NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 13, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 13, 2022

Recaps of Saturday’s action, Hurricanes close to re-signing Kotkaniemi, Avs re-sign Francouz, Landeskog and Chychrun injured, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Artemi Panarin had a goal and four assists to lead the New York Rangers to a 7-4 victory over the Dallas Stars. Dryden Hunt also collected three assists while Ryan Strome and K’Andre Miller each had two points for the Rangers (79 points), who moved ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins into second place in the Metropolitan Division. John Klingberg, Esa Lindell and Roope Hintz each had two points for the Stars (67 points), who sit one point behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the final Western Conference wild-card berth.

New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (NHL Images).

The Carolina Hurricanes took over first place in the overall standings by downing the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1, extending their home points streak to 13 games. Hurricanes goaltender Frederik Andersen made 28 saves while Jordan Martinook and Sebastian Aho scored unanswered goals in the third period. The Hurricanes and Colorado Avalanche each have 87 points but the Canes hold a game in hand.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid scored twice to lead his club over the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1. Mikko Koskinen made 31 saves for the win, Tyson Barrie collected two assists in his return from injured reserve while Josh Archibald was activated off long-term injury reserve for the Oilers (68 points), who moved ahead of the Golden Knights into third place in the Pacific Division. The Lightning (80 points) have dropped three straight and hold a one-point lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs for second place in the Atlantic Division.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid regained first place in the scoring race with 83 points, one up on Florida Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau and two ahead of teammate Leon Draisaitl.

Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom made 19 saves for his league-leading ninth shutout of the season in a 3-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Elias Lindholm reached the 30-goal plateau for the first time in his career and Matthew Tkachuk collected two assists. With 79 points, the Flames hold a seven-point lead over the Los Angeles Kings for first place in the Pacific Division.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Flames defenseman Oliver Kylington missed this game with a lower-body injury and is listed as day-to-day.

The Kings, meanwhile, were shut out by the San Jose Sharks 5-0. Adin Hill made 29 saves in his first start since Jan. 29 while teammate Timo Meier had a goal and two assists.

St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas scored twice and set up two others in a 7-4 victory over the Nashville Predators. The Blues blew a 3-0 lead but recovered on three unanswered third-period goals by Thomas, David Perron and Justin Faulk. Matt Duchene scored twice for the Predators, including his 30th goal of the season. The Blues hold a three-point lead over the Minnesota Wild for second place in the Central Division with 75 points. With 70 points, the Predators hold a two-point lead over the Golden Knights for the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

The Boston Bruins nipped the Arizona Coyotes 3-2 on a late goal by Charlie Coyle. Craig Smith scored twice and Jeremy Swayman made 27 saves as the Bruins (77 points) hold a three-point lead over the Washington Capitals for the first Eastern Conference wild-card spot.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun left the game in the second period following a collision with a Bruins player. No update was provided but the club is hopeful he’ll be day-to-day. Chychrun has been a fixture in the trade rumor mill for the past couple of months. Coyotes forward Christian Fischer missed the game with an upper-body injury and is considered day-to-day.

Patrick Kane collected three assists while Jonathan Toews and Caleb Jones each scored twice as the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Ottawa Senators 6-3. With 1,156 points, Kane moved in second place among the Blackhawks’ all-time scoring leaders. Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy was stretchered from the game after being hit into the boards in the first period. He wasn’t taken to hospital and remained at the arena under the team’s medical supervision. Murphy is traveling back to Chicago with his teammates.

Shootout goals by Tomas Tatar and Jesper Bratt gave the New Jersey Devils a 2-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Devils goalie Nico Daws made 33 saves in regulation and overtime. The loss leaves the Ducks four points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Ducks defenseman Josh Manson returned from injured reserve but forward Sam Steel wound up on IR with a facial injury.

A shootout goal by Marcus Johansson lifted the Seattle Kraken over the Montreal Canadiens 4-3. The Canadiens rallied on third-period goals by Alexander Romanov and Nick Suzuki to force overtime and the shootout. Canadiens defenseman Joel Edmundson made his season debut after being sidelined last summer by a back injury while Kale Clague was placed on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.

