NHL Bubble Wrap: Stars, Golden Knights survive Game 7 battles

NHL Bubble Wrap: Stars, Golden Knights survive Game 7 battles Kiviranta
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  • After plenty of twists and turns, the Stars beat the Avalanche in overtime of Game 7.
  • Meanwhile, the Golden Knights finally broke through just enough against the Canucks in their Game 7. Barely.
  • The Stars and Golden Knights will face off in Game 1 of the 2020 Western Conference Final (Sunday, Sept. 6, 8 p.m. ET – NBC).
  • Scores for Game 7 of Stars – Avalanche, Canucks – Golden Knights

    Game 7: Stars 5, Avalanche 4 [OT] (DAL wins series 4-3)

    Hockey world: meet Joel Kiviranta. The little-known Stars forward completed a Game 7 hat trick with an overtime, series-clinching goal. Kiviranta capped a true back-and-forth contest, one that really fit the frenetic feeling of this Second Round series overall. Mere minutes in, the Stars went up 1-0, only for the Avalanche to quickly tie Game 7. Late in regulation, the Avalanche managed a 4-3 lead, only for Kiviranta to erase that in mere seconds. Shockingly, that goal — Kiviranta’s second — wasn’t his last big one in Game 7.

    This was a truly wild one, and capped quite the back-and-forth series.

    Game 7: Golden Knights 3, Canucks 0 (VGK wins series 4-3)

    For two straight games, the Canucks avoided elimination by leaning heavily on Thatcher Demko, and occasionally counter-punching Vegas. As much as that strategy felt more and more like playing with fire as Vancouver relied on Demko more and more, it almost worked again in Game 7. Despite putting a ton of pressure on Demko for much of the contest, the Golden Knights couldn’t score until a power-play goal almost 14 minutes into the third period. Even then, they scored based on some funky bounces. That 3-0 score is misleading, as the final two goals were empty-netters.

    Overall, this was a heck of an effort from the underdog Canucks.

    That said, the Canucks squandered many opportunities. Most prominently, they barely mustered a shot on goal after receiving a five-minute major power play after Ryan Reaves was ejected for a hit on Tyler Motte. Considering that some Game 7s prompt officials to lock away their whistles, it has to burn the Canucks to go 0-for-4, especially since Vegas won with a PPG (1-for-3).

    When, how to watch Game 1 of Dallas Stars vs. Golden Knights

    2020 Western Conference Final Game 1: Dallas Stars vs. Vegas Golden Knights – Sunday, Sept. 6, 8 p.m. ET – NBC


    Three Stars from Friday’s NHL Game 7 action

    1. Joel Kiviranta, Dallas Stars

    What better way to introduce yourself to the larger hockey world than to score a Game 7 hat trick, with the overtime-winner representing the third tally? Kiviranta pulled that off in a true must-win situation, generating that hat trick on five shots on goal. The undrafted 24-year-old also managed a +2 rating, and four hits in 14:51 TOI.

    This actually extends a point streak of sorts for Kiviranta. He generated an assist and a +4 rating when the Stars eliminated the Flames. Prediction: this time around, he won’t have to wait in between different elimination games to suit up for the Stars again.

    2. Thatcher Demko, Vancouver Canucks

    No, Demko didn’t win; his Canucks are headed home after a Game 7 loss. But Vancouver depended entirely on Demko during their last three games, and he merely swiped them from the jaws of a 3-1 series deficit. Game 6 was probably Demko’s masterpiece since he shut the Golden Knights out, yet Demko was fantastic in Game 7.

    Whether you chalk it up more to the Canucks running out of gas or merely going passive, it sure seemed like Vancouver was leaning on Demko in a huge way. He was very close to stealing Game 7, and only allowed a single goal. That ended up being enough for Vegas to win, but few will shake the awe at how outstanding Demko was. Overall, he stopped 33 out of 34 SOG in Game 7.

    3. Alexander Radulov, Dallas Stars

    What an up-and-down Game 7 for Radulov. Before it started, he caught his own goalie Anton Khudobin (40 saves) with a shot up high. Then Radulov eased some of the tension by scoring the 1-0 goal on the power play. Fast forward to the third period, when Radulov took a potentially backbreaking penalty while Dallas was down. The Stars killed it, though, and then Radulov scored another power-play goal. Big-time stuff by Radulov.

    John Klingberg (two assists, big minutes) and Vladislav Namestnikov (two goals in a losing effort) rank among other players who deserve consideration.

    Highlights of Game 7 of Stars – Avalanche, Canucks – Golden Knights

    Soak in the twist-filled chaos of that Stars – Avs tilt:

    On the other end of the scoring spectrum — but also close and tense — was Game 7 between the Golden Knights and Canucks:

    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)

    • Stanley Cup Playoffs Second 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.

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    Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews returns to ice, hints at retirement

    Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
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    CHICAGO — Longtime Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews returned to the ice but hinted his stellar NHL career could be winding down after 15 years.

    Toews, 34, skated with teammates prior to Chicago’s game with the Dallas Stars. It was his first time practicing with them since a game in Edmonton on Jan. 28.

