NHL Playoff Buzzer: Hellebuyck blanks McDavid, double OT, more from Friday

NHL Playoff Buzzer: Hellebuyck blanks McDavid, double OT, more from Friday
Getty Images
  • No overtime for the Bruins and Capitals in Game 4. Instead, Boston won handily, leaving Washington on the brink.
  • The Predators made up for that lack of OT by beating the Hurricanes in double OT.
  • Once again, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl couldn’t score. Knowing that, you probably can guess who won.
  • The Blues deserved at least a closer Game 3 score vs. the Avalanche. Alas!
  • Get ready for four more NHL playoff games on Saturday.
  • Game 4: Bruins 4, Capitals 1 (BOS leads series 3-1)

    After three straight Capitals – Bruins playoff games went to OT, Game 4 was more or less clinched early in the third period. To Washington’s credit, they stayed in a game that Boston largely dominated. Eventually, the Bruins broke through in Game 4, and the Capitals are now on the brink of elimination. Boston’s best have been a lot better than Washington’s top players so far in this First Round playoff series.


    Game 3: Predators 5, Hurricanes 4 [double OT] (CAR leads series 2-1)

    Once again, the Predators received a ton of power-play opportunities — quite a few more than the Hurricanes. (Just ask Rod Brind’Amour.) Once again, the Predators biffed most of those power-play chances, only scoring a PPG when they had a 5-on-3 vs. the Hurricanes. That almost became the story of that game, but Nashville just kept fighting, and ultimately won in double OT. Considering the leads that they couldn’t protect, and chances they squandered, it would have been deflating to lose. Instead, the Predators won Game 3, and now at least have a chance against the Hurricanes.

    Game 2: Jets 1, Oilers 0 [OT] (WIN 2-0)

    Well, this was unexpected. Even those of us who understand that the NHL playoffs can be unpredictable probably felt a little amazed on Friday. For the second game in a row, the Jets shut down Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. This was yet another skin-tight game, with Paul Stastny scoring the only goal in OT — a goal that will surely haunt Mike Smith. Just like that, the Jets are up 2-0 over the Oilers in this First Round Series, and the scene shifts to Winnipeg for Games 3 and 4.

    Game 3: Avalanche 5, Blues 1 (COL leads 3-0)

    Look at that 5-1 score and you’ll assume that St. Louis got demolished. Instead, the Blues made a real push against the Avalanche in Game 3, they just couldn’t get it done. In particular, it might hurt that this wasn’t some out-of-this-world game from someone like Nathan MacKinnon or Cale Makar. The Avs have some depth, and they reminded the NHL of that on Friday. Doing it without Nazem Kadri is impressive, but then again, they need to get used to that.

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

    Three Stars for NHL playoff action on Friday

    1. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets

    So much for that “Connor vs. Connor” talk feeling like kind of a lame joke.

    Instead, Connor Hellebuyck has been absolutely tremendous against Connor McDavid and the Oilers. As great as Hellebuyck was in Game 1, he was even more brilliant in Game 2. Hellebuyck pitched a 38-save shutout in Game 2, with McDavid and Leon Draisaitl combining for nine of those shots on goal themselves.

    Hellebuyck’s allowed just a single goal in this series, and hasn’t had much room for error (Mike Smith’s only allowed three). Give credit to the Jets’ defense. As a team, they’ve limited the room for McDavid, Draisaitl, and the Oilers. But a lesser goalie probably wouldn’t have Edmonton in this spot.

    Consider this something of an honorable mention for Mike Smith, who ended up with 35 saves.

    2. Philipp Grubauer, Colorado Avalanche

    Again, that 5-1 score didn’t fairly depict the Blues’ efforts on Friday, but that’s how the playoffs often work in the NHL. Grubauer didn’t notch a shutout, but he stopped 31 out of 32 shots. Grubauer was probably the biggest reason why the Avalanche beat the Blues in Game 3.

