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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.

NHL announces zero positive COVID-19 tests during first week in bubbles

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The NHL announced on Monday afternoon that it has had zero positive COVID-19 test results since its 24 playoff teams reported to their bubble cities of Toronto and Edmonton.

There were more than 7,000 tests administered since fourth phase of the league’s restart plan began on July 26 through August 1, when play resumed with the start of the qualifying round.

The league is testing all 52 members of each team’s traveling parties (including players, coaches, front office, team staff) on a daily basis and will continue to do so as long as the teams remain in their hub cities.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Previously, the NHL had announced that there were 43 positive tests results during the Phase 2 portion of the league’s return (which involved small groups of individual players skating at team facilities), and two positive tests that it was aware of during the first week of training camp. The league announced zero positive results during the second week of training camp and zero positive results when the teams arrived in their bubbles.

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.

Flames-Jets stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers

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NBCSN’s coverage of the NHL’s Return to Play continues with Monday’s Stanley Cup Qualifier matchup between the Flames and Jets. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Flames-Jets Game 2 stream at 2:30 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Flames jumped out to a 1-0 series lead, defeating the Jets 4-1 on Saturday. Andrew Copp opened the scoring for Winnipeg before the Flames scored four unanswered goals.

Calgary outshot Winnipeg 33-18 and went 2-for-4 on the power play and 7-for-7 on the penalty kill.

Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine both left Game 1 early with injuries. Scheifele suffered a leg injury and Laine left after a collision with Mark Giordano.

Scheifele went down awkwardly near the boards after a hit from Matthew Tkachuk. While Tkachuk contends there was nothing malicious about the contact, Jets coach Paul Maurice saw it differently: “It was a filthy, dirty kick to the back of the leg. He went after the back of the leg. He could have cut his Achilles. He could have ended the man’s career. It’s an absolutely filthy, disgusting hit.”

It was reported late Sunday night that Scheifele’s injury was not long term, but that he and Laine were doubtful for Game 2

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

WHAT: Calgary Flames vs. Winnipeg Jets
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton
WHEN: Monday, August 3, 2:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN (live look-in)
ON THE CALL: Chris Cuthbert, Louie DeBrusk
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Flames-Jets stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

(8) Calgary Flames vs. (9) Winnipeg Jets (Flames lead series 1-0)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Flames 4, Jets 1 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Jets vs. Flames, 2:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Flames vs. Jets, 4:45 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Thursday, Aug. 6: Flames vs. Jets*, TBD
Saturday, Aug. 8: Jets vs. Flames*, TBD

You can watch all the NHL playoff streams on the NBC Sports app.

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

Canucks’ Ferland, Wild’s Kunin fined for Game 1 altercation

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The NHL’s department of player safety announced on Monday that Minnesota Wild forward Luke Kunin and Vancouver Canucks forward Micheal Ferland were fined for an incident that took place in the third period of Sunday’s game. The Wild won the game 3-0.

Kunin was fined $1,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct, while Ferland was given a $5,000 fine for spearing Minnesota’s Ryan Hartman on the bench.

“I could see it from Ferland’s standpoint,” Hartman said Monday. “He’s the kind of guy that runs on emotion. Stuff happens.”

The incident took place in front of the team benches just after Ferland finished a check on Minnesota’s Marcus Foligno.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

You can see the entire sequence in the video above.

Ferland started the game by fighting Foligno just two minutes into the first period.

Game 2 of the best-of-five series will take place on Tuesday night (10:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

MORE:
Wild vs. Canucks series preview
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

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.

Hurricanes-Rangers stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers

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NBCSN’s coverage of the NHL’s Return to Play continues with Monday’s Stanley Cup Qualifier matchup between the Hurricanes and Rangers. Coverage begins at 12 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Hurricanes-Rangers Game 2 stream at 12 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

In the first shot of the game, Jaccob Slavin scored 61 seconds in for the first NHL goal in an official game in almost five months. Sebastian Aho, who led Carolina in goals (38) and points (66) during the regular season, then scored in the second period to give the Hurricanes a 2-0 lead. The Rangers kept things close but ultimately could not overcome an 0-for-7 showing on the power play as Carolina defeated New York for the first time in five tries this season.

Perhaps the biggest development from Game 1 was the fact that the Rangers all-time winningest goalie was actually the one in net – as many expected newcomer Igor Shesterkin in that position. With Shesterkin, who watched Game 1 from the stands, deemed “unfit to play” – Henrik Lundqvist started his 128th consecutive postseason game with the Rangers – a single-team streak only bettered by Martin Brodeur (194 with New Jersey) and Patrick Roy (133 with Colorado).

Lundqvist will get the Game 2 start as Shesterkin remains out. Alexandar Georgiev will again serve as the backup.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

WHAT: New York Rangers vs. Carolina Hurricanes
WHERE: Scotiabank Arena – Toronto
WHEN: Monday, August 3, 12 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
ON THE CALL: Gord Miller, Anson Carter
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Hurricanes-Rangers stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

(6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (11) New York Rangers (Hurricanes lead series 1-0)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Hurricanes 3, Rangers 2 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Rangers vs. Hurricanes, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Hurricanes vs. Rangers, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Thursday, Aug. 6: Hurricanes vs. Rangers*
Saturday, Aug. 8: Rangers vs. Hurricanes*

You can watch all the NHL playoff streams on the NBC Sports app.

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule