Sometimes there are just more important things than goals, assists, saves and wins and/or fantasy hockey points. The National Hockey League had a very scary incident in Anaheim in the game between the Blues and Ducks, as veteran Jay Bouwmeester collapsed on the bench and needed immediate medical attention. He was taken by ambulance to a local-area hospital and the game was postponed, tied 1-1 midway through the first period.
Like last season in Major League Baseball when Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs passed away during the season, the recent helicopter crash involving Kobe Bryant, his daughter and others, we got a reminder, even in pro sports, how fragile life can be. The good news for Bouwmeester is that his father was part of the dad's road trip, and was there to accompany his son to the hospital, and hopefully everything turns out OK for the veteran rearguard. The Anaheim Ducks medical trainers and team physicians are being credited with their super speedy response time, and there are reports a defibrillator was used. We saw Dallas Stars forward Rich Peverley collapse on the bench during a game in 2014, and a defib was used in 2005 when Detroit Red Wings forward Jiri Fischer also collapsed on the bench. Let's get started!
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Buffalo Sabres 3, Detroit Red Wings 2
The Red Wings upset the Sabres last week at KeyBank Center. In this one, the Sabres returned the favor.
Anthony Mantha returned from a mid-body injury to produce two assists, so if you were worried about him it appears safe to plug him back in the lineup. Darren Helm scored the team's only goals, and they held a 2-1 lead midway through the second period.
Marcus Johansson and Sam Reinhart provided the heroics late in the second and early in the third period to provide the home team to a win. Carter Hutton outdueled Jonathan Bernier in the crease, picking up his third win in the past four outings. It appears consistent playing time has been the key, as he has shouldered the load with Linus Ullmark sidelined due to injury.
Toronto Maple Leafs 3, Arizona Coyotes 2 (OT)
The Maple Leafs looked like they were sunk in overtime, but instant replay confirmed contact with Jack Campbell on what Arizona thought was the game-winning goal. At the other end, Kasperi Kapanen left no doubt with his winner.
We saw the Leafs dodge a major bullet in this one, as Mitch Marner and John Tavares each left the game with injuries. Tavares looked to hurt his hand after being struck by a puck, while Marner tweaked something in his lower body. Both were able to return, so disaster averted.
Zach Hyman potted two goals for the winning side, while Alexander Kerfoot assisted on his goals. Jack Campbell continues to hold down the fort with Frederik Andersen sidelined due to a neck injury. He has a flare for the dramatic, too, going to overtime in each of his past four starts dating back to his time in L.A.
Florida Panthers 5, New Jersey Devils 3
Sam Montembeault was tasked with the start in New Jersey and he allowed three goals on 28 shots to pick up the victory. He received plenty of offensive support, as Noel Acciari, Mike Matheson and Mark Pysyk each picked up a goal and two assists each. The two rearguards ended up with a solid plus-3rating, too, while each dishing out a hit.
New York Islanders 5, Philadelphia Flyers 3
Varlamov allowed three straight goals to All-Star Travis Konecny, Robert Hagg and Sean Couturier to tie the game at 3-3. The final goal came with 92 seconds remaining in regulation, and it appeared we were headed for overtime.
However, Ryan Pulock bailed out Varlamov with a goal at 19:19 of the third, and Leo Komarov put a bow on the scoring with an empty-net marker. Komarov posted a goal and an assist, giving him goals in consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 1-3, 2017. Josh Bailey had a goal and an assist, giving him a goal and five points in the past two nights.
Tampa Bay Lightning 2, Pittsburgh Penguins 1 (OT)
There were people wondering what was wrong with Andrei Vasilevskiy, as he was just 10-8-1 with a 3.01 GAA and .903 save percentage through Dec. 5. However, he is now 30-9-3 with a 2.44 GAA and .920 save percentage on the season, or 20-1-2 since that game against the Minnesota Wild in early December. Wow.
