NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 10, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 10, 2021

The Islanders advance to the semifinals, the Norris Trophy finalists are announced, plus the latest on Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The New York Islanders advanced to the semifinals of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 6-2 victory over the Boston Bruins to end their series in six games. Brock Nelson scored two second-period goals to snap a 1-1 tie while Semyon Varlamov made 23 saves for the win. Brad Marchand tallied both Bruins goals. The Isles face the Tampa Bay Lighting for the second straight year in the third round.

New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Islanders were the better team in this series. They took control of this game in the second on those goals by Nelson with Kyle Palmieri making it 4-1 in the final minutes of the frame.

The Bruins were without sidelined defensemen Brandon Carlo and Kevan Miller. Goaltender Tuukka Rask acknowledged he was hampered by a nagging injury, raising questions over coach Bruce Cassidy’s decision to play him in this crucial game.

Adam Fox of the New York Rangers, Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche are this year’s finalists for the James Norris Memorial Trophy.

TSN: Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele still doesn’t believe he deserved a four-game suspension for charging Montreal Canadiens forward Jake Evans during their second-round series. “I thought I was going to be tried to be shut down by (Canadiens center) Phillip Danault,” said Scheifele. “Instead it was the Department of Player Safety that shut me down.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Scheifele shut himself down. He let his frustration get the better of him. Rather than accept the Game 1 loss and put the focus on rallying back in Game 2, he made a reckless hit that took himself out of the series. It contributed to the Jets getting swept from the second round by the Canadiens. Scheifele’s suspension is his fault. The sooner he accepts it the better.

Speaking of Evans, he resumed off-ice training yesterday after suffering a concussion from Scheifele’s hit that sidelined him for the rest of the second-round series. There’s no timeline for his return to play but Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said he could return at some point in the semifinals. Defenseman Jeff Petry could also return for the semis after injuring his right hand in Game 3 against the Jets.

SPORTSNET: Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers claims he felt 100 percent during the playoffs but revealed he suffered a posterior labrum tear in his shoulder and a first-rib cartilage fracture.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The injuries affected Ehlers’ play as he managed just three points in six games. He enjoyed perhaps the best performance of his career during the regular season, tallying 46 points in 47 games.

TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin hired Ray Shero as senior advisor. Shero is the former general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils.

THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks hired former Columbus Blue Jackets assistant coach Brad Shaw as an assistant coach. He’s expected to help the Canucks improve their porous defense.

THE SCORE: New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban will serve as an ESPN in-studio NHL analyst for the remainder of the playoffs. The company is also reportedly hiring NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes, as well as A.J. Mleczko Griswold and Ryan Callahan. Turner Sports, meanwhile, is bringing about NBC/Sportsnet analyst Anson Carter.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 18, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 18, 2021

The Bruins tied their series with the Capitals, the Avalanche and Hurricanes draw first blood in their respective series, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Brad Marchand’s goal 39 seconds into overtime lifted the Boston Bruins over the Washington Capitals 4-3 to even their best-of-seven first-round series at one game apiece. Boston winger Taylor Hall scored the tying goal late in the third period to send the game into the extra frame. Garnet Hathaway scored twice for Washington, who got a 44-save performance from goaltender Craig Anderson. Capitals center Lars Eller left the game in the second period with a lower-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Questionable officiating saw this game deteriorate into a sloppy contest. Game 3 goes Wednesday evening in Boston.

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (NHL Images)

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon scored twice and set up another in a series-opening 4-1 victory against the St. Louis Blues. Gabriel Landeskog had a goal and two assists as the Avalanche broke the game open with three goals in the third period. Jordan Binnington kicked out 46 shots for the Blues.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Binnington was the only reason this game was tied through two periods before the Avs blew it open in the final frame. This series will end quickly if he doesn’t get more help from his teammates. Games 2 is on Wednesday evening.

The Carolina Hurricanes got two goals from captain Jordan Staal to defeat the Nashville Predators 5-2 in Game 1 of their first-round series. Nino Niederreiter tallied the game-winner by snapping a 2-2 tie early in the third period. Juuse Saros turned aside 33 shots for the Predators.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators defeated the Hurricanes in the final two games of the season but the latter took six of eight in their regular-season series. The Canes dominated the play through the final two periods of this one. The two sides face off again in Game 2 on Wednesday.

