Bob the Builder: Panthers’ coach putting his stamp on things

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SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Bob Boughner’s favorite dinner spot used to be a sports pub in the minor-league hockey hotbed of Glens Falls, New York called Dango’s, a place where the chicken wings were huge and most of the televisions were usually tuned to hockey.

These days, it’s an upscale steakhouse called Mastro’s.

If there’s one constant of Boughner’s life in hockey, it’s that just about everything – from refining a palate, to reaching the NHL, to transforming a hockey team – takes time. And Boughner got a very tough reminder of that last season when the Florida Panthers missed the postseason by a single point in his inaugural year as their coach.

So here the Panthers go again, trying to become a playoff club. But with Boughner leading the charge, there’s real belief that good things are coming.

”He’s even more than advertised,” Panthers president Matthew Caldwell said. ”His diligence, he’s a player’s coach but also very, very technical. He gets into the weeds and I think the players trust him, but he’ll hold them accountable too. His ability to be there for the players but also correct them, not be too friendly with them, have strong standards, that’s been excellent.”

Boughner won the job in Florida by selling Caldwell and the rest of the Panthers’ leadership on a vision.

His message: Be patient.

Boughner played 297 games in three different minor leagues, needing seven years to make the jump from NHL draftee to NHL player. Once he got to the top level, he never left, spending parts of 10 seasons with six franchises and being part of five deep runs in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He was a hard-nosed defenseman, someone whose pro-career-best of eight goals came during those Dango’s-fueled days with the AHL’s Adirondack Red Wings in 1993-94.

His coaching climb took time as well, going from an owner-coach-president of OHL team in his hometown of Windsor, Ontario to some NHL assistant stints and finally getting the head job in Florida in 2017.

”It wasn’t an easy road. It was a hard road,” Boughner said. ”I earned it as a player and I had to work every day to stay there. And it was not like I had a secure spot every year, too. But I always worked hard to be a team guy and that’s what has sort of turned into some of my coaching philosophy. I had to build it from the ground up. I miss playing every day, but coaching, there’s something gratifying when it all comes together.”

He feels that gratification coming in Florida.

The Panthers, who open their home schedule on Thursday against Columbus, won three playoff series in their third season of existence – 1995-96. They’ve won zero series since, missing the playoffs entirely in 17 of the 21 seasons that followed their lone run to the Stanley Cup final. Boughner spent two seasons as part of the Panthers organization as a player, though he never made the NHL club.

Panthers general manager Dale Tallon knew it would take time for Boughner’s system to take root. Florida was 25-8-2 in its last 35 games last season, going from near the bottom of the Eastern Conference to just missing the postseason.

”I just like his whole attitude about everything,” Tallon said. ”He’s a straightforward, no-nonsense guy. His technical aspect is terrific. And he gets the player. He has good relationships with all the players.”

Boughner looks back at last season with the obvious tinge of disappointment.

But he also knows the growing pains were vital.

Much of the core from last season remains the core now, and those players know what makes Boughner tick – and what makes his system work. There’s a culture in place now, a level of expectation, a level of accountability.

It’s what Boughner demanded from himself as a player, and it’s his blueprint for what he wants as a coach.

”There’s no more excuses,” Boughner said. ”There’s a point last year, maybe 10 or 15 games in, when we were on a trip and I couldn’t wait to get off our plane and get to the hotel and tell the guys get into the meeting room. I sort of blew up, got a lot of things off my chest, and the guys sort started taking inventory of themselves. I think we’ve turned a corner now. I think we’re ready now.”

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Hughes has first NHL hat trick, Devils beat Capitals 5-1

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
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NEWARK, N.J. – Jack Hughes had his first career NHL hat trick, Vitek Vanecek made 38 saves against his former team and the New Jersey Devils beat the Washington Capitals 5-1 on Saturday for coach Lindy Ruff’s 800th victory.

“It’s exciting,” Hughes said. “Couple of two-goal games in my career, so nice to cap it off with the third one tonight.”

Ruff became the fifth NHL coach to reach the 800-victory mark. The former Buffalo player won 571 games with the Sabres from 1997-2011. He had 165 wins in five seasons with Dallas and has 64 in two-plus seasons with New Jersey.

“It means I’ve been around a long time,” Ruff cracked. “Great to win the game. Again, you got to do a lot of right things, have good teams, and the way our team is playing I have to give them a lot of credit for getting me there.”

The Atlantic Division-leading Devils have won two in a row after seeing their franchise-record 13-game winning streak snapped by Toronto.

Devils captain Nico Hischier and Fabian Zetterlund also scored.

John Carlson scored for Washington and Charlie Lindgren made 24 saves.

“Not scoring goals, not capitalizing on our chances,” Carlson said. “We’ve had our chances, especially today, but we only walked away with one goal. We could have had five or six. It’s just not going in right now.”

Vanecek, meanwhile, was hoping for the shutout against a familiar foe.

“That would have been nice, but that’s hockey,” Vanecek said, “For sure you’re trying, but not every time; the win is more important.”

Hischier opened up the scoring with his 10th goal of the season midway through the first period on a power play after Alexander Ovechkin was called for slashing.

Hughes wrapped the puck around goalie Lindgren’s right leg and the goal post to put the Devils up 2-0 5:59 into the second period. Hughes appeared to have lost his angle on the goal when he ripped a shot off Lindgren’s face mask and into the net midway through the period for his 10th goal of the season to give New Jersey a 3-0 lead.

The 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick added his third midway through the third period as hats rained down on the ice with New Jersey up 4-0.

“You want to continue to play the right way, but if an opportunity comes you want to definitely put it in the back of the net with authority,” Hughes said. “So tonight, I was able to cap it off and it was nice.”

Fabian Zetterlund capped the scoring for New Jersey late in the third period.

NOTES: The Devils improved to 16-0-0 this season when Hischier has a point. New Jersey’s Nathan Bastain (upper body) did not return after the first period. . Ovechkin is still nine goals away from 800 and 11 from passing Gordie Howe for second place on the NHL goals list.

UP NEXT

Capitals: At Vancouver on Tuesday night.

Devils: At the New York Rangers on Monday night.

Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

“That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

“It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

“It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

“We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

TAKE NOTE

The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

UP NEXT

Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

“We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.