NHL ProteauType: Despite Sunny Bumps, Lake Tahoe Outdoor Games Deserve Praise
A five-point performance by Connor McDavid, a four-point output by Auston Matthews, Sidney Crosby’s 1000th career game and a long delay in the outdoor game between the Avalanche and Golden Knights are the highlights in this edition of the NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid enjoyed a five-point performance as his club thumped the Calgary Flames 7-1. McDavid tallied a natural hat trick while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored twice. Oilers defenseman Slater Koekkoek and winger Kailer Yamamoto left the game with injuries.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid remains the early favorite to win the Hart Memorial Trophy this season. He leads all NHL scorers with 25 assists and 37 points.
Auston Matthews scored twice and set up two others as the Toronto Maple Leafs downed the Montreal Canadiens 5-3. Mitch Marner collected three points for the Leafs, who hold a five-point lead atop the NHL’s overall standings. Matthews now has a league-leading 18 goals on the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs feasted on the defensive miscues of a rusty Canadiens squad that hadn’t played in six days. Matthews tallied two of the Leafs’ three power-play goals.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby collected two assists in his 1000th career NHL game during a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders. Kris Letang tallied twice as the Penguins swept the two-game series. Before the game, the Penguins honored their captain with a silver stick and video tributes from current and former teammates and several NHL stars including Steven Stamkos and John Tavares.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to Crosby on reaching another significant milestone in his long NHL career.
The Colorado Avalanche’s 3-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights in the Bridgestone NHL Outdoors game at Lake Tahoe was overshadowed by an eight-hour delay following the first period due to poor ice conditions. Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and two assists for the Avs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: What could’ve been an entertaining match-up against a beautiful outdoor backdrop became an embarrassment for the NHL. In fairness, the league has a solid track record staging outdoor games in various locations. I don’t fault them for staging this outdoor contest in that scenic location. Unfortunately, no one seemed to consider what might happen to ice conditions on a bright sunny afternoon at a higher altitude in Nevada.
The sunny conditions at Lake Tahoe forced the league to change the start time for today’s outdoor match between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers from 2 pm ET to 7:30 pm ET.
The Buffalo Sabres snapped a four-game losing skid by hanging on for a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils. Sam Reinhart scored twice for the Sabres, who lost defenseman Jake McCabe to an apparent right-knee injury in the third period. Before the game, the Devils announced Nico Hischier as their new team captain.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An update on McCabe’s status is expected later today. Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said he was very concerned about the blueliner’s condition.
Mika Zibanejad ended a 13-game goalless drought and Artemi Panarin collected two assists as the New York Rangers defeated the Washington Capitals 4-1. Igor Shesterkin made 26 saves for the win and Ryan Strome had two points, including his 100th career NHL goal.
Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jonathan Bernier’s 38-save performance carried his club to a 2-1 upset of the Florida Panthers. The Wings got second-period goals by Patrik Nemeth and rookie Mathias Brome as they held on for the win.
The Los Angeles Kings got two goals from Alex Iafallo as they doubled up the Arizona Coyotes 4-2. Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty each collected two assists. The Kings have won four straight games.
Logan Couture’s game-winner in the third period gave the San Jose Sharks a 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Blues. The Sharks blew 3-0 and 4-1 leads before Couture sealed the deal. Jordan Kyrou had a goal and two assists for the Blues.
Third-period goals by Calle Jarnkrok and Filip Forsberg lifted the Nashville Predators over the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2. Jarnkrok scored twice for the Predators while the Blue Jackets lost goaltender Elvis Merzlikins to an apparent arm injury in the third period.
Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic made 24 saves for his first career NHL shutout in a 4-0 blanking of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov each had a goal and an assist.
Kevin Fiala scored twice as the Minnesota Wild rolled to a 5-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Fiala now has six goals in his last seven games. Teammates Mats Zuccarello and Kirill Kaprizov each had two points. In a surprising move earlier in the day, the Ducks placed struggling veteran center Adam Henrique on waivers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt anyone claims Henrique. He’s in the second season of a five-year contract with an annual average value of $5.825 million.
