NHL Playoff Buzzer: Fleury shines on lopsided Saturday of action

NHL Playoff Buzzer: Fleury shines on lopsided Saturday of action
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  • This time, the Lightning were able to protect a multi-goal lead, and the Panthers are in trouble.
  • The Islanders looked dominant in tying their NHL playoff series with the Penguins.
  • The Maple Leafs managed without John Tavares, turning to another star to beat the Canadiens.
  • After Game 4, the Golden Knights have the Wild on the brink of elimination.
  • Get ready for four more NHL playoff games on Sunday.
  • Game 4: Lightning 6, Panthers 2 (TBL leads series 3-1)

    No matter who the Panthers roll with in net, they really haven’t been able to slow the Lightning. Even in the one game the Panthers won, it was mostly about out-scoring the Lightning. In this case, maybe Tampa Bay learned some lessons from squandering a Game 3 lead, as there was really no mistake about it on one of Saturday’s one-sided NHL playoff games.

    (Oh, and yes, there was some nastiness in Lightning – Panthers Game 4. We’ll need to wait and see if Nikita Kucherov and/or Mikhail Sergachev suffering lingering effects from late physicality.)

    Game 4: Islanders 4, Penguins 1 (Series tied 2-2)

    You know, the Islanders have been mixing their goalies in and out in a way not that unlike the Panthers. The difference is that the Isles have been giving their netminders quite a bit more help. Ilya Sorokin was sharp against the Penguins, and the Islanders dominated Game 4 to tie their series 2-2. This was the sort of loud, impressive performance Islanders fans were hoping for at Nassau Coliseum.

    Game 2: Maple Leafs 5, Canadiens 1 (Series tied 1-1)

    After the shock of seeing John Tavares suffering that scary injury in Game 1, the Maple Leafs bounced back to beat the Canadiens in Game 2. This was a pretty even contest for the first 20 minutes, and then Montreal started taking penalties, and Toronto made them pay. The series will now shift to Montreal with the Habs and Buds tied 1-1.

    Game 4: Golden Knights 4, Wild 0 (VGK leads series 3-1)

    The winning goalies made sure that Saturday’s NHL playoff games weren’t close. Andrei Vasilevskiy remains red hot, and Ilya Sorokin was sharp. But Marc-Andre Fleury has a claim for hottest goalie in the world right now — he’s even been brilliant in defeat. Between Fleury’s brilliance and some lethal transition work, the Golden Knights beat the Wild 4-0 in Game 4, taking a 3-1 series lead.

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

    Three Stars for NHL playoff action on Saturday

    1. Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights

    Seriously, Fleury was incredible for the Golden Knights vs. the Wild in Game 4.

    The Wild carried significant chunks of the action in Game 4, generating a 35-18 shots on goal advantage over the Golden Knights. While some of that boils down to “score effects,” (13-4 SOG in the third period, when Vegas was up 3-0 then 4-0), that’s still a lot of pressure on “The Flower.”

    Fleury was game for all of it, and now Minnesota is on the brink of elimination.

    Yes, it’s still wild that the Golden Knights were this close to trading Fleury, and under ideal circumstances might have rolled with Robin Lehner. Goalies: they’re unpredictable. Come to think of it, you can say the same of NHL playoff hockey.

    2. Take your pick: Nikita Kucherov or Alex Killorn, Tampa Bay Lightning

    Both Killorn and Kucherov generated four points apiece as the Lightning rolled over the Panthers in Game 4.

    In Killorn’s case, he scored two goals and two assists. Kucherov, meanwhile, generated a goal and three assists.

    Kucherov continues to make it look easy to just jump from surgery rehab to the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. With four points in Game 4, Kucherov now has nine in four playoff contests (3G, 6A). He generated four points in just 14:31 TOI, as Kucherov left after a slash by Anthony Duclair. Again, Jon Cooper didn’t provide much insight about the availability of Kucherov or Sergachev going forward.

    Looking at the score, you might be tempted to bury the Panthers’ effort vs. the Lightning in Game 4. They at least made Andrei Vasilevskiy earn his 39-save win. Through the first 40 minutes, the Panthers fired 34 SOG. Ultimately, the Panthers could only beat Vasilevskiy on the power play, and Tampa Bay won. Some might lean on Vasilevskiy as the Lightning’s top star on Saturday for those reasons.

