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The Buzzer: Golden Knights clinch, Sharks sizzle

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Key playoff happenings

  • The Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Colorado Avalanche, collecting the point (and one more) needed to clinch a playoff berth in their inaugural season. They also regained their six-point lead over the Sharks for the Pacific Division crown.
  • The Sharks were once buffer fodder, so just about locking down at least one round of home-ice advantage as the Pacific’s second seed isn’t a bad consolation prize. San Jose managed to grind out a shootout win against Chicago, giving the Sharks eight consecutive wins.

  • The Florida Panthers made no mistake about it against the Islanders, beating them 3-0 on Monday. Florida now has 85 points, one behind the Devils (86) for the final wild card spot. The Panthers have a game in hand on the Devils, too, so this was a big win.
  • Los Angeles provided the latest enormous blow to Calgary’s playoff hopes. In doing so, the Kings climbed back into the West’s wild-card rankings. They also kept pressure on the idle Anaheim Ducks for third in the Pacific. Los Angeles is now the first wild card holder.
  • By falling to Vegas in regulation, Colorado now sits behind the Kings as the second wild-card team. The Blues fall outside the playoff ranks as the ninth-ranked team in the West.
  • While the Capitals look like strong favorites to win the Metro after their win, the Lightning were upset by the Sabres. The idle Bruins only trail the Lightning for the Atlantic lead by two points, and Boston holds two games in hand over Tampa Bay.

Players of the Night

William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault led the charge for the Golden Knights. Each player collected one goal and two assists. With an empty-netter, Karlsson hit the 40-goal mark, while Marchessault generated his 25th of 2017-18. It’s fitting that those two forwards were instrumental in this clinching victory.

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

First goals

Lias Andersson couldn’t trigger a Rangers rally, but he did score a goal in his NHL debut:

Warren Foegele collected his first goal and his first career assist as the Hurricanes cruised against the Senators. Here’s the tally, which includes some fun locker room footage as well:

Finally, Trevor Murphy scored his first NHL goal as the Coyotes upset the Lightning:

Factoids

There are likely dozens of ways to contextualize the Golden Knights’ latest incredible achievement. Here’s one.

Here is another:

Scores

Sabres 3, Maple Leafs 2
Panthers 3, Islanders 0
Hurricanes 4, Senators 1
Capitals 4, Rangers 2
Canadiens 4, Red Wings 2
Coyotes 4, Lightning 1
Sharks 4, Blackhawks 3 (SO)
Golden Knights 4, Avalanche 1
Kings 3, Flames 0

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.

Metro title likely for Capitals after handling Rangers

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The Washington Capitals haven’t clinched the Metropolitan Division title, but that might be a mere formality after Monday night.

After opening up a 4-0 lead, the Capitals cruised to a 4-2 win against the New York Rangers. By taking care of business at MSG, the Capitals lead everyone else by at least five points for the top spot:

Teams that still have a mathematical shot at the Metro crown:

1. Capitals: 97 points in 76 games, 42 ROW
2. Penguins: 92 points in 76 GP, 41 ROW
3. Blue Jackets: 89 points in 76 GP, 36 ROW
4. Flyers: 89 points in 76 GP, 36 ROW
5. Devils: 86 points in 75 GP, 34 ROW

Yes, that looks very promising for the Caps, as only the far-off Devils hold a game in hand on them.

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

Washington is in a strong position to just about close things out by the end of March. They play the Rangers again this week (Wednesday Night Rivalry on NBCSN), then host the Hurricanes on Friday. There’s always the chance for an upset, but on paper, those are solid chances at wins against non-playoff teams.

If that’s not enough, they face the Penguins in Pittsburgh on April 1. Realistically, that would probably be the biggest threat to Washington’s division title hopes if they falter down the stretch.

Some key players chasing individual aims could also be helpful in Washington’s push as well. Alex Ovechkin likely seeks another 50-goal season, not to mention the Maurice Richard Trophy. He collected his 45th goal of 2017-18 on Monday.

Washington should have motivated goalies in net most nights. Philipp Grubauer, who won and looked sharp tonight, is hoping to pad his stats as a pending RFA. Braden Holtby will also aim to get sharp for the playoffs, assuming he can hold off Grubauer. The situation lowers the odds of their netminders sleepwalking into losses, if nothing else.

Finally, John Carlson has a lot of money to gain with a strong contract year.

