Nightly recap – Thursday, October 28th

Anyone disliking the game of hockey can’t be my friend. Since I can now say you’re all my friends for reading this, here’s how things shook out around the league tonight. It’s the nightly recap of all the great and mind-numbing performances from around the league.

Boston 2 – Toronto 0

Sure, the showdown between Tyler Seguin and Phil Kessel got all the attention, but it was Tim Thomas who stole the show. Thomas shutout the Leafs lowering his goals against average and raising his save percentage to even more ridiculous levels to start the year. Thomas stopped 20 shots in the win, meanwhile Seguin showed the Leafs what they could’ve had if they didn’t trade for Kessel by scoring a goal. Patrice Bergeron scored his 100th career goal as well for Boston. Lost in this is the great game by Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson who saved 30 shots in the loss.

Columbus 3 – Edmonton 2 (F/SO)

Despite playing in front of the smallest crowd in team history (again), the Jackets were able to hold off Taylor Hall and the Oilers in the shootout. Hall was able to score his first NHL goal to tie the game at two in the third period, but it would be Rick Nash and Nikita Filatov scoring in the shootout to ice the game for Columbus. Unsung hero of the game for Edmonton was backup goalie Devan Dubnyk. In seeing his first action of the year, Dubnyk stopped 39 shots in the loss. Meanwhile, Steve Mason got the win in stopping 25 shots for the Jackets.

Ottawa 5 – Florida 3

It was a bad night for Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun was lit up for five goals against and made just 23 saves as the Panthers defense overall was helpless to stop the Senators offense. Five different Sens got on the board to supply the victory. Meanwhile, Brian Elliott stopped 28 shots in a solid effort to get the win. On the upside for Florida, their three goal scorers Bryan McCabe, Chris Higgins, and Mike Santorelli each got their first goals of the year.

Phoenix 4 – Detroit 2

With Jimmy Howard out thanks to back spasms, Chris Osgood got the nod in goal for Detroit and had a first period to forget giving up three goals and digging a hole for the Wings they couldn’t climb out of. Lauri Korpikoski had two goals for the Coyotes as they took out the Wings in Detroit. Ilya Bryzgalov was stellar in goal for Phoenix, meanwhile, stopping 43 shots in the win. Osgood closed things out with 32 saves, settling down well after a rough first. For Detroit, having to run with Osgood for an extended period of time might make life difficult if Osgood continues to be inconsistent.

St. Louis 3 – Nashville 0

Jaroslav Halak is playing every game like it’s the playoffs now. Halak earned his second consecutive shutout after stopping 24 shots in beating the hot Predators in Music City. Halak extended his shutout streak to 151:15 and the Blues are loving it. Matt D’Agostini, Alex Steen, and Patrik Berglund all scored for the Blues. For Steen it was his first goal of the season and a welcome slump buster. Pekka Rinne didn’t play too bad for Nashville either stopping 31 shots in the loss.

Minnesota 2 – Washington 1

The Caps struggles continue, dropping a fast-paced defensive slugfest with the Wild. For Minnesota, it’s about as solid of a game as they’ve played all year, allowing only a late goal to Alexander Ovechkin in the game. Niklas Backstrom stopped 21 shots in the win, while Chuck Kobasew and Mikko Koivu scored for the Wild. Michal Neuvirth had a quiet night in the loss, stopping just 15 shots. The Caps are going to have to get the offense going if they’re going to snap out of their funk.

Los Angeles 5 – Dallas 2

While Stars fans stayed home to watch the World Series, they missed out on seeing the Kings score goals on them in quick fashion as Alexei Ponikarovsky and Wayne Simmonds scored goals just nine seconds apart in the second period. Jon Quick stopped 30 shots in the win, meanwhile Kari Lehtonen and Andrew Raycroft split duties tonight after Lehtonen gave up four goals in 15 shots through 43 minutes of play. Hey, at least most Stars fans were spared having to watch it.

Colorado 6 – Calgary 5

The night’s wildest game was the last one of the night as the Avs and Flames traded goals all game long just to see the Avs come out on top with Doug Winnik scoring with just over two minutes to go in the third. Chris Stewart’s hot season continues as he scored yet another hat trick tonight as the Avs were able to keep Flames backup goalie Henrik Karlsson flustered all game long. Olli Jokinen was able to snap out of his goal scoring funk netting his first of the year. While the Avs ran with Peter Budaj in goal tonight, the offense was able to bail him out nicely to keep him from taking a tough loss. Meanwhile, expect the night’s off for Flames starter Miikka Kiprusoff to be a bit rarer after this stinker from Karlsson.

Lightning-Stars stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final

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NBC’s coverage of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with Thursday’s Stanley Cup Final matchup between the Lightning and Stars. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. Watch the Lightning-Stars stream on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Boosted by the long-awaited and “inspirational” return of Steven Stamkos, the Tampa Bay Lightning got goals from all three of their first-line forwards, their top defenseman and their captain in a threee-goal win to move within two wins of the franchise’s second Stanley Cup. For the second straight game, Tampa jumped out to a multi-goal first-period lead before the Stars got on the board. The Dallas Stars cut the deficit to one entering the second period, but the middle frame was all Lightning, outscoring Dallas 3-0 in large part thanks to a 21-4 shot differential.

