The Buzzer: Capitals bump Penguins; Predators stay alive

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Getting over the hump, getting to Game 7

Capitals 2, Penguins 1 [OT] (Capitals win series 4-2)

Call it later than expected or the right time, but the Washington Capitals finally got the best of the Pittsburgh Penguins in a contemporary series. The overtime-clincher seemed to fit the mood of things, too: Alex Ovechkin was on the ice, setting up Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s series-winner, while Sidney Crosby was on the other side, seeing his team’s push for a third consecutive title end. It wasn’t always the prettiest contest in Game 6, but the result was as pretty as anything Washington’s seen in sports in some time. Ovechkin & Co. finally beat the Penguins, and finally made it to the third round.

Predators 4, Jets 0 (Series tied 3-3)

Three of the four second-round series have been decided, but fear not, for we’ll get a Game 7 (on NBCSN on Thursday).

This contest was often closer than the 4-0 score would indicate, but Pekka Rinne was on the top of his game and the Predators’ first line was absolutely sensational. Filip Forsberg generated two beautiful goals and generously assisted on an empty-netter. That empty-netter was the cherry on top for Viktor Arvidsson, who also scored the 1-0 tally that would be the game-winner (not to mention an assist). Ryan Johansen also added two helpers of his own.

The Predators refused to see their season end, and now the Vegas Golden Knights’ third-round opponent will be determined by a winner-takes-all battle in Game 7. Expect fireworks and probably some catfish.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Three Stars

1. Predators top line, featuring Forsberg – Let’s cheat and lump all three into the first star category. Forsberg’s goals were so sensational that you can call him the top star and Arvidsson second if you want to be a real stickler about it.

Either way, Forsberg’s not going to be an “under the radar” star much longer if he continues to dominate the highlight reels night after night.

2. Pekka Rinne, Predators – Again, you might look at the 4-0 score and assume that it was a fairly easy day at the office for Rinne, who bounced back from a rough Game 5.

Rinne had to earn that rebound. The towering Finn made all 34 saves for a shutout with his team’s season on the line, blunting a dangerous Winnipeg Jets offense and silencing that crowd. The Jets received three power-play chances in the first period, yet instead of putting Nashville in an early hole, Rinne helped the Predators maintain that early lead after Arvidsson’s goal.

3. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals – Hey, when you score the goal that officially puts the Capitals over the top against the Penguins, you probably deserve a spot in the three stars. Kuznetsov had his chances earlier in Game 6, but to no avail, sometimes maddeningly so.

Some players sulk and fall off the map. Kuznetsov kept plugging away, and when Ovechkin sprung him for a breakaway in overtime, Kuznetsov scored one of the biggest Capitals goals in recent memory. Quite a nice way to help Washington recover from the loss of Nicklas Backstrom, its other key center.

Factoids

Not much solace for Sidney Crosby, but he moved up the all-time rankings with an assist in Game 6:

Yes, this is a big deal for Washington … not just the Capitals.

A reminder that it’s tough to shut down the Jets, but even more unlikely to blank them at home.

This P.K. Subban factoid might be a bit … anecdotal?

Break point

Game 7 between the Predators and Jets won’t take place until Thursday (at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday). That’s a bummer for sure, but maybe spend time with your picnic, walk your dog, wash some dishes …

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.

Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

“Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

“He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

“I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

“I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

“I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

“It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

“Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

“I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

“Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.