The return of Semyon Varlamov probably did not go as anticipated. Varlamov would only stop 30 of 34 shots en route to his first loss of the season.
When his team, the Washington Capitals, squared off to face the Boston Bruins for the second time in three nights, everyone expected to see Tuukka Rask. Instead, the young Finnish netminder duped the media and us as the B’s cruised to their fourth consecutive victory behind Tim Thomas.
Once again the team received balanced scoring from their lines with only alternate captain Patrice Bergeron putting up a multi-point game. Their top line with Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic connected for a goal while Jordan Caron scored his second NHL goal. Horton now holds the team lead in goals with four.
In Toronto, the Maple Leafs did not contain the New York Rangers in the first period and paid the price for it, losing 2-1. Their offensive onslaught was tempered by backup Martin Biron but their lack of pressure probably helped him out more than it should have. Colby Armstrong scored the lone goal for the Leafs as Artem Anisimov and Ruslan Fedotenko scored for the Rangers.
Is it time for the Flyers to stop believing in Bob?
For the second straight game the team handed him a start and he took the loss. This time he played against an inconsistent Anaheim Ducks team and allowed three goals on 22 shots, earning him the loss. Ducks backup Curtis McElhinney was spectacular by comparison by turning away 40 shots and taking the win. Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf also combuined for multi-point games playing with new linemate Matt Beleskey. The team tried this in the pre-season and opted to go back to it when facing a strong Flyers team that has three full scoring lines.
Martin Brodeur had career shutout number 112 as the New Jersey Devils cruised to a 3-0 victory. Facing what is supposed to be a strong Montreal Canadiens team, the hometown boy looked simply vintage. Matt Taormina, Zach Parise and Jason Arnott all scored for the Devils as their offense starts to wake up.
Tomas Vokoun and the Florida Panthers could not record their third straight shutout and eventually lost to the Dallas Stars. Unlike the Leafs, the Stars bounced back from their first loss of the year by scoring four goals on a top-notch starting goalie. Sophomore Jamie Benn returned from a concussion to post two assists, James Neal scored his fourth of the season and Steve Ott and Tom Wandell each put up their first of the year.
Kari Lehtonen continues to lead the League in wins and deserves some credit. Whether the game is low scoring or high scoring he has managed to keep his team in every game. Their goal differential of 22-16 makes sense when you consider them winning games, like against New Jersey, that they had no place coming back from. Not to mention their only loss came by one goal after being down by three earlier in the period.
Johan Franzen returned to action last night and scored the game winning goal against Miikka Kiprusoff. With the Flames trying to save the easier matchup of their back-to-back contests for Henrik Karlsson, Kipper faced 30 shots and only kept 26 out of the net. The streaking second line of Franzen, Valtteri Filppula and Todd Bertuzzi combined for the third and fourth goals and the top line/powerplay unit accounted for the rest of the scoring.
Rookie Mikael Backlund put across his first two goals of the season but otherwise Jimmy Howard looked good enough for the well-deserved win turning aside 34 of 36. Howard only has one loss on the season, an overtime loss no less, and holds a 1.69 GAA to go along with a .942 SV%.
The Pittsburgh Penguins offense was too much for Pekka Rinne or the Nashville Predators. Despite fending off 34 shots, the Preds eventually lost to an overtime Kris Letang goal. Letang, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin combined for an impressive eight points and showed that their offense can beat a good system/defense. As usual the Preds put up a more balanced offense with only Martin Erat putting together more than a point.
Antti Niemi did not start last night, conceding the start to Antero Niittymaki. The result was giving up less than four goals and scoring more than two as the San Jose Sharks defeated the Colorado Avalanche 4-2. A scrappy goal by fourth liner Scott Nichol got the team on the board but two powerplay goals by Joe Pavelski — which were both assisted by Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau — propelled them to a victory. It was only a matter of time before the Sharks showed they were a powerhouse.
Moving on to the final portion of our segment, we take a look at history.
The history rarely is a good indicator of future performance. However, for two Western Conference goalies, past history was a perfect indicator. Niklas Backstrom improved to 16-2-0 against the Edmonton Oilers while Ilya Bryzgalov went to 12-4-0 against the Los Angeles Kings. Both netminders looked far from a sure bet when considering the drastic changes in Edmonton and surging offense of the young Kings, however they both got the job done.
Without both Shane Doan and Martin Hanzal, winger Lee Stempniak showed some of that scoring magic from last year. Stempniak potted his first three goals of the year in just under 16 minutes of playing time which helped offset two goals by Wayne Simmonds. Even though the team barely has a household name, they continue to win with Bryzgalov and head coach Dave Tippett.
That is all for now, be sure to check out our Daily Deke series which will preview all of tonight’s games.