NHL Playoffs: Tampa Bay will need a lot to go right to beat surging Panthers
Connor McDavid reaches 100 points in 53 games, the Leafs and Penguins secure division titles, the Predators clinch a playoff spot, John Tortorella reportedly won’t return next season as Blue Jackets coach, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid reached 100 points in his 53rd game of the season in a 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks. McDavid had a goal and three assists to become the first player to score at least 100 points in the same number of games since Mario Lemieux (126 points) and Jaromir Jagr (101) in 1995-96. Teammate Leon Draisaitl scored twice to reach his 500th career point. With 68 points, the Oilers are assured of second place in the Scotia North Division.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That was a remarkable achievement by McDavid. He’s the favorite to win the Hart Memorial Trophy this season as the most valuable player.
The Toronto Maple Leafs won its first division title in 21 years with a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens, preventing the latter from clinching a playoff spot. The Leafs overcame a 2-0 deficit with second-period goals by Peter Engvall, William Nylander and Mitch Marner. They sit atop the North Division with 76 points. The Canadiens played without center Phillip Danault, who suffered a concussion during Thursday’s game between the two clubs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Montreal holds a 10-point lead over the Calgary Flames but the latter has three games in hand while the Canadiens have two games left in the schedule. The Habs need just one point or the Flames to lose one of their remaining games to clinch a playoff berth.
Ottawa Senators rookie Tim Stutzle tallied his first career hat trick as the Ottawa Senators doubled up the Winnipeg Jets 4-2. Mark Scheifele tallied his 200th career goal for the Jets (57 points), who remain just two points ahead of the fourth-place Canadiens.
The Pittsburgh Penguins clinched first place in the MassMutual East Division by blanking the Buffalo Sabres 1-0. Maxime Legace made 26 saves for the shutout while Jeff Carter scored the only goal. The Penguins finish the season with 77 points, two up on the Washington Capitals.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Carter’s offense has really picked up since the Penguins acquired him from the Los Angeles Kings at the trade deadline. After collecting just 19 points in 40 games with the Kings, Carter has nine goals and 11 points in 14 games with the Penguins.
An overtime goal by Conor Sheary saw the Capitals squeak past the Washington Capitals 2-1. Craig Anderson kicked out 28 shots for the win as the Capitals sit four points ahead of the third-place Boston Bruins.
The Bruins, meanwhile, dropped a 5-4 decision to the New York Rangers. Mika Zibanejad scored twice, including his 200th career goal while Boston winger David Pastrnak also tallied the 200th of his career. The Bruins (71 points) hold a one-point lead over the New York Islanders with a game in hand.
Speaking of the Islanders, they got two goals from Brock Nelson to beat the New Jersey Devils 5-1. Mathew Barzal had a goal and an assist for the fourth-place Isles.
The Nashville Predators clinched the final playoff spot in the Discover Central Division by beating the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1. Luke Kunin scored two goals for the Predators (62 points), who will face the Hurricanes in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No one saw the Predators in this position two months ago. A six-game winning streak in late March sparked an impressive season-saving surge in the standings.
A hat trick by Alexander Wennberg carried the Florida Panthers over the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-1. The Panthers (77 points) have won five straight games to move two points ahead of the Lightning into second place in the Central. These two teams will face off in the opening round of the playoffs. Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman missed this game with a lower-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports Hedman’s been dealing with this injury since March 30 and he could face surgery following the playoffs. A hobbled Hedman will affect the Lightning’s efforts to successfully defend their Stanley Cup title.
The Vegas Golden Knights maintained their lead atop the Honda West Division with a 4-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues. Reilly Smith netted his first career hat trick as the Golden Knights (80 points) hold a four-point lead over the second-place Colorado Avalanche.
Defenseman Devon Toews scored twice as the Avalanche nipped the Los Angeles Kings 3-2. Andre Burakovsky extended his points streak to five games with two assists. The Avs (76 points) sit one point ahead of the third-place Minnesota Wild with a game in hand.
An overtime goal by Victor Rask gave the Wild a 4-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks. It was the final game of Ducks goaltender Ryan Miller’s NHL career.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild saluted Miller following the game by lining up to shake his hand. He ends his career with 391 victories, a 2.64 goals-against average, .914 save percentage and 44 shutouts.
Phil Kessel scored in overtime in his 900th consecutive game as the Arizona Coyotes downed the San Jose Sharks 5-4. Kessel also reached the 20-goal mark for the 12th time in his career.
An overtime goal by Max Domi lifted the Columbus Blue Jackets over the Detroit Red Wings 5-4. Seth Jones collected three assists for the Jackets.
THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline cites sources saying John Tortorella won’t be returning as head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets next season. His contract expires after this season. Tortorella is the winningest coach in franchise history, guiding them to four playoff appearances in six seasons, including the first playoff series win in franchise history.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tortorella won the second of his Jack Adams Awards in 2016-17 for his efforts in getting the Jackets into the playoffs that season. However, the club struggled throughout most of this season, sparking speculation some of the players were growing weary of his demanding ways. He reportedly intends to continue his NHL coaching career.
NHL.COM: The league will relax its COVID-19 restrictions on fully vaccinated teams and players for the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs.
TSN: Some players on Canadian teams have started receiving their COVID-19 vaccinations in accordance with Canadian federal and provincial protocols. The Toronto Maple Leafs will begin receiving their shots today.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith and forward Brett Connolly are both in the NHL’s concussion protocol and won’t complete the club’s final two games of the season.