NHL Bubble Wrap: Flyers, Canucks force more Game 7 playoff matchups

NHL Bubble Wrap: Flyers, Canucks give hockey fans more Game 7 matchups Thatcher Demko dominance
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  • It took double overtime, but the Flyers stayed alive against the Islanders to force another NHL Game 7.
  • While it seemed like it could go either way for a while, the Canucks ran away with the third period of Game 6. With that, they pushed the Golden Knights to a Game 7. 
  • So, hockey fans get two NHL Game 7 matchups on Friday (first Avalanche – Stars, then Golden Knights – Canucks) and one on Saturday (Flyers – Islanders). Totally predictable when the four Second Round series were all at 3-1, right?
  • Scores for Game 6 of Flyers – Islanders, Canucks – Golden Knights

    Game 6: Flyers 5, Islanders 4 [double OT] (Series tied 3-3)

    Let’s be honest: the Flyers were lucky to win Game 6. And, considering that all three of the Flyers’ wins came in overtime — this one nearing a third OT period — they made it this far by tiny margins of victory. But you know what they say: “It’s now how, it’s how much?” Even without winning in regulation or scoring a power-play goal during this series against the Islanders, the Flyers now hold an equal chance of advancing to the 2020 Eastern Conference Final.

    Hockey, right?

    Game 6: Canucks 4, Golden Knights 0 (Series tied 3-3)

    To some extent, the final score of Canucks – Golden Knights Game 6 is misleading. You might argue that Vegas outplayed (or at least outshot) Vancouver about as much as the Isles did to the Flyers. For much of Game 6, it was merely a 1-0 lead for the Canucks. Regardless, Vancouver pulled away in this one, starting with a J.T. Miller 2-0 goal about one minute into the third period.

    Goaltending could pose a fascinating question with both teams turning around for a Game 7 back-to-back closer on Friday at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN (livestream). As hot as Thatcher Demko has been (more on that in a moment), could fatigue prompt Vancouver to go back to Jacob Markstrom? Also, will we see a reprise of the Marc-Andre Fleury vs. Robin Lehner controversy? After all, Lehner also potentially faces a back-to-back, and he’s been unable to outduel Demko and the Canucks in two elimination opportunities.


    NHL Three Stars: Thursday’s 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs games

    1. Thatcher Demko, Vancouver Canucks

    After Demko stole Game 5 for the Canucks with a 42-save masterpiece, people said: “There’s no way Demko can match that in Game 6.” He didn’t. Instead, Demko one-upped himself. The 24-year-old goalie earned his first career playoff shutout with a whopping 48-save goose egg. The Golden Knights couldn’t beat Demko despite receiving five power-play opportunities, and they were chasing a deficit from very early on.

    Considering the Golden Knights’ firepower, you can’t ask for a much higher degree of difficulty. Amazing.

    2. Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers

    Yes, Hart allowed four goals in Game 6. But the Islanders absolutely dominated the Flyers, and Game 6 swung on another younger goalie shutting the door while a veteran (in this case, Semyon Varlamov) struggled. Hart made 49 saves, including some tough stops once Game 6 extended to overtime.

    Both goalies enjoyed a bounce or two. Jordan Eberle, for one, must be losing sleep after near-misses. Yet both Demko and Hart were brilliant in must-win games.

    3. Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders

    OK, Barzal’s not going to knock you out with his one goal and one assist, especially in a losing cause. That said … goodness was Barzal ever dominant. Barzal generated nine shots on goal in Game 6, looking dangerous on virtually every shift. Via Natural Stat Trick, the Islanders generated a silly 11 high-danger chances versus just one against at even-strength with Barzal on the ice. It’s remarkable that Barzal “only” finished with two points. Not bad for a guy who wasn’t a 100-percent bet to even play.

    Game 6 highlights from Flyers – Islanders, Canucks – Golden Knights

    Marvel at the Flyers surviving this affair:

    Some timely scoring and another incredible performance from Demko in this Canucks win:

    Factoids: Demko, 3-1 series leads, Game 7 info, and more

    • Demko’s 48 saves ties Ed Belfour for the second-most saves in a shutout while a goalie faced elimination in playoff history. Dominik Hasek will be tough to ever match at first with a ridiculous 70 back in 1994. [Via Sportsnet Stats]
    • Also via Sportsnet: Demko’s 48 saves set a new playoff record for a rookie shutout.
    • This marks the second time in NHL history where at least three series went from 3-1 to a Game 7 during the same playoff round. Remarkably, four teams managed that feat during the 1992 Division Semifinals, and three of those teams completed comebacks. [Via NHL PR]

    How to watch NHL Game 7 of Stars – Avalanche, Golden Knights – Canucks on Friday

    Game 7: Avalanche vs. Stars (Series tied 3-3) – 4 p.m. ET, USA Network (livestream)

    Game 7: Golden Knights vs. Canucks (Series tied 3-3) – 9 p.m. ET, NBCSN (livestream)

    How to watch NHL Game 7 of Flyers – Islanders on Saturday

    NHL Game 7: Flyers vs. Islanders (Series tied 3-3) – 7:30 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)

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    Mitch Marner extends Maple Leafs-record points streak to 21 games

    Mitch Marner
    USA Today

    TORONTO — Mitch Marner extended his franchise-record points streak to 21 games with a second-period goal and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Los Angeles Kings 5-0 on Thursday night.

