Lehner, Mrazek put on Game 1 show as single bounce is the difference

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BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Game 1 between the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders quickly developed into a night where a single shot was going to make all the difference. Fortunately for the Hurricanes, their goaltender kept all the shots he faced from going into his net.

Robin Lehner and Petr Mrazek put on a show Friday night at Barclays Center during the Hurricanes’ 1-0 overtime victory. Each goaltender finished with 31 saves and showed early on it was going to be a very tight, low-scoring affair.

Mrzaek got everything started off when Josh Bailey broke in on a breakaway. Bailey, the overtime hero in Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 1, couldn’t beat Mrazek with a backhand attempt:

“[Mrazek’] been great,” said Hurricanes defenseman Calvin de Haan. “The grade A’s that we are giving up, he’s usually making the first stop and that’s all you can ask of your goalie, and we’ve just got to try to clear rebounds.”

Lehner put himself on the highlight-reel with a big pad stop to deny Gregg McKegg a golden opportunity:

Much like their teams, no one expected Lehner and Mrazek to do what they did during the regular season and be the focal points of why they’re still playing into Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Lehner and Mrazek both entered the 2018-19 NHL season at important points in their careers and separately grabbed control the No. 1 jobs on their respective teams. Mrazek finished top 10 in even strength save percentage (.931), three spots below Lehner (.935), who’s season was impressive enough to make him a Vezina Trophy finalist. 

They will be richly rewarded for their play this summer as both are eligible for unrestricted free agency.

“Robin’s consistently our best player,” said Islanders forward Matt Martin. “He’s solid in there, he’s composed, he makes big saves when we need them. … Robin’s the backbone of our team, there’s no question about that. He’s outstanding every time he’s in there.”

“He’s been great all year and now in the playoffs he’s coming up huge,” said Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour of his goaltender.

Lehner and Mrazek entered Friday’s Game 1 coming off quite different amounts of rest. Lehner had just experienced 10 days of rest after sweeping the Penguins in Round 1. Mrazek had to quickly shift from an emotional seven-game series that ended in double overtime Wednesday night to the opening game of Round 2, which was Carolina’s third game of the postseason requiring more than 60 minutes to determine a winner.

Time and time again Mrazek, who can now boast that five of his career playoff wins have come via shutout, was there to make a big stop as the Islanders kept managing to get to the dangerous areas in front of his net for opportunities. The one goal the Hurricanes did allow was quickly waved off for goaltender interference. By traditional scoring methods, the 27-year-old Czech native answered the call every time when needed, frustrating the Islanders and showing that this could be a very long, very tight series.

“That’s what your goaltender is for,” said Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal, who netted the overtime winner. “[Mrazek’s] a gamer. He can find ways to make those big saves at the right time and that’s what you want in your goaltender.”

Game 2 of Hurricanes-Islanders is Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on NBC (Live stream).

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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.

Game 7 OT thrillers on NBCSN: Martinez sends Kings to 2014 Cup Final

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Hockey Week in America continues Sunday with Game 7 overtime thrillers.

In a back-and-forth affair, the Kings tied the Game 7 at four goals apiece in the third period to send the matchup into overtime. With a trip to the Stanley Cup Final on the line, Alec Martinez played hero for the Kings with the game-winner early in overtime, a role he would reprise in Game 5 of the Cup Final against the Rangers to clinch the title for the Kings.

Kenny Albert, Joe Micheletti, and Brian Engblom called the matchup from United Center in Chicago, Ill.

You can catch a replay Sunday on NBCSN at 12 a.m. ET.

SUNDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE
• Kings vs. Blackhawks (Game 7, Western Conference Final, 2014 playoffs) – 12 a.m. ET on NBCSN

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

Game 7 OT thrillers on NBCSN: Goodrow clinches Sharks’ comeback

My Favorite Goal Goodrow's Game 7 OT winner Sharks Hertl
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Hockey Week in America continues Sunday with Game 7 overtime thrillers.

Vegas led the game 3-0 midway through the third period, before a major penalty that gave San Jose a five-minute power play. The Sharks scored four times on that power play to take a 4-3 lead, but Vegas evened the score in the final minute to force OT. In the overtime period, Barclay Goodrow scored the series-winning goal, helping the Sharks become the second team in NHL history, along with the 2013 Bruins, to overcome a three-goal deficit in the third period of a Game 7.

Gord Miller and Ray Ferraro called the action from SAP Center in San Jose, Calif.

