The Buzzer: Wild clinch playoff spot; Golden Knights red-hot (Saturday in NHL)

The Buzzer: Wild clinch playoff spot; Golden Knights red-hot (Saturday in NHL)
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3 Stars for Saturday in the NHL

1. Ryan O'Reilly, St. Louis Blues

When you think of Ryan O’Reilly, you probably think of the sort of reliable player who, you know, wins Selke Trophies. Yet, from an offensive standpoint, ROR has been pretty explosive at times this season.

Take Saturday’s NHL action for example. After going three games without a point, Ryan O’Reilly exploded for a hat trick plus an assist, factoring into four of the Blues’ five goals in a key win against the Avalanche.

This marks O’Reilly’s second four-point game during the month of April, and his third four-point output since March 20.

Being that the Wild became the third team from the NHL’s West Division to clinch a playoff spot after winning their seventh game in a row on Saturday, there’s now just one spot left. Technically, the Blues trail the Coyotes (who also won their game), but St. Louis trails Arizona by a mere standings point (47 for Coyotes, 46 for Blues) with three games in hand.

With the Sharks and Kings dropping just about any facade of staying in the hunt, it’s almost certainly down to the Blues or Coyotes. O’Reilly is doing what he can to make that a short race, too.

Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche lost, but the speedy forward collected three points (1G, 2A).

2. Jonathan Bernier, Detroit Red Wings

Honestly, it boggles my mind that the Red Wings didn’t find a deal for Jonathan Bernier during the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline. It’s unclear if there just wasn’t much of a market, or if the Red Wings wanted too much for Bernier. Either way, it feels like a waste, as he’s been pretty great at times on a mostly dreary Detroit team.

The Red Wings didn’t upset the Stars on Saturday, but Bernier left the NHL stunned with a 50-save performance.

Most absurdly, the Red Wings carried a 1-0 lead into the third period despite the Stars generating a 42-6 shots on goal advantage. Mark Pysyk became the unlikely Stars player to break that shutout bid, then Jamie Benn earned the win with an OTGWG.

But Bernier stole the show, and nearly a win.

3. MacKenzie Weegar, Florida Panthers

While the Wild clinched a playoff spot on Saturday, the Panthers made sure that the Hurricanes will need to keep an eye on NHL clinching scenarios for at least a bit longer.

Weegar and the Panthers were down 3-1 in the third period, but they would not be denied. He ended up scoring a goal and three assists, factoring into all four Florida goals in an OT victory. Weegar filled up the scoresheet with those four points, a +3 rating, four SOG, seven hits, and seven blocked shots. That’s an honest day of hockey work.

Honorable mentions

  • Evgeny Kuznetsov scored three points (1G, 2A) in the Capitals’ win over the Islanders.
  • Chandler Stephenson continues to take advantage of the plum job as Vegas’ center between Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty. The speedy pivot generated two goals and one assist. With that, the Golden Knights have now won nine in a row, and stand a solid chance of winning the race for the West Division crown against the Avalanche. Apparently the Golden Knights set a new franchise record with nine straight wins.
  • Again, the Coyotes will need to work and probably catch some breaks to hold off the Blues. Getting a healthy Darcy Kuemper for this stretch wouldn’t hurt. He pitched a 26-save shutout in this case.

Highlights of the night for Saturday in the NHL

Enjoy Ryan O’Reilly putting on a clinic for the Blues vs. the Avalanche:

Aleksander Barkov stole MacKenzie Weegar’s thunder a bit with this diabolical no-look goal in overtime:

Stats of the Night: Old Jumbo Joe, Yandle Ironman

Saturday’s NHL scores

Penguins 4, Devils 2
Blues 5, Avalanche 3
Capitals 6, Islanders 3
Panthers 4, Hurricanes 3 (OT)
Stars 2, Red Wings 1 (OT)
Maple leafs 4, Jets 1
Flames 5, Canadiens 2
Wild 6, Sharks 3
Golden Knights 5, Ducks 1
Canucks 4, Senators 2
Coyotes 4, Kings 0

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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