Date: December 28, 2016

Sidney Crosby extends goal streak in Penguins win

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Center scores in fourth straight, Evgeni Malkin gets 800th NHL point against Devils

By Mike G. Morreale NHL.com

Sidney Crosby had a goal and two assists to help the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 5-2 win against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Tuesday.

Evgeni Malkin, Carl Hagelin, Bryan Rust and Justin Schultz scored, and Marc-Andre Fleury made 21 saves for Pittsburgh in his second straight win against New Jersey in five days. Fleury made 23 saves in a 4-1 win at PPG Paints Arena on Friday.

The goal was Malkin’s 800th NHL point. Crosby has scored in four straight games and extended his point streak to five.

Overshadowed by win streak, Wild have only lost once by more than 1 goal

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With yet another victory Tuesday night, the Minnesota Wild pushed their current winning streak to 11 games.

The Wild edged the Nashville Predators 3-2, putting them within a point of the Chicago Blackhawks for top spot in the Western Conference with three games in hand.

Despite the recent streak, the team has been rolling along all season which has new head coach Bruce Boudreau grinning from ear to ear, thanks in large part to one incredible stat.

“There has been one game that we’ve lost by more than one goal. it’s not hard to be proud of them,” Boudreau said, according to Michael Russo of the Star Tribune.

That’s right.

Only in the team’s 6-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Oct. 23 have the Wild lost by more than a single goal all season. Such a stat sees the team with the second-best goal differential at plus-37.

As fate would have it, the Wild’s next test will come against those very Islanders on Thursday before they host the Columbus Blue Jackets as the league’s two hottest club face off.

Tortorella on Blue Jackets’ 13th straight win: ‘It was a slop fest’

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It wasn’t pretty, but the Columbus Blue Jackets extended their winning streak to 13 games Tuesday thanks to a 4-3 victory over the Boston Bruins.

The Blue Jackets continue to build on their franchise record and become just the ninth team in NHL history to record a winning streak of at least a baker’s dozen.

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All that aside, head coach John Tortorella was less than thrilled with his team – who coughed up a three-goal lead in its first game since the Holiday break.

“I don’t think either team was really that great, we’ll take it and put it in the bank,” Tortorella said postgame. “It was a slop fest. I lit a match to the tape already, it’s done it’s burnt. Seriously we don’t even look at it.”

The Blue Jackets were outshot 40-22 by the Bruins but were able to convert on one of their three power plays and kill off all three penalties they took in the game, which Tortorella feels was the difference.

“Special teams wins the game for us, we do squat 5-on-5,” Tortorella said.

Despite the poor play, the win sees the Blue Jackets share the sixth-longest winning streak in NHL history, but while it would be easy to get overzealous of such a stat, it does little for Tortorella.

“I don’t think about it, you guys (the media) do,” said Tortorella. “I’m not sure if the players do, I don’t. As far as us preparing them we’re just trying to go about our business and get ready for each game.”

In the meantime, Tortorella can rest a little easier knowing his club remains atop the NHL standings with 52 points on the year.

Canada explodes in 2nd for 5-0 win

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By Andrew Podnieks IIHF.com

The winners got goals from five different players and points from a dozen skaters while Connor Ingram got the easiest shutout he’ll ever get, stopping just six harmless shots. Only when Russia limited Belarus to six shots on December 27, 2000, has a team had so few pucks on net in U20 history.

Playing in their first game of this year’s U20, the Slovaks might have been an equally physical team, but their inability to generate any offence cost them against what was an impressive Canadian attack. The final score flattered the Slovaks.

“This was our first game, and it was against the best team in the tournament,” said Slovak captain Erik Cernik, playing in his record-equalling fourth U20. “It was pretty hard. Canada plays offensively all the time, and that was too powerful for us tonight.”

“We’re a really fast team, and I think that wears other teams down,” noted Taylor Raddysh, one of the goalscorers. “We have to keep leading with our strengths.”

“Everyone knows the depth we have on this team,” added Michael McLeod, another scorer. “We have shut-down guys who have great scoring ability when they get the chance. This tournament is all about winning, and everyone buys in, even if they’re only playing two shifts a period.”