    If you want, you could sub Ryan Graves into this spot. He scored the 1-0 goal, which was key being that no one scored until the second period. Graves ended up with three points (1G, 2A), although one of those helpers happened on an empty-netter. Graves was also +4, fired four SOG, delivered one hit, and blocked two shots.

    3. Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins

    Like Graves, Charlie McAvoy collected three points. In McAvoy’s case, he generated three assists — two of which were primary helpers.

    While some focus from Bruins – Capitals Game 4 will be on Washington’s power play, the biggest concern is even-strength play. McAvoy is a big reason why. The Capitals only generated one high-danger chance against the Bruins at even-strength in Game 4.

    Frankly, McAvoy ranks as one of the NHL’s best even-strength defensemen, and he showed why with a great effort on Friday. The three assists were merely the delicious icing on the cake.

    Don’t forget about Juuse Saros as an honorable mention, as his 52 saves proved crucial for Nashville.


    NHL suspends Nazem Kadri for eight games

    In case you missed it, the NHL handed Nazem Kadri a stern suspension for his hit on Justin Faulk. The Avalanche forward was suspended eight games for that hit. If the Avalanche are eliminated before the eight games are up (they played one of them in Game 3 on Wednesday), then the suspension will spill into the 2021-22 NHL season.

    Read more about the Nazem Kadri suspension here.


    Game 4: Panthers at Lightning (TB leads 2-1) 12:30 p.m. ET – CNBC (livestream)
    Game 4: Penguins at Islanders (PIT leads 2-1) 3 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
    Game 2: Canadiens at Maple Leafs (MTL leads 1-0) 7 p.m. ET – CNBC (livestream)
    Game 4: Golden Knights at Wild (VGK leads 2-1) 8 p.m. ET – NBC (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.

Scroll Down For:

    Rangers sign Filip Chytil to 4-year extension

    chytil rangers
    Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

    NEW YORK — The New York Rangers have signed forward Filip Chytil to a four-year contract extension worth $17.75 million, locking up another member of their core long term.

    The team announced the deal Wednesday night. Chytil will count just under $4.44 million annually against the salary cap through the 2026-27 season.

    Chytil, 23, is in the midst of a career year. He has set career highs with 22 goals, 20 assists and 42 points in 66 games for the playoff-bound Rangers.

    The Czech native is the team’s sixth-leading scorer and ranks fourth on the roster in goals. The 2017 first-round pick has 144 points in 342 NHL regular-season and playoff games. He was set to be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer.

    New York already had top center Mika Zibanejad signed through 2030, No. 1 defenseman Adam Fox through 2029, veteran Chris Kreider through 2027, winger Artemi Panarin through 2026 and reigning Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Igor Shesterkin through 2025.

    General manager Chris Drury’s next order of business is an extension for 2020 top pick Alexis Lafrenière, who is only signed through the remainder of this season and can be a restricted free agent.

    Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews returns to ice, hints at retirement

    Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
    1 Comment

    CHICAGO — Longtime Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews returned to the ice but hinted his stellar NHL career could be winding down after 15 years.

    Toews, 34, skated with teammates prior to Chicago’s game with the Dallas Stars. It was his first time practicing with them since a game in Edmonton on Jan. 28.

    He made a statement through the team on Feb. 19 saying he would be stepping away because of the effects of Chronic Immune Response Syndrome and “long COVID.”

    In meeting with reporters, Toews stopped short of saying he hoped to play in any of last-place Chicago’s nine remaining games. His eight-year, $84 million contract is set to expire at the end of the season.

    Toews said he’s feeling stronger, but isn’t sure if he’ll be able to play again for the Blackhawks or another team.

    “Both if I’m being fully honest,” Toews said. “I feel like I’ve said it already, that I’ve gotten to the point where my health is more important.

    “When you’re young and you’re playing for a Stanley Cup and everyone’s playing through something, that means something and it’s worthwhile. But I’m at that point where it feels like more damage is being done than is a good thing.”

