NHL Bubble Wrap: Khudobin bounces back in big way for Stars in Game 3

NHL Bubble Wrap: Khudobin bounces back in big way for Stars in Game 3
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  • After an exciting finish, the Stars are one step closer to advancing, as they beat the Golden Knights in OT during Game 3.
  • The NHL suspended Lightning forward Alex Killorn for his hit on Brock Nelson. Tampa Bay already dealt with a major penalty following that hit, and now no Killorn for Game 3.
  • Flyers forward Sean Couturier received the 2020 Selke Trophy.
  • Game 3: Stars 3, Golden Knights 2 [OT] (DAL leads 2-1)

    Game 1 was very much a Stars-style win, while the Golden Knights exerted control over Game 2. In the case of Game 3, it was more of a mix.

    Things began as a tight, grinding affair, with the first goal only coming in the dying moments of the second period. On paper, that favored the Stars.

    That heightened urgency might have prompted the Golden Knights to up the temp during the third period. Vegas tied it up early in that frame, only to see Jamie Benn score by beating Robin Lehner five-hole. From there, the Golden Knights tied things up on a controversial 2-2 goal that withstood a goalie interference review.

    During the ensuing penalty, Anton Khudobin made some very difficult saves to keep Game 3 tied. At a couple points, Khudobin seemed hurt — or at least exhausted. Robin Lehner also ended up looking a little shaken up after making last second saves against Benn to end regulation. To state the obvious, both goalie situations are worth watching as the 2020 Western Conference Final goes forward.

    Did some issues hinder Lehner on Alexander Radulov‘s pretty overtime-winning goal? Tough to say, but it’s easy to argue that Radulov scored a beauty. With that, the Stars lead this series once again, this time 2-1.

    [NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

    Three Stars

    1. Anton Khudobin, Dallas Stars

    It’s pretty tough to knock Khudobin for either of the goals he allowed in Game 3. Heck, you can engage in a lengthy debate about whether or not the second goal should have counted.

    Either way, consider this a massive rebound after Khudobin was given the hook in Game 2. Granted, few would’ve put that Stars loss on Khudobin, but Dallas must be thrilled to see the veteran goalie shake off any hint of a setback.

    The Golden Knights generated a 40-23 shots on goal advantage versus Dallas, but the Stars won Game 3 in large part because of how sharp Khudobin was. While Vegas scored twice during the third period, they could have run away with the game considering the pressure they managed.

    Frankly, the Golden Knights might need to channel more of that third-period energy over a full 60 minutes, as Khudobin isn’t making it easy for them to score.

    2. Jamie Benn, Stars

    Frankly, Benn deserved Three Stars consideration for the face he made after Lehner stopped him during the last seconds of regulation.

    Beyond being that close to ending Game 3 with even more last-minute flair than Nikita Kucherov did for the Lightning, Benn was a dominating presence in this one.

    Along with being a physical force, Benn scored a big 2-1 goal against Lehner, and was credited with an assist on Radulov’s OT GWG. Benn ended the night with six SOG, a +2 rating, five hits, and those two points.

    3. Alex Radulov, Stars

    One cannot help but wonder if the Stars might be wiser to lean more heavily on top players, rather than a seemingly balanced approach. After all, Benn only played 15:22 in Game 3, while Radulov was limited to 15:02, both receiving less ice time than Mattias Janmark (15:51) and Blake Comeau (17:36). All due respect to Janmark and Comeau, but you’d think those numbers would be switched. Then again, if ain’t broke?

    Anyway, Radulov scored a beautiful overtime game-winner, and has been quite the X-factor for the Stars. At least when he can get on the ice.

    Stars – Golden Knights Game 3 highlights:

    A tight Game 3 got really wild once the Golden Knights needed to score. The Stars showed once again they can deal with that sort of thing, as they did often vs. the Avs:

    Stars – Golden Knights Game 3 Factoids

    • Robin Lehner set a new Golden Knights playoff shutout streak record, as Jamie Oleksiak‘s 1-0 goal broke it at 171:27. This is a big bump from Marc-Andre Fleury‘s previous mark of 144:04.
    • Miro Heiskanen leads the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs — not just playoff defensemen — with 17 assists. Heiskanen ranks third in Stars franchise history in assists for any skater, trailing only Brian Bellows (19) and Mike Modano (18). [via NHL PR]
    • Radulov sits tied third all-time in Stars franchise history with four game-winning goals during a single postseason. Joe Nieuwendyk holds the record with six from 1999. [Sportsnet Stats]

    FRIDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

    Game 3: Islanders vs. Lightning (TB leads 2-0) – 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN (livestream)

    MORE STANLEY CUP COVERAGE:
    • Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Final 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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    Mitch Marner extends Maple Leafs-record points streak to 21 games

    Mitch Marner
    USA Today
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    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

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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.

    STREAKING

    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.

    UP NEXT

    Buffalo: Hosts Pittsburgh on Friday.

    Columbus: Hosts Calgary on Friday.

    Ovechkin, Strome lead Capitals past struggling Flyers 4-1

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    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.

    UP NEXT

    Capitals: Host Seattle on Friday night.

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