It wasn’t until 5:30 of the second period that the opening goal was posted on the scoreboard. It came courtesy of a nicely executed three-on-two rush. Tyson Jost carried the puck over the blue line, and as the defence closed in on him he dropped it back to Jeremy Lauzon, trailing on the play. Lauzon had a moment to take aim and ripped a shot over the shoulder of Adam Huska.

Less than six minutes later, Canada doubled its lead courtesy of a power play. This time it was a nice pass from behind the net by Pierre-Luc Dubois to Raddysh in front. Raddysh fired quickly over Huska’s glove, and the pro-Canadian crowd could breathe a sigh of relief.

Canada extended its lead to 3-0 at 12:37 off the draw. Lauzon’s point shot was tipped in front by Anthony Cirelli. By this point, Canada had as many goals in the game as the Slovaks had shots—three. Canada had 23 shots.

Canada got its second power-play marker of the period thanks to Thomas Chabot off a pass from Matt Barzal at 16:25, making the shots 30-3 in the process. 

Michael McLeod added a fifth Canada goal in the third.

Canada has a day off before playing Latvia on Thursday while the Slovaks get back at it tomororw against the United States.

“We have a lot of big guys, so we have to play hard in the defensive zone,” Cernik added. “We have to be better, be stronger on the puck. You can’t win with six shots, and you can’t win giving up five goals.”

Danes stun defending champs

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By Lucas Aykroyd IIHF.com

Denmark scored twice on three first-period shots and went on to edge defending champion Finland 3-2 in one of the biggest upsets in tournament history.

Tuesday’s result marks an historic moment for the Danish program. It is the first time they have beaten anyone at the World Juniors aside from two wins over Switzerland (4-3 in a shootout on 30 December 2014; 2-1 on 27 December 2015).

“It’s always a special feeling when you get a win against another country you’ve never had a win against,” said Danish assistant captain Christan Mieritz. “It’s a special team, the 1997-age. We have really good chemistry on the team. I guess that’s why we won today.”

Goalie Kasper Krog made 34 stops for the shocking victory. He might be Denmark’s shortest player at 175 cm, but the blue-masked 18-year-old from SonderjyskE Vojens stood tall in his World Junior debut, boosting his team’s hopes of making the quarter-finals for the third straight year.

“It’s incredible to get a win in my first World Junior game, but the most important thing is that we get the three points,” said Krog. “That’s what counts.”

William Boysen, David Madsen and Joachim Blichfeld scored for the opportunistic Danes, who took just 10 shots. Urho Vaakanainen and Kasper Bjorkqvist replied for Finland.

“We always should beat Denmark, or at least score more goals than two goals with those shots,” said Finnish captain Olli Juolevi. “I don’t know. There are no excuses.”

Finland, the defending champions, could be in trouble here after falling 2-1 to the Czechs on Michael Spacek’s late winner on Day One. Finnish goalie Veini Vehvilainen was yanked in favour of backup Karolus Kaarlehto after a shaky first period. Last year, the JYP Jyvaskyla product was also the starter, but was replaced by Kaapo Kahkonen during the playoff games en route to home-ice gold.

Still, it’s hard to blame your goaltending when your team produces just three goals in two games.

So far, the Finns look as snake-bitten offensively as they were in 2015, the last time Montreal hosted the World Juniors. Like this year, they came to the Bell Centre as the reigning World Junior gold medalists, but the Artturi Lehkonen-captained squad scored just five goals in four group games, and finished seventh.

“We don’t feel good, but the most important thing is for us just to believe in ourselves and keep going,” said Kaarlehto. “It’s just hockey.”

Only a handful of upsets compare to this one.

In 1998, newly promoted Kazakhstan beat Canada 6-3, but that was in the seventh-place game, when Canada, the ‘97 champion, had little to play for. That same year, Switzerland beat the Swedes 2-1 in the quarter-final and the Czechs 4-3 in the bronze medal game. Belarus beat the host U.S. 5-3 at the 2005 tournament and edged Finland 4-3 at the 2007 tournament. 2009 saw Slovakia trump the U.S. 5-3 in the quarter-final, and 2010 witnessed another quarter-final upset with Switzerland shocking Russia 4-3 in overtime.

