NHL Rink Wrap: Canadiens finally win, Kraken lose home opener

NHL Rink Wrap: Canadiens finally win, Kraken home opener
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Top player from Saturday in the NHL

David Perron, Blues

With three points (2G, 1A) in as many games, David Perron was already off to a solid start to 2021-22. He really broke through to become the top star in the NHL on Saturday, though. Perron generated a hat trick and an assist as the Blues improved to 4-0-0 this season.

Quietly, Perron just keeps humming along as one of the league’s most underrated scorers. He collected 60 points in 2019-20, and then almost reached 60 again in 2020-21 (58 points) despite being limited to 56 games.

Other NHL players generated hat tricks (Elias Lindholm, Mathieu Perreault), but Perron’s additional assist puts him over the top.

NHL injury, COVID news

Highlights from Saturday in the NHL

Check out footage of Perreault’s hat trick:

Lindholm notched his second career hat trick.


Then there’s David Perron’s hat trick (plus an assist).


Great ovation for Vince Dunn‘s goal, the first tally during a Kraken home game. The crowd reacted accordingly.

Saturday’s NHL takeaways

Maybe the Maple Leafs can’t take regular season success for granted?

After another playoff debacle, people wondered if another strong Maple Leafs regular season would even mean anything. Uh … about that.

At 2-3-1, the Maple Leafs aren’t in such a deep hole that they need to hit the panic button. (Even if people are talking about Mike Babcock and generally very-much-panicking in Toronto.)

Early in the season or not, getting blown out by the Penguins at least needs to raise an alarm bell or two. Again, the Penguins were without Crosby, Malkin, Letang, and others, yet they handed the Maple Leafs one of the worst losses in the NHL on Saturday.

Grant Sheldon Keefe this much. He captured many Maple Leafs fans’ spirits with this comment.

Canadiens make no mistake with much-needed win

When Dylan Larkin made it 1-0 just 5:25 in, the Habs could have sulked. Instead, the Canadiens scored six unanswered goals to get their first win of the season.

In many ways, this was a showcase for new faces. Again, Perreault notched a hat trick. Christian Dvorak collected a goal and an assist. Mike Hoffman found the back of the net, and David Savard added an assist. Jonathan Drouin isn’t a new face, yet he was tending to personal needs during the playoff run. It had to feel good for him to collect two assists.

As tough as the Atlantic Division looks on paper, the Canadiens can gain some comfort in others struggling. (Although the Panthers are red-hot, and the Bruins haven’t played enough to give a clear read, either way. But … hey, small victories.)

Who looked more like an expansion team: Kraken or Canucks?

Heading into their first season, the Seattle Kraken looked like they could be an analytics darling. The belief was that they’d look fancy by the fancy stats, but lack the finish to look as good in the standings.

So far … that hasn’t really been the case. Maybe a shabby offense isn’t shocking, but the Kraken have been more vulnerable in their own zone lately. Consider this chart from Hockey Viz:

NHL Rink Wrap: Canadiens finally win, Kraken home opener defense viz
via Hockey Viz

Not great. Not shocking for an expansion team. But not ideal considering the Kraken’s fixation on (seemingly stout) defense.

Yet, in the Kraken’s first home game, the Canucks looked more like a hapless, new team. Through 40 minutes, it was tied 1-1, but Vancouver needed luck and Thatcher Demko to get there.

The game-winner told some of the story. The Kraken pushed for the 3-2 goal with a lengthy sequence in the Canucks’ zone. They couldn’t score, though, and then Conor Garland burned Philipp Grubauer for a pretty game-winner.

In their first taste of home hockey, Kraken fans tasted a particularly acidic type of defeat: when it sure felt like your team “deserved” to win. Still, if the Kraken play like this often — even if it’s mostly in Seattle — they have something to build on. Meanwhile, the Canucks won, but really need to improve their process.

Sunday’s big story

Can the Blackhawks finally win a game?

Heading into Saturday’s NHL action, the question was whether the Canadiens could finally win a game. After all, it’s against a beatable opponent in the Red Wings.

Rewind that, and play it back. The Blackhawks are searching for their first win of the season, and they face the Red Wings on Sunday.

On one hand, as you saw in the NHL injury/COVID update section, the Blackhawks might be without Patrick Kane. On the other hand, the Red Wings are not juggernauts. Chicago also has the rest advantage, as the Habs just humbled Detroit.

So, it would behoove the Blackhawks to make like the Canadiens. Don’t just get that first win; do it with authority.

(But, seriously, get that win. People are basking in your defeats.)

Saturday’s NHL scores

Flames 4, Capitals 3 (OT)
Rangers 3, Senators 2
Wild 4, Ducks 3 (OT)
Avalanche 4, Lightning 3 (SO)
Devils 2, Sabres 1 (OT)
Panthers 4, Flyers 2
Penguins 7, Maple Leafs 1
Hurricanes 5, Blue Jackets 1
Jets 6, Predators 4
Canadiens 6, Red Wings 1
Blues 7, Kings 3
Islanders 3, Coyotes 0
Canucks 4, Kraken 2

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.

Rangers sign Filip Chytil to 4-year extension

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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

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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

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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

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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.