    He made a statement through the team on Feb. 19 saying he would be stepping away because of the effects of Chronic Immune Response Syndrome and “long COVID.”

    In meeting with reporters, Toews stopped short of saying he hoped to play in any of last-place Chicago’s nine remaining games. His eight-year, $84 million contract is set to expire at the end of the season.

    Toews said he’s feeling stronger, but isn’t sure if he’ll be able to play again for the Blackhawks or another team.

    “Both if I’m being fully honest,” Toews said. “I feel like I’ve said it already, that I’ve gotten to the point where my health is more important.

    “When you’re young and you’re playing for a Stanley Cup and everyone’s playing through something, that means something and it’s worthwhile. But I’m at that point where it feels like more damage is being done than is a good thing.”

    Toews, the Blackhawks’ first-round draft pick (third overall) in 2006, joined the team in 2007 and was a pillar of Stanley Cup championship clubs in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

    At the peak of his career, he was one of the NHL’s top two-way centers, winning the Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward in 2013.

    In 1,060 regular-season games, Toews has 371 goals and 509 assists. In 139 playoff games, he’s posted 45 goals and 74 assists, and he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2010.

    Toews missed the entire 2020-21 season with Chronic Immune Response System, which caused debilitating inflammation and fatigue.

    He appeared in 71 games in 2021-22, then started this season with renewed energy before slowing and eventually shutting himself down.

    Entering this season, it looked as if Chicago might deal him, as it did fellow star Patrick Kane, before the March trade deadline. But Kane went to the New York Rangers and Toews to injured reserve.

    Toews believed he was progressing before a relapse in January left him so sore and tired that he could barely “put on my skates or roll out of bed to come to the rink.”

    Toews said his progress over the past month has been “pretty encouraging” and he’s delighted to be back among his teammates. He has no timetable beyond that.

    “We’re just going to go day by day here,” Chicago coach Luke Richardson said. He deserves anything he wants to try to achieve here.”

    Richardson hoped Toews “can take that next step later in the week and hopefully (he) gives us the green light to go in a game.”

    But Toews emphasized his long-term health and ability to lead a “normal life” is most important. He wants to go out on a positive note and not hit the ice for a game playing through excessive pain and dysfunction.

    “It’s definitely on my mind that this could be my last few weeks here as a Blackhawk in Chicago,” Toews said. “It’s definitely very important for me to go out there and enjoy the game and just kind of soak it in and just really appreciate everything I’ve been able to be part of here in Chicago.”

    Budding Wild star Matt Boldy more willing to shoot, and it shows

    Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

    ST. PAUL, Minn. — Matt Boldy was unable to resist a smile in the aftermath of his second hat trick in five games for the Minnesota Wild, a young right wing and reluctant star trying to make sense of a remarkable hot streak.

    Does the puck feel as if it’s automatically going in the net these days each time he shoots?

    “Yeah, it does,” Boldy said in the locker room after leading the first-place Wild to a 5-1 win over Seattle. “My linemates are playing great. Hopefully you guys are giving them a lot of credit. You look at some of those goals – just putting it on a tee for me.”

    This non-attention-seeker has found himself squarely in the NHL spotlight. Boldy has 11 goals in nine games since Wild superstar Kirill Kaprizov was sidelined with a lower-body injury to raise his goal total to 28, in part because he’s been more willing to shoot. With vision and stickhandling as strengths and the humility of being a second-year player, it’s easy to be in a pass-first mindset.

    “Everybody kind of took turns talking to him. But it’s not that he didn’t want to. A lot of times a situation like that where a guy’s got that skillset, it’s a real unselfish quality, right?” coach Dean Evason said. “But I think he gets now that he helps the team a lot when he scores goals.”

    The Wild were confident enough in Boldy’s scoring ability to commit a seven-year, $49 million contract extension to him earlier this winter, after all.

    “I think I’ve always had that mentality, but sometimes you just get into spots and it comes off your stick good,” Boldy said. “When things are going well, the puck goes in the net.”’

    The Wild are 6-1-2 without Kaprizov. Boldy is a big reason why.

    “You go through the slumps, you learn what you need to do to score. I think he’s found a good way to be in the right spot and shoot the puck when he had a good opportunity,” center Joel Eriksson Ek said.

    The Wild have only won one division title in 22 years, the five-team Northwest Division in 2007-08. They’re leading the eight-team Central Division with eight games to go, with both Colorado and Dallas too close for comfort. They haven’t won a playoff series since 2015.

    With Kaprizov due back before the postseason and Boldy on this heater, a Wild team that ranks just 23rd in the league in goals per game (2.93) ought to have a better chance to advance. Eriksson Ek and Marcus Johansson have been ideal linemates for the Boston College product and Massachusetts native.

    Since the Wild entered the league in the 2000-01 season, only five NHL players have had more hat tricks at age 21 or younger than Boldy with three: Patrik Laine (eight), Marian Gaborik (five), Steven Stamkos (five), Alex DeBrincat (four) and Connor McDavid (four). Boldy turns 22 next week, so there’s still time for one or two more.

