The Canadiens sweep the Jets to advance to the semifinals, the Islanders have the Bruins on the brink of elimination, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Tyler Toffoli’s overtime goal gave the Montreal Canadiens a 3-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets in Game 4 to sweep their second-round series. The Canadiens are the first team to reach the 2021 semifinals. They opened the scoring with first-period goals by Erik Gustafsson and Artturi Lehkonen but the Jets forced the extra frame as Logan Stanley tallied twice in the second period.
Montreal Canadiens forward Tyler Toffoli (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Montreal dominated the play despite the close score, outshooting Winnipeg 42-16. If not for Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck this would’ve been a lopsided victory. Habs defenseman Jeff Petry missed this game after dislocating two fingers in Game 3 but he’s expected to be ready for the semifinals.
The New York Islanders held off the Boston Bruins for a 5-4 win in Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead in their second-round series. Isles goaltender Semyon Varlamov made 40 saves while Brock Nelson’s early third-period goal held up as the winner. The Isles went three-for-four on the power play. David Pastrnak scored twice for Boston, who pulled goaltender Tuukka Rask after two periods. Bruins forward Curtis Lazar left the game after throwing a big hit on Isles defenseman Ryan Pulock. Game 6 is tomorrow night on Long Island.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy questioned the officiating during his post-game press conference, saying the penalties called against his club weren’t being called on the Islanders. He also singled out his opponent. “We’re playing a team that have very respected management and coaching staff, they’ve won a Stanley Cup. But I think they sell a narrative over there that it’s more like the New York Saints and not the New York Islanders,” said Cassidy.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes winger Nino Niederreiter could return to action for Game 5 tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He missed the first four games of this series with an undisclosed injury but returned to practice yesterday. The Hurricanes face a must-win situation down three games to one.
NHL.COM: The Florida Panthers signed forward Anton Lundell to a three-year entry-level contract. He was selected 12th overall by the Panthers in last year’s NHL Draft.
Renee Hess (founder of the Black Girl Hockey Club), Kevin Hodgson (executive director of HEROS), and Howard Smith (co-founder of Pittsburgh I.C.E.) are the three finalists for the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award.
The Colorado Avalanche clinch the Presidents’ Trophy, the opening-round schedule of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs is released, plus the latest on Nikita Kucherov, John Carlson, Patrick Marleau and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Colorado Avalanche clinched the Presidents’ Trophy for the best regular-season record by defeating the Los Angeles Kings 5-1. Tyson Jost scored twice for the Avalanche, who’ll face the St. Louis Blues in the opening round of the upcoming 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Colorado Avalanche win the 2020-21 NHL Presidents’ Trophy (NHL.com).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to the Avalanche on winning their first Presidents’ Trophy in 20 years.
Speaking of the Blues, they completed their regular-season schedule by overcoming a 3-0 deficit to thump the Minnesota Wild 7-3. David Perron, Brayden Schenn and Jordan Kyrou each scored two goals. The Wild will face off against the Vegas Golden Knights in the opening round.
The Calgary Flames downed the Vancouver Canucks 4-1. Earlier in the day, the Canucks confirmed sidelined center Elias Pettersson (upper-body injury) will miss their remaining games of this season but he’s working hard on a healthy return for next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks still aren’t revealing the details of Pettersson’s injury but it’s believed to involve a wrist or hand.
The full schedule for the opening round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs was released Thursday.
It kicks off on Saturday, May 15 with the Boston Bruins facing off against the Washington Capitals. Sunday, May 16, sees the New York Islanders squaring off against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Tampa Bay Lightning tangle with the Florida Panthers, and the Minnesota Wild squaring off against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Monday, May 17 features the Nashville Predators facing the Carolina Hurricanes while the St. Louis Blues meet the Colorado Avalanche. Wednesday, May 19 sees the start of the Winnipeg Jets-Edmonton Oilers series while Thursday, May 20 features the start of the Montreal Canadiens-Toronto Maple Leafs series.
Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos and winger Nikita Kucherov practiced with their teammates on Thursday and are expected to be in the lineup for Game 1 of their series against the Panthers. Stamkos missed the final 16 games of the regular season with a lower-body injury while Kucherov missed the entire season following hip surgery on Dec. 29.
Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson said he’ll be ready for his club’s upcoming series against the Boston Bruins. He missed the final two games of the regular season with a lower-body injury.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Patrick Marleau plans to return for a 24th NHL season and isn’t ruling out coming back to the San Jose Sharks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The 41-year-old Marleau set the NHL record this season for most career games. This season was also statistically the worst of his career with just nine points in 56 games. If the Sharks don’t bring him back he could end up seeking a training camp tryout with another club.
