Cam Tucker

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A fresh start with Avalanche is yielding promising results for Nail Yakupov

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It had been a difficult few years for Nail Yakupov since he broke into the NHL.

Now 24 years old, he’s with his third team. He’s been injured. He’s been a healthy scratch. He so far hasn’t produced offensively like you’d expect from a No. 1 overall pick. His time in Edmonton was disappointing. He spent four seasons there before being moved on to St. Louis, where the struggle continued.

We’ll preface this with the usual “It’s still early” line, but Yakupov is enjoying an impressive start to this young season with his newest team, the Colorado Avalanche.

On Wednesday, he scored a beautiful goal to put Colorado ahead in the second period and then set up Matt Duchene later on to increase the Avalanche lead in a 6-3 victory over the Boston Bruins, giving Yakupov three goals and five points in four games and helping his team to a 3-1 record.

It didn’t work out for Yakupov in Edmonton. Or in St. Louis, where he played in only 40 games, scored three times and recorded nine points. He wasn’t extended a qualifying offer this summer and became an unrestricted free agent. The Avalanche stepped in and took a chance on the once highly touted forward, signing him to a one-year deal worth just $875,000.

For the Avalanche, it’s looking like a savvy bet early on.

He’s been able to have success while playing on a line with the highly skilled Duchene and college free agent signing Alex Kerfoot.

That’s quite a trio.

Yakupov is looking to get his career back on track. For quite some time, there has been doubt about Duchene’s time in Colorado given the rampant trade speculation, and Kerfoot is a New Jersey draft pick who chose free agency after his college career ended.

“They’re finding a way every night,” head coach Jared Bednar told reporters following the game. “They’re competitive guys, they’ve got this chemistry from Day One and it’s continued here again (Wednesday).”

Duchene now has five points in four games, while Kerfoot scored his first NHL goal on Wednesday. All three players lead the Avalanche in Corsi For percentage, with Yakupov at the top of the list five-on-five at 61.3 per cent, according to Corsica.  

It’s common to hear about the ‘fresh start’ factor and its impact on certain players. So far for Yakupov and the Avalanche, this one has yielded promising results.

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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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Predators complete ‘crazy comeback’ against Flyers

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The banner went up and the home team came back to win in a thrilling finish. All in all, a perfect night for the Nashville Predators and their fans.

Filip Forsberg scored his second goal with 35.6 seconds left and the Predators rallied by scoring twice in the final 1:17 to beat the Philadelphia Flyers 6-5 on Tuesday for their first victory of the season.

“This season, being down 0-2, it was a huge game for us,” Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne said. “Good start to the game and then let it slip a little bit and then a huge comeback. I feel like we’ve done that many times. It’s a pretty hard way to play. Emotionally and everything, it was a big win for us.”

On the night they raised their Western Conference championship banner, the Predators blew a 3-0 lead as the Flyers scored five straight goals.

Read more: Nolan Patrick’s first career NHL goal helps spark Flyers comeback

But then Forsberg scored his first of the game 50 seconds after the Flyers took a 5-3 lead, and Scott Hartnell jammed in his second goal tying it with 1:17 left on a 5-on-3 that was actually 6-on-3 with Rinne pulled. When Philadelphia coach Dave Hakstol challenged for offside and lost, the Predators had the man advantage, and Forsberg scored the winning goal top shelf.

Hakstol was surprised he lost the replay review.

“Otherwise, I wouldn’t have made the challenge,” he said.

Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said the team practiced the 5-on-3 situation Monday, with the sixth attacker a bonus.

“Our guys did a really good job,” Laviolette said.

Craig Smith and Nick Bonino also scored, and P.K. Subban had three assists for Nashville. Forsberg also had an assist on Hartnell’s tying goal as Nashville won its fifth straight home opener.

Valtteri Filppula scored twice for the Flyers, and Andrew McDonald, Nolan Patrick and Travis Konecny each added a goal. Philadelphia finished 2-2 on its first four-game road trip to open a season since 1971.

The Predators, losers at Boston and Pittsburgh, raised the banner 19 years to the day of the first game in franchise history.

Mike Fisher , the captain who retired in August , joined current captain Roman Josi in unveiling the banner before it was raised to the rafters. Then country star Trace Adkins performed the national anthem, and Nashville’s mayor came out to wave a towel as the Predators continued their playoff tradition for at least the home opener.

Then the Predators gave their fans reason to keep cheering, with Smith scoring a power-play goal with a wrister past Brian Elliott at 4:17 of the first period. That gave Nashville its first lead this season, and the Predators took eight of the first 10 shots.

