It's the best time of year!
NCAA Basketball has its March Madness, but I’m here to say that the NHL’s is a whole lot more enjoyable! From the first of the month all the way up to today, March has had a lot of great moments as the playoff races heated up. Let’s take a look…
March 1: Stars 3, Coyotes 2
It was one of the craziest ends to regulation you’ll ever see. The Coyotes scored twice in the final four minutes to tie the game at two, including Ray Whitney’s tally with 38 seconds to go. However, Radim Vrbata was called for a hooking penalty with 13 seconds on the clock, opening the opportunity for the Stars to strike late. They did. Loui Eriksson found a wide-open Jamie Benn backdoor to one-time the game-winner past Ilya Bryzgalov with 4.8 ticks remaining. Dallas jumped back into the West’s top eight with the 3-2 win.
March 2: Ducks 2, Red Wings 1 (OT)
With the Ducks battling for the final playoff spot in the West, they needed two points in the worst way. They went to overtime with Detroit, where the dramatic conclusion ensued. Bobby Ryan was controversially given a penalty shot in the extra frame, and he capitalized. He came in with speed against Jimmy Howard, potting a wrist shot to finish off the big win.
March 3: Hurricanes 3, Sabres 2 (OT)
Carolina entered this crucial game just two points ahead of 9th-seeded Buffalo. By the end of the night, they’d extend that lead to three points with an overtime win. Jamie McBain’s winner gave the ‘Canes a momentous win, but they weren’t able to feed off of it the rest of the month.
March 4: Ducks 4, Stars 3 (OT)
For as dramatic as Dallas’ win was in Phoenix, their loss was equally as stunning in Anaheim. Down 3-1 going into the third period, Randy Carlyle’s bunch found a way to knot the game at three with 1:03 remaining. In overtime, Lubomir Visnovsky blasted a slap-shot past Kari Lehtonen for the win AND the hat trick.
March 5: Coyotes 5, Red Wings 4 (SO)
If you think Anaheim’s rally was good, Phoenix did it one better one night later. The Red Wings carried a 4-1 lead into the final 20 minutes, but the Coyotes didn’t give up. On home-ice, the Coyotes swarmed Detroit throughout the third, scoring thrice to tie the game. Vrbata scored the lone shootout goal to finish off the comeback and top the Wings, 5-4.
March 6: Rangers 7, Flyers 0
Philadelphia had won the first four head-to-head meetings, but Ryan Callahan had other ideas. The do-it-all Rangers forward scored four goals – count ‘em, four! – en route to a blowout victory.
March 7: Capitals 2, Lightning 1 (SO)
Washington finally surpassed Tampa Bay atop the division with a gutsy come-from-behind win on the road. Alexander Semin tied the game late with a wicked wrister, while Alex Ovechkin’s shootout tally polished off the much-needed 2-1 win. The Caps have not looked back.
March 8: Canadiens 4, Bruins 1
Montreal sent a message to rival Boston with a decisive 4-1 victory. However, Zdeno Chara overshadowed the game itself with his controversial hit on Montreal’s Max Pacioretty. The hit poured more fuel onto the rivalry.
March 9: Flames 4, Stars 3 (SO)
Both the Stars and Flames were tied with 79 points heading into this huge game. Calgary made it look easy early as they jumped out a 3-0 lead in the first period. But as the Stars have down all year, they came back to tie the game in the third, sending the game to a shootout. The Flames came out on top, via Curtis Glencross’ winner.
March 10: Canucks 5, Sharks 4 (SO)
If this game was a preview of what could come in the playoffs, we’ll be in for a treat. Vancouver and San Jose played one of the best games of the season, as the Canucks won 5-4 in a shootout. It provided drama late in regulation; the Sharks scored two game-tying goals in the final 2:13, only to be sandwiched by Daniel Sedin’s temporary go-ahead tally with less than two minutes remaining.
March 13: Kings 3, Stars 2
Dallas was involved in another dramatic finish? What a shocker! Jamie Langenbrunner pulled the Stars even with the Kings at two with 42.1 seconds to go. But Michal Handzus made Kings fans (and the rest of the West) happy when he answered back 22 seconds later to lift Los Angeles to a 3-2 win.
March 20: Predators 4, Sabres 3 (OT)
Buffalo held a decisive 3-1 advantage with under three minutes to go in this rare inter-conference duel. Luckily, no one told Blake Geoffrion that the Preds were out of it. The rookie scored two goals in the final three minutes to complete his first career hat trick and tie the game. Nashville then shocked Buffalo when Martin Erat scored the overtime winner, giving the Preds two big points.
March 20: Ducks 5, Flames 4 (OT)
Anaheim raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first 5:49 of the game, chasing Miikka Kiprusoff in the process. The Flames, however, chipped away at that deficit and even went up 4-3 midway through the third. Carlyle’s gang (once again) tied the game late and won it in overtime, delivering Calgary a crushing loss in the crazy race out west.
March 21: Penguins 5, Red Wings 4 (SO)
How many of you changed the channel when the Penguins took a 4-0 lead halfway through the second period? Yeah, me too. The Red Wings battled back and surprisingly tied the game at four in the third period. James Neal saved Pittsburgh’s bacon, though, with the shootout winner.
March 22: Capitals 5, Flyers 4 (SO)
In similar fashion to the Calgary-Anaheim contest noted above, Bruce Boudreau’s Capitals pulled out a victory in Philadelphia. Up 3-0 early in the second period, Philadelphia stormed back to go up 4-3 in the third. Marcus Johansson answered the game-tying goal late in regulation, and Alexander Semin won the game with a slick shootout marker.
March 23: Ducks 4, Stars 3 (OT)
If the Stars happen to miss out on the postseason, this is the game they’ll look back on. They were clinging to a 3-2 advantage at home against the Ducks, whom they were tied with at 85 points coming into the game. Teemu Selanne scored yet another clutch goal, this one with 5.4 ticks left of the clock to tie the game at three. Cam Fowler went on to score the overtime winner to give Anaheim their biggest win of the year.
March 24: Bruins 7, Canadiens 0
The much-anticipated rematch between these two clubs didn’t provide any fireworks or controversy… just a fat egg laid by Montreal. The B’s crushed their rival to essentially lock up the division.
March 26: Flames 5, Oilers 4 (SO)
Down 4-1 and watching their season slip away, Calgary found a way to claw back in the third and pull even with Edmonton as Steve Staios (of all people) scored with 1:55 remaining. Alex Tanguay completed the Flames’ comeback in the shootout, keeping his team’s slim playoff hopes alive.
Photo credit: AP
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