NHL Power Rankings: Golden Knights on top; Playoff races to watch

In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings the Golden Knights take over the top spot thanks in part to an eight-game winning streak entering the week.

They are loaded with elite players at all three levels of the roster, and seem to be destined to meet the No. 2 team in this week’s NHL Power Rankings, the Avalanche, in the Second Round. They are the two best NHL teams right now and are involved in a great back-and-forth race for the top spot.

Elsewhere around the league, playoff races are heating up in the Central, West, and even the North Divisions.

In the Central, Nashville is trying to hold off the reigning Western Conference champion Stars who are trying to overcome a slow start to the season and a number of significant injuries. Out West, nobody seems to want to claim the fourth playoff spot where Arizona and St. Louis both picked the worst possible time to hit major slumps.

Even the North Division is getting close as Calgary takes care of business against Montreal to close that gap.

We look at all of that and more in this week’s NHL Power Rankings.

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To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Vegas Golden Knights. They have two No. 1 goalies (Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lener), two No. 1 defensemen (Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore), and a deep forward group led by Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty. They are great from top to bottom.

2. Colorado Avalanche. The back-and-forth between them and Vegas in the West is going to be fun to watch. But not quite as fun as a potential second-round matchup between them.

3. Carolina Hurricanes.  If Alex Nedeljkovic can keep playing at anything close to his current level this is going to be a ridiculously tough team to beat.

4. Florida Panthers. Still the biggest surprise in the league. Not just the fact they are going to the playoffs, but the way they have kept pace with Tampa Bay and Carolina.

5. Tampa Bay Lightning. They are slumping over the past couple of weeks, but Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos will be back for the playoffs.

6. Washington Capitals. Their two games against the Penguins this week will go a long way toward deciding the top spot in the East Division.

7. Pittsburgh Penguins. That was a very impressive win and defensive performance on Sunday afternoon against the Bruins.

8. Boston Bruins. They finally found a second scoring line to complement the Patrice Bergeron line.

[Related: Bruins have found second scoring line]

9. Minnesota Wild. They are beating the teams they are supposed to beat. The question will be what can they do against Vegas and Colorado?

10. Toronto Maple Leafs. Goaltending has played a major role in their recent struggles. Both their own goaltending not playing well, and running into some hot goalies on the other side of the ice.

11. New York Islanders. Not sure I like the way they are trending here. They are likely to play Pittsburgh or Washington in the First Round. So far they are 4-8-3 against those two teams this season. Then again, you can never count out a Barry Trotz team from making noise in the playoffs.

12. New York Rangers. In any other division they would be a playoff team this season.

13. Dallas Stars. Joe Pavelski is having quite the age-defying season in Dallas. That contract has worked out.

[Related: Joe Pavelski’s age-defying season]

14. Edmonton Oilers. Connor McDavid needs to average just a little more than two points per game the rest of the way to hit 100 points. Can he do it?

15. Nashville Predators. Can they hold off Dallas for that playoff spot? They have one head-to-head matchup remaining. Figure they need to win that game.

16. Winnipeg Jets. Connor Hellebuyck will determine what they do in the playoffs.

17. Chicago Blackhawks. They may not make the playoffs this season (nobody expected them to anyway) but it still might end up being somewhat of a success due to Alex DeBrincat‘s bounce back, as well as the development that Pius Suter, Philipp Kurashev, and Kevin Lankinen might have bright futures in the NHL.

18. Calgary Flames. They have a lot of work to do, but winning back-to-back games against Montreal helped a lot.

19. Montreal Canadiens. It would be really bad, maybe even embarrassing, if they do not hold on to that playoff spot given the start they had and the lead they built.

[Your 2020-21 NHL on NBC TV schedule]

20. St. Louis Blues. They have an absolutely brutal remaining schedule. They have won just seven of their past 22 games. Only four of those seven wins have been in regulation.

21. Vancouver Canucks. Pretty remarkable the way they came back from everything they went through and have won three of their first four games, including two against Toronto.

22. Philadelphia Flyers. Still think this team is closer to being competitive than it appears this season. Just need a big addition on defense and for Carter Hart to play like he did in his first two years.

