Tonight’s game in Edinburgh was as pivotal a game as there has been in the EURO thus far. It pitted two teams that are fighting tooth-and-nail for the final playoff spot in the Northern Conference.
Helsinki traveled to Scotland on Tuesday with a 2-point lead over the Capitals for that coveted eighth-place spot. They also came with one of the league’s hottest scorers in Paul Stastny and the knowledge that they won the only previous meeting between the two teams, a 2-1 win on Nov. 24. In that game, Ilya Bryzgalov was the first star of the game after allowing Edinburgh to score just one goal. But Bryzgalov isn’t a Jokerit any more. In fact, he’s a Capital. The colorful Russian goalie was part of a Dec. 11 blockbuster trade that brought Henrik Lundquist to Helsinki. The Caps received John Tavares, $5 million, and a second-round draft pick in addition to Bryzgalov for King Henrik.
Both goalies played and lost games the night before, Lundquist losing 5-2 to Bratislava and Bryzgalov getting scorched in Oslo for part of a 7-3 shellacking. Lindy Ruff, Edinburgh’s coach, pulled Bryz when it seemed the Caps were out of it, and the Russian should be at 100 percent for the game against his former team. But Ruff could consider starting backup James Reimer, who made an impressive 41 saves and was good enough to be named the second star of the Nov. 24 game against Helsinki. Barry Trotz, the head Jokerit, had a decision to make: start Lundquist at 98.7 percent, or go with backup Steve Mason.
Stastny, who assisted on a goal in Bratislava on Monday, was riding a 21-game point scoring streak into Edinburgh.
Stastny scored twice with his second goal midway through the third period sending the game into overtime, where his Jokerit teammates won the extra point in the standings with a shootout decision. Edinburgh outshot Helsinki 25-21, but Mason, giving Lundquist a rest, did the job for Helsinki, stopping Wayne Simmonds and then Tavares in the shootout.Helsinki did more hitting in the game, winning that stats category 30-22 with Jack Johnson accounting for 5 hits himself.
The Jokerit now have a 3-point cushion over Edinburgh with 17 games remaining. Helsinki and Edinburgh have two more games remaining in this series, a pair of contests within a 9-day stretch of mid March.