NHL Rink Wrap: Crosby helps Penguins win again; Oilers’ struggles continue

NHL Scores
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Top player in the NHL on Wednesday

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins extended their winning streak to nine games on Wednesday night with an impressive 5-3 win over the St. Louis Blues. Had it not been for goaltending (some strong goaltending early on by Jordan Binnington and a tough night for Casey DeSmith before he was benched by Pittsburgh) this game could have easily gotten away from the Blues. Crosby played a key role in the Penguins’ win, recording rqo points including the game-tying goal midway through the third period. The Penguins are looking really impressive this season and are about to get Evgeni Malkin back in the lineup for the first time this season. Crosby is also starting to find his rhythm after a slow start coming back from offseason wrist surgery. After Wednesday’s performance he now has 20 points in his past 13 games, and 22 points in 20 games for the season overall.

Highlights from around the NHL on Wednesday

John Tavares extended his point streak to seven consecutive games thanks to a lucky bounce off the boards.

The Pittsburgh Penguins scored two goals in 12 seconds thanks to take the lead in the third period against the St. Louis Blues. Sidney Crosby and Evan Rodrigues scored the goals, with Crosby tying the game and Rodrigues giving them the lead on a power play goal following a delay of game penalty after the Blues lost a challenge for potential goaltender interference.

Leon Draisaitl added to his league-leading goal scoring title by scoring his 26th goal of the season on Wednesday night.

Three takeaways from the NHL on Wednesday

The Oilers struggles continue

The Edmonton Oilers losing streak reached five games on Wednesday night with a loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. They did not have Connor McDavid due to COVID protocols, and as expected the offense struggled without him. The Oilers are now 18-14-2 on the season after a 9-1-0 start. The problems are the same as they have been for years. No scoring depth beyond the top two players, a weak defense, and questionable goaltending. Here is another stat that is eye-opening: They have not won a game with Dave Tippett behind the bench since December 1. They are 2-9-2 since then, with those only two wins happening while Tippett was away from the team in protocols. Another thing to watch on Thursday is that if the Los Angeles Kings beat the Nashville Predators, the Kings would jump the Oilers in the Wild Card standings and dump them out of a playoff position for the time being. A San Jose win against Buffalo would also bring them to within a point of the Oilers. It remains a staggering failure on the part of the front office that this team is not better than this given the two superstars at the top. This team should be competing with Vegas and Colorado for the top spot in the Western Conference right now. Not competing with Los Angeles and San Jose for a Wild Card spot.

Penguins should be in the market for another goalie

The Pittsburgh Penguins look like Stanley Cup contenders as long as the goaltending does not repeat what it did in the playoffs a year ago. Tristan Jarry has been outstanding so far this season as the starter and has done a nice job rebounding from his playoff series performance. His backup, Casey DeSmith, however, has not been as productive. Going back to the end of the 2020-21 season he has now allowed at least three goals in 11 of his past 14 starts, including nine starts with at least four goals. He got the start on Wednesday and was benched midway through the second period after giving up three goals, including one just moments after the Penguins scored their first goal of the game. The quick hook from coach Mike Sullivan was telling for a lot of reasons. For starters, it was only three goals. Also because the Penguins are playing the first part of a back-to-back and will be on the road on Thursday night against the Philadelphia Flyers. Given that Jarry is still a question mark and an unknown for the Stanley Cup playoffs, a more solid, capable backup goalie should be a focal point for general manager Ron Hextall and the Penguins’ front office this season.

Another strong showing for Jack Campbell

Probably one of the most unexpected developments in the NHL over the past two years has been Jack Campbell’s emergence as the starting goalie in Toronto. He won another game on Wednesday, improving his record to 17-5-2 on the season with a .940 save percentage. In his first 52 starts with the Maple Leafs over the past two seasons he is now 37-10-5 with a .930 save percentage, making him one of the most productive goalies in the NHL during that time. He went from first-round question mark to Vezina Trophy contender almost over night.

Thursday’s big story

There are 11 games on the NHL schedule for Thursday and a couple of notable ones to keep an eye on. For starters, the Dallas Stars are finally back on the ice for a game for the first time in three weeks when they play the Florida Panthers. There is also a great rivalry matchup in Philadelphia where the Flyers will be hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins who are trying to extend their current winning streak to 10 consecutive games. There is also a great interconference matchup in Vegas when the Golden Knights host the New York Rangers in what could be a potential Stanley Cup Final preview.

Wednesday’s NHL Scores

Toronto Maple Leafs 4, Edmonton Oilers 2
Pittsburgh Penguins 5, St. Louis Blues 3
New York Islanders vs. Vancouver Canucks (Postponed)

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    Blue Jackets acquire D Damon Severson from Devils after he signs 8-year deal

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    The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired Damon Severson from the New Jersey Devils on Friday after the veteran defenseman and soon-to-be free agent signed an eight-year $50 million contract.

    Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen sent a third-round pick, 80th overall, in this month’s draft to the Devils for Severson, who will be under contract through the 2030-31 NHL season.

    Severson had 58 goals and 205 assists in 647 career appearances with the Devils since making his NHL debut in 2014-15. He scored seven game-winning goals and averaged more than 21 minutes of playing time during his nine seasons. The 28-year-old had seven goals and 26 assists this season, including two game-winning goals, in 81 games.

    “Damon is a versatile defenseman who has great vision, moves the puck extremely well, has good size and can play heavy minutes at both ends of the ice,” Kekalainen said.

    The Canadian was selected in the second round in the 2012 draft. He has collected 30 or more points five times in his career and twice notched 11 or more goals. He played in every game in three straight seasons from 2018-21 and has played 80 or more contests four times in his career.

