NHL Rumor Mill – June 8, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 8, 2021

An early look at possible offseason moves by the Jets, the Sabres are getting calls about Jack Eichel, plus the latest on the Penguins in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE JETS?

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski believes the Winnipeg Jets must focus on addressing their defense in the offseason. They’re expected to protect Josh Morrissey, Dylan DeMelo and Neal Pionk in the expansion draft, meaning they risk losing Logan Stanley to the Seattle Kraken.

He pondered if they’ll finally give more playing time to promising blueliners like Dylan Samberg and Ville Heinola or stick with stopgap measures Tucker Poolman, Derek Forbort and Jordie Benn. He also wondered if they’ll use their $14.9 million in cap space to bolster their top-four.

SPORTSNET: Ken Wiebe also weighed in on the Jets’ potential offseason plans. He doubts head coach Paul Maurice or general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff will be shown the door, but believes the roster requires an upgrade.

Like Wyshynski, Wiebe believes they must enhance the defense corps. He also cited promising youngsters Heinola and Samberg could be ready for full-time duty. Despite the emergence of Stanley this season, the Jets could go shopping for an experienced blueliner via the trade market or free agency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Once their strength, the defense corps has become a weakness for the Jets. It’s been an ongoing issue for the last two years and cannot go unaddressed for a third season.

Heinola and Samberg should help, as could Stanley if he’s not snapped up by the Kraken. Nevertheless, they also need an experienced top-four defenseman, preferably one who skates on the right side.

Teams are reportedly calling the Buffalo Sabres about captain Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

TEAMS CALLING SABRES ABOUT EICHEL

TSN: Darren Dreger reports teams are contacting the Buffalo Sabres expressing interest in several of their players, including team captain Jack Eichel. Dreger believes those conversations will increase ahead of the NHL draft weekend on July 23-24.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eichel raised eyebrows last month suggesting a “disconnect” between himself and management over treatment for a herniated disc in his neck. That generated considerable speculation over whether he’ll be traded this summer.

The report also indicated there’s been speculation about the futures of Sabres center Sam Reinhart and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. Reinhart, a restricted free agent, was noncommittal about his future in Buffalo during his end-of-season press conference. Ristolainen, meanwhile, said he’d be fine with a trade or remaining a Sabre. Blueliner Colin Miller could also draw interest in the trade market.

Buffalo fans would probably love to see their club shed the expensive contracts of Jeff Skinner ($9 million annual average value through 2026-27) and Kyle Okposo ($6 million AAV through 2022-23), but I doubt they’ll be moved in an offseason with a flattened salary cap.

LATEST ON THE PENGUINS

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski reports a well-placed source within the Penguins organization said the club intends to protect goaltender Tristan Jarry and center Evgeni Malkin in next month’s expansion draft. Malkin has a no-movement clause but he’d only waive it to go to Florida, where he and his family reside.

Kingerski also indicated the Penguins seek a veteran goaltender with playoff experience and could have an eye on Toronto’s Frederik Andersen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins don’t seem to want to give up on Jarry. He could benefit from an experienced mentor to help him split the duties for the next year or two. Andersen’s critics will snort with laughter over the thought of him backing up Jarry but he does have a solid resume over most of his tenure in Toronto. He could also benefit from a lighter workload compared to what he endured with the Maple Leafs.

No surprise Malkin has no interest in waiving his NMC to go to Seattle. He’s made no secret of his desire to finish his career with the Penguins. While he might welcome a trade to the Florida Panthers, they have no reason to acquire him when they’re planning to pay captain Aleksander Barkov a lot of money to stay put.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 5, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 5, 2021

The Canadiens widen their series lead over the Jets, the Golden Knights rally to get back into their series with the Avalanche, plus the latest on Mark Scheifele, Evgeni Malkin, Max Domi and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Carey Price turned in a 30-save shutout and Tyler Toffoli netted the only goal as the Montreal Canadiens blanked the Winnipeg Jets 1-0. The Canadiens hold a 2-0 lead in the series, which shifts to Montreal for Game 3 on Sunday. The Jets were without Mark Scheifele (four-game suspension), Paul Stastny (undisclosed injury) and Dylan DeMelo (lower body).

