The Buzzer: Hats off to Craig Smith, McDavid race for 100, Islanders clinch playoff spot

NHL Scores

Three Stars

1. Craig Smith, Boston Bruins. The Craig Smith, David Krejci, Taylor Hall line has been dominant for the Boston Bruins, and it shined again on Saturday in a convincing 6-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres. Smith helped drive that offense with a hat trick as he continued his second half offensive surge. He now has 13 goals and 32 points in 49 games this season, but has been especially productive in the month of April with 18 points in the Bruins’ 18 games. Since that line has been pieced together they have outscored teams by an 11-1 margin and controlled more than 64 percent of the total shot attempts during 5-on-5 play. That gives the Bruins two dominant scoring lines.

2. Bryan Rust, Pittsburgh Penguins. Bryan Rust has turned into an outstanding top-line player for the Pittsburgh Penguins and he always seems to shine around this time of the season. He scored two goals on Saturday in the Penguins’ 3-0 win over the Washington Capitals to take sole possession of first place in the East Division. He now has 22 goals in 52 games this season. In his past 150 games dating back to the middle of the 2018-19 season Rust has scored 66 goals. That averages out to a 37-goal pace per 82 games.

3. Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders. The New York Islanders are officially back in the playoffs thanks to their convincing 3-0 win over the New York Rangers. The star of the game for the Islanders, again, was starting goalie Semyon Varlamov who allowed zero goals for his third consecutive start. He has allowed just one goal in his past four starts. The Islanders do not score a lot of goals, but with their systematic approach to team defense and one of the league’s best goaltending duos with Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin they are going to be a difficult team to beat. This is just the second time in the past 30 years that the Islanders have qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in three consecutive seasons.

Other Notable Performances From Saturday

Auston Matthews added to his league-leading goal total (38) with two goals in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 5-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks.

Anthony Duclair scored two goals for the Florida Panthers as they held off the Chicago Blackhawks to keep pace in the Central Division race.

Dougie Hamilton‘s overtime goal lifted the Carolina Hurricanes to a 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Juuse Saros recorded another shutout and Erik Haula scored the game-winning goal in overtime to give the Nashville Predators an absolutely massive win over the Dallas Stars in the race for the fourth playoff spot in the Central Division.

• The Detroit Red Wings stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 1-0 shootout win that featured shootout goals from Jakub Vrana, Filip Zadina, Valtteri Filppula, and Sam Gagner.

Mackenzie Blackwood stopped 31 shots for the New Jersey Devils in a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

Cole Caufield helped the Montreal Canadiens complete a huge comeback win against the Ottawa Senators by scoring his first NHL goal for the winner. Read all about that goal and game by clicking right here.

Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen both had two points in Colorado’s 4-3 win over the San Jose Sharks.

• The Minnesota Wild scored two goals in the final five minutes of regulation to force overtime against the St. Louis Blues, setting the stage for Kevin Fiala‘s game winner to give the Wild the win.

Connor McDavid had three points in the Edmonton Oilers’ 4-1 win over Calgary to give him a league-leading 87 points in 49 games. That is insane. He needs 13 points in six games to reach the 100-point mark this season.

Ryan Miller gets the win in his final home start for the Anaheim Ducks as they are 6-2 winners over the Los Angeles Kings.

Jonathan Marchessault scored the game-winning goal for the Vegas Golden Knights in overtime as they beat the Arizona Coyotes.

Highlights Of The Day

The Detroit Red Wings surprised the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday in a 1-0 win that was highlighted by this crafty Jakub Vrana shootout goal.

Some great passing from the Minnesota Wild to complete the comeback in overtime.

Connor McDavid is just simply unstoppable sometimes.


Boston Bruins 6, Buffalo Sabres 2
Detroit Red Wings 1, Tampa Bay Lightning 0 (SO)
New York Islanders 3, New York Rangers 0
New Jersey Devils 4, Philadelphia Flyers 1
Pittsburgh Penguins 3, Washington Capitals 0
Carolina Hurricanes 2, Columbus Blue Jackets 1 (OT)
Montreal Canadiens 3, Ottawa Senators 3 (OT)
Toronto Maple Leafs 5, Vancouver Canucks 1
Colorado Avalanche 4, San Jose Sharks 3
Minnesota Wild 4, St. Louis Blues 3
Florida Panthers 5, Chicago Blackhawks 4
Nashville Predators 1, Dallas Stars 0 (OT)
Anaheim Ducks 6, Los Angeles Kings 2
Edmonton Oilers 4, Calgary Flames 1
Vegas Golden Knights 3, Arizona Coyotes 2 (OT)

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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    Blue Jackets acquire D Damon Severson from Devils after he signs 8-year deal

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    The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired Damon Severson from the New Jersey Devils on Friday after the veteran defenseman and soon-to-be free agent signed an eight-year $50 million contract.

    Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen sent a third-round pick, 80th overall, in this month’s draft to the Devils for Severson, who will be under contract through the 2030-31 NHL season.

    Severson had 58 goals and 205 assists in 647 career appearances with the Devils since making his NHL debut in 2014-15. He scored seven game-winning goals and averaged more than 21 minutes of playing time during his nine seasons. The 28-year-old had seven goals and 26 assists this season, including two game-winning goals, in 81 games.

    “Damon is a versatile defenseman who has great vision, moves the puck extremely well, has good size and can play heavy minutes at both ends of the ice,” Kekalainen said.

    The Canadian was selected in the second round in the 2012 draft. He has collected 30 or more points five times in his career and twice notched 11 or more goals. He played in every game in three straight seasons from 2018-21 and has played 80 or more contests four times in his career.

    With the addition of the third-round pick, New Jersey now has six selections in the draft, including its own picks in rounds two, four, five, six and seven.

