Top player in the NHL on Thursday
Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers
Just a completely dominant performance by the Florida Panthers on Thursday night, routing their cross-state rivals by a 9-3 margin. Florida is now 2-0-1 against Tampa Bay this season, outscoring the Lightning by a 15-7 margin in the three games. There were a lot of big stars for the Panthers in this game — as is the case when you score nine goals — but Huberdeau was leading the way with a five-point effort, scoring a goal and adding four assists. That performance gives him 38 points in 31 games this season, by far the highest mark on the team. He has become one of the NHL’s top offensive players and alongside Aleksander Barkov gives the Panthers a potential championship level core to build around.
Highlights from around the NHL on Thursday
Anthony Duclair has found a home with the Florida Panthers and added to his goal total on Thursday with a pair of goals in the Panthers’ big win against the Lightning, including this beauty of a play right here. This is also his 100th career goal in the NHL.
Alexandre Texier uses a slick move in the shootout to help the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Nashville Predators.
The Vancouver Canucks only scored one goal on Thursday night, but man was it a great play by J.T. Miller.
Three takeaways from the NHL on Thursday
Canucks winning streak ends, but they still get a point
For the first time since hiring Bruce Boudreau the Vancouver Canucks were not on the winning side of a game. They lost a 2-1 shootout decision to the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night, snapping what had been a seven-game winning streak under their new coach. The good news: They still got a point even though they were far from their best.
It is still difficult to get a read on this Canucks team and their chances the rest of the way. The 7-0-1 mark under Boudreau is an obvious improvement. But even with that it still only brings their points percentage on the season to .500, and they still have a pretty significant amount of ground to make up in the playoff race. Yes, they are only three points out of a spot, but they have played more games than everybody else (including several more games than some teams) and there are only three teams in the Western Conference with a worse points percentage. They have also taken half of their games under Boudreau to overtime or a shootout. That is not always the best recipe for continued success. But, at least their season is a lot more interesting than it seemed to be a couple of weeks ago.
Pacific Division stronger than it looked at the start of the season
At the start of the season the Pacific Division looked like it was going to be by far the weakest division in the league. Vegas looked to be the clear favorite, Edmonton was probably the second-best looking team just based on the two superstars at the top, and then everybody just seemed to be nothing special. But more than a quarter of the way through the season and the division is way more competitive than it looked. Anaheim and Calgary have exceeded all expectations and are giving Vegas a run for its money, while San Jose and Los Angeles have managed to hang around in the playoff race. With their wins on Thursday the Sharks and Kings are just one point back of a Wild Card spot (worth noting the two current Wild Card teams still have several games in hand) and there looks to be a solid six-team race for playoff spots.
Andrew Mangiapane‘s run for the “Cy Young” continues
This is the unofficial designation for a player whose goal to assist ratio would be fitting of a Cy Young winning pitcher in the Major Leagues, and Calgary Flames forward Andrew Mangiapane is making an impressive run at it this season. He scored another goal on Thursday in the Flames’ 6-4 win over the Seattle Kraken (Mark Giordano had a goal and two assists against his former team for the Kraken) without recording an assist in the win. That brings his stat line on the season to 18 goals and three assists. Of the 15 players that have scored at least 15 goals this season Mangiapane is the only one that does not have at least five assists this season. Chicago’s Alex DeBrincat has the second fewest assists, recording six helpers to go with his 17 goals for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Friday’s big story
There are two great matchups on the schedule on Friday with the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning meeting, and also the Vegas Golden Knights and Anaheim Ducks. The former has two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference going head-to-head, while the latter will determine first place (for the time being at least) in the Pacific Division. The Washington Capitals are also in action on Friday, playing the Detroit Red Wings, giving Alex Ovechkin another chance to set the NHL all-time record for most power play goals.
Thursday’s NHL Scores
Columbus Blue Jackets 4, Nashville Predators 3 (SO)
New York Islanders 4, Buffalo Sabres 1
Florida Panthers 9, Tampa Bay Lightning 3
Carolina Hurricanes 4, Montreal Canadiens 0
Calgary Flames 6, Seattle Kraken 4
Los Angeles Kings 2, Vancouver Canucks 1 (SO)
San Jose Sharks 3, Philadelphia Flyers 2 (OT)
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.