NHL Playoffs: Tampa Bay will need a lot to go right to beat surging Panthers
A five-point performance by the Islanders Mathew Barzal, three more Canucks games are postponed by COVID-19 protocols, division stars and rookie of the month for March are announced, Nathan MacKinnon fined, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines
NHL.COM: Mathew Barzal’s hat trick carried the New York Islanders to an 8-4 romp over the Washington Capitals. Barzal finished with five points while teammate Jordan Eberle scored twice. John Carlson tallied twice for the Capitals, who lost goaltender Ilya Samsonov early in the first period following an accidental collision with teammate T.J. Oshie. The Islanders are tied with the Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins with 50 points but the Capitals remain in first place in the MassMutual East Division on the basis of a game in hand.
The Penguins, meanwhile, rode a 30-save performance by goaltender Casey DeSmith to a 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins. Pittsburgh forward Branden Tanev returned to the lineup after missing six games and picked up an assist. The Penguins have won five straight but sit in third place behind the Islanders as the latter has two more regulation wins. Boston defenseman Brandon Carlo left the game with an upper-body injury. The Bruins sit fourth in the vision with 41 points, three ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers.
Speaking of the Rangers, they edged the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on an overtime goal by Mika Zibanejad. Artemi Panarin collected two assists for the Blueshirts while Sabres goalie Dustin Tokarski kicked out 44 shots. The Rangers are tied with the Flyers with 38 points but the latter holds fifth place with a game in hand.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The East division is getting quite interesting. The Penguins have surged to jockey with the Capitals and Islanders for first place, the Bruins are clinging to fourth place but are being threatened by the Rangers, who could soon surpass the struggling Flyers.
Third-period goals by Ross Colton and Brayden Point 66 seconds apart lifted the Tampa Bay Lightning past the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 to snap a three-game losing streak. Point had two goals on the night while Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside 36 shots. Zach Werenski had a goal and an assist for the Jackets. With 52 points, the Lightning holds onto first place in the Discover Central Division. The Jackets (36 points) remain in sixth place in the division, three points back of the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks.
An overtime goal by Alex Wennberg gave the Florida Panthers a 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Frank Vatrano scored the tying goal and collected an assist on Wennberg’s winner. The Panthers also have 52 points but remain in second place in the Central as the Lightning hold a game in hand.
The Carolina Hurricanes got a late goal by Jesper Fast to nip Chicago 4-3 and sit one point behind the Lightning and Panthers. Warren Foegele tallied twice for the Hurricanes. The Blackhawks remain tied with Nashville with 39 points but the latter holds fourth place in the Central on the basis of regulation wins.
As for the Predators, they missed an opportunity to open a lead over the Blackhawks as their six-game win streak ended in a 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars. Joe Pavelski collected two assists for the Stars (34 points), who sit five behind the Predators and Blackhawks.
A shootout goal by Kevin Fiala lifted the Minnesota Wild past the Vegas Golden Knights by a score of 3-2. Cam Talbot had a 35-save performance while Kirill Kapizov had a goal and an assist for the Wild (46 points), who moved within four points of second-place Vegas in the Honda West Division. The Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche each have 50 points but the latter holds first place because of regulation wins.
The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-1 as Brendan Gallagher and Phillip Danault each had a goal and an assist. Jake Allen made 23 saves for the Habs, who hold a six-point lead for fourth place over the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks with 41 points.
Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov is the star of the month for March in the Discover Central Division. Colorado Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer is the Honda West star of the month. Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby took home the honor for the MassMutual East Division while Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid is the Scotia North Division star for March.
Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic was named the NHL’s rookie of the month for March 2021.
The Vancouver Canucks have had three additional games postponed as forwards Adam Gaudette and Travis Hamonic and a member of the coaching staff were placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list earlier this week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gaudette and his wife faced some flak on social media by several folks alleging they failed to properly protect themselves from COVID-19. In fact, the couple followed all guidelines and were informed they did nothing wrong by the team and health officials. The Gaudettes have no idea how they caught the coronavirus and don’t deserve being hounded by some ill-informed fans.
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon received a $5,000.00 fine from the NHL department of player safety for unsportsmanlike conduct against Arizona Coyotes winger Conor Garland on Wednesday.
Vegas Golden Knights forward Chandler Stephenson received a three-game suspension for elbowing Los Angeles Kings defenseman Tobias Bjornfot on Wednesday.
