With the month of March officially on its last day and the playoffs only a few weeks off the race for spots has become rather intense with each point in the standings pretty much ensuring a spot in the dance or seasonal demise. Former Islanders were especially active helping out in all 7 contests. Here is a look at the plethora of FI happenings:
Boston captain and defenseman Zdeno Chara had a huge night compiling a "Gordie Howe Hat Trick" (goal, assist and fight) and sealing up the first star honor as the Eastern Conference best Bruins downed the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1. Chara scored the game winning powerplay goal less than 7 minutes into the 2nd Period and added a powerplay assist minutes later to lead the Bs' offensive charge. In the 1st Period Chara mixed it up with impossible to spell Lightning forward Evgeny Artyukhin. The "Gordie Howe" was the 3rd of Chara's career and ironically came on Gordie's 81st birthday. With 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) over the last 2 games Chara now has 47 points (17 goals, 30 assists) on 76 games. The netter equals his prior single season high from last year while also snapping an 8 goal-less stretch. The assist makes it 3 straight seasons of 30 or more, a mark he has now reached 4 times. The game winner was the 3rd of the season for Chara and the 17th of his career.
When Columbus winger Raffi Torres has scored recently it has been quality. Torres netted the winning goal just over 4 minutes into the 3rd Period as the Blue Jacket edged the visiting Nashville Predators 2-1 at home. With 6 winning tallies out of 12 goals this season Torres has been an effective game changer. He has 18 points (12 goals, 6 assists) on 46 games. In the last 11 games Torres has knocked home 4 winning goals meaning he has had the deciding tally in all 7 Jackets' wins over that span. Receiving the primary assist on the netter was center Michael Peca. He snapped a 4 game point-less slide and now has 4 goals and 18 assists for 22 points on 67 games.
Florida d-man Bryan McCabe netted the game winning powerplay goal and added an extra man assist as the Panthers thumped the visiting Ottawa Senators 5-2. Big Mc was the 1st star and now has 13 goals and 22 assists for 35 points on 64 games. He snapped a 7 game point-less stretch and a 10 game goal-less streak. For the 5th time McCabe has reached 35 or more points on a season. The winning score was his 3rd of the season and the 23rd of his career. Scoring the 2nd Florida goal was winger Richard Zednik. The goal, Zed's 3rd in the last 6 games, was a big one as it was the 200th of his career coming in his 740th game. Zednik now has 17 goals and 12 assists for 32 points on 65 games. Scoring Ottawa's 2nd goal, a man advantage score, was d-man Chris Campoli. Campy now has 10 goals and 17 assists for 27 points on 60 games. He snapped a 3 game point-less run and a 7 game goal-less streak. He has averaged a point-per-every-2-games since joining the Sens with 10 (4 goals, 6 assists) in 20 games. Campoli now has a new single season high in goals breaching the 10+ mark for the first time.
Montreal d-man Mathieu Schneider scored an insurance goal with less than 4 minutes remaining in play as the Canadiens dispense of the visiting Chicago Blackhawks 4-1. Schneids now has points in 4 straight (1 goal, 3 assists) and has 29 points (7 goals, 22 assists) on 63 games. Since joining the Habs Schneider has lit it up with 4 goals and 10 assists for 14 points in 19 contests.
Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo stopped 33 of 34 shots including all 4 he faced in OT as the Canucks edged the host Minnesota Wild 2-1. Rewarded with the first star honor Luongo is now 30-11-6 on the season. The victory was Lu's 3rd in his last 4 starts.
Edmonton d-man Denis Grebeshkov rocketed home the Oilers' 2nd goal as Edmonton were bested by the visiting Anaheim Ducks 5-3 severely impacting their playoff hopes. The goal was his 6th of the season and first in 4 games. Along with 29 assists Greb has now reached 35 points for the first time in a season. Grebeshkov has averaged better than a point-per-every-2-games with 35 in 68 games.
Los Angeles center Derek Armstrong assisted on the too-little-too-late goal as the Kings were felled by the visiting Dallas Stars 3-2. Army snapped a 5 game point-less stretch and now has 4 goals and 4 assists for 8 points on 53 games. Armstrong is only 1 helper shy of 150 on his career.
Check in soon with FIW for more updates, recaps and highlights as we speed to the regular season finish line.