NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 25, 2023
The Penguins’ Kris Letang returns to action with a four-point performance, the Bruins reach a league milestone, the Canucks win their first game under new coach Rick Tocchet, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang returned to action after an 11-game absence with an overtime goal in a 7-6 victory over the Florida Panthers. Letang finished with two goals and two assists while Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Danton Heinen each had a goal and two assists for the Penguins (24-15-8) as they moved into the first Eastern Conference wild-card berth with 56 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Carter Verhaeghe scored twice and Aaron Ekblad had a goal and two assists as the 23-21-6 Panthers sit four points behind the Washington Capitals for the final Eastern wild-card spot with 52 points. Florida forward Sam Bennett missed this game with a lower-body injury while Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry was a late scratch with an undisclosed injury.
Speaking of the Capitals, they dropped a 3-2 decision to the Colorado Avalanche. Alexandar Georgiev stopped 37 shots while Nathan MacKinnon picked up an assist for his 700th career point as the Avalanche (26-17-3) have won six straight games to move into third place in the Central Division with 55 points. Alex Ovechkin returned to action with his 31st goal of the season but his Capitals slipped to 25-19-6.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals and Penguins each have 56 points but the latter holds three games in hand. Ovechkin returned from a lower-body injury but admitted he wasn’t at 100 percent. Capitals winger Tom Wilson left this game with a lower-body injury and is listed as day-to-day while Nicklas Backstrom missed this contest with a non-COVID-related illness.
The league-leading Boston Bruins became the fastest team in NHL history to reach 80 points in a season (47 games) by doubling up the Montreal Canadiens 4-2. David Pastrnak had a goal and three assists while Patrice Bergeron snapped a 2-2 tie with the winning goal as the Bruins improved to 38-5-4 to hold a 14-point lead over the Carolina Hurricanes in the overall standings. Kirby Dach scored both goals for the Canadiens as they dropped to 20-25-3.
Rick Tocchet picked up his first win as the new head coach of the Vancouver Canucks as they downed the Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 5-2. Andrei Kuzmenko tallied twice for the Canucks (19-25-4). Petr Mrazek stopped 43 shots for the Blackhawks as they dropped to 14-28-4 to sit second-last in the overall standings with 32 points.
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy picked up his 250th career win with a 33-save performance in a 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild. Corey Perry netted two goals as the Lightning (30-15-1) sit in third place in the Atlantic Division. Joel Eriksson Ek had two points for the 25-17-4 Wild as they tumbled one point behind the Calgary Flames for the final Western Conference wild-card berth with 54 points.
The New Jersey Devils nipped the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2. Dougie Hamilton scored the tying goals and then scored in overtime for the second straight game as the Devils (31-12-4) moved into a tie with the Hurricanes with 66 points. Goalie Logan Thompson kicked out 33 shots for the 29-17-3 Golden Knights as they cling to first place in the Pacific Division with 61 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights activated Brett Howden (lower body) off injured reserve.
An overtime goal by Kevin Fiala lifted the Los Angeles Kings to a 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Anze Kopitar scored two goals as the 27-17-6 Kings move one point behind Vegas in the Pacific Division. Carter Hart stopped 34 shots while James van Riemsdyk had a goal and an assist for the Flyers, who slipped to 20-21-8.
The Nashville Predators nipped the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 as Tanner Jeannot snapped a 1-1 tie in the third period. Cody Glass also scored for the Predators (23-18-6) as they moved to within three points of a Western Conference wild-card berth with 52 points. Pierre-Luc Dubois replied for the 31-17-1 Jets as they sit one point behind the Central Division-leading Dallas Stars with 63 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Logan Stanley returned to the Jets lineup for the first time since being sidelined by a lower-body injury on Dec. 9.
Buffalo Sabres center Tage Thompson had a goal and two assists as his club picked up their fourth straight win by holding off the St. Louis Blues 5-3. Jeff Skinner and Alex Tuch each had a goal and an assist for the Sabres (25-19-3) to move within three points of the final Eastern wild-card spot with 53 points. The Blues slipped to 23-22-3.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues activated Vladimir Tarasenko, Torey Krug and Logan Brown off injured reserve for this contest. They also placed winger Pavel Buchnevich (ankle) on IR.
The Detroit Red Wings defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-2 on an overtime goal by Andrew Copp. Michael Rasmussen had a goal and an assist as the Wings improved to 20-18-8. Erik Karlsson collected two assists for the Sharks as they dropped to 14-25-10 on the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Before the game, the Red Wings activated forward Matt Luff off injured reserve and assigned him to their AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids.
Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler scored twice in a 5-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes. Anthony Stolarz got the win for the Ducks (14-29-5) with a 37-save performance. Barrett Hayton had a goal and an assist for the 15-28-5 Coyotes, who’ve dropped 12 of their last 14 games.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman took questions from the media yesterday on a variety of topics prior to the Bruins-Canadiens game.
Bettman dismissed the notion of teams deliberately tanking this season to improve their odds of winning the draft lottery. “Nobody tanks because we have a weighted lottery,” said Bettman. “You’re not going to lose games to increase your odds by a couple of percentage points. That’s silly.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Finishing dead last is no guarantee of winning the lottery but it doesn’t hurt your chances despite what Bettman says.
Bettman also said it is conceivable that next season’s salary cap could rise by more than the projected $1 million if the outstanding escrow still owed to the owners from the players is paid off by the end of this season. However, he cautions that will depend on whether their projected revenues come in higher than anticipated.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We won’t learn for certain what it will be until sometime in June. General managers are preparing for next season expecting a $1 million hike rather than a significant increase.
DAILY FACEOFF: Hall-of-Fame goaltender Roberto Luongo will participate as a “celebrity goaltender” in the breakaway challenge during the skills competition at the 2023 NHL All-Star Game on Feb. 3.
OTTAWA SUN: The Senators have rallied to support assistant coach Bob Jones after he was diagnosed with ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Devastating news for Jones and the Senators organization. My best wishes to Jones and his family as he battles this disease.