NEW YORK POST: Brendan Lemieux requested a trade from the Rangers prior to their dealing him last week to the Los Angeles Kings for a fourth-round pick. Lemieux made the request as he wanted to play for a team where he’d have a more meaningful role. He’d been seeing fourth-line duty this season with the Rangers.
THE SCORE: Roberto Luongo is expected to be named general manager of Team Canada’s 2021 World Championship team.
SPORTSNET: Wisconsin forward Cole Caufield, Minnesota State goaltender Dryden McKay and North Dakota forward Shane Pinto are this year’s finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. Caufield recently signed an entry-level contract with the Montreal Canadiens while Pinto inked a similar deal with the Ottawa Senators.
Patrick Kane honored for his 1,000th career game, Andrei Vasilevskiy sets a franchise record, three more Canadiens games are postponed by COVID-19 concerns, changes to the NHL Draft and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Patrick Kane collected two assists to lead the Chicago Blackhawks past the Florida Panthers 3-2. Goaltender Kevin Lankinen made 33 saves as Chicago snapped a four-game losing skid. Before the game, the Blackhawks honored Kane for recently playing in his 1,000th career NHL game. Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov missed the game with a lower-body injury. The Hawks (35 points) hold a two-point lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets for fourth place in the Discover Central Division while the Panthers (44 points) remain one point behind the second-place Carolina Hurricanes.
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy made 16 saves for his franchise-record 12th consecutive win as his club edged the Dallas Stars 2-1. Second-period goals by Steven Stamkos and Yanni Gourde gave the Lightning the victory. With 50 points, they sit atop the NHL’s overall standings and hold a five-point lead over the Hurricanes in the Central Division. Before the game, Stars coach Rick Bowness announced forward Joel Kiviranta will be sidelined “for a while” with a lower-body injury.
The Nashville Predators got a 31-save performance Juuse Saros to shut out the Detroit Red Wings 2-0. Mikael Granlund and Mathieu Olivier were the goal scorers while captain Roman Josi collected an assist in his first game in two weeks. The Predators (31 points) are four back of the Blackhawks in the Central. Meanwhile, the NHL is investigating an incident during this game when one of the referees was overheard on a hot mic apparently admitting to targeting the Predators for a penalty in the first period.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The incident didn’t affect the outcome of the game but it would be a concerning issue for the league if its officials give the impression they’re singling out teams or players for questionable infractions.
Shootout goals by Conor Garland and Christian Dvorak gave the Arizona Coyotes a 5-4 victory over the Colorado Avalanche, snapping the latter’s seven-game winning streak. Arizona overcame a 4-2 deficit on third-period goals by Lawson Crouse and Phil Kessel to force extra time. Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta was placed on injured reserve before the game with a lower-body injury. Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and two assists with the Avs (43 points), who sit two points behind the Vegas Golden Knights in the Honda West Division. Jonas Johansson made 28 saves in his debut with Colorado. The Coyotes (33 points) are four back of the fourth-place St. Louis Blues.
The New Jersey Devils got a 30-save effort from Mackenzie Blackwood to hold off the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3. Yegor Sharangovich and Travis Zajac each had a goal and an assist for the Devils. Sean Couturier scored twice for the Flyers (34 points), who remain two back of the fourth-place Boston Bruins in the MassMutual East Division.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers had won just three of their last 10 games. They’ve failed to gain ground on a Bruins team sidelined by COVID-19 protocols.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens next three games have been postponed because of COVID-19 protocols. They were scheduled to play the Edmonton Oilers today and Friday and the Ottawa Senators on Sunday. Their game this past Monday with the Oilers was also postponed when Canadiens forwards Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Joel Armia were placed on the COVID protocol list. They remain the only two Habs on the list.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens will have a difficult time making up those games. The Gazette reports they’re scheduled to play 16 games in 30 days in April and four games in eight days in May. It will also be a problem for the Oilers.
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Four Anaheim Ducks – Danton Heinen, Ben Hutton, Jacob Larsson and Anthony Stolarz – were placed on the COVID-19 protocol list. The total number of players on the list has grown to 15.
TSN: The NHL’s proposed changes to the draft lottery were formally approved yesterday by the league’s board of governors.
Starting this year, only the top-two spots in the draft will be determined by the lottery, down from the previous number of three.
