NHL Morning Skate – Jan. 11, 2014

NEW YORK – Six games set up Friday night’s schedule for the NHL and there were a number of exciting outcomes and a few surprises as well. In Edmonton, the Oilers edged the visiting Penguins 4-3 in overtime.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scores game-winner for Oilers over Pens – image courtesy of NHL

The hero for the Oilers was Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who scored in OT to complete an improbable comeback for the Oilers.

“That shows a lot of character for us, and just to show we can play this way, it was a big game for us,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “We tried to limit him [Crosby] as much as possible, but he’s the kind of guy that is going to create stuff offensively.

“We knew we had played well going into the third period, so there was no real deflation. When we get into trouble we kind of deflate and don’t bring that same effort and I thought we did a good job of not getting too down on ourselves and we pushed back and we did a great job of sticking with it.”

Nugent-Hopkins had two goals and an assist on the night.

The Pens had built leads of 2-0 and 3-2 but the Oilers were not to be denied.

“With our history this year, some nights we haven’t wanted to stick with the game plan and just breathe,” Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. “[Friday] we did that, we took a breath and understood what we needed to do and we stuck with it. It’s good when you get rewarded that way, because it backs up what we’re trying to promote. Beating a team like Pittsburgh puts a little jump into our step.”

Anton Belov scored at 18:01 of the third to force overtime.

“We had a 2-0 lead and they got back in it,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “We get a power-play goal and then they were able to tie the game. We didn’t match their desperation at the end. A big part of the game was the penalties we took. We took a penalty on the power play two times and we took a penalty behind their net in the offensive zone at the end of the third that turns into the game-winning goal. We had three penalties that were undisciplined.”

In Vancouver, the Canucks ended the Blues’ seven-game winning streak with a strong 2-1 win over St Louis.

“It stops the bleeding for a day or two,” Vancouver coach John Tortorella said. “I thought after a really tentative first period we started playing better. You can see we’re fighting some confidence. Hopefully this will help us.”

The Canucks had been 0-2-3 over their last five.

“We had all our chances in the first period, when it looked like they still had the debris left over from the previous game and if we would have taken advantage of that it would have been a different game,” St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. “On the road you have to put teams away and we left the game out there.”

Mike Santorelli got the game-winner in the third to give the Canucks the much needed win and two points.

“I wasn’t good enough early on,” Santorelli said. “Too many turnovers, so it was deserving. It doesn’t matter who scores. It was good to get the two points and hopefully get things on the right track here.”

The third game of interest on Friday night was the Dallas Stars’ visit to Madison Square Garden and the New York Rangers. This space has been critical of the Rangers’ effort all season but their 7-2-1 record over their last ten games suggests there is a turn around on Broadway. On Friday, the Rangers used an acrobatic goal from Rick Nash with less than two minutes to play in regulation to edge the Stars, 3-2.

“I think it was 70 percent luck and 30 percent skill. The puck rolled up and went a little bit higher than I anticipated. Luckily enough it went in,” Nash said of the game-winner. “We started going to the inside and crashing the net and getting pucks to the net. It ended up being the difference.”

The win was critical to the club’s development as a team and a contender in the Metropolitan Division. After stunning the disinterested Blackhawks on Wednesday night the Rangers needed the win Friday to solidify that victory and move up the division ladder.

“That’s what we talked about before the game. Going into a building like Chicago and getting two points is huge,” Nash said. “It doesn’t mean much if you don’t get the win tonight. Tonight kind of puts the exclamation point on that win.”

Derick Brassard had a power play goal in the second period that tied the game at two apiece. It was New York’s 13th power play goal in the last 12 games. The goal came off a brilliant pass from Mats Zuccarello.

“I just gave him my blade and he put it right on my tape,” Brassard said of Zuccarello. “We have a couple of [set] plays on the power play. I’m just happy we executed.”

FRIDAY’S RESULTS
NY Rangers 3, Dallas 2
Washington 3, Toronto 2
Columbus 3, Carolina 0
NY Islanders 2, Colorado 1 (OT)
Edmonton 4, Pittsburgh 3 (OT)
Vancouver 2, St. Louis 1
 
DOWN TO THE WIRE
Five of Friday’s six games saw the game-winning goal scored in the third period or later, with two decided in overtime and another in the final two minutes of regulation:
 
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Anton Belov scored the tying goal with 1:59 left in regulation – the first of his NHL career – and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2-1—3) potted the decisive marker 1:01 into overtime to help the Oilers overcome a pair of third-period deficits and pick up their second victory in their last three outings.
 