The Danes were looking to bounce back after falling 6-1 to Sweden in their opener. And boy, did they ever. Special teams were key, as they killed off all six minors they took.

They also capitalized with their first man advantage. Nicolai Weichel’s centre point shot was bobbled by Vehvilainen, and Boysen backhanded in the loose puck at 5:20.

Subsequently, the Danes were almost completely hemmed in their own zone. But they were alert when the Finns turned the puck over in the neutral zone. Madsen took a pass from Morten Jensen and zapped one past Vehvilainen’s glove from the top of the left faceoff circle at 17:40.

In the last minute of the first period, Otto Koivula split the Danish defence on a breakaway, but Krog foiled his five-hole attempt. Denmark was up 2-0 after 20 minutes despite being outshot 14-3.

In the second period, the Finns kept firing away from every angle. Three minutes in, Krog stymied Julius Nattinen while sitting down in his crease under siege.

“Krog did an amazing job out there,” said Mieritz. “Incredible job. He kept us in the game. I take my hat off to him today.”

Denmark jumped into a 3-0 lead with 4:07 left in the middle frame. Jonas Rondbjerg centered the puck from the corner to Blichfeld, who was unchecked on the doorstep and knocked it in. It was Denmark’s second shot of the period.

“It’s unbelievably tough,” said Juolevi. “It’s not easy, especially when the other team is just putting the puck into the neutral zone and you have to try to run their wall. But we should have done that.

Finland struck back to make it 3-1 at 4:17 of the third. Vaakanainen’s high shot sailed through traffic and spoiled Krog’s shutout bid.

Guts and willpower kept the Danes going as the clock ticked down. Christian Mathiasen-Weisje blocked two shots during a Finnish man advantage with 10 minutes to go.

“For sure there were a lot of ice packs in the room,” said Danish captain Alexander True. “I think we need to bring some more shotblockers for the skates for the next game! But that’s what it takes to win games sometimes.”

The Finns made it exciting when Bjorkqvist scored on the rush at 15:30 to cut Denmark’s lead to 3-2. But the comeback attempt was destined to fail. The Danes mobbed Krog at the final buzzer.

One thing is for sure: without Jesse Puljujarvi, Sebastian Aho, and Patrik Laine, the Finns are nowhere near last year’s offensive juggernaut. They don’t even have the one-two punch of Teuvo Teravainen and Saku Maenalanen from the 2014 gold-medal team.

Denmark’s only previous World Junior meeting with Finland was a 10-1 loss on December 20, 2011 in Edmonton. The lopsided defeat came with five players suspended by then-head coach Todd Bjorkstrand for staging a mock press conference after a 10-2 loss to host Canada. Danish hockey has certainly come a long way since then.

Russia rebounds with win

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By Andrew PodnieksIIHF.com

Russia scored three unanswered goals in the first period en route to a big 9-1 win over Latvia. With the win it improves to 1-1 while Latvia falls to 0-2.

The Russians were right back at it less than 18 hours after leaving the ice last night, a 5-3 loss to Canada. They scored early to take all hope out of the Latvian chances and didn’t let up. 

“We got back to the hotel quickly last night, got some food and a good night’s sleep,” captain Kirill Kaprizov said. “We were well rested for today.”

“We scored three quick goals and after that controlled the game,” said Yakov Trenin of Russia. “Yesterday [against Canada] we were nervous. It was our first game, and there were 18,000 people, but tonight we were much better.”

Kaprizov led the way with a hat trick and two assists. Linemates Alexander Polunin (two goals, two assists) and Mikhail Vorobyov (four assists) added to the statistical onslaught which saw the trio record 13 scoring points.

“We felt more comfortable today, and once the goals started to come it was fun,” Kaprizov added. “Today, it all started to come together for our line. We had a bit of luck and were moving the puck well.”

Damil Yurtaikin opened the scoring when he drove hard down the left wing, outmuscled Rihards Puide, and made a nice deke on Gustavs Grigals at 5:33.

Latvia had a great chance midway through the period with a four-minute penalty to Polunin, but although they had some chances, they were shut out. When Polunin came out of the box, he broke up the middle and beat Grigals with a shot along the ice between the pads to make it 2-0.

