NHL Rink Wrap: Goals, assists milestones for Ovechkin; Kings heat up

NHL Rink Wrap: Goals, assists milestones for Ovechkin; Kings heat up
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Top players from Monday in the NHL

Alex Ovechkin, Capitals

Later on in this post, we’ll focus on even more of the history. But we have to start with the headline-grabber. By scoring his 11th goal of the season, Alex Ovechkin reached 741 career goals. At 741, Ovechkin tied Brett Hull for fourth all-time in goals.

(Click here for more on that, including Ovechkin being 153 goals behind Wayne Gretzky’s 894 goals, the all-time record. Oh, and read this for even more on Ovechkin’s pursuit of Gretzky’s record.)

Let’s circle back to Ovechkin earning NHL player of the night honors for Monday, and his shockingly strong season so far. On Monday, Ovechkin scored a goal and two assists.

Heading into Monday, Ovechkin was already comfortably ranked third in NHL scoring behind Leon Draisaitl (23 points) and Connor McDavid (22). He’s now one of three players at 20+ points, as the goal and two assists put Ovechkin at 11 goals and 10 assists (21 points) in just 12 games.

Few bat an eye at Ovechkin scoring goals, even at age 36 — although 11 goals in 12 games is still really something. But playmaking to a level where he’s a stride behind McDavid and Draisaitl? Ridiculous.

Then again, with Ovechkin, maybe we should just expect this?

Highlights from Monday in the NHL

Watch as Ovechkin scores goal 741 and reaches 600 assists in the Capitals’ win over the Sabres:

The real highlight of this Phillip Danault goal was his reaction to said goal:

 

There were some exciting moments in Panthers – Rangers, but this K'Andre Miller goal stole the show:

Granted, this was fantastic stuff from (Mr.) Adam Fox, too.

Monday’s NHL takeaways

Ovechkin makes history, even beyond tying Hull for fourth all-time in goals

So, again, Ovechkin tied Brett Hull for fourth all-time with 741 goals.

While Ovechkin didn’t break his tie with Hull, he did add those two assists. With that, Ovechkin’s 598 assists shoots to an even, milestone-friendly 600. The Capitals churned out some interesting facts alongside Ovechkin reaching 600 assists:

Personally, it’s especially amusing that a) his 741 goals received a mention alongside those 600 assists and b) Sidney Crosby‘s name came up. That has to get your Ovechkin B-I-N-G-O board close to full. Maybe they just needed to include Ovechkin’s office?

Hey, look, the Kings are now on a roll

After an aggressive offseason, the Kings disappointed. They limped off to a troubling 1-5-1 start to the season. People understandably wondered if The Kings jumped the gun on accelerating their rebuild.

It was too early to tell then, and it’s too early to do a 180 now. After Monday’s win over the Maple Leafs, don’t blame people if the Kings renewed people’s belief in their chances of earning an NHL playoff spot. (Yes, the Oilers and Flames are hot atop the Pacific. However, when it comes to the third seed, the Kings have a shot.)

With that win against Toronto, the Kings are now on a five-game winning streak. Their record is now 6-5-1, putting them in the thick of things in trying to get ahead of the Ducks, Sharks, and Golden Knights. The Central Division’s not a lock to send five teams playoff-bound, either.

Interestingly, the Kings are heating up with Drew Doughty on the shelf. They lost their first two games with Doughty injured, but now are on this five-game winning streak. The Kings’ win also ended a five-game winning streak for the Maple Leafs.

Also: Phillip Danault just keeps tormenting the Maple Leafs. He’s worthy of Monday’s NHL player of the night consideration himself with a two-goal, one-assist game.

Shesterkin, counter-attack explain why Rangers gave Panthers their first regulation loss

When you see a 4-3 score, you don’t necessarily believe that the winning goalie put on a clinic. There’s a reason that fans at Madison Square Garden were chanting “I-gor” in honor of Igor Shesterkin, though. (And not just because it works pretty well as a classic two syllable chant.)

