NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 23, 2020
Alexander Ovechkin tallies his 700th career goal, the Toronto Maple Leafs lose to a Zamboni driver, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin became the eighth player in NHL history to score 700 career goals in a 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils. A power-play goal by Devils defenseman Damon Severson snapped a 2-2 tie late in the third period. With the loss, the Capitals (80 points) remain tied for first place with the Pittsburgh Penguins for first place in the Metropolitan Division, with the Penguins holding a game in hand.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A well-deserved milestone for The Great Eight. The next one is overtaking Mike Gartner (708) for seventh on the all-time list. The Capitals, however, have won just three of their last 10 games. With Ovechkin’s chase for 700 goals now over, perhaps it will bring about a shift in their focus.
The Penguins, meanwhile, missed an opportunity to take a two-point lead over the Capitals by dropping a 5-2 decision to the Buffalo Sabres. Jack Eichel scored twice, despite a midsection ailment preventing him from bending over to take faceoffs. Evgeni Malkin scored both Penguins’ goals. The Sabres (64 points) are eight behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, who sit third in the Atlantic Division. Earlier in the day, they officially terminated defenseman Zach Bogosian’s contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eichel has 35 goals on the season. The young Sabres captain is doing everything he can to keep the his club’s playoff hopes alive.
Speaking of the Maple Leafs, they dropped a 6-3 decision to the Carolina Hurricanes, who pressed into service 42-year-old emergency backup (and Zamboni driver) David Ayres when regular goaltenders James Reimer and Petr Mrazek were sidelined. Ayres made eight saves on 10 shots to preserve the win. The Hurricanes (74 points) moved into a tie with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot, holding two games in hand over the Jackets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For Ayres, this was a moment he and his family and friends will never forget. The Hurricanes did a fine job putting him at ease, as well as checking the Leafs to a near-standstill in the third. That was perhaps the most embarrassing regular-season defeat in Leafs history. I’ll leave it to Steve Dangle to summarize this debacle.
The Philadelphia Flyers (77 points) doubled up the Winnipeg Jets 4-2, widening their lead over the New York Islanders for third place in the Metro by three points. Scott Laughton scored two goals and Justin Braun collected three assists. Following the game, the Flyers got a visit from teammate Oskar Lindblom, who’s battling Ewing’s sarcoma. “Really good, really good to see him,” said Laughton. The Jets (69 points) hold a one-point lead over the Nashville Predators and Calgary Flames for the final Western Conference wild-card berth.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Lindblom in his ongoing treatments. Here’s hoping he make a full recovery.
Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price turned in a 30-save shutout to blank the Ottawa Senators 3-0. Max Domi scored twice for the Habs (66 points), putting them six behind the Leafs in the Atlantic. Senators defenseman Thomas Chabot left the game with an injured left leg in the first period, but coach D.J. Smith believes it wasn’t anything serious.
The New York Rangers also kept their playoff hopes alive by edging the San Jose Sharks 3-2. Jesper Fast scored twice and Igor Shesterkin kicked out 44 shots for the Rangers (70 points), who’ve won seven of their last eight contests and sit just four points out of a wild-card berth in the East. Joe Thornton scored both goals for the Sharks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers’ surge of late raises questions over whether GM Jeff Gorton will be a seller at the trade deadline. Until recently, it was assumed he’d start peddling some pending free agents like Fast and Chris Kreider. That might not be a certainty now.
Conor Garland and Clayton Keller each scored twice as the Arizona Coyotes upset the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-3. With 70 points, the Coyotes hold the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Earlier in the day, they revealed defenseman Jakob Chychrun could miss multiple games with a hip injury. Meanwhile, goaltender Darcy Kuemper was assigned to their AHL affiliate on a conditioning stint.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are winless in eight straight games after dropping a 4-3 shootout decision to the Nashville Predators. Jusse Saros turned aside 40 shots for the Predators while Rocco Grimaldi netted the game-winning goal. The Predators (68 points) sit one back of the Jets for the final Western wild-card berth.
Tyler Toffoli scored his first two goals with the Vancouver Canucks in a 9-3 thrashing of the Boston Bruins. J.T. Miller also collected three assists for the Canucks (72 points), who sit two behind the Pacific Divison-leading Vegas Golden Knights. Bruins winger David Pastrnak scored twice and leads the league with 45 goals. The Bruins remain the overall league leaders with 90 points.
The Golden Knights, meanwhile, picked up their fifth straight win by defeating the Florida Panthers 5-3. Reilly Smith scored twice and Marc-Andre Fleury made 32 saves for Vegas. The Panthers (70 points) remain two behind the Leafs. They’ve won just three of their last 11 games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers are blowing a golden opportunity to pass the struggling Leafs and secure a grip on the final playoff spot in the Atlantic. They’re also in danger of being overtaken by the Canadiens and Sabres.
Joonas Donskoi’s shootout goal gave the Colorado Avalanche a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. The Avs (79 points) sit one back of the St. Louis Blues for first place in the Western Conference. Earlier in the day, the Kings re-signed Martin Frik to a two-year contract extension.