    Marner gave Toronto a 4-0 lead with his 11th goal of the season, scoring on a slap shot after a Los Angeles turnover inside its blue line.

    Marner became the 10th player in the past 35 years to string together a streak of 21 or more games. He has 10 goals and 16 assists during the run.

    Auston Matthews, Pierre Engvall, David Kampf and William Nylander also scored for Toronto. Ilya Samsonov made 29 saves for his first shutout with the Maple Leafs and the seventh of his career.

    Toronto has won seven of eight to improve to 17-5-6.

    Los Angeles dropped to 14-11-4 with its seventh loss in 10 games. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick made 36 saves.

    Penguins’ Kris Letang returns to practice 10 days after stroke

    Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports
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    PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang returned to practice with his teammates just 10 days after suffering the second stroke of his career.

    The 35-year-old Letang remains out indefinitely, with the club describing him as “day to day.”

    Letang said he felt “pretty good” after being greeted by stick taps from his teammates when he skated onto the ice at the team’s practice facility. Still, the married father of two called the experience “scary,” particularly for his family.

    “My kids, they don’t care if I’m a hockey player or not,” he said. “They care about having a dad. Same with my wife. She could care less about hockey. She knows there’s so much more. After hockey, there’s a long time and you want to be able to enjoy those moments with your family, with your kids.”

    Letang missed more than two months in 2014 after his first stroke, which was caused by a small hole in the wall of his heart. The condition also led to the second stroke, which Letang suffered on Nov. 28 after dealing with a series of debilitating headaches.

    This time, the symptoms have resolved themselves much more quickly, according to team physician Dr. Dharmesh Vyas, who described this stroke as “smaller” than the one Letang endured in 2014.

    Letang began skating on his own just two days after the diagnosis and was cleared to return to practice on Thursday though both Letang and Vyas stressed they are in no rush for him to play in games.

    “We don’t think this is accelerated in any way,” Vyas said. “We are taking all the right precautions to make sure that it is safe to go out and play and when that time comes we’ll let him go back to playing his sport.”

    Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said it was a “relief” to see Letang back at work.

    “It’s a great visual that he’s making progress,” Sullivan said. “Our medical team that has monitored him extremely closely feels comfortable with some of the progress that he’s making and the steps he’s taken. Everyone was excited for him to join the group.”

    Letang signed a six-year contract extension over the summer that will carry him into his 40s if he decides to play that long. Vyas said the data around strokes is “evolving” though it is unclear if Letang is now more susceptible to having additional strokes now that he’s had a second one.

    The six-time All-Star is cautious but optimistic.

    “We’ve been through this,” Letang said. “Me and Dharmesh have a clear understanding that we’re going to take all the time we need and make sure the research is possible and it’s no danger for me to keep going.”

    The Penguins are 8-1-1 over their last 10 games and have won three straight heading into a home-and-home series with the Sabres. They’re also eager to have Letang’s familiar No. 58 back in the lineup, but only when he’s ready.

    “He’s been here for a long time and his experience and everything that he brings on and off the ice, the way he competes (is important),” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “But I think in the (locker) room, (he has) poise and (he’s) somebody who’s been around a long time and whose experience you feel when he’s around.”

    Thompson nets 4 in 1st, 5 overall, as Buffalo tops Columbus

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    Russell LaBounty/USA TODAY Sports
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    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tage Thompson matched an NHL record by scoring four times in the first period and finished with five goals and an assist as the Buffalo Sabres won their third straight road game, 9-4 over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night.

    Thompson is the second U.S.-born player to score five goals in a game. He is the fourth player in NHL history to record four goals in the first period of a regular-season game, joining Peter Bondra (1994), Grant Mulvey (1982) and Joe Malone (1921). He is also the fourth active player to score five goals in a game, joining Timo Meier (Jan. 17, 2022), Mika Zibanejad (March 5, 2020) and Patrik Laine (Nov. 24, 2018).

    “It’s definitely a rewarding feeling,” Thompson said. “You’ve spent a lot of years working to get to this point and to be rewarded for it is a pretty good feeling and it just leaves you hungrier.”

    Thompson’s outburst helped Buffalo score six times in the first 16:40.

