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NHL takes over Vegas with awards show, expansion draft

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It’s 116 degrees in the ice hockey capital of the world.

For the next few days, Las Vegas is the place to be on skates. The desert gambling mecca is hosting the NHL’s annual postseason awards show on Wednesday, when the league also will reveal the Vegas Golden Knights’ choices in the expansion player draft to stock the club with talent for its inaugural season in the fall.

Las Vegas has hosted the awards show for several years, welcoming the NHL’s best for a red carpet presentation and a short week of partying in a city that knows a little something about entertainment.

But Vegas’ hometown team is in the spotlight for the first time this year, reaching a major milestone in its process of becoming the NHL’s 31st franchise – and doing it during a heat wave.

Read more:

Golden Knights reveal brand new jerseys

McPhee: ‘We’re going to be a good team’

Combining the awards show and the expansion draft should only enhance the fun for Vegas fans welcoming their city’s first major professional sports team. Thousands of those fans are expected to gather at T-Mobile Arena after the expansion draft for a raucous “Round Table Rally” to celebrate the Golden Knights’ first major acquisitions.

“You don’t always have to do things the same way,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said of the two-for-one Vegas show. “We’re not afraid to try something a little different. We think it’s going to be a lot of fun for our fans, particularly those here in Las Vegas.”

The Golden Knights have an NHL-ready arena, a veteran front office, an eager coaching staff, an eye-catching logo and positive momentum in their new community. This week, they’ll finally have one player apiece from the other 30 clubs, putting recognizable faces on the franchise for the first time.

The expansion draft affects every team in the league, so many of the stars convening in Vegas will be paying close attention to the names of the teammates they’ll be losing to Sin City.

“I think we’re going to talk about the awards, but not as much as we’re going to talk about the expansion draft and who got picked and who didn’t, and what the team’s going to look like,” Boston forward Patrice Bergeron said. “It’s definitely exciting to be here and to see it firsthand.”

Golden Knights owner Bill Foley paid a whopping $500 million as an expansion fee for the privilege of owning an NHL franchise. The league subsequently structured the expansion draft in a way that essentially creates more chances for Vegas to grab quality pros from the rest of the league.

Big names with bad contracts are available in abundance, but general manager George McPhee is likely to structure the core of a young, hard-hitting team from the available talent. General managers around the league have frantically negotiated with McPhee in recent weeks to keep their most valued unprotected players through side trades, but not every team has enough assets to do so.

“I’m very interested to see the kind of price teams paid, and to see what the currency on the market is,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. “But also, you’re going to see how teams you compete against are affected or not affected. We’re fortunate in our situation. With so many young players, we’re not affected the way some teams are. But lots of teams are going to lose good players. Now do they make a deal and lose more, or did they not and just watch and see it happen?”

 

The Buzzer: Ovechkin’s blast lifts Capitals in OT, Sheary speeds by Panthers

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Player of the night: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

Alex Ovechkin has already reached double digits in goals scored in this new campaign. The Capitals’ star recorded his 10th goal of the season on Friday and it counted as the overtime winner against the Detroit Red Wings.

The Capitals trailed late in the third period, but T.J. Oshie scored the tying goal and Ovechkin won it on a power play less than two minutes into the extra period, as he deployed that famous one-timer slap shot from his off-wing. This time, Petr Mrazek was victimized by the wicked slapper.

Ovechkin is now only two goals behind the entire Montreal Canadiens team — in the same amount of games.

Highlight of the night:

What a weapon speed is in today’s National Hockey League. Conor Sheary illustrated that once again, as he saw a little bit of room down the left side and flew around Alex Petrovic before making a move to the backhand on James Reimer. That goal counted as the eventual winner, as the Penguins defeated the Panthers 4-3. Earlier in the third period, Sheary and Roberto Luongo came together near the Florida net, causing Luongo’s right hand to get caught against the post, injuring the Panthers’ netminder.

Factoid of the night:

It was a milestone night in Winnipeg for Blake Wheeler and coach Paul Maurice.