HEADLINES

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens goaltender Carey Price and winger Brendan Gallagher played in the Laval Rocket’s 2-0 loss to the Toronto Marlies last night. Price and Gallagher were on a long-term injury conditioning stint with the Habs’ farm club before their opening-round series against the Maple Leafs. Price allowed two goals on 15 shots while Gallagher had two shots on goal and a double-minor penalty for high-sticking.

ESPN.COM: The NHL department of player discipline handed a one-game suspension to Florida Panthers forward Sam Bennett for boarding Tampa Bay Lightning forward Blake Coleman in Game 1 of their series on Sunday.

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs promoted Dr. Hayley Wickenheiser to senior director of player development and Danielle Goyette has joined the department as a director.

Speaking of the Leafs, TSN’s Kristen Shilton reports defenseman Ben Hutton has a non-COVID, non-hockey-related medical issue that is being monitored by the team.

NEW YORK POST: ESPN hired Leah Hextall as the first woman to do play-by-play as a regular part of a national NHL TV package. She did play-by-play of an NHL game last season for Sportsnet.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hextall previously worked for CTV Winnipeg, NESN and Sportsnet. Hockey runs in her family. She’s a cousin of Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall and her grandfather was Hall of Famer Bryan Hextall. 

AWFUL ANNOUNCING: Veteran NHL reporter Frank Seravalli has decided to leave TSN after six seasons. Speculation suggests he might join ESPN or Turner Sports ahead of their coverage of the NHL starting next season.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators have offered up Canadian Tire Centre to the city and the province of Ontario as a mass vaccination site.

TSN: A civil lawsuit has been filed against Vancouver Canucks winger Jake Virtanen alleging he sexually assaulted a young woman in 2017.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: A lawyer representing a former Chicago Blackhawks player in a sexual assault lawsuit against the team intends to call a former teammate to the stand as a witness in the case.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars signed forward Tanner Kero to a two-year, two-way contract.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 11, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 11, 2021

The Canadiens clinch the last postseason spot in the North Division, the opening day of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs is revealed, Jack Eichel talks about his season and the state of the Sabres, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Montreal Canadiens clinched the final playoff berth in the Scotia North Division in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers. An overtime goal by Connor McDavid gave the Oilers the win after Canadiens winger Artturi Lehkonen forced overtime with the game-tying goal in the third period.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens are expected to face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round. However, they could meet the Oilers if they win their final game of the season and the Winnipeg Jets drop their final two games in regulation. The Jets sit in third place with 59 points, one up on the Canadiens.

Speaking of the Jets, they dropped a 3-1 decision to the Vancouver Canucks. Jonas Hoglander scored twice for Vancouver.

A 36-save performance by Philipp Grubauer carried the Colorado Avalanche to a 2-1 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights. J.T. Compher snapped a 1-1 tie in the third period. With 78 points, Colorado sits two behind first-place Vegas in the Honda West Division. The Golden Knights (39 wins) have one game left while the Avs have two.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whoever tops the West will win the Presidents’ Trophy for this season’s best record.

An overtime goal by Justin Faulk gave the St. Louis Blues a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings The Blues will face the Golden Knights or Avalanche in the first round of the playoffs.

The Carolina Hurricanes chances of winning the Presidents’ Trophy ended in a 5-0 loss to the Nashville Predators. Pekka Rinne picked up the shutout with 30 saves while Matt Duchene scored two goals. The Hurricanes finish the season in first place in the Discover Central Division with 36 wins and 80 points while the Predators finish in fourth place.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes and Predators will face off against each other in the opening round of the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs beginning this weekend.

A 30-save shutout performance by Chris Driedger carried the Florida Panthers over the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0. Keith Yandle had an assist for his 600th career NHL points. Lightning forwards Mathieu Joseph, Gemel Smith and Daniel Walcott played together on what is believed to be the first all-Black forward line in NHL history.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the win, the Panthers clinched second place in the Central and home-ice advantage over the Lightning in their first-round series starting this weekend.

