11, 187 pounds. “I had a chance right at the start of the third period to get the boys going. He had to pay for what he did. It was a gutless move. I’m glad it happened, but it’s a disappointing loss.”
Carl Hagelin added an empty-netter to seal it for New York.http://
“We showed a lot of mental toughness in this game,” Ranger coach Alain Vigneault said. “Both teams know what’s at stake. It’s a playoff game. There was a lot of chippiness out there.”
With Patrick Kane sidelined, the Chicago Blackhawks edged the Hurricanes, 3-2 Friday night.
Jonathan Toews notched his 28th in the win in the third after Carolina had tied things up at two all.
“We’ve been lucky to be really healthy all season and I hope that continues,” said Toews, who scored his 28th goal of the season 3:29 into the third to counter a game-tying goal by Alexander Semin 31 seconds earlier. “That’s one of those things [where] you need to learn how to play without some of your best players. It doesn’t matter if someone’s nursing something. You need to find a way to fill that void and [have] some guys ready to go to assume more responsibility and [we] showed that preparation tonight.”
Chicago jumped out to a 2-0 lead off goals from Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg in the first period.
“We had a good start to the game, we had some good quality stuff, but it slowed down for a long stretch,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “[Crawford] was excellent. I thought he had a real strong game, one of those games where he made a difference.”
Corey Crawford made 26 saves to rescue the Hawks after surrendering the lead on Semin’s goal.
“We got it going as it went on,” Eric Staal said. “They came out strong. We wanted to be a little bit better, but we improved the second half of the first and got more pucks to the net and our forecheck was a little better. I thought we got a lot better in the second and the third.”
Carolina has continued to play well but their ability to cash in on bounces has been lacking. Their losses are by the slimmest of margins and they had no room for error.http://
“It’s disappointing because our margin of error is a little slim right now,” Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. “We’re right in it [in the third], but we come down and we missed the net. They come right back at us and we give up a bad goal right off of tying the game there.”
In Denver, the Boston Bruins clinched a playoff berth with a 2-0 whitewashing of the Avalanche.
Chad Johnson got the win in making 31 saves.
“He stopped the pucks,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said.” He had to get better after the first because there were a lot of loose pucks around the net. I think our whole team got better throughout the game. When you give up 14 shots in the first and some pretty good scoring chances, Chad did a pretty good job for us.”
The Bruins are now playing their best hockey in a very long time and their focus is exceptional even with the distance they have placed between themselves and the rest of the eastern conference.
“We still have to play our hockey and really focus on the little details going into the playoffs,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, whose team will try to make it 12 wins in a row Saturday night against the Phoenix Coyotes. “Not being satisfied or complacent and keep pushing our team.”
Johnson has been nearly unbeatable along with the rest of the Bruins. In his last 11 starts he is 10-0-1.
“I think it’s committing to our system and not really looking at the streak,” said Johnson. “We’ve just sort of prepared for a game as a new one. We don’t really worry about how many we’ve won or who we’re playing in two days or three days, we just worry about who’s next.
“I made some saves, but there were two pucks laying there that I tried to cover up and they jumped out underneath my glove and they were laying around. The guys did a good job of battling in front of me. I had a lot of pucks laying around that shouldn’t have been and they did a good job of clearing them out for me.”
Patrice Bergeron and Carl Soderberg scored for Boston.
“I thought we played an outstanding game,” Avs coach Patrick Roy said. “I guess we have nothing to show for it right now, but I thought it was very positive. We had a lot of good chances early on. We outshot them almost double at some point midway in the game. Except for maybe six or seven minutes at the start of the third I thought we played better than them and their goalie played really well. He made some great saves and they know how to win. It’s a team that has played a lot of playoff hockey in the past years and they certainly know how to play that game. But I’m very pleased.”http://
And that makes the Bruins even scarier for the rest of the NHL.
Columbus 1 NY Rangers 3
Chicago 3 Carolina 2
Colorado 0 Boston 2
Calgary 5 Nashville 6