The Buzzer: Fleury dominates again, Caps get huge win, Jets push Wild to brink

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Three games on Tuesday night

Winnipeg Jets 2, Minnesota Wild 0 (Jets lead series 3-1)

Well things certainly escalated here, didn’t they? Josh Morrissey might be looking at a suspension for his cross-check to the neck of Eric Staal, while Wild coach Bruce Boudreau argued that the non-call on that play cost the Wild the game. It certainly did not help as it would have given them an extended two-man advantage, while Morrissey stayed in the game to set up the game-winning goal and help make a great defensive play to break up a potential breakaway chance for Nino Niederreiter.

Washington Capitals 3, Columbus Blue Jackets 2 (Blue Jackets lead series 2-1)

Artemi Panarin was the best player on the ice — by a wide margin — with another multiple-point game and some sort of highlight reel play nearly every time he touched the ice. It was not enough for the Columbus Blue Jackets as the Washington Capitals were able to pick up the Game 3 win. It was Lar Eller’s double overtime goal that lifted the Capitals as they finally had a bounce go their way in a playoff game

Vegas Golden Knights 1,  Los Angeles Kings 0 (Golden Knights win series 4-0)

The first team advancing to the second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs is the Vegas Golden Knights after completing their four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night with a 1-0 win in Game 4 of their series. If someone had told you that sentence would be possible at the start of the season you would have laughed at them, and rightfully so. Brayden McNabb, the player Los Angeles gave up to Vegas in the expansion draft, scored the only goal on Tuesday night.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Three Stars

1. Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights. It was, once again, the Marc-Andre Fleury show on Tuesday night. He stopped all 30 shots he faced to record his second shutout of the series, both of them by a 1-0 margin. He was unbelievable in the series, allowing just three goals in the four games. Some of his saves on Tuesday were highlight reel stops, including this late third period save on Anze Kopitar to preserve the one-goal lead.

Then he did it again in the final minute, just getting enough of this Dustin Brown shot.

Remember when Fleury was a concern in the playoffs? Seems like an eternity ago. Since the start of the playoffs a year ago Fleury now has a .935 save percentage in 19 games with four shutouts.

2. Lars Eller, Washington Capitals. Facing the prospect of a 3-0 series hole the Capitals needed somebody to step up in a big situation and Eller just happened to be in the right place at the right time to help them get on the board in their series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Was he the best player on the ice? No. Was he the Capitals’ best player? Probably not. He did score the biggest goal of the season for the Capitals — to this point — so that is good enough.

3. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets. On the same day that it was announced he is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goalie, Hellebuyck recorded his first career playoff shutout, stopping all 30 shots he faced in the Jets’ 2-0 win to move them one game closer to winning their first ever Stanley Cup playoff series.

Factoid Of The Night

It has to be all about the Vegas Golden Knights. What they are doing this season is nothing short of amazing.

Wednesday’s Schedule

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers, 7 p.m. ET
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New Jersey Devils, 7:30 p.m. ET
Nashville Predators vs. Colorado Avalanche, 10 p.m. ET
Anaheim Ducks vs. San Jose Sharks, 10:30 p.m. ET

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Vegas casino creates chocolate sculpture of Marc-Andre Fleury (Photo)

MGM
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The Vegas Golden Knights will be hosting their first ever Stanley Cup playoff game on Wednesday night, so you can imagine what the excitement level is like around the city after an historic inaugural NHL season.

Part of the fun around Vegas this week includes the introduction of a five-foot tall, 90-pound chocolate sculpture of Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury inside the Bellagio Patisserie.

MGM

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, it took assistant executive pastry chefs Yamilet Hillers and Jerome Jacob five weeks to create the Fleury sculpture using 90 pounds of chocolate over a base of Rice Krispie Treats, Styrofoam and wires. Fondant was used on the jersey and number part of the creation.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

You know you’ve done something in your life when someone creates a chocolate sculpture of you.

Jaromir Jagr got the sculpture treatment in 2014 when a tribute was created of him entirely out of marzipan. There was also the Chicago pastry school that took 150 hours and made a 100-pound chocolate Stanley Cup. And this chocolate Eddie Olczyk. But the real G.O.A.T. when it comes to the worlds of hockey and food colliding is a tie between the bacon Cup and the one made from poutine. Gorgeous and (probably) delicious!

