NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 16, 2024
Hat trick performances by the Leafs’ Auston Matthews and the Rangers’ Chris Kreider, the Canucks expand their lead in the overall standings, Connor Bedard returns to action for the Blackhawks, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews tallied his fifth hat trick of the season as his club nipped the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 on an overtime goal by William Nylander. Mitch Marner collected three assists for the Leafs (28-16-8) as they hold the first Eastern Conference wild-card spot with 64 points. Travis Konecny had a goal and an assist for the 29-19-7 Flyers (65 points) as they hold third place in the Metropolitan Division.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews now has a league-leading 45 goals on the season, six more than Florida’s Sam Reinhart in second place. The Leafs center also set a franchise record with his 72nd multi-goal game.
New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider’s hat trick led his club over the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 7-4. Adam Fox collected four assists while Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad each had three points for the 35-16-3 Rangers, who picked up their sixth straight win as they lead the Metropolitan Division with 73 points. Cole Caufield scored twice while Juraj Slafkovsky had a goal and an assist for the 22-24-8 Canadiens.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was a costly win for the Rangers as winger Blake Wheeler left the game in the first period with an injured leg following a hit by Montreal defenseman Jayden Struble. He was helped off the ice by teammates before heading down the tunnel on a stretcher. There was no postgame update on his condition. Meanwhile, the 19-year-old Slafkovsky set a franchise record for the longest Canadiens points streak by a teenager.
Elias Lindholm scored two goals as the Vancouver Canucks became the first team to reach 80 points this season with a 4-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Elias Pettersson picked up three assists and Thatcher Demko stopped 27 shots for the 37-12-6 Canucks as they’ve won three straight games. J.T. Compher scored for the Red Wings (27-20-6), who hold the final Eastern wild-card spot with 60 points but have dropped three of their last four games (1-2-1).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Before this game, the Red Wings announced that goaltender Ville Husso is listed as week-to-week with a lower-body injury.
Chicago Blackhawks rookie star Connor Bedard collected an assist in his return to action but his club fell 4-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Bedard missed 14 games with a fractured jaw. Sidney Crosby tallied twice for the Penguins (24-20-7) as they moved to within five points of the final Eastern wild-card spot with 55 points. Philipp Kurashev scored for the 14-37-3 Blackhawks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Earlier in the day, the Penguins announced that winger Jake Guentzel will be sidelined for three to four weeks with an upper-body injury. I’ll have more about Guentzel in today’s Rumor Mill.
The Florida Panthers took over first place in the Eastern Conference by blanking the Buffalo Sabres 4-0. Anthony Stolarz kicked out 45 shots for his first shutout of the season while Carter Verhaeghe scored two goals for the 35-15-4 Panthers (74 points) as they picked up their fourth straight win and their 10th straight road victory. Eric Comrie turned aside 27 shots for the 23-26-4 Sabres.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers and Boston Bruins each have the same amount of points but Florida has more wins. Meanwhile, Comrie got the start for the Sabres as Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
Speaking of the Bruins, they dropped a 4-1 decision to the Seattle Kraken. Matty Beniers had a goal and two assists while Joey Daccord stopped 36 shots for the Kraken (23-21-10) as they moved to within four points of the final Western Conference wild-card berth with 56 points. David Pastrnak netted his 34th goal of the season for the 32-12-10 Bruins, who are winless in their last three games (0-2-1).
Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov scored twice and collected an assist as his club defeated the Colorado Avalanche 6-3. Kucherov leads the league with 94 points while his Lightning (30-20-5) picked up their third straight win. They hold third place in the Atlantic Division with 65 points. Bowen Byram scored two goals while Nathan MacKinnon had two assists to sit four points behind Kucherov in the scoring race. The Avalanche (33-18-4) hold second place in the Central Division with 70 points.
The Dallas Stars (34-14-6) have a four-point lead over the Avalanche with 74 points after crushing the Nashville Predators 9-2. Wyatt Johnston scored twice and collected two assists, Matt Duchene tallied twice against his former club while Tyler Seguin and Ty Dellandrea each had three points. Cole Smith and Tommy Novak replied for the 27-25-2 Predators (56 points) as they sit four points out of the final Western Conference wild-card berth.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators have won just three of their last 10 games and are in danger of falling further out of the playoff race. That’s stoked recent trade speculation regarding goaltender Juuse Saros, which I’ll feature in today’s Rumor Mill. Meanwhile, Stars defenseman Nils Lundkvist left this game in the first period with an upper-body injury.
St. Louis Blues forwards Jake Neighbours and Robert Thomas each had a goal and two assists in a 6-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers. Jordan Binnington made 35 saves for the Blues (29-22-2), who’ve won eight of their last 10 games and hold the final Western wild-card berth with 60 points. Connor McDavid picked up three assists for the 31-18-1 Oilers as they remain in third place in the Pacific Division with 63 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid is in third place in the scoring race, sitting nine points back of MacKinnon and 13 behind Kucherov. He’s tallied three or more points in five of his last seven games.
The Los Angeles Kings (25-16-10) maintained their hold on the first Western wild-card spot (60 points) by nipping the New Jersey Devils 2-1. Quinton Byfield broke a 1-1 tie in the third period while David Rittich stopped 26 shots for the Kings. Tyler Toffoli replied for the 27-22-4 Devils (58 points) as they remain two points out of the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kings welcomed back winger Viktor Arvidsson as he made his season debut following his recovery from an injured back.
San Jose Sharks forward Filip Zadina scored twice and collected two assists to lead his club to a 6-3 upset of the Calgary Flames. Luke Kunin tallied two goals and Justin Bailey had a goal and two assists for the 15-33-5 Sharks. Chris Tanev had two assists for the Flames (25-24-5) as they remain five points out of the final Western wild-card spot with 55 points.
Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler and winger Frank Vatrano each had a goal and two assists in a 5-1 win over the Ottawa Senators. Mason McTavish scored twice for the 19-32-2 Ducks while Claude Giroux replied for the 22-26-2 Senators.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ducks goaltender John Gibson left the game after the second period with an upper-body injury.