While the Caps took their feet off the accelerator down the stretch, there were times that they looked downright dominant in chasing Alexandar Georgiev.

That 4-0 first period was rough for the Rangers, yet it behooves them to lose at this point, and seeing some young players show promise is a boost. As this post notes, Lias Andersson scored in his NHL debut while Filip Chytil collected his first NHL assist.

The Capitals didn’t need to settle for such moral victories, and if this pace continues, their biggest questions won’t be about whether they can win another division title. Instead, it will be about resting key players versus giving them opportunities to chase individual awards.

Not a bad problem to have, especially for a team that was supposed to slide more dramatically this season.

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.

Ducks sign U.S. Olympian Troy Terry to rookie deal

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Right wing Troy Terry has agreed to a three-year contract with the Anaheim Ducks.

The Ducks announced the entry-level deal on Monday for Terry, who played on the U.S. Olympic team.

Terry had 48 points in 39 games this year for the University of Denver, which ended its season Sunday with a loss in the NCAA Tournament. He had 115 points in 115 games over three seasons with his hometown school.

The high-scoring forward could play Tuesday in Vancouver for the Ducks, who are on the edge of the Western Conference playoff hunt.

Terry was a fifth-round pick by Anaheim in 2015, but grew into a promising NHL prospect. He also had five assists in five games in Pyeongchang.

More AP hockey: http://www.apnews.com/tags/NHLhockey

Lias Andersson scores in NHL debut; Kuznetsov’s near-lacrosse goal

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The Washington Capitals are dominating, chasing individual trophies, and the Atlantic Division title. The New York Rangers enter the second intermission down 4-1, are playing out the stretch after waiving a white flag on the season, and often look like a mess in their own end.

So, tonight’s game hasn’t exactly been hockey’s answer to “three yards and a cloud of dust.” It’s been more like an arcade-style video game.

But, hey, those video games can be cartoonish fun.

The coolest moment came as Lias Andersson scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game for the Rangers. You can watch it in the video above this post’s headline. Shots of his family celebrating that milestone goal really make it fun to watch.

Speaking of fun to watch, Evgeny Kuznetsov really embraced the video game mentality, nearly scoring a glorious lacrosse-style goal against Ondrej Pavelec. Sadly, he came up just short:

Retired forward Patrick O’Sullivan explains why such goals are so rare. Heck, attempts are very rare at the NHL level, period:

Personally, lacrosse goals invading hockey always goes back to Mike Legg scoring a memorable one for Michigan many moons ago:

Is that Legg goal burned into anyone else’s memory?

Update: Filip Chytil also scored his first career point for the Rangers, though this isn’t his NHL debut. Still, getting an assist in your third career game isn’t too shabby.

The Capitals ended up winning 4-2.

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.

Rangers pull Georgiev after trip to Ovechkin’s office

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With none of the pressure of chasing a playoff spot, the New York Rangers get to play fast and loose, giving young players a shot. The Washington Capitals took advantage of all that space, and they rolled to an early 3-0 lead at Alexandar Georgiev‘s expense.

Alex Ovechkin scored from his “office” for the third goal about midway through the first period, collecting a goal from his familiar-yet-unstoppable wheelhouse.

Ovechkin did so on the power play, giving him 45 goals during the 2017-18 season, and 603 goals (and possibly counting). He still hasn’t hit his 1,000th regular-season contest yet, as this is game 997.

The other goals were probably tougher for the Rangers to take, even though they weren’t all on Georgiev.

T.J. Oshie was afforded far too much time and space with only Georgiev to stop him, as three Rangers approached Nicklas Backstrom at the blueline. Backstrom made a nice pass (an even more common occurrence than Ovechkin scoring from his office?) and Oshie scored his 17th goal of the season.

After that 1-0 goal, Matt Niskanen enjoyed a ton of time close to the net. He eventually waited out Georgiev to get just enough room to score a sweet, funky 2-0 tally:

Ovechkin’s 3-0 goal made it three goals on just six shots on goal, and Georgiev got the hook in favor of Ondrej Pavelec.

With an impressive .926 save percentage coming into tonight’s game, Georgiev has been quite effective in tougher circumstances during his auditions for the Rangers. It was curtains for the 22-year-old early on Broadway on Monday, though.

Update: To be fair, Pavelec just allowed a goal to Evgeny Kuznetsov, so this could just be a long night for the Rangers.

It was a pretty one, too.

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.