Boston Bruins winger Taylor Hall (NHL Images)

Taylor Hall’s overtime goal lifted the Boston Bruins past the New York Islanders 3-2. Bruins winger Ondrej Kase left the game with an upper-body injury. The win clinched third place in the MassMutual East Division for the Bruins, who’ll face the second-place Washington Capitals in the opening round of the postseason with Game 1 on Saturday. The Islanders will face the Pittsburgh Penguins.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kase was playing in his first game since suffering a concussion in January. An update on his condition could be made today.

The Dallas Stars nipped the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 on an overtime goal by Jason Robertson.

Two goals by Joel Farabee gave the Philadelphia Flyers a 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils.

HEADLINES

NHL.COM: Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the North Division playoffs could begin once all the regular-season games in that division are concluded. Several games earlier in the season involving the Vancouver Canucks were postponed due to COVID-19. Their final regular-season game is May 19.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would allow those Canadian clubs some extra rest while giving some of their banged-up players more time to recover before the playoffs begin.

WGR 550: Jack Eichel expressed his displeasure over the way the Buffalo Sabres handled the herniated disk in his neck during an end-of-season media conference call on Monday. He suffered that season-ending injury in early March. Asked why he hasn’t yet undergone surgery, he said it’s a contractual issue, saying the club decides what he can or cannot do to treat an injury.

The Sabres captain also revealed he suffered a sprained ankle during the season, fractured a rib several weeks before training camp and had a lingering abdominal injury from last season.

Eichel dodged the question of whether he’ll ask for a trade but admitted he has a lot of thinking to do regarding his future. He said he has to do what best for him and the Sabres must do what’s best for the organization.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eichel’s comments (which you can read in full by following the above link) raised eyebrows around the league. It sounds like he may have played his final game with the Sabres. I’ll have more in the Rumors section.

TSN: Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said yesterday it’s “self-explanatory” that Patrik Laine remains a key part of the club’s future. The winger is a restricted free agent this summer. However, his rights remain under the Jackets’ contract until 2022-23.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Laine’s contract status prompted speculation suggesting he could be traded if he and the Blue Jackets failed to reach an agreement on a new deal. The winger yesterday confirmed his wish to remain with the Jackets.

THE SCORE: San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane said filing for bankruptcy was a big weight off his shoulders. He considers it a relief that he didn’t have to hide his financial troubles anymore, calling it the end of that chapter of his life. Kane said the birth of his daughter 10 months ago helped him mature and accept responsibility for his actions.

SPECTOR’ S NOTE: That relief was reflected in Kane’s play this season. He’s the Sharks’ leading scorer with 22 goals and 49 points in 55 games.

NHL.COM: The list of candidates for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy was released yesterday. Among the notables is Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos, and Washington Capitals blueliner Zdeno Chara.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov, and Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending May 9, 2021.

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers signed defenseman Ryan Lindgren to a three-year, $9 million contract extension.

ESPN is reportedly adding Ray Ferraro and Brian Boucher as NHL analysts starting next season. The network declined to comment.

NHL.COM: The New York Islanders have renamed AHL affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers as the Bridgeport Islanders.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 7, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 7, 2021

Connor McDavid’s march to 100 points continues, Auston Matthews nets his 40th goal of the season, the league fines the Rangers $250,000, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid is within four points of reaching 100 on the season after collecting three assists in a 6-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. Leon Draisaitl also scored twice for the Oilers, who pulled goalie Mikko Koskinen from the net after the Canucks scored four goals on their first four shots. Brock Boeser, Nils Hoglander, Travis Hamonic and Jayce Hawryluk each had a goal and an assist for the Canucks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid has four games remaining in the season to reach 100 points. The Oilers sit in second place in the Scotia North Division with 66 points, eight behind the first-place Toronto Maple Leafs and seven up on the third-place Winnipeg Jets.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

Speaking of the Leafs, Auston Matthews tallied his 40th goal in his 49th game of the season in a 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Mitch Marner and John Tavares each had a goal and an assist. Canadiens center Phillip Danault left the game with an upper-body injury. The fourth-place Canadiens missed an opportunity to secure the final playoff berth in the division. With 57 points, they hold a 10-game lead over the Calgary Flames and need just one point to clinch.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews might’ve had a shot at 50 goals if not for a nagging wrist injury that cost him four games. This is the third time in his five NHL seasons he’s reached the 40-goal plateau.

