Lightning looking like team capable of Stanley Cup three-peat

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Winning the Stanley Cup requires a perfect storm of circumstances that include a talented roster, that is healthy, that is playing well at the right time, gets the right matchups, and finds a little bit of well timed luck in the playoffs to get through what are almost certainly tightly contested best-of-seven series.

Having all of that happen one time is a remarkably difficult achievement.

Doing it all again — and having it all happen again — the following year and winning it again is, obviously, even more difficult.

Having it all happen three years in row is something else entirely. There is a reason it has happened just two times in the post-Original Six era, and not since the early 1980s New York Islanders.

But if any team is capable of doing what seems to be the impossible, it might very well be the Tampa Bay Lightning who are not showing any signs of slowing down no matter how much their roster changes. It is not exactly a surprise that Lightning are once again one of the league’s best teams because they have been for the past seven years. During that stretch no team has won more regular season or playoff games, while they have been in the Conference Final five times, the Stanley Cup Final three times, and have obviously won each of the past two Cups.

Entering the week the Lightning have the league’s second-best points percentage (.724, trailing only the Carolina Hurricanes at .741) and are 17-3-3 in their past 23 games after a slow start to the regular season.

[NHL Power Rankings: Golden Knights climbing; Lightning second]

Even more, every objective metric we have to measure team performance says they are one of the league’s best teams.

Their 5-on-5 possession, scoring chance, and expected goal numbers are all elite, as is their 5-on-5 goal differential.

If you wanted to find a flaw, their special teams are not great at the moment. But as long as the 5-on-5 play keeps being dominant there is reason to believe they can continue to overcome those struggles (and improve on them).

But what is so impressive about the Lightning’s current success is how different the roster is right now as compared to the playoffs.

Because of the salary cap and expansion draft the Lightning had to let several key players go this offseason. Tyler Johnson was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in a salary cap clearing move, while their entire third line of Blake Coleman, Yannie Gourde, and Barclay Goodrow (one of their best lines over the past two years and one of the most effective lines in the NHL) left in free agency and the expansion draft.

That is a lot of talent and key contributors to lose in one offseason. For most teams, it would put a major dent in what they are capable of.

The Lightning have not really slowed down. It is not just the players they lost to other teams, either. Nikita Kucherov, their top offensive player, has played in just three games this season and none since the first week of the season. Brayden Point, one of their other top players, has appeared in just 16 games and none over the past month. Since Point went out of the lineup (meaning no Point and no Kucherov in the lineup) the Lightning are 10-2-1, which is tied for the best points percentage in the league (.808, tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins) during that stretch.

What has allowed them to stay on top of the league with so many key contributors out of the lineup or now playing for other teams?

For starters, they still have a couple of superstars in their lineup. Steven Stamkos is healthy and playing at an elite level still to help carry the offense. Victor Hedman is still one of the best all-around defensemen in the NHL. Along with those two it still remains an incredibly deep organization because their second-tier complementary players are still excellent. Anthony Cirelli, Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat, Mikhail Sergachev are all having excellent seasoans.

The biggest factor, though, is the fact the Lightning still have Andrei Vasilevskiy in goal. Not only is Vasilevskiy the best goalie in the world, he is one of the best and most valuable players, regardless of position, in the entire NHL. He is durable, dominant, and a game-changer every game he appears in.

Since the start of the 2017-18 season the Lightning have a 165-55-14 record in games where he is the goalie of record, while owns a .923 all situations save percentage (tops in the league) and a .929 even-strength save percentage (tops in the league). That record for Vasilevskiy would average out to a 127 point pace over 82 games.

(The Lightning play at a 100-point pace over that same time period when any other goalie other Vasilevskiy is the goalie of record, while they actually have a losing record over the past three years)

None of that takes into account his postseason performance in recent years which is equally dominant. The combination of having the league’s best team and the league’s best goalie makes the Lightning a terrifying matchup for pretty much anybody because they not only have very few flaws, they have a goalie that can consistently mask the flaws they do have.

Given his individual performance and the impact he has on the Lightning and the outcome of games there is a strong argument to be made he is one of the two or three most valuable players in the entire league.

This is the biggest reason the Lightning might have a legitimate shot to actually pull off the impossible and win a third straight Cup.

If you have the best goalie, you always have a chance.

Especially when you have an elite two-way defender can play half of the game in front of him.

And when you keep playing at an elite level without your two best offensive players who will eventually be returning to the lineup and be ready for the playoffs.

Obviously a lot still has to happen for the Lightning to get back to that point where they can win another championship and pull off the NHL’s first three-peat in over 35 years. But everything in the way they play, the players they have, and where they have superstars gives them one heck of an opportunity.