23. Arizona Coyotes. They have an easier schedule than St. Louis the rest of the way, but they have to take advantage of it. They need to win at least five out of their six games against San Jose (four) and Los Angeles (two).

24. Buffalo Sabres. Do you know who has really looked like a different (and better) player since the coaching change? Rasmus Dahlin. That is significant.

25. Ottawa Senators. This team has not quit and is still pretty fun to watch at times given the young talent. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

26. Detroit Red Wings. The Anthony Mantha trade is going to be great for both teams. Jakub Vrana‘s recent four-goal game had to be exciting for Red Wings fans.

27. Los Angeles Kings. Their next six games being against Anaheim and Arizona could help make the playoff race look a little closer if they win most of them, but they have almost no margin for error and need a lot of help from other teams.

28. San Jose Sharks. A couple of weeks ago they made it look like they were going to make a push for that fourth playoff spot, then they lost nine out of 10 games.

29. Anaheim Ducks. They just seem so far away from contending. There is no offense here. Zero. Absolutely none from anybody.

30. New Jersey Devils. The encouraging thing for the Devils is they are going to have a boat load of salary cap space in an offseason where teams are going to have to clear salary cap space and worry about the expansion draft. They could take advantage of that. They already have a few young building block pieces in place.

31. Columbus Blue Jackets. Just a forgettable season.

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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    Tortorella earns 700th career win, Flyers top Wild 5-4

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    PHILADELPHIA — John Tortorella needed one word to sum up if 700 career wins meant anything to the Flyers coach.


    OK, then. Good thing the brusque Stanley Cup winner isn’t paid by the word.

    James van Riemsdyk scored the only goal in a shootout, and Philadelphia beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 on Thursday night for Tortorella’s 700th victory.

    Tortorella is 700-573-181 in 1,454 games as an NHL head coach. His 700 wins rank 12th in NHL history and his career games rank ninth in NHL history. He led Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup in 2004. In his first season coaching the Flyers, Tortorella joined Peter Laviolette as the second American-born coach to win 700 games.

    “I think the culture’s kind of changed around here,” Flyers forward Joel Farabee said. “I think he’s done a really good job of keeping the group together.”

    Farabee, Scott Laughton, Rasmus Ristolainen and Tyson Foerster scored for Philadelphia. The Flyers have two straight games for the first time since Jan. 9-14 when they won three straight. Yeah, it’s been that kind of season.

    “Farabee’s starting to pop, he’s looking real good. Tyson is looking real good,” Flyers defenseman Tony DeAngelo said. “This is all about laying the foundation for next year but we get a lot of money to do this job. It’s something we love, so we’re gonna go out and give it our best every night.”

    Matt Boldy had two goals for the Wild, and Oskar Sundqvist and Marcus Foligno also scored.

    “We weren’t very good. They were good,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “We knew they were playing well, they played well tonight. We were loose. We were not firm, turnovers, it didn’t look like our hockey club.”

    The Flyers and Wild were tied 1-all at the end of the first period, 3-3 at the end of the second and 4-4 headed into OT.

    The rebuilding Flyers have been plucky of late. They had won two of three coming into the game, with the lone loss in overtime. They showed some of that grit in the final two periods, scoring late tying goals.

    “It’s a credit to their group, to their coaching staff, that they’ve got them playing the right way,” Evason said.

    Boldy poked a backhander past Carter Hart with 6:28 left for a 4-3 lead. The Flyers, playing more for the No. 1 pick and for pride, tied the game on Foerster’s second goal of the season.

    Farabee tipped in Cam York’s shot early in the second for a 2-1 lead.

    The Wild got going when Boldy ripped one top shelf past Hart for his 24th goal of the season that tied the game 2-all. Foligno scored his seventh goal for the 3-2 lead.

    Ristolainen buried a hard slapper from the blue line on the power play for the tying goal with 23 seconds left in the second.

    “I think it’s good to try to lay this foundation, kind of get ready for next year. You see guys getting confidence,” DeAngelo said.

    The Flyers only played ahead in the first period.

    Laughton scored off the rush for his 17th goal of the season and a 1-0 lead. Sundqvist celebrated his birthday with a deflection for the tying goal with 3:24 left in the period.