A four-goal performance by Jeff Carter carried the Pittsburgh Penguins to an 8-4 drubbing of the Buffalo Sabres. Frederick Gaudreau and Jared McCann each collected three points as the Penguins moved into sole possession of first place in the MassMutual East Division with 75 points, two ahead of the second-place Capitals. The Caps, however, hold two games in hand.

Patrice Bergeron tallied the game-winner as the Boston Bruins blanked the New York Rangers 4-0. Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman turned aside 15 shots for the shutout while Brad Marchand and David Krejci each had two assists as the Bruins (71 points) moved within two points of the Capitals.

A 32-save performance by Mackenzie Blackwood gave the New Jersey Devils a 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders. Michael MacLeod snapped a 1-1 tie in the second period. The slumping Isles have dropped six of their last eight games and sit three points back of the third-place Bruins.

The Chicago Blackhawks upset the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 on an overtime goal by Alex DeBrincat. Blackhawks goaltender Collin Delia kicked out 36 shots for the win. The Hurricanes extended their points streak to 13 games and sit atop the overall standings with 80 points, holding a five-point lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers in the Discover Central Division.

HEADLINES

The NHL fined the New York Rangers $250,000.00 for issuing a public statement on Tuesday condemning George Parros, the director of the league’s department of player safety. The comments came after Parros fined Washington Capitals winger Tom Wilson for roughing Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich while Rangers winger Artemi Panarin suffered a season-ending injury after tussling with Wilson.

It is terribly unfair to question George Parros’ professionalism and dedication to his role and the Department of Player Safety,” said league commissioner Gary Bettman.

NEW YORK POST: Rangers CEO James Dolan appeared unperturbed by the fine. He said his club said what it felt it needed to say and the league did what it felt it needed to do. “Hopefully, we’ll both move on. I don’t think it’s worth enflaming anymore.”

TSN: Frank Seravalli reports the Rangers statement galvanized support for Parros from other teams and general managers in feedback delivered to NHL headquarters. The league has no intention of replacing Parros.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dolan has no love lost for Bettman dating back to the commissioner shutting down the Rangers’ attempt in 2007 to establish its own website outside of the NHL.com umbrella, even threatening to strip control of the Rangers from the Dolans. He knew he would get a slap on the wrist for his public comments.

We shouldn’t be surprised that Dolan’s hamhanded attempt to get Parros replaced failed. Bettman enjoys the support of most of the team owners. Their general managers toe the company line. The NHL brain trust thinks its player safety department is doing a good job, a view that seems to be shared around the league, and it really doesn’t care about criticism from the fans and media.

THE SCORE: Rangers winger Pavel Buchnevich received a one-game suspension for high-sticking Capitals winger Anthony Mantha during Wednesday’s fight-filled rematch between the two clubs.

NHL.COM: Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen was fined $2,000 for embellishment during a game against the San Jose Sharks on April 30.

CBS SPORTS: Blackhawks center Kirby Dach won’t play in the club’s final three games of the season. He aggravated scar tissue in his surgically repaired wrist on Monday.

AWFUL ANNOUNCING: ESPN has approached Wayne Gretzky about a broadcasting role. They’re also looking at Ray Ferraro, Kevin Weekes and John Davidson.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 11, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 11, 2021

Recaps of Wednesday’s action, the NHL and ESPN officially announce their new seven-year partnership, plus the latest on Artemi Panarin, Alex Pietrangelo, Evander Kane and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Leon Draisaitl had a hat trick and collected two assists as the Edmonton Oilers thumped the Ottawa Senators 7-1. Connor McDavid had a goal and two assists and Tyson Barrie had three helpers as the Oilers went 6-0-0 over the Senators this season. Senators forwards Colin White and Ryan Dzingel both left the game with injuries.

Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (NHL Images).

A two-goal performance by Joel Eriksson Ek enabled the Minnesota Wild to hold off the Vegas Golden Knights by a score of 4-3. Vegas rookie Dylan Coghlan tallied his first career NHL hat trick. The Golden Knights played without defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who coach Pete DeBoer said is sidelined “for the foreseeable future” with an upper-body injury. Meanwhile, goaltender Robin Lehner (upper-body) has been loaned to the Golden Knights AHL affiliate for a conditioning stint as he moves closer to returning to the lineup.