    3. Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

    It’s safe to assume that Matthews ranked among the Maple Leafs shaken up by John Tavares’ injury. The effort was still there from Matthews in Game 1, though. Just look at the eight shots on goal.

    When you’re firing away at that many chances, and you’re as talented as Matthews, you’ll probably break through at some point. For Matthews, Canadiens – Maple Leafs Game 2 represented that point — starting in the second period.

    Matthews scored his first goal of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, a tally that would end up being the GWG. He added two more assists, giving him three points overall.

    (Ilya Sorokin’s a fine choice as an honorable mention. He only allowed one goal by the Penguins, making 29 saves.)

    [NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

    Stat of Saturday in the NHL: Fleury moves up playoff shutout rankings

    • Marc-Andre Fleury’s 35-save shutout is the 16th playoff shutout of his NHL career. That ties Fleury with Curtis Joseph for third all-time. Martin Brodeur holds the record with 24 playoff shutouts, while Patrick Roy ranks second with 23.

    SUNDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

    Game 4: Hurricanes at Predators (CAR leads 2-1), 2:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
    Game 4: Avalanche at Blues (COL leads 3-0), 5 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
    Game 5: Bruins at Capitals (BOS leads 3-1), 7 p.m. ET – USA Network (livestream)
    Game 3: Oilers at Jets (WPG leads 2-0), 7:30 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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    Hughes has first NHL hat trick, Devils beat Capitals 5-1

    Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
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    NEWARK, N.J. – Jack Hughes had his first career NHL hat trick, Vitek Vanecek made 38 saves against his former team and the New Jersey Devils beat the Washington Capitals 5-1 on Saturday for coach Lindy Ruff’s 800th victory.

    “It’s exciting,” Hughes said. “Couple of two-goal games in my career, so nice to cap it off with the third one tonight.”

    Ruff became the fifth NHL coach to reach the 800-victory mark. The former Buffalo player won 571 games with the Sabres from 1997-2011. He had 165 wins in five seasons with Dallas and has 64 in two-plus seasons with New Jersey.

    “It means I’ve been around a long time,” Ruff cracked. “Great to win the game. Again, you got to do a lot of right things, have good teams, and the way our team is playing I have to give them a lot of credit for getting me there.”

    The Atlantic Division-leading Devils have won two in a row after seeing their franchise-record 13-game winning streak snapped by Toronto.

    Devils captain Nico Hischier and Fabian Zetterlund also scored.

    John Carlson scored for Washington and Charlie Lindgren made 24 saves.

    “Not scoring goals, not capitalizing on our chances,” Carlson said. “We’ve had our chances, especially today, but we only walked away with one goal. We could have had five or six. It’s just not going in right now.”

    Vanecek, meanwhile, was hoping for the shutout against a familiar foe.

    “That would have been nice, but that’s hockey,” Vanecek said, “For sure you’re trying, but not every time; the win is more important.”

    Hischier opened up the scoring with his 10th goal of the season midway through the first period on a power play after Alexander Ovechkin was called for slashing.

    Hughes wrapped the puck around goalie Lindgren’s right leg and the goal post to put the Devils up 2-0 5:59 into the second period. Hughes appeared to have lost his angle on the goal when he ripped a shot off Lindgren’s face mask and into the net midway through the period for his 10th goal of the season to give New Jersey a 3-0 lead.

    The 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick added his third midway through the third period as hats rained down on the ice with New Jersey up 4-0.

    “You want to continue to play the right way, but if an opportunity comes you want to definitely put it in the back of the net with authority,” Hughes said. “So tonight, I was able to cap it off and it was nice.”

    Fabian Zetterlund capped the scoring for New Jersey late in the third period.

    NOTES: The Devils improved to 16-0-0 this season when Hischier has a point. New Jersey’s Nathan Bastain (upper body) did not return after the first period. . Ovechkin is still nine goals away from 800 and 11 from passing Gordie Howe for second place on the NHL goals list.

    UP NEXT

    Capitals: At Vancouver on Tuesday night.

    Devils: At the New York Rangers on Monday night.

    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

    TAKE NOTE

    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

    UP NEXT

    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.