Pavel Karnaukhov made it 3-0 at 17:39, giving Russia all the goals they’d need. Grigals couldn’t control Vadim Kudako’s point shot, and Karnaukhov was there to swat in the rebound.

Coach Eriks Miluns inserted backup goalie Denijs Romanovskis for the second period, and he was beaten on his first shot, a close-in one-timer by Kaprizov off a nice pass from Vorobyov.

Latvia’s Rudolfs Balcers finally converted on a power play at 3:42 when he made a nice toe drag and shot to the short side, beating Vladislav Sukhachyov to make it 4-1.

Just 39 seconds later, though, Russia restored its four-goal lead when Polunin got his second, and 43 seconds after that Kirill Belyayev scored from in front. That spelled the end for Romanovskis, and Grigals went back into the blue ice for Latvia.

The Russians added three more in the third–all on the power play–to add salt to the wound, Kaprizov with two as well as an assist on a Trenin goal.

Both teams now enjoy a day off before returning to action on Thursday. Russia will play the United States in a much-anticipated matinee while Latvia plays Canada in the evening.

Hischier plays hero

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By Lucas Aykroyd IIHF.com

Budding superstar Nico Hischier scored the overtime winner at 0:23 and added two assists as the Swiss topped the Czechs 4-3 in their opener on Tuesday.

Swiss assistant captain Damien Riat fed Hischier a breakaway pass and the 17-year-old sniper from the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads beat Czech goalie Jakub Skarek through the five-hole.

“It’s a great feeling to score in overtime,” said Hischier.

Riat also had a goal and two assists. Captain Calvin Thurkauf added a goal and a helper, and Loic In Albon also scored for Switzerland. Goalie Joren van Pottelberghe shone with 36 saves.

“It’s always nice to win, especially the first game of the tournament,” said van Pottelberghe, who plays for Davos in the Swiss NLA. “It gives you a good feeling to progress in the rest of the games.”

The last time Switzerland won a preliminary-round game was two years ago on this date in Toronto, and it was a 5-2 win over the Czechs. Switzerland, under new head coach Christian Wohlwend, is looking to improve on back-to-back ninth-place finishes at the last two World Juniors.

“This year, we had a super pre-season, and we had two great games against Canada and the USA,” said Wohlwend. “This is why I expect way more from our team 5-on-5. This was the first game and our players were a bit nervous. But now, in the second game we have to step up.”

The Swiss face Sweden next on Wednesday, and the Czechs will battle Denmark on Thursday.

Filip Chlapik scored twice for the Czechs and Radek Koblizek added a single. Michael Spacek and Jakub Zboril each contributed two assists.

“I think we did a pretty good job, as our game yesterday started at 7 pm,” said Chlapik. “We have to learn how to play in the first periods. We have to play the same way all game. In the first two periods, we didn’t do what we wanted. We played good, but we didn’t go to the net. That’s what we wanted to do, go for the rebounds and score ugly goals.”

The Swiss showed resilience in pre-tournament play when they rallied from a 3-0 deficit against Canada before losing 4-3 in overtime. That quality was evident again in their Bell Centre debut, as they were outplayed early on, but found a way to succeed.

The Czechs, who last won World Junior gold in 2001, are usually among the tournament’s most mercurial squads. And after edging defending champion Finland 2-1 in their opener, they couldn’t down a lesser opponent despite outshooting Switzerland 39-22 — even though they came back after trailing 3-1.

In a fast-paced, scoreless first period, it was a rough welcome back to the World Juniors for Riat. He collided heavily with Zboril, a big Czech defenceman, in open ice, and later took a puck in the face. Shots, meanwhile, favored the Czechs 9-3 through 20 minutes.

“Luckily we had Joren [van Pottelberghe], so it stayed 0-0 after the first period and then in the dressing room we said we have to change it up and we did,” said Hischier. “We showed what we can do.”

The Czechs couldn’t neutralize Hischier. In the 2017 NHL Draft, he could supplant Nino Nieddereiter (chosen fifth overall by the New York Islanders in 2010) as the highest-drafted Swiss ever. In this game, he exceeded his entire output at last year’s tournament in Helsinki (two assists in six games).