HEADLINES

TSN: The Carolina Hurricanes are reportedly close to agreeing to an eight-year contract extension with center Jesperi Kotkaniemi. It’s believed to be worth between $4.25 million and $4.5 million annually. The Hurricanes successfully signed away Kotkaniemi last summer from the Montreal Canadiens with a one-year, $6.1 million offer sheet.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Chris Johnston reports the deal cannot be formally completed until after the March 21 trade deadline because it’s an eight-year extension. Kotkaniemi was never a $6 million player but that was the salary needed to sign him away from the Canadiens. It was widely assumed he’d accept a lesser annual cap-hit on a long-term deal after this season.

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog will be sidelined indefinitely by a knee injury. The club hopes to have him back before the start of the playoffs in late April or early May. Defenseman Samuel Girard will miss approximately four weeks with a lower-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Landeskog and Girard earn a combined $12 million. If they’re placed on long-term injury reserve it would provide the Avalanche with much-needed salary-cap flexibility to add a player or two before the March 21 trade deadline.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: The Avalanche signed backup goaltender Pavel Francouz to a two-year, $4 million contract extension.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It remains to be seen if Darcy Kuemper will also get an extension. The Avs starter is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets captain Boone Jenner is listed as week-to-week with a lower-back injury.

PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: Flyers forward Scott Laughton is sidelined indefinitely after suffering a concussion during Thursday’s game against the Florida Panthers.

TSN: Minnesota Wild winger Marcus Foligno was fined $5,000.00 by the department of player safety for kneeing Blue Jackets winger Jakub Voracek on Friday.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 9, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 9, 2022

Marc-Andre Fleury picks up a win in his return to Vegas, the Stars snap the Penguins’ 10-game win streak, the Sharks waive Evander Kane for the purpose of terminating his contract, the latest COVID-19 updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves in a 2-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights as he faced his former team for the first time since being traded to Chicago last summer. Riley Stillman scored the game-winner in the second period. Fleury was greeted with a video tribute by the Golden Knights and a standing ovation from the Vegas crowd.

Could the Edmonton Oilers target Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury? (NHL Images)

Third-period goals by Joe Pavelski and Roope Hintz lifted the Dallas Stars over the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2, snapping the latter’s 10-game winning streak. With 36 points, the Stars are three points out of the final Western Conference wild-card spot.

Tomas Hertl tallied a natural hat trick, including the winner in overtime, to rally the San Jose Sharks over the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2. James van Riemsdyk tallied both goals for the Flyers. With the win, the Sharks (39) are tied with the Los Angeles Kings but the latter holds the final Western Conference wild-card spot with a game in hand.

Speaking of the Kings, they got a 21-save shutout from Cal Petersen to blank the Detroit Red Wings 4-0. Dustin Brown collected two assists for the Kings while the Red Wings (35 points) are three points behind the Boston Bruins for the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth.

And speaking of the Bruins, David Pastrnak’s two first-period goals powered the Boston Bruins over the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2. Brad Marchand also scored twice for the Bruins. The Lightning (51 points) are tied with the Panthers but the latter holds first place in the overall standings due to two games in hand. Bruins forward Nick Foligno left the game with an injury in the first period and won’t play Monday against the Washington Capitals.

Meanwhile, the Panthers regained first place in the overall standings with a 4-3 overtime victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. Anthony Duclair netted the game-winning goal, Carter Verhaeghe scored twice and Jonathan Huberdeau had a goal and an assist. The Hurricanes (50 points) sit in third place.

A three-goal third-period outburst (including two by Ryan Lindgren) carried the New York Rangers over the Anaheim Ducks 4-1. With 50 points, the Rangers are tied with the Hurricanes in the overall standings but the latter has three games in hand.

The Colorado Avalanche overcame 3-0 and 4-1 deficits to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4 on an overtime goal by Devon Toews. Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen finished the night with four assists. Leafs center Auston Matthews scored twice and Alex Kerfoot had a three-point game against his former club.