If the Golden Knights achieve the unthinkable and go #CupIn1, then the Bellagio chefs will surely have to tweak the Fleury sculpture to include a fourth Cup for the netminder. You know, for the sake of accuracy.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Fleury worries; Blackhawks eliminated

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Injury scares

Let’s hope that Tuesday presents dodged bullets instead of long-lasting injuries.

  • You can read more about Patrik Laine not returning to the Jets’ eventual overtime win against the Kings here. The early word is that it “isn’t sinister,” whatever that means.

Here is video of the unfortunate moment:

  • The Vegas Golden Knights must hold their breath again with goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. “MAF” took a shot off of his mask and did not return to Vegas’ eventual win against Vancouver. Considering his struggles with concussion issues, this is a big concern.

For what it’s worth, the team provided no official update, yet similarly to the Jets with Laine, the Golden Knights appear optimistic about Fleury avoided something serious. Either way, it puts a damper on this milestone.

Elimination updates

For the first time since the 2007-08 season, the Chicago Blackhawks won’t participate in the playoffs.

Chicago joins the Arizona Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks, and Buffalo Sabres as teams with the dreaded “e-” next to their names. The Red Wings postponed that fate by beating Philly. Edmonton delayed their own, too; they match the Blackhawks’ 69 standings points but hold a game in hand.

So, expect more names to get officially crossed off the list very soon. The Canadiens and Senators also see their days numbered.

Players of the Night

  • Artemi Panarin is a key figure in the Blue Jackets’ nine-game winning streak (read about how they’ve congested the Metro races in this post). Tuesday served as one of his best nights yet with Columbus, as “The Bread Man” collected a hat trick and also generated an assist. With 68 points on the season, it looks like he’ll hit 70+ points for his third season in a row, meaning he’s done so every year in the NHL. Perhaps he doesn’t need Patrick Kane to produce points, after all?

  • Leon Draisaitl collected a goal and three assists in the Oilers’ surprisingly bombastic 7-3 win against the Hurricanes, which didn’t really require Connor McDavid to dominate (he finished with one assist). Draisaitl’s quietly been showing that, while his contract is expensive, he’s probably the last of the Oilers’ worries.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

Highlights

Matt Benning was basically enjoying batting practice during that Oilers win:

Tremendous pass from Thomas Vanek, who now has eight points in 11 games with Columbus.

Factoids

Learn why Alex Ovechkin‘s 602nd goal is his latest milestone here.

Nathan MacKinnon continues to tear up the NHL, as he’s second in league scoring with 91 points in just 65 games after collecting two assists on Tuesday. It really feels like he’s adding to his Hart Trophy argument every single game.

Scores

Islanders 4, Penguins 1
Blue Jackets 5, Rangers 3
Capitals 4, Stars 3
Oilers 7, Hurricanes 3
Panthers 7, Senators 2
Red Wings 5, Flyers 4 (SO)
Lightning 4, Maple Leafs 3
Jets 2, Kings 1 (OT)
Avalanche 5, Blackhawks 1
Golden Knights 4, Canucks 1
Sharks 6, Devils 2

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Marc-Andre Fleury records career win No. 400

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It was a night of milestones in the NHL on Monday night.

While Alex Ovechkin was scoring career goal No. 600 in Washington, Marc-Andre Fleury was busy doing work in Philadelphia to become the 13th goalie in NHL history to record 400 career wins.

He did it by stopping 38 of the 40 shots he faced in a 3-2 win over the Flyers to help Vegas extend its lead in the Pacific Division. Twenty-eight of Fleury’s career wins have come against the Flyers, the team he has beaten the second most times in his career (he has defeated the New York Rangers 31 times).

Ryan Carpenter‘s goal late in the third period broke a 2-2 tie to give Fleury the offensive support he needed for the win.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

William Karlsson also continued his stunning season for Vegas by scoring his 36th goal of the season in the win.

From the moment the Golden Knights received Fleury from the Penguins as part of the expansion draft process he was expected to be one of the core building blocks for the first year team. When healthy he has probably exceeded expectations by putting together one of the best seasons of his career.

