If you had plans on Friday night other than watching hockey (we know it's a ridiculous concept but just stick with us here) then the NHL gave you plenty of reasons to cancel them.
A week of close, one-goal games continued in earnest, with all but one game coming down to the wire. The random collection of tight contests in one week is both unexplainable and surprising, but we're not complaining. The entertainment factor has only increased.
The interesting thing about these dramatic affairs is that they've resulted in just as much narrative as blowout games usually do. Boston fans are left questioning the direction of their team after a one-goal loss in Winnipeg. Lightning fans are wondering what more they have to do to win after a comeback failed in New Jersey. Detroit's scoring woes found no reprieve in a one-score loss to the Islanders.
If anything, the parity late this week has magnified the issues many teams are facing at the moment. Let's hope it continues, because the close contests are not only great opportunities for fan introspection, they're also pretty fun to watch.
All the NHL Scores
Devils 3, Lightning 2 (SO)
Islanders 2, Red Wings 1
Three things we learned
1. New Jersey survived its own mistakes. The Devils made two critical mistakes on Friday that should have doomed them. With a 2-1 lead late in the third, forward Michael Ryder got called for a four-minute minor for high-sticking. Giving the Lightning a four-minute power play that late in the game is a terrible idea, but the Devils killed it off admirably. They had to regroup yet again after letting Tampa Bay tie the game with 40 seconds left and eventually won in a shootout.
2. Maybe Ilya Bryzgalov isn't a good fit in Anaheim. Facing injuries in net and the possibility prospect John Gibson required more AHL seasoning before getting the reins handed to him, the Ducks signed veteran Ilya Bryzgalov a few weeks ago. Bryz got his first start in Ottawa on Friday and it was a disaster. The netminder gave up six goals on just 27 shots and sported a ghastly .806 save percentage. Expect Freddy Andersen to receive a heavy workload in net from now on.
3. Jamie Benn has broken out of his slump. For whatever reason, the Stars captain has not looked like himself over the last two months. When Jamie Benn isn't scoring at will, splitting defenders and making his physical presence known he simply isn't Jamie Benn. But he's been slowly rounding back into form over the last two weeks, culminating in a two-point performance in Calgary on Tuesday. Benn now has five points in his last five games. It's no coincidence the Stars are starting to turn things around at the same time.
Any hope the Ducks had of mounting a comeback evaporated at the exact moment a linesman clotheslined Cam Fowler.
Stat of the Night
The Bruins are struggling.
Only six teams have more regulation losses than the Bruins' 14.— Jason Brough (@JasonPHT) December 20, 2014