Teravainen scores late, Hurricanes rally to beat Rangers 3-2

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NEW YORK – Teuvo Teravainen scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period, Frederik Andersen stopped 29 shots and the Carolina Hurricanes rallied to beat the New York Rangers 3-2.

Jalen Chatfield and Stefan Noesen also scored for the Metropolitan Division-leading Hurricanes, who won for the third time in four games.

With the comeback win, the Hurricanes became the second team – following Boston – to reach the 100-point mark this season as Carolina increased its Metropolitan Division-lead over second-place New Jersey to two points and the third-place Rangers to eight.

“That was a great effort. All 20 guys contributed and we got what we deserved,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “If we play like that, we’ll be in good shape. This time of year it gets tougher and tougher.”

Tyler Motte and Kaapo Kakko scored for the Rangers, who had won four straight were 6-0-1 in their last seven. Igor Shesterkin finished with 36 saves as the Rangers played their third game in four nights – the previous two shutout wins at home.

“Igor kept us in there as long as he could and we just didn’t have enough in the tank,” Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said. ”They won more battles and played a hard game.”

Teravainen scored his 11th goal with 2:33 left on a pass from defenseman Brent Burns, redirecting the puck past Shesterkin. The Hurricanes, who trailed 1-0 and 2-1.

“Somehow they left me open in the back side, great pass by him,” Teravainen said of the winning-goal pass to him in the slot. “We knew this would be a tough night. They have a good team. We knew we had to battle to win this game.”

The Rangers led 1-0 entering the third and were vying for their third-straight shutout before Chatfield tied the score at 9:49 – the first goal the Rangers allowed in more than eight periods. New York was coming off a 6-0 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday night with Shesterkin in goal and a 7-0 triumph over Nashville behind Jaroslav Halak on Sunday.

Kakko then put New York back ahead 31 seconds later with his 13th goal, only to have Noesen answer right back 18 seconds later to tie it 2-2.

Motte opened the scoring at the 17-minute mark of the first, knocking the puck past Andersen for his third goal in four games and sixth of the season overall.

The Rangers hadn’t lost in regulation since a 4-2 defeat on March 4 at Boston.

“Tonight we didn’t play near well enough to beat that team,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. ”Honestly, the whole game they outplayed us. They were a lot quicker. They managed the puck real well … We didn’t play our game.”


Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal played his 729th game with Carolina on Tuesday, tying defenseman Glen Wesley for the second-most games played in franchise history since relocation from Hartford in 1997. Staal, 34, trails only his brother Eric, who played 909 games for the Hurricanes from 2003-16.


Hurricanes: Host the Rangers on Thursday night to finish the home-and-home set in the opener of a four-game homestand.

Rangers: At Carolina on Thursday night to open a two-game trip.

Ullmark’s 40 saves carries Bruins past Senators, 2-1

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BOSTON – Linus Ullmark made 40 saves, Jake DeBrusk had the go-ahead goal and the NHL-best Boston Bruins continued their pursuit of the league’s record for regular-season victories with a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators.

“I thought he was outstanding and he needed to be,” Boston coach Jim Montgomery said of Ullmark. “Unfortunately we gave up a lot of good looks, a lot of odd-man rushes because of our puck management and he bailed us out like he has all year.”

David Krejci added a power-play goal for Boston, which won its fourth straight.

Dylan Gambrell scored for the Senators and Mads Sogaard made 33 stops.

“We had a shooters’ mentality for two periods,” Ottawa coach D.J. Smith said. “The third period, they’ve won 54 games now, they’re not going to give you an odd-man rush, they’re not going to give you anything. You’re going to have to earn it.”

The Bruins posted their 54th win and with 12 games left are on pace to break the mark of 62, set by the Detroit Red Wings in 1995-96 and matched by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2018-19.

Chasing the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot, Ottawa has lost six of seven following a season-high, five-game winning streak.

Coming off a 3-2 road trip where they won the last three games by a combined score of 15-2 that included two shutouts by backup Jeremy Swayman, the Bruins converted on a two-man, power-play advantage to tie the game at 1 midway into the opening period when Krejci poked in a rebound from the edge of the crease.

DeBrusk completed a nifty play with Brad Marchand when he collected a pass cutting down the slot at full speed, shifted and tucked a rebound past Sogaard at 15:52 of the first period for his 23rd goal.

“It was ‘all world.’ I saw him and he fed it through a lot of guys for a breakaway,” DeBrusk said of the pass. “It was one of those passes where I didn’t know what to do. I was going to point at him (after) but I was going too fast.”

Gambrell’s wraparound score gave Ottawa a 1-0 edge.