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens were the better team in this game. They did an effective job shutting down the Jets’ offense. The Habs have now won five straight games stretching back to their first-round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Vegas Golden Knights got third-period goals from Jonathan Marchessault and Max Pacioretty 45 seconds apart to defeat the Colorado Avalanche 3-2. Colorado goaltender Philipp Grubauer kicked out 40 shots in a losing cause. The Avs hold a 2-1 series lead with Game 4 slated for Sunday in Denver.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights have outshot the Avalanche 84-45 over the last two games. Many of the Avs’ best players weren’t at their best in this contest. Grubauer’s been brilliant but he’s going to need more help from his teammates or this series will be tied on Sunday evening.

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets center Mark Scheifele said he was shocked by what he considered an excessive four-game suspension for his hit on Canadiens center Jake Evans in Game 1 on Wednesday. However, he won’t appeal the suspension. He also expressed his unhappiness over the hate his family received on social media following the incident. Evans, meanwhile, is sidelined indefinitely with a concussion.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s one thing to criticize Scheifele for his hit on Evans. He brought that upon himself and must face the consequences for his actions. It’s another to drag his family into this. There’s no justification for that at all.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin underwent surgery on his right knee. He’s expected to be available for the start of Penguins training camp in mid-September.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Malkin suffered the initial injury in early March, missing 23 regular-season games. He reinjured his knee during the club’s final game of the regular season, missing two of their six playoff games against the New York Islanders.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets center Max Domi will be sidelined five-to-six months following surgery to repair a labral tear in his right shoulder.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could explain the decline in Domi’s performance this season. He had just 24 points in 54 games this season with the Jackets.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury but hasn’t been ruled out for Game 4 against the New York Islanders tonight.

NHL.COM: San Jose Sharks winger Kurtis Gabriel, Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne and New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban are the finalist for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 2, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 2, 2021

Could Brendan Shanahan, Kyle Dubas or Sheldon Keefe lose their jobs following another early playoff exit by the Leafs? Could the Florida Panthers try to acquire Penguins center Evgeni Malkin? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST ON THE LEAFS

TORONTO SUN/THE ATHLETIC: Lance Hornby and Jonas Siegel wondered if heads will roll in the Maple Leafs’ front office or among the coaching staff following the club’s early playoff exit.

Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas (NHL.com).

Brendan Shanahan’s in his seventh season as team president but the club’s postseason woes continue. General manager Kyle Dubas has been in the role three years and head coach Sheldon Keefe completed his second season.

Hornby and Siegel raised some questions about several of the moves made by the franchise in recent years and the overall performance. However, they don’t expect Shanahan, Dubas or Keefe to lose their jobs. They instead anticipate an assistant coach such as Manny Malhotra, Dave Hakstol or Paul MacLean or goalie coach Steve Briere could become a sacrificial firing.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sun’s Steve Simmons also doesn’t expect Shanahan, Dubas or Keefe to be fired. One or two of the assistant coaches could be replaced. The Leafs’ struggling power play could cost Malhotra his job.

Hornby wouldn’t be surprised if the Leafs see which goaltenders are available in the summer’s trade and free-agent markets. If nothing’s worthwhile there, he suggests returning with Jack Campbell and either David Rittich or a goalie from within their system. He doesn’t expect Frederik Andersen will be re-signed.

Of the Leafs’ other unrestricted free agents, Hornby feels Zach Hyman, Jason Spezza and perhaps Alex Galchenyuk should be signed. Siegel thinks restricted free agent Travis Dermott will be an affordable re-signing.

With defenseman Morgan Rielly a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility, Siegel believes the Leafs must decide on his future this year. Trading Rielly would fetch assets and clear cap space but the move would also leave a big hole on their blueline.

As for shopping a core player such as Mitch Marner or William Nylander, Siegel preaches caution here. Making change for change’s sake could set the Leafs back several years, pointing to the Boston Bruins’ trading Tyler Seguin in 2013 and the Edmonton Oilers trading Taylor Hall in 2016.

Both pundits believe the Leafs could lose Dermott or Alex Kerfoot in the expansion draft unless the Leafs cut a side deal with the Seattle Kraken.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs have to tread carefully as Siegel suggests. Nevertheless, they must fully evaluate their strengths and weaknesses to determine what moves are necessary and what’s available to address their needs.