THE PLAYERS’ TRIBUNE: Tyler Toffoli has embraced life with the Montreal Canadiens following his tenures with the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks. He cited the Montreal fans and the atmosphere at the Bell Centre among his reasons for signing with the Canadiens last fall and looks forward to when fans can return to the building.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toffoli said he wants what Montreal fans want: winning the Stanley Cup. He praised his teammates, singling out Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield. He also revealed he thought he would re-sign with the Canucks last fall but they never made him a contract offer.
NEW YORK POST: The Rangers have received permission to interview former Vegas Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant for their vacant head-coaching job. Meanwhile, Brian Leetch resigned as the Rangers’ hockey operations adviser.
Former New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk has taken on a coaching and advisory role with the club. Boychuk’s career was prematurely ended by an eye injury last season.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks are being sued by a former player for alleged sexual assault in 2010 by their former video coach.
Taylor Hall scores again for the Bruins, the latest on Steven Stamkos, Adam Lowry re-signed, Zach Hyman fined, and more in the NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Taylor Hall scored his second goal in as many games and Jeremy Swayman made 25 saves for his first career NHL shutout as the Boston Bruins defeated the New York Islanders 3-0. Curtis Lazar also tallied his first goal with the Bruins after coming over from Buffalo with Hall before the trade deadline. The Bruins (54 points) sit three back of the third-place Pittsburgh Penguins in the MassMutual East Division.
Boston Bruins winger Taylor Hall (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: So far, so good for the Bruins in the wake of the Hall trade. They’ll be in good shape over the remainder of the season if he regains his offensive touch. It’s also worth noting Mike Reilly, acquired from the Ottawa Senators before the trade deadline, has two assists in his last three games.
Two goals from Tyler Toffoli enabled the Montreal Canadiens to edge the Calgary Flames 2-1. Jake Allen made 28 saves for the win as the Canadiens (47 points) opened a six-point lead over the Flames for fourth place in the Scotia North Division.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Not to take anything away from Toffoli’s timely scoring or Allen’s solid goaltending but the Canadiens caught a few breaks in this contest. They were outplayed but avoided disaster as the Flames clanked three or four shots off the goalposts.
The Vegas Golden Knights moved to within two points of the first-place Colorado Avalanche in the Honda West Division by blanking the Anaheim Ducks 4-0. Robin Lehner turned in a 16-save shutout while Chandler Stephenson and Mark Stone each had two points. Ducks goaltender John Gibson made 47 saves.
Meanwhile, the Avalanche (64 points) has had three games postponed as a third player (Joonas Donskoi) tested positive for COVID-19 over the past week. They’re expected to resume action on April 17.
The Minnesota Wild got a goal and an assist from Nick Bonino to nip the San Jose Sharks 3-2, handing the latter their fourth straight loss. With 55 points, the Wild sit seven points behind the second-place Golden Knights while the Sharks (40 points) remain four back of the fourth-place St. Louis Blues.
The NHL announced its latest revision to its schedule by extending all North Division games through May 19. This move is being made to accommodate the Vancouver Canucks as they return to action on April 18 after nearly a month following an outbreak of COVID-19.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning still doesn’t know if captain Steven Stamkos’ lower-body injury is related to last year’s core muscle injuries that required surgery. He’s been placed on long-term injury reserve but coach Jon Cooper expects he’ll return to action before the end of the regular season.
WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets signed Adam Lowry to a five-year, $16.25 million contract extension. The 28-year-old forward was slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. His annual average salary will be $3.25 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An affordable move by the Jets ensuring the big, versatile two-way forward remains on the roster. Cap Friendly indicates the Jets have $60.9 million invested in 13 players for 2021-22.
TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs winger Zach Hyman was fined $5,000.00 by the NHL department of player safety for high-sticking Winnipeg Jets defenseman Neal Pionk on Thursday.
WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark is sidelined week to week with a lower-body injury.
SPORTSNET: Cole Caufield participated in his first practice with the Montreal Canadiens on Friday after being called up from the Laval Rocket. The 2021 Hobey Baker Award winner is on the taxi squad as salary-cap limitations complicate when they can get him into the lineup.
AZCENTRAL.COM: The Arizona Coyotes will induct young hockey player and Coyotes fan Leighton Accardo into its Ring of Honor on Saturday. The nine-year-old passed away in November following a long battle with cancer. She was beloved by the players, coaches and staff from when she first spent time with the team.
