Game recaps highlighting non-Canadian NHL teams, plus the latest on Patrice Bergeron, Jimmy Howard, and more.

Torres scores the game winner as Sharks edge the Kings.

Torres scores the game winner as Sharks edge the Kings.

MERCURYNEWS.COM: Raffi Torres scored in overtime a shootout to lift the San Jose Sharks to a thrilling 3-2 victory over the LA Kings.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kings and Sharks are tied with 53 points, but the Kings hold fourth overall on the basis of wins. This game may be a preview of an opening round series between the two clubs. 

WASHINGTON POST: Alexander Ovechkin and Martin Erat each had a goal and an assist as the Washington Capitals rolled to their eighth consecutive win by thumping a tired Toronto Maple Leafs squad 5-1.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The win also kept the Capitals four points up on the Winnipeg Jets for first in the Southeast Division.

NEWSDAY: Michael Grabner scored twice as the NY Islanders finished their final home game of the regular season with a 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers.

PHILLY.COM/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: The Philadelphia Flyers kept their fading playoff hopes alive by doubling up the New York Rangers 4-2.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Islanders win and the Rangers loss allowed the former to open a 3-point cushion over the latter, who are now tied with the Winnipeg Jets but retain eighth overall on the basis of a game in hand.

STLTODAY.COM: Jay Bouwmeester scored the game-tying goal and Alex Steen the game-winner as the St. Louis Blues nippped the Vancouver Canucks 2-1 in a shootout. It was the 600th career victory for Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock.

TWINCITIES.COM: Kyle Brodziak scored twice and Jason Pominville had 2 assists as the Minnesota Wild downed the Edmonton Oilers 5-3. The win moves the Wild into sixth overall in the Western Conference, and four points back of the Vancouver Canucks for first in the Northwest Division.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning fell in overtime to the Winnipeg Jets 4-3. While they’re mathematically still in the playoff picture, the loss drops them eight points out of contention.

NEWSOBSERVER.COM: The Carolina Hurricanes fell to the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a fight-filled contest, losing forward Jeff Skinner to possibly another concussion after a hard hit from Senators defenseman Jared Cowen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would be the second concussion Skinner suffered this season, and his third since last season.

BOSTON GLOBE: Bruins center Patrice Bergeron (concussion) is expected to return to the lineup tonight against the Buffalo Sabres.

DETROIT FREE PRESS: It’s official: the Detroit Red Wings have re-signed goalie Jimmy Howard to a six-year, $31.8 million contract extension. Late last week, Howard confirmed he was really close to inking this deal.

NBC SPORTS PRO HOCKEY TALK: There could be six outdoor NHL games next season.

“Jan. 1: 2014 Winter Classic – Toronto vs. Detroit at Michigan Stadium
Jan. 25: Anaheim vs. Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium
Jan. 26: New Jersey vs. NY Rangers at Yankee Stadium
Jan. 29: NY Islanders vs. NY Rangers at Yankee Stadium
March 1: Pittsburgh vs. Chicago at Soldier Field
March 2: 2014 Heritage Classic – Ottawa vs. Vancouver at BC Place”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My first reaction is this is overkill by the NHL. To be fair,  I was among a number of critics scoffing at the notion of staging outdoor games on New Year’s Day, the same day as several significant college football bowl games, but it worked out fine for the league.  Still, I feel more than two outdoor games per season cheapens the novelty, making the Winter Classic less special.