NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 29, 2023
A five-point performance for the Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the Flames and Predators gain ground for the final Western Conference wild-card berth, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews weighs in on his future, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: A five-point performance by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (one goal, four assists) powered the Edmonton Oilers to a 7-4 romp over the Vegas Golden Knights. Connor McDavid collected three assists while Leon Draisaitl had two points for the 43-23-9 Oilers (95 points) as they moved to within one point of the second-place Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific Division. Jonathan Marchessault tallied twice for the Golden Knights (46-22-6) as they hold first place in the Pacific with 98 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nugent-Hopkins is enjoying a career-best 96-point performance this season. He’s four points away from joining McDavid and Draisaitl in the 100-point club, which would be the first time an NHL team had at least three 100-point players in a season since the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins.
Speaking of the Kings, their 12-game points streak ended with a 2-1 loss to the Calgary Flames. Jacob Markstrom made 33 saves while Andrew Mangiapane and Walker Duehr scored for the 34-26-15 Flames (83 points) as they moved within two points of the Winnipeg Jets for the final Western Conference wild-card berth. Sean Durzi replied for the Kings (43-21-10) as they remain two points back of the Golden Knights with 96 points.
The Nashville Predators also kept pace in the race for the final Western wild-card spot by nipping the Boston Bruins 2-1, preventing the latter from clinching the Presidents’ Trophy for 2022-23. Juuse Saros kicked out 35 shots while Cody Glass and Cole Smith tallied for the Predators (37-28-6) as they sit one point behind the Flames. David Pastrnak tallied his 52nd goal of the season for the 57-12-5 Bruins, who sit atop the overall standings with 119 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators and Bruins wore Covenant School stickers on their helmets in support of the Nashville school that was attacked by a shooter on Monday.
Sidelined Bruins winger Taylor Hall is reportedly close to returning to the lineup. That could create a salary-cap headache for the Bruins as they lack the cap space to add him to the lineup.
Speaking of the Jets, they were blanked 3-0 by the San Jose Sharks. James Reimer picked up the shutout with a 41-save effort while Noah Gregor, Kevin Labanc and Martin Kaut scored for the 20-39-15 Sharks. Connor Hellebuyck stopped 27 shots for the Jets as they slipped to 41-31-3 and cling to that final Western wild-card berth with 85 points.
Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 31 shots to blank the Carolina Hurricanes 4-0. Brayden Point scored two goals and collected an assist while Steven Stamkos had a goal and two helpers for the Lightning, who improved to 43-26-6 and hold third place in the Atlantic Division with 92 points. The Hurricanes (47-17-9) remain in first place in the Metropolitan Division with 103 points.
The New York Rangers picked up their ninth win in their last 11 games with a 6-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko each scored for the 44-20-10 Rangers (98 points) as they sit two points back of the second-place New Jersey Devils in the Metro Division. Johnny Gaudreau had a goal and an assist for the 23-43-7 Blue Jackets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Speaking of Tarasenko, the Rangers clinching a playoff berth on Monday means the 2024 fourth-round pick they sent to the St. Louis Blues as part of the return for the winger upgrades to a third-rounder in 2024.
Turning to the Eastern Conference wild-card race, the Pittsburgh Penguins failed to widen their lead for the final spot by falling 7-4 to the Detroit Red Wings. David Perron tallied a hat trick while Dylan Larkin had a goal and two assists for the 32-32-9 Red Wings. Evgeni Malkin and Rickard Rakell each collected two assists as the Penguins (36-28-10) had dropped six of their last eight games as they cling to that wild card berth with 82 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde was ejected from this game in the second period for arguing with an on-ice official after the Penguins tied the game 3-3 on a controversial power-play goal by Jeff Carter, who Lalonde believed interfered with goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic.
Before the game, the Penguins assigned defenseman Taylor Fedun to their AHL affiliate to make room for Jeff Petry, who returned to action after being sidelined for five games with an upper-body injury.
Dallas Stars netminder Jake Oettinger made 17 saves to backstop his club over the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1. Joe Pavelski netted his 22nd goal of the season as the Stars (40-20-14) are tied with the Colorado Avalanche with 94 points, though the latter holds second place in the Central Division with a game in hand and four more wins. The Blackhawks fell to 24-44-6 on the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews has resumed practicing with his teammates after recovering from the effects of long COVID and chronic immune response syndrome that sidelined him since Jan. 28. He’s hoping to return to action at some point before the end of the season.
Toews acknowledged those could be his final games with the Blackhawks as he faces an uncertain future. The 34-year-old center is an unrestricted free agent this summer but he acknowledged his illness could prevent him from continuing his playing career.
The St. Louis Blues blew a 5-2 lead to the Vancouver Canucks before winning the game 6-5 on an overtime goal by Jakub Vrana, who finished the game with two goals for the Blues. Quinn Hughes and Andrei Kuzmenko each tallied twice and Brock Boeser collected three points for the Canucks. Both clubs have records of 34-34-6.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After struggling the last two seasons with the Red Wings, Vrana appears reborn in St. Louis. He has eight goals and 10 points in 12 games with the Blues since joining them via trade at the March 3 deadline.
Philadelphia Flyers forward Morgan Frost scored two goals as his club held off the Montreal Canadiens 3-2. Felix Sandstrom stopped 32 shots for the 29-32-12 Flyers, who eliminated the 30-39-6 Canadiens from playoff contention.