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Blues stop Golden Knights’ winning streak at eight games

Perhaps we should call the St. Louis Blues “The Coolers.”

Some unlikely stories are spilling over from 2017 into 2018, and the Vegas Golden Knights have been doing their part; they extended their winning streak to eight games with their first contest of 2018, beating the Nashville Predators 3-0 on Tuesday.

They weren’t that far off from making it nine, but the Blues ended up prevailing on Thursday, squeaking out a 2-1 outcome to end the fun. Perhaps fittingly, even the Blues admitted that Paul Stastny‘s eventual game-winner was a bit of a fluke.

After examining the makeup of the Golden Knights’ eight-game winning streak, it’s interesting that this game followed some of the same patterns.

For one thing, Vegas continues to enjoy stupendous goaltending. Marc-Andre Fleury was strong in this one, stopping 37 out of 39 shots, but Carter Hutton‘s hot streak continues, as he made 32 out of 33 saves. Even if that Stastny goal wasn’t pretty, “The Flower” and Vegas’ other goalies continue to let it ride.

During the Golden Knights’ winning streak, the power play was a surprisingly small piece of the puzzle, as they failed to score on the man advantage in six of those eight contests. (A lot of times a team can ride superlative special teams play for stretches.) In Thursday’s case, Vegas only received one opportunity on the power play, and failed to convert.

The Golden Knights need to shake this loss off quickly, too, as they’ll turn around and face the Blackhawks in Chicago on Friday.

Really, the team’s schedule may ultimately be the real William H. Macy here. While they’ll be rewarded with a lot of home-cooking in mid-February, the next month could be rough for the upstarts:

Fri, Jan 5 @ Chicago
Sun, Jan 7 vs NY Rangers
Sat, Jan 13 vs Edmonton
Tue, Jan 16 @ Nashville
Thu, Jan 18 @ Tampa Bay
Fri, Jan 19 @ Florida
Sun, Jan 21 @ Carolina
Tue, Jan 23 vs Columbus
Thu, Jan 25 vs NY Islanders
Tue, Jan 30 @ Calgary
Thu, Feb 1 @ Winnipeg
Fri, Feb 2 @ Minnesota
Sun, Feb 4 @ Washington
Tue, Feb 6 @ Pittsburgh
Thu, Feb 8 @ San Jose

That’s four home versus 11 road games coming up, with three back-to-back sets when you consider the one closing up tomorrow in Chicago. It’s not fair to say that the Golden Knights are weak on the road, considering their respectable 10-8-1 away record, but they’ve obviously been brilliant at making the most of their home-ice advantage, sporting a ridiculous-even-for-it-being-Vegas 17-2-1 record at home.

Most hockey fans are likely enjoying the ride when it comes to the Golden Knights.

That said, there are others who are “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” Those Grinches might get that wish – at least to an extent – during the next month.

If the Golden Knights continue to buck the odds, it will be that much tougher to deny that they’re special, and it’s already increasingly difficult to do so. Even with the occasional setback such as a close loss to St. Louis.

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.

Stars’ Stephen Johns activated after missing almost 22 months

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Dallas Stars activated Stephen Johns before their game Saturday night in Minnesota, clearing the way for the defenseman’s first game in almost 22 months.

Forward Radek Faksa was placed on injured reserve to make room for Johns on the active roster.

Johns has been out since late in the 2017-18 season because of post-traumatic headaches. The Stars have said the condition isn’t related to concussions.

The 27-year-old Johns hasn’t played since March 29, 2018, at the Wild. It was the last of a career-high 75 games in his third NHL season. Johns missed the last five games that year before sitting out all of last season as headaches persisted.

He played two games on a conditioning assignment with the Texas Stars of the AHL before rejoining Dallas on Thursday.

The return of Johns could coincide with the Stars’ first game without defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The 20-year-old standout left Thursday’s loss to Buffalo with an upper-body injury.

Johns made his debut for Dallas late in the 2014-15 season and played in all 13 of the team’s playoff games as a rookie. He has 13 goals, 15 assists and 306 blocked shots in 150 career regular-season games.

Panthers down another goalie, injured Driedger to miss weeks

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SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Florida goalie Chris Driedger will miss several weeks with what’s believed to be a groin injury, the latest health issue at that position for the Panthers.

The Panthers announced the diagnosis Saturday, calling it a lower-body injury.

Driedger was hurt midway through the first period of the Panthers’ 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday. He is 5-2-0 in nine appearances for Florida this season, with a 2.48 GAA.

The Panthers have also been without goalie Sergei Bobrovsky for much of January while he recovers from an upper-body injury.

Florida begins a stretch of six consecutive road games Saturday in Detroit. That six-game run also includes the All-Star break and the Panthers’ bye week.

The Buzzer: Cirelli, Lightning cruise past Jets; Crosby tallies OT winner

Anthony Cirelli #71 of the Tampa Bay Lightning
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Three Stars

1) Anthony Cirelli, Tampa Bay Lightning

Cirelli recorded his first NHL hat trick as the Lightning steamrolled the Winnipeg Jets Friday evening. The 22-year-old scored twice in the opening period as the Bolts jumped out to a 3-0 lead and never looked back. Cirelli hammered a feed from Ondrej Palat 9:27 into the game and then converted a nifty forehand-backhand maneuver to close out the first 20 minutes. Cirelli would complete the hat trick midway through the third period.

2) Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Malkin recorded two power-play assists to set up Pittsburgh’s two goals in its 2-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings. Sidney Crosby has received a lot of attention since returning from a 28-game absence earlier this week and added the game-winning goal Friday. However, it was Malkin who looked off the defender and delivered a perfect pass to set up the Penguins captain. Malkin has recorded 10 points in the previous six games.

3) Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

The 26-year-old winger scored twice in Tampa Bay’s 7-1 win. Cirelli and Kucherov alternated goals as Tampa Bay jumped out to a 4-0 lead, including three in the opening period. Kucherov buried two tap-in opportunities to record goals 21 and 22 on the season. The Russian winger has five goals in his previous three games and the Lightning improved to 12-2-0 in the previous 14 games.

Highlights of the Night

Crosby extended his goal-scoring streak to three games when he buried a pretty feed from Malkin to propel the Penguins in overtime.

Sam Steel fired the OT winner after Andrei Svechnikov‘s costly turnover.

Stats of the Night

Scores

Pittsburgh Penguins 2, Detroit Red Wings 1 (OT)

Anaheim Ducks 2, Carolina Hurricanes 1 (OT)

Tampa Bay Lightning 7, Winnipeg Jets 1

NHL ALL-STAR GAME COVERAGE:
• All-Star Game rosters
• Rosters for Elite Women’s 3-on-3 Revealed
• Pass or Fail: 2020 All-Star Game jerseys
• Alex Ovechkin will not play in 2020 All-Star Game
• NHL Skills Competition to feature women’s 3-on-3, pucks shot from stands

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.

Predators’ Arvidsson fined $2,000 under NHL diving policy

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NEW YORK (AP) — Nashville Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson has been fined $2,000 by the NHL under the league’s rules regarding diving and embellishment.

NHL Rule 64 was designed to penalize players who repeatedly dive and embellish in an attempt to draw penalties. A player gets a warning for a first citation and a $2,000 fine for the second citation.

League officials said Arvidsson received a warning following an incident Dec. 27 against Pittsburgh. His second citation occurred during an incident in the first period of a Jan. 7 game with Boston that resulted in coincidental minor penalties on Arvidsson and Bruins forward Brad Marchand.

Fine proceeds go to the players’ emergency assistance fund.