NHL Bubble Wrap: Vasilevskiy, Kucherov shine again for Lightning

  • The Tampa Bay Lightning take a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Final thanks to a late goal from Nikita Kucherov.
  • They did so with only nine forwards for most of the game due to an ejection and an injury to a key player.
  • Andrei Vasilevskiy shined again in net for the Lightning.
  • Tampa Bay Lightning 2, New York Islanders 1 (Lightning lead series 2-0)

    Thanks to an ejection to Alex Killorn and an injury to Brayden Point (not to mention the continued absence of Steven Stamkos), the Tampa Bay Lightning played most of Game 2 with only nine forwards and were still able to get a 2-1 Game 2 win. It gives them a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Final over the New York Islanders. Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Lightning penalty kill kept them in it, and then Nikita Kucherov came through in the clutch by scoring the game-winning goal with just eight seconds to play in regulation. The Islanders had a five-minute power play, a two-man advantage, and a shorthanded Lightning roster across from them and were still unable to get the win. This is going to be one they regret if they do not come back in this series. The Lightning had no current update on the status of Point following the game.

    [NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

    Three Stars

    1. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa Bay is the only team that has used just one goalie in the Return To Play, with Vasilevskiy logging every minute of every game so far. He continues to prove why he is one of the league’s best goalies, and perhaps even the best goalie. He stopped 27 out of 28 shots on Wednesday night, including all 13 shots he faced on the penalty kill to help the Lightning kill off a five-minute major penalty and a third period two-man disadvantage. He gave them a chance when they did not play their best game. He now has a .932 save percentage and a 12-3-0 record in his 15 appearances this postseason.

    2. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning. No Stamkos, no Point, no problem.  At least not on this night because they still have Kucherov. His goal with eight seconds to play turned out to be the difference and helps to strengthen his Conn Smythe argument. He now has six goals and 22 total points in 15 games this postseason. This is his first game-winning goal of the playoffs this year.

    3. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning. Just another day at the office for Hedman as he logged a team-high 26 minutes (seven more minutes than any other defenseman on the team), scored his seventh goal of the playoffs to tie the game off of an offensive zone face-off late in the first period, and was a constant force in his own zone to help keep the Islanders off the scoreboard for most of the night. The Lightning have All-Star level talent and franchise players at every position, and Hedman might be the most important piece of them all. He has a goal in four consecutive playoff games for the Lightning.

    Highlights of the Night

    Kucherov’s game-winning goal was set up by an absolutely incredible pass from Ryan McDonagh.

    Will the Lightning have Alex Killorn for Game 3 of the series after this hit on Brock Nelson early in the first period? He could face some supplemental discipline from the league.

    Hedman scores his seventh goal of the playoffs to tie the game late in the first period.

    Factoids

    • Victor Hedman’s goal-scoring streak is now at four games. That is one game away from tying an NHL Playoff record. [NHL PR]
    • The Lightning have a 2-0 series lead and have done very well in this situation before. [NHL PR]
    • Kucherov’s goal gives him seven career game-winning goals in the playoffs. That is one goal away from tying the franchise record held by Martin St. Louis and Tyler Johnson [NHL PR]

    Thursday Schedule

    Game 3: Vegas Golden Knights vs. Dallas Stars, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, Livestream (Series tied 1-1)

    MORE STANLEY CUP COVERAGE:
    • Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Final 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.

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    Hughes has first NHL hat trick, Devils beat Capitals 5-1

    Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
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    NEWARK, N.J. – Jack Hughes had his first career NHL hat trick, Vitek Vanecek made 38 saves against his former team and the New Jersey Devils beat the Washington Capitals 5-1 on Saturday for coach Lindy Ruff’s 800th victory.

    “It’s exciting,” Hughes said. “Couple of two-goal games in my career, so nice to cap it off with the third one tonight.”

    Ruff became the fifth NHL coach to reach the 800-victory mark. The former Buffalo player won 571 games with the Sabres from 1997-2011. He had 165 wins in five seasons with Dallas and has 64 in two-plus seasons with New Jersey.

    “It means I’ve been around a long time,” Ruff cracked. “Great to win the game. Again, you got to do a lot of right things, have good teams, and the way our team is playing I have to give them a lot of credit for getting me there.”

    The Atlantic Division-leading Devils have won two in a row after seeing their franchise-record 13-game winning streak snapped by Toronto.

    Devils captain Nico Hischier and Fabian Zetterlund also scored.

    John Carlson scored for Washington and Charlie Lindgren made 24 saves.

    “Not scoring goals, not capitalizing on our chances,” Carlson said. “We’ve had our chances, especially today, but we only walked away with one goal. We could have had five or six. It’s just not going in right now.”

    Vanecek, meanwhile, was hoping for the shutout against a familiar foe.

    “That would have been nice, but that’s hockey,” Vanecek said, “For sure you’re trying, but not every time; the win is more important.”

    Hischier opened up the scoring with his 10th goal of the season midway through the first period on a power play after Alexander Ovechkin was called for slashing.

    Hughes wrapped the puck around goalie Lindgren’s right leg and the goal post to put the Devils up 2-0 5:59 into the second period. Hughes appeared to have lost his angle on the goal when he ripped a shot off Lindgren’s face mask and into the net midway through the period for his 10th goal of the season to give New Jersey a 3-0 lead.

    The 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick added his third midway through the third period as hats rained down on the ice with New Jersey up 4-0.

    “You want to continue to play the right way, but if an opportunity comes you want to definitely put it in the back of the net with authority,” Hughes said. “So tonight, I was able to cap it off and it was nice.”

    Fabian Zetterlund capped the scoring for New Jersey late in the third period.

    NOTES: The Devils improved to 16-0-0 this season when Hischier has a point. New Jersey’s Nathan Bastain (upper body) did not return after the first period. . Ovechkin is still nine goals away from 800 and 11 from passing Gordie Howe for second place on the NHL goals list.

    UP NEXT

    Capitals: At Vancouver.

    Devils: At the New York Rangers.

    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

    TAKE NOTE

    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

    UP NEXT

    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.