Given that he is now a member of the 400-win club and been a part of three Stanley Cup winning teams, that is no small accomplishment.

For the Flyers, the loss continues their recent slide that has seen them drop six out of their past seven games.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Marc-Andre Fleury aims for 400th win

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It was never going to be easy for Marc-Andre Fleury, who could become the 13th goalie in NHL history to reach 400 wins if the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday.

The perpetually grinning goalie came into the NHL as the first overall pick in 2003, a draft that turned out to be historically loaded. That’s a tough burden for any netminder, especially when you recall that – believe it or not – the Pittsburgh Penguins were in a positively dreadful place at that time.

“MAF” has seen some serious turbulence on his way to collecting three Stanley Cup rings. He became one of Hockey Twitter’s favorite goalies to ridicule, and at times criticisms were certainly warranted; following his first championship with Pittsburgh, Fleury’s save percentage was below .900 in four straight postseasons. Plenty of goalies wouldn’t be able to rebuild their confidence after such struggles, and there were valleys including some tough times that warranted a well-publicized locker room visit from Mario Lemieux.

Fleury’s eventual exit from Pittsburgh was remarkably classy, but it was more than that. The athletic goalie also happened to go out on a high note.

For all the memories of postseason struggles, Fleury was fantastic during the first half of the Penguins’ 2017 Stanley Cup run, posting a splendid .924 save percentage. How many goalies would be this relaxed during a Game 7 of a playoff series, to the point of teasing Alex Ovechkin after a save that … well, few goalies could author?

Fleury then gave way to Matt Murray without making a stink, passed him the Stanley Cup, and then gracefully accepted going to an expansion team. By gestures alone, he deserves serious kudos:

With Fleury, it’s easy to get distracted by the bigger moments. During the time of that Game 7 save against Nicklas Lidstrom, fancy stats people gradually found themselves rolling their eyes at praise of Fleury. Now, his improved work might be slipping under the radar.

Consider this: in 196 regular-season games from 2014-15 through this season, Fleury sports a strong .920 save percentage, matching Braden Holtby. His 111 wins edges the likes of Carey Price. Fleury ranks in the top 10 of both categories during that time frame for netminders with at least 50 games played.

Remarkably, the 33-year-old is in the middle of one of his best regular seasons. Injuries limit his Vezina appeal, but Fleury is 24-9-3 with a .930 save percentage, which would easily rank as his best individual season.

Gerard Gallant deserves a lot of credit for how the Golden Knights play, and the line of Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, and William Karlsson probably deserve more ink for being one of the more dangerous NHL trios (at least when healthy). It’s easy to lose track of how special a season Fleury is having thanks to injuries and other headlines, but he probably deserves credit as the glue holding a shockingly competitive expansion team together.

Take a look at where Fleury ranks among the 13 winningest NHL goalies (along with a notable name at number 14), and realize that he could really climb this list as his career goes along:

1. Martin Brodeur: 691 wins
2. Patrick Roy: 551
3. Ed Belfour: 484
4. Roberto Luongo: 467
5. Curtis Joseph: 454
6. Terry Sawchuk: 447
7. Jacques Plante: 437
8. Henrik Lundqvist: 430
9. Tony Esposito: 423
10. Glen Hall: 407
11. Grant Fuhr: 403
12. Chris Osgood: 401
13. Fleury: 399
14. Dominik Hasek: 389

Fleury told NHL.com’s Mike Zeisberger that he’s taken a look at those all-time lists, but he doesn’t necessarily obsess about it.

“Those two guys (Roy and Brodeur) are from the province of Quebec like me and they were guys I grew up looking up to,” Fleury said. “There are other guys on that list too from the 1990s that I used to watch like Ed Belfour (484) and Curtis Joseph (454).

“Now I see their names on the list and to think I’m up there, it’s flattering and kind of unbelievable.”

Fleury may never win a Vezina during his NHL career. He may not win over all his critics, even if he continues his current upward trend.

None of that changes that he’s enjoyed a memorable career, and whether he reaches 400 wins tonight or later on, Fleury’s shown why he was one of the few goalies to go first overall. Simply put, there’s no other goalie quite like “The Flower.”

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.