Jason Zucker #16 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his second goal
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The Buzzer: Zucker finding rhythm with Penguins; Kreider’s trade value soaring

Three Stars

1) Jason Zucker, Pittsburgh Penguins

Sidney Crosby has always excelled when one of his wingers could skate like the wind. General manager Jim Rutherford tried to capitalize on this strategy and acquired Jason Zucker to fill the void. The winger cashed in twice in the Penguins’ 4-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens, while Crosby assisted on both tallies. If Zucker thrives on Crosby’s wing, his contract will start to look like a bargain for the next couple of years. The Penguins have survived an extraordinary amount of injuries this season, but Zucker’s emergence would provide a necessary boost.

2) Chris Kreider, New York Rangers

On one hand, Jeff Gorton has to be pleased that Kreider is acting as his own salesman ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline. However, the thought of trading a premium talent instead of re-signing the forward is dangerous for any general manager. Kreider picked up a goal and an assist in the Rangers’ 3-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York collected its fourth consecutive win. The Blueshirts are not ready to take the next step but the upcoming decision about Kreider could shape the next few years in a positive or negative way.

3) Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets

The Jets came up one goal short against the San Jose Sharks Friday, but Connor’s second-period tally was a thing of beauty. The 23-year-old received a pass to the left of the Shark’s goaltender then slid the puck and his stick between his legs to even the game at 1-1. Connor is one goal shy of scoring 30 for the third consecutive season and continues to be one of the more underrated forwards in the NHL. The Jets will continue to rely on their high-powered offense as they look to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race.

Highlights of the Night

Described above, Connor stole the show with this impressive maneuver.

Nikita Gusev stepped around Jaccob Slavin and Travis Zajac set up Mirco Mueller for the easy tap-in.

Kreider scored the go-ahead goal when he hammered a one-timer from the slot.

Stats of the Night

Scores

New York Rangers 3, Columbus Blue Jackets 1
San Jose Sharks 3, Winnipeg Jets 2
Pittsburgh Penguins 4, Montreal Canadiens 1
Carolina Hurricanes 5, New Jersey Devils 2


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.

Avalanche overcome Kuemper, beat Coyotes in Game 1

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For much of Game 1, it looked like Darcy Kuemper would steal a win for the Coyotes, but the Avalanche eventually broke through. The Avs exploded in the third period to win 3-0 against the Coyotes, giving Colorado a 1-0 series lead.

Avalanche dominated — but the Game 1 score is misleading in some ways for Coyotes

If you look at the final score, you’d get a mixed reading on Game 1 between the Avalanche and Coyotes.

On one hand, the Avalanche dominated possession throughout Game 1. The Avs managed a lopsided 28-7 shots on goal advantage through the first two periods of Game 1, but Kuemper allowed nothing, keeping the Coyotes tied 0-0.

That 0-0 tie lasted quite a while through the third period, too.

As it seemed increasingly likely that another Game 1 would enter overtime, Nazem Kadri came up big for the Avalanche once again. Kadri connected on the power play with 6:55 remaining in the third. Then, just 10 seconds later, J.T. Compher increased that lead to 2-0.

Gabriel Landeskog took a hit to make a play, then Nathan MacKinnon sent a nice pass to Mikko Rantanen, who adjusted nicely for the 3-0 goal.

If you merely decided to walk your dog or make a restroom break at the wrong time, you might have missed Avalanche – Coyotes Game 1 breaking wide open. Colorado scored three goals against Kuemper in less than 90 seconds. It was a reminder that, as well as Kuemper played, the Avalanche can threaten with quick-strike offense as much as any team in the NHL.

Rick Tocchet must consider some tweaks. After all, you’re not going to win many games while being outshot 39-14 overall (you also won’t enjoy many easier playoff shutouts than Philipp Grubauer did in Game 1).

Yes, you want to contain that deadly Avalanche offense. And, yes, Kuemper’s been outstanding. But you also have to do something to try to score some goals, right? Then again, trying to win with defense, Kuemper, and some counter-punching might just have to be the way for the Coyotes. (Frankly, it’s generally how they beat the Predators, as they relied upon Kuemper a ton during the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers.)

