Five things we learned: Blues have a goalie problem

After allowing two goals in the first, St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen was pulled, but returned soon after. In the second period, he allows another two goals, and Blues coach Ken Hitchcock gives him the yank again.

What happens when your strength becomes a weakness?

Ken Hitchcock is finding out in his last season as head coach of the St. Louis Blues.

Elsewhere, a rookie coach got off to a good start, the Leafs were delivered a reality check, and a Calgary comeback came oh so close.

Here are five things we learned.

Weight lifted

Doug Weight made his head coaching debut with the New York Islanders against the Dallas Stars, and it went swimmingly in a 3-0 win.

A big part of Weight’s job will be getting John Tavares going. The Islanders captain is on pace for his lowest point total since his rookie season, though he still has the talent to do stuff like this.

“John’s going to be a big piece of [an Islander rebuilding effort], but by no means does he need to be the biggest piece,” said Weight during Tavares’ first NHL training camp. He’s just got to fit in and let his talent show.”

The task of keeping Tavares happy (he becomes a free agent following the ’17-18 season, you might have heard), or at least optimistic about the Islanders’ future will now fall at least partly on his former linemate.

Despite all the turmoil surrounding the franchise, Weight is actually just the third head coach Tavares has had in his eight NHL seasons.

Tavares scored his second goal of the game on a short-handed breakaway. It was the first short-handed goal of the 26-year-old’s career, and is perhaps a sign of things to come under Weight.

Thomas Greiss hasn’t given up a goal in the two starts he’s made since giving up seven to Carolina on Saturday.

Greiss, who will be an unrestricted free agent this off-season, is making $1.5 million against the cap. He could be a nice rental option for a team that needs a boost in goal*, should the Islanders decide to move on.

Allen yanked again

*On that note, Jake Allen is having some serious trouble finishing the games he starts for the St. Louis Blues.

He got pulled for the third straight game, this time against the Washington Capitals, after allowing two goals in the game’s opening eight minutes.

Coach Ken Hitchcock actually put the struggling Allen back in the game not too long after, before Brett Connolly ended Allen’s night for good 7:33 into the second period.

Carter Hutton came in, and promptly gave up a goal on the first shot he faced, before allowing two more in a 7-2 blowout.

To add insult to injury, T.J. Oshie scored against the team that traded him, giving him at least one goal against all 30 NHL teams in his career.

The Blues had the league’s best team save percentage last season with Allen and Brian Elliott, but are at the very bottom of the league in that respective category this season.

Flames’ rally falls just short

The Calgary Flames were not good for a significant portion of their game against Nashville, with the Predators taking a 3-0 lead into the third.

Filip Forsberg appeared to ice the game 8:21 into the final frame with his 12th of the season, but Calgary woke up and put on a show in the game’s final four minutes.

Kris Versteeg scored first, then Michael Frolik seconds later to cut the deficit in half with 3:26 remaining.

Sean Monahan put one past Juuse Saros with the net empty, leaving the Flames 48 seconds to complete what would have been the most amazing comeback of the season.

But the Predators held on, rebounding from Tuesday’s loss in Vancouver to win their fourth game in five tries.

Chad Johnson, who wrestled away the No. 1 job from the aforementioned Elliott with his play early in the season, wasn’t sharp in the loss.

In fact, it appears as though Elliott might just be starting to play his way into the lion’s share of starts from here on in.

Grabner burns his old team

The Toronto Maple Leafs were the latest team to fall victim to the bounce-back season of Michael “Austrian Gretzky” Grabner.

Grabner spent one season as part of Toronto’s uninspiring ’15-16 team before leaving as a free agent.

The 29-year-old has always had speed to burn, and he was all over the place on Thursday, scoring on one of his several breakaways before adding an empty-netter to ice the 5-2 win.

Due to the NHL counting empty-net goals as even-strength tallies, Grabner also took over the league lead in that category with 20, ahead of Auston Matthews (19) and Sidney Crosby (18).

The Leafs had their three-game win streak snapped, and will host Dion Phaneuf and the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.


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Ducks win season’s most frustrating game

It takes a special kind of ineptitude to get heavily outshot by a Randy Carlyle-coached team, but the Colorado Avalanche are not your average tire fire.

The Anaheim Ducks did everything but score against Colorado, outshooting the NHL’s last-place team by a 22-3 margin in the first period.

The Avalanche did a bit better in the second, or at least what was played of it before a lengthy delay.

The shots were 24-10 when Eric Gelinas broke a pane of glass and sent both teams to the dressing room with 9:48 left in the second period of a 0-0 game.

Colorado got a power play and scored just a few minutes into the resumption of play, and for a moment it looked as if Calvin Pickard was going to steal a win for the lowly Avalanche.

Hampus Lindholm finally got the Ducks on the board on his team’s 33rd shot of the game.

We appeared to be headed for overtime, but Nick Ritchie (off a nice drop pass from Ondrej Kase), beat Pickard up high with just over two minutes remaining.

The Avs haven’t won a game in regulation since Dec. 12 against the Leafs.

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