Shootout goals by Kevin Fiala and Frederick Gaudreau cemented a 3-2 comeback victory by the Minnesota Wild over the Washington Capitals. At one point, the Wild were down 2-0 but an errant pass by Carl Hagelin on a delayed penalty wound up in the Capitals’ empty net proved to be the turning point. Capitals goalie Zach Fucale set an NHL record for the longest sequence (138:31) without allowing a goal to start an NHL career. The Wild entered the game with Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin sidelined by injuries and Alex Goligoski in COVID protocol.

The Nashville Predators picked up their fourth straight win by doubling up the Arizona Coyotes 4-2. Juuse Saros picked up the win with 38 saves while Roman Josi and Ryan Johansen each collected two points. The Predators (48 points) hold first place in the Central Division.

Oliver Bjorkstrand scored twice to give the Columbus Blue Jackets a 4-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils. Jakub Voracek collected two assists for the Jackets.

HEADLINES

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks placed Evander Kane on unconditional waivers for the purpose of terminating his contract over a breach of contract and violation of AHL COVID-19 protocols. Kane reportedly traveled to Vancouver while COVID positive.

Kane’s agent and the NHLPA intend to file a grievance on the winger’s behalf if he clears waivers today.

SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: Sheng Peng cites NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league is satisfied the Sharks have sufficient grounds to terminate Kane’s contract. Peng also cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reporting there’s a dispute over whether Kane had medical clearance to travel to Vancouver as well as his return to the Sharks’ AHL affiliate. The Sharks allege he was supposed to return on Dec. 31 but didn’t do so until Jan. 6.

CAP FRIENDLY: Kane will become an unrestricted free agent and can sign with any other NHL club if the Sharks successfully terminate his contract. If he signs before the March 21 trade deadline he will also be allowed to participate in the NHL playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whether Kane can find another NHL club willing to take a chance on him should his contract with the Sharks be terminated is another matter.

There have been rumors in recent weeks linking him to several teams. However, The Athletic’s Corey Masisak and Kevin Kurz cited two NHL executives suggesting Kane’s personal baggage and reputation could have an adverse effect upon his efforts to find another NHL home.

If the Sharks’ efforts are successful, Kane’s $7 million annual cap hit through 2024-25 will come off their books, It will free up valuable salary-cap space that they can put toward bolstering their roster or perhaps re-signing center Tomas Hertl.

SPORTSNET: Nashville Predators winger Filip Forsberg, New York Rangers winger Ryan Reaves, Pittsburgh Penguins winger Bryan Rust and San Jose Sharks center Nick Bonino were among the latest players placed on the COVID-19 protocol list.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Bob Edmundson, father of Montreal Canadiens defenseman Joel Edmundson, passed away on Friday at age 61 after battling lung cancer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to the Edmundson family.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 21, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 21, 2021

The Flyers down the Bruins, the Blues defeat the Golden Knights plus the Jets brace for more COVID-19 cases, an update on the Oilers’ Mike Smith and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Third-period goals by Cam Atkinson, Travis Konecny and Sean Couturier powered the Philadelphia Flyers over the Boston Bruins 6-3. Atkinson scored twice, Couturier and Joel Farabee each had a goal and an assist and Martin Jones made 37 saves for the win. Boston made it interesting by overcoming a 3-1 deficit to tie the game in the second period on goals by Taylor Hall and Brad Marchand. Bruins forward Nick Foligno left the game in the second period with a lower-body injury.

Philadelphia Flyers winger Cam Atkinson (NHL Images).

Jordan Binnington made 42 saves and Vladimir Tarasenko tallied the go-ahead goal to give the St. Louis Blues a 3-1 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights. Brandon Saad and Ivan Barbashev also tallied for the Blues while William Karlsson scored Vegas’ only goal.