Starting in 2022, a team can move up a maximum of 10 spots, meaning only 11 of the 16 non-playoff teams will be eligible for the first-overall pick. Also starting in 2022, a team can win the lottery no more than twice in a five-year period.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pierre LeBrun reports the changes are meant to augment the chances of the bottom teams getting the first-overall pick. That became an issue in three of the last four drafts when teams with the worst record in the league slid to fourth overall in the draft lottery.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin skipped practice yesterday dealing with a lower-body injury. Head coach Peter Laviolette downplayed Ovechkin’s absence by claiming it was “more just maintenance than anything.”
THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury and hasn’t been ruled out for tonight’s game against the Winnipeg Jets.
OTTAWA SUN: Senators forward Austin Watson could be sidelined for a while with an injured left arm. He was spotted in the stands during practice yesterday with a cast on that arm.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: San Jose Sharks forward Kurtis Gabriel was fined $3.017.24 by the NHL’s department of player safety for a pre-game altercation with Los Angeles Kings defenseman Kurtis MacDermid on Monday. Head coach Bob Boughner was fined $5,000.00 and the team received a $25,000.00 fine.
Recaps of Friday’s action, the league faces criticism as it looks at rapid testing, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Third-period goals 27 seconds apart by Brad Marchand and Sean Kuraly lifted the Boston Bruins over the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1. James van Riemsdyk was the lone scorer for the Flyers, who played without goaltender Carter Hart (back spasms, day-to-day) and defenseman Philippe Myers, who has an upper-body injury. Forward Oskar Lindblom left the game in the third period following a hit from Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton.
The Detroit Red Wings’ winless skid stretched to eight games (0-6-2) after dropping a 3-1 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Barclay Goodrow tallied twice for the Lightning, including the game-winner.
Second-period goals by Aleksander Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe gave the Florida Panthers a 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators. The Panthers extended their points streak to eight games (6-0-2) as they’re the only team that hasn’t lost in regulation. Predators goalie Pekka Rinne made 34 saves.
The Vegas Golden Knights scored five straight goals in the opening 27 minutes to beat the Los Angeles Kings 5-2. Max Pacioretty, William Karlsson and Nicolas Hague each collected three points for the Golden Knights, who were playing their first game since their schedule was paused on Jan. 26 by COVID-19.
Shootout goals by Ryan Donato and Kevin Labanc lifted the San Jose Sharks over the Anaheim Ducks 5-4. The Sharks overcame a 3-1 deficit on third-period goals by Logan Couture, Evander Kane and Brent Burns but Max Comtois tied it for the Ducks.
TSN: The NHL and NHLPA are investigating rapid testing for players and team staff on game days to flatten the COVID-19 curve after five teams had their schedules paused and games postponed over the past two weeks. A total of 26 games have been postponed, 17 in February alone.
The Buffalo Sabres were among those teams. They were reportedly furious that they were apparently forced to play games last weekend against a New Jersey Devils team that was going through an outbreak of COVID-19. Five Sabres players have since wound up on the NHL’s COVID protocol list while Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger has tested positive. The Sabres had no players on the protocol list prior to the series against the Devils.
THE ATHLETIC: John Vogl reports Eric County executive Mark Poloncarz believes the NHL should have taken greater action to ensure the safety of the Sabres and Devils and everyone around them. “It seemed they were more interested in playing a game,” he said.
League commissioner Bill Daly said there were no concerns expressed regarding last Sunday’s games between the Sabres and Devils. An NHLPA representative said league and union medical advisors determined the game could go on based on the information available to them at the time.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league announced on Thursday they were taking steps to reduce player-to-player transmission of the coronavirus, including removing the glass behind the benches to increase airflow, increasing the distance between players in dressing rooms, and limiting the time spent at the arena by players and coaches.
The recent postponements and reschedulings aren’t surprising. There’s a greater risk of exposure and transmissions because the players aren’t under the strict quarantine conditions they played under during the 2020 playoffs. Doing more to limit transmission at the arena is one thing but there’s little the league can do to prevent players from exposure when they have greater access to the general public away from the rink.
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Penguins defenseman John Marino returned to practice yesterday after being placed on the COVID-19 protocol list on Wednesday. Sidelined blueliners Kris Letang and Mike Matheson also skated yesterday.
TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Travis Dermott (leg injury) will not play today against the Vancouver Canucks.