“I thought I played a good game today,” Sogaard said. “I just battled and stayed with it the entire way. … These ones are tough because we were so close.”


Ullmark stopped 22 shots in the second period with at least a dozen of them high-quality chances. During an Ottawa PP, he jumped from a crouch to make a right-shoulder stop on Alex DeBrincat’s bid from in close.

“We talked about it,” defenseman Hampus Lindholm said of the second period. “We know we’re a good team in the third and wanted to tighten it up for him. … They got a lot of chances that were our own fault in the second.”


The Bruins highlighted women who work and compete in the sports community, having Olympic gold medalist and Boston Pride defender Kali Flanagan accompany Bruins players during pregame walk-ins along with local high school scholastic award winners. In addition, in-arena host Michaela Johnson handled the PA for the night and they also left yellow roses at the seats of female reporters.

NOTES: The Senators entered the game as the only team holding an advantage in their series against the Bruins this season, winning twice in three games. … Montgomery said after the morning skate that defenseman Derek Forbort would likely be sidelined with a lower-body injury at least through the rest of the regular season. … DeBrusk, playing on the top line most of the season, is four off his career-high goal total, set in 2018-19.


Senators: Host Tampa Bay on Thursday.

Bruins: Host longtime rival Montreal in an Original Six matchup Thursday.

Boldy’s goal with 1.3 left in OT lifts Wild over Devils

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NEWARK, N.J. – Matt Boldy scored with 1.3 seconds left in overtime and Filip Gustavsson made a career-high 47 saves to give the Minnesota Wild a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils.

The game was a chippy, defensive struggle. After two scoreless periods, the Devils were outshooting the Wild 22-19.

Minnesota finally broke through 6:41 into the third when Mason Shaw scored his seventh goal of the season on a wraparound.

Timo Meier answered for the Devils five minutes later with his 35th goal of the season on a wraparound of his own.

New Jersey was unable to convert on a late power play, and the teams went to overtime.

It was a back-and-forth five minutes of extra hockey, with both goaltenders making good saves. After Jack Hughes hit the post for the Devils, the puck caromed off a post to Boldy and he beat the buzzer with his 23rd goal of the season.

Vitek Vanecek stopped 27 shots for New Jersey.

NOTES: The Devils are 10-4 in overtime, while the Wild improved to 4-5.


Wild: Play at Philadelphia on Thursday night.

Devils: Play at Buffalo on Friday night.

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar signs extension through 2026-27

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DENVER — Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar has signed a three-year extension that will keep him in charge of the reigning Stanley Cup champions through the 2026-27 season.

The new deal for the winningest head coach in club history kicks in once the current contract runs out after the 2023-24 season.

Bednar, 51, is the only person to win championships in the ECHL, AHL and NHL as head coach. He directed the Avalanche to their third Stanley Cup title in team history last season by beating Tampa Bay, the two-time defending champions.

This season, the Avalanche have dealt with an array of injuries, which include missing captain Gabriel Landeskog all year after he underwent knee surgery in October. But they’re starting to creep closer to being healthy – and working their way up the standings. Colorado is riding a six-game winning streak to remain in a tight race with Dallas and Minnesota for the Central Division crown. The top spot in the Western Conference is in play, too.

“Jared has done a tremendous job behind the bench and certainly deserves this extension and to continue as the leader of our team,” Joe Sakic, the team’s president of hockey operations, said in a statement.

It wasn’t the prettiest of starts for Bednar in his inaugural season for Colorado. In 2016-17, his team amassed only 48 points (22-56-4) to finish last in the league. Since then, it’s been full steam ahead for Bednar and the Avalanche. They became the first NHL squad to go from worst to first in a span of four seasons or less since the 1970-71 Bruins, according to research by the team.

In addition, Bednar has led the Avalanche to five straight playoff appearances – and is closing in on a sixth – to become the first Avalanche coach to accomplish the feat. His 40 postseason wins are the second-most in team history, trailing only Bob Hartley (49).

“His strength as a communicator, his relationship with the players, the way he prepares each and every day is a huge reason our team has been so successful,” general manager Chris MacFarland said. “He is an exceptional leader.”

Bednar is currently the third-longest tenured coach in the league, behind only Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (March 2013) and Pittsburgh’s Mike Sullivan (December 2015).

“Being able to lead this team over the last seven years has been a privilege,” said Bednar, whose team faces the Penguins on Wednesday. “I am grateful and excited to have the opportunity to continue building on what we’ve accomplished so far.”

Bednar captured a Kelly Cup (ECHL) with the South Carolina Stingrays in 2009, along with a Calder Cup (AHL) with the Lake Erie Monsters in 2016.