The Playoff Buzzer: Hurricanes sweep Islanders; Bishop baffles Blues

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  • The Hurricanes wouldn’t be denied, not by Robin Lehner, not by the Islanders. Carolina became the first team to advance to Round 3 this postseason, dispatching the Isles in four games.
  • The Blues couldn’t get much going against the Stars, and when St. Louis did, Ben Bishop was there to clean up the rest. Dallas mostly kept the St. Louis crowd, except for a somewhat strange “Bish-op” chant.
  • Hurricanes 5, Islanders 2 (Carolina wins series 4-0)

    The Hurricanes completed the sweep of the Islanders on Friday. After the Islanders played well in the first period but only managed a 1-1 tie, the Hurricanes scored two quick goals to open the second, and end Lehner’s night early. The Isles never really recovered, eventually falling behind 5-1 before Brock Nelson scored what was basically just a dignity goal. After two tight wins on the road in Brooklyn, the Hurricanes really ran away with the squabbles at home, winning both Carolina contests by scores of 5-2. Carolina only allowed the Islanders five goals all series long, essentially beating Barry Trotz’s team at its own game.

    Stars 2, Blues 1 (Dallas leads series 3-2)

    The game was at home for St. Louis. The Blues enjoyed a significant advantage in getting man advantages, as they went 0-for-4 on the power play, while Dallas failed to score on just one opportunity. For long swaths of Game 5, the Blues crowd had little to cheer for, as the Stars generally kept the Blues away from high-danger scoring chances. While Ben Bishop coughed up the puck for the Blues’ lone goal after the “Bish-op” chant, it still seemed silly (maybe a little desperate?), as Bishop turned aside whatever rare Grade-A chances St. Louis did manage. The Stars rank as one of the Cinderella stories of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, yet much like the Hurricanes, Dallas sure seems like it belongs deep into Round 2. The Blues will need to be better – and maybe get Bishop off of his game – if they hopes to keep the Stars from getting to Round 3.

    [NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

    Three Stars

    1. Ben Bishop

    Honestly, it felt like Bishop beat himself on the only goal the Blues scored, rather than St. Louis really solving him themselves.

    That goal still counts, of course, so Bishop won’t get the shutout. He did make 37 out of 38 saves, and while the Stars’ stingy defense deserves partial credit for his strong work, Bishop holds it together. He’s the foundation of the Stars’ often-successful efforts to shut down opposing teams, and that’s not just a riff on Bishop being really, really tall.

    Bishop looked a little labored after making a save during Game 4, but if he wasn’t 100 percent in Game 5 on Friday, he had a funny way of showing it. The Stars goalie was rock solid, making tough saves look easy, and rarely giving the Blues much hope of winning.

    There’s been some concern about Jordan Binnington‘s play, yet more than any failings by Binnington, the concern might really revolve around how small the margin of error is when Bishop’s at the other end of the ice.

    2. Teuvo Teravainen

    Let’s consider this a combined second star for Teravainen and Sebastian Aho. Both red-hot Finns scored a goal and an assist in Game 4, enjoyed +2 ratings, and blocked two shots apiece. They’ve been dominant at times during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and it’s nice to see Teravainen get some of the recognition after Aho had risen a bit in the eyes of hockey watchers before him.

    I’m giving Teravainen an edge because Aho’s goal was a little funky (it seemed to go off Adam Pelech?), and also because Teravainen’s assist was a primary one, compared to Aho’s helper being secondary.

    You could argue for Aho instead, as he doubled Teravainen’s shots on goal (four to two) and enjoyed a strong game in his own right.

    It feels worthwhile to wedge one more strong two-point performance from Carolina in this top three, and you could make argument that this player should be in second, instead of the two forwards.

    3. Justin Faulk

    The Hurricanes have been leaning on their vaunted defense corps as the postseason’s gone along, with Jaccob Slavin getting a ton of recognition, in particular. That’s richly deserved, but Faulk had quite the Game 4, and will probably enjoy the rest that comes from this sweep.

    Faulk generated two assists in Game 4, getting a helper on Aho’s power-play goal and the lone assist on Andrei Svechnikov‘s insurance tally in the third period.

    Faulk checked all the boxes, really. He logged a game-high 27:07, getting looks on both the power play and penalty kill. Faulk generated a +2 rating, two SOG, seven hits, two blocked shots, and two takeaways in Game 4. None of that is sexier than that goal right after leaving the penalty box from Game 3, but Faulk deserves a mention in the three stars all the same.

    Taunt of the Night

    In response to Brock Nelson sarcastically tapping Curtis McElhinney on the head after scoring a goal earlier in the series, Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton returned the favor on Nelson during the handshake line. Savage, Dougie. Savage.

    Factoids

    Saturday’s games

    Game 5: Columbus Blue Jackets at Boston Bruins (Series tied 2-2)  7:15 p.m. ET on NBC (stream here)
    Game 5: Colorado Avalanche at San Jose Sharks (Series tied 2-2) 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN (stream here)

    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.

Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

“Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

“I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

“Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.

Bruins rolling, rest of NHL making final push for playoffs

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
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SUNRISE, Fla. — Bruce Cassidy’s Vegas Golden Knights lost eight of 10 games going into the All-Star break after leading the Pacific Division at the midway point of the NHL season.

They’re still safely in a playoff spot in the Western Conference, but they can’t keep it up.

“We’re still in a good position – that’s the way we look at it,” Cassidy said. “There’s not too many teams that can cruise home the last 30 games in this league, and we’re certainly not one of them.”

