6 things we learned in the NHL: Maple Leafs lay waste to West

Jonathan Bernier had a shutout and PA Parenteau scored twice for the Maple Leafs as they won 4-0 against the Ducks.

Bernier earned his second shutout of the season as the Maple Leafs downed the Ducks, Lack returned to Vancouver, the Blue Jackets and Predators completed a blockbuster trade, and more in six things we learned in the NHL.

Here come the Maple Leafs

Jonathan Bernier made 39 saves for the third consecutive game to backstop the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 4-0 shutout of the Anaheim Ducks Wednesday night.

The Maple Leafs have won three straight and improved to 15-8-5 since November 1. Suddenly, talk of playoffs doesn’t seem so far fetched.

Bernier earned his second shutout of the season in the win, raising his season save percentage to .904. He’s unbeaten in two starts to begin 2016.

At the heart of the Maple Leafs’ improvement is a domination of the Western Conference.

P.A. Parenteau scored twice to pace the Maple Leafs’ attack. Nazem Kadri scored his eighth of the season in the win. Kadri put a scare into Ducks fans when he took out all-star goaltender John Gibson early in the third period.

Gibson left the game and did not return. He is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, according to Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau.

No Lack of intrigue in Vancouver

Eddie Lack returned to Vancouver for the first time Wednesday since landing with the Carolina Hurricanes in an off-season trade.

Lack’s counterpart for the evening was Jacob Markstrom. For a brief time, it was believed Lack and Markstrom would compete for No. 1 duties in Vancouver for years to come. Alas, nobody could rival Vancouver in the goaltender drama department.

Ryan Miller arrived and bumped Lack to backup duty while Markstrom was relegated to the minors to find himself.

Lack came out on the losing end in his return to Rogers Arena as the Hurricanes fell 3-2 to the Canucks Wednesday night.

Bo Horvat was the difference, scoring twice including the game-winner. Horvat, of course, is the player Vancouver selected ninth overall in the 2013 NHL Draft…a pick the Canucks acquired from the New Jersey Devils for another former ‘goaltender of the future’ Cory Schneider. How’s that for a narrative?

Trades rule the day

It was a busy evening on the transaction front.

First, the Los Angeles Kings acquired Vincent Lecavalier and Luke Schenn from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for prospect Jordan Weal and a third-round pick. Then the Washington Capitals signed former Kings forward Mike Richards to a one-year contract.

The Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators capped a flurry of activity by swapping former fourth overall picks Ryan Johansen and Seth Jones.

Kings GM Dean Lombardi called the acquisition of Lecavalier “one last chance to win it all,” for the 35-year-old. Schenn is expected to help alleviate the loss of rugged defenceman Matt Greene.

As for the Blue Jackets-Predators blockbuster, Johansen’s dramatic saga in Columbus has come to a close. The talented 23-year-old centre has nothing to do now except prove he can be the superstar he showed flashes of in four-plus seasons with the Blue Jackets.

Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen says the trade had nothing to do with Johansen’s relationship with coach John Tortorella. Sure. Absolutely nothing.

Columbus improved their shaky blue-line by landing Jones. He should see a significant bump in usage once he’s settled in Ohio.

Special teams the difference as Habs win at home

After a 2-6 road trip that saw a division lead slip away, the Montreal Canadiens were happy to return to the Bell Centre Wednesday night.

The Canadiens downed the Devils 2-1, with both goals coming courtesy of special teams. Max Pacioretty potted his 17th of the season on a first period power play, while Torrey Mitchell scored the eventual game-winner late in the second period on the penalty kill.

It was a solid all-around effort by Montreal, who walked away with the edge in shot attempts, scoring chances, and high-danger scoring chances. It was one of those nights where things just went the Canadiens’ way…like this missed too many men call.

The Canadiens trail the Florida Panthers by three points for first place in the Atlantic Division.

The ‘Bread Man’ owns the Penguins

If Artemi Panarin could play all 82 games against the Pittsburgh Penguins he’d score 164 goals.

The “Bread Man” potted two in the Chicago Blackhawks‘ win over the Penguins Tuesday and tallied two more in the second half of a home-and-home Wednesday.

Panarin leads all NHL rookies with 15 goals and 38 points.

Subban says Sid should be there

Sidney Crosby was a notable omission when the remaining NHL all-stars were announced Wednesday.

Despite coming on of late, Crosby was slow out of the gate this season. Still, he’s one of the league’s best and there’s little doubt he’d serve to enhance the weekend’s festivities set for January 30-31 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban was asked about Crosby not getting the nod. He’d love to see him there, but understands that No. 87 could use a break, too.

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