ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Darcy Kuemper stopped 27 shots in his first start in nearly three weeks, and the Minnesota Wild beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 on Saturday for their seventh straight win.
Ryan Suter and Tyler Graovac both ended goal-scoring droughts of at least 13 games, and Chris Stewart and Eric Staal also scored for the Wild. Minnesota has won seven in a row for the first time since March 2013.
Kuemper started for the first time since a 5-4 loss at Vancouver on Nov. 29. The Wild, who began the day six points behind Central Division-leading Chicago, haven’t lost in regulation since and have outscored opponents 25-10 in the win streak.
Brendan Perlini ended Kuemper’s shutout bid with less than two minutes remaining, and Mike Smith made 26 saves for the Coyotes, facing several close shots and at least a couple that hit off the posts.
Stewart’s fifth goal of the season made it 3-0 at 3:24 of the third, and Staal added an empty netter with 36 seconds remaining to cap the scoring.
At one point in the second, a shot by Nino Niederreiter trickled between Smith’s pads before Connor Murphy narrowly saved it from going in.
Suter’s fifth goal of the season and first in 16 games came with 3:20 left in the first on Minnesota’s second power play on a long shot just below the blue line. Then, with 8 1/2 minutes left in the second, Graovac scored unassisted on a breakaway when his shot from the right side found its way through Smith’s pads and off his skate into the net.
It was Graovac’s first goal in 13 games and third of the season.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are atop the Metropolitan Division with eight wins in their last 10 games. Sidney Crosby has been scoring at a remarkable rate.
And yet there could be tough times ahead for the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Kris Letang, the Penguins’ best defenseman, averaging more than 26 minutes of ice time per game, has been placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury that is expected to force him to miss a couple of weeks.
Pittsburgh has since recalled Chad Ruhwedel from the American Hockey League. Fellow Pittsburgh blue liner Trevor Daley, who was hurt during Friday’s OT loss, is now out week to week with an upper-body injury, coach Mike Sullivan said on Saturday.
Both Letang and Daley play more than 20 minutes a night. That’s also a combined 30 points between them coming out of the lineup for right now because of injury.
The next few weeks could present some difficult times for a Penguins team that had returned to form as a scoring juggernaut through the first two months of the season. At the very least, it provides a test of depth on the blue line, while putting added pressure on Brian Dumoulin, Olli Maatta, Ian Cole and Justin Schultz.
The Penguins face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.
Gregory Campbell‘s time with the Columbus Blue Jackets appears at an end.
On Saturday, the Blue Jackets reportedly put the 33-year-old veteran forward on unconditional waivers. The club will terminate his contract if he clears waivers tomorrow, per Rob Mixer of the Blue Jackets. That would make Campbell an unrestricted free agent.
Campbell played only one season in Columbus, with three goals and 11 points in 82 games last season.
The club opted to put him on waivers before the start of this season. He cleared but didn’t report to the American Hockey League — his agent, Pat Morris, said his client wouldn’t go to the AHL to take a job away from a younger player — resulting in a suspension from the Blue Jackets.
Meanwhile, the red-hot Blue Jackets are on the road against the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday.
Columbus is searching for its ninth consecutive win. Head coach John Tortorella could also earn his 500th career win — against the same team that fired him at the end of a disastrous 2013-14 season.
In this case, the two parties involved will apparently have to agree to disagree.
Naturally, members of the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens have differing opinions of Torey Krug‘s open-ice hit on Andrew Shaw in the first period of Monday’s game. There was no call on the play, but it was among the events that reignited this long-time rivalry in what was a chaotic yet highly entertaining hockey game.
Shaw left the game immediately after the hit but did return in the second period.
“I was looking at the puck, so I don’t really — I saw him and I knew who it was and I just assumed he was going to play the body because he’s a physical player. Lowered my shoulder and I don’t know what happened,” said Krug.
His coach, Claude Julien, called it a “good hit.”
The coach on the other bench, Michel Therrien, didn’t see it the same way.
Therrien said Shaw was in a “vulnerable position” — he leaned forward to play the puck in the neutral zone just as Krug was cutting into position — and he took a “hit to the head.”
Brendan Gallagher didn’t like the hit. He later dropped the gloves with Krug in a brief altercation.
“When you see your teammate get up the way Shaw did, he had blood coming from his face, Shaw would have done that for every guy on this team,” Gallagher said. “It’s tough whenever you play this team. A lot of emotions involved.
“There’s a lot of respect between these two teams, a lot of history. Today it got a little heated.”
Wayne Gretzky has seen just about everything in hockey — from great and historic, to awkward and embarrassing.
That includes watching teammates accidentally put the puck into their own net, which is what occurred to burgeoning Jets star Patrik Laine on Sunday.
On a rebound in front, Laine shot the puck into his team’s net, the third-period gaffe proving to be the game winner for the Edmonton Oilers. Laine, who has been spectacular so far in his rookie season in Winnipeg, immediately realized the mistake, but it was too late.
In an interview with NHL Network Radio on Monday, The Great One recalled two instances in which teammates scored in their own net — including the infamous Steve Smith incident in Game 7 of the Smythe Division final against the rival Calgary Flames.
“It was tough because Stevie was a young kid at the time and we knew he was a big part of the future of the organization,” said Gretzky. “What was really unfortunate about the entire event was the fact it was such a great series — three games to three, 2-2 early in the third period — and it was just one of those … mistakes.
“He’s had such a great start,” he said of Laine. “And he’s been such a key part of not only the Jets but the fans are excited again in Winnipeg and he’s sort of the new Teemu Selanne. So you hate to see something like that happen, but it happens in hockey.
“Hopefully it doesn’t happen to him again.”