Nikita Kucherov left the game with a lower-body injury, but he was able to pick up an assist before departing, extending his point streak to 12 games. His streak is the longest active in the NHL, and he has tied the longest run of his career. He has posted 10 goals and 21 points during the impressive span.
The win was costly, as the Lightning also lost Anthony Cirelli to a lower-body ailment.
Minnesota Wild 4, Vegas Golden Knights 0
Kevin Fiala has been white-hot, posting a goal with three points to give him five goals and 10 points during his five-game point streak. He paired with linemates Zach Parise and Eric Staal to give that Minnesota cash line two goals, six points and a plus-3 rating.
New York Rangers 4, Winnipeg Jets 1
Jacob Trouba made his return to Winnipeg after leaving via free agency this past offseason. It wasn't quite Wayne Gretzky returning to Edmonton for the first time with L.A., but the MTS Centre crowd remembered him nonetheless. He went scoreless with a plus-1 rating, four shots on goal, three blocked shots, a minor penalty and three hits in his 22:24 of ice time across 29 shifts in his first game back in the 'Peg.
It was more than enough support for Igor Shesterkin, who earned the win in his first NHL road start. He improved to 5-1-0 in his six NHL starts. Shesterkin left the game briefly after a collision with Andrew Copp with about six minutes left in the first period. Henrik Lundqvist came on and made one save in his six minutes before Shesterkin resumed to start the second.
Dallas Stars 4, Carolina Hurricanes 1
There might be a goaltender controversy brewing in Raleigh. Petr Mrazek allowed three goals on 36 shots to take the loss in Dallas, slipping to 2-7-0 over his past nine starts, and 18-15-2 with a 2.74 GAA and .901 save percentage overall. Meanwhile, James Reimer has won four straight starts.
The only good thing for the Hurricanes was a goal by Sebastian Aho, as he scored for the sixth consecutive game to tie a franchise record. That ties runs by Jeff Skinner, Ray Sheppard and Keith Primeau. He'll look to continue the run Friday against the New Jersey Devils.
It was hat giveaway night at American Airlines Arena, and many fans gave their door gift back late in the third period. Jamie Benn had two goals, and he was looking for an empty-net goal late in the third. He was dumped while streaking to the empty net, and rewarded with the third goal, making the hats rain down.
Colorado Avalanche 3, Ottawa Senators 0
The Avalanche received a tremendous performance from Philipp Grubauer, as he stopped all 34 shots he faced to move to 18-11-4 with a 2.64 GAA and .915 save percentage. He is now 4-0-0 with a 0.69 GAA and .974 save percentage over his past four outings, although two wins are against the lowly Sens, and one against the struggling Sabres. We'll see what he's made of when he faces his former team, the Washington Capitals, next time out.
Nathan MacKinnon picked up two helpers and a plus-2 rating, as he now has two goal and six points during his five-game point streak. He'll look to make it six in a row against the Caps. MacKinnon had a goal and an assist in the first meeting in Washington back on Oct. 14.
Mikko Rantanen also had his 18th goal of the season, the game-winning tally. He has notched three goals and seven points over the past eight. He had a goal and three points in that mid-October win against the Caps, so he'll look to do it again Thursday night.
Edmonton Oilers 5, Chicago Blackhawks 3
No Connor McDavid, no problem for the Oilers, at least in this one. Leon Draisaitl posted a goal with four points in the win, more than picking up the slack, while Kailer Yamamoto added a pair of goals. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was also a fantasy stud with a goal and an assist, as the secondary and tertiary scorers stepped up to fill the void with McDavid out.
Mike Smith coughed up three goals on 41 shots to move to 8-0-2 across his past 10 starts, and he is now 15-9-4 with a 2.96 GAA and .902 save percentage overall. The Oilers have three games in four days starting Thursday in Tampa, and we'll learn quite a bit about this team on the trip.
Patrick Kane had two helpers and Brandon Saad had a goal and an assist to serve as the big-time fantasy studs for the Blackhawks. Saad ended up with a plus-1 rating, and he now has six goals and eight points in the past eight games since returning from a month-long absence due to an ankle injury.