NHL Rink Wrap: Predators’ streak ends; Canucks keep winning

NHL Rink Wrap: Predators can't keep winning streak alive vs. Capitals
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Top players from Wednesday in the NHL

John Carlson, Capitals

Year in and year out, John Carlson just keeps scoring a metric ton of points.

When Carlson signed an eight-year, $64 million deal with the Capitals in 2018, the thought was that he might sink quickly. Instead, he’s only picking up steam. Maybe the Capitals will eventually cringe at Carlson’s $8M cap hit, but right now, the 31-year-old continues to deliver.

During the NHL action on Wednesday, Carlson generated a goal and three assists for a four-point night during a 5-3 Washington win, which snapped Nashville’s seven-game win streak. This pushes Carlson to an impressive 30 points in 32 games, good for third among NHL defensemen.

It’s still relatively early in the season (we think), but Carlson’s also quieting the knock on his all-around game. Consider his positive all-around impact, as you can see from his Evolving Hockey RAPM chart:

NHL Rink Wrap: Predators can't keep winning streak alive vs. Capitals John Carlson
via Evolving Hockey

At times, awards voters can’t help but hand out the occasional “lifetime achievement” trophy. That logic might propel Carlson in a Norris Trophy debate, but at least this would be as good a year as ever for him to receive that recognition.

(If he keeps this up.)

J.T. Miller, Canucks

The Canucks extended their winning streak under Bruce Boudreau to seven games with a 2-1 overtime victory against the Ducks. Miller had a hand in both goals, setting up Tanner Pearson‘s opener early in the third period and then netting the deciding tally in the extra period.

Boudreau is now the third NHL coach (Geoff Ward, Calgary / Jacques Lemaire / New Jersey) to begin his start with a new team with seven consecutive wins.

Highlights from NHL games on Wednesday

An incredible bit of work from Rasmus Dahlin. First, Dahlin deftly pickpockets his opponent. Then he sends a tremendous breakout pass to Tage Thompson, who scored a goal with some great moves of his own:

Observe the Capitals achieving pure passing perfection. The Predators put up a fight, but the Capitals ended their winning streak at seven games. (More on that in the takeaways.)

Artemi Panarin pulled off some “only in video games” moves to beat Sergei Bobrovsky.

NHL takeaways from Wednesday

COVID prompts IIHF to cancel 2022 World Junior Championship

On Tuesday, things started to unravel for the 2022 World Junior Championship, with positive tests and a forfeit by the U.S. team. It looked like at least two other games would be canceled on Wednesday, and ultimately the IIHF pulled the plug on the remainder of the tournament.

NHL tweaks COVID protocols, at least in the U.S.

Before the NHL action began on Wednesday, the league announced tweaks to COVID protocol. Well, at least in the United States.

Like other sports leagues, the NHL cut down on isolation days (10 days to five) for players who test positive for COVID but are essentially asymptomatic. Here’s how that is phrased: “if symptoms are gone or resolving themselves with a negative PCR test or two negative rapid test results taken more than two hours apart.”

Click here for more on the COVID policy tweaks the NHL will follow for a couple weeks in the U.S. Do note that Canada has stricter policies (and also that the schedule has been changed in reaction to differing policies in the two countries).

Predators rally from down 3-0, but Capitals end Nashville’s winning streak

For a while, it seemed like the Capitals wouldn’t just end the Predators’ winning streak. After generating a 3-0 lead in the first period, there was potential for embarrassment.

Instead, the Predators roared back during the second period, answering with three goals. (They scored two of those goals in a span of 35 seconds.)

In the third, Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s shorthanded goal ended up being the difference-maker, while the Capitals also scored an empty-netter to widen the gap vs. the Predators. Really, it’s interesting that a special teams play made the difference, as both teams were hapless on the power play. (Capitals went 0-for-6, Predators were 0-for-4 with that shorthanded goal allowed.)

The Predators might kick themselves mainly for seeing their winning streak end despite nearly stealing this one. Washington generated a 37-20 shots on goal advantage, including a 26-14 edge after that lopsided first period.

It wasn’t pretty, but the Capitals won, and now that winning streak is over for the Predators.

Thursday’s big story

Sunshine state showdown: Panthers vs. Lightning

Heading into the 2021-22 NHL season, plenty in the hockey world hoped that the Panthers might hold up their end of the bargain, and build on a potential rivalry with the Lightning.