TVA SPORTS: Montreal Canadiens defenseman Alexander Romanov required stitches after being struck in the face with a puck during practice on Friday. Canadiens coach Claude Julien said Romanov will travel with the club for today’s game against the Ottawa Senators.
CBS SPORTS: Calgary Flames forward Derek Ryan has been referred to a specialist after injuring a finger during Thursday’s loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
NEWSDAY: The New York Rangers promoted Chris Drury to associate general manager.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Justin Williams is returning to the Carolina Hurricanes as a special advisor to the general manager.
Recaps of a busy Saturday, injury updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM:Connor McDavid scored twice, including the winner in overtime, to lead the Edmonton Oilers to a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Leon Draisaitl and Tyson Barrie each collected two assists while John Tavares had two assists for the Leafs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid’s end-to-end power-play goal in the second period is my candidate for goal of the year. I realize it’s very early in the season and lots of great goals are coming but it will be difficult for McDavid – or anyone else – to top that tally.
Jack Eichel tallied the only goal in a shootout as the Buffalo Sabres edged the New Jersey Devils 4-3. Sabres winger Taylor Hall collected two assists. Devils defenseman Ty Smith scored to move into a tie with Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov (seven points) for the rookie scoring lead.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal lifted his club to a 5-4 win over the New York Rangers. Rookie defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph had three assists for the Penguins, who lost blueliner Kris Letang to a lower-body injury. Rangers center Colin Blackwell left the game in the first period with an upper-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An update on Letang’s status could be coming later today. The Penguins already have four regular defensemen on the shelf with injuries.
The Philadelphia Flyers edged the New York Islanders 3-2 on an overtime goal by Scott Laughton. Carter Hart kicked out 26 shots for the win. It’s the Islanders’ fourth consecutive defeat.
Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored in overtime to nip the Boston Bruins 4-3. It was Ovechkin’s first game since being placed on COVID-19 protocol list a week ago. Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and two assists. This was Zdeno Chara’s first game against the Bruins since signing with the Capitals. Bruins winger David Pastrnak collected an assist in his first game of the season following his recovery from offseason hip surgery.
The Carolina Hurricanes beat the Dallas Stars 4-1 to hand the latter their first loss of the season. Vincent Trochek scored twice for the Hurricanes, who chased Stars goalie Anton Khudobin after he gave up four goals on 16 shots. Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek left the game early in the first with an upper-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Khudobin didn’t get much help from his teammates in this contest. The defense was sloppy, giving up three power-play goals.
A four-goal second-period outburst carried the Tampa Bay Lightning over the Nashville Predators 4-3. Lightning rookie Callan Foote tallied his first NHL goal while Steven Stamkos scored the eventual game-winner. Filip Forsberg had two assists for the Predators.
Aleksander Barkov had a goal and an assist while Aleksi Heponiemi scored his first career NHL goal in overtime to lift the Florida Panthers over the Detroit Red Wings 3-2. The Panthers extended their season-opening points streak to five games (4-0-1).
The Calgary Flames blanked the Montreal Canadiens 2-0 to hand the latter their first regulation loss of the season. Jacob Markstrom kicked out 37 shots for the shutout while Johnny Gaudreau and Mikael Granlund were the goal scorers as the Flames halted their three-game losing skid. Canadiens winger Josh Anderson left the game following the first period with flu-like symptoms. He tested negative for COVID-19 but will be retested today.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Flames winger Dillon Dube got away with a blindside headshot on Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi. It’s unlikely he’ll receive supplemental discipline. Kotkaniemi was shaken up but returned to action.
Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Brandon Saad, Andre Burakovsky, and Samuel Girard each collected two points as the Colorado Avalanche downed the Minnesota Wild 5-1, handing the latter their third loss in their last four games. Wild defenseman Matt Dumba left the game with a leg injury in the third period. Earlier in the day, the Wild revealed prospect Marco Rossi returned to Austria to rest due to complications from COVID-19. He’s expected to return to the Wild sometime in March.
The St. Louis Blues scored their fastest three game-opening goals (2:06) in franchise history on route to a 6-1 thrashing of the Anaheim Ducks. Jordan Kyrou scored two of those three goals. Ducks goalie John Gibson was pulled after giving up those three goals on just six shots.
Brock Boeser scored twice to lead the Vancouver Canucks over the Winnipeg Jets 4-1 for their fourth straight win. Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko made 23 saves for the win while Jets netminder Connor Hellebucyk turned aside 35 shots.