    “He’s big. He controls the puck a lot. He’s got a good shot, good release. He’s smart. He switches it up. He’s got good moves on breakaways. He’s a total player,” goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. ”Fun to watch him grow this year.”

    Pezzetta scores shootout winner; Canadiens beat Sabres 4-3

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    BUFFALO, N.Y. ⁠— Brendan Gallagher and the Montreal Canadiens rallied back to avoid playoff elimination with less than three weeks left in their season. The Buffalo Sabres, meanwhile, are running out of chances to stay in the Eastern Conference wild-card hunt.

    Gallagher forced overtime by scoring his 200th career goal, and Michael Pezzetta scored the decisive shootout goal in a 4-3 win over the Sabres on Monday night.

    “It’s one of those things I think we earned that chance. We weren’t fantastic but we did enough on the road tonight to get a win,” Gallagher said. “Smiles all around.”

    The Canadiens could laugh, especially after Pezzetta celebrated his goal by putting his stick between his legs and riding it like a wooden horse — much like former NHL tough guy Dave “Tiger” Williams did during his 14-year NHL career spanning the 1970s and 80s.

    “I’m not sure we’ll see that again. One of a kind,” said Gallagher. “I’d be worried about falling over.”

    Pezzetta scored by driving in from the right circle to beat Eric Comrie inside the far post. Buffalo’s Jack Quinn scored in the fourth shootout round, but was matched by Montreal’s Jesse Ylonen, whose shot from in tight managed to trickle in through Comrie.

    Jordan Harris and Alex Belzile also scored for Montreal, and Jake Allen stopped 30 shots through overtime, while allowing one goal on six shootout attempts.

    Montreal would have been eliminated from playoff contention for a second straight season – and two years removed from reaching the Stanley Cup Final – with any type of loss.

    The Sabres squandered a 3-2 third-period lead to drop to 3-6-3 in their past 12. Buffalo also blew a chance to move to within four points of idle Pittsburgh, which holds the eighth and final playoff spot.

    “Just a little hesitation,” forward JJ Peterka said of the Sabres third-period lapse. “We didn’t play with much energy and we didn’t play that aggressive as we played the two periods before. I think that was the difference.”

    Buffalo’s Lukas Rousek scored a goal and added an assist while filling in for leading scorer Tage Thompson, who did not play due to an upper body injury. Peterka and defenseman Riley Stillman also scored, and Comrie stopped 38 shots through overtime, and allowed two goals on six shootout attempts.

    Montreal blew two one-goal leads to fall behind 3-2 on Stillman’s goal at the 8:31 mark of the second period.

    Gallagher scored on the fly by using Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin as a screen to snap in a shot inside the far left post. With the goal, Gallagher tied Bobby Rousseau for 24th on the Canadiens career scoring list.

    “I liked the way we corrected ourselves, it’s a sign of maturity, in the way we stayed on task,” Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis said, in recalling how the Canadiens recently unraveled in an 8-4 loss two weeks ago to Colorado, which plays a similar up-tempo style as Buffalo.


    The Sabres hosted their third Pride Night, with Russian D Ilya Lyubushkin electing not to participate in warmups by citing an anti-gay Kremlin law and fears of retribution at home in Moscow, where he has family and visits in the offseason. The remainder of the team wore dark blue jerseys with the Sabres logo on the front encircled by a rainbow-colored outline.

    During the first intermission, the Sabres broadcast a video in which GM Kevyn Adams said: “This is about recognizing someone’s humanity and true identity. We know there are people out there struggling with who they are, and we want them to know that they have an ally in the Buffalo Sabres.”


    Canadiens: At the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.

    Sabres: Host the New York Rangers on Friday night.

    Flyers chairman Scott to retire; Hilferty becomes successor

    Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    PHILADELPHIA — Dave Scott will retire as chairman of the Philadelphia Flyers’ parent company Comcast Spectacor and be replaced by Dan Hilferty.

    Hilferty, who was recently named CEO of Comcast Spectacor, will succeed Scott as chairman of the company on April 17 and as the team’s governor on July 1.

    Scott joined Comcast Spectacor in December 2013 and the Flyers have struggled under his reign. They will miss the playoffs for a third straight season and haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1975.

    “Our number one goal for the Flyers will be to consistently compete for the Stanley Cup,” Hilferty said. “It is going to be a process that will take time to get on that path, but I’m confident we are headed in the right direction with Danny Briere as interim GM, Coach Tortorella, and our hiring of a President of Hockey Operations soon. Our leadership team will be fully focused to deliver on this for our fans while also continuing to make the sports complex the best location for sports and entertainment in the nation.”

    As Chairman and CEO of Comcast Spectacor, Hilferty will lead the company’s entire portfolio, including the Philadelphia Flyers. Spectacor Sports and Entertainment CEO Valerie Camillo will continue to work directly with Hilferty, overseeing the Wells Fargo Center, including its continued transformation, and lead the Flyers’ business operations.