It’s too early to tell if the Panthers can truly match the might of the defending repeat Stanley Cup champion Lightning, but they’ve done just about everything right so far. (Even considering an unexpected coaching change.)

With both teams playing at a high level, Panthers – Lightning on Thursday could end up being a playoff preview, and perhaps a taste of a legitimate, budding NHL rivalry.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi and the Hurricanes also face the Canadiens on Thursday, although he already made his return to Montreal earlier, and things will be less contentious for him in Carolina. Still, it’s a situation to watch now that Kotkaniemi is heating up.

Wednesday’s NHL scores

Panthers 4, Rangers 3
Devils 4, Sabres 3
Capitals 5, Predators 3
Blues 4, Oilers 2
Canucks 2, Ducks 1 (OT)
Flyers 3, Kraken 2 (OT)

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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    Mitch Marner extends Maple Leafs-record points streak to 21 games

    Mitch Marner
    USA Today

    TORONTO — Mitch Marner extended his franchise-record points streak to 21 games with a second-period goal and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Los Angeles Kings 5-0 on Thursday night.

    Marner gave Toronto a 4-0 lead with his 11th goal of the season, scoring on a slap shot after a Los Angeles turnover inside its blue line.

    Marner became the 10th player in the past 35 years to string together a streak of 21 or more games. He has 10 goals and 16 assists during the run.

    Auston Matthews, Pierre Engvall, David Kampf and William Nylander also scored for Toronto. Ilya Samsonov made 29 saves for his first shutout with the Maple Leafs and the seventh of his career.

    Toronto has won seven of eight to improve to 17-5-6.

    Los Angeles dropped to 14-11-4 with its seventh loss in 10 games. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick made 36 saves.

    Penguins’ Kris Letang returns to practice 10 days after stroke

    Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports
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    PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang returned to practice with his teammates just 10 days after suffering the second stroke of his career.

    The 35-year-old Letang remains out indefinitely, with the club describing him as “day to day.”

    Letang said he felt “pretty good” after being greeted by stick taps from his teammates when he skated onto the ice at the team’s practice facility. Still, the married father of two called the experience “scary,” particularly for his family.

    “My kids, they don’t care if I’m a hockey player or not,” he said. “They care about having a dad. Same with my wife. She could care less about hockey. She knows there’s so much more. After hockey, there’s a long time and you want to be able to enjoy those moments with your family, with your kids.”

    Letang missed more than two months in 2014 after his first stroke, which was caused by a small hole in the wall of his heart. The condition also led to the second stroke, which Letang suffered on Nov. 28 after dealing with a series of debilitating headaches.

    This time, the symptoms have resolved themselves much more quickly, according to team physician Dr. Dharmesh Vyas, who described this stroke as “smaller” than the one Letang endured in 2014.

    Letang began skating on his own just two days after the diagnosis and was cleared to return to practice on Thursday though both Letang and Vyas stressed they are in no rush for him to play in games.

    “We don’t think this is accelerated in any way,” Vyas said. “We are taking all the right precautions to make sure that it is safe to go out and play and when that time comes we’ll let him go back to playing his sport.”

    Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said it was a “relief” to see Letang back at work.

    “It’s a great visual that he’s making progress,” Sullivan said. “Our medical team that has monitored him extremely closely feels comfortable with some of the progress that he’s making and the steps he’s taken. Everyone was excited for him to join the group.”

    Letang signed a six-year contract extension over the summer that will carry him into his 40s if he decides to play that long. Vyas said the data around strokes is “evolving” though it is unclear if Letang is now more susceptible to having additional strokes now that he’s had a second one.

    The six-time All-Star is cautious but optimistic.

    “We’ve been through this,” Letang said. “Me and Dharmesh have a clear understanding that we’re going to take all the time we need and make sure the research is possible and it’s no danger for me to keep going.”

    The Penguins are 8-1-1 over their last 10 games and have won three straight heading into a home-and-home series with the Sabres. They’re also eager to have Letang’s familiar No. 58 back in the lineup, but only when he’s ready.

    “He’s been here for a long time and his experience and everything that he brings on and off the ice, the way he competes (is important),” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “But I think in the (locker) room, (he has) poise and (he’s) somebody who’s been around a long time and whose experience you feel when he’s around.”

    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.


    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.


    Buffalo: Hosts Pittsburgh on Friday.

    Columbus: Hosts Calgary on Friday.

    Ovechkin, Strome lead Capitals past struggling Flyers 4-1

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    Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

    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.


    Capitals: Host Seattle on Friday night.

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