NHL Rink Wrap: Violent (and biting) Saturday of hockey; Canadiens changes

NHL Rink Wrap: Violent (and biting) Saturday of hockey; Canadiens changes
Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

Top players from Saturday in the NHL

Mikko Rantanen, Avalanche

Scroll down just a bit, and you’ll see how Predators – Avs figured into a violent Saturday in the NHL.

Let’s focus on Rantanen’s strong performance first, though. The 25-year-old collected a hat trick and also an assist, pushing his season points total to 18 (10 goals, eight assists in 15 GP).

No/less Nathan MacKinnon won’t help, but Rantanen has a chance to blow away his career-high of 31 goals from 2018-19. In a way, such a prediction feels like cheating. Rantanen scored 30 goals (and 66 points) last season, which is even more impressive since he managed to do so in just 52 games.

My feeling is that these COVID-compromised seasons keep the Rantanens of the world from making the season impression that they normally would. Casual fans might not register just how impressive those 30 goals were in a mere 52 games. Maybe Rantanen can stay healthy after missing three games and put up the sort of stats that make his star power undeniable?

(That might be the plus side of MacKinnon missing some time. You can’t just say it’s all MacKinnon.)

Highlights from the NHL on Saturday

A violent night

It almost feels like there’s something in the air this weekend. That thing appears to be: anger (and not much self control?).

Scroll on for the Brendan LemieuxBrady Tkachuk biting spectacle. Click here for the quotes and more insight. There were other notable moments, and some were violent.

Milan Lucic received a five-minute boarding major for a dangerous hit on Neal Pionk. The Jets weren’t able to capitalize on that major power-play opportunity. Ultimately, Winnipeg broke its five-game losing streak nonetheless.

In what was already a skirmish, Gabriel Landeskog bloodied Mattias Ekholm, who didn’t appear totally ready for a fight:

Obviously, Landeskog was alarmed by Mikko Rantanen’s helmet being removed. But … you have to think that will draw scrutiny. For what it’s worth, Landeskog received his fourth career suspension for boarding Kirby Dach earlier this season.

Could be a busy weekend for the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.

Highlights with less carnage

Overall, times are clearly not great for the Canadiens. That said, they beat the Penguins on Saturday, and Jake Allen made this marvellous save:

Add this to Lucas Raymond‘s impressive Calder Trophy resume.

Hold the phone, someone won a stick battle with Mark Stone? Kinda — either way, impressive goal by Zach Hyman.

Here’s footage of that Mikko Rantanen hat trick.

Saturday’s NHL takeaways

Two Islanders games postponed

Click here for the lowdown on two Islanders games being postponed due to COVID.

Gorton, Mellanby, headline what might just be part of Canadiens’ changes

While the biggest moves look to be determined, we’re already seeing signs of change for the Montreal Canadiens.

On Sportsnet, Elliotte Friedman summarized some of the potential Canadiens changes — while acknowledging that key figures haven’t addressed them officially.

  • Scott Mellanby, described as a key Marc Bergevin advisor and Canadiens assistant GM since 2014, resigned. Mellanby resigned, in part, because he was told he wouldn’t become Canadiens GM. One additional detail is that Bergevin might have learned of Mellanby “the same time as everyone else.”
  • The Canadiens reportedly received permission to talk to former Rangers GM Jeff Gorton. Crucially, Friedman notes that the Habs aren’t interviewing Gorton for the GM role specifically. Sportsnet’s Eric Engels recently opined that hiring a president of hockey operations is a “logical first step” in Canadiens’ front office changes.
  • Jeff Marek followed up that Patrick Roy hasn’t (yet?) been called about possibly being part of changes.

In addition to Friedman and Marek, TSN’s Chris Johnston added some possible insight into the Canadiens’ process. Specifically, Johnston notes that the Canadiens are likely to seek a “French GM” when it’s time to replace Marc Bergevin.

After hearing that, plenty criticized the Canadiens on social media. But maybe there’s a key tweak that could flip what would seem like a limited search to a fairly wide-ranging one?

Again, the biggest Canadiens’ changes are most likely still to come. These are already significant turns, however, and it looks messy already.

Perhaps not enough leftovers for Brendan Lemieux?

When does Brendan Lemieux celebrate Thanksgiving? Does he go by the Canadian October holiday, being that he’s Claude Lemieux’s son? Or does he go the American way, being that Brendan Lemieux was born in Colorado, and plays for the Los Angeles Kings?

Perhaps the answer is “neither.” That certainly seemed like a more logical answer after Saturday’s NHL action.

In a truly odd spectacle, Brady Tkachuk accused Brendan Lemieux of biting him. Read more about that, and the Senators also waiving Matt Murray on Saturday, in this post. If not, just gape in awe at this strange hockey event:

[UPDATE: Lemieux will have a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety.]

So much for Artemi Panarin displaying the strangest bit of hockey anger this week when he chucked a glove at Brad Marchand.

Some history for Joe Thornton, but Panthers miss breaking a tie

It’s not just Alex Ovechkin who’s making history this weekend. With an assist on the Panthers’ only goal (by Patric Hornqvist), Joe Thornton reached 1,532 points for his career. By reaching 1,532 points, Joe Thornton broke a tie with Paul Coffey for 13th all-time in NHL history.

Jumbo Joe isn’t so far from 12th, either. Mark Recchi currently ranks 12th with 1,533 points. While 12th is in reach, 11th is further away. Ray Bourque’s 1,579 points rank 11th all-time.

(Only 14 players [Coffey now ranked 14th] have reached 1,500+ points. At 15th, Stan Mikita generated 1,467 points. Beyond Joe Thornton, Alex Ovechkin is the leading active scorer with 1,356 points [26th all-time].)

Speaking of history, the Panthers entered Saturday’s games having opened the season with 11 straight home wins, tied for the most in NHL history. They didn’t manage to break that tie, as the Kraken won 4-1.

(Also speaking of history: yes, indeed, it’s still a little odd that Joe Thornton is a Panther.)

Sunday’s big story

Sunday afternoon NHL showdowns (Capitals – Hurricanes, Lightning – Wild)

If you can’t watch the NHL all day on Sunday (lame!), you might want to make time for the “matinee games.”

At 1 p.m. ET, the hot Capitals travel to Carolina to face the even-hotter Hurricanes. Then there’s Lightning at Wild at 2 p.m. ET. (Can someone bribe these teams to synchronize pre-game ceremonies just right to maximize how much people can watch both games? No? OK.)

Getting to see the loaded Hurricanes try to slow down Alex Ovechkin (ageless wonder enjoying a season for the ages) should be a real treat.

And, even without some of their best players, the Lightning just keep getting it done. That said, even the repeat champs won’t have it easy against a confident Kirill Kaprizov (two four-point games in his last five contests [11 points in five GP overall]).

With games like Maple Leafs – Ducks, Sunday’s full of quality NHL games. Those early contests look especially spicy, though.

(Plus, who knows if you’ll have some more Montreal Canadiens news to chew on early in the day? Potential Canadiens changes rank as the biggest off-ice Sunday NHL story … you know, unless the Canucks want to steal some headlines.)

Saturday’s NHL scores

Canadiens 6, Penguins 3
Red Wings 3, Sabres 2 (OT)
Kings 4, Senators 2
Oilers 3, Golden Knights 2
Kraken 4, Panthers 1
Jets 4, Flames 2
Avalanche 6, Predators 2
Blues 6, Blue Jackets 3
Stars 3, Coyotes 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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    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.

    Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

    Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
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    TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

    Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

    Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

    Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

    Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.