NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 31, 2019
Game recaps, Alex Ovechkin reaches 50 goals again, Islanders clinch a playoff berth, Flyers eliminated from the postseason race, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Washington Capitals captain and NHL goal-scoring leader Alex Ovechkin scored twice and reached the 50-goal plateau for the eighth time in his career to lead his club to a 6-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie each scored twice and collected an assist.
With the win, the Capitals (102 points) maintain a three-point lead over the New York Islanders for first place in the Metropolitan Division. It was a costly loss for the Lightning, as defenseman Victor Hedman left the game in the first period after being struck in the face by the helmet of Capitals winger Carl Hagelin.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Only Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy have more 50-goal seasons (nine each) than Ovechkin, who narrowly missed the cut with 49 goals last season. It’s a remarkable achievement by one of the greatest goal scorers in NHL history.
The New York Islanders clinched a playoff spot by downing the Buffalo Sabres 5-1. Robin Lehner made 31 stops and Anthony Beauvillier scored two goals. Sabres forward Vladimir Sobotka missed the game with an upper-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Entering this season, the Islanders weren’t expected to be in the playoff chase following the offseason departure of John Tavares to Toronto. Credit the coaching of Barry Trotz and his staff, a career season by goaltender Robin Lehner, and the determination of the players for the Isles surprising performance.
The Philadelphia Flyers are out of the playoff race after dropping a 5-2 decision to the Carolina Hurricanes. Teuvo Teravainen and Brock McGinn each tallied a goal and an assist for the Hurricanes (93 points) who remain one point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Columbus Blue Jackets maintained their hold on the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot by beating the Nashville Predators 5-2. Cam Atkinson scored twice for the Jackets. The Predators activated defenseman Dan Hamhuis, who missed over a month with a leg injury.
The Montreal Canadiens (92 points) kept pace with the Blue Jackets by beating the Winnipeg Jets 3-1. Jordan Weal had a goal and an assist for the Canadiens, who remain tied with the Jackets but sit outside the final Eastern wild-card spot.
The San Jose Sharks (97 points) secured home-ice advantage in the opening round of the upcoming playoffs by edging the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 on an overtime goal by Brent Burns. The Sharks also snapped a seven-game losing skid.
Vince Dunn scored in overtime as the St. Louis Blues edged the New Jersey Devils 3-2. Robert Thomas had a goal and an assist for the Blues (92 points), who moved within two points of the Nashville Predators for second place in the Central Division.
Roberto Luongo made 30 saves and Evgenii Dadonov scored two goals as the Florida Panthers upset the Boston Bruins 4-1. The Bruins (103 points) remains six points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs for second place in the Eastern Conference.
Craig Anderson kicked out 42 shots and Anthony Duclair scored twice as the Ottawa Senators upset the slumping Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2. The loss prevented the Leafs (97 points) from clinching a playoff spot. Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki missed the game with an upper-body injury.
Markus Granlund scored the only goal in a shootout to give the Vancouver Canucks a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars. Jacob Markstrom made 38 saves for the win. The Stars (89 points) maintain a four-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche for the first wild-card berth in the West.
Rickard Rakell tallied a natural hat trick to lead the Anaheim Ducks to a 5-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers. The loss keeps the Oilers (77 points) eight points out of a playoff spot in the West.
The Chicago Blackhawks (79 points) dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the Los Angeles Kings but moved within six points of the Avalanche for the final Western wild-card berth. Drew Doughty tallied the game-winner for the Kings.
The Detroit Red Wings are expected to announce a two-year contract extension for head coach Jeff Blashill in the coming days.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Wings general manager Ken Holland has frequently supported Blashill’s efforts and recently indicated his intention to negotiate a new contract for his bench boss. The improvement of their young players under Blashill’s coaching is the main reason for this move.
The Arizona Coyotes re-signed center Nick Schmaltz to a seven-year contract extension.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates it’s worth $40.95 million ($5.85-million annual average value) with a modified no-trade clause (10-team no-trade list) starting in 2023-24. It’s a big raise for the 23-year-old Schmaltz coming out of his entry-level contract. His tenure with the Coyotes has been short thus far, playing in just 17 games after being acquired earlier in the season from Chicago.
A knee injury finished his season but Coyotes management obviously liked what they saw from him and feel confident he’ll be their first-line center going forward. Schmaltz had 52 points last season with the Blackhawks and 14 points with the Coyotes before his injury.