TSN: Former NHL coach Mike Babcock has been named head coach of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Men’s Hockey Team. He will lead the club on a voluntary basis for the next two years.
Recaps of Friday’s action, the league faces criticism as it looks at rapid testing, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Third-period goals 27 seconds apart by Brad Marchand and Sean Kuraly lifted the Boston Bruins over the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1. James van Riemsdyk was the lone scorer for the Flyers, who played without goaltender Carter Hart (back spasms, day-to-day) and defenseman Philippe Myers, who has an upper-body injury. Forward Oskar Lindblom left the game in the third period following a hit from Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton.
The Detroit Red Wings’ winless skid stretched to eight games (0-6-2) after dropping a 3-1 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Barclay Goodrow tallied twice for the Lightning, including the game-winner.
Second-period goals by Aleksander Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe gave the Florida Panthers a 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators. The Panthers extended their points streak to eight games (6-0-2) as they’re the only team that hasn’t lost in regulation. Predators goalie Pekka Rinne made 34 saves.
The Vegas Golden Knights scored five straight goals in the opening 27 minutes to beat the Los Angeles Kings 5-2. Max Pacioretty, William Karlsson and Nicolas Hague each collected three points for the Golden Knights, who were playing their first game since their schedule was paused on Jan. 26 by COVID-19.
Shootout goals by Ryan Donato and Kevin Labanc lifted the San Jose Sharks over the Anaheim Ducks 5-4. The Sharks overcame a 3-1 deficit on third-period goals by Logan Couture, Evander Kane and Brent Burns but Max Comtois tied it for the Ducks.
TSN: The NHL and NHLPA are investigating rapid testing for players and team staff on game days to flatten the COVID-19 curve after five teams had their schedules paused and games postponed over the past two weeks. A total of 26 games have been postponed, 17 in February alone.
The Buffalo Sabres were among those teams. They were reportedly furious that they were apparently forced to play games last weekend against a New Jersey Devils team that was going through an outbreak of COVID-19. Five Sabres players have since wound up on the NHL’s COVID protocol list while Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger has tested positive. The Sabres had no players on the protocol list prior to the series against the Devils.
THE ATHLETIC: John Vogl reports Eric County executive Mark Poloncarz believes the NHL should have taken greater action to ensure the safety of the Sabres and Devils and everyone around them. “It seemed they were more interested in playing a game,” he said.
League commissioner Bill Daly said there were no concerns expressed regarding last Sunday’s games between the Sabres and Devils. An NHLPA representative said league and union medical advisors determined the game could go on based on the information available to them at the time.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league announced on Thursday they were taking steps to reduce player-to-player transmission of the coronavirus, including removing the glass behind the benches to increase airflow, increasing the distance between players in dressing rooms, and limiting the time spent at the arena by players and coaches.
The recent postponements and reschedulings aren’t surprising. There’s a greater risk of exposure and transmissions because the players aren’t under the strict quarantine conditions they played under during the 2020 playoffs. Doing more to limit transmission at the arena is one thing but there’s little the league can do to prevent players from exposure when they have greater access to the general public away from the rink.
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Penguins defenseman John Marino returned to practice yesterday after being placed on the COVID-19 protocol list on Wednesday. Sidelined blueliners Kris Letang and Mike Matheson also skated yesterday.
TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Travis Dermott (leg injury) will not play today against the Vancouver Canucks.
TVA SPORTS: Montreal Canadiens defenseman Alexander Romanov required stitches after being struck in the face with a puck during practice on Friday. Canadiens coach Claude Julien said Romanov will travel with the club for today’s game against the Ottawa Senators.
CBS SPORTS: Calgary Flames forward Derek Ryan has been referred to a specialist after injuring a finger during Thursday’s loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
NEWSDAY: The New York Rangers promoted Chris Drury to associate general manager.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Justin Williams is returning to the Carolina Hurricanes as a special advisor to the general manager.