The Buzzer: McDavid reaches 500 points; Red-hot Huberdeau, Lankinen

NHL Three Stars from Wednesday

1. Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers

While the Lightning (10-3-1, 21 points) look strong in their title defense, they’re not the only red-hot Florida NHL team. In fact, they don’t have the best in-state record. That goes to the Panthers at the moment, who lead the Central Division with 22 points (10-2-2).

By splitting up Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov — and finding solid linemates for them — the Panthers have looked like a more balanced, dangerous team.

Granted, there’s some reason to tap the brakes here and there. Compared to the Lightning’s +22 goal differential, the Panthers’ +5 mark is fairly modest. The Panthers also simply don’t have the sort of track record that can make you assume that the rest of the season will play out like the first 14 games.

Huberdeau and the Panthers keep making their case, and often doing it with authority. Huberdeau scored three points (two goals and one assist), including the overtime game-winner for the Panthers. Personally, Huberdeau’s assist was even more impressive than that OT-winner.

With that outburst, Huberdeau now has 20 points in 14 games, giving him a chance to top his scorching pace from recent seasons (78 points in 69 games, and 92 in 82 GP).

Much like with the Panthers’ team success, there’s room to throw in a slight caveat with Huberdeau. His 36.8 shooting percentage is bound to dip (his career average is already pretty impressive at 12.4), but this hot start should remind people that Huberdeau is a legitimate star.

2. Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks

Wow, did the Canucks ever need a decisive win like this. In winning by four goals, you can tab multiple Vancouver options for Wednesday’s NHL 3 Stars.

For a seemingly fragile team like the Canucks, it was crucial that Boeser helped Vancouver add to what was a 2-1 lead. Boeser did so, collecting a goal and two assists for three points. Of all the things that have gone wrong for the Canucks, Boeser’s bounced back from some relative troubles. He now has 21 points through his first 20 games.

Again, other Canucks deserve mentions alongside Boeser. J.T. Miller showed some life in scoring a goal and an assist. Braden Holtby had a busy night, stopping 35 out of 36 shots.

Maybe winning so decisively is a sign that the Canucks are back in gear? They certainly need it, what with their owner having to roll out the dreaded vote (tweets?) of confidence.

3. Kevin Lankinen, Chicago Blackhawks

No, the Red Wings aren’t exactly a dynamic offense. They didn’t just roll over against the Blackhawks on Wednesday, though, so a sharp Lankinen ended up being a difference-maker.

Of all the things Lankinen’s accomplished during his surprising start to the season, he earned the first shutout of his NHL career on Wednesday. He stopped all 29 shots, and while Chicago won 2-0, the second tally was an empty-netter. There wasn’t much of a margin of error — and the Blackhawks have been winning by narrow margins during their recent hot streak, in general — but Lankinen didn’t cave under the pressure.

Highlight of Wednesday night in the NHL

If you want the other top highlight of Wednesday in the NHL, check out that Huberdeau assist for the Panthers again. (Honestly, it’s worth a look from many different angles.)

The other highlight of Wednesday in the NHL was that one goal that helped Lankinen and the Blackhawks secure a win. Philipp Kurashev baffled the Red Wings’ penalty kill unit, then made sweet moves to beat Jonathan Bernier for a great goal.

This post goes into more detail on that goal, as well as the Blackhawks’ Lankinen-powered hot streak.

Stats of the night: McDavid reaches 500 points, matches Crosby’s 369 game pace

Speaking of further reading, you can catch up on Connor McDavid‘s latest milestone — reaching 500 points — here. Being that McDavid is just 24 years old, reaching 500 points would already be impressive. It’s extra-noteworthy because, like Crosby, McDavid reached the 500-point-plateau in just the 369th game of his NHL career. With that, McDavid and Crosby are tied as the eighth-fastest to 500 points, and are the fastest to 500 of any active NHL players.

Naturally, McDavid collected two assists on Wednesday, so he’s at 501 points in 369 career games. In a nice bit of symmetry, Leon Draisaitl reached 450 career points with two goals, just falling short of becoming one of the 3 NHL Stars of Wednesday.

Sportsnet shared a nice little synopsis of McDavid’s journey to 500 points. (Side note: here’s hoping he doesn’t deal with the bad breaks that slowed the start of his career, and put Crosby’s in jeopardy.)

Wednesday’s NHL scores

Panthers 4, Hurricanes 3 (OT)
Maple Leafs 2, Senators 1
Blackhawks 2, Red Wings 0
Canucks 5, Flames 1
Oilers 3, Jets 2

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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    Stars sign 41-goal scorer Jason Robertson to 4-year, $31M deal

    Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
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    FRISCO, Texas — Jason Robertson signed a four-year, $31 million contract with the Dallas Stars after the young 40-goal scorer missed the first two weeks of training camp.

    The Stars announced the deal after their exhibition game in Denver, only a week before the regular season opener Oct. 13 at Nashville.

    Robertson turned 23 soon after the end of last season, when the left wing had 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points in his 74 games. His 13 power-play goals led the team. Robertson joined Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Modano, Jamie Benn, and Tyler Seguin as the only 40-goal scorers since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993.

    “Jason is an integral part of the present and future of our team and we’re thrilled to have him for the next four years,” general manager Jim Nill said.

    A second-round draft pick (39th overall) by the Stars in 2017, Robertson has 125 points (58 goals, 67 assists) in his 128 NHL games. The 6-foot-3 California native had one goal and three assists in his first postseason action last season, when Dallas lost its first-round playoff series in seven games against Calgary.

