NHL Rink Wrap: Panthers lose, Blackhawks remain winless

NHL Rink Wrap: Panthers lose, Blackhawks remain winless
Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images

Top player from Saturday in the NHL

Gabriel Landeskog, Avalanche

Did the NHL get a long look at the return of the “real” Avalanche on Saturday night?

In some ways, maybe not. They weren’t a total juggernaut when it came to drowning the Wild in a torrent of high-danger chances, for instance. At least not after a strong start.

But, with wins in three of their last four games (after dropping three of their first four), we’re getting glimpses of the Avs powerhouse we expected. Gabriel Landeskog was very much a powerhouse to himself, scoring two goals and two assists to earn NHL player of the night consideration for Saturday.

After sitting out his latest suspension, Landeskog now has eight points in six games. It’s been all-or-nothing for Colorado’s gritty captain. Landeskog amassed all of his production in three multi-point games: Saturday’s four-pointer, plus two games where he collected one goal and one assist. In his other three games, he’s been held off the scoreboard.

As things settle down, the Avalanche likely will hope for steadier production from Landeskog and that blistering top line. They’ll probably hope for steadier play overall, too.

NHL injury, COVID news

Highlights from Saturday in the NHL

An undermanned Sharks team beat the Jets after Timo Meier scored this OT game-winner:

If you ask me, the NHL needs to err on the side of calling penalty shots. Why not lean toward something that will get crowds off their feet, rather than a two-minute minor that might never get off the ground? The NHL’s in the entertainment business, after all.

Anyway, it would be nice if there were more exciting penalty shots. Until then, enjoy penalty shot goals like the one Jesper Bratt provided when you can:

Not long after scoring one of the strangest first NHL goals you’ll see, Brandon Duhaime was part of another rare moment. Nathan MacKinnon wasn’t happy with Duhaime’s dangerous hit on Bowen Byram, so MacKinnon and Duhaime engaged in a fight:

Kudos to MacKinnon for standing up for his teammate. That said, I’m sure the Avs would prefer if someone else risked their mits in a fight next time around.

Saturday’s NHL takeaways

Panthers suffer first loss of the season — barely

It would be understandable if the Panthers don’t totally feel like they lost during Saturday’s NHL action. Losing in 3-on-3 OT must already feel more like a half-loss. Falling in a shootout? Another layer removed from feeling deeper defeat.

But, hey, the Bruins did win, so the Panthers are no longer undefeated. The often-chatty Carolina Hurricanes social media team took a victory lap regarding the team standing as the lone NHL team still undefeated after Saturday.

Now, if you extend your view to teams with a zero in the second column (vanilla losses), you’ll see three teams:

  • Panthers (8-0-1, 17 points in the Atlantic Division).
  • Hurricanes (7-0-0, 14 points, first in the Metropolitan Division).
  • Capitals (5-0-3, 13 points, second in Metro).

Probably not too surprisingly, the Hurricanes (+20) and Panthers (+18) also stand out with the most robust positive goal margins in the NHL this season.

The Hurricanes and Panthers meet in Florida next Saturday (Nov. 6). Even with the Panthers no longer undefeated, that game should serve as an intriguing temperature check. (Now, it would definitely be more fun if the Hurricanes end up putting their undefeated record on the line against the Panthers. Is that too greedy?)

Still no wins for Blackhawks, and they lost in a fairly new way vs. Blues

No, the Blackhawks didn’t play incredibly well in search of their first win of the 2021-22 season. Yet, considering how often they’ve looked awful (on and off the ice, actually), the Blackhawks’ loss to the Blues presented a change of pace.

A team that set a dubious NHL record regarding a lack of leads wasn’t playing from behind for most of Saturday’s game. Despite the Blues outshooting the Blackhawks 29-16, the two teams entered the third period tied 0-0.

Ultimately, Torey Krug‘s power-play goal was the game’s lone tally. Marc-Andre Fleury (36 saves) put up the sort of performance that felt more like last year’s Vezina run, but it wasn’t enough. The Blackhawks couldn’t muster a single goal, and thus remain without a win. (Overall, they’ve wrangled two standings points from nine games.)

While SOG totals can be misleading, the Blackhawks still lost noteworthy battles, such as high-danger chances (12-9). They just didn’t get obliterated like they had been lately. Considering that they faced a hot Blues team (St. Louis is now 6-1-0).

Maybe it’s something to build on. Beyond fans, players, and staff, few will shed a tear for this frustrated team.

Sunday’s big story

A scary upset on Halloween, or Hurricanes remaining undefeated?

This early in the 2021-22 NHL season, you couldn’t ask for a bigger underdog – favorite matchup. Not only are the 0-7-1 Coyotes winless; they’re also miserable. And they’re doing this on purpose (though maybe they’d like to show a little bit more potential, tanking or not). Those toothless Coyotes figure to get chewed up by the undefeated Hurricanes (7-0-0).

Could it be a “trap game,” though? The two teams square off in Carolina at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday. There’s the risk that the Hurricanes might yawn through this one. Maybe Halloween parties would be on their minds. (Perhaps a player or two might have enjoyed quite a Halloween party on Saturday.)

It would be quite the story if the winless Coyotes upset the undefeated Hurricanes. Those long odds only make the possibility more intriguing.

(Don’t bet on it, though.)

Saturday’s NHL scores

Sharks 2, Jets 1 (OT)
Bruins 3, Panthers 2 (SO)
Maple Leafs 5, Red Wings 4
Devils 4, Penguins 2
Blues 1, Blackhawks 0
Avalanche 4, Wild 1
Oilers 2, Canucks 1
Flames 4, Flyers 0
Predators 3, Islanders 2 (SO)
Kings 5, Canadiens 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.

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    Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews returns to ice, hints at retirement

    Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
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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

    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

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    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.

    Flyers chairman Scott to retire; Hilferty becomes successor

    Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    PHILADELPHIA — Dave Scott will retire as chairman of the Philadelphia Flyers’ parent company Comcast Spectacor and be replaced by Dan Hilferty.

    Hilferty, who was recently named CEO of Comcast Spectacor, will succeed Scott as chairman of the company on April 17 and as the team’s governor on July 1.

    Scott joined Comcast Spectacor in December 2013 and the Flyers have struggled under his reign. They will miss the playoffs for a third straight season and haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1975.

    “Our number one goal for the Flyers will be to consistently compete for the Stanley Cup,” Hilferty said. “It is going to be a process that will take time to get on that path, but I’m confident we are headed in the right direction with Danny Briere as interim GM, Coach Tortorella, and our hiring of a President of Hockey Operations soon. Our leadership team will be fully focused to deliver on this for our fans while also continuing to make the sports complex the best location for sports and entertainment in the nation.”

    As Chairman and CEO of Comcast Spectacor, Hilferty will lead the company’s entire portfolio, including the Philadelphia Flyers. Spectacor Sports and Entertainment CEO Valerie Camillo will continue to work directly with Hilferty, overseeing the Wells Fargo Center, including its continued transformation, and lead the Flyers’ business operations.