AP

The Buzzer: Richardson’s four goal game helps Coyotes stay in race

3 Comments

Three Stars

1. Brad Richardson, Arizona Coyotes. It had been more than 20 years since a member of the Arizona Coyotes scored four goals in a game, and it was Brad Richardson, of all people, to snap that streak on Thursday night. He played the game of his life in a 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks to help the Coyotes stay in the Western Conference playoff race, an impressive accomplishment given where they were coming from a year ago and the brutal injury situation they have dealt with this season. The only other player in the NHL to score at least four goals in a game this season is Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine, who scored five a few months ago.

2. Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets. Seth Jones played 27 minutes for the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night and scored his seventh career overtime goal to help lift his team to a 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. It is a big win for the Blue Jackets because it moved them back into a playoff position for now as they temporarily moved back ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Flyers, meanwhile, fall a little further back in lose a point they could not afford to lose in the standings.

3. Reilly Smith, Vegas Golden Knights. Reilly Smith got the better of his former team on Thursday night by scoring a pair of goals for the Vegas Golden Knights against the Florida Panthers, including the game-tying goal late in the third period to send the game to overtime. He also scored a highlight reel between-the-legs goal that you can see below. The Golden Knights went on to win in a shootout 6-5 and continue to roll toward a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Other notable performances from Thursday

  • Hard to pick just one star for the New York Islanders as they completely crushed the Toronto Maple Leafs in John Tavares‘ first visit to Long Island in an opposing sweater (read all about it here). It was a pretty hostile environment, too.
  • The Boston Bruins delivered a pretty big statement win by crushing the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.
  • The Dallas Stars picked up a huge two points with a 4-3 overtime win against the Los Angeles Kings. For the Kings this is their 10th consecutive loss in a season that has been a huge disappointment.

Highlights of the Night

Oh just Connor McDavid doing some Connor McDavid things in a rare win for the Edmonton Oilers.

This is an absolutely ridiculous stick save by Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. Did not prevent them from losing their 10th game in a row, however.

This is more of a lowlight for the Kings from this game, but still funny to watch.

 

Here is the aforementioned incredible between-the-legs goal scored by Reilly Smith for the Vegas Golden Knights.

Factoids

  • The Boston Bruins went an entire calendar month without a regulation loss thanks to their big win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night. [NHL PR]
  • Artemi Panarin became just the third undrafted player to begin his career with four consecutive 70-point seasons, joining Wayne Gretzky and Peter Stastny. [NHL PR]
  • The New York Islanders needed only 63 games to reach the 80-point mark. It is the eighth time in franchise history they have done that. [NHL PR]

Scores

New York Islanders 6, Toronto Maple Leafs 1

Columbus Blue Jackets 4, Philadelphia Flyers 3 (OT)

Boston Bruins 4, Tampa Bay Lightning 1

Edmonton Oilers 4, Ottawa Senators 2

Arizona Coyotes 5, Vancouver Canucks 3

Vegas Golden Knights 6, Florida Panthers 5 (SO)

Dallas Stars 4, Los Angeles Kings 3 (OT)

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.

Elvis thrives: Merzlikins is on fire for Blue Jackets

Leave a comment

Elvis Merzlikins advanced a bold goal lately: to be more than just a funny name. He is leaving opponents all shook  up absolutely red-hot for the Columbus Blue Jackets right now.

Elvis absolutely hound-dogged shut out the New Jersey Devils in Columbus’ 5-0 on Saturday, and that 41-save performance was far from his first standout evening. Merzlikins generated three shutouts in his last four games, allowing just two goals overall. The Blue Jackets won all four of those games.

(OK, this post includes enough cheesy Elvis jokes … arguably.)

During seven appearances between October and November, the 25-year-old goalie languished with sub-.900 save percentages. Since then, he’s started to take off.

Some “too perfect” moments for Elvis Merzlikins and the Blue Jackets

Maybe Merzlikins made a New Year’s Eve resolution to dominate? Perhaps it was because Elvis asked reporters to leave him alone? Merzlikins suffered only two losses since Dec. 31, winning eight of 10 games.

The lights-out play already makes the story endearing, but there are notes of the surreal. Consider a few facts about his hot streak:

“That’s what you like about him. He’s strong mentally,” Tortorella said after the Jan. 11 Vegas shutout, via Rob Mixer of First Ohio Battery. “He’s a piece of work as far as his personality, which I like. A lot of things have been thrown at him here…but he’s handled himself really well. I’m happy for him.”

  • Merzlikins ended up making it back-to-back shutouts, as he also blanked the Bruins with a 34-save shutout. His three shutouts have upped the ante each time: first 27 saves, then 34, then 41 against the Devils on Saturday.

Tortorella deserves ample credit for creating a cocoon for his goalies, of course.

Regardless, Merzlikins is playing a big role in helping the Blue Jackets stay in the East wild-card races. Here’s hoping that our jokes rise up the charts or we might just need to leave the building.

(Sorry. I’m so, so sorry.)

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.

Hat trick helps Ovechkin pass Lemieux, tie Yzerman for ninth on NHL goals list

3 Comments

An historic week for Alex Ovechkin was capped off with a hat trick Saturday afternoon during a 6-4 win over the Islanders. His three goals pushes him past Mario Lemieux and into ninth place with 692, tying him with Steve Yzerman.

Ovechkin opened the scoring and then passed Mario Lemieux for 10th all-time in the third period as the Capitals mounted their comeback. He ended his day with an empty-netter to seal the win and tie Yzerman. The Islanders led 4-1 entering the third period.

Powered by two consecutive hat tricks, Ovechkin has eight goals in his last three games and 10 in his previous six.

That’s now three consecutive multi-goal games for Ovechkin, the first time he’s done that in his career. Earlier this week he not only passed Teemu Selanne for 11th on the all-time goals list but also hit the 30-goal mark for the 15th time in his career. He, along with Jaromir Jagr and Mike Gartner, are the only players to ever record 15 consecutive 30-goal seasons.

With three goals Saturday — the third time he’s recorded hat tricks in consecutive games — Ovechkin now has 34 on the season as he eyes a ninth 50-goal season. His hat trick was the 26th of his NHL career, tying him with Maurice Richard for eighth all-time.

Next in Ovechkin’s sights? Mark Messier, who finished with 694 goals in his career.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Stars’ Stephen Johns activated after missing almost 22 months

Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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.