Maple Leafs win a thriller over Penguins, clinch last playoff spot


Needing a win to clinch a playoff spot, the Toronto Maple Leafs prevailed in perhaps one of the craziest and dramatic games of this NHL season.

They’re off to the Stanley Cup tournament, following a 5-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. They secure a playoff spot in Game No. 81 of their season, against No. 81 Phil Kessel. Coincidence? Yes.

But let’s take it from the top:

— Kessel, facing his old team, opened the scoring to quiet the crowd at the Air Canada Centre. The Leafs answered right back 29 seconds later on a goal from James van Riemsdyk.

— Toronto’s starting goalie Frederik Andersen left the game in the second period and didn’t return after Tom Sestito cut in front of the net and caught Andersen in the head with his hip. Curtis McElhinney came off the bench to replace Andersen — in the biggest game of the season.

Jake Guentzel gave the Penguins the lead early in the third period. The puck deflected off two Toronto players, including Jake Gardiner in front, to get through McElhinney.

— With just over five minutes remaining in regulation, the Maple Leafs tied the game on Kasperi Kapanen‘s first career NHL goal. Perfect timing.

Connor Brown scored his 20th goal of the season and the eventual winner less than three minutes later. Just like that, Toronto was in the lead, exactly where they need to be.

— McElhinney made a potential season-saving stop against Crosby, flashing the left pad on a one-timer attempt from the league’s leading goal scorer with 48 seconds left. Crosby had another shot from almost the identical spot on the ice with 10 seconds left, but his attempt was blocked.

Auston Matthews then picked up the puck off that blocked Crosby shot and fired it into the open Penguins net to secure the win. That’s goal No. 40 of his impressive rookie season. He’s the first player since Alex Ovechkin to hit that mark in his debut season. That gave the youthful Maple Leafs three goals in the final 5:30 of the third period. Crazy.

And now the Maple Leafs await word on the status of Andersen. There was no update during the game.

Brendan Smith still talking to Rangers, ‘trying to make it happen’

Leave a comment

It’s only a few days until July 1 and defenseman Brendan Smith still doesn’t have an extension in place with the New York Rangers.

Not to worry, says his agent. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Smith is going to sign elsewhere.

“No one should read anything into the fact that we don’t have a deal yet,” Anton Thun told the New York Post. “You’re never really close until it’s done, but both sides are trying to make it happen. We’ll have to see.”

Thun told the Post a month ago that Smith, an unrestricted free agent, was “open” to returning to the Rangers.

But there’s also been speculation that the Blueshirts will pursue Kevin Shattenkirk in free agency, which would probably mean less money available for Smith.

It remains to be seen if the Rangers will, indeed, make a big push for Shattenkirk. The addition of Anthony DeAngelo in the Derek Stepan trade may have lessened their urgency in that regard.

“He’s a puck-moving right-handed defenseman that can run the power play and shoot the puck,” GM Jeff Gorton said of DeAngelo, per Sporting News.

Which sounds a lot like Shattenkirk, no?

Smith, 28, was traded to the Rangers from Detroit on Feb. 28.

Sens extend McCormick — two years, $1.3 million

Leave a comment

Looks as though forward Max McCormick has a future in Ottawa.

On Tuesday, the Sens signed McCormick to a two-year extension worth $650,000 annually — and, perhaps most importantly, it’s a one-way deal in the second year.

McCormick, 25, also has a $250,000 guaranteed AHL salary next season.

The deal comes after he set a career high and tied for the AHL Binghamton team lead in goals last year, with 21. McCormick also appeared in seven games for Ottawa — this after playing 20 in ’15-16 — and emerged as a high-energy guy with an edge to his game.

Despite not being overly big (5-foot-11, 188 pounds), McCormick fought seven times for Binghamton last season, and led the team in penalty minutes. The year prior, he scrapped 12 times between the Sens and Baby Sens.

A spot at the NHL level could soon materialize. The Sens have already announced they’re moving on from free agent forward Chris Neil, and the futures of fellow UFAs Viktor Stalberg, Chris Kelly and Tommy Wingels remain uncertain.

Carolina re-signs Chelios, Brown

Leave a comment

The ‘Canes retained some organizational depth on Tuesday, agreeing to terms with defenseman Jake Chelios — the son of Hockey Hall of Famer Chris Chelios — and forward Patrick Brown.

Brown’s contract is a one-year, $650,000 extension, one that will pay $160,000 at the AHL level, with a guarantee of $190,000.

Brown, 25, split last season between Charlotte and Carolina, appearing in a career-high 14 contest with the ‘Canes. The Boston College product scored 12 goals and 28 points in 66 games with the Checkers.

Chelios, 26, has yet to make his NHL debut but is coming off a strong season with Charlotte. He served as an alternate captain and had a strong offensive campaign, with 32 points in 76 contests. That led all Checkers d-men in scoring, and he was the only player on the team to appear in every single game this season.

Like Brown, Chelios’ deal will pay $650,000 at the NHL level. It’s $85,000 at the AHL level.

Report: Sens tried to get Methot back from Vegas


The Ottawa Senators did their best to make sure they didn’t lose Marc Methot in the expansion draft.

They attempted to get Dion Phaneuf to waive his no-move clause so they could keep Methot, but that didn’t work out.

On Monday, TSN hockey analyst Pierre LeBrun reported that the Golden Knights and Senators had been talking about a potential trade back to Ottawa.

In the end, Vegas GM George McPhee preferred to ship him to Dallas for 2017 seventh-rounder Dylan Ferguson and a second-round pick in 2020.

According to beat reporter Bruce Garrioch, Vegas’ asking price to allow the Sens to protect Methot before expansion was a 2018 first-round pick.

Methot has averaged at least 19:49 of ice time during his five seasons in Ottawa.

In the end, all this means is that the Senators will need to find someone else to play on the top pairing with Erik Karlsson next season.

During training camp, Ottawa put top prospect Thomas Chabot with Karlsson. They opted to send Chabot back to junior, but that could be an interesting combination if they think he’s ready to be a regular in the NHL.