After Game 2, Kevin Shattenkirk said, “when we play our best game it’s hard for teams to win.” In Game 3, Tampa played one of its best games this postseason, getting major contributions from its usual suspects in the top line trio and Hedman and also a quantifiable (one goal from Stamkos) and unquantifiable lift from the return of its captain.

The top line of Palat, Point and Kucherov carried the day once again, combining for three goals and six points in Game 3, their second straight game with four-plus points. Point leads all players this postseason with 11 goals and with Palat and Hedman also reaching double-digit goals in Game 3, the trio make Tampa the first team in a decade to have three players with 10-plus goals in the same postseason.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Tyler Seguin has struggled mightily in the 2020 playoffs. The 28-year-old has now gone 12 consecutive games without a goal and has just one assist over that span (which was six games ago). His last goal came in Game 3 of the Second Round vs. Colorado

Along with Seguin, some of Dallas’ other forwards have been quiet recently as well:

Jamie Benn: Zero points this series after ending West Final on a three-game goal streak
Denis Gurianov: Zero points, three shots this series (OT goal and assist in series-clincher vs. Vegas)
Alex Radulov: Zero goals, three assists this series

Tampa can become the first team in the NHL expansion era (1967-present) to win the Stanley Cup the season after being swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

WHAT: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton
WHEN: Friday, September 25, 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
ON THE CALL: Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, Brian Boucher
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Lightning-Stars stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 2-1)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

The Wraparound: Will Stars bounce back in Game 4 vs. Lightning?

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down Friday’s Stanley Cup Final game with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

Victor Hedman is the newest player atop the latest Conn Smythe Watch.

• The Penguins sent Patric Hornqvist to the Panthers for Mike Matheson and Colton Sceviour.

FRIDAY’S STANLEY CUP FINAL GAME

Game 4: Stars vs. Lightning (TB leads 2-1) – 8 p.m. ET, NBC (livestream): Boosted by the long-awaited and “inspirational” return of Steven Stamkos, the Tampa Bay Lightning got goals from all three of their first-line forwards, their top defenseman and their captain in a three-goal win to move within two wins of the franchise’s second Stanley Cup. For the second straight game, Tampa jumped out to a multi-goal first-period lead before the Stars got on the board. The Dallas Stars cut the deficit to one entering the second period, but the middle frame was all Lightning, outscoring Dallas 3-0 in large part thanks to a 21-4 shot differential.

After Game 2, Kevin Shattenkirk said, “when we play our best game it’s hard for teams to win.” In Game 3, Tampa played one of its best games this postseason, getting major contributions from its usual suspects in the top line trio and Hedman and also a quantifiable (one goal from Stamkos) and unquantifiable lift from the return of its captain.

The top line of Palat, Point and Kucherov carried the day once again, combining for three goals and six points in Game 3, their second straight game with four-plus points. Point leads all players this postseason with 11 goals and with Palat and Hedman also reaching double-digit goals in Game 3, the trio make Tampa the first team in a decade to have three players with 10-plus goals in the same postseason.

Tampa can become the first team in the NHL expansion era (1967-present) to win the Stanley Cup the season after being swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Tyler Seguin has struggled mightily in the 2020 playoffs. The 28-year-old has now gone 12 consecutive games without a goal and has just one assist over that span (which was six games ago). His last goal came in Game 3 of the Second Round vs. Colorado

Along with Seguin, some of Dallas’ other forwards have been quiet recently as well:

Jamie Benn: Zero points this series after ending West Final on a three-game goal streak
Denis Gurianov: Zero points, three shots this series (OT goal and assist in series-clincher vs. Vegas)
Alex Radulov: Zero goals, three assists this series

“They’ve got to figure it out, it’s as simple as that,” said Stars head coach Rick Bowness. “They’re our top-end guys. You’ve got to give them the ice time to get going, they’re getting that. They’ve got to figure it out. They need some help from other guys, but they’ve got to figure it out.”

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 2-1)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

NHL schedule for 2020 Stanley Cup Final

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The Stanley Cup Playoffs continue on Saturday, Sept. 19 in the hub city of Edmonton. Now that we are through the conference finals, the full 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final schedule has been announced.  

The top four teams during the regular season in both conferences played a three-game round robin for seeding in the First Round. The eight winners of the best-of-5 Qualifying Round advanced to the First Round.  

Rogers Place in Edmonton will host 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final.  

Here is the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final schedule.

