PHT’s Three Stars: Golden Game 1 for Vegas

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1st Star: Reilly Smith, Vegas Golden Knights

Yes, Vegas enjoyed better contributions from its supporting scorers in Game 1 (see the second star), but the top line of Smith, Jonathan Marchessault, and William Karlsson still flexed their muscles to help the Golden Knights beat the Washington Capitals 6-4.

Smith was credited with the primary assist on Karlsson’s 2-2 goal, which was crucial as the Capitals generated two goals during a 42-second span and could have conceivably introduced some doubt into Vegas’ mind if that lead persisted into the first intermission. Instead, it was tied up with less than two minutes remaining in the opening frame.

After that, Smith gave the Golden Knights a brief 3-2 lead by beating Braden Holtby on a top-corner finish.

The beauty of this Game 1 win is that there were multiple Golden Knights conceivably in the running here. Do note that, while most of the goals weren’t their fault, neither goalie came close to making the top three.

2nd Star: Tomas Nosek, Golden Knights

Allow this spot to also serve as Deryk Engelland‘s mention, as the defenseman nabbed two assists (one primary, one secondary) while firing five shots on goal and logging 20:50 TOI. His transformation from borderline enforcer to legitimate NHL defenseman remains stunning.

Nosek gets the nod, however, because he scored two goals; he isn’t the first star because his second tally was shorthanded. He generated a +3 rating despite a scant 12:22 TOI.

(So maybe Engelland does deserve that spot? Let’s just cheat here. Don’t tell anyone.)

3rd Star: T.J. Oshie, Washington Capitals

While Nosek scored on an empty net for his second goal, Shea Theodore also deserves the credit for that game-winner.

In honor of the night’s best passers, let’s consider Oshie. He generated two assists, including a ludicrous helper that allowed John Carlson to score on a near-empty net. If not for Theodore, it would have been the best assist of a Game 1 that was full of beautiful passes.

Oshie also generated the primary assist on Nicklas Backstrom‘s 2-1 goal, so it was quite a night for a guy who’s proven to be more than just That Fellow Who Scored A Bunch of Olympic Shootout Goals in 2014.

Highlight of the Night

Theodore to Nosek for the game-winner and breath-taker:

If you’re into rougher stuff, this post touches on the Tom Wilson and Ryan Reaves dramas.

Factoid of the Night

Want to point to one Vegas Golden Knights stat that’s truly unsustainable? Move over, Marc-Andre Fleury‘s save percentage (playoffs and regular season) and William Karlsson’s regular-season shooting percentage:

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MORE:
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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.

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.