James O'Brien

NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 23:  Leo Komarov #47 and Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs congratulate teammate Nazem Kadri #43 of the Toronto Maple Leafs after he scored in the first period against the New Jersey Devils on November 23, 2016 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Matthews, Kadri keep dangerous Leafs rolling

The wave of young players (led by Auston Matthews) and some underrated holdovers (including Nazem Kadri and James van Riemsdyk) explains why the Toronto Maple Leafs are a dangerous team in the East.

It showed again on Thursday.

Matthews scored the opening goal and assisted on another Kadri overtime game-winner as the Maple Leafs edged the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in OT.

With that, the Maple Leafs won all four games of their just-concluded road trip. In doing so, they took a point from a Bolts squad that needs to make the most of their home dates.

Matthews’ goal was one of those displays that prompts people to wonder how, in the world, he’s only a rookie:

William Nylander factored into Kadri’s overtime-winner, too, continuing the theme of young and almost-as-young players coming through:

The Leafs edged the Lightning in shots on goal by a margin of 35-27, so it’s not like this was a matter of timely scoring alone.

This is a real confidence-boosting run for the Leafs with a challenging start to 2017 looming. They face the hype and distractions of the 2017 Centennial Classic as a “home game” and then follow that with four of five on the road.

That isn’t easy, but Toronto has immediate evidence that they can keep rolling even with a tough stretch of scheduling breaks. That’s the sort of confidence that can make you, well, dangerous.

Working out the Kinkaid: Devils steal one from Capitals via shootout

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Just about every number indicated that the Washington Capitals should have beaten the New Jersey Devils in a walk.

The Capitals dominated the shots on goal by a margin of 44-27. New Jersey had lost its last seven games against Washington. The Caps are in the thick of the Metropolitan Division race while the Devils are closer to being a cellar dweller.

Also, Taylor Hall was out and Keith Kinkaid was in net instead of Cory Schneider.

All logic would point to Washington winning, but instead, Kinkaid played one of his best games in the NHL and the Devils won 2-1 via a shootout on Thursday.

The Devils were 1-8-1 in their last 10 games coming into Thursday and only had four wins since Nov. 15, so this win must bring some serious relief (even if they probably got a little lucky).

Washington, meanwhile, must be feeling a little frustrated. It seemed like the Capitals were regaining their dominant form with a six-game winning streak from Dec. 5-16, but they’ve now lost four of their last five games (1-2-2).

The two teams meet again in New Jersey on New Year’s Eve, so we’ll see how their efforts compare in these two games.

Video: Al Montoya’s save of the year entry vs. the Panthers

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Al Montoya enjoyed some of the best moments of his career as an NHL backup with the Florida Panthers. Maybe facing his old team will help him turn things around after some early struggles with the Montreal Canadiens?

A highlight reel save won’t erase that 10-0 blowout from the Columbus Blue Jackets, yet it’s also true that Montoya’s enjoyed enough moments that he can redeem himself.

But, really, that’s a discussion for later on. For now, let’s gape in awe at Montoya’s sprawling save, which you can watch in the video above.

Update: To make things even sweeter, the Canadiens helped Montoya get the win with this overtime-clincher.

Forever a Senator – Senators retire Daniel Alfredsson’s number 11

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The Ottawa Senators are really knocking it out of the park as they honor Daniel Alfredsson’s career and retire his number 11 during Thursday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings.

The Red Wings, of course, are the other team Alfredsson suited up for, although Alfie said all the right things on this memorable evening.

“I’m so proud to have my number retired here in Ottawa,” Alfredsson said. “I’ll forever be a Senator.”

Ottawa piled on a lot of great stuff for “#Celebrate11,” including Senators players wearing every sweater Alfredsson donned during his time with the team:

Honestly though, the highlight of the entire presentation might be the footage of young Alfie:

Nicely done, Sens.

Video: David Backes banged up in rough period for Bruins

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Life has been frustrating for the Boston Bruins lately, and the first period of Thursday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres held true to that pattern.

For one thing, the Sabres generated a 2-0 lead and 16-9 shot advantage against the Bruins.

That’s a smaller concern than the health of forward David Backes, however. It’s too early to tell if he suffered an injury via this hard hit by William Carrier. Video of the hit is avaliable above, but you can also watch the check from a couple angles in GIF form:

Carrier received a penalty for illegal hit to the head on the play.

Later on, it was quite the scene as officials tried to keep Adam McQuaid and Carrier apart:

Update: The bad news for Boston is that Backes did not return. The good news for the Bruins is that they scored four unanswered goals to win 4-2.