NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 19, 2018

by | Mar 19, 2018 | News, NHL

Game recaps, scoring race updates plus the latest on Vladimir Tarasenko, Ben Bishop and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning (102 points) defeated the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 to become the first Eastern Conference club to clinch a berth in the 2018 playoffs and the second team overall to do so. Nikita Kucherov (93 points) scored twice to open a five-point lead over Pittsburgh’s Evgeny Malkin, Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid in the scoring race.

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon is playing himself into this season’s Hart Trophy conversation (Photo via NHL Images).

Speaking of MacKinnon, his two-goal, three-point effort powered the Colorado Avalanche to a 5-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings, handing the latter their 10th straight defeat. With 86 points, the Avs opened a two-point lead over the Los Angeles Kings for the first wild-card berth in the Western Conference. They’re also just three back of the Minnesota Wild for third place in the Central Division.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite missing eight games to an upper-body injury this season, MacKinnon ranks among the top-five scorers. He’s also leading the Avalanche into postseason contention, putting him into the Hart Trophy conversation. 

A 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets knocked the slumping Dallas Stars (84 points) out of a Western Conference wild-card spot. Jets winger Patrik Laine scored two goals to tie Washington’s Alex Ovechkin in the goal-scoring race with 43. Both clubs lost key players during this game. Stars goaltender Ben Bishop came out of the game in the first period with a lower-body injury, while Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba left the game in the third period with a possible concussion following a thunderous collision with Stars captain Jamie Benn

Ovechkin, meanwhile, scored his 43 goal of the season but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Washington Capitals from falling 6-3 to the Philadelphia Flyers. Wayne Simmonds scored twice for the Flyers, who sit four points behind the Capitals for top spot in the Metropolitan Division.

The Calgary Flames’ playoff hopes suffered another blow as they were blanked by the Vegas Golden Knights 4-0. Marc-Andre Fleury made 42 saves for his fourth shutout of the season while William Karlsson tallied a natural hat trick and sits one shy of the 40-goal mark. The Flames (80 points) remain four points out of a wild-card spot with nine games left in the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flames are winners of only three of their last 10 games. Barring a strong surge over the remainder of the schedule, they risk missing the playoffs for the seventh time in the last nine seasons. 

Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell each had a goal and an assist to give the Anaheim Ducks a 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils. The Ducks (86 points) moved two ahead of the Los Angeles Kings into third in the Pacific Division.

The St. Louis Blues (83 points) moved within a point of the final wild-card spot in the West with a 5-4 overtime victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Patrik Berglund potted the winner in the extra frame. Blackhawks rookie Alex DeBrincat tallied a hat trick. The Blues were playing without superstar winger Vladimir Tarasenko for the first time since 2015, as he was a late scratch with an upper-body injury suffered during Saturday’s game against the New York Rangers. Tarasenko was listed as day-to-day.

The Carolina Hurricanes kept their fading playoff hopes alive with a 4-3 win over the floundering New York Islanders. With 73 points, the Hurricanes are nine points out of playoff contention with 10 games left. Anders Lee scored twice for the Isles, who sit 12 points out of a wild-card spot.

ARIZONA SPORTS: Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet will miss tonight’s game against Calgary as he’s attending his mother’s funeral. Norma Tocchet passed away last Wednesday at age 93 after battling brain cancer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Tocchet and his family. 

SPORTSNET: NHL general managers hope to reach some consensus on goaltender interference during this week’s meetings in Boca Raton, Florida.