Montreal Canadiens forwards Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Tyler Toffoli each had two points in a 5-1 drubbing of the Vancouver Canucks. Jeff Petry scored his 10th goal of the season to lead all NHL defensemen in goals. He’s also the Canadiens leading scorer with 24 points. Habs blueliner Ben Chiarot left the game after injuring his hand in a fight with Canucks forward J.T. Miller.

The Colorado Avalanche edged the Arizona Coyotes 2-1 on an overtime goal by captain Gabriel Landeskog. Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta kicked out 44 shots in a losing cause. The Avalanche (30 points) sit in fourth place in the Honda West Division, two points up on the Los Angeles Kings.

Speaking of the Kings, goalie Troy Grosenick made 33 saves to win his first start in six years as he backstopped his club over the Anaheim Ducks 5-1.

HEADLINES

The NHL, ESPN and the Walt Disney Company officially announced their new seven-year media rights partnership beginning in 2021-22. The deal will be a combination of television and “cutting-edge streaming” that should “help Disney grow its audience, help the NHL grow the game and give fans more options.”

The remainder of the league’s media rights is still being negotiated. NBC, which carried the NHL’s broadcasting rights for the past decade, is among the bidders.

Among the highlights:

The Stanley Cup Final will be on ABC four of the seven years of this deal. ABC and ESPN will carry one conference final series and half of the first- and second-round games in the Stanley Cup playoffs each season, plus 25 regular-season games.

ESPN will also produce 75 national games each season and stream them on ESPN+ and Hulu. It will also stream more than 1,000 out-of-market games each regular season on ESPN+, replacing NHL TV.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports the ESPN package is worth around $2.8 billion, paying out over $400 million per season to the NHL. That’s a considerable increase over the $200 million per season from the current deal with NBC, with more to come when the second broadcast/streaming deal is finalized.

SPORTSNET: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the salary cap will likely remain stagnant as part of the four-year extension of the collective bargaining agreement with the NHL Players Association. He indicated it will remain flat until the league recovers overpayments through the escrow that built up in the return-to-play last season and the lack of attendance this season due to COVID-19.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That means less money for the foreseeable future for restricted and unrestricted free agent players. The league approached the PA last fall about a short-term increase in escrow payments or deferred salary to address the potential overpayments. However, that was rejected by the players as they didn’t want to make changes to a CBA extension agreement made just several months earlier. The players were within their rights, of course, but this is going to make it increasingly difficult for free agents to land lucrative new contracts.

NEW YORK POST: Artemi Panarin returned to Rangers practice for the first time in over two weeks. He took time off to deal with unsubstantiated accusations from a former KHL coach claiming he assaulted a young Latvian woman in 2011. Panarin is listed as day-to-day and won’t be in the lineup for tonight’s game against the Boston Bruins.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Panarin could be back in action perhaps on Saturday or Monday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

THE SCORE: The San Jose Sharks denied a report claiming they could void Evander Kane’s contract as the winger navigates through bankruptcy proceedings. “The Sharks are 100 percent committed to honoring Evander Kane’s contract and have no intention of having it terminated,” said a team spokesperson.

Kane filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in January, citing $26.8 million in debt and $10.2 million in assets. There is $29 million remaining on his contract with the Sharks. His creditors have requested to convert the bankruptcy to Chapter 11, which would make that remaining money available to them. A hearing to determine the designation is slated for later in March.

TSN: Nashville Predators defenseman Dante Fabbro received a two-game suspension for elbowing Carolina Hurricanes forward Brock McGinn on Tuesday.

SPORTSNET: Winnipeg Jets defenseman Nathan Beaulieu will be sidelined for weeks after blocking a shot with his right hand during a recent game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 10, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 10, 2021

Recaps of Tuesday’s action, the NHL is reportedly returning to ESPN, plus updates on Jack Eichel, Roman Josi, Nathan MacKinnon, Elias Pettersson and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist and Tristan Jarry made 33 saves as the Pittsburgh Penguins doubled up the New York Rangers 4-2. Before the game, the Penguins announced forward Jared McCann was listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. With 31 points, the Pens move one point ahead of the Boston Bruins into third place in the MassMutual East Division.