Cassidy’s old team, the Boston Bruins, probably could. They’re atop the NHL and running away with the Atlantic Division.

With 39 wins and 83 points through 51 games, Boston is on pace to break the record for the best regular season in NHL history. The Carolina Hurricanes, who beat Boston in seven games in the first round last year, are next in the standings at 76 points.

“Top to bottom, there’s no weaknesses,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said.

The Bruins are in a class of their own, but the playoff races behind them in the East and West should be hot down the stretch with roughly 30 games to go before the chase for the Stanley Cup begins.

METROPOLITAN DIVISION

The Hurricanes rode a seven-game winning streak into the break, putting some fear into the Bruins in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy and home-ice advantage through the postseason. Winger Max Pacioretty re-tearing his right Achilles tendon five games into his return didn’t slow them down, and if their goaltending holds up, Carolina stands a good chance of reaching the East final.

“This team, it’s a special group of guys,” said Brind’Amour, who captained Carolina to the Cup in 2006 and is in his fifth year as coach. “We kind of show that nightly. It’s just very consistent, and they take their job real serious. They do it right.”

The second-place New Jersey Devils are contending for the first time since 2018. Bottoming out the next season helped them win the lottery for No. 1 pick Jack Hughes, a two-time All-Star who has them winning ahead of schedule.

“Much better than being out of the mix,” Hughes said. “We’re really excited because it’s going to be a lot of important hockey, and it’s going to be really competitive and we’re really pumped to be where we are.”

They’re followed by the New York Rangers, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders. All three New York-area teams could make it, which was the expectation for the Rangers after reaching the East final last year.

“I think the run last year really taught us a few things and stuff that we obviously could build on for the rest of this year,” 2021 Norris-Trophy winning defenseman Adam Fox said.

ATLANTIC

The Rangers lost to the Lightning in six games last spring, when two-time champion Tampa Bay reached the Stanley Cup Final for the third consecutive season before getting beat by the Colorado Avalanche.

The Lightning are almost certain to face the Toronto Maple Leafs – who haven’t won a playoff series since the NHL salary cap era began in 2005 – in the first round and remain a threat to the Bruins.

But Boston has separated itself despite starting the season without top left winger Brad Marchand and No. 1 defenseman Charlie McAvoy. The Bruins have lost only 12 games under new coach Jim Montgomery.

“You just keep winning,” said All-Star right winger David Pastrnak, who’s tied for third in the league in scoring. “Every single line and every single guy is going and it obviously builds our confidence. It’s funny sometimes what confidence can do in hockey.”

The Islanders should have some more confidence after acquiring 30-goal scorer Bo Horvat from Vancouver, but still need to make up ground to get in.

CENTRAL

Defending champion Colorado climbed in the standings – winning seven of eight going into the break despite an injury-riddled first half of the season. Captain Gabriel Landeskog still has not made his season debut since undergoing knee surgery. It would be foolish to bet against the Avs coming out of the West again.

“It’s up to us: We control our own fate,” All-Star center Nathan MacKinnon said. “We need to definitely keep playing the way we were before the break. No matter who’s in the lineup we were playing well, playing hard, so it would definitely help with healthy bodies.”

They still trail the Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild in the Central, and the Nashville Predators are on their heels. Only the Stars and Jets are essentially guaranteed a spot.

“Every point, you grind for it,” Stars leading scorer Jason Robertson said. “Every point’s going to be a dog fight, so it’s going to be a fun 30 games down the stretch.”

PACIFIC

Undisputed MVP favorite Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, who were swept by Colorado in the West final, have a little bit of catching up to do in the Pacific Division.

The top spot is held by the Seattle Kraken, who surprisingly are on pace to make the playoffs in their second season but still need to fend off the Los Angeles Kings and the Vegas Golden Knights.

Edmonton – and the Battle of Alberta rival Calgary Flames – have the talent to not only get in but make a run. McDavid leads the league with 41 goals and 92 points, 16 more than No. 2 scorer and teammate Leon Draisaitl, and is producing unlike anyone since Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux in the mid-1990s.

Now he’ll try to carry the Oilers into the playoffs and beyond.

“It hasn’t been easy at all for our group. We’ve kind of had to battle for everything that we’ve got,” McDavid said. “We’ve always been a second-half team for whatever reason. Even since my first year, we’ve always been better in the second half, so we’ll definitely look to continue that. That being said, we’re not going to hang our hat on that and expect that to carry us to the playoffs. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

Capitals sign Sonny Milano to 3-year, $5.7 million extension

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ARLINGTON, Va. — The Washington Capitals signed winger Sonny Milano to a three-year extension worth $5.7 million.

General manager Brian MacLellan announced the contract, adding to an already busy All-Star break for taking care of future business. The Capitals extended forward Dylan Strome for five years, $25 million.

Like Strome, Milano has fit in as a new addition for Washington. He’s now set to count $1.9 million against the salary cap through the 2025-26 season.

The 26-year-old Milano has been a near-perfect bargain signing for the Capitals after joining them on an NHL veteran one-year deal after this season got underway. He has eight goals and 14 assists for 22 points in 40 games since getting called up from Hershey of the American Hockey League.

Originally drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets 16th in 2014, Milano split his first eight seasons in the league with them and the Anaheim Ducks. He went unsigned as an unrestricted free agent last summer despite putting up 34 points in 66 games with Anaheim.