Considering that the Rangers went up 4-0 through the first 40 minutes, it might have seemed like New York dominated. And, sure, they counter-punched and created some great goals. K’Andre Miller’s goal was the best of the bunch, but Adam Fox authored a beauty of his own.

But Igor Shesterkin made the real difference. The Panthers fired 45 shots on goal to just 18 for the Rangers. During the final two periods, the advantage was 34-9. With three goals in the third, the Panthers were finally able to get to Shesterkin a bit. Yet not enough.

More than once, players made contact with Shesterkin. He was asked to make some difficult saves, and came up more often than not. This 42-save performance pushes Shesterkin’s save percentage to .931 in 10 games.

Tuesday’s big story

Lightning present latest test for Hurricanes

The Hurricanes lost for the first time on Saturday, and the Panthers really made no mistake about it. In an 82-game season, you’re going to have nights like those. Chances are, Carolina isn’t too shaken up. (They probably just got that negative energy out by getting some salty tweets and troll-ish web domains ready.)

On Tuesday, the Lightning present a different kind of challenge for the Hurricanes. Where the Panthers are healthy and rising, the Lightning are those cagey veterans. Sometimes those old dogs have a limp, but they can still be dangerous.

Will the high-flying Hurricanes pass this test against the Lightning, or will this be Carolina’s first losing streak? It’s one of the biggest stories to watch around the NHL on Tuesday.

Monday’s NHL scores

Capitals 5, Sabres 3
Rangers 4, Panthers 3
Kings 5, Maple Leafs 1

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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    Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

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    TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

    The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

    “Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

    The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

    Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.

    Back with Wild, Fleury welcomes big workload as clear No. 1

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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — With his ever-present smile, tireless approach and long list of accomplishments in the net, Marc-Andre Fleury has always embraced a heavy workload.

    The Minnesota Wild sure haven’t shied away from leaning hard on their new – and 37-year-old – goalie. After arriving in a deadline-day trade in March and re-signing with the Wild in July, the guy everyone calls “Flower” is still fully abloom as he begins his 19th season in the NHL.

    “They say, `You play,’ I play, unless maybe I’m hurt or something,” Fleury said. “But other than that, I like playing.”

    Wild general manager Bill Guerin initially planned to bring back both Fleury and Cam Talbot, who made the All-Star team and went 13-0-3 in his last 16 regular season starts before being benched in favor of Fleury for the first-round playoff series against St. Louis. The Wild lost in six games, after Talbot got the cold start in the elimination game and gave up four goals on 26 shots.

    Guerin changed his mind, though, after signing Fleury to a two-year, $7 million contract. Realizing Talbot’s frustration from the lack of postseason action, he didn’t want to risk any tension or discontent. Talbot was traded to Ottawa for Filip Gustavsson, who will be the No. 2 goalie while top prospect Jesper Wallstedt gets more development in the AHL.

    Gustavsson has only 23 career regular-season starts, nearly 200 fewer than Talbot, so it’s a good bet that Fleury will get the majority of the games.

    “I was ready to share the load with him, but things didn’t work out and happy to be having the chance to play maybe a bit more. It’s fun to play. It’s more fun than sitting on the bench,” said Fleury, who went 28-23-5 in 56 combined starts for Chicago and Minnesota last season with a 2.90 goals against average and a .908 save percentage.

    The Wild reconvened for training camp last week, beginning their quest to recapture the mojo they enjoyed last season while setting franchise records for points (113), wins (53) and goals (305). The only team that finished ahead of them in the Western Conference was Colorado, which went on to win the Stanley Cup, but they never met the Avs in the playoffs because the Blues got to them first.

    There’s a strong chemistry in place, at least, to build upon.

    “We still have a lot of guys here who were here last year. We’re just trying to make it even better, just trying to listen to everybody,” center Joel Eriksson Ek said. “We want to set a standard and a way for how hard this team’s going to work.”

    The Wild start the regular season by hosting the New York Rangers on Oct. 13.

