Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, top, stops a shot by Chicago Blackhawks left wing Artemi Panarin, of Russia, during the second half of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill
December 02, 2015

Goal-scoring is slipping once again in the NHL, and yet Tim Murray thinks that's not as big a concern as some might suggest.

''Just to the press. To me, it's not,'' the Buffalo Sabres' general manager said, before turning the question back on the reporter who asked it. ''I don't think it's GM-driven, so I guess I should ask you that question rather than you ask me. Why is it media-driven?''

Perhaps the ever-blunt and always quotable Murray has a point.

Then again, so do the numbers, which show the downward trend in goal-scoring hasn't abated since the NHL instituted rules to eliminate obstruction following the 2004-05 lockout.

Entering games Tuesday, teams had combined to score an average of 5.26 goals per game, according to STATS. That's the lowest total through essentially the same span of games in 11 years. And it's nearly an entire goal below the 6.23-goals-per-game pace established through the first 359 games of the 2005-06 season.

Questions are once again being raised as to whether the league should tinker with its rules, the size of its nets and goalie equipment - or all of the above.

''I certainly am not for bigger nets. Get the goalie equipment right, but how much scoring was there this week?'' Murray said on Nov. 23, two days after five out of 11 games ended in a shutout.

Murray countered by noting two games ended 4-0, while the Lightning blanked Anaheim 5-0.

''I don't think we should punish teams that can score five goals because the team they played against can't score,'' he said.

Red Wings GM Ken Holland said the decline in scoring is tied to an uptick in competitive balance.

''The league has tried to do a lot of things over the last 10 years to create offense,'' Holland said. ''I'm not sure it has worked. But I don't think the game has ever been better.''

Murray agrees, saying there's more flow now without the clutching and grabbing that was allowed before the lockout.

The difference is how coaches have adapted. Rather than interfere with onrushing players, defenders are now coached to ''shadow'' them. That forces the onrushing player to go around the defender.

''Our coaches have to come up with offensive schemes to match defensive schemes,'' Murray said. ''And obviously, it's easier to coach defense than it is to coach offense. So we're not there yet.''

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: It's been more than four years since an NHL team scored 10 or more goals in one game, according to STATS. St. Louis was the last to do it in a 10-3 win at Detroit on March 30, 2011.

As for the last time NHL teams combined for 14 or more goals in one game? That would be Winnipeg's 9-8 win over Philadelphia on Oct. 27, 2011.

Nashville has scored seven goals twice this season, including a 7-5 win over Ottawa on Nov. 10. The 12 combined goals remain an NHL season high. Not including shootouts, there have been 12 or more goals scored just seven times since the start of the 2013-14 season. There were 18 in 2008-09 alone.

TORTS RETORTS: Now in Columbus, John Tortorella's views toward Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins are no different than when he was coaching the Rangers. Tortorella still refers to them as whiners.

That was the word Tortorella used last weekend when asked about Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky being issued a one-game suspension for cross-checking Crosby in Columbus' 2-1 overtime win on Friday.

''We're not going to whine here. Pittsburgh can whine,'' Tortorella said. ''Pittsburgh whines enough for the whole league, so there's no room for any other team to whine.''

Tortorella previously accused the Penguins of whining in April 2012, after Rangers forward Derek Stepan was hurt following a knee-on-knee hit by then-Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik.

STREAKING: The Washington Capitals have won five straight and are 9-2-1 in their past 12 following a 4-2 win at Toronto on Saturday.

SLUMPING: The Edmonton Oilers are 3-7-2 since star rookie Connor McDavid was sidelined by a broken collarbone. They've been shut out twice, and scored two goals or fewer in regulation seven times.

SLUMPING II: Toronto goalie Jonathan Bernier is 0-8-1 this season and 1-15-2 in his past 18 games dating to last season. With co-starter James Reimer sidelined, coach Mike Babcock showed little faith in Bernier. Called up from the minors, Garret Sparks stopped 24 shots in a 3-0 win over Edmonton on Monday.

GAME OF THE WEEK: If scoring is what fans want, Washington travels to face Montreal on Thursday in a meeting between two of the league's top four offenses.


AP Hockey Writer Larry Lage in Detroit and AP freelance writer Denis Gorman in New York contributed to this report.

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