UNIONDALE, NY - FEBRUARY 12: Tyson Strachan #23 of the Florida Panthers skates with the puck against the New York Islanders during their game on February 12, 2012 at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
The Southeast Division is starting to look less embarrassing, as the Panthers have ripped off three straight wins. In other action, Anaheim and Pittsburgh recorded wins.
With their victory over the New York Islanders on Sunday night, the Florida Panthers have extended their winning stream to three games. If they keep this up, the Southeast Division champion might end up being worthy of that No. 3 playoff seed that they are ultimately going to receive. Elsewhere, the Pittsburgh Penguins put another dent in the playoff hopes of the Tampa Bay Lightning, while the Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Ducks are both still bothering to play their games, apparently.
Florida Panthers 4, New York Islanders 1
The Isles actually out-shot the Panthers in this game, 27-19. Florida scored all four of their goals on Rick DiPie-just kidding. It was Evgeni Nabokov in net. He didn't have a very good game and was pulled at the end of the second period. The Panthers only tested Al Montoya with four (!) shots in the third period. What say you, Litter Box Cats?
With the Capitals losing earlier to the Rangers, Florida's hard work is showing off with a now four point lead in the division entering in a homestand that will put them in their own beds for nearly a week and a half. Again I must revisit the loss to Washington and remind everyone that the season could have ended there, but with three impressive wins in the games since perhaps the tables have turned for the Panthers.
Anaheim Ducks 5, Columbus Blue Jackets 3
In a bid to tick off the fans of all of the teams who could potentially trade for Bobby Ryan, the Ducks decided to play very well in an Anahem win on Sunday. They're nine points out of a playoff spot and probably won't make up that gap, but if they beat the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday, they might start getting some ideas. Corey Perry netted a hat trick, while Ryan picked up two points. Unfortunately, the third period reminded everyone that they're still not that good.
The third period looked way too much like the old Randy Carlyle Ducks. With a four-goal lead heading into the third, they simply stopped attacking. They were content to just move the puck out of their zone and into the defensive zone, rather than aggressively carrying the play. While they did manage to outshoot the Blue Jackets 8-7 in the third, it was apparent that the Ducks were holding on for dear life rather than pressing their advantage.
Pittsburgh Penguins 4, Tampa Bay Lightning 2
It's not like Tampa's league-worst defense is a good measuring stick for anyone's skills, but Evgeni Malkin helped his Hart Memorial Trophy campaign even further with two goals on Sunday. Kris Letang was the first star on the night, however, netting a goal and adding two assists. Pittsburgh are now a comfortable eight points ahead of the ninth-placed Washington Capitals, while the Lightning are eight points out of the final playoff spot.
Pittsburgh rested Marc-Andre Fleury and started backup Brent Johnson, who has had a rough year. After a shaky first period in which Steve Downie scored twice, Johnson and the defense in front of him played better in the final two periods.