They’ve still handcuffed themselves with those big contracts for Marner, Nylander, John Tavares and Auston Matthews. The latter two, of course, aren’t going anywhere. Tavares has a full no-movement clause while Matthews is coming off a Richard Trophy performance despite his lack of production in the series against the Montreal Canadiens.

Marner, Nylander or Rielly are the prime trade candidates if they wish to shake up the core. Each would fetch significant returns in the trade market. By moving one of them, however, they must ensure they’re not creating one problem by trying to fix another.

Losing Rielly could hurt the Leafs the most as it could prove difficult to replace him on the blueline. If they’re going to trade him they better be sure they’ve got a suitable replacement lined up.

Their depth at center suffered against the Canadiens when Tavares and Nick Foligno were injured. They’ll have to address that issue if Foligno isn’t re-signed and they lose Kerfoot to the Kraken. Finding a suitable goaltender to split the duties with Campbell is a must. So is replacing Hyman if he departs via free agency.

The Leafs sacrificed speed for experienced grit this year. I’m not saying they shouldn’t have physical players in their lineup but they can’t be the slowfooted kind.

They could also end up pursuing bargain players via trades or free agency if they don’t make a significant cost-cutting move. Cap Friendly shows them with nearly $69 million tied up in 14 players. They will get some relief depending on which player they lose in the expansion draft, but not enough to make an impact addition.

THE LATEST PANTHERS SPECULATION

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: George Richards shot down a recent report in the New York Post speculating Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville could head to the Seattle Kraken. “No one is taking it too seriously,” said Richards, pointing out Quenneville is among the NHL’s highest-paid coaches and appears very happy in his current job.

Richards wondered what the Panthers will do with goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and defenseman Keith Yandle. They’re the club’s highest-paid players with a combined annual average value of $16 million. However, both were healthy scratches during the Panthers’ final game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in their first-round series.

Both players have no-movement clauses plus Bobrovsky has a lot of years left on his contract. After seeing GM Bill Zito trade Mike Matheson and his contract last year, Richards doesn’t rule out the possibility of trading Bobrovsky or Yandle.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Richards considers it important for the Panthers to free up some salary to re-sign pending free agents such as Sam Bennett, Anthony Duclair, Alexander Wennberg and Brandon Montour. They’ll also have to consider long-term cap space to sign Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau to contract extensions over the next couple of years.

Zito didn’t sign Bobrovsky and Yandle to those contracts. He inherited them from his predecessor. Moving Matheson was easier because he lacked no-trade protection and had a more affordable $4.875 million cap hit. Trading those other two presents a bigger challenge for Zito.

Yandle could be easier to move than Bobrovsky. The 34-year-old blueliner’s got two years left on his deal with an annual average value of $6.35 million. It will require some creativity, perhaps a third-party broker and it could cost the Panthers a couple of draft picks or prospects to make happen in a package deal. Still, they’d have a better chance at moving Yandle than Bobrovsky’s $10 million AAV for the next five years.

Jimmy Murphy reported there have been numerous rumors over the last two years linking Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin to the Panthers. Malkin lives in Florida with his family during the offseason.

Murphy cited an NHL source with direct knowledge of the situation saying he believes there is and has been mutual interest there. However, they’re stuck with Bobrovsky’s big contract plus they’re planning to sign Barkov to an expensive new contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers’ rumored interest in Malkin first surfaced when Dale Tallon was the general manager. I doubt that’s the case now under Bill Zito. Even if he found a way to shed Bobrovsky’s salary, I don’t think he’ll use the savings to acquire an aging Malkin.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 27, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 27, 2021

Are the Penguins facing a roster shakeup? What next for the Panthers following another early postseason exit? What could be in store for the Oilers this offseason? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE PENGUINS?

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan wonders if the Pittsburgh Penguins will face a roster shakeup following their first-round elimination by the New York Islanders. Veteran core players Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang have a year remaining on their respective contracts, with Malkin carrying a no-movement clause.

The Penguins risk losing a young depth forward such as Zach Aston-Reese, Jared McCann or possibly Kasperi Kapanen to the Seattle Kraken in this summer’s expansion draft.

