NHL Morning Skate — Feb. 6, 2014

NEW YORK – With the last few days ahead of the Sochi Olympics coming to a close, the NHL had only three games on the schedule Wednesday night.

In Anaheim, the Ducks have suddenly become mortal. The Chicago Blackhawks at the same time have rediscovered their swagger and knocked the Ducks down in 2-0 decision.

Corey Crawford made 29 saves in the win for Chicago.

“They’re a pretty tricky team down low,” Crawford said of Anaheim. “They’re really good at feeding guys back door and getting those open-net chances. Our D were aware of that, and I thought they played it really well tonight to where the backside play wasn’t there for them.”

Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews scored for the Blackhawks.

Jonathan Toews

Jonathan Toews’s goal sealed win over Ducks – image courtesy of NHL

“It’s big for us,” Toews said. “I feel like the last month or so there was a lot of games that maybe we didn’t play so well, but we were close and we just didn’t find a way to get an extra point … these last handful of games on this road trip, we’re back to playing that smart team-style game that we want. If we had to win 1-0 tonight, we were going to do it.”

For Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, the loss was about less than a 60-minute effort.

“I thought we played a pretty good hockey game for 57 minutes or so, and very easily could have been 1-0 the other way,” Boudreau said. “I’m not going to sit here and [complain] about ‘We’re dying here.’ We’re still first overall in the League. There’s a lot of teams that would love to be in our position right now and we will overcome this. Everybody wants to jump off the bandwagon, go ahead. We’re going to be fine. We’re going to be there when it counts.”http://

The current slump the Ducks are experiencing had been blamed on a lack of enery and effort by Boudreau but the game was high energy for both clubs.

“Tonight was significantly better,” Anaheim’s Ben Lovejoy said. “It was a step in the right direction, but that’s a very good team, and in order for us to beat them, we have to be playing our very best. We’re getting closer.”

In Buffalo, the visiting Penguins routed the Sabres in a 5-1 decision.

“It did dawn on me that both those players are going to be on opposite teams again in a couple of weeks,” Pens coach Dan Bylsma said. “So it did dawn on me as Sid was going in and he scores the goal. I was cheering the goal this time.”

Sidney Crosby had a goal and two points on the night.

“I don’t have a great explanation for it,” Crosby said of his success against Buffalo. “I don’t think about anything different when I play them… I’ve been involved in games where they have four guys in your zone buzzing around and that’s not fun to play against either. So I think it’s being opportunistic, and maybe some bounces too, but I don’t try to change anything.”

Buffalo was never really in the game as the Penguins are looking to add points before the break.http://

“Two different teams out there,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “This is one of the premier teams in the League. They’re running for a Stanley Cup, and ours is in the early stages of trying to re-establish something here, and you establish with the right attitudes. … You find out who’s in for the long haul and who wants to battle through difficult times. That’s a good team. Give them that. But that doesn’t stop you from trying to compete against them.”

In San Jose, the power failure of the Sharks’ top scorers continued Wednesday night but their secondary players stepped up in a 2-1 OT win over Dallas.

“It was time for some others to step up and score,” said Sharks coach Todd McLellan. “To see Marty and Tommy both do it in one game is a good thing for our team. As far as the power play goes, it needs some work obviously, but it’s a bit reflective of some of our players right now. They’re not as sharp as they need to be. We’ll try and put it back together and get it to where it needs to be.”

It was Tommy Wingels and Marty Havlat made the difference in the win with Wingels getting the game winner in extra time.

“I’m a big part of the group that the scoring’s kind of vanished from,” Wingels said. “I got one tonight, but the numbers in the past games still aren’t where they need to be. It’s something we’re working on, the group of guys that need to pick it up. We will. We’re confident players and we’ll get there.”

Havlat also had an assist on the game-winner.

“It feels nice to win the game,” said Havlat. “That’s the most important thing. I don’t really care who scored the goal.”

Dallas had fallen back on the Havlat goal but tied it on Valeri Nichushkin’s third-period goal.

“It was a good game,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “We fell behind but we played a real good third period. We had to kill a couple of penalties and I thought we dominated on the PK. We have to be happy getting five of six [points],” he said of the road trip. “The PK was fabulous. They were relentless and really working.”

McLellan was unhappy with his team’s effort in the dreary loss to the Flyers earlier this week when the effort level was nearly nonexistent.

“It improved,” McLellan said of his team’s effort. “It’s pretty evident when you look at the game tonight and compare it to the Philadelphia game. It doesn’t mean we were cleaner or faster or more polished, just the commitment level went up. We still got to improve, but the games are getting tough. They’re becoming more and more like playoff games right now. Tight checking, shot blocking, faceoffs — that type of stuff goes up a lot more. Even the penalty kills are a lot better than they were earlier in the year. So good for us to play in those games and win, but still some areas that need to be polished up.”