2020 STANLEY CUP FINAL (Rogers Place – Edmonton)

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 2-1)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

CONFERENCE FINAL RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
Lightning beat Islanders (4-2)

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
Stars beat Golden Knights (4-1)

***

SECOND ROUND RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Lightning beat Bruins (4-1)
Islanders beat Flyers (4-3)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Golden Knights beat Canucks (4-3)
Stars beat Avalanche (4-3)

***

NHL QUALIFYING ROUND / ROUND-ROBIN RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Philadelphia Flyers (3-0-0, 6 points)
Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1-0, 4 points)
Washington Capitals (1-1-1, 3 points)
Boston Bruins (0-3-0, 0 points)

Canadiens beat Penguins (3-1)
Hurricanes beat Rangers (3-0)
Islanders beat Panthers (3-1)
Blue Jackets beat Maple Leafs (3-2)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Vegas Golden Knights (3-0-0, 6 points)
Colorado Avalanche (2-1-0, 4 points)
Dallas Stars (1-2-0, 2 points)
St. Louis Blues (0-2-1, 1 point)

Blackhawks beat Oilers (3-1)
Coyotes beat Predators (3-1)
Canucks beat Wild (3-1)
Flames beat Jets (3-1)

***

FIRST ROUND RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Flyers beat Canadiens (4-2)
Lightning beat Blue Jackets (4-1)
Islanders beat Capitals (4-1)
Bruins beat Hurricanes (4-1)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Golden Knights beat Blackhawks (4-1)
Avalanche beat Coyotes (4-1)
Stars beat Flames (4-2)
Canucks beat Blues (4-2)

Nikita Kucherov’s postseason defined by redemption, consistency

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Like pretty much every other player on the Tampa Bay Lightning roster, the 2018-19 playoffs ended up being a very forgettable experience for Nikita Kucherov.

During their four-game loss to the Blue Jackets, Kucherov managed just two points (both in their Game 4 loss), zero goals, and even missed a game due to a suspension for an ugly hit late in their Game 2 loss. It was a dreadfully disappointing end to a season where Kucherov had put together one of the finest regular season performances of the modern era for a record-setting team. He finished the season with 128 points (the most points the league had seen in 23 years) and took home the Hart Trophy (MVP) and Ted Lindsay Award (most outstanding player as voted by the players) on a team that won 62 regular season games.

But because of their inability to win even a single playoff against the No. 8 seed, it will mostly end up being a footnote to the season.

All of them — from Kucherov on down the roster — had to redeem themselves this postseason and flip the script on a team that was starting to become more known more for postseason shortcomings instead of for what it actually is — one of the league’s elite teams, driven by some of the best players in the world.

Entering Game 4 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final Friday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC; livestream), Kucherov and the Lightning are in the process of getting that redemption.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

They hold a 2-1 series lead and have looked like the far superior team these past two games.

Kucherov has been at the center of most of it.

His playmaking was on display in the Lightning’s Game 2 win by setting up a pair of power play goals to help power their fast start. In Game 3, he pounced on a Miro Heiskanen turnover in the neutral zone and buried a quick shot behind Anton Khudobin on a breakaway to help open the floodgates in a 5-2 win.

For the playoffs, he is already up to 30 points (seven goals, 23 assists) in 22 games, which is currently tied for the fourth highest total in a single postseason over the past 20 years, trailing only Evgeni Malkin (36) and Sidney Crosby (31) in 2008-09, and Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov (32) in 2017-18.

It’s not just that he is generating points that stands out.

He is driving the most dominant line in the league this postseason alongside Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat. His underlying numbers are also off the charts. Of the 98 skaters that have logged at least 200 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey this postseason, Kucherov ranks second in total shot attempt share (63.6 percent), second in goals for percentage (76 percent), second in expected goals percentage (68 percent), fifth in scoring chance share, and second in high-danger scoring chances (67.9 percent). In most of those categories the only players that rank ahead of him are either Tampa defenseman Victor Hedman, or Palat, who is one of Kucherov’s current linemates.

Then we get to the consistency aspect of this, and just how steady his overall production has been.

There is no more overrated and overused word in hockey than “consistency,” at least as it relates to goal and point production. Every player in the league is inconsistent to a certain degree, and even the best players tend to score their goals and points in bunches. The season is a mountain range full of peaks and valleys. But Kucherov, for a few months now, has been residing on one of those mountains.

[Lightning vs. Stars: 2020 Stanley Cup Final schedule]

He has not gone more than two consecutive games without a point since the middle of January, and there was only one stretch of games this entire season where he went more than two games without finding the scoresheet — and even that was only a three-game stretch.

He also has eight multi-point games this postseason, and when you exclude the three Round-Robin games before the start of the playoffs that means he has recorded at least two points in more than 40 percent of his games this postseason.

That is a stunning level of production and dominance.

Just looking at recent Conn Smythe Trophy winners, Ryan O'Reilly had multiple points in only 20 percent of his postseason games for the Blues last season. Alex Ovechkin was at 33 percent in 2018. Sidney Crosby had multiple points in 33 percent (2016-17) and 20 percent (2015-16) in his most recent Conn Smythe seasons.

The Lightning have been one of the league’s best teams and Kucherov has been one of the best players for six years now. But because of the way their postseasons have ended there has always been that “yeah, but…” following them around, especially after last year’s dismal First Round showing.

They all needed to rewrite the story around themselves.

They are not exactly where they want to be just yet (they still have two more wins to get), but they have put themselves in a great position to finally accomplish their ultimate goal.

MORE: Conn Smythe Watch: Victor Hedman makes his move

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.