NHL Rink Wrap: Sabres lose, but Sharks stay undefeated

NHL Rink Wrap: Sabres lose, but Sharks stay undefeated
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Top player from Friday in the NHL

Logan Couture, Sharks

Plenty of Sharks players absorb blame for the past couple seasons of futility. Unless you dig deep into “analytics,” you might not realize that Logan Couture hasn’t always been the difference-maker the Sharks hoped for.

So far in 2021-22, Couture’s been absolutely on fire, though.

Couture earned the top star for Friday in the NHL with two goals and an assist, helping the Sharks stay undefeated. Couture filled up the box sheet, earning a +4 rating, firing six shots on goal, and taking his first penalty of the season.

He’s now up to seven points in four games, with only one of those points coming via the power play. Impressive.

Highlights from Friday in the NHL

If nothing else, Erik Karlsson can still wire a shot:

One of these days, Denis Gurianov‘s going to spend a whole season out of the Stars’ doghouse, and have a big year. A few glimpses are better than none:

Every now and then, Zack Kassian shows the sort of touch you’d expect from a former first-round pick. This was one of those times, and it made a difference for Edmonton:

Kings’ Doughty injured by knee-to-knee hit

Could Stars defenseman Jani Hakanpaa receive a suspension for his hit on Kings’ blueliner Drew Doughty? Hakanpaa received a major penalty and game misconduct for his hit on Doughty.

It’s unclear if Doughty will miss additional time, but he was not able to return to Friday’s Kings – Stars game.

Friday’s NHL takeaways

The Sabres’ undefeated streak ends …

We’ve seen Sabres teams fall off after longer winning streaks to start seasons. Yet, considering just how dour things have been for Buffalo, their season-opening three-game winning streak felt like a mirage in a desert of medical disagreements and wider mismanagement.

But, it had to come to an end sometime. It turns out, the Sabres lost their first game of the 2021-22 NHL season by falling to the Bruins. That said, it wasn’t all bad.

Perhaps freed from the defensive-minded Ralph Krueger, the Sabres have been looser and more dangerous under Don Granato. The end of a lost season and the early, yawning stages of this new one don’t provide enough of a sample size to draw lasting conclusions. Yet, for a team that needs every bit of optimism … some positive notes.

Consider the underlying stats from the Sabres’ first loss of the season:

NHL Rink Wrap: Sabres lose, but Sharks stay undefeated streak
via Natural Stat Trick

Don’t chalk those strong “fancy stats” to the Bruins gaining an early lead vs. the Sabres, either. During the first period, the Sabres generated an 8-2 advantage in high-danger chances at five-on-five (16-9 overall).

These impressive numbers don’t erase much of the doubt about the Sabres’ season, overall. Still, if Granato’s system can get the most out of players, imagine how effective things could be if those players improve.

(In other words, the Sabres lost their first game of the season, but it’s OK to call this a moral victory.)

… but the Sharks stay undefeated

While the Sabres lost their first game, the Sharks remain one of the NHL’s undefeated teams (4-0-0) after beating the Maple Leafs on Friday. The Sharks and Sabres reversed narratives beyond a win and a loss, too.

Loss or not, the Sabres actually played a pretty sound overall game vs. the Bruins. On the other hand, the Sharks remained undefeated despite the Maple Leafs carrying much of the play.

To some extent, the Sharks winning less-than-perfectly is about as promising as if they won playing immaculately. “Stealing” victories here and there is plausible for teams with good or great goaltending. That hasn’t been a theme for the Sharks lately, who’ve endured some of the worst netminding in the NHL. Some solid (or even great) goaltending could be huge for this team, sporadic or not.

There are some “buts,” though.

[Which hot-starting teams could be for real?]

Through four straight wins, the Sharks’ power play is at an unsustainable 33-percent. If you combine the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, the Sharks converted at a 15.9-percent rate, fourth-worst in the NHL.

Even more dramatically, their penalty kill’s been perfect (100 percent). As sneaky-strong as the Sharks’ PK has been recently, that penalty kill will naturally sink.

Still, if you close your eyes and imagine a variety of Sharks scenarios, it isn’t that outrageous to picture them nabbing a playoff spot, is it? Bursts of competence won’t make Erik Karlsson’s contract a bargain. At 31, Karlsson’s not necessarily doomed, either.

The Sharks have a long way to go to rebound from two miserable seasons. Friday showed some of the pros (they won!) and the cons (they were outplayed).

Aside from battlers of California, most of us would prefer a semi-decent Sharks team over some sinking bummer. So here’s hoping they at least will be worth watching this season — even after the Sharks’ undefeated streak ends.

Hurricanes: bunch of fun, bunch of jerks … both?

For ages, people have asked NHL teams and players to loosen up. At times, there are “be careful what you wish for” elements to the moments when the damns of cliches break. After your favorite player irritates you, sometimes you grow nostalgic for canned phrases.

Those thoughts come to mind after the Hurricanes elaborately trolled the Canadiens about Sebastian Aho, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and more once again.

The Hurricanes went with some deep cuts to troll the Canadiens, including a “Did the Habs Lose?” website that got hacked or pretend-hacked or … (sighs, shrugs).

Are these cheeky shenanigans, or cruel ones? It’s hard to tell if the Hurricanes are still a bunch of jerks ironically, or are actual jerks now.

Saturday’s big story

Can the Canadiens finally win a game?

All of those Hurricanes quibbles aside, it’s also understandable that some will bask in the Canadiens’ struggles. Even beyond fans of the Bruins or Maple Leafs.

Whether you’re rubbernecking at the Habs car wreck or a fan begging for the agony to stop, it’s hard to look away from the 0-5-0 Canadiens. Saturday presents another opportunity for operatic spectacle.

At 2-1-0, the Red Wings have been friskier than expected. That said, the Red Wings haven’t established themselves as formidable. If the Canadiens drop their sixth in a row, people will be eager to point out that they fell to a team seemingly headed toward the cellar.

The Canadiens aren’t in the best situation to eject Marc Bergevin from the hot seat. Yet, if this keeps up, the rumblings will turn to a roar. Losing to the Red Wings would turn that volume up quite a bit.

Friday’s NHL scores

Sharks 5, Maple Leafs 3
Bruins 4, Sabres 1
Stars 3, Kings 2 (OT)
Oilers 5, Golden Knights 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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    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.