    With the addition of the third-round pick, New Jersey now has six selections in the draft, including its own picks in rounds two, four, five, six and seven.

    Matthew Tkachuk returns from big hit in Stanley Cup Final, adds more playoff heroics

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    Matthew Tkachuk was down, out briefly and then back with plenty of time to make a difference.

    The Florida Panthers star left early in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final after a big hit from Vegas Golden Knights forward Keegan Kolesar, and he missed most of the first period and didn’t return immediately following intermission while being evaluated for a concussion. After looking as if he might be lost for the night, Tkachuk returned in the second and then came through with more of his now trademark playoff heroics.

    Tkachuk scored the tying goal with 2:13 left in regulation, forcing overtime and giving the Panthers new life. He then provided the screen on Carter Verhaeghe‘s OT goal for a 3-2 victory that cut Florida’s series deficit to 2-1.

    The 25-year-old said he knew he was coming back when he left the game, pulled by concussion spotters. That absence felt like a long time ago in the aftermath of another big win he was largely responsible for.

    “I felt great – I feel great,” Tkachuk said. “I’m ready to go. Everybody’s excited that we’re in this position right now.”

    Florida is in this position rather than facing elimination in Game 4 on Saturday thanks in large part to Tkachuk, who also set up Brandon Montour‘s goal that opened the scoring less than five minutes in.

    Not long after, Tkachuk stumbled getting up after the hit from Kolesar and skated to the bench. He took a shift on Florida’s power play before going down the tunnel at the demand of concussion spotters mandated by NHL protocol.

    At that point, there was zero clarity, even on the Florida bench.

    “You’re not informed at all: It’s a complete shutdown,” coach Paul Maurice said. “You are completely in the dark on those. You don’t know when the player’s coming back. There’s not an update.”

    Players insist they were not worried. Montour called it a no-brainer.

    “He’s going to come back no matter what,” captain Aleksander Barkov said. “He’s really tough guy, and he’s going to battle through everything.”

    Tkachuk rejoined his teammates on the bench a few minutes into the second. When he stepped back onto the ice for his first shift since leaving, fans cheered and chanted, “Chucky! Chucky!”

    The crowd was even louder and threw rats when Tkachuk scored his biggest goal of many during this run to tie it. He didn’t get an assist on Verhaeghe’s goal but made it happen with a tape-to-tape pass in the neutral zone and was in front of Adin Hill when it happened.

    Asked if he was happy Tkachuk returned, Maurice joked that it was after midnight.

    “It was fine,” he quipped.

    Panthers rally, top Golden Knights 3-2 in OT of Game 3 of Stanley Cup final

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    SUNRISE, Fla. — Carter Verhaeghe scored 4:27 into overtime and the Florida Panthers pulled off some more postseason dramatics to beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night.

    Matthew Tkachuk tied it with 2:13 left in the third period for the Panthers, who got the franchise’s first title-series game win in seven tries. Florida had to fend off a power play to start overtime, and Verhaeghe got the winner from the slot to get the Panthers within 2-1 in the series.

    Game 4 is Saturday night.

    Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 25 shots for Florida. Adin Hill made 20 saves for Vegas, but got beat on the only shot that came his way in overtime.

    Brandon Montour also scored for Florida, which pulled Bobrovsky down 2-1 late in the third for the extra attacker and Tkachuk — who left for parts of the first and second periods after taking a big hit — made that move pay off when he tied the game.

    His goal breathed life into a very nervous building. But the Panthers were furious — and replays showed they had a case — when Gustav Forsling was sent to the box with 11.2 seconds remaining for tripping. Florida survived that scare, and a few minutes later, had life in the series again.

    The odds are still long, but the Panthers at least have a bit more statistical hope now. Of the previous 55 teams to trail 2-1 at this point of the Stanley Cup Final, 11 have actually rallied to hoist the trophy.

    It’s improbable, sure. So are the Panthers, who were the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, were down 3-1 to Boston in Round 1, were 133 seconds away from trailing this series 3-0 — and now have tons of reasons for optimism.

    Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone each had power-play goals for Vegas.

    Marchessault’s goal was his 13th in his last 13 playoff games, his fourth of this series and his third with the man advantage.

    As if all that wasn’t enough, there was a little history in there as well. Vegas joined the 1980 New York Islanders as the only team with at least two power-play goals in three consecutive games in the Cup final. And Marchessault became the third player in the last 35 years to score in each of the first three games of a title series — joining Steve Yzerman in 1997 with Detroit and Jake Guentzel with Pittsburgh in 2017.

    But it wasn’t enough to give Vegas a 3-0 lead in the series.


    Before Thursday, Florida’s last home game in the title series was June 10, 1996, when Uwe Krupp scored in the third overtime for a 1-0 win as Colorado finished off a four-game sweep of the Panthers for the Cup. … Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was in the crowd, as was NBA great Charles Barkley, and former Dolphins star Dan Marino was the celebrity drummer to welcome the Panthers onto the ice.

    Blackhawks, Athanasiou agree to 2-year, $8.5 million contract

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    CHICAGO — The rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks locked in one of their top scorers, agreeing to a two-year, $8.5 million contract with forward Andreas Athanasiou on Thursday.

    The 28-year-old Athanasiou tied for the team lead with 20 goals and ranked third with 40 points in his first season with Chicago. He matched career highs with four game-winning goals and three power-play goals.

    The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Athanasiou has 125 goals and 111 assists in 459 games with the Detroit Red Wings (2015-20), Edmonton Oilers (2020), Los Angeles Kings (2020-22) and Blackhawks.

    Chicago went 26-49-7 and finished last in the Central Division. The Blackhawks dealt Patrick Kane to the New York Rangers prior to the trade deadline and announced in April they would not re-sign Jonathan Toews, parting with two players who led them to Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013 and 2015.