Irish teams battle; Dublin takes this one

Dublin 5, Belfast 2 – Belfast won the previous two meetings between Irish rivals, but on Thursday, surging Dublin beat the Giants by three goals. It was the fourth straight win for the Fighting Irish and their 7th win in the last 10 games. Belfast likes to throw their weight around and their physical style of play has helped them win two EURO Cups. This season, only three teams have averaged more short-handed minutes per game than have the Giants. The Helsinki Jokerit lead the league in penalty minutes with 12.88 per game; Belfast is at 11.01 per game. Against Dublin, penalties hurt the champs. Dublin’s powerplay units cashed in on 3 of 5 chances as the Irish were able to build a formidable 5-0 lead early in the game. Former Giant Alexander Ovechkin scored twice, assisted on two other goals, and was voted as the game’s first star. Hampus Lindholm, who was plus 2, had an assist, 3 hits and 4 blocked shots for Dublin.

Bern 3, Munich 2 – Mika Zibanejad scored twice and Bern saddened the home fans in Munich. The Dire Wolf controlled most of the game, outshooting Bern 38-23, but Jan Laco was too good in goal for the Bears. Late penalty trouble kept Munich on their heels. Twice in the third period, the Dire Wolf were forced to fend off the Bears while two men short for stretches lasting more than a minute, and not long after the first 5-on-3 turned into a 5-on-4, Zibanejad struck for his second goal of the game. Munich is currently in eighth place in the Southern Conference, but they are walking the playoff tightrope with Prague poised to pass them. Thursday’s loss to Bern could prove to be quite costly to the Bavarian team.

Zurich 6, Gothenburg 4 – And just like that, the Zurich Lions have put together five straight wins. On Thursday in Sweden, they blazed away to a 4-0 lead, played conservatively thereafter, and made good on 4 of 7 powerplays. Gothenburg gave it a go, pouring 46 shots on Zurich goalie Cam Ward, and Frolunda’s Mikko Koivu scored twice on 11 shots, but the hosts couldn’t erase the lead. Gothenburg’s fans were treated to 35 hits by their Frolunda players, to only 17 for Zurich, but the hitting had to stop while Frolunda played shorthanded, and that’s when most of Zurich’s damage came. Patrice Bergeron and Jakub Voracek scored 4 points each for the winners. Zurich is now in fifth place in its conference, but they have played more games than anyone else. They can’t afford a cold streak because four teams below them have a chance to pass them before the regular season ends. Gothenburg was hoping for the two points in the standings which would have pulled them even with Stockholm and to within a point of Helsinki.

Paris 6, St. Petersburg 3 – The Rouge Eiffels spread out the attack and overwhelmed St. Petersburg on Thursday. A dozen Paris players had 2 or more shots on goal and 11 players had at least a point. The league’s second-leading scorer, Evgeny Malkin, scored twice and had a pretty assist on Alex Pietrangelo’s 16th goal of the year. The Red Stars had the game’s first star in young defenseman Oscar Klefbom. The 22-year-old Swede played 17 minutes, scored twice, added an assist and blocked 2 shots. Klefbom has progressed a lot in the last year. He is very disciplined and rarely takes penalties, but the shy game he displayed in Season 5 is vanishing. Klefbom’s hit total is up from 73 to 129 this season and his shot blocking has improved as well (36 to 66).

Bratislava 5, Lisbon 1 – Bratislava Coach Brent Sutter switched to a more defensive style of play for Thursday’s game against Lisbon and the move seemed to have paid off. Bratislava outshot the visitors 37-16, giving goalie Marc-Andre Fleury more protection and space. Only a Dustin Byfuglien rocket two minutes into the game got past him. At the other end of the ice, Daniel Sedin worked some magic, assisting on three goals for Bratislava. Eagles captain Jonathan Toews, second-line center Milan Gulas and third-line winger Tyler Toffoli all had three points. Currently, the two teams both have 72 points in the standings, placing them right behind Zurich in the tight Southern Conference playoff race. Bratislava has a game in hand over Lisbon.

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