No. 2 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 7 Arizona Coyotes (Avs lead series 1-0)

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Colorado 3, Arizona 0
Friday, Aug. 14: Arizona at Colorado, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Saturday, Aug. 15: Colorado at Arizona, 3 p.m. ET – CNBC
Monday, Aug. 17: Colorado at Arizona, 5:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Arizona at Colorado – TBD
*Friday, Aug. 21: Colorado at Arizona – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: Arizona at Colorado – TBD

*if necessary

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule

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.

Canadiens-Flyers stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup First Round

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with Wednesday’s First Round matchup between the Canadiens and Flyers. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Canadiens-Flyers stream at 8 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Flyers were the hottest team in hockey at the time of the pause and they carried that momentum with them in the Round Robin. Philly won all three games in regulation, including Saturday’s game against Tampa, to earn the top seed in the East. Montreal was the last club to make the 24-team expanded playoff field. The Habs had a regular season points percentage of .500 and were awarded the 12th seed in the East. Led by Carey Price, Montreal took down the Penguins in four games to clinch a spot in the First Round against Philly.

Price has been one of the best netminders since making his debut in 2007 and played one of his best playoff series of his career in the Qualifying Round. His 1.67 GAA and .947 SV% against Pittsburgh were both career bests for a single-series in his playoff career, and his Game 4 shutout was the sixth postseason shutout of his career.

After setting an NHL record for most goalies to start a game in a single season last year with eight, Philly has finally found their franchise goalie. Carter Hart will be making his third career playoff start (2- 0) in Game 1 of this series and it will be coming against his childhood idol – Price.

WHAT: Montreal Canadiens vs. Philadelphia Flyers
WHERE: Scotiabank Arena – Toronto
WHEN: Wednesday, August 12, 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
ON THE CALL: John Forslund, Mike Milbury, Brian Boucher
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Canadiens-Flyers stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers vs. No. 8 Montreal Canadiens

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Montreal at Philadelphia, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Friday, Aug. 14: Montreal at Philadelphia, 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Sunday, Aug. 16: Philadelphia at Montreal, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
Tuesday, Aug. 18: Philadelphia at Montreal, 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Montreal at Philadelphia – TBD
*Friday, Aug. 21: Philadelphia at Montreal – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: Montreal at Philadelphia – TBD

*if necessary

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule

Islanders score four straight to take Game 1 over Capitals

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A three-goal third period helped the Islanders take Game 1 of their First Round series over the Capitals, 4-2.

Washington had earned a 2-0 lead thanks to a pair of power play goals from T.J. Oshie, but New York’s possession dominance eventually brought the goals.

The comeback began when Jordan Eberle cut the lead to 2-1 late in the second period. The opening 12 minutes of the third continued to be all Islanders. Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, and Anthony Beauvillier all scored, putting the Capitals on their heels.

Bailey’s first of the postseason was an especially tough one for Washington as it came shorthanded following a miscommunication between Braden Holtby and Alex Ovechkin. The Capitals goaltender caught a Brock Nelson dump in but his pass attempt to Ovechkin didn’t go as planned, allowing Nelson to steal it and find Bailey in front to give New York a 3-2 lead.

 

Beauvillier continued his hot run with his fourth goal of the postseason five minutes later to double the lead. Washington continued to chase the game, and their efforts came to an end when Tom Wilson took a holding call with their net empty and under a minute to play.

“In the third period we can’t start like that,” Ovechkin said. “We get the lead, we just have to play our game. We stop playing and you can see result.”

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The Capitals may have won Game 1, but they did suffer a loss as well. Nicklas Backstrom took a hit from Lee just two minutes into the game. He played 7:21 in the first period, but did not return to the game. That hit led to Lee dropping the gloves with both John Carlson and Wilson on separate occasions.

Islanders head coach Barry Trotz defended his player.

“Anders is making a hockey play,” he said. “I don’t know if Nick [Backstrom] was ready or not. Anders is a strong guy. The hit was made and they responded. He and Wilson fought and that was probably the end of it. We’ll see.”

