Don't look now, but thanks to the awfulness that is the eighth spot on down in the NHL's Eastern Conference, the New York Islanders are only five points out of a playoff spot following their win on Sunday. Over in the West, the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche recorded wins to improve their playoff positioning.
New York Islanders 1-0 New Jersey Devils
Anders Nilsson is getting a shot in net with the Islanders after some great AHL performances, and he recorded both his first win and shutout in the NHL on Sunday. Garth Snow immediately signed him to a 19-year, infinity billion dollar contract extension. Lighthouse Hockey has the rest of the story.
In the first of three meetings this week between the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils, AHL Goalie of the Month Anders Nilsson shut the door when needed and preserved a fragile 1-0 lead to earn his first NHL victory and shutout. He's the first goalie in Isles history to earn both in the same game.
The Islanders rode a puck possessing if not productive powerplay to outshoot the Devils 18-12 through two periods, after which "Thor" Nilsson was called on to make 12 third-period saves to protect a lead created by Kyle Okposo.
Dallas Stars 3-2 Calgary Flames (Shootout)
Both Mikka Kiprusoff and Kari Lehtonen were on fire in this one, even though they both let in two goals in regulation. It was an up-and-down affair, with both goalies saving 95 percent of the shots that were fired at them. The Stars went on to win in a shootout, but Defending Big D wasn't too happy about much of the game. They felt that the officiating was very poor going both ways.
While the two points by the Stars tonight are huge, it seems much of the discussion tonight is going around the horrendous display of officiating that permeated this game. It wasn't all about the Stars since blown calls went in each direction, but it was astounding how many hooks, slashes and interference plays when uncalled. Jamie Benn getting tripped in open ice with the puck is the first call that comes to mind, or the missed boarding call in the first period. The NHL has seen a drastic drop in called penalties as the season has progressed and I'm not certain that's necessarily a good thing.
Colorado Avalanche 2-0 Minnesota Wild
Last but not least, the Avs improved their position in the race for a Western Conference playoff spot with a win over the free-falling Wild. Mile High Hockey was particularly impressed with Paul Stastny and rookie Gabriel Landeskog.
One player that actually jumped out to me tonight was Paul Stastny. It's been no secret that I've been very critical of him lately and was actually glad to see him show up tonight. Especially since we are stuck with him for at least the rest of this season.
Gabriel Landeskog also had another great game for the Avs, continuing stellar play into March. He put four shots on net in just over 18 minutes of ice time. He continues to lead all rookies in shots on goal with 216 so far this season. He also leads all rookies in +/- as a +20 and is just two points behind Adam Henrique for the rookie scoring lead.