You can catch a replay Sunday on NBCSN at 10 p.m. ET or watch the stream here.

SUNDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE
• Golden Knights vs. Sharks (Game 7, Round 1, 2019 playoffs) – 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN
• Kings vs. Blackhawks (Game 7, Western Conference Final, 2014 playoffs) – 12 a.m. ET on NBCSN

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

Game 7 OT thrillers on NBCSN: Bruins pull off comeback vs. Maple Leafs

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Hockey Week in America continues Sunday with Game 7 overtime thrillers.

The Maple Leafs held a commanding 4-1 lead in Game 7 in Boston midway through the third period, before the Bruins stormed back to force OT, punctuated by a pair of goals with their goalie pulled. Patrice Bergeron scored the overtime winner for a 5-4 victory, which marked the first time in NHL history a team overcame a three-goal deficit in the final period of Game 7 to go on to win the game and the series.

The late, great Dave Strader and Brian Engblom had the call at TD Garden in Boston, Mass.

You can catch a replay Sunday on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET or watch the stream here.

SUNDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE
• Maple Leafs vs. Bruins (Game 7, Round 1, 2013 playoffs) – 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN
• Golden Knights vs. Sharks (Game 7, Round 1, 2019 playoffs) – 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN
• Kings vs. Blackhawks (Game 7, Western Conference Final, 2014 playoffs) – 12 a.m. ET on NBCSN

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

What is Taylor Hall’s future with Coyotes?

Taylor Hall Coyotets
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Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka said this weekend that he has continued to have some discussions with Dan Ferris, the agent for pending free agent forward Taylor Hall, but that they have not yet exchanged numbers in potential contract talks.

Instead, it has simply been a matter of trying to get their heads wrapped around the current situation — everything being on hold due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — and how it impacts both the Coyotes and Hall.

“It’s unique. I don’t have an answer for you other than to say, no, we haven’t exchanged numbers or anything like that,” said Chayka in a wide-ranging interview with the Athletic’s Craig Morgan.

“Obviously, our intent was always to get through the season and not having any conflict with Taylor’s play. This leaves us in a bit of a limbo where it’s obviously not technically the end of the season, but it also wouldn’t conflict with his play to talk. All I would say right now is that both sides are gathering information and having some discussions. Where that goes I’m not entirely sure today. As we talk, we’ll see where things go.”

The Hall-Coyotes storyline is going to be an interesting to watch unfold over the coming months because he could be one of the top players to hit the open market — whenever free agency actually begins — if he does not re-sign with the Coyotes.

The Coyotes acquired Hall from the New Jersey Devils in a mid-December trade. It was a fairly significant move at the time because Hall was the top in-season trade target in the league. He also gave the Coyotes the type of impact forward that they desperately needed to help drive their offense in an effort to make the playoffs.

While Hall has mostly met expectations (27 points in 35 games) things have not exactly worked out as the Coyotes hoped from a team perspective. When the 2019-20 NHL season went on hiatus they Coyotes were four points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference with several teams ahead of them. A big part of their tumble down the standings was injuries, specifically to their top two goalies (Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper).

The next step

In an ideal world the the Coyotes would almost certainly prefer to keep Hall. When healthy, he is an elite offensive player and the type of talent the franchise really has not had in more than a decade. He is an MVP winner, one of the most productive wingers in the world, and while he turns 29 next November he still probably has several outstanding years ahead of him as a top-line winger. They are not likely to find an upgrade or a better player anywhere else on the open market or as a realistic trade target.

There are, however, some obstacles.

The first of which is simply a matter of what Hall wants to do with his opportunity as a potential UFA. This will be the first time he has a chance to test the open market and probably his last chance to get a significant contract. Add in the fact he has played on just one playoff team in his career, and there has to be a lot of incentive to explore what is out there.

But there is another pretty big hurdle that may not get a lot of attention in this situation — the salary cap.

While the Coyotes salary situation tend to be a punch-line for people that don’t pay close attention to them, they actually have one of the largest salary cap numbers in the entire league right now, have some significant long-term investments, and do not have a lot of wiggle room under the cap in the near future. Considering that Hall is almost certain to be able to command something in the neighborhood of $8-9 million per season, there is going to be some extra work needed to make it all work.

MORE:
• Looking at the 2019-20 Arizona Coyotes
• Coyotes’ biggest surprises, disappointments so far
What is the Coyotes’ long-term outlook?

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.