PHT’s top 13 of ’13: Ovi catches fire, wins third MVP


Remember when it seemed like Alex Ovechkin lost his way? Such talk seems like a distant memory now, especially after he won the third Hart and Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophies of his career in 2013.

Lofty status

Ovechkin, still just 28, joined select company with his hardware. Howie Morenz, Eddie Shore, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Bobby Clarke, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux are the only other players who’ve won at least three MVP trophies. The Richard Trophy has only existed since 1998-99 but, even with that caveat, it’s still impressive that Ovechkin became the first three-time recipient.

In 2013, Ovechkin returned to level where teams likely felt relieved if he scored just once per night.

The Russian star generated six multiple-goal outings last season, including a stretch in which he scored eight goals in five games. Despite struggling right after the lockout (two goals in seven January games), Ovechkin still impressed with that league-best 32 goals in 48 contests.

Overall, he had 56 points on the season, leaving him third behind Tampa Bay Lightning teammates Martin St. Louis (60) and Steven Stamkos (57).

The switch

Capitals head coach Adam Oates drew some heat for moving Ovechkin to right wing last season, but the move paid off when Ovi finished the season with 24 goals in 23 contests. (In fact, that move was so dramatic it confounded many hockey writers, who voted him a first-team All-Star at right wing and a second-teamer left wing.)

Following his hardware-heavy season, Ovechkin thanked Oates for his guidance after feeling “trapped” by Dale Hunter. Impressively, Ovechkin’s 32 goals from 2012-13 matched his output over 79 games in 2009-10 and weren’t far behind 2011-12’s production (38 goals in 78 contests), adding credence to the notion that Oates helped him return to form.

“I told him, ‘Thank you very much,’” Ovechkin said. “I’m just happy because, again, it’s history. It means a lot for me. It’s history.”

Oddly enough, the hockey world saw “old” Ovi again after the winger embraced change and allowed himself to trust Oates.

Keeping the momentum going

It’s not as if Ovechkin is showing any signs of stopping, either. He carried over his brilliant work from last season into this one and has 30 goals in 35 contests thus far. Some wonder if he might accomplish the rare feat of scoring 50 goals in as many games:

Incredibly, Ovechkin has generated 62 goals in 83 games between last season and this season. To give you an idea of that special pace, consider this: Stamkos (60 in 2011-12) and Ovechkin (65 in 2007-08) are the only snipers to cross the 60-goal barrier since Mario Lemieux (69) and Jaromir Jagr (62) did it in 1995-96.

Crosby returns, and so does Penguins’ balanced attack in win

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 14: Sidney Crosby #87 and Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skate against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on November 14, 2014 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — With Sidney Crosby back in the lineup for the first time this season on Tuesday night the Pittsburgh Penguins roster is starting to resemble the one that lifted the Stanley Cup four months ago.

About half way through their 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers, they finally started to look like that team on the ice, too.

Entering the game having lost three out of four (while looking quite bad and being outscored 15-7 in the process) it looked like that early season slump was going to continue on Tuesday when they faced a 2-0 deficit midway through the second period.

They looked sluggish. They couldn’t stay out of the penalty box. The Panthers were completely shutting the game down and had just put on a penalty killing clinic where they played a 40-second game of keep-away, sparking a chorus of boos from the home crowd.

And then Sidney Crosby showed up.

It was at that point that Crosby found himself wide open in the middle of the ice to accept a pass from Evgeni Malkin and rip it past Panthers goalie Jamies Reimer for his first goal of the year.

In the end, it was a typical night at the office for Crosby.

He scored a goal, was a possession-driving machine (better than 63 percent of the shot attempts with Crosby on the ice belonged to Pittsburgh) and finished with a team-leading four shots on goal and seven attempts.

But for his good as he was in his 2016-17 debut, the biggest impact his return had is it made once again made their lineup a nightmare to match up against.

The Penguins’ calling card in last year’s playoffs was their ability to play fast, and their deep, balanced attack that had four lines that could all contribute. It was a matchup problem that nobody could really handle as they kept rotating lines with Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel out one after another (not to mention a fourth line that has some scoring potential as well).

They obviously lose that a lot of advantage when Crosby is out of the lineup and teams only really have two big-time scoring threats to worry about.

On Tuesday, you could see it eventually start to become an issue for the Panthers as the Penguins received goals from three different lines in the win.

After Crosby scored to get the Penguins on the board, Carl Hagelin scored his first of the season to tie the game five minutes into the third period. Then fourth line provided the winner four minutes later when Eric Fehr finished a perfect pass from Tom Kuhnhackl.

Even with the win on Tuesday and a 4-2-1 start to the season it is still pretty clear the Penguins have some things to work through and are not quite where they need to be at this point. They have to cut down on the penalties. They really haven’t played a complete 60-minute game yet. The HBK line (which was broken up in the third period against Florida) has not really clicked the way it did in the playoffs. Kris Letang is still injured. But on Tuesday you started to see flashes of what made the team such a force in the playoffs.

With Crosby back on the ice and extending the lineup, you might start to see it happen a little more often.

Video: Flyers’ Konecny scores first NHL goal

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Through six games of the NHL season, Travis Konecny enjoyed a nice start to his rookie campaign with five assists. Just one thing was missing, though.

On Tuesday, he took care of that against the Buffalo Sabres.

Konecny, taken 24th overall in the 2015 NHL Draft, deflected an Ivan Provorov point shot early in the third period, beating goalie Anders Nilsson on the glove side for his first NHL goal.  That goal also got the Flyers on the board.


Konecny and Provorov make Flyers, expected ‘to be here all year’

WATCH LIVE: Ducks at Sharks

ANAHEIM, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Martin Jones #31 of the San Jose Sharks and Paul Martin #7 of the San Jose Sharks defend against the shot of Corey Perry #10 of the Anaheim Ducks during a game at Honda Center on December 4, 2015 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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California rivals clash tonight, as the Anaheim Ducks visit the San Jose Sharks. This marks the first meeting of the season between the two Pacific Division teams.

The Sharks have lost two games in a row, while the Ducks have won two straight.

You can catch tonight’s game on NBCSN or with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra (10 p.m. ET).


Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Brent Burns is on a beastly pace

Report: Ducks put Despres on long-term injured reserve

NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Sabres vs. Flyers; Ducks vs. Sharks

Video: Looks like Bishop lost some teeth after taking a shot to the mask

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Difficult night for some goalies across the NHL.

Frederik Andersen has had his struggles against Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning, although the players in front of him haven’t given their puck stopper much help, either.

And then there is Bolts goalie Ben Bishop, who took a Peter Holland wrist shot off the mask and appeared to lose some teeth as a result.

But this is hockey. Bishop, who even appeared to crack a smile while being examined on the ice, remained in the game.