Golden Knights keep rolling, embarrass Blackhawks

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If it wasn’t already obvious before we can probably now definitively say the problem with the Chicago Blackhawks was not the head coach.

Their 8-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night dropped them to 3-5-2 under new coach Jeremy Colliton, and this game was a complete disaster from the start as they gave up three goals in the first 16 minutes.

It was the fourth game in a row they gave up the first two goals of the game, and the third time over that stretch they surrendered the first three. That is obviously a pretty poor recipe for success, and unlike their come-from-behind win against Florida on Saturday night they were never able to get close in this one.

Shea Theodore and Cody Eakin each scored a pair of goals for the Golden Knights, while Daniel Carr, William Karlsson, Ryan Reaves, and Alex Tuch also found the back of the net in the rout.

What is perhaps most disturbing about this game for Chicago is there was almost no push-back at any point, and you don’t need to look any further than the fact they were outshot by a 34-11 over the second and third periods, including a 13-4 margin in the third period alone.

Given the score you might expect the team that is ahead to maybe sit back a little bit, while the team that is losing, and in this case probably already fighting for its playoff lives, to maybe pick up the pace.

But if there is one thing that stood about the Golden Knights a year ago it is that they kept pushing the pace no matter what the score was. They did that on Tuesday.

As for the Blackhawks? There was just … nothing. The result was the lopsided score we ended up getting on the scoreboard.

But let’s focus on Vegas for a bit because it is a machine that is now starting to click on all cylinders.

After a disappointing start to the season the Golden Knights have now won four games in a row and are 6-2-0 in their past eight games.

Even when they were struggling early in the year there were signs the team was playing better than its record might have indicated. Injuries — as well as a suspension to defenseman Nate Schmidt — robbed them of a lot of their depth, they weren’t getting any luck offensively and were getting crushed by a terribly low shooting percentage, and Marc-Andre Fleury was really struggling.

Pretty much all of that has changed over the past couple of weeks.

Fleury is back to playing like he did for much of last season, Schmidt is back in the lineup and giving them more than 23 minutes per night, and they have scored 33 goals over the past eight games. Put it all together and they are now just two points back of the Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks for the top spot in the Pacific Division.

Given the way the Golden Knights are playing right now — with some of those percentages starting to swing back in their favor — combined with the fact the rest of the division around them has been kind of lousy this season they still might be the favorites to win it. It should not be a surprise if they do.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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:
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• 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.