The Buzzer: Capitals near curse’s end, Connor breaks out against Predators

Associated Press
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Saturday’s results

Washington Capitals 6, Pittsburgh Penguins 3 (Capitals lead series 3-2): Pittsburgh held leads early in the first and at the start of the third period but blew them both as the Capitals put themselves within striking distance of the Eastern Conference Final. Jakub Vrana led the way for the Capitals, scoring the game-winner and adding two helpers. Braden Holtby stood tall, making a remarkable save prior to Vrana’s goal, while shutting the door on 36 of Pittsburgh’s 39 shots.

Winnipeg Jets 6, Nashville Predators 2 (Jets lead series 3-2): If you watch the first period, you’d have thought Nashville was in the driver’s seat. And they were, until the second period at least. Then Kyle Connor and the Winnipeg Jets got going and nothing stopped them. Connor scored twice, Connor Hellebuyck stood tall and the Jets head back to Winnipeg with a chance to put themselves into the penultimate round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Monday.

Three stars

Kyle Connor, Jets: Connor led the league in rookie goal scoring with 31 markers during the regular season but hadn’t scored in nine playoff games. He picked a good time to start on Saturday, notching two goals and setting up Mark Scheifele with a filthy pass for a three-point night.

Jakub Vrana, Capitals: A little promotion never hurt anyone… well, except the Penguins. Vrana got a bump up to Washington’s top line and immediately made the most of the opportunity with the game-winning goal and two assists, including one on the third-period marker that tied the game.

Blake Wheeler, Jets: Three assists, including a beauty to set up Connor’s second of the game. Wheeler had the wherewithal to know he had no chance of scoring on the play and found Connor coming into the slot. He found him, the Jets scored. C’est la vie.

Highlights

This pass:

This save, and then the goal:

Kuznetsov’d:

Factoids

Saturday night’s all right for rookies:

Sunday’s schedule

Boston Bruins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning, 3 p.m. ET (NBC) — Lightning lead series 3-1

Vegas Golden Knights vs. San Jose Sharks, 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN) — Golden Knights lead series 3-2


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

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.