Panthers claw out a victory

Michael Finewax

The NHL heads into the All-Star week with only nine games scheduled this week including two on Monday with one being an afternoon contest on Martin Luther King Day.

The three stars were announced and the first star was Alex Ovechkin who had eight goals and 10 points in three games, including a pair of hat tricks. It was a stellar week for Ovie as he entered the week tied with Teemu Selanne for 12th place in the all-time goal scoring list and passed Mario Lemieux as well, and is now tied for ninth with Steve Yzerman at 692 goals. Next on the list is Mark Messier who has 694 goals.

I always thought that no one would ever approach Wayne Gretzky’s mark of 894 goals but I am beginning to think that Ovechkin has a chance. Most players, even the great ones, slow down as they near age 35 (I thought that Alex Rodriguez would easily pass Barry Bonds home run record but he suddenly got old and stopped) but Ovechkin is showing no signs of slowing down, in fact he seems to be getting better with age, and is only 203 goals away from breaking the Great One’s record for goals.

The second star was Elvis Merzlikins of the Columbus Blue Jackets who was a perfect 3-0 this week, including two shutouts. He gave up only two goals on 109 shots and became only the seventh rookie goaltender in the modern era (1943-44 was the start when the NHL went to six teams following the folding of the Brooklyn Americans) to get three shutouts in four games.

The third star was Jonathan Toews who picked up three goals and nine points in four games including a two goal, two assist outing against Toronto to give him 16 points in nine January games.

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COLORADO 6 DETROIT 3

Nazem Kadri scored twice and added an assist as the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Detroit Red Wings 6-3.

It was a 2-1 game for Colorado heading into the third period before an explosion of six goals.

Tyler Bertuzzi opened the scoring (he always gets booed in Denver because of his Uncle Todd’s hit on Steve Moore in 2004) but Kadri on the power play, and Nathan MacKinnon with his first of two goals, gave Colorado that 2-1 lead after 40 minutes.

Kadri with his second of the game, and Matt Nieto, made it 4-1 for the home side but Dylan Larkin cut the lead to two before Ryan Graves potted his eighth of the season to make it 5-2.

Givani Smith with his second of the year made it 5-3 before MacKinnon’s empty netter, his 30th of the campaign, completed the scoring.

Larkin had a couple of assists to go with his goal for Detroit, while Mikko Rantanen, Andre Burakovsky, Nikita Zadorov and Cale Makar each had two helpers for Colorado.

The two points by Makar tied a franchise record for points by a rookie defenseman as he has 37 points, the same as Bruce Bell for the Quebec Nordiques in the 1984-85 season.

Pavel Francouz made 27 saves for the win as he is 12-4-2 with a 2.45 GAA and a .924 save percentage. There is plenty of fantasy value in Francouz.

Jimmy Howard took the loss as expected, although he did make 40 saves on 45 shots. The veteran netminder is 2-18-2 with a 4.11 GAA and a .883 save percentage. He has no fantasy value.

Bertuzzi, Patrik Nemeth and Matt Calvert each had four penalty minutes.

It was not a good night for Alex Biega who was a minus-four while Detroit teammate Nemeth was a plus-three.

In addition to his goal, Graves had an assist and was a plus-two, giving him eight goals, 19 points and a plus-34 rating, the best in the NHL.

Mike Green suffered an upper-body injury in the second period and did not return while Frans Nielsen suffered an upper-body injury in the third and did not return.

FLORIDA 5 MINNESOTA 4

Noel Acciari’s goal with six seconds left in the third, was the winner as the Florida Panthers upended the Minnesota Wild 5-4.

It was Acciari’s 18th goal of the season and it was quite the goal as he deflected a shot from Mark Pysyk that was deflected first by Aaron Ekblad and then Acciari before going into the net past a surprised Alex Stalock.

Keith Yandle had a big night offensively with a goal and three assists as the Panthers blueliner is up to five goals and 34 assists.

Aleksander Barkov had a goal and an assist while Evgenii Dadonov and Vincent Trocheck also scored for the visiting Panthers.

Luke Kunin scored twice for Minnesota including a shorthanded effort with Jared Spurgeon scored once and added an assist.

Zach Parise scored on the power play. It was his fourth power play goal in the last week.

Sergei Bobrovsky picked up the start and gave up four goals on 33 shots. Nevertheless, he got the win to go to 18-12-4 with a 3.25 GAA and a .897 save percentage. The win total is nice but his peripherals are mediocre, especially for fantasy owners.

Stalock turned aside 20-of-25 shots in taking the tough loss. He is 11-8-3 with a 2.83 GAA and a .907 save percentage.

Ryan Suter and Joel Eriksson Ek each had two assists.

Barkov had six shots on goal with Matt Dumba having five.

Despite the five-goal outburst, Jonathan Huberdeau saw his six-game points streak come to an end. He has 18 goals and 64 points in just 48 games.   

NIGHTLY LEADERS

Goals

Nathan MacKinnon – 2

Nazem Kadri - 2

Luke Kunin - 2

Assists

Keith Yandle – 3

Mikko Rantanen – 2

Cale Makar – 2

Dylan Larkin – 2

Andre Burakovsky – 2

Nikita Zadorov – 2

Ryan Suter – 2

Joel Eriksson Ek - 2

Shots on Goal

Nathan MacKinnon – 8

Aleksander Barkov – 6

Matt Dumba - 5

Tyson Jost - 5

Ryan Graves – 5

Hits

Justin Abdelkader – 5

Penalty Minutes

Matt Calvert – 4

Patrik Nemeth – 4

Tyler Bertuzzi - 4