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Matt Vensel also wonders about the futures of Malkin and Letang, as well as that of head coach Mike Sullivan.

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (NHL Images).

Based on comments earlier this season by Brian Burke, the Penguins president of hockey operations, Vensel speculates they could try to bolster their goaltending while also adding some size and toughness to the lineup. The shaky performance of Tristan Jarry could send the Penguins into this summer’s trade and free-agent markets in search of help between the pipes.

THE ATHLETIC: Sean Gentille believes Jarry’s goaltending cost the Penguins the series. He wonders if they’ll move around some money to pursue a free agent such as Detroit’s Jonathan Bernier or Buffalo’s Linus Ullmark or look to the trade market for help.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins don’t need to blow up the roster but changes are necessary after three consecutive early postseason exits. Burke and general manager Ron Hextall will likely retool rather than rebuild, bringing in younger players to support their aging stars.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby isn’t in favor of breaking up the core. His opinion could carry some weight with Burke and Hextall but the final decisions rest with those two.

Crosby isn’t going anywhere and Malkin won’t be traded unless he requests it. The Penguins could shop Letang but it wouldn’t be surprising if he returns. He also has a modified no-trade clause listing 18 preferred destinations. He also carries a $7.25 million cap hit next season.

Goaltending is their weakness. Jarry was supposed to be an improvement over the departed Matt Murray but he couldn’t handle the pressure as a starter. Finding a suitably experienced starter will be top of the list, followed by adding more size and toughness.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE PANTHERS?

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan speculates the Florida Panthers could lose a good roster player to the Kraken in the expansion draft. It could be a forward such as Patric Hornqvist or Mason Marchment, a blueliner like Gustav Forsling, Radko Gudas or Markus Nuutivaara, or pending UFA goaltender Chris Driedger.

SUN-SENTINEL.COM: Dave Hyde pondered what promising goalie Spencer Knight’s performance in the final two games against the Tampa Bay Lightning means for Sergei Bobrovsky’s future in Florida. He wondered if general manager Bill Zito will try to move Bobrovsky this summer if someone is willing to take on the veteran netminder’s hefty contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers drafting Knight in the 2019 draft and signing Bobrovsky days later was a topic of recent amusement for some folks on social media. They conveniently overlook the fact that it was former Panthers GM Dale Tallon who made those moves. Zito was left with a headache.

Bobrovksky’s inconsistent play since joining the Panthers, his full no-movement clause and $10 million annual cap hit through 2025-26 makes him difficult to move, especially with the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million next season. As per Cap Friendly, a buyout will be an expensive long-term headache.

MORE OILERS SPECULATION

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson doesn’t expect Oilers GM Ken Holland to go on a massive spending spree this summer to bolster his roster. While Holland will have $28 million in cap space, a portion will be spent on trying to re-sign pending UFAs Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson and Tyson Barrie.

Matheson considers Larsson the cheapest and most likely to be re-signed. Nugent-Hopkins will be the most expensive while Barrie could be departing after a year in Edmonton because he’ll want a long-term deal.

Holland said he intends to bring back goaltender Mike Smith for another season. Matheson wonders if Mikko Koskinen will be traded, perhaps packaged with a draft pick or prospect to a team like the Columbus Blue Jackets for one of their young goalies.

Buyouts are also possible. Matheson believes James Neal to be the most likely candidate. Holland didn’t rule out trading a prospect such as Evan Bouchard, Philip Broberg or Dylan Holloway for immediate help but he said he’s not doing that for a one-year player.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holland could try to convince Nugent-Hopkins to accept slightly less than his current $6 million annual average value. If RNH signs elsewhere, Holland will use the savings to bring in a replacement via trade or free agency.