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets are reportedly bracing for more positive COVID-19 tests after captain Blake Wheeler tested positive and went into self-isolation on Tuesday. The club didn’t comment on the report but is expected to provide an update on Thursday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli broke this story. He followed up on Twitter saying some tests that were initially positive have since been confirmed negative. Seravalli said it’s possible most of the roster will be cleared to play tonight against the Anaheim Ducks but the Jets are awaiting clarity on this changing situation.

TSN: Speaking of the Jets, they assigned prospect forward Cole Perfetti to the AHL’s Manitoba Moose.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers goaltender Mike Smith has been placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. He’ll be sidelined for at least one week.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers’ playoff hopes rest on a healthy Smith unless backup Mikko Koskinen can step up in his absence, something he’s had difficulty doing in the past.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi is looking forward to facing the Canadiens in Montreal tonight. It will be his first game against his former team since signing a one-year, $6.1 million offer sheet in August. Kotkaniemi said he has no hard feelings and nothing but “real good memories” of his time with the Habs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given how poorly the Canadiens have started the season, Kotkaniemi could rub more salt in the wound by scoring during a Hurricanes victory tonight.

TSN: Speaking of the Canadiens, defenseman Joel Edmundson has taken a leave of absence to be with his father, who’s suffering from cancer. Edmundson has been sidelined thus far by an undisclosed injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Edmundson’s absence is part of the reason the Canadiens are 0-4-0 to start this season. He was a strong physical presence on their blueline last season, especially in the playoffs. Factor in the absence of starting goalie Carey Price (NHL player assistance program)and team captain Shea Weber (injuries) plus the departure of two-way center Phillip Danault (free agency) and it’s unsurprising the Canadiens look terrible thus far.

TSN: Florida Panthers forward Joe Thornton was fined $1,875.00 for slashing Tampa Bay Lightning forward Boris Katchouk on Tuesday.

Calgary Flames placed forward Glenn Gawdin on waivers yesterday.

Former NHL forward Artem Anisimov signed a one-year contract with KHL club Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 7, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 7, 2021

The Islanders’ Semyon Varlamov expected to miss the start of the season, Wild owner discusses his club’s buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the Sharks prepare to start the season without Evander Kane, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple reports an undisclosed injury could sideline New York Islanders starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov for the upcoming start of the season. It’s uncertain if Varlamov’s condition is tied to a nagging knee injury that hampered him during the 2021 playoffs. His absence would mean Ilya Sorokin becomes the Isles’ start with Cory Schneider as his backup. 

New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Varlamov wouldn’t be the only noteworthy starter expected to miss the start of this season. Montreal’s Carey Price will also reportedly remain sidelined when the schedule begins next week. Speaking of the Canadiens…

TSN: Habs defenseman Joel Edmundson will be sidelined two-to-three weeks with an undisclosed injury. He’s been day-to-day since training camp opened.

NHL.COM: Bad news for Los Angeles Kings’ Quinton Byfield as the 19-year-old center was diagnosed with a fractured left ankle suffered during Tuesday’s preseason loss to the Arizona Coyotes. He’s been placed on injured reserve and sidelined indefinitely.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An unfortunate setback for Byfield. Selected second overall in the 2020 NHL Draft, he was hoping to garner a full-time roster spot with the Kings this season.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers winger Kailer Yamamoto will miss tonight’s game against the Vancouver Canucks. He could have a concussion after suffering the injury during Monday’s game against the Calgary Flames.

THE SCORE: New York Rangers enforcer Ryan Reaves is day-to-day with an injured left leg after his skate was clipped by New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban as they went into the corner chasing a loose puck. Reaves had to be helped off the ice.

DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: Red Wings forward Michael Rasmussen is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.

THE ATHLETIC: Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold told Michael Russo he supported general manager Bill Guerin’s decision to buy out winger Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter this summer. However, he expressed no regrets about signing the duo to their 13-year contracts back in 2012.