    COMINGS AND GOINGS

    The most significant roster move of the summer amongst the skaters was the inevitable salary-cap-driven trade of second-leading scorer Kevin Fiala to Los Angeles. Fiala had a career-high 33 goals and 52 assists last season. Guerin otherwise dabbled mostly in two-way contracts in free agency for depth. Former Anaheim center Sam Steel signed with Minnesota last month, one day after defenseman Dimitry Kulikov was dealt to the Ducks.

    MORE POWER

    The Wild were done in during the playoffs by abysmal special teams. They went just 4 for 24 on the power play against the Blues, and head coach Dean Evason had the team working on that on the first day on the ice. The penalty kill that lagged last season was a focus of the second practice.

    “It has to get better, no question,” Evason said.

    BLUE LINE SHUFFLE

    Captain Jared Spurgeon has been placed with Jonas Brodin on the first pair on defense, and Jake Middleton has joined Matt Dumba on the second unit. Dumba and Brodin are close friends who’ve been paired together for several seasons.

    “Dumbs is a shooter too,” said Middleton, who re-signed for three years and $7.35 million. “It’s pretty exciting. I can get some cookies passing him the puck. That’d be a big plus. I think it’ll work well. He loves hitting guys too. He plays a gritty game as well so I think we’ll be a good combo.”

    UP FRONT

    With Jordan Greenway recovering from offseason surgeries, Tyson Jost will get the first chance to skate with Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno. The departure of Fiala has opened at least one spot for a rookie to make the team, with 2020 first-round draft pick Marco Rossi in line for it.

    ON THE SLATE

    This is the first time in eight years the Wild will play their regular-season opener at home. After three more games at Xcel Energy Center, they don’t hit the road until a five-game trip that starts Oct. 22 at Boston. The Wild have a season-long nine-game homestand from Feb. 9-21.

    Stars expect to open camp without unsigned scorer Jason Robertson

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    FRISCO, Texas — Young 40-goal scorer Jason Robertson is expected to miss the start of training camp for the Dallas Stars because the team and the restricted free agent haven’t agreed on a new contract.

    General manager Jim Nill said there’s been steady, ongoing negotiations over the last couple of weeks with Robertson and his representatives. Nill wouldn’t say what has kept the two sides from reaching a deal, adding there have been “very good discussions.”

    The Stars, with new coach Pete DeBoer, open camp Thursday in Cedar Park, Texas, at the home of their AHL team. They have three days of work there before returning to North Texas for their exhibition opener at home on Monday night. They open the regular season Oct. 13 at Nashville.

    “I think he’s disappointed he’s not at camp, we are too,” Nill said before the team departed for the Austin area. “I think it’s very important for a younger player and as you mentioned, the (new) coaching staff. … We do have some time on our side, but we wish he gets here as soon as he can.”

    Robertson had a base salary of $750,000 last season, the end of a $2.775 million, three-year contract. He still has five more years before he has the opportunity to become an unrestricted free agent.

    The left wing turned 23 soon after the end of last season, when he had 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points in his 74 games. Robertson joined Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Modano, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin as the only 40-goal scorers since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993.

    A second-round draft pick by the Stars in 2017, Robertson has 125 points (58 goals, 67 assists) in his 128 NHL games. He had one goal and three assists in his first postseason action last season, when Dallas lost its first-round playoff series in seven games against Calgary.

    DeBoer said he looks forward to coaching Robertson, but that the forward’s absence won’t change his plans for camp.

    “It doesn’t impact what I’m doing,” DeBoer said. “Listen, I laid awake at night with the excitement of coaching Jason Robertson, 40-plus goals, but he’s not here. So, you know, until he gets here, I can’t spend any energy on that.”

    Nill said the Stars are open to a long-term extension or a bridge contract for Robertson, who was part of the team’s top line last season with veteran Joe Pavelski and Roope Hintz. They combined for 232 points, the second-most in franchise history for a trio.

    “We’re open to anything. But other than that … I’m not going to negotiate through the media,” Nill said. “As I said, we’ve had good conversations. We’ll see where it goes.”

    Training camps open around NHL after another short offseason

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    Training camps open around the NHL after another short offseason, a third in a row squeezed by the pandemic. That doesn’t bother Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon one bit.