I like Matheson’s suggestion of packaging Koskinen to the Blue Jackets for Elvis Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo. Koskinen’s 15-team no-trade list, however, could be a sticking point if he doesn’t want to go to Columbus. Even then, the Jackets could get better offers for one of those goalies.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 20, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 20, 2021

Avalanche and Hurricanes take 2-0 series leads, Bruins up 2-1 over the Capitals, Jets take Game 1 from the Oilers, the order for the 2021 Draft Lottery is revealed, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Nathan MacKinnon’s hat trick powered the Colorado Avalanche past the St. Louis Blues 6-3 in Game 2 of their first-round series. Joonas Donskoi also scored twice for Colorado as they took a 2-0 lead in the series. Avalanche center Nazem Kadri received a match penalty for an illegal hit to the head of Blues defenseman Justin Faulk during the third period. Faulk left the game and didn’t return. Game 3 shifts to St. Louis on Friday.

Colorado Avalanche captain Nathan MacKinnon (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This game was closer than the final score indicates as the Blues overcame a 3-0 deficit with two goals and scored again when MacKinnons made it 4-2. Kadri could face supplemental discipline given his playoff suspension history.

Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic made 32 saves for his first career postseason shutout to blank the Nashville Predators 3-0 in Game 2 of their opening-round series. Sebastian Aho scored twice and Warren Foegele also tallied for the Hurricanes, who have a 2-0 series lead to Nashville for Game 3 on Friday. Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin missed the game with a lower-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Predators’ goaltender Juuse Saros did his best to keep his club in the game with 28 saves, several of them on high-quality scoring chances. Once again, the Predators’ anemic offense was their undoing, especially on a power play that went 0-7.

The Boston Bruins took a 2-1 lead in their series by downing the Washington Capitals 3-2 in double overtime. Craig Smith netted the winner following a turnover behind the Washington net. Brad Marchand and Taylor Hall also scored for Boston while Alex Ovechkin and Nic Dowd replied for the Capitals. Game 4 goes Friday night.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s taken overtime to decide every game in this series thus far. Ovechkin wasn’t pleased with the miscommunication between goalie Ilya Samsonov and defenseman Justin Schultz that led to Smith’s goal.

Connor Hellebuyck kicked out 32 shots to backstop the Winnipeg Jets to a 4-1 series-opening win over the Edmonton Oilers. Dominic Toninato broke a 1-1 tie with his first-ever NHL playoff goal while Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler each had a goal and an assist. Jesse Puljujarvi replied for the Oilers. Jets forwards Nikolaj Ehlers (shoulder injury) and Pierre-Luc Dubois (undisclosed) remain sidelined.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A solid defensive effort by the Jets as they held Oilers stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl pointless in this contest. Game 2 goes tomorrow night.

The Calgary Flames beat the Vancouver Canucks 6-2 in their final game of the season. Calgary winger Matthew Tkachuk scored two goals. Flames forward Dillon Dube left the game with an upper-body injury.

HEADLINES

The full order for the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery was revealed yesterday. The Buffalo Sabres have the best odds (16.6) of winning the lottery. The Anaheim Ducks (12.1) have the second-best while the expansion Seattle Kraken (10.3) has the third-best.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: You can see the complete list by following the link above. The Arizona Coyotes are included in this list at 11th with 3.1 percent odds but they forfeited their 2021 first-round pick for violating the 2020 NHL Draft combine rules.

STLTODAY.COM: An NHL investigation showed several COVID tests initially showing several members of the Blues tested positive were in error. Several players, including goalie Jordan Binnington and winger Vladimir Tarasenko, were forced to miss the morning skate while awaiting clarification. David Perron, Jake Walman and Nathan Walker remain on the COVID protocol list from their positive tests several days ago.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Evgeni Malkin traveled with the Pittsburgh Penguins to Long Island yesterday. He missed the first two games of his club’s series against the New York Islanders with a suspected knee injury. Sidelined backup goalie Casey DeSmith remained in Pittsburgh.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens captain Shea Weber will be in the lineup when his club faces off tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Weber missed the final eight games of the regular season with an upper-body injury.

NEW YORK POST: John Davidson is returning to his former job as president of the Columbus Blue Jackets less than two weeks after being fired as president of the Rangers.

SPORTSNET: Speaking of the Rangers, they hired Mike Grier as their new hockey operations advisor.

CBS SPORTS: Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick underwent shoulder surgery on Wednesday. He also dealt with a rib injury toward the end of the season.

MLIVE.COM: Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin said he suffered a neck injury on April 20. He won’t have to face surgery and expects to be fully recovered for next season.