It totally changed our franchise,” said Leipold. “We went from not selling any tickets and having a future that looked bleak to overnight being a sellout team for the next five, six years.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The additions of Parise and Suter didn’t translate into a Stanley Cup for the Wild but Leipold’s right about how much they improved the franchise. Before they joined the Wild, the club reached the playoffs just four times in 11 seasons. With Parise and Suter in the lineup, they qualified for the postseason eight times in nine seasons.

THE MERCURY NEWS: San Jose Sharks head coach Bob Boughner said his club is preparing to start the season without Evander Kane in the lineup. The 30-year-old winger has been out of the lineup while under investigation by the league regarding allegations of spousal abuse and using a fake COVID-19 vaccination card.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 28, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 28, 2021

Key dates for the 2021-22 season are revealed, the league won’t allow unvaccinated players into Canada, plus the latest on Henrik Lundqvist, Cole Caufield and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

SPORTSNET: The key dates for the NHL’s upcoming 2021-22 season were released yesterday. The trade deadline will be 3 pm ET on Monday, March 21, 2022, and free agency begins at noon ET on Wednesday, July 13, 2022.

Dec. 1, 2021, remains the due date for restricted free agents to be signed in order to play this season. Players on one-year contracts can sign contract extensions effective Jan. 1, 2022.

Other notable dates include the last possible date of the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs (June 30), the first buyout period opening (July 1), the 2022 NHL Draft (July 7 and 8 in Montreal), and the salary arbitration period (July 27 to Aug. 11, 2022).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli (stick tap to Kukla’s Korner) tweeted out the complete list yesterday. The last day of the regular season is Apr. 30, 2021, the playoffs begin on May 2, and the deadline for qualifying offers is July 11.

THE SCORE: The NHL will not allow unvaccinated players to enter Canada to play in games this season. The league isn’t seeking a National Interest Exemption because so few NHL players remain unvaccinated. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly recently said he expected 98 percent of NHL players will be fully vaccinated by the start of the upcoming season.

The New York Rangers will retire Henrik Lundqvist’s No. 30 on Jan. 28, 2022 (NHL Images).

  NEW YORK POST: The Rangers announced they will retire Henrik Lundqvist’s No. 30 jersey on Jan. 28, 2022, in a pregame ceremony at Madison Square Garden before facing off against the Minnesota Wild. He will become the 11th player to receive that honor in Rangers history.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens rookie winger Cole Caufield will be sidelined about a week with an upper-body injury. Defenseman Joel Edmundson is expected to join his teammates in training camp on Tuesday or Wednesday after being sidelined by a minor injury. Winger Brendan Gallagher has joined his teammates after missing training camp due to family reasons.

TSN: Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon claims there was no grand scheme behind his club’s successful attempt at signing away winger Jesperi Kotkaniemi from the Canadiens earlier this month. He noted the signing wouldn’t have happened had his club managed to re-sign defenseman Dougie Hamilton, who inked a seven-year deal with the New Jersey Devils on July 28.

There was no grand plan…we didn’t set out to do this two years ago, even a month ago,” said Dundon. “There’s always lots of options to look at based on the order things happen. When this came up, this one actually worked.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There was speculation the Kotkaniemi signing was made as retribution for the Canadien’s failed attempt at signing Sebastian Aho two years ago. However, Dundon does make a good point about Hamilton.

Had the Hurricanes retained the blueliner, Kotkaniemi would probably still be with the Canadiens because the Canes would’ve lacked the cap space to sign him to a one-year, $6.1 million contract. The Hurricanes’ also attempted to trade for the 21-year-old center before going the offer sheet route, and reportedly gave the Habs a heads-up that they were going to sign him. That was an odd thing to do if revenge for the Aho offer sheet was the goal here.

The Hurricanes got a little petty by tacking the $15.00 onto the end of the $6.1 million (for Kotkaniemi’s jersey number in Montreal) and including a $20 signing bonus (signifying Aho’s jersey number). Still, that’s not proof Dundon was plotting vengeance for the past two years.

