On the brink: Flames silence Canucks, take 3-1 series lead

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The Calgary Flames haven’t won a playoff round since 2004 — the year they last went to the Stanley Cup final.

Now, they’re just one victory away from moving on.

Calgary pushed Vancouver to the edge of elimination on Wednesday night, scoring a 3-1 win at the Saddledome to take a commanding three games to one lead in the opening-round series. Jiri Hudler’s first-period tally proved to be the decisive goal as the Flames did all their damage in the opening frame — three goals on seven shots, chasing Canucks goalie Eddie Lack in the process — before shutting down the Canucks over the final 40 minutes of action.

For Vancouver, it was a forgettable evening.

After losing veteran winger Alex Burrows (broken rib) in the morning skate, the club also dropped banged-up forward Brad Richardson from the lineup, giving Linden Vey and Brandon McMillan their series debuts. Both were largely ineffective, though hardly to blame for what was an erratic effort — and a second period in which the Canucks put just three shots on goal.

Vancouver’s vaunted penalty kill, which finished second in the NHL (85.7 percent) during the regular season, failed to silence Calgary’s big guns as Johnny Gaudreau and Hudler both scored with the man advantage in the first period. All told, the Flames now have four power play goals through four games.

And while Calgary wasn’t as aggressive as it was in Game 3 — the Flames out-hit Vancouver 33-18 — there was still a noticeable physical edge on Tuesday night as the Flames had 29 hits to Vancouver’s 18. Michael Ferland continued to wreak havoc on the forecheck while 18-year-old Sam Bennett, playing in just his fifth NHL game, continued to provide a valuable net-front presence and scored his second goal of the series with under a minute left in the first period.

“It’s his grit. Eighteen years old and playing in the NHL playoffs with so much character,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said of Bennett. “It’s pretty amazing. He went to the net and the hockey gods rewarded him.

“What he brings, his determination, his grist, his passion, that’s what you need in the playoffs. This kid is full of character.”

Henrik Sedin scored his first goal — and Vancouver’s lone goal — on the power play midway through the opening frame. It was just the Canucks’ second goal on the man advantage this series.

The Canucks actually dominated possession at even strength. It was translating that possession into scoring chances where they struggled, as the Flames blocked 29 shots on the night.

“They’re collapsing quite a bit,” said Canucks coach Willie Desjardins. “I think we’ve got to use our points. They collapse and they’re just making it hard to get to the net.”

With Game 4 now in the books, the two teams will meet again on Thursday at Rogers Arena and, by then, will be pretty well versed in 3-1 series leads. According to WhoWins.com, teams that go up 3-1 win the series 91 percent of the time… with 56 percent of those decided in Game 5.

Notes

Miller made his Canucks playoff debut and performed well, stopping all 15 shots faced in his first game action since a 6-5 OT win over Edmonton in the season finale… Jonas Hiller stopped 27 of 28 shots and has now allowed just seven goals in this series… Hudler and Dennis Wideman led the Flames with two points each.

Rangers’ Kreider fractures foot vs. Flyers

Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers
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New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider suffered a fractured foot against the Philadelphia Flyers Friday.

The alternate captain blocked a shot from Philippe Myers with 7:40 remaining in the opening period. He played one more shift for 10 seconds before heading to the locker room. The Rangers have not provided a timeline for the injury.

New York signed Chris Kreider to a $45.5 million, seven-year extension prior to the trade deadline. The 28-year-old power forward has 24 goals and 21 assists in 63 games this season.


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Robin Lehner to make Golden Knights debut; Mark Stone injured

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The Vegas Golden Knights have been one of the league’s hottest teams over the past month and will be looking to extend their current winning streak to eight games on Friday night when they host the Buffalo Sabres.

Coach Pete DeBoer had some significant lineup news ahead of the game on Friday afternoon, including a potentially significant injury.

First, is the news that big trade deadline acquisition Robin Lehner will be making his first start in goal for the team. The Golden Knights acquired Lehner from the Chicago Blackhawks just ahead of the NHL trade deadline on Monday for a draft pick and a prospect. Lehner has been one of the league’s best goalies for the past two years and alongside Marc-Andre Fleury should give them one of the league’s best goaltending duos.

The far more serious news, though, was the announcement that forward Mark Stone will not play on Friday due to a lower-body injury.

DeBoer had no immediate information on how long Stone could be out, only to say that he is still being evaluated.

When asked if it could potentially be a long-term injury DeBoer said “There’s always fear. We don’t know, but we’ll see,” via NHL.com.

Stone is one of the league’s best all-around forwards and has not only been a point-per-game player for the past three seasons, he is also one of the best defensive forwards in the league. He finished the 2018-19 season as the top runner-up for the Selke Trophy, something that has become almost unheard of for a winger.

The Golden Knights enter Friday’s game in first place in the Pacific Division, four points ahead of the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks.

Related: Blackhawks trade Robin Lehner to Golden Knights

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.

 

Oilers’ Mike Green to miss 3-4 weeks with sprained MCL

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Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland was busy at the NHL trade deadline adding Mike Green, Andreas Athanasiou, and Tyler Ennis to his roster in an effort to improve its depth. But just two games later his team has already lost one of those new players to injury.

The Oilers announced on Friday that Green, acquired from the Detroit Red Wings for Kyle Brodziak and a draft pick, will be sidelined for the next 3-4 weeks due to an MCL sprain.

That is the way things seem to be going for the Oilers right now as injuries keep adding up throughout their roster.

Green joins an injury list that already includes the team’s top defenseman (Oscar Klefbom), as well as James Neal, Kailer Yamamoto, and Kris Russell.

Green played 19 minutes in the Oilers’ 3-0 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday.

Athanasiou was also injured in that game, but is expected to play on Saturday when the Oilers host the Winnipeg Jets.

The Oilers enter the weekend in third place in the Pacific Division with 74 points, four points back of Vegas and only two points ahead of the non-playoff teams in the Western Conference.

Related: Red Wings send Mike Green to Oilers

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.

Report: Islanders will play all home games at Nassau Coliseum in 2020-21

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March 22 will be the final Islanders’ game at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, according to Newsday.

Randi Marshall reports that New York governor Andrew Cuomo will announce on Saturday that the Islanders will play any home playoff games this season and all of their 2020-21 home schedule at Nassau Coliseum.

The Islanders are currently building a new arena by Belmont Park race track which is expected to be ready in time for the 2021-22 NHL season. The franchise played all of its home games at the Coliseum from 1972-2015 before moving to Brooklyn full-time in 2015. That lasted until 2018 when they split home games at both arenas, with Nassau Coliseum playing host to their Round 1 matchup against the Penguins and Barclays for their second round series against the Hurricanes.

While Barclays Center helped keep the Islanders in New York, it has not been the easiest arena to travel to for fans. The ability to get there via mass transit was a positive that the Coliseum doesn’t have. Yet when the Islanders returned back to Long Island last season, there was plenty nostalgia over the building that was home for the franchise’s glory days.

In September the Islanders broke ground on the new 19,000-seat arena by Belmont Park which is less than 10 miles from Nassau Coliseum.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.