Several games on the NHL ice Friday had major significance for teams looking to solidify or gain a playoff spot.
In Columbus, Chicago’s Ben Smith backhanded the puck past Sergei Bobrovsky at 19:56 to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 win over the suddenly struggling Blue Jackets.
“Very timely but we had a lot of people at the net tonight and we got rewarded,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “We created a lot of action off the point shots.”
An errant clearing by the Jackets was whistled down and the ensuing face off went to Chicago. Duncan Keith put the puck on net where Smith found a rebound for the winner.
“Our D made a nice play board-to-board; Seabrook to Duncs,” Smith said. “That first shot almost went in,” Smith said. “I think [Bobrovsky] didn’t see it. Then there was a mad scramble with [Chicago forward Peter] Regin going to the net and somehow it found its way in.”
The Blackhawks have now won two straight and their coach sees the system as making a difference.
“You play the right way, you give yourself a chance,” Quenneville said. “Keeping it simple is something we stress a lot.”
The loss was a blow to the Blue Jackets’ search for a playoff spot. They still hold down a wild card spot but they have higher aspirations.http://
“I told the players it’s a hard loss but we have to move past it,” Columbus coach Todd Richards said. “We have to. This group has been pretty resilient all year.”
In Newark, the Devils were short-benched with players going down to injury as the game progressed.
Alex Ovechkin scored his 49th of the year in the first to stake the Washington Capitals to a 1-0 lead but they were unable to hold the advantage.
“We had a good start,” Ovechkin said. “We had good chances to get the lead for more than one goal, but [Schneider] played great and we missed good opportunities. I don’t think we played a bad game, we just didn’t score on great opportunities. They did.”
The Devils stayed with their own system and bottled up the Caps offence the rest of the way.
“The guys dug deep; it was a real battle with the players going down and guys finishing the game,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said after his 100th victory with New Jersey, tying him with Doug Carpenter for second in franchise history. “They really emptied the tank; gave us everything they had.”
Patrik Elias was injured early while Adam Henrique skated early in the second period but failed to finish the frame and Jacob Josefson skated on only two shifts in the third.
“I think we all knew the importance of the game; it was more fatigue and recovery and just trying to get fresh bodies on the ice,” DeBoer said. “Look at minutes that [Jaromir] Jagr and Travis Zajac logged. Those were hard minutes against a desperate team on the other side.”
Ryan Carter scored the winner with 5:41 left in regulation.
“In the third there was just a lot of heavy breathing and listening because we’re playing different positions,” Carter said. “We had three centers go down, so guys were playing positions that were a little foreign to them. There was a high level of focus on the bench.”
Despite the short bench and injuries the Devils still have a chance.http://
“That was a huge for us; it’s unfortunate it didn’t come in game 40,” Carter said. “That’ll go down as a character win with eight forwards. We didn’t have the first period start we wanted but to gather ourselves and come out and have a good second and third was huge.”
In Detroit, the Red Wings ramped up their game against the visiting Sabres and skated off with a 3-2 win to strengthen their hold on the eastern wild card spot.
“I thought we came out and really played well,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “But like most games in the NHL, it’s a one-goal game. Our guys did tons of good things. In reality, we had a lot of opportunities to score but didn’t finish on a lot of our chances.”
Detroit got all the offense it needed in the first period when they scored three times. The Sabres tried to make a game of it with goals in the second and third period but the Wings had the match well in hand despite their coach’s comments to contrary.
“I thought in the second period our intensity fell off and kind of got them going,” Babcock said. “I thought we started real good. We were all over them. Suddenly we had some skill and we had cute-itis going and we didn’t want to shoot it in the net. We wanted to pass it one more time, and the next thing you know it’s game on.”
The Wings Daniel Alfredsson put to cautious play rather than a letdown.
“We got a little cautious down the stretch, but overall I thought we handled it pretty well,” Alfredsson said.http://
Either way, the Red Wings are playing good hockey at the right time of year.
Ottawa 4 Montreal 7
Columbus 3 Chicago 4
New Jersey 2 Washington 1
Detroit 3 Buffalo 2
Florida 1 Calgary 2
Phoenix 2 Edmonton 3 SO
Anaheim 2 Nashville 5