Halfway through the second period, Hischier deftly centred the puck from the side boards to In Albon at the hash marks. In Albon, a 19-year-old World Junior rookie who plays for Lausanne, squeezed a quick wrister through Skarek.

The Czechs ran into penalty trouble, taking three straight minors, and the Swiss made them pay with the man advantage. With 3:57 left in the middle frame, Riat took a pass from Hischier and unleashed a shot from the slot, forcing Skarek to make a left pad save. Thurkauf banged in the rebound for a 2-0 lead.

At 5:02 of the third, the Czechs got some life when Koblizek scored to make it 2-1, taking a pass from Zboril on the rush and zipping one over van Potteberghe’s glove. 

But Zboril was sent off for cross-checking Yannick Zehnder from behind into the boards, and the Swiss quickly capitalized. Riat stretched the lead to 3-1 at 8:34 when he zipped a high shot from the middle past Skarek, with Thurkauf screening in front.

“Our special teams were good, especially the power play,” said Wohlwend.

The Czechs made it 3-2 just over two minutes later with a power play goal of their own. From the top of the right faceoff circle, Chlapik sent a zinger past van Pottelberghe.

Hischier was nearly the goat, as he was in the penalty box for high-sticking when the Czechs tied it up with 17 seconds left and their goalie pulled. Spacek, who scored the winner versus Finland, sent it to Chlapik and he cashed in from the faceoff circle.

“I think we played a really good third period,” said Chlapik. But it wasn’t enough.

This was the third Swiss victory over the Czech Republic in World Junior history. The first one came in the 1998 bronze medal game (4-3 in a shootout) in Helsinki.

Day Two Recap of the Spengler Cup

By spenglercup.ch

Jarusek shoots Mountfield to victory

It was a successful Spengler Cup debut for HK Mountfield. The team from the Czech city of Hradec Kralove won in its first ever appearance in Davos 4-3 on Tuesday afternoon.

The celebrated match winner for Mountfield was Richard Jarusek. The 1.89 metre tall, 98 kilo forward scored the game-winning goal on the power play 245 seconds before the end of regulation. The 25-year-old had already tied the game at 1-1 on the man advantage. Dmitry Monya put Yekaterinburg ahead after 31 seconds – the fastest goal so far at the 90th edition of the Spengler Cup. Then Mountfield dominated the opening period – in part due to four minors against the Russians. However, only in the 24th minute did Roman Kukumberg give the Czechs a 2-1 lead. In this even game, Anatoly Golyshev (38.) and Michal Caykovsky (40.) temporarily turned the score in favour of Yekaterinburg shortly before the end of the middle period. Kukumberg (53.) tied it up at 3-3 with his second goal, igniting an exciting final stage of the game, in which Jarusek, the second Czech two-goal scorer, completed the final score.

The deciding game in Group Torriani between HC Lugano and Mountfield will take place on Wednesday afternoon. The winner will take the group and secure a direct semifinal berth.

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Team Canada wins thanks to special teams

Team Canada won the Spengler Cup classic against HC Davos 4-3 on Tuesday night. The Canadians scored twice on the power play and once short-handed.

HCD and Team Canada offered the sell-out crowd of 6300 at Vaillant Arena – amongst them Guy Parmelin, the Swiss Minister of Sport – a fast-paced, exciting offensive display. Better efficiency on the finish and two – from Davos’ point of view – unlucky situations leading to goals made the difference. The Canadians took a 2-1 lead short-handed (!) after a failed line change by the home team. Cory Emmerton took advantage of the breakaway. The team from overseas then took the lead again when Jacob Micflickier netted the 3-2 on the power play, after HCD defensemen Forster received a minor for lifting the puck over the glass in his own defensive zone. The visitors also showed their efficiency on the power play when Andrew Ebbett left the keeper no chance on a redirected shot by Chay Genoway. Per Ledin, on loan from Lausanne, scored the 1-0 and 4-3 for Davos. HCD defenseman Daniel Rahimi had temporarily tied the game at 2-2 with a long-range shot.

Despite the 4-3 victory, the Canadians cannot win the group due to their lopsided 7-4 loss versus Dynamo Minsk the night before. HC Davos and Dynamo Minsk will face off with first place on the line on Wednesday night.

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