NHL Rink Wrap: Begin the Kraken; Tom Wilson vs. Rangers

NHL Rink Wrap: Begin the Kraken, Tom Wilson vs. Rangers
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Player of the Night

Max Pacioretty

Really, you could take your pick from the Golden Knights’ dynamic duo of Pacioretty and Mark Stone. Chandler Stephenson (GWG, assist) deserves a mention as the speedy center supplementing those two great wingers, too.

Both Pacioretty (2G, 1A) and Mark Stone (three assists) notched three points in the Golden Knights’ slim win over the Kraken. Pacioretty was a truly overbearing presence, firing an impressive eight shots on goal, notching a +3 rating, and blocking a shot.

Honestly, Pacioretty – Stephenson – Stone probably deserve more mentions among the NHL’s best lines. They’re a nightmare for most opponents.

Highlights of NHL opening night

With only two NHL games on opening night, why not get highlights from both opening night contests?

The Penguins beat the Lightning 6-2, inflated by an absolute bucket of empty-netters.

Meanwhile, the second-newest team in the NHL beat the newest one as the Golden Knights (barely) leashed the Kraken. Ryan Donato scored the first goal in Kraken history, helping Seattle turn a 3-0 deficit to a 3-3 tie.

The Golden Knights won on a heartbreaker of a goal, though. The other standout highlight was Jonathan Marchessault‘s excellent 2-0 tally:

Three Takeaways from opening night in NHL

Two games, yet three takeaways? You bet.

Kraken didn’t back down

From the start, the Seattle Kraken were aggressive in their first NHL game. Considering how well they played, plenty of teams — not just expansion ones — would have wilted after going down 3-0.

Rather than giving up, the Kraken kept pushing. Remarkably, they fired back from that 3-0 deficit to make it 3-3.

No, that push didn’t result in the first Kraken win. Or even their first “charity point.” It was a heck of a showing, however. Throw out all of the 4-3 goal controversy, and the tough breaks, and the larger story is still that Seattle came to play.

Truly, the Kraken belonged with the Golden Knights — a team that ranks among the heaviest Stanley Cup favorites.

Whether it’s that Corsi chart from Natural Stat Trick, or the good-old-fashioned “eye test,” the bottom line is that the Kraken popped in their first NHL game. If this is a sign of things to come, then look out. We may indeed see another immediately competitive NHL expansion team.

Underdog Penguins earned that upset over the Lightning

To be clear, the 6-2 final score of Penguins – Lightning is very misleading.

The real story is that the Penguins ovewhelmed the Lightning all game. You’d think the Penguins were the defending repeat champions, and the Lightning were missing top stars. Instead, it was Pittsburgh saying “No Sidney Crosby? No Evgeni Malkin? No problem.”

OK, they whispered that at most. Obviously life is easier with your future Hall of Famers.

Some Stanley Cup hangover for Lightning

Was it just an off night? Is there a certain level of drag one should expect after a team raises its Stanley Cup banner?

Either way, Steven Stamkos and other Lightning players admitted it. Their loss to the Penguins was a “dud.”

One defeat is probably a bit much for a true wake-up call, but the Bolts need to be better. An extended sleepy start could make life tougher in what’s expected to be a top-heavy Atlantic Division.

Wednesday’s big story

Admit it or not, the Tom Wilson show begins

Ryan Reaves might not even be able to play in the Rangers’ season-opener. Even if he does, the Rangers and even Tom Wilson himself would like people to opt against framing New York’s offseason as one big Tom Wilson overreaction.

But … it pretty much was.

If Reaves and Wilson are both available, they can renew long-running hostilities. If not, expect another Rangers tough guy to step up.

Beyond the threat of violence, it should also be interesting to see if the Rangers show signs of making those next steps. Expectations vary wildly for a team that enjoyed a lot of recent luck in draft lotteries.

NHL opening night scores

Penguins 6, Lightning 2
Golden Knights 4, Kraken 3

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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