Evgeni Malkin helped get things started for the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, and then he finished the game off with the overtime winner to send the New York Rangers to a fourth consecutive loss.
Malkin scored once, added three assists and even dropped the gloves in a 5-4 overtime victory, as the Penguins came back with a late — and crafty — third period goal from Sidney Crosby.
Talk about the Penguins being opportunistic on the winner. Off a defensive zone faceoff win for the Rangers, Ryan McDonagh made a terrible giveaway right beside his own net, giving the puck to Phil Kessel, who slipped it over to Malkin for the quick one-timer.
Highlight of the night:
There were a few candidates for this tonight. Phil Kessel once again showed off that tremendous wrist shot. Thomas Vanek decided to blast a slap shot on a breakaway, going post and in against the Senators. Nikita Kucherov had a perfect shot against Cory Schneider after previously setting up teammate Vladislav Namestnikov for a pretty goal versus the Devils. Yes, there were a few options.
But, we’ll go back to Winnipeg for this one. Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson not only protects the puck from Jacob Trouba on the breakaway, but then dekes out Steve Mason with the move to the forehand.
Factoid of the night:
The Vegas Golden Knights won again, giving them a 5-1 record to begin their inaugural season. That puts them in elite company.
There was a period where parting ways with Dave Tippett, Mike Smith, and Shane Doan seemed like bad PR. That wave of moves likely washes that away, and gives new head coach Rick Tocchet something to work with.
Again, the band is staying together. Marc-Edouard Vlasic joins Burns and Martin Jones as aging (but impressive) players locked up long-term in San Jose. The hope is that regression does not begin anytime soon … but we’ll see.
They also might be marginally more pleasant this season. The additions of Sam Gagner, Michael Del Zotto, and Thomas Vanek aren’t likely to make them a good team, but it might make Vancouver easier on the eyes.
Tatar’s camp has rejected a five-year offer of $5 million per season, wanting six or seven years at closer to $6 million a season, a source said.
Neither side appears willing to budge, which could result in a rare hearing for the Red Wings before an arbitrator next Thursday in Toronto. If it reaches that stage, Tatar will receive a one-year contract because he is eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer.
A one-year contract might not be so promising in the long-term, as there are rumblings that such a situation might prompt Tatar to eventually leave Detroit.
Khan provides a rosier update for Andreas Athanasiou. Without arbitration rights, the Red Wings might be able to leverage the speedy forward into a cheap deal. Khan pegs a possible deal at two years with a cap hit of $1.5 million.
While Athanasiou and Tatar are more crucial scenarios, there’s also the question of possibly bringing back Thomas Vanek.
The oldest:Jaromir Jagr, 45, won’t be returning to the Florida Panthers. But he still wants to play. The future Hall of Famer had 16 goals and 30 assists in 82 games last season.
The most points last season:Thomas Vanek, 33, was reportedly talking with “several teams” on July 1, but no deal yet. Vanek split 2016-17 between Detroit and Florida. The fact he only scored two goals in 20 games for the Panthers may have hurt his value, but he did have 48 points in 68 games overall.
The most goals:Mike Fisher, 37, is apparently considering retirement. But if he decides to keep playing, it’s hard to imagine he signs with anyone but Nashville. Fisher had 18 goals in 72 games last season, then helped the Predators to their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.
The most points by a defenseman:Andrei Markov had 36 points (6G, 30A) for Montreal. The Habs would like to bring the 38-year-old back, but GM Marc Bergevin says his final offer has been made. The message to Markov? Take it or leave it.
The most right-shot defenseman: We’ll give this to Cody Franson, the 29-year-old who’s spent the last two years in Buffalo. Franson is no savior, but he’s not too old, and he was pretty productive on the power play during his days with the Maple Leafs.
The most Rocket Richard Trophies:Jarome Iginla, 40, is still unsigned. The two-time leading goalscorer in the NHL scored just 14 times last season for Colorado. He wants to keep playing, but it remains to be seen if he’ll get an offer he likes.
The most fast (a.k.a. the fastest):Viktor Stalberg can still fly at 31 years old, and he’s got plenty of postseason experience to boot. The Ottawa Senators would like to keep him, and he’d like to stay. But the two sides have yet to reach a deal, so he may have to look elsewhere.
The most under-30: Among regular NHLers last season, 24-year-old defenseman Nikita Nesterov is the youngest UFA. He became an unrestricted free agent after the Canadiens chose not to extend a qualifying offer.
The most points by an under-30 UFA: That honor belongs to 26-year-old forward Alex Chiasson, who was cut loose by the Calgary Flames after registering 12 goals and 12 assists in 81 games.
It won’t be pretty, but Capitals can still contend
Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan admitted that his team is experiencing a championship “hangover” without the benefits of a Stanley Cup, which sounds even worse than a headache without the party.
And, no doubt about it, this last swing for the fences was the mightiest they could muster.
Still, it’s easy to linger on this letdown and forget that sports can be pretty strange. Sometimes a big run happens well after people expect it.
Who, in their right mind, expected Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks to shock LeBron James and the Miami Heat in 2011? Hockey has plenty of examples of surprise runs, including the Predators going from the 16th-ranked playoff team to two wins from a title.
Even so, the very Pittsburgh Penguins team that torments them can also be a beacon of hope: you don’t need a perfect regular season to win it all.
The Capitals are no longer in a position to run away with the Presidents’ Trophy each year. Instead, they just need to make the best of things like … you know, just about every salary-cap era contender.
An aging core … but not an old core
Look, the most important members of this team no longer qualify as spring chickens. Alex Ovechkin‘s gray hair stands as a reminder of our mortality, really.
Rather than being a reason for panic, the ages of their most important players emphasize the notion that they need to keep hammering away:
Sure, some of those important contributors might slip, but that’s still a core group most franchises would envy. They still have an elite goalie, dangerous scorers, two strong centers, an experienced head coach, and some capable defensemen.
One key development might be the rise (or fall?) of Jakub Vrana.
The 21-year-old has enjoyed solid – though not spectacular – success in the AHL, and also got his feet wet at the NHL level. He didn’t go wild for Washington, but with that first-round pedigree (13th pick in 2014) and solid numbers in Hershey, there’s some reason to believe that he could at least be a meaningful contributor.
Vrana could ease the sting of losing one of those key forwards.
In defending keeping Brooks Orpik around, MacLellan points to a similar possibility among Washington’s defensive prospects:
Here’s some advice for MacLellan: as painful as times are now, don’t go on vacation just yet. The Capitals should take advantage of a free agent market that is low on stars but potentially high on value.