NHL Rink Wrap: Nathan Walker – Australian for hat trick; Fleury at 500 wins

NHL Rink Wrap: Nathan Walker - Australian for hat trick; 500 wins for Fleury
Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images

Top players from Thursday in the NHL

Nathan Walker, Blues

(Must resist urge to crikey.)

On Thursday, Nathan Walker became the first Australian to generate a hat trick in NHL history. He’s also the first Australian to play in an NHL game (the Capitals selected Walker 89th overall in 2014).

If Nathan Walker can convince the Blues to keep him with the big club, he has a strong chance to make more history. Especially if you get really obscure and try to squeeze in “first Australian to draw a high-sticking double-minor in NHL history.”

(Come to think of it, maybe he should corner the market and grab a goalie record or two. After all, the Blues do need an EBUG.)

All mostly awful Australian jokes aside, this is pretty impressive stuff from Nathan Walker. He notched that hat trick in his first NHL game of this season. Overall, he’s now at 26 NHL games played, including eight quiet ones (one goal, zero assists) last season.

For what it’s worth, Nathan Walker’s been productive outside the NHL. Through 19 games in the AHL, he’s scored 17 points. Maybe that makes him a “quadruple-A player.” Or maybe he just deserves more chances.

Steven Stamkos, Lightning

No big deal, but Steven Stamkos is now on a nine-game point streak (6G, 11A, for 17 points). He’s only failed to generate a point in six of 25 games this season, and suffered through just one multi-game pointless streak (merely two contests).

Overall, Stamkos is at 32 points in 25 games after generating four points (1G, 3A) on Thursday, leaving him fifth in the NHL in scoring this season. (As of this writing, Stamkos ranks among a mere eight players at 30+ points.)

Understandably, people chalk up the Lightning persisting without Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point to a combination of Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s brilliance, Victor Hedman‘s value, and Tampa Bay’s overarching competence. Don’t sleep on what Stamkos is doing this season, though. Heck, Team Canada can’t help but notice, right?

Highlights from NHL games on Thursday

Here’s footage of that Nathan Walker hat trick.

With about 12 seconds remaining in regulation, Eeli Tolvanen scored a game-winner for the Predators, keeping the Islanders winless at their new home arena.

Brad Marchand made some fairly obscure shorthanded goal history in impressive fashion.

Kyle Connor celebrated his 25th birthday with two goals, while Connor Hellebuyck shut out (/leashed?) the Kraken.

NHL takeaways from Thursday

Marc-Andre Fleury gets a shutout, picks up 500th NHL win

Not that long ago, Marc-Andre Fleury already moved into third all-time in goalie wins. During Thursday’s NHL action, Fleury reached a milestone that really ties the room together, though: 500 wins.

With at least a gesture toward considering retirement, the 37-year-old doesn’t seem like a threat to Martin Brodeur’s lofty NHL record of 691 wins. That said, if Marc-Andre Fleury decided to stick around, Patrick Roy (551) isn’t that far out of reach at second place.

By the way, Brodeur welcomed Fleury to the 500 win club later in the night.

Fleury acknowledged that reaching 500 wins against the Canadiens made it extra special. Consider Fleury another player of the night for Thursday in the NHL, by the way, as he pitched a 30-save shutout.

Fleury reaching 500 wins gave the Blackhawks something to celebrate, even.

Now that the Blackhawks have gotten at least partially back on track, Fleury’s been heating up. Much like with Stamkos, Fleury is likely gaining some interest from Team Canada. Frankly, he’s also building an argument that he can still deliver strong goaltending in the NHL.

If he’s interested in playing next season, it wouldn’t be surprising if he found some takers.

Eight straight wins for the Wild

Well, wow.

Halfway through a four-game road trip, the Wild haven’t shown many signs of slowing down. During what’s now an eight-game winning streak, the Wild scored seven goals once, five goals three times (including on Thursday), four goals three times, and three goals once.

Maybe that offense will slow down, but certainly not yet.

To little surprise, Kirill Kaprizov ranks as one of the leading catalysts of the Wild’s winning streak. With a goal and an assist, Kaprizov is now on a seven-game point streak (4G, 9A, 13 points). Jim Dowd holds the Wild record of nine straight games with at least a point.

Still no home wins for the Islanders

Somewhere, probably not that far from the Islanders’ new arena, CM Punk must be smiling. (Especially since his Blackhawks won.)