    “That was an amazing performance by Tage, and really, the whole group set the table,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “I thought the energy, the collective effort, the focus to start was really good and enabled that to happen.”

    Alex Tuch had a goal and three assists, Dylan Cozens added a power-play goal and two assists and Rasmus Dahlin finished with a goal and two assists. Peyton Krebs also scored. Jeff Skinner picked up four assists and Jacob Bryson had two. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 20 shots.

    Patrik Laine and Gustav Nyquist each scored twice for Columbus.

    Joonas Korpisalo stopped two shots before being pulled in the first in favor of Elvis Merzlikins, who stopped 15 shots through the second period. Korpisalo returned in the third and finished with six saves.

    Columbus has lost six straight home games and five of its last six overall.

    “We didn’t have an answer for that one line,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “Tage Thompson just tore us up tonight.”

    Buffalo dominated from the puck drop, scoring four goals on its first six shots.

    Cozens put the Sabres on the board at 3:21 of the first, 53 seconds into a Blue Jackets penalty, and Thompson made it 2-0 just 2:09 later. Dahlin scored Buffalo’s third goal at 7:28 of the first, driving Korpisalo from the net in favor of Merzlikins, who gave up Buffalo goal No. 4 to Thompson 32 seconds later.

    Thompson’s third career hat trick and second of the season came on a power-play goal at 12:22 of the first. He followed with his fourth goal, also on the power play, at 16:40.

    Columbus scored two goals in just over a minute, with Laine at 10:49 and Nyquist at 12:04, before Buffalo reeled off three straight in just over three minutes to end the period, including Thompson’s fifth, and goals by Krebs and Tuch.

    Laine and Nyquist scored in the third period for Columbus.


    Cozens has 12 points in his last five games and is riding a career-best, five-game point streak. Thompson has eight goals and five assists in his last five games and 10 multi-point games. Dahlin has a five-game point and assist streak, and Gaudreau stretched his points streak to six games.

    NOTES: The Sabres joined the Kraken as the second team this season to score nine goals in a game. … Thompson is the second player in Buffalo history to have five goals in a game, joining Dave Andreychuk, who had five goals and an assist on Feb. 6, 1986.


    Buffalo: Hosts Pittsburgh on Friday.

    Columbus: Hosts Calgary on Friday.

    Ovechkin, Strome lead Capitals past struggling Flyers 4-1

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    Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

    PHILADELPHIA — Alex Ovechkin scored two empty-net goals, Dylan Strome had a goal and an assist and the Washington Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 on Wednesday night.

    T.J. Oshie also scored for the Capitals, who finished 3-3 on a six-game trip. Charlie Lindgren made 29 saves.

    Kevin Hayes scored for Philadelphia, which has lost 13 of 15 games. Carter Hart made 23 stops.

    Strome broke a 1-all tie with 10:41 remaining when he deflected John Carlson‘s shot from long range past Hart.

    Hayes had a golden opportunity to tie it on a Philadelphia power play, but Lindgren made a great right pad save on a try from close range with 8:20 remaining.

    Ovechkin iced it, scoring into an empty net with 1:35 left and adding another empty-netter with 8.2 seconds left for his 15th of the season. Ovechkin has 795 career goals, good for third all-time. He is six goals away from tying Gordie Howe for second place. Wayne Gretzky, with 894 goals, tops the list.

    Hayes scored his ninth goal of the season for his team-leading 28th point with 4:14 left in the first period to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Hayes rushed to the bench after breaking his stick on a slap shot attempt, and scored on a wrist shot from the high slot with his new stick.

    The Flyers had a power-play goal for the third straight game and have four overall in that stretch. Philadelphia, which began play ranked 30th in the NHL in scoring on the man advantage, now has converted 16.7% (14 of 84) of its chances.

    Oshie tied it 3:51 into the second on the Capitals’ fourth power play as the Flyers continued to take sloppy penalties. This time, James van Riemsdyk committed Philadelphia’s third tripping minor of the game. Oshie made them pay with his fifth goal of the season when he finished a nifty passing sequence with Strome and Evgeny Kuznetsov with a perfectly placed one-timer over Hart’s left shoulder.

    NOTES: Van Riemsdyk returned after missing the last 20 games due to a broken right index finger. . Flyers forward Tanner Laczynski was placed on injured reserve after departing midway through the third period of Monday’s 5-3 win over Colorado with what looked like an injury to his left leg. . Washington was without several injured players, including starting goalie Darcy Kuemper (upper body). Kuemper was with the team, but missed his second in a row. . Carlson had two assists. . Philadelphia’s Cam Atkinson, out all season with an upper body injury, has been practicing and is close to returning.


    Capitals: Host Seattle on Friday night.

    Flyers: Open four-game trip at Vegas on Friday night.