    The Flyers had been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL until the start of this seven-game homestand (3-2 so far). They have scored at least three goals in every game and at least four in the last four.

    “We have definitely gotten to the net better,” Tortorella said. “We have spent a lot of time on the ice and with tape as far as getting to that area.”


    Wild: Host Chicago on Saturday.

    Flyers: Host Detroit on Saturday.

    Crosby reaches 30-goal mark, Penguins knock off Avalanche 5-2

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    DENVER – Sidney Crosby wasn’t even aware of reaching yet another milestone. He’s simply locked in on helping the Pittsburgh Penguins make a 17th straight postseason appearance.

    Jeff Carter had a pair of goals, Crosby scored on a nifty backhand shot in the second period to reach the 30-goal mark for an 11th season and the Penguins beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.

    Crosby moved into a tie with Hall-of-Fame center Mario Lemieux for the most 30-goal seasons in Penguins history. Another milestone reached – it came as news to him.

    “I think the most important thing for me is just try to be consistent and if that reflects that great,” said Crosby, who turns 36 in August.

    Even more, Crosby’s the first player in league history to post a 30-goal campaign at 18 years old and again when he was 35-plus, according to NHL Stats.

    “It means I’ve been in the league for a while,” Crosby cracked. “That’s been the thing that’s driven me since since I got into the league – in your first year, you want to prove that you belong. Even at 35, I still think you want to prove you belong, because it is a younger league.”

    Jake Guentzel also scored and Bryan Rust added an empty-net goal for the Penguins, who snapped a four-game slide and moved back into a wild-card spot in the East.

    “It’s definitely a big one for us, for sure,” Guentzel said. “Defending champs, coming to their building, you know how good they are. Top to bottom, we defended hard and that’s what we have to do at this time of the year.”

    Pittsburgh goaltender Tristan Jarry stopped 28 shots in improving to 11-4 this season against teams from the Western Conference.

    J.T. Compher and Devon Toews had goals for the Avalanche, whose six-game winning streak was halted. Nathan MacKinnon had an assist to extend his home points streak to 18 games.

    It was a missed opportunity for Colorado, which could’ve pulled into a three-way tie with Dallas and Minnesota in the Central Division with a victory.

    “We knew they were going to play with urgency,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “But I didn’t feel like there was any reason why we couldn’t, either. … We didn’t get it done. Hopefully we get another one.”

    Alexandar Georgiev made 40 saves, including several critical ones in a second period controlled by the Penguins, who outshot the Avalanche by a 21-9 margin. It could’ve been more than a 3-1 deficit heading into the third period.

    Toews’ power-play goal made it 3-2 with 9:32 remaining. But Carter wrapped up the win with his first multigoal game in the regular season since Jan. 11, 2022.

    “I’m thrilled for him. We’re all thrilled,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of Carter. “He cares about the Penguins. He wants to win, and he wants to contribute in helping us win so we couldn’t be happier for him.”


    Bednar was appreciative of the three-year extension he signed Tuesday that goes through the 2026-27 season. In his seventh season, he’s the third-longest tenured coach in the NHL behind Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (March 2013) and Sullivan (December 2015).

    “It’s not a forgiving league or sport, for the most part, but obviously that’s part of the reason why I’m so grateful and thankful,” Bednar said. “Because there were times over my tenure that got a little hairy and management could have made another decision. But obviously they didn’t.”


    Avalanche D Cale Makar missed a second straight game with a lower body injury. “I still have him as day-to-day,” Bednar said. … F Darren Helm returned after missing 64 of 69 games this season with a lower-body injury. … Penguins D Jeff Petry (upper body) skated in the morning but sat out his third straight game. … The Penguins are 11-1 against the Central Division this season. … Penguins standout Evgeni Malkin assisted on Guentzel’s goal to reach the 50-assist mark for a seventh time in his career.


    Penguins: At Dallas on Thursday night.

    Avalanche: Host Arizona on Friday night.

    Report: Blackhawks will not wear Pride-themed jerseys

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    CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks will not wear Pride-themed warmup jerseys before Sunday’s Pride Night game against Vancouver because of security concerns involving a Russian law that expands restrictions on activities seen as promoting LGBTQ rights in the country.