Nashville scored first in the second period, too. Hartnell beat Elliott with a slap shot off the rebound of teammate Pontus Aberg‘s shot at 3:08 for a 2-0 lead. Mattias Ekholm skated across the crease, and his backhand shot went off Elliott to Bonino, who easily tapped the puck in for a 3-0 lead and his first goal since leaving Pittsburgh for Nashville this offseason .

Then the Flyers turned the celebration into a game. McDonald scored his first goal on a slap shot at 10:19, and Patrick, the second overall pick in the June draft, got his first career goal 16 seconds later on a wrister. Philadelphia took advantage of its third power play in the period when Filppula scored on a wrister at 15:05, tying it at 3.

Konecny scored on a breakaway at 5:03 followed by Filppula’s power-play goal for a 5-3 lead that seemed safe until Forsberg pulled Nashville within a goal 50 seconds later to set up the amazing finish.

“Obviously, a crazy comeback,” Forsberg said.

The Flyers picked up two penalties on the same play with 2:41 left, giving Nashville a 5-on-3 advantage. Hakstol lost his challenge for offside, and a delay-of-game penalty gave Nashville the man advantage.

“We gave it away,” Elliott said.

 

Golden Knights win emotional, historic home opener

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The evening started with an emotional tribute to the victims and first responders in the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas earlier this month.

It ended with fans inside T-Mobile Arena coming together to celebrate a thrilling and historic 5-2 home victory for the expansion Vegas Golden Knights over the visiting Arizona Coyotes.

The Golden Knights improve their record to 3-0-0.

Tomas Nosek got things started with the first Golden Knights regular season home goal in franchise history.

By the midway point of the first period, Vegas had built up a four-goal lead, with Deryk Engelland and James Neal also scoring for the home team, which resulted in Arizona’s starting goalie Antti Raanta getting the hook after three goals allowed on five shots.

It was, for the Golden Knights, a perfect start in their highly anticipated home opener almost a year and a half since getting awarded an NHL franchise, and they continued from there to the delight of the crowd.

This night, however, wasn’t solely about a hockey game.

This was about a community continuing to come together, and its professional sports team hoping to be part of the healing after what occurred on Oct. 1.

Before the puck dropped to begin this chapter in the Golden Knights’ history, the organization paid tribute to Las Vegas first responders by introducing them to the crowd and bringing them onto the ice where they were accompanied by a member of the Golden Knights during the ceremony.

The Golden Knights then held a 58-second moment of silence for the 58 victims that lost their lives in the tragedy.

Engelland also addressed the crowd.

“Like all of you, I’m proud to call Las Vegas home,” he said. “I met my wife here and my kids were born here and I know how special this city is. To all the brave first responders that have worked timelessly and courageously throughout this whole tragedy, we thank you. To the families and friends of the victims, know that we’ll do everything we can to help you and our city heal.

“We are Vegas strong.”

Video: Tomas Nosek scores first Golden Knights home goal

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It didn’t take long for the Vegas Golden Knights to score their first regular season goal on home ice at T-Mobile Arena.

After a tremendously well done pre-game ceremony, in which the Golden Knights honored first responders and victims and their families in the wake of the deadly mass shooting earlier this month, Vegas jumped out to a quick lead on the Arizona Coyotes.

Tomas Nosek scored the historic franchise goal, beating Antti Raanta with a wrist shot to the glove side just 2:31 into the game.

The first period wasn’t even seven minutes old by the time the Golden Knights had a 3-0 advantage, leading to a frenzied celebration.

Deryk Engelland and James Neal also scored to give Vegas that three-goal lead.

Related: More than anything, Vegas Golden Knights’ home debut is chance to heal

DeBrincat helps Blackhawks rebound to defeat Habs

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On Monday, the Chicago Blackhawks gave up more than 40 shots in an overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The following night, they once again conceded more than 40 shots on goal, this time against the Montreal Canadiens, but were able to hold on for a 3-1 victory.

Corey Crawford, who didn’t play the previous night in Toronto when Chicago let the lead slip to the dangerous Maple Leafs, was impressive in this one, stopping 41 of the 42 shots he faced.

But it really was the Alex DeBrincat Show for Chicago.

The 2016 second-round pick and 19-year-old forward scored his first career NHL goal in the first period, ripping a quick shot stick side on Carey Price to get the Blackhawks on the board. He then set up Artem Anisimov on a pretty passing play to give Chicago a two-goal lead midway through the second period.

They were able to hold on from there, with Crawford facing 16 shots in the final 20 minutes as Montreal tried to force a comeback.