Yep, pro wrestling heels can continue to ham it up, because the Islanders remain winless (0-5-2) at home. As bad as things have been for the Islanders, it’s quite a quirk that wrestlers would’ve struggled for cheap heat mere months ago. I mean, I guess you could roll with Tampa Bay Lightning T-shirts or something, but beyond that …

Keep an eye on the NHL Board of Governors meetings

PHT will monitor some of the biggest takeaways from the NHL’s latest Board of Governors meetings. Read about some new employee training “enhancements” here, and peruse details of the Penguins sale being approved.

Among other subjects, it sounds like the whole Coyotes thing may be addressed on Friday. That could be important since that bad news just seems to keep coming …

Friday’s big story

Penguins – Capitals rivalry: not dead yet?

Ideally, Evgeni Malkin would be healthy. And maybe time would move slower? That would be nice, too.

But, all things considered, let’s take a moment to relish the notion that the Capitals – Penguins rivalry isn’t necessarily dead just yet. At 16-4-6, the Capitals are on a much stronger start, and lead the Metropolitan Division (they have a habit of winning division titles during the Alex Ovechkin era). Meanwhile, the Penguins exhibit their own habit of finding ways to survive various injuries to key stars. At 12-8-5, they’re hanging in there thanks to Sidney Crosby, but also their structure, and goalie Tristan Jarry.

True, it remains to be seen if the Capitals and/or Penguins can make another run. Often, the playoffs tend to make those older legs feel heavier.

Yet, with Alex Ovechkin playing at a Hart level, and the Penguins sale giving reason not to blow things up, maybe we’ll luxuriate in more sweet memories before these teams finally fade? (If they fade?)

Thursday’s NHL scores

Lightning 5, Maple Leafs 3
Blackhawks 2, Canadiens 0
Ducks 2, Blue Jackets 1 (SO)
Predators 4, Islanders 3
Blues 6, Red Wings 2
Hurricanes 2, Flames 1 (OT)
Bruins 3, Oilers 2
Jets 3, Kraken 0
Kings 4, Stars 0
Wild 5, Sharks 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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    Thompson nets 4 in 1st, 5 overall, as Buffalo tops Columbus

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    Russell LaBounty/USA TODAY Sports
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    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tage Thompson matched an NHL record by scoring four times in the first period and finished with five goals and an assist as the Buffalo Sabres won their third straight road game, 9-4 over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night.

    Thompson is the second U.S.-born player to score five goals in a game. He is the fourth player in NHL history to record four goals in the first period of a regular-season game, joining Peter Bondra (1994), Grant Mulvey (1982) and Joe Malone (1921). He is also the fourth active player to score five goals in a game, joining Timo Meier (Jan. 17, 2022), Mika Zibanejad (March 5, 2020) and Patrik Laine (Nov. 24, 2018).

    “It’s definitely a rewarding feeling,” Thompson said. “You’ve spent a lot of years working to get to this point and to be rewarded for it is a pretty good feeling and it just leaves you hungrier.”

    Thompson’s outburst helped Buffalo score six times in the first 16:40.

    “That was an amazing performance by Tage, and really, the whole group set the table,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “I thought the energy, the collective effort, the focus to start was really good and enabled that to happen.”

    Alex Tuch had a goal and three assists, Dylan Cozens added a power-play goal and two assists and Rasmus Dahlin finished with a goal and two assists. Peyton Krebs also scored. Jeff Skinner picked up four assists and Jacob Bryson had two. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 20 shots.

    Patrik Laine and Gustav Nyquist each scored twice for Columbus.

    Joonas Korpisalo stopped two shots before being pulled in the first in favor of Elvis Merzlikins, who stopped 15 shots through the second period. Korpisalo returned in the third and finished with six saves.

    Columbus has lost six straight home games and five of its last six overall.

    “We didn’t have an answer for that one line,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “Tage Thompson just tore us up tonight.”

    Buffalo dominated from the puck drop, scoring four goals on its first six shots.

    Cozens put the Sabres on the board at 3:21 of the first, 53 seconds into a Blue Jackets penalty, and Thompson made it 2-0 just 2:09 later. Dahlin scored Buffalo’s third goal at 7:28 of the first, driving Korpisalo from the net in favor of Merzlikins, who gave up Buffalo goal No. 4 to Thompson 32 seconds later.

    Thompson’s third career hat trick and second of the season came on a power-play goal at 12:22 of the first. He followed with his fourth goal, also on the power play, at 16:40.

    Columbus scored two goals in just over a minute, with Laine at 10:49 and Nyquist at 12:04, before Buffalo reeled off three straight in just over three minutes to end the period, including Thompson’s fifth, and goals by Krebs and Tuch.

    Laine and Nyquist scored in the third period for Columbus.

