After spending the last 8 days in cars, planes and walking around the Rocky Mountains, I return to write about this thing here.
Belfast 5, Lisbon 2 – Joe Pavelski is having his best season since leaving Madrid as a free agent before Season 4, but he wasn’t good enough to help Lisbon HC conquer one of his former teams on Wednesday. Pavelski notched his 29th goal of the season, but the score came too late to affect the outcome. By the time Pavelski converted a Magnus Paajarvi pass, it was 5-1 in favor of Belfast, which received goals from five different players. Lisbon should make the playoffs, but with four games left and only a 4-point cushion, the loss to Belfast did nothing to alleviate the Lisbon fans’ nervousness. For Belfast, Nathan MacKinnon led the way Wednesday with a goal and 5 shots on goal. MacKinnon has become a mega-threat in his third full season in the league. The 21-year-old Canadian winger has followed up 18- and 19-goal seasons with one of 36 and counting. His 220 shots so far are nearly 40 shots better than his previous career high, and he’s only played a minute more per game than he did in the previous two seasons. He is the team’s leading goal scorer and its third-leading point scorer behind Claude Giroux and MacKinnon’s linemate Ondrej Palat. Seven Southern Conference teams still have to wait to find out if they are in or out of the playoffs. Currently, Prague and Geneva are on the outside looking in, but they have four and five games, respectively, remaining on their schedules to make up ground in a very tight field.
Berlin 5, Athens 3 – On Wednesday, the Athens Greeks might have learned what not to do should they meet up again with the Berlin Smurfs in the playoffs. The Smurfs scored 4 powerplay goals in 5 powerplays. Logan Couture, who ranks third in the EURO League in both goals and points, scored a pair of goals in the game but Josh Gorges was the real star. He scored the game’s first goal and then in the third period, with the score tied 3-3, Gorges earned assists on goals by Ryan Callahan and David Krejci. For the Greeks, Anze Kopitar scored twice and Ian White tallied while his team was shorthanded.
Bratislava 5, Milan 2 – The Eagles moved to within a win of tying the Greeks for fourth place in the Southern Conference and home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, should they make it. But one has to wonder if Bratislava and Athens even care about home ice in the playoffs because both have road records that are slightly better than their home records. Against Milan, goalie Corey Crawford was great for Bratislava, stopping 38 of Milan’s 40 shots. Philip Larsen got things going for Bratislava by scoring the game’s first goal and assisting on the second, a Zemgus Girgensons goal. Third-line center Patrick Thoresen, who plays a very balanced game, had two assists for the Guerriero. Thoresen is one of five players in the Milan lineup with career plus-minus ratings above zero. The others are Brent Seabrook, (who played five seasons in Bern), Mark Letestu, Joakim Lindstrom and Tomas Zaborsky.
London 5, Copenhagen 3 – The home team outshot the visitors by 9 shots, but lost by two goals. Copenhagen carried a 3-1 lead into the third period, but London scored four times in the final 14:18. Dmitri Orlov, Marco Scandella and Michael Grabner all tallied against goalie Roberto Luongo, and Jeff Skinner added an empty-netter. Skinner led all in points with a goal and 3 assists. Martin Jones saved 34 of 37 shots to earn the win.