NHL Bubble Wrap: Kubalik, Price, and Slavin star in NHL’s playoff opener

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  • The NHL’s 2019-20 postseason kicked off on Saturday with five games.
  • The Jets lost two key forwards to injury.
  • The Penguins and Canadiens played the first overtime game of the postseason in a game that featured a great goaltending performance, two penalty shots, and a slick winner from an unlikely source.
  • Carolina Hurricanes 3, New York Rangers 2 (Hurricanes lead series 1-0)

    Henrik Lundqvist did everything he could for the Rangers on Saturday afternoon but it was not enough in their Game 1 loss to the Hurricanes. After being relegated to third goalie duty for much of the second half of the season, Lundqvist got the surprise start on Saturday when Igor Shesterkin was deemed “unfit to play.” The Hurricanes pounced all over a sluggish Rangers team early in the game and jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the Rangers finally started to get going. Jaccob Slavin and Sebastian Aho each had a goal and an assist for the Hurricanes in the win, while Martin Necas‘ goal midway through the third period proved to be the winner.

    Chicago Blackhawks 6, Edmonton Oilers 4 (Blackhawks lead series 1-0)

    Wow was this ugly for the Oilers. Do not let the reasonably close final score fool you into thinking this was anything other than a complete meltdown from the start for Edmonton. Starting goalie Mike Smith was pulled after giving up five goals while playing behind a porous defense that did not have an answer for Dominik Kubalik, Jonathan Toews, and the rest of the Blackhawks. Chicago snuck into the qualifier round as the 12th team in the West and based on the first game it could not have been given a better matchup. The Oilers may have two elite, MVP caliber players in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but the rest of the roster remains badly flawed.

    New York Islanders 2, Florida Panthers 1 (Islanders lead series 1-0)

    The big story to come out of this one is the Islanders losing defenseman Johnny Boychuk after he was on the receiving end of a huge hit from Mike Matheson. Boychuck did not return, and there was no immediate update on his status from the team after the game. You can be sure the NHL is looking at the hit for potential supplemental discipline (Matheson was initially given a five-minute major, but it was reduced to two minutes after review). The Islanders scored on the ensuing power play when Anthony Beauvillier scored to give them a 2-0 lead. That goal would prove to be the game-winning goal.

    Montreal Canadiens 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 2 (Canadiens lead series 1-0)

    The Canadiens stunned the Penguins in Game 1 thanks to a 39-save effort from Carey Price, some big goals from Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki, and an overtime winner from defenseman Jeff Petry. The Penguins’ power play let them down in a big way by going 1-for-7 on the night, including a missed opportunity on an extended 5-on-3 and an overtime power play. Conor Sheary also missed a penalty shot with three minutes to play in regulation.

    Calgary Flames 4, Winnipeg Jets 1 (Flames lead series 1-0)

    This was a brutal game for the Jets. Not only did they lose their opening game, but they also lost two of their best forwards to injury as Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine were both injured. Scheifele’s injury appears to be the most serious after he was kicked in the back of the leg by Matthew Tkachuk early in the first period and was unable to put any weight on his left leg. Jets coach Paul Maurice felt it was an intentional, dirty play. This is sure to be the storyline of this series. As for the Flames, after not scoring a goal in each of his past two playoff appearances Johnny Gaudreau found the back of the net while Andrew Mangiapane recorded a pair of points in the win.

    [NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

    Three Stars

    1. Dominik Kubalik, Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks may have had a miserable regular season, but they have a chance to make some noise in the playoffs thanks in part to a very favorable qualifying round matchup against a very flawed Oilers team. Kubalik was the big star on Saturday in their 6-4 win thanks to a five point effort in his playoff debut. He was one of the bright spots for the Blackhawks during the regular season, coming out of nowhere to be a finalist for the rookie of the year award.

    2. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens. Price stopped 39 shots in Montreal’s Game 1 win over Pittsburgh, and while all of those saves were important he played some of his best hockey in the first 10 minutes of the first period. It was at that point that the Penguins carried the play and recorded 10 of the game’s first 12 shots but were unable to get one by Price. That helped set the tone for Montreal’s win. If the Canadiens are going to advance they are going to need more efforts like this from their franchise goalie.

    3. Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes. The bad news for the Hurricanes is they did not have Dougie Hamilton for Game 1 of their series against the Rangers. The good news? Even without him they still have a bonafide top-pairing defender on their roster in Slavin, and he was a force on Saturday. He played a game-high 24 minutes for the Hurricanes in their 3-2 win over the Rangers, scoring a goal (the first goal just one minute into the game), adding an assist, and playing his usual rock-solid game defensively.

    Highlights of the night

    Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba kicked off the postseason with a powerful speech against racism.

    “Hockey is a great game. But it could be a whole lot greater. And it starts with all of us.”

    The first overtime goal of the 2020 postseason belongs to Jeff Petry and it was a beauty.

    Factoids

    • The Penguins-Canadiens game was just the second Stanley Cup Playoff game (and first since 1923) to feature two penalty shots. [NHL PR]
    • Kubalik is the first rookie in NHL history to record five points in their postseason debut. [NHL PR]
    • After scoring in his regular season debut with the team, Jean-Gabriel Pageau added a goal in his first playoff game with the New York Islanders. [NHL PR]

    Sunday’s schedule

    Game 1: Arizona Coyotes vs. Nashville Predators (2 p.m. ET, USA)
    Round-Robin: Boston Bruins vs. Philadelphia Flyers (3 p.m. ET, NBC)
    Round-Robin: St. Louis Blues vs. Colorado Avalanche (6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
    Game 1: Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (joined in progress 9 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
    Game 1: Minnesota Wild vs. Vancouver Canucks (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

    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.

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    Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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    Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

    The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

    Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

    “We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

    Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

    “I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

    Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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    OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

    The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

    Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

    The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

    Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

    Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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    CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

    The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

    The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

    The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

    Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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    ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

    The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

    The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

    Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

    The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.