Wednesday’s Results
Buffalo 1 Pittsburgh 5
Anaheim 0 Chicago 2
San Jose 2 Dallas 1 OT


Corey Crawford made 29 saves for his first shutout of the season and the ninth of his NHL career to help the Blackhawks defeat the Ducks in a battle of the League’s top two teams. With the victory, Chicago (35-10-14, 84 points) moved within one point of Anaheim (40-14-5, 85 points) for the No. 1 spot in the NHL standings.
* The Blackhawks have secured points in five consecutive games (3-0-2) and 11 of their last 12 as visitors (5-1-6).
* Crawford has helped the team pick up points in 12 of his past 14 appearances dating to Jan. 2 (5-2-7). He has allowed two or fewer goals in nine of those games.
* Marian Hossa posted 1-1—2, including the game-winning goal, to extend his point streak to five games (3-4—7). He has recorded at least one point in 11 of his last 13 games, totaling 9-6—15 over that span.
* The Blackhawks improved to 27-1-6 (.794 winning percentage) when scoring first this season. They are one of four teams with only one such regulation loss in 2013-14 (also, the Avalanche, Blues and Hurricanes).
* The Blackhawks’ and Ducks’ rosters feature a combined 17 Olympians: Chicago’s Michal Handzus (Slovakia), Niklas Hjalmarsson (Sweden), Marian Hossa (Slovakia), Patrick Kane (USA), Duncan Keith (Canada), Marcus Kruger (Sweden), Johnny Oduya (Sweden), Michal Rozsival (Czech Republic), Patrick Sharp (Canada) and Jonathan Toews (Canada), and Anaheim’s Cam Fowler (USA), Ryan Getzlaf (Canada), Jonas Hiller (Switzerland), Corey Perry (Canada), Teemu Selanne (Finland), Jakob Silfverberg (Sweden) and Sami Vatanen (Finland).
Sidney Crosby recorded 1-1—2, including a highlight-reel goal that proved to be the game-winner, to lead the Penguins to their 11th victory in their past 15 games. With the win, they moved within three points of the Ducks for the top spot in the NHL standings, with two games in hand (40-15-2, 82 points).
* The Penguins set a franchise record by earning their 40th victory in their 57th game of the season, besting the previous mark by eight games:
2013-14: 57 games (40-15-2)
1995-96: 65 games (40-21-4)
2011-12: 66 games (40-21-5)
2009-10: 66 games (40-22-4)
1992-93: 67 games (40-21-6)
* Crosby extended his point streak versus the Sabres to 17 games dating to Dec. 29, 2007. He has 10-18—28 in that span, including 2-3—5 in three meetings this season.
* According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Crosby has recorded at least one point in all 13 regular-season games he has played in Buffalo, totaling 9-12—21. His average of 1.62 points per game at First Niagara Center is his third-highest at any visiting arena (minimum: 10 games), behind Nassau Coliseum (1.67) and Verizon Center (1.64).
* The Penguins picked up their 12th victory this season when allowing the first goal (12-13-1), tied for the second-most such wins in the League (with the Islanders: 12-20-2).
* The Penguins also improved to 12-4-0 in their last 16 games versus the Sabres, including a 7-2-0 mark in their past nine trips to Buffalo.
Tommy Wingels scored 1:52 into overtime to lead the Sharks to their second victory in their last three outings. Wingels has four game-winning goals in 53 games this season; he had zero such goals in 80 career contests entering 2013-14.
* Wingels also has established career highs in goals (11), assists (18) and points (29) this season. He had 5-8—13 in 42 games last year.
* Alex Stalock made 19 saves to improve to 8-4-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average, .938 save percentage and two shutouts in 16 games this season. He has allowed two or fewer goals in 14 of his 16 appearances, including nine of his last 10.
* Martin Havlat posted 1-1—2, including the primary assist on Wingels’ overtime winner, for his first goal and multi-point game since Dec. 17 (1-1—2).
* Scott Hannan collected 0-2—2 for his first multi-point game since Nov. 19, 2010 (0-2—2).
The third episode of “NHL Revealed: A Season Like No Other” debuts on CBC tonight at 10:00 p.m. ET. Click here for a recap of the episode.
The Ducks fell to 2-5-0 in their last seven games at Honda Center following a 20-0-2 start at home . . . Stars forward Valeri Nichushkin scored his 12th goal of the season, tied for sixth among rookies . . . Sabres forward Drew Stafford recorded the team’s lone goal and now has 5-2—7 in his past six games. He also extended his home point streak to six games (6-2—8) . . . Stars forward Tyler Seguin collected an assist to stretch his assist/point streak to seven games (3-8—11) . . . Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin posted 1-1—2 to push his point streak to four games (3-3—6) . . . Sharks forward James Sheppard played in his 300th NHL game . . . ICYMI: Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller received a Team USA jersey from a young fan during a pregame ceremony for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

Ryan Miller - little girl


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