    For one of hockey’s best players and his teammates, it’s already time to get back on the ice and defend their Stanley Cup title, less than three months since they knocked off the back-to-back champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

    “I still feel like I just was playing,” MacKinnon said. “I took two weeks off, and then I started skating again. It’s just fun. I enjoy it, and I like the short summer. It feels like the season’s just kind of rolling over again.”

    The NHL rolls into fall coming off an entertaining playoffs and final with the chance to finally get back on a normal schedule. That means full camps for teams that got new coaches and the benefits of a regular routine.

    That means a mere 88 days between Game 6 of the final and the first-on ice practice sessions.

    “We’re kind of used to it now,” Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy said after he and the Lightning lost in the final for the first time in three consecutive trips. “It’s a little harder, of course, because you don’t have that much time to rest. It’s basically a few weeks and you have to get back at it. But, yeah, I can’t complain. You want your summers to be short every year.”

    It was a little longer for Connor McDavid and the Oilers after losing to Colorado in the West final. Despite the lack of downtime, McDavid “wouldn’t trade that in for anything” and aims to make it even further since Edmonton shored up its goaltending situation by adding Jack Campbell.

    A few spins of the goalie carousel ended with the Avalanche acquiring Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers and Cup winner Darcy Kuemper landing with Washington. Joining new teammates, many of whom hoisted the Cup in 2018, Kuemper is not worried about less time off.

    “It was definitely a very unique summer,” Kuemper said. “With how short it was, you start getting back into the gym and you’re kind of a little bit worried that your training’s going to be so short. But you kind of felt like you weren’t getting back into shape. You were already there.”

    NEW COACHES

    The Oilers are one of several teams settling in for training camp under a new coach. Jay Woodcroft took over as interim coach in February but has the full-time job now.

    “Looking forward to a camp with him,” McDavid said. “He did a great job coming in during the middle of the season, but it’s never easy on a coach, for sure. I’m sure there’s things that he wanted to touch on that you wasn’t able to kind of in the middle of the year, so he’ll be able to to touch on all of it this year.”

    The same goes for Bruce Boudreau in Vancouver, 11 months since being put in charge of the Canucks. Philadelphia’s John Tortorella, Boston’s Jim Montgomery, Vegas’ Bruce Cassidy, Dallas’ Peter DeBoer, Florida’s Paul Maurice, Chicago’s Luke Richardson, Detroit’s Derek Lalonde and the New York Islanders’ Lane Lambert are all starting the job fresh.

    CAMP TRYOUTS

    Roughly 40 players are attending a camp on a professional tryout agreement with the chance to earn a contract for the season. James Neal has that opportunity with the Blue Jackets, and Derek Stepan returned to Carolina to seek a job with the Hurricanes.

    The most intriguing situation involves 37-year-old center Eric Staal, who agreed to the tryout with Florida the same time brother Marc signed a one-year contract. Younger brother Jordan was with Eric and Marc on the 18th green at Pebble Beach to witness the occasion.

    “They’re both just super pumped, as was I,” said Jordan Staal, who is the captain of the Hurricanes. “Eric is excited about the opportunity and Marc, as well. Really cool. Really cool thing.”

    EARLY START

    Before the puck drops on the NHL season in North America on Oct. 11, the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks play twice in Prague on Oct. 7 and 8. And those are not exhibitions.

    “We still play two important games,” said Sharks forward Tomas Hertl, who is a native of Prague. “It’s not just preseason where you coming here to warm up.”

    Colorado and Columbus will also play two games in Tampere, Finland, on Nov. 4-5 as part of the NHL’s Global Series.

    And just as the league gets used to a regular schedule, work is ongoing between the league and NHL Players’ Association to stage a World Cup of Hockey in February 2024, which is popular among players even if it knocks the calendar off kilter again.

    “I think they missed out on a huge, huge portion of the international game that’s really going to be missed,” McDavid said. “We need to figure out a way to get an international tournament in as quickly as possible.”