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Brock Nelson knotted the game early in the third period and Michael Grabner scored the decisive marker 1:46 into overtime to lead the Islanders to their sixth consecutive road victory, their longest such streak since Oct. 5-26, 2001 (6-0-0). The Islanders also improved to 6-1-0 in their last seven games overall, including three straight wins.
 
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Rick Nash scored the tiebreaking goal with 1:58 remaining in the third period to help the Rangers overcome a pair of one-goal deficits and improve to 3-0-1 in their last four contests. The goal marked the 50th game-winner of Nash’s career, which ranks 20th among active players.
 
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Nicklas Backstrom potted the tying goal early in the third period and Joel Ward chipped in the game-winner with 8:09 remaining in regulation to power the Capitals to their second victory in as many nights. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Washington leads the NHL with nine wins when trailing in the third period this season.
 
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Mike Santorelli scored the decisive goal early in the third period to snap the Canucks’ five-game losing streak (0-2-3) and the Blues’ seven-game winning streak. Three of Santorelli’s 10 goals this season have been game-winners, surpassing his career total prior to 2013-14 (2 GWGs in 208 GP).
 
BOBROVSKY SHUTS THE DOOR
Sergei Bobrovsky made 36 saves to post his sixth career shutout and second of the season in leading the Blue Jackets to their third win in their past four outings. Bobrovsky improved to 4-0-0 with a 1.31 goals-against average and .960 save percentage in his last four starts dating to Nov. 29.
 
LOOSE PUCKS
Capitals captain
Alex Ovechkin scored his League-leading 32nd goal of the season and added an assist for his 12th multi-point game of 2013-14. He has 27-22—49 in 32 career games versus the Maple Leafs . . . Penguins captain Sidney Crosby posted 1-1—2 to extend his point streak to seven games (5-8—13). Crosby paces the NHL with 25-42—67 in 46 contests this season . . . Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo scored his seventh goal of the season to stretch his point streak to five games (3-5—8) . . . Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth made 32 saves in his first start since Nov. 22 . . . Despite suffering the overtime loss, Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov (22 saves) is 7-0-5 in his past 12 decisions, his longest career streak without a regulation defeat . . . Canucks bench boss John Tortorella coached his 900th NHL game, becoming the 27th coach in League history – and sixth active – to reach that feat . . . The Avalanche completed their season-long, seven-game homestand with a 4-1-2 record . . . The Blues signed forward Ryan Reaves to a four-year, $4.5 million contract extension. The 26-year-old Winnipeg native has 2-3—5 and 65 penalty minutes in 27 games this season.
 
SNEAK PEEK AT SATURDAY’S ACTION
All Times Eastern
Tampa Bay @ Philadelphia, 1:00 p.m., NHLN-US, SUN, CSN-PH
Chicago @ Montreal, 7:00 p.m., NHLN-US, CBC, RDS, WGN
Florida @ New Jersey, 7:00 p.m., FS-F, MSG PLUS
Ottawa @ Nashville, 7:00 p.m., CBC
Columbus @ Winnipeg, 7:00 p.m., CBC, FS-O
Colorado @ Minnesota, 8:00 p.m., ALT, FS-N
Anaheim @ Phoenix, 8:00 p.m., PRIME, FS-A PLUS
Pittsburgh @ Calgary, 10:00 p.m., CBC, ROOT
Detroit @ Los Angeles, 10:30 p.m., FS-D, FS-W
Boston @ San Jose, 10:30 p.m., NESN, CSN-CA
 
RARE VISITS HIGHLIGHT HNIC GAMES
CBC airs four games as part of its “Hockey Night in Canada” telecast: the Blackhawks face the Canadiens in their first visit to Bell Centre since April 5, 2011; the Senators make their first trip to Bridgestone Arena since Dec. 23, 2010, when they take on the Predators; the Blue Jackets make their first-ever appearance in Winnipeg as they battle the Jets; and the Penguins meet the Flames in their first visit to Scotiabank Saddledome since Oct. 8, 2011.
 

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