THE ATHLETIC’S Tarik El-Bashir reports Washington Capitals forward Lars Eller left practice yesterday with a lower-body injury. They’ll see how he feels today. El-Bashir doesn’t know if it’s connected to last season’s groin muscle strains.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins winger Zach Aston-Reese tested positive for COVID-19 and entered the NHL’s coronavirus protocol.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Penguins GM Ron Hextall last week indicated only one player in the organization was not fully vaccinated but declined to identify him. Aston-Reese’s positive COVID test doesn’t mean he was that player.

ESPN.COM: Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Kevin Lankinen was removed from the COVID-19 protocol list. He’d been held out of the lineup since Friday but that doesn’t necessarily mean he tested positive.

NHL.COM: The department of player safety suspended Washington Capitals defenseman Dylan McIlrath for two preseason games and two regular-season games for an illegal hit to the head of Boston Bruins forward Steven Fogarty.

Ottawa Senators forward Ridly Greig was suspended for one preseason game and one regular-season game for cross-checking Winnipeg Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois.

THE ATHLETIC’s Rick Dhaliwal reports Vancouver Canucks defenseman Brady Keeper underwent surgery on Monday for a broken leg.

THE SCORE: Former NHL defenseman Sami Vatanen signed a one-year contract with Geneve-Servette Hockey Club in Switzerland. He recorded 200 points in 473 career games with the Anaheim Ducks, New Jersey Devils and Dallas Stars.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 21, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 21, 2021

The Golden Knights tie their semifinal series with an OT win over the Canadiens plus ongoing reaction from Game 4 of the Islanders-Lightning series and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Vegas Golden Knights tied their semifinal series with the Montreal Canadiens at two games apiece with a 2-1 overtime victory in Game 4. Nicolas Roy tallied the game-winner in the extra frame.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner (NHL Images).

Montreal opened the scoring with a second-period goal by Paul Byron but Vegas defenseman Brayden McNabb tied it midway through the third period. Robin Lehner was a surprise starter for the Golden Knights, kicking out 27 shots for the victory.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eyebrows were raised when Vegas coach Peter DeBoer went with Lehner over starter Marc-Andre Fleury for this contest. Fleury’s turnover in Game 3 cost his club that game but he’s been otherwise superb in this postseason. It was a gusty move on DeBoer’s part that paid off. Lehner played very well, showing little sign of rust in just his second game of these playoffs.

After the Golden Knights dominated Game 3 and lost in overtime, it was the Canadiens turn to fall in the extra frame after outperforming their opponent. This was one of the Habs’ best games of the playoffs despite the loss. They’ve done an effective job bottling up the Golden Knights’ scoring forwards.

The poor quality of the NHL officiating has been an ongoing theme in this year’s playoffs. It reared its ugly head in this contest. One example was Montreal defenseman Joel Edmundson boarding Vegas forward William Carrier from behind right in front of referee Dan O’Rourke. Another was NcNabb manhandling Canadiens center Nick Suzuki, punching him in the face in full view of referee Chris Lee. There was no call in either incident.

LAS VEGAS SUN: Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon was placed in self-isolation yesterday after testing positive for COVID-19. The test result was revealed hours before Game 4. McCrimmon is the second person in this series to test positive. On Friday, Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme tested positive and is self-isolating for 14 days.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ducharme was fully vaccinated but a Golden Knights spokesman declined to comment when asked if McCrimmon had reached that status. The story goes on to say that 85 percent of their traveling party had reached the vaccination threshold that qualified for relaxed travel protocols. McCrimmon and team president George McPhee was seen maskless while watching Game 3 from a suite at the Bell Centre, which could be considered a protocol violation.

The games in this series are the first involving NHL teams traveling back and forth between Canada and the United States since March 2020. So far, no players have tested positive. You can bet the league will be closely monitoring this situation, reminding both clubs about the importance of maintaining its COVID-19 protocols.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: For the first time in two postseasons, the Lightning is tied 2-2 in a series heading into Game 5. They led each of their last six series three games to one heading into previous Game 5 situations.

NEW YORK POST: Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock’s game-saving block in Game 4 is earning comparisons to other famous saves in sports history.