NHL Playoff Buzzer: Plenty of drama, OT in Game 1 action on Sunday

  • The Islanders continue to have the Penguins’ number, as the Isles pulled off a 4-3 overtime win.
  • Both goalies were brilliant as the Golden Knights and Wild also went to OT in their Game 1. The Wild ended up coming out on top.
  • The Lightning outlasted the Panthers in an absolute thriller of a Game 1.
  • Three playoff games take place on Monday: two on NBCSN, one on CNBC.
  • Game 1: Islanders 4, Penguins 3 (OT); NYI leads series 1-0

    After a tepid run post-trade-deadline, some wondered if Lou Lamoriello regretted investing in Kyle Palmieri. After he played a big role in the Islanders beating the Penguins 4-3 in OT of Game 1, the Palmieri pickup looks like another shrewd move by Lou. (At least for now.)

    This was a game with multiple lead changes, as these two teams look tightly matched. But once again, the Islanders took a playoff game over the Penguins.

    Check out highlights for Islanders – Penguins Game 1:

    Game 1: Wild 1, Golden Knights 0 (OT); MIN leads series 1-0

    Before the regular season started, if someone told you the Wild won Game 1 over the Golden Knights, you’d assume it was a low-scoring contest. (You’d probably also be … pretty surprised.)

    Yet, this more-exciting Wild team seemed more equipped to trade punches with the Golden Knights, but Cam Talbot had them covered in a Game 1 with just a single knockout punch.

    Talbot and Marc-Andre Fleury put on a show in Wild – Golden Knights Game 1:

    Game 1: Lightning 5, Panthers 4; TBL leads series 1-0

    Game 1 of Lightning – Panthers is the sort of game that can create new hockey fans. There was plenty of nastiness and “playoff intensity.” But sometimes that translates into sluggish, low-scoring hockey. Not Game 1 of Lightning – Panthers. There was as much end-to-end action as there were hard (maybe dirty?) hits, and Tampa Bay ended up being the last team standing. It’s fair to call that an “instant classic.”

    [NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 First Round schedule, TV info]

    Three Stars for Game 1 action from Sunday in the NHL

    1. Cam Talbot, Minnesota Wild

    When it comes to picking the three stars for Sunday’s Game 1 action in the NHL, there are a lot of options.

    Take the goalies in Game 1 of Golden Knights – Wild, for instance. That game went to overtime tied 0-0 thanks to brilliant work from Cam Talbot, and also Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury, in particular, had a flair for the dramatic with his glove saves.

    But Talbot ended up pitching a remarkable 42-save shutout, as the Wild only needed a Joel Eriksson Ek goal to win Game 1 vs. the Golden Knights.

    While this marked merely the 26th playoff game of Talbot’s career, he now owns five playoff shutouts. Considering his previous four were split between the Flames and Oilers … not bad.

    2. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

    Really, you can lean on multiple options for Game 1 of Lightning – Panthers alone. Yes, the Panthers lost, but Jonathan Huberdeau was brilliant. He generated a goal and two assists, with one of those helpers being all-Huberdeau. It seemed like his outburst would be the story of Lightning – Panthers Game 1 … until it was not.

    You could also lean on Brayden Point. While he “only” scored two goals, Point tied things up 4-4, and then scored the 5-4 game-winner with precious little time remaining.

    But Kucherov gets the nod, and not just because it’s a great story. During the second period, Kucherov might have given Florida some pause in trading power plays, as he collected two PPG. Kucherov also faked out Sergei Bobrovsky for a beautiful assist on Point’s first goal. (Point had it pretty easy there.)

    Maybe there are refinements to make, but Kucherov erased most doubts about whether or not he could be a difference-maker during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

    3. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, New York Islanders

    If you feel the need, consider this a shared third start between Pageau and Kyle Palmieri. After all, Palmieri scored twice, with his second goal being a stunning overtime-winner. (The placement on that OTGWG? Ridiculous.)

    Pageau gains the edge by producing a three-point night: one goal and two assists (both primary). He made quite the overall impact. Pageau scored those three points, generated a +2 rating, fired five shots on goal, and delivered five hits.

    So, basically, make your pick. Did the big Islanders 2021 NHL Trade Deadline addition (Palmieri) deserve it, or was it Pageau from the previous year? (Sorry, you’re cool too, Andy Greene.)


    Stats of the night for Sunday in the NHL

    • Sidney Crosby collected his 190th career playoff point, tying Brett Hull for seventh all-time. Even more impressively, it only took Crosby 169 games to get to 190 playoff points, while Hull played 202 during his outstanding career.
    • Here’s a stat to back up that feeling that Panthers – Lightning Game 1 was a back-and-forth thriller.


    Game 2: Bruins at Capitals, 7:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)

    Game 1: Predators at Hurricanes, 8 p.m. ET – CNBC (livestream)

    Game 1: Blues at Avalanche, 10 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)

    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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    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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    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.