    Matthew Tkachuk returns from big hit in Stanley Cup Final, adds more playoff heroics

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    Matthew Tkachuk was down, out briefly and then back with plenty of time to make a difference.

    The Florida Panthers star left early in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final after a big hit from Vegas Golden Knights forward Keegan Kolesar, and he missed most of the first period and didn’t return immediately following intermission while being evaluated for a concussion. After looking as if he might be lost for the night, Tkachuk returned in the second and then came through with more of his now trademark playoff heroics.

    Tkachuk scored the tying goal with 2:13 left in regulation, forcing overtime and giving the Panthers new life. He then provided the screen on Carter Verhaeghe‘s OT goal for a 3-2 victory that cut Florida’s series deficit to 2-1.

    The 25-year-old said he knew he was coming back when he left the game, pulled by concussion spotters. That absence felt like a long time ago in the aftermath of another big win he was largely responsible for.

    “I felt great – I feel great,” Tkachuk said. “I’m ready to go. Everybody’s excited that we’re in this position right now.”

    Florida is in this position rather than facing elimination in Game 4 on Saturday thanks in large part to Tkachuk, who also set up Brandon Montour‘s goal that opened the scoring less than five minutes in.

    Not long after, Tkachuk stumbled getting up after the hit from Kolesar and skated to the bench. He took a shift on Florida’s power play before going down the tunnel at the demand of concussion spotters mandated by NHL protocol.

    At that point, there was zero clarity, even on the Florida bench.

    “You’re not informed at all: It’s a complete shutdown,” coach Paul Maurice said. “You are completely in the dark on those. You don’t know when the player’s coming back. There’s not an update.”

    Players insist they were not worried. Montour called it a no-brainer.

    “He’s going to come back no matter what,” captain Aleksander Barkov said. “He’s really tough guy, and he’s going to battle through everything.”

    Tkachuk rejoined his teammates on the bench a few minutes into the second. When he stepped back onto the ice for his first shift since leaving, fans cheered and chanted, “Chucky! Chucky!”

    The crowd was even louder and threw rats when Tkachuk scored his biggest goal of many during this run to tie it. He didn’t get an assist on Verhaeghe’s goal but made it happen with a tape-to-tape pass in the neutral zone and was in front of Adin Hill when it happened.

    Asked if he was happy Tkachuk returned, Maurice joked that it was after midnight.

    “It was fine,” he quipped.

    Panthers rally, top Golden Knights 3-2 in OT of Game 3 of Stanley Cup final

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    Sam Navarro/USA TODAY Sports

    SUNRISE, Fla. — Carter Verhaeghe scored 4:27 into overtime and the Florida Panthers pulled off some more postseason dramatics to beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night.

    Matthew Tkachuk tied it with 2:13 left in the third period for the Panthers, who got the franchise’s first title-series game win in seven tries. Florida had to fend off a power play to start overtime, and Verhaeghe got the winner from the slot to get the Panthers within 2-1 in the series.

    Game 4 is Saturday night.

    Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 25 shots for Florida. Adin Hill made 20 saves for Vegas, but got beat on the only shot that came his way in overtime.

    Brandon Montour also scored for Florida, which pulled Bobrovsky down 2-1 late in the third for the extra attacker and Tkachuk — who left for parts of the first and second periods after taking a big hit — made that move pay off when he tied the game.

    His goal breathed life into a very nervous building. But the Panthers were furious — and replays showed they had a case — when Gustav Forsling was sent to the box with 11.2 seconds remaining for tripping. Florida survived that scare, and a few minutes later, had life in the series again.

    The odds are still long, but the Panthers at least have a bit more statistical hope now. Of the previous 55 teams to trail 2-1 at this point of the Stanley Cup Final, 11 have actually rallied to hoist the trophy.

    It’s improbable, sure. So are the Panthers, who were the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, were down 3-1 to Boston in Round 1, were 133 seconds away from trailing this series 3-0 — and now have tons of reasons for optimism.

    Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone each had power-play goals for Vegas.

    Marchessault’s goal was his 13th in his last 13 playoff games, his fourth of this series and his third with the man advantage.

    As if all that wasn’t enough, there was a little history in there as well. Vegas joined the 1980 New York Islanders as the only team with at least two power-play goals in three consecutive games in the Cup final. And Marchessault became the third player in the last 35 years to score in each of the first three games of a title series — joining Steve Yzerman in 1997 with Detroit and Jake Guentzel with Pittsburgh in 2017.

    But it wasn’t enough to give Vegas a 3-0 lead in the series.


    Before Thursday, Florida’s last home game in the title series was June 10, 1996, when Uwe Krupp scored in the third overtime for a 1-0 win as Colorado finished off a four-game sweep of the Panthers for the Cup. … Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was in the crowd, as was NBA great Charles Barkley, and former Dolphins star Dan Marino was the celebrity drummer to welcome the Panthers onto the ice.

    Blackhawks, Athanasiou agree to 2-year, $8.5 million contract

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    CHICAGO — The rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks locked in one of their top scorers, agreeing to a two-year, $8.5 million contract with forward Andreas Athanasiou on Thursday.

    The 28-year-old Athanasiou tied for the team lead with 20 goals and ranked third with 40 points in his first season with Chicago. He matched career highs with four game-winning goals and three power-play goals.

    The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Athanasiou has 125 goals and 111 assists in 459 games with the Detroit Red Wings (2015-20), Edmonton Oilers (2020), Los Angeles Kings (2020-22) and Blackhawks.

    Chicago went 26-49-7 and finished last in the Central Division. The Blackhawks dealt Patrick Kane to the New York Rangers prior to the trade deadline and announced in April they would not re-sign Jonathan Toews, parting with two players who led them to Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013 and 2015.