    “Since he was drafted by our organization, he has worked tirelessly to become a better player every day. His knack for scoring goals and seeing plays develop on the ice are just some of the tremendous assets that he brings to our team,” Nill said. “He is one of the best young players in the NHL, and we look forward to seeing him continue to progress.”

    Robertson had the second-highest point total for a Stars rookie in 2020-21, when he had 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) in his 51 games.

    Before the start of this season’s camp, new coach Pete DeBoer said he looked forward to coaching Robertson.

    “Listen, I laid awake at night with the excitement of coaching Jason Robertson, 40-plus goals, but he’s not here,” DeBoer said then. “So, you know, until he gets here, I can’t spend any energy on that.”

    Robertson will finally be there now.

    Coaching carousel leaves 10 NHL teams with new face on bench

    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
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    The coaching carousel spun a little faster than usual across the NHL, meaning nearly a third of the league will have someone new behind the bench this season. And not just bottom-feeders making changes.

    Ten teams go into the season next month with a new coach, from Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida and perennial playoff-contending Boston to rebuilding Chicago and San Jose.

    John Tortorella will try to whip Philadelphia into shape, Bruce Cassidy is tasked with getting Vegas back to the playoffs and Derek Lalonde takes his two Stanley Cup rings as a Tampa Bay assistant to his new challenge with the Detroit Red Wings.

    TORTS REFORM

    Philadelphia players knew they were in for some changes when Tortorella was hired, so they asked Cam Atkinson, who spent six years playing for the no-nonsense coach in Columbus.

    “I keep telling them like he’s a guy that’s going to change the whole dynamic of this organization,” Atkinson said.

    Tortorella has not shied away from saying a culture change is needed after a last-place finish and a decade with one playoff series win. There is likely not much he and players can do this year about a Cup drought that dates to 1975, but they can start with maddeningly inconsistent stretches of games that have plagued the Flyers for years, no matter the roster.

    BIG MO

    The Panthers were the league’s best team in the regular season last year but struggled in the playoffs before losing in the second round to cross-state rival Tampa Bay in five games. That was enough for general manager Bill Zito to decide to move on from interim coach Andrew Brunette and hired seasoned veteran Paul Maurice.

    The expectation is to get back to the playoffs and compete for the Cup, and having Maurice at the helm was one of the factors that made power forward Matthew Tkachuk pick Florida as his trade-and-sign destination.

    “He’s got high hopes for our team,” Tkachuk said. “He sees us playing in a certain way that’s going to make us successful. And he’s done it. He’s been around the NHL a long time, been a very successful head coach and somebody that I’m really looking forward to working with.”

    PLAYOFF ROTATION

    Bruins GM Don Sweeney fired Cassidy after a seven-game loss to Carolina in the first round despite Boston’s sixth consecutive playoff appearance.

    Vegas had already fired Peter DeBoer, making him the scapegoat for an injury-riddled fall from the top of the Western Conference that ended with the team’s first playoff miss in five years of existence. The Golden Knights quickly turned to Cassidy, who like Maurice brings experience and gravitas to a franchise with championship aspirations.

    “I think we’re very fortunate as an organization to have him as our coach,” center Jack Eichel said. “Every single person I’ve spoke to about them, they said the same thing: that he’s got a really, really great knack for the game and to able to make adjustments and he understands things. Very, very competitive — wants to win, has won a lot of hockey games over the last few years.”

    The Bruins replaced Cassidy with Jim Montgomery, a hockey lifer getting a second chance after being fired by Dallas in December 2019 for inappropriate conduct. Montgomery sought and received help at a rehab facility and got a big endorsement from the staff with St. Louis, the team he was working for as an assistant.

    “He’s a winner,” Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman said. “I think guys are going to thrive on that energy.”

    The Stars completed the circle by hiring DeBoer, who has coached two teams (New Jersey in 2012 and San Jose in 2016) to the final and is on his fifth stop around the league.

    “This is a tough league and it’s a tough one to coach in and you have to be able to handle situations,” GM Jim Nill said. “I know Pete can do it.”

    LAMBERT ISLAND

    Lane Lambert served as an assistant under Barry Trotz with Nashville, Washington – where they won the Cup together – and the Islanders. When Trotz was abruptly fired after New York missed the playoffs for the first time in his four seasons on the job, his right-hand man got the gig with his endorsement.

    Longtime executive Lou Lamoriello thought his team needed a new voice. But Lambert isn’t that new, and his familiarity with the Islanders keeps some continuity.

    “Barry was great for our team, and having Lane as an assistant, he had lots of say, as well,” forward Mathew Barzal said. “As a group, we all have a good relationship with him, so I think it’ll be an easy transition for our team.”

    MORE NEW VOICES

    The final coaching change of the offseason came in San Jose, with ownership and interim management firing Bob Boughner and his assistants before Mike Grier took over as GM. Grier hired David Quinn, who most recently coached the U.S. at the Beijing Olympics after spending three years with the Rangers.

    Rick Bowness, the Stars’ interim coach when Montgomery was fired who helped them reach the final in 2020 and was not brought back, joined Winnipeg. He immediately made an impact by stripping Blake Wheeler of the Jets captaincy.

    The other new coaches – Lalonde in Detroit and Luke Richardson in Chicago – are not expected to make such big waves.

    Richardson, who briefly was acting coach for Montreal during the 2021 final when Dominique Ducharme tested positive for the coronavirus, is overseeing the start of a long-term rebuild by the Blackhawks. Lalonde was Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman’s pick to help end the storied franchise’s playoff drought.

    “He believes in what he’s preaching, which I think is great walking into a new locker room,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “He’s made a great impression on the guys.”

    Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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    Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

    The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

    Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

    “We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

    Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

    “I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

    Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

    Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
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    OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

    The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

    Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

    The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

    Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.