ESPN.COM: Former U.S. Women’s National Team captain Meghan Duggan is joining the New Jersey Devils as their manager of player development.

TSN/WGR 550: Former NHL forward Jussi Jokinen is hanging up his skates after 21 pro seasons. He collected 563 point in 951 NHL games with the Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Florida Panthers, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Columbus Blue Jackets and Vancouver Canucks from 2005-06 to 2017-18.

Former NHL forward Derek Roy is retiring after 18 pro seasons. He netted 524 points in 738 games with the Buffalo Sabres, Dallas Stars, Vancouver Canucks, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators and Edmonton Oilers from 2003-04 to 2014-15. He spent the past five seasons playing in Europe.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wishing the best of luck to both players in their future endeavors.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 17, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 17, 2021

The Lightning, Wild and Islanders win the first games of their opening-round series, plus the latest on Carey Price, Brendan Gallagher, Nathan MacKinnon and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point scored the game-tying and winning goals as his club squeaked past the Florida Panthers 5-4 in Game 1 of their opening-round series. Tampa Bay winger Nikita Kucherov tallied two power-play goals in his first game after missing the regular season recovering from offseason hip surgery. Jonathan Huberdeau had a goal and two assists for the Panthers. Game 2 of this series is on Tuesday evening.

Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was the best game of the playoffs thus far. It could end up being the best series of the first round if the Lightning and Panthers maintain the pace this set in Game 1. Kucherov showed no signs of rust in his first game of this season. The Panthers must play a more disciplined style. Three of the Bolts’ goals came with the man advantage.

An overtime goal by Joel Eriksson Ek gave the Minnesota Wild a 1-0 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of their first-round series. Cam Talbot kicked out 42 shots for the shutout while Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury made 29 saves. They meet again in Game 2 on Tuesday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was an entertaining game despite the low score. Both clubs had plenty of good scoring opportunities but the goaltenders were superb. The Golden Knights were without sniper Max Pacioretty. He’s been sidelined since May 1 by an undisclosed injury.

The New York Islanders nipped the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 on an overtime goal by Kyle Palmieri, who also opened the scoring. Ilya Sorokin picked up the first playoff victory of his career with a 39-save performance while teammate Jean-Gabriel Pageau had a three-point game. Game 2 of this series is also on Tuesday night.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pittsburgh goaltender Tristan Jarry was shaky in this contest. Every goal beat him high to the glove side. Penguins center Evgeni Malkin missed the game with an undisclosed injury. Sorokin got the start as Isles starter Semyon Varlamov was out with a lower-body injury.

An overtime goal by Elias Lindholm lifted the Calgary Flames over the Vancouver Canucks 6-5 after the Canucks overcame a 5-1 deficit to force overtime. Brock Boeser scored twice for the Canucks. Both clubs face each other two more times before their regular-season schedule is complete.

HEADLINES

SPORTSNET: Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price and winger Brendan Gallagher have been assigned to the club’s AHL affiliate in Laval on a long-term injury conditioning stint. Both are expected to be in the Canadiens lineup for Game 1 of their first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some Canadiens followers freaked out on social media over this decision because they’re afraid one or both could get hurt playing a meaningless AHL game. However, the Habs want both players to get in some game action before Game 1 due to their long absences from the lineup.

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon will be in the lineup when his club faces off tonight against the St. Louis Blues in the opening game of their first-round series. He missed four of the Avs’ final five regular-season contests with minor injuries.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilya Samsonov returned to the ice yesterday for the Capitals optional practice. Both had been on the COVID-19 protocol list since May 4.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s unclear who will back up Craig Anderson for Game 2 tonight against the Boston Bruins. Anderson replaced Vitek Vanecek in Game 1 when the latter suffered a lower-body injury. Kuznetsov, meanwhile, could be several days away from rejoining the lineup.

TORONTO SUN: Jack Campbell will get the start for the Maple Leafs when they faced the Canadiens on Thursday. Winger Zach Hyman is also expected to return to action after being sidelined since April 18 by a sprained knee.

THE ATHLETIC: John Tortorella reportedly wanted to step down last offseason as head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets. One of the reasons he stayed was because Nick Foligno convinced him to return for one last season.