The Buzzer: Jets clinch playoff spot; Not yet for Blues, Predators (NHL on Wednesday)

push for the playoffs
Getty Images

3 Stars for Wednesday in the NHL

1. T.J. Oshie, Washington Capitals

T.J. Oshie returned to NHL action for the Capitals on Wednesday, his first game back since the passing of his father, Tim. Oshie delivered a hat trick in what must have been an enormously emotional performance for the winger.

(Tensions were already high, naturally, as the Rangers and Capitals engaged in a rematch after the Tom Wilson incident.)

With two power-play goals and one empty-netter, Oshie collected the fifth hat trick of his NHL career. That hat trick pushed Oshie to 21 goals and 42 points on the season. He’s now authored three seasons in a row with at least 20 goals, and reached 20+ in five of his last six campaigns. (Oshie’s fallen just short of 20 goals on multiple occasions, too.)

Beyond all of the Tom Wilson drama, the Capitals needed to win this game to give themselves a leg up in the skin-tight race for the East Division crown.

Dmitry Orlov ranked as another Capitals player with a trio of points, collecting three assists in that important win.

2. Adam Lowry, Winnipeg Jets

File the Capitals and Lowry’s Jets under the smaller-than-maybe-expected list of NHL teams who got things done, playoff-implications-wise, on Wednesday. In the case of the Jets, Lowry and Winnipeg’s other skaters helped the team finally clinch a playoff spot. By winning, they also snapped a seven-game losing streak that still leaves them vulnerable to slipping to fourth in the North Division behind the Canadiens.

With two goals and one assist, Lowry ranks as one of the top challengers for Oshie’s spot as the top NHL star for Wednesday. (Obviously, Lowry also grabbed three points.)

One of Lowry’s goals was a shorthanded tally. It was a solid peripheral night for Lowry, who went +3, registered three shots on goal, won five draws, threw two hits, and blocked one shot.

If Lowry doesn’t strike your fancy, you could always go with the player most responsible for the Jets clinching their playoff spot. That would be Connor Hellebuyck, who pitched a 32-save shutout.

3. Oliver Bjorkstrand, Columbus Blue Jackets

Every now and then, the most interesting storylines can serve as tiebreakers. In Wednesday’s case, they separate the NHL three stars of the night from the honorable mentions. (At least no one’s losing bonus money from this, eh?)

You might quibble with Oshie and his hat trick and Bjorkstrand’s three-point night making it over other three-point nights (or Hellebuyck’s shutout). Especially since both Oshie and Bjorkstrand benefited from empty-net points.

But Oshie generating a hat trick in his first game back following his father’s passing? That’s quite the story, especially in tandem with a high-profile, violence-often-chosen Capitals – Rangers game.

In Bjorkstrand’s case, his three-point game ranked as one of the biggest spoilers in a night where teams (other than the Jets) were unable to clinch playoff spots. In Bjorkstrand’s case, his trio of points helped the Blue Jackets keep the Predators from clinching a playoff spot, at least for Wednesday in the NHL. The Predators still have a leg up on the Stars — thanks in part to Dallas also losing. But Wednesday did not determine another team that was eliminated, nor one that punched their ticket once NHL playoff time rolls around.

Maybe you can call Bjorkstrand the MVP of casual and hardcore interests, as things aren’t stone at least yet. The odds are still against the Stars thanks to that Predators OT win, and Dallas’ general slide.

Honorable mentions

  • The Sharks didn’t do much, beyond helping their rivals from Vegas, in rallying to beat the Avs. Even so, both Tomas Hertl (2G, 1A) and Evander Kane (3A) made their cases to rank among the top three stars for the NHL on Wednesday.
  • Erik Brannstrom notched three assists (albeit only one primary apple) as the Senators spited the Canadiens.

Tom Wilson part of fight-filled Capitals – Rangers game

In case you were looking for more details on a fight-filled Capitals – Rangers game, one where Tom Wilson left with an injury, here’s a montage of the more violent early moments:

Click here for more of the rough stuff, while this post digs into Oshie’s hat trick and the Caps win.

Blues fans applaud David Backes in possibly his last game in St. Louis

Sometimes, it’s also appropriate to give out a sentimental first star of the game. That happened here with David Backes:

Backes’ Ducks (honestly still weird to contemplate) helped keep the Blues from increasing their odds of clinching a playoff spot. Like with many teams, it feels like only a matter of time before that happens. But still …

Top highlight for Wednesday in the NHL

Watch as T.J. Oshie honors his father with a hat trick:

Stat of the night

Anze Kopitar collected his 1,000th career point:

Wednesday’s NHL scores

Capitals 4, Rangers 2
Blue Jackets 4, Predators 2
Lightning 6, Stars 2
Senators 5, Canadiens 1
Ducks 3, Blues 2 (SO)
Golden Knights 3, Wild 2 (OT)
Jets 4, Flames 0
Sharks 3, Avalanche 2
Kings 4, Coyotes 2

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Scroll Down For:

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

    blue jackets
    Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

    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

    James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

    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

    stanley cup final
    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

    blackhawks athanasiou
    Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports
    1 Comment

    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.