    STREAKING

    Cozens has 12 points in his last five games and is riding a career-best, five-game point streak. Thompson has eight goals and five assists in his last five games and 10 multi-point games. Dahlin has a five-game point and assist streak, and Gaudreau stretched his points streak to six games.

    NOTES: The Sabres joined the Kraken as the second team this season to score nine goals in a game. … Thompson is the second player in Buffalo history to have five goals in a game, joining Dave Andreychuk, who had five goals and an assist on Feb. 6, 1986.

    UP NEXT

    Buffalo: Hosts Pittsburgh on Friday.

    Columbus: Hosts Calgary on Friday.

    Ovechkin, Strome lead Capitals past struggling Flyers 4-1

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    PHILADELPHIA — Alex Ovechkin scored two empty-net goals, Dylan Strome had a goal and an assist and the Washington Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 on Wednesday night.

    T.J. Oshie also scored for the Capitals, who finished 3-3 on a six-game trip. Charlie Lindgren made 29 saves.

    Kevin Hayes scored for Philadelphia, which has lost 13 of 15 games. Carter Hart made 23 stops.

    Strome broke a 1-all tie with 10:41 remaining when he deflected John Carlson‘s shot from long range past Hart.

    Hayes had a golden opportunity to tie it on a Philadelphia power play, but Lindgren made a great right pad save on a try from close range with 8:20 remaining.

    Ovechkin iced it, scoring into an empty net with 1:35 left and adding another empty-netter with 8.2 seconds left for his 15th of the season. Ovechkin has 795 career goals, good for third all-time. He is six goals away from tying Gordie Howe for second place. Wayne Gretzky, with 894 goals, tops the list.

    Hayes scored his ninth goal of the season for his team-leading 28th point with 4:14 left in the first period to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Hayes rushed to the bench after breaking his stick on a slap shot attempt, and scored on a wrist shot from the high slot with his new stick.

    The Flyers had a power-play goal for the third straight game and have four overall in that stretch. Philadelphia, which began play ranked 30th in the NHL in scoring on the man advantage, now has converted 16.7% (14 of 84) of its chances.

    Oshie tied it 3:51 into the second on the Capitals’ fourth power play as the Flyers continued to take sloppy penalties. This time, James van Riemsdyk committed Philadelphia’s third tripping minor of the game. Oshie made them pay with his fifth goal of the season when he finished a nifty passing sequence with Strome and Evgeny Kuznetsov with a perfectly placed one-timer over Hart’s left shoulder.

    NOTES: Van Riemsdyk returned after missing the last 20 games due to a broken right index finger. . Flyers forward Tanner Laczynski was placed on injured reserve after departing midway through the third period of Monday’s 5-3 win over Colorado with what looked like an injury to his left leg. . Washington was without several injured players, including starting goalie Darcy Kuemper (upper body). Kuemper was with the team, but missed his second in a row. . Carlson had two assists. . Philadelphia’s Cam Atkinson, out all season with an upper body injury, has been practicing and is close to returning.

    UP NEXT

    Capitals: Host Seattle on Friday night.

    Flyers: Open four-game trip at Vegas on Friday night.

    Penguins prospect Sam Poulin taking leave of absence

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    PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins forward prospect Sam Poulin is taking a leave of absence from the club’s American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

    Penguins general manager Ron Hextall announced on Wednesday that the 21-year-old Poulin, Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in the 2019 draft, is stepping away due to “personal reasons.”

    “The Penguins support Sam’s decision to take time away from hockey to focus on himself,” Hextall said in a release. “As with all of our players, our priority is them as individuals first. We look forward to having him back with the team when he is ready.”

    Hextall said Poulin will return home to Quebec and continue to work out on his own.

    Poulin made his NHL debut in October and had one assist in three games before heading back to the AHL. Poulin had four goals in 13 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at the time of his decision.

    Nathan MacKinnon sidelined about a month with upper-body injury

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    DENVER — The injury-riddled Colorado Avalanche will be without leading scorer Nathan MacKinnon for about a month after he suffered an upper-body injury in a loss to Philadelphia.

    The team announced the news on social media.

    MacKinnon has eight goals and 26 assists for a team-best 34 points this season for the defending Stanley Cup champions. He joins a long list of banged-up players, including Valeri Nichushkin, Evan Rodrigues, Bowen Byram, Kurtis MacDermid, Josh Manson, Darren Helm and captain Gabriel Landeskog. Forward Artturi Lehkonen also missed the game in Philadelphia.

    The 27-year-old MacKinnon signed an eight-year extension in August. He was coming off a postseason in which he tied for the league lead with 13 goals, helping the Avalanche raise their third Stanley Cup in franchise history.