    Toews, the Blackhawks’ first-round draft pick (third overall) in 2006, joined the team in 2007 and was a pillar of Stanley Cup championship clubs in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

    At the peak of his career, he was one of the NHL’s top two-way centers, winning the Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward in 2013.

    In 1,060 regular-season games, Toews has 371 goals and 509 assists. In 139 playoff games, he’s posted 45 goals and 74 assists, and he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2010.

    Toews missed the entire 2020-21 season with Chronic Immune Response System, which caused debilitating inflammation and fatigue.

    He appeared in 71 games in 2021-22, then started this season with renewed energy before slowing and eventually shutting himself down.

    Entering this season, it looked as if Chicago might deal him, as it did fellow star Patrick Kane, before the March trade deadline. But Kane went to the New York Rangers and Toews to injured reserve.

    Toews believed he was progressing before a relapse in January left him so sore and tired that he could barely “put on my skates or roll out of bed to come to the rink.”

    Toews said his progress over the past month has been “pretty encouraging” and he’s delighted to be back among his teammates. He has no timetable beyond that.

    “We’re just going to go day by day here,” Chicago coach Luke Richardson said. He deserves anything he wants to try to achieve here.”

    Richardson hoped Toews “can take that next step later in the week and hopefully (he) gives us the green light to go in a game.”

    But Toews emphasized his long-term health and ability to lead a “normal life” is most important. He wants to go out on a positive note and not hit the ice for a game playing through excessive pain and dysfunction.

    “It’s definitely on my mind that this could be my last few weeks here as a Blackhawk in Chicago,” Toews said. “It’s definitely very important for me to go out there and enjoy the game and just kind of soak it in and just really appreciate everything I’ve been able to be part of here in Chicago.”

    Budding Wild star Matt Boldy more willing to shoot, and it shows

    Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

    ST. PAUL, Minn. — Matt Boldy was unable to resist a smile in the aftermath of his second hat trick in five games for the Minnesota Wild, a young right wing and reluctant star trying to make sense of a remarkable hot streak.

    Does the puck feel as if it’s automatically going in the net these days each time he shoots?

    “Yeah, it does,” Boldy said in the locker room after leading the first-place Wild to a 5-1 win over Seattle. “My linemates are playing great. Hopefully you guys are giving them a lot of credit. You look at some of those goals – just putting it on a tee for me.”

    This non-attention-seeker has found himself squarely in the NHL spotlight. Boldy has 11 goals in nine games since Wild superstar Kirill Kaprizov was sidelined with a lower-body injury to raise his goal total to 28, in part because he’s been more willing to shoot. With vision and stickhandling as strengths and the humility of being a second-year player, it’s easy to be in a pass-first mindset.

    “Everybody kind of took turns talking to him. But it’s not that he didn’t want to. A lot of times a situation like that where a guy’s got that skillset, it’s a real unselfish quality, right?” coach Dean Evason said. “But I think he gets now that he helps the team a lot when he scores goals.”

    The Wild were confident enough in Boldy’s scoring ability to commit a seven-year, $49 million contract extension to him earlier this winter, after all.

    “I think I’ve always had that mentality, but sometimes you just get into spots and it comes off your stick good,” Boldy said. “When things are going well, the puck goes in the net.”’

    The Wild are 6-1-2 without Kaprizov. Boldy is a big reason why.

    “You go through the slumps, you learn what you need to do to score. I think he’s found a good way to be in the right spot and shoot the puck when he had a good opportunity,” center Joel Eriksson Ek said.

    The Wild have only won one division title in 22 years, the five-team Northwest Division in 2007-08. They’re leading the eight-team Central Division with eight games to go, with both Colorado and Dallas too close for comfort. They haven’t won a playoff series since 2015.

    With Kaprizov due back before the postseason and Boldy on this heater, a Wild team that ranks just 23rd in the league in goals per game (2.93) ought to have a better chance to advance. Eriksson Ek and Marcus Johansson have been ideal linemates for the Boston College product and Massachusetts native.