New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz picked up a win in his 1,700th career NHL game as his club edged the Bruins 2-1 on a shootout goal by Anthony Beauvillier. Semyon Varlamov made 32 saves and Brock Nelson scored in regulation as the Isles (36 points) got their sixth straight victory to maintain a two-point lead over the second-place Washington Capitals in the East Division. Bruins winger David Pastrnak tallied his 11th goal of the season while struggling teammate Jake DeBrusk was a healthy scratch.

Shootout goals by Sean Couturier and Nolan Patrick lifted the Philadelphia Flyers over the Buffalo Sabres 5-4, extending the latter’s winless skid to eight straight games. The Flyers overcame a 4-2 deficit on third-period goals by Claude Giroux and Shayne Gostisbehere. Their comeback began after they pulled starter Carter Hart in favor of backup Brian Elliott. They’re one point behind the fourth-place Bruins. Earlier in the day, the Sabres announced captain Jack Eichel is out at least a week with an upper-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hart gave up three goals on eight shots in the first period. It was the third time this season they’ve pulled the struggling 22-year-old goalie from a game. He is 6-5-3 in 15 starts this season with a bloated 3.61 goals-against average.

Carolina Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal (NHL Images).

The Washington Capitals blew a 4-1 lead over the New Jersey Devils but emerged with a 5-4 victory following an overtime goal by Jakub Vrana, who finished the game with two goals. Capitals forwards Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov each collected two assists while Devils center Travis Zajac picked up three helpers.

Jordan Staal scored twice, including the winner in overtime, as the Carolina Hurricanes nipped the Nashville Predators 3-2. Sebastian Aho scored and collected an assist for the Hurricanes (37 points), who sit one back of the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning in the Discover Central Division. Predators captain Roman Josi missed the game as he’s listed as week-to-week with an upper-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators were already missing blueliner Ryan Ellis, who’s also week-to-week with an upper-body injury. Losing their two best defensemen within a week of each other could be the death blow to the Preds’ fading playoff hopes.

Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky kicked out 38 shots as his club doubled up the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2, handing the latter their seventh loss in their last nine contests. With 36 points, the Panthers sit one point behind the second-place Hurricanes in the Central Division while the Jackets (25 points) are six points behind the fourth-place Chicago Blackhawks.

Connor Hellebuyck made 36 saves as the Winnipeg Jets held off the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3, handing the Leafs their third straight defeat. Jets defenseman Neal Pionk picked up three assists. Leafs center Auston Matthews snapped a five-game scoreless drought by tallying twice to become the first player to reach 20 goals this season. Jets defenseman Nathan Beaulieu left the game with an upper-body injury. With 33 points, the Jets are five points behind the first-place Leafs in the Scotia North Division.

An overtime goal by Blake Coleman gave the Lightning a 4-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Coleman and Tyler Johnson each had a goal and an assist as the Lightning (38 points) maintain a one-point lead for first place in the Central Division.

The Dallas Stars spoiled Blackhawks’ winger Patrick Kane’s 1000th career NHL game with a lopsided 6-1 victory. Stars winger Jason Robertson collected a career-high four assists while captain Jamie Benn picked up his 700th career point. The Stars, however, are 10 points behind the fourth-place Blackhawks.

HEADLINES

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports sources claimed the NHL and ESPN have reached an agreement on a seven-year to become one of the league’s media partners starting next season. It’s expected ESPN would split the package with another media company, getting exclusive rights to broadcast four Stanley Cup Finals between 2022 and 2028 plus streaming rights for Disney.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: ESPN hasn’t aired live NHL games since 2004 so this is a big deal for the league. The current contract with NBC pays $200 million per year so we can expect the new US broadcasting deal will be worth considerably more. This is also an indication of how much the NHL product has grown and improved in the American sports market over the past decade.

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon is expected to return to action tonight against the Arizona Coyotes after missing the Avs’ last three games with a head injury.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson is expected to miss at least another week with an upper-body injury. His last game was March 2 against the Jets.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes placed goaltender Darcy Kuemper on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury. He’s returning to Arizona for further evaluation after getting hurt during Monday’s game against the Avalanche.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy faced no supplemental discipline for his hit to the head of Lightning blueliner Erik Cernak, who returned to action last night against Detroit.

TSN: Only three players – Edmonton’s Kyle Turris, Nashville’s Erik Haula and San Jose’s Marcus Sorensen – are on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list.