The Capitals were obviously not happy with Lee’s hit and the outcome.

“It was a late hit on a player who wasn’t expecting it. It was predatory,” said head coach Todd Reirden, who did not have an update on Backstrom.

“It looked extremely late,” said Oshie. “In the frame I saw there wasn’t even a puck and it still looked late.”

“It looked real dirty to me,” said Carlson.

Game 2 is Friday at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

No. 3 Washington Capitals vs. No. 6 New York Islanders (NYI lead 1-0)

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Islanders 4, Capitals 2
Friday, Aug. 14: NY Islanders at Washington, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Sunday, Aug. 16: Washington at NY Islanders, 12 p.m. ET – USA Network
Tuesday, Aug. 18: Washington at NY Islanders, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Thursday, Aug. 20: NY Islanders at Washington – TBD
*Saturday, Aug. 22: Washington at NY Islanders – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: NY Islanders at Washington – TBD

*if necessary

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule

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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.

NHL fines Rod Brind’Amour for ‘crime scene’ officiating critique after Hurricanes – Bruins Game 1

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The NHL fined Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour $25K after Brind’Amour blasted officiating from the Bruins’ 3-2 double OT win in Game 1 on Wednesday. Echoing what they did with John Tortorella before, the NHL also hung a conditional additional $25K fine over Brind’Amour that “will be collected, in addition to any subsequent discipline, in the event of similar inappropriate behavior through Aug. 12, 2021.”

Odd? Draconian? Yeah, but the NHL — and other sports leagues, to be honest — tend to go to great lengths to defend officials. Tortorella kept his mouth shut, even after his Blue Jackets maybe should’ve gotten a power play or penalty shot during the fifth OT of their epic loss to the Lightning in that Game 1. We’ll see if the $25K (and a threat of another $25K) might inspire “Rod the Bod” to censor what comes out of his mouth.

If you missed the Bruins 3-2 double OT win against Brind’Amour’s Hurricanes in Game 1, you might want some added context. Let’s take a look.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

NHL fines Brind’Amour; The plays and comments in question from Game 1 Bruins – Hurricanes

As you can see starting at the 1:10 mark of the video above, a Charlie Coyle 2-1 goal counted despite what could have been either a hand pass or goalie interference call. The Bruins received a power play after a failed challenge — amid serious confusion from Brind’Amour and the Hurricanes — but Carolina responded with a shorthanded goal.

After the game, Brind’Amour vented about the call, and the entire process.

“This is why the league’s a joke, in my opinion, on these things,” Brind’Amour told The News & Observer’s Luke DeCock, among other media members. “That one is a crime scene.”

The Athletic’s Sara Civian transcribed some passionate quotes from Brind’Amour as well. Some are flat-out NSFW:

Wow.

On one hand, you can see where the NHL is coming from. Officiating isn’t easy, and saying this shows an area where the league is a “joke” won’t do Brind’Amour any favors.

But, at the same time, the NHL demands that coaches and players make themselves available to the media. Sometimes when their blood is still boiling after losing a game. And more than a few people will agree that Brind’Amour has a point, not to mention Tortorella and others before Brind’Amour.

As difficult as it must have been for Tortorella to bite his tongue, it’s easy to see why. Sadly, it seems like you can only make these sort of comments behind the scenes.

Maybe some public pressure may eventually lead to a smoother and/or more transparent process? Who knows. Meanwhile, Brind’Amour must contemplate other questions.

” … I know we weren’t the better team, but if that goal doesn’t go in, do we win that game?” Brind’Amour said, via DeCock. “I don’t know.”

No. 4 Boston Bruins vs. No. 5 Carolina Hurricanes (BOS leads 1-0)

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Bruins 4, Hurricanes 3 (2OT)
Thursday, Aug. 13: Carolina at Boston, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Saturday, Aug. 15: Boston at Carolina, 12 p.m ET – NBC
Monday, Aug. 17: Boston at Carolina, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Carolina at Boston – TBD
*Thursday, Aug. 20: Boston at Carolina – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: Carolina at Boston – TBD

*if necessary

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule

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.