    The decision was made by the NHL organization following discussions with security officials within and outside the franchise, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke to the AP on Wednesday on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the move.

    The Blackhawks have worn Pride warmup jerseys previously and donned special warmup jerseys on some other themed nights this season. There had been ongoing conversations about a Pride jersey with the players, according to the person who talked to the AP, but the organization made the decision to hold Pride Night without the jerseys this year.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law in December that significantly expands restrictions on activities seen as promoting LGBTQ rights in the country. Chicago defenseman Nikita Zaitsev is a Moscow native, and there are other players with family in Russia or other connections to the country.

    The decision by the Blackhawks comes after San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov refused to take part in warmups with Pride-themed jerseys. The New York Rangers opted not to wear Pride jerseys or use Pride stick tape as part of their night in January despite previously advertising that plan.

    Russians Nikolai Knyzhov and Alexander Barabanov wore the Pride-themed jerseys for the Sharks on Saturday.

    While Chicago will go without Pride warmup jerseys this year, the team has planned a variety of activities in conjunction with Sunday’s game. DJs from the LGBTQ community will play before the game and during an intermission, and the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus also is slated to perform. There also are plans to highlight a couple of area businesses with ties to the LGBTQ community.

    Teravainen scores late, Hurricanes rally to beat Rangers 3-2

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    NEW YORK – Teuvo Teravainen scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period, Frederik Andersen stopped 29 shots and the Carolina Hurricanes rallied to beat the New York Rangers 3-2.

    Jalen Chatfield and Stefan Noesen also scored for the Metropolitan Division-leading Hurricanes, who won for the third time in four games.

    With the comeback win, the Hurricanes became the second team – following Boston – to reach the 100-point mark this season as Carolina increased its Metropolitan Division-lead over second-place New Jersey to two points and the third-place Rangers to eight.

    “That was a great effort. All 20 guys contributed and we got what we deserved,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “If we play like that, we’ll be in good shape. This time of year it gets tougher and tougher.”

    Tyler Motte and Kaapo Kakko scored for the Rangers, who had won four straight were 6-0-1 in their last seven. Igor Shesterkin finished with 36 saves as the Rangers played their third game in four nights – the previous two shutout wins at home.

    “Igor kept us in there as long as he could and we just didn’t have enough in the tank,” Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said. ”They won more battles and played a hard game.”

    Teravainen scored his 11th goal with 2:33 left on a pass from defenseman Brent Burns, redirecting the puck past Shesterkin. The Hurricanes, who trailed 1-0 and 2-1.

    “Somehow they left me open in the back side, great pass by him,” Teravainen said of the winning-goal pass to him in the slot. “We knew this would be a tough night. They have a good team. We knew we had to battle to win this game.”

    The Rangers led 1-0 entering the third and were vying for their third-straight shutout before Chatfield tied the score at 9:49 – the first goal the Rangers allowed in more than eight periods. New York was coming off a 6-0 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday night with Shesterkin in goal and a 7-0 triumph over Nashville behind Jaroslav Halak on Sunday.

    Kakko then put New York back ahead 31 seconds later with his 13th goal, only to have Noesen answer right back 18 seconds later to tie it 2-2.

    Motte opened the scoring at the 17-minute mark of the first, knocking the puck past Andersen for his third goal in four games and sixth of the season overall.

    The Rangers hadn’t lost in regulation since a 4-2 defeat on March 4 at Boston.

    “Tonight we didn’t play near well enough to beat that team,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. ”Honestly, the whole game they outplayed us. They were a lot quicker. They managed the puck real well … We didn’t play our game.”


    Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal played his 729th game with Carolina on Tuesday, tying defenseman Glen Wesley for the second-most games played in franchise history since relocation from Hartford in 1997. Staal, 34, trails only his brother Eric, who played 909 games for the Hurricanes from 2003-16.


    Hurricanes: Host the Rangers on Thursday night to finish the home-and-home set in the opener of a four-game homestand.

    Rangers: At Carolina on Thursday night to open a two-game trip.