Player of the Night
Considering the Lightning’s ludicrous comeback from down 6-3 with mere minutes remaining in the third period, you might want to hand this to a Bolt. The argument is there. You could easily name Nikita Kucherov (1G, 3A) or Victor Hedman (four assists) as the player of Thursday night in the NHL.
After all, they earned that all-valuable last laugh.
But Tyler Bertuzzi still forced Tampa Bay to pull off those heroics thanks to a blistering four-goal night. During the second period alone, Bertuzzi notched a hat trick. When he scored his fourth, Bertuzzi put the Red Wings up 5-3. Clearly, that wasn’t enough; heck, another goal wasn’t enough.
Impressive stuff nonetheless from a player the Red Wings might want to be able to bring to Canada this season.
Highlights from Thursday in the NHL
The Blue Jackets honored Matiss Kivlenieks with a ceremony before their season-opener.
Truly, it’s a lot of fun when a scoring chance is so promising, an announcer gets fooled. That’s what happened when Braden Holtby robbed Ryan Strome on a truly golden opportunity:
Drop your jaw in awe of that 11-goal overtime stunner between the Lightning and Red Wings. One big highlight reel, really.
Three Takeaways from NHL on Thursday
No Red Wings upset, but two other significant ones
After 82 games, we might not look at the Sabres beating the Canadiens or the Senators holding off the Maple Leafs as big upsets. Sometimes, teams make big jumps (and drops) in the NHL.
Right now, though? It absolutely feels bizarre to picture even a competent season from Buffalo.
If the Lightning didn’t come back, that would’ve been another big one. Maybe the larger lesson is that we shouldn’t take things for granted in the NHL? (Or, at least, this early part of the season could introduce some chaos.)
This could be a long, long season for the Coyotes
Heading into 2021-22, it seemed like the Sabres and Coyotes would engage in a tanking war. It would seemingly be the most brazen of its kind since … well, the last time the Coyotes and Sabres tried to be as bad as possible.
At least on Thursday night, the Sabres didn’t play that role in a presumed race to the top of the 2022 NHL Draft Lottery.
The Coyotes, though? They fell 8-2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Again, hindsight could tell a different story. But, heading into openers and early season games in the NHL on Thursday, it sure seemed like the Blue Jackets’ future skews closer to Arizona’s than contention (or even the playoff bubble).
Yet, in this one, the Blue Jackets cruised.
With two goals and two assists, Oliver Bjorkstrand made his own argument for player of the night for Thursday in the NHL. Max Domi notched three points. Patrik Laine, Jakub Voracek, and Jack Roslovic collected two assists apiece.
Plenty expected the Blue Jackets to beat the Coyotes. The sheer margin of defeat might be an upset, or at least upsetting, if you’re the ‘Yotes.
Kraken get their first win
After a tough loss in their debut on Tuesday, the Seattle Kraken are in the win column for the first time in their franchise history thanks to a 4-3 win in Nashville on Thursday night.
The Kraken used a perfect 2-for-2 not on the power play, as well as a pair of goals from Brandon Tanev, to get the win. Tanev scored one of the power play goals and also added an empty net goal late in the third period to make it a 4-2 game. Because Nashville scored just a minute later Tanev’s second goal, the empty net goal, goes in the books as the game-winner. Jared McCann (power play) and Alex Wennberg also scored goals for Seattle in the win. Philipp Grubauer stopped 27 out of 30 shots in the win.
Tanev’s empty-net goal was Seattle’s only shot on goal of the third period, but it was enough to get the two points.
Friday’s big story
A peek at the new-look Flyers
So far, we’ve seen the Seattle Kraken twice. The Blackhawks’ blueline makeover faced a big challenge. And, despite all of those changes, the Hurricanes look like they’ll keep opponents on their toes.
On Friday, we’ll finally get our first look at the Flyers after some bold offseason changes.
Can Ryan Ellis return to near-Norris-form after injuries derailed his 2020-21 season? Will the Flyers look smart after taking a chance on much-maligned blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen? Most importantly, was last season just a hiccup for Carter Hart, or a new reality?
Of course, we won’t get every answer about the Flyers one game into an 82-game marathon. Friday’s Flyers – Canucks game should be a better proof of concept than any exhibition though.
(And, hey, the Canucks made plenty of changes themselves.)
Thursday’s NHL scores
Sabres 5, Canadiens 1
Senators 3, Maple Leafs 2
Panthers 5, Penguins 4 (OT)
Stars 3, Rangers 2 (OT)
Blue Jackets 8, Coyotes 2
Hurricanes 6, Islanders 3
Lightning 7, Red Wings 6 (OT)
Kraken 4, Predators 3
Kings 6, Golden Knights 2
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.