    Since the Wild entered the league in the 2000-01 season, only five NHL players have had more hat tricks at age 21 or younger than Boldy with three: Patrik Laine (eight), Marian Gaborik (five), Steven Stamkos (five), Alex DeBrincat (four) and Connor McDavid (four). Boldy turns 22 next week, so there’s still time for one or two more.

    “He’s big. He controls the puck a lot. He’s got a good shot, good release. He’s smart. He switches it up. He’s got good moves on breakaways. He’s a total player,” goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. ”Fun to watch him grow this year.”

    Pezzetta scores shootout winner; Canadiens beat Sabres 4-3

    canadiens sabres
    Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports

    BUFFALO, N.Y. ⁠— Brendan Gallagher and the Montreal Canadiens rallied back to avoid playoff elimination with less than three weeks left in their season. The Buffalo Sabres, meanwhile, are running out of chances to stay in the Eastern Conference wild-card hunt.

    Gallagher forced overtime by scoring his 200th career goal, and Michael Pezzetta scored the decisive shootout goal in a 4-3 win over the Sabres on Monday night.

    “It’s one of those things I think we earned that chance. We weren’t fantastic but we did enough on the road tonight to get a win,” Gallagher said. “Smiles all around.”

    The Canadiens could laugh, especially after Pezzetta celebrated his goal by putting his stick between his legs and riding it like a wooden horse — much like former NHL tough guy Dave “Tiger” Williams did during his 14-year NHL career spanning the 1970s and 80s.

    “I’m not sure we’ll see that again. One of a kind,” said Gallagher. “I’d be worried about falling over.”

    Pezzetta scored by driving in from the right circle to beat Eric Comrie inside the far post. Buffalo’s Jack Quinn scored in the fourth shootout round, but was matched by Montreal’s Jesse Ylonen, whose shot from in tight managed to trickle in through Comrie.

    Jordan Harris and Alex Belzile also scored for Montreal, and Jake Allen stopped 30 shots through overtime, while allowing one goal on six shootout attempts.

    Montreal would have been eliminated from playoff contention for a second straight season – and two years removed from reaching the Stanley Cup Final – with any type of loss.

    The Sabres squandered a 3-2 third-period lead to drop to 3-6-3 in their past 12. Buffalo also blew a chance to move to within four points of idle Pittsburgh, which holds the eighth and final playoff spot.

    “Just a little hesitation,” forward JJ Peterka said of the Sabres third-period lapse. “We didn’t play with much energy and we didn’t play that aggressive as we played the two periods before. I think that was the difference.”

    Buffalo’s Lukas Rousek scored a goal and added an assist while filling in for leading scorer Tage Thompson, who did not play due to an upper body injury. Peterka and defenseman Riley Stillman also scored, and Comrie stopped 38 shots through overtime, and allowed two goals on six shootout attempts.

    Montreal blew two one-goal leads to fall behind 3-2 on Stillman’s goal at the 8:31 mark of the second period.

    Gallagher scored on the fly by using Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin as a screen to snap in a shot inside the far left post. With the goal, Gallagher tied Bobby Rousseau for 24th on the Canadiens career scoring list.

    “I liked the way we corrected ourselves, it’s a sign of maturity, in the way we stayed on task,” Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis said, in recalling how the Canadiens recently unraveled in an 8-4 loss two weeks ago to Colorado, which plays a similar up-tempo style as Buffalo.


    The Sabres hosted their third Pride Night, with Russian D Ilya Lyubushkin electing not to participate in warmups by citing an anti-gay Kremlin law and fears of retribution at home in Moscow, where he has family and visits in the offseason. The remainder of the team wore dark blue jerseys with the Sabres logo on the front encircled by a rainbow-colored outline.

    During the first intermission, the Sabres broadcast a video in which GM Kevyn Adams said: “This is about recognizing someone’s humanity and true identity. We know there are people out there struggling with who they are, and we want them to know that they have an ally in the Buffalo Sabres.”


    Canadiens: At the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.

    Sabres: Host the New York Rangers on Friday night.