The Buzzer: Huge games for Kris Letang, Avalanche top line

Three Stars

1. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins. Kris Letang is having a Norris Trophy worthy season for the Pittsburgh Penguins and is already among the league leaders in ice time on a nightly basis. He had to take on an even bigger role on Wednesday night in their 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals due to the injury suffered by Jamie Oleksiak in the game’s first minute. Letang ended up playing more than 32 minutes and was absolutely sensational all night. This was the second time he topped the 32-minute mark in a game this season, but unlike the first one this game did not go to overtime. He played all of those minutes in regulation. Along with helping to shut down the Capitals’ offense, he also recorded an assist on Sidney Crosby‘s second period power play goal. That assist gives him 27 points in 32 games so far this season.

2. Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche. If the Colorado Avalanche win a game you can be sure their top line of Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon, and Gabriel Landeskog played a huge role in it. That was the case on Wednesday night in their 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens as they accounted for both of the team’s goals. Rantanen had two more points, including his 16th goal of the season, to help lead the way. With those two points he added to his league leading point total and is now up to 58 points for the season. He of course was not the only player on that line to shine on Wednesday night.

3. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche. Right behind Rantanen in the points race this season is his teammate and linemate, Nathan MacKinnon. He recorded two assists in the win and remains three points behind Rantanen in the scoring race with 55 for the season. Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov is the only other player in the league this season to have already topped the 50-point mark so far.

Highlights of the Night

The save of the night belonged to Marcus Pettersson of the Pittsburgh Penguins for sweeping the puck right off of the goal line when it was just inches away from potentially tying the game in the third period.

Gabriel Landeskog bats the puck out of mid-air for the game winning goal early in the third period. This play was challenged by the Montreal Canadiens for goalie interference but upheld after review.

Factoids

It was a two-point night for Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, scoring a goal and recording an assist in their win over the Washington Capitals.

Joe Thornton, of course, entered the NHL seven years before Crosby did and has played in 625 more games than Crosby has at this point.

The Colorado Avalanche top line is comically dominant.

 

Scores

Pittsburgh Penguins 2, Washington Capitals 1

Colorado Avalanche 2, Montreal Canadiens 1

 

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.

Ref pushing Blues’ Barbashev gives us some comic relief

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In these trying times, sometimes you just need to see a zany mishap where a hockey player loses a skate blade, and hilarity ensues.

OK, that might be highly specific, but such bits of bad luck usually do provide some real comedy. Even by those standards, this was some good stuff, as Blues forward Ivan Barbashev got a boost from an on-ice official, and it was quite a boost down the ice.

You can watch that moment in the video above this post’s headline, and likely have a nice chuckle.

The Blues ended up beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 on Saturday, so Barbashev & Co. can share a bigger laugh after the game.

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.

Bruins’ Rask helped off ice after huge collision

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Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask needed help off of the ice – and took quite a while to leave the ice – after a frightening collision with New York Rangers forward Filip Chytil.

Moments after this post went up on Saturday, the Bruins provided an unsettling – if, sadly, not surprising – update that Rask suffered a concussion and will not return to the game.

You can see the collision (and get an idea of how long it took Rask to leave the ice) in the video above this post’s headline.

This is the Bruins’ final game before the All-Star break, and they won’t play again until they host the Winnipeg Jets in Boston on Jan. 29, so at least there isn’t much pressure for Rask to rush back to action too soon.

Rask began the game tied with Tiny Thompson at 252 wins, the most in Bruins’ franchise history.

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.

Erik Karlsson misses Sharks game on Saturday

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Considering how much Erik Karlsson has been heating up along with the San Jose Sharks lately, it would have been fun to see him skate against the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that once tried to acquire him.

That’s not happening on Saturday, as Karlsson was a late scratch for the game.

The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz reports that Karlsson was “limping noticeably” and favoring his left side following the Sharks’ 6-3 loss to the Coyotes on Wednesday. Kurz also reports that Karlsson hasn’t participated in practice or pregame skates for about a week.

Paul Gackle of the Mercury News points out that Karlsson was held out for most of the third period of Tuesday’s 5-2 win against the Penguins for “precautionary reasons,” yet Sharks coach Peter DeBoer indicated that the 28-year-old was expected to play on Saturday. Instead, Karlsson must have determined that he wasn’t good to go after skating a bit during warm-ups.

Saturday’s game against the Lightning marks the second of a four-game road trip. The Sharks are set to play against the Panthers in Florida on Monday (Jan. 21) and the Capitals in Washington on Tuesday (Jan. 22), then they’ll be off for the All-Star break.

Karlsson was one of the Sharks’ three selections to the 2019 NHL All-Star Game, but we’ll see if what seems like a lower-body injury ends up sidelining him from the event. Either way, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Swede miss at least one of the Sharks’ remaining two games before the break, considering that it’s a back-to-back set.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic is also out with an injury, so the Sharks are limping – can Sharks limp? – a bit into that run of off time.

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.

Hurricanes’ Brind’Amour latest coach to put his team on blast

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Sure, you can have a high-up team executive call you out and compare you to horse excrement.

That’s one thing.

But when your coach, who is nearly a decade removed from playing his last NHL game, contemplates dressing because his team is that bad, that’s another.

And then to top it all off, that coach then apologies to a newly-acquired player on behalf of the team that he coaches.

That stings.

We’ve seen a couple of outbursts this year that haven’t been seen in some time — if ever.

Carolina Hurricanes legend Rod Brind’Amour is the latest to eviscerate his team publicly in what seems to be the in-fashion way to get the message across these days.

Who can forget Jim Lites’ tirade in Dallas?

Or Bruce Boudreau’s rant?

Or David Quinn putting his team on blast earlier this week?

Now you can add Brind’Amour to the list.

“We were so bad, I almost dressed and got out there,” Brind’Amour said after the Hurricanes fell 4-1 to the Ottawa Senators on Friday. “I might have been as good as what we were throwing out there. We just didn’t want to play the way we were supposed to. I didn’t know what I was watching. That’s the first time all year I can say that.”

If that wasn’t the kill shot, Brind’Amour then feeling the need to apologize to Nino Niederreiter certainly was.

The latter was picked up in a trade earlier this week for Victor Rask. In his first game, his new teammates crapped the proverbial bed.

“Good. I thought he was fine,” Brind’Amour said about Niederreiter’s debut. “He had a couple chances. I think the first shift he almost had a breakaway. … I apologized to him for that effort. That’s not our team, and that’s his first game.”

It’s not often you hear about that sort of thing.

The Hurricanes had won seven-of-eight before dropping a 6-2 decision to the New York Rangers and Friday’s loss to the visiting Senators.

The Hurricanes are now nine points adrift from the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference.


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