Scores:

Vancouver 4, Buffalo 2

San Jose 3, New Jersey 0

Washington 4, Detroit 3 (OT)

Pittsburgh 4, Florida 3

Winnipeg 4, Minnesota 3

Anaheim 6, Montreal 2

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Video: Price takes out his frustration, as the Habs were crushed again

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It’s gone from bad, to worse, to an absolute nightmare for the Montreal Canadiens.

A three-game trip through California is never fun for opposing teams, but this was misery for the Habs. They were outscored a combined 16-5 in three games against the Sharks, Kings and Ducks, with few, if any positives beyond the second period in a 6-2 loss in Anaheim on Friday.

Montreal hasn’t won since its season opener on Oct. 5, and is now on a seven-game losing skid, unable to generate much offensively with a league worst 10 goals scored through seven games before tonight, while giving up plenty of goals at the other end.

That is a recipe for disaster and even though it’s still early in the season, this has to be a major concern for coach Claude Julien and, in particular, general manager Marc Bergevin.

Read more: Is there a trade to be made between the Penguins and Canadiens?

Down by three after the first period, Montreal had 30 shots on goal during the middle frame and managed to trim Anaheim’s lead down to one heading into the third period. And then, just when it seemed like maybe they were on a path toward an inspirational comeback on the road, it all fell apart.

Three straight goals for Anaheim, with journeyman forward Derek Grant scoring the first two goals of his NHL career — in game No. 93.

As you can probably tell from the clip below, Carey Price was visibly irritated, as he whacked his goalie stick against the post after the sixth Anaheim goal.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Canucks defeat the Sabres, as the losing continues in Buffalo

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The Buffalo Sabres remain stuck on just a single win to begin the season. Jack Eichel is sick of losing, but the losing continues.

Returning home from a four-game road trip out west, the Sabres had an opportunity ahead of them to get back into the win column. The Vancouver Canucks, hardly a powerhouse in any way, were in town. They had played — and lost — the night before in Boston. And then the Sabres went out and were thoroughly outplayed in a 4-2 loss that, one could argue, flattered the hosts.

They weren’t able to take advantage of an early lead after Justin Bailey was allowed access to the net off the rush. They couldn’t hold the lead after Eichel dangled Ben Hutton and then scored on a shot Jacob Markstrom should’ve stopped. They gave up yet another short-handed goal, putting that number at six for the Sabres just eight games into the season.

Instead, Buffalo spent most of the night in its own end, giving up 37 shots through two periods. Hard to pin this, in any way, on goalie Chad Johnson.

“First of all, I thought we didn’t defend well and close quick enough in our defensive zone. We were a little bit slow there tonight. We need to be more aggressive and on the puck,” said head coach Phil Housley after the game.

While the Sabres were badly outplayed, one of the deciding moments in this game was a controversial video review in the second period. Vancouver took the lead on a goal from Daniel Sedin, although Housley challenged for a potential offside after it looked like Jake Virtanen didn’t have control of the puck as he entered the zone.

The linesmen looked over the play for a lengthy review before officials came to the conclusion that Virtanen did have control of the puck as he broke in over the blue line. The goal stood and the Canucks controlled the remainder of the game.

“I disagree with the call, totally,” said Housley. “In my opinion, he knocks the puck out of the air. He never has possession.

“But I call that 10 out of 10 times offside and I would continue to challenge that again.”

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Roberto Luongo leaves game with apparent injury, as Panthers fall to Penguins

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The Florida Panthers lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. Making matters worse was the fact their goalie Roberto Luongo left the game in the third period with an apparent hand injury.

The injury occurred after a collision in the crease with Penguins forward Conor Sheary.

Luongo immediately went down to the ice in pain. A replay from above the net showed Luongo’s right hand getting caught in an awkward position against the post after coming into contact with Sheary as he cut through in front of the crease in pursuit of the puck.

The injury forced James Reimer off the bench and into the game with the Panthers trailing by a goal. MacKenzie Weegar tied the game for Florida before Sheary scored the eventual winner about eight minutes later, on a night when the Penguins fired 48 shots on the two Panthers goalies.

Luongo gave up three goals on 36 shots before leaving the game. The Panthers now head out on the road. They’ll visit the Washington Capitals on Saturday.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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