Recaps of Monday’s action, Oilers-Canadiens game postponed over COVID-19 concerns, stars of the week and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Third-period goals by Chris Kreider and Kaapo Kakko lifted the New York Rangers over the Buffalo Sabres 5-3, handing the landing their 14th consecutive defeat. Kreider and Kakko tallied twice for the Rangers. Dustin Tokarski played his first NHL games since 2016, making 33 saves after taking over for sidelined Sabres goalie Carter Hutton early in the first period. With the win, the Rangers (32 points) moved within two points of the fifth-place Philadelphia Flyers and within four of the fourth-place Boston Bruins in the MassMutual East Division.
Dougie Hamilton collected an assist to extend his points streak to 12 games as the Carolina Hurricanes blanked the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-0. Alex Nedeljkovic made 19 saves for the shutout and Sebastian Aho picked up two assists. The Hurricanes (45 points) vaulted into second place in the Discover Central Division with a one-point lead over the Florida Panthers. The Blue Jackets (33 points) are tied with the Chicago Blackhawks but slipped to fifth place.
A third-period goal by Chris Tierney gave the Ottawa Senators a 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames. Rookie goaltender Filip Gustavsson kicked out 35 shots for his first NHL victory. The Flames (33 points) remain in sixth place in the Scotia North Division, four points back of the fourth-place Montreal Canadiens.
An overtime goal by Anthony Beauvillier lifted the New York Islanders to a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. Isles rookie goalie Ilya Sorokin made 36 saves for his eighth straight win. Flyers center Sean Couturier returned to the lineup after missing one game with a hip injury. The Islanders sit in first place in the MassMutual East, two points up on the Washington Capitals. Meanwhile, the Flyers (34 points) sit two points behind the fourth-place Bruins.
Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone (NHL Images).
The Minnesota Wild edged the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 on a third-period goal by Nick Bjugstad. With 39 points, the Wild remains two points ahead of the St. Louis Blues for third place in the Honda West Division. Marcus Johansson returned to the Wild lineup after missing 16 games with an upper-body injury.
Mark Stone scored twice as the Vegas Golden Knights tallied four unanswered goals to down St. Louis 5-1. The Golden Knights have won six of their last seven contests and sit in first place in the West with 45 points, three points up on the Colorado Avalanche. The Blues remain in fourth place with 37 points.
Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck turned in a 22-save shutout and Adam Lowry scored twice to beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-0. Canucks center Brandon Sutter missed the game with an undisclosed injury while captain Bo Horvat limped off in the third period after being struck by a shot from teammate Alex Edler. The Jets sit in third place in the North Division, two points behind the Edmonton Oilers and three up on the Canadiens.
The Colorado Avalanche picked up their seventh straight victory by downing the Arizona Coyotes 5-1. Joonas Donskoi scored two goals and Philipp Grubauer picked up the win with 24 saves. Coyotes defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson left the game with an upper-body injury. With 42 points, the Avs hold a four-point lead over the Wild for second place in the West Division.
San Jose Sharks goaltender Martin Jones made 41 saves backstopping his club over the Los Angeles Kings 2-1. Ryan Donato tallied the game-winner in the third period. The loss leaves the Kings with 32 points, five back of the fourth-place Blues in the West.
Monday’s game between the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens was postponed after Canadiens forwards Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Joel Armia were placed on the COVID-19 protocol list. The Habs also canceled practice for today.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is the first North Division game to be postponed this season. The Canadiens will be awaiting the results of further testing. Placing Kotkaniemi and Armia on the list doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve contracted the coronavirus. Further information is expected later today. If all players pass the subsequent testing there’s talk this game could be played tonight.
The additions of Kotkaniemi and Armia to the COVID protocol list pushed the total number to 10 players. The Boston Bruins have five players on the list, including David Pastrnak, David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.
The Canadiens also announced forward Tyler Toffoli will be sidelined until at least Sunday with a lower-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s assuming the remainder of the Canadiens’ games for this week aren’t postponed.
Nashville Predators forward Calle Jarnkrok, Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid and New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending March 21.
TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks claimed forward Travis Boyd off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s the second time in a week the Canucks have plucked a player off the Leafs roster, having claimed Jimmy Vesey on March 17.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some see those moves as the Canucks positioning themselves to become sellers by the April 12 trade deadline. That may well be the case if they fail to gain any ground in the North Division playoff race.
SPORTSNET: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league isn’t expecting to have full arenas this season despite more American teams allowing limited numbers of socially distanced fans to attend their games.