NHL Rink Wrap: Stars end Penguins’ streak; Fleury wins in Vegas return

NHL Rink Wrap: Stars end Penguins' streak; Fleury wins in Vegas return
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Top players from Saturday in the NHL

Tomas Hertl, Sharks

From a cold, calculated standpoint, the Sharks probably shouldn’t sign Tomas Hertl to a contract extension. This is the 28-year-old’s chance for that big UFA contract, and he’s unlikely to compromise on price or term. Considering where the Sharks stand — even if they’re not as dour as expected — the risks likely outweigh the rewards.

But watch Hertl when he really heats up, and it’s tough to blame the Sharks for struggling with the idea of waving goodbye. That must apply to Saturday in the NHL, as Tomas Hertl generated a hat trick that included an overtime game-winner.

With that hat trick, Hertl is already at 20 goals this season, one more than in 2020-21. He’s reasonably close to a point per game (31 in 36), too. That kind of output will make him tough to let go … but also that much more expensive to keep.

Although, the Sharks are assuming they may be able to terminate Evander Kane’s contract, so maybe they’re feeling flush?

Mikko Rantanen, Avalanche

Thanks to Auston Matthews‘ second goal of the night, the Maple Leafs built a 3-0 lead 14:50 into the first period vs. the Avalanche. That lead wouldn’t hold, and Mikko Rantanen ranked as a big reason why Colorado came back from what looked like a defeat.

In all, Rantanen collected four assists in this rally, including three primary helpers. Rantanen generated four shots on goal, one hit, and a +3 rating in 25:09 of ice time.

Rantanen’s produced seven points in his last two games, pushing his season points total to 40 in 28 contests. Over an 82-game season, that would translate to 117 points.

Unfortunately, Rantanen hasn’t been able to stay totally healthy lately, so that projection is somewhat fanciful. The Avalanche would settle for having Rantanen and other key players healthy and sharp for the playoffs, though.

Highlights from NHL games on Saturday

Saturday ended up being quite the night for high-level goalie saves around the NHL.

First, watch Joonas Korpisalo absolutely rob Nico Hischier:

Plenty of Superman references following this Jack Campbell save:

Finally, Zach Fucale made a tremendous save of his own:

There was also this from that Capitals game. (Oh, and check out the shutout record Fucale set, by the way. Remember Matt Hackett?)

Watch Tomas Hertl’s hat trick, including the OT game-winner:

Devon Toews added an exclamation point to the Avalanche’s comeback win against the Maple Leafs with this OT tally:

One more OT-winner: tremendous pass from Jonathan Huberdeau, skilled finish by Anthony Duclair for a Florida W.

NHL takeaways from Saturday

Sharks waive Evander Kane in order to terminate his contract

In the most unexpected NHL news of Saturday, the Sharks placed Evander Kane on waivers with the goal of terminating his contract. While the NHLPA hasn’t specified its plans yet, the widely reported belief is that Kane will file a grievance. Read up on the situation in this post.

Stars end Penguins’ winning streak at 10, Klingberg makes waves

By itself, Saturday’s early Penguins – Stars game was noteworthy enough. Carrying a 10-game winning streak into the NHL action on Saturday, the Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 vs. the Stars. With a goal in the second and two more in the third, the Stars ended up rallying to end the Penguins’ winning streak. In doing so, the Stars are heating up in their own right, as this was their fourth consecutive win.

But John Klingberg‘s comments to the media delivered bigger headlines.

While Klingberg denied an outright trade request from the Stars, he acknowledged frustrations with a lack of movement regarding a contract extension. In other words, it doesn’t sound like Klingberg is totally stunned by talk of his days being numbered with the Stars.

Not a bad way to get some wheels spinning about the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, which is on March 21.

Fleury wins in return to Vegas

In an emotional moment, Vegas welcomed Marc-Andre Fleury back with a tribute video, spotlighting the nice highs of his Golden Knights years. (The lows of his departure weren’t necessarily in the front of his mind. Hopefully.)

Through the first period, a Ben Hutton goal gave Vegas a 1-0 lead. That would end up being the last time they beat Marc-Andre Fleury in this game, as he stopped 30 of 31 shots to grab a win for the Blackhawks. Maybe “The Flower” hasn’t gotten the last laugh, but he got the latest one.

Sunday’s big story

Next step in Evander Kane – Sharks situation

Barring an unexpected claim, Evander Kane is expected to clear waivers on Sunday afternoon.

Again, we know that while not official, it’s likely Kane and the NHLPA will file a grievance about the Sharks trying to terminate his contract. What we don’t know is:

  • Which team, or teams, would be interesting in signing Evander Kane as a free agent?
  • Could there even be a bidding war of sorts? Would a multi-year contract be possible?

With two Saturday NHL games scheduled six hours apart, fans can soak in each contest — and possibly more information on the Kane – Sharks situation.

NHL scores from Saturday

Stars 3, Penguins 2
Bruins 5, Lightning 2
Sharks 3, Flyers 2 (OT)
Panthers 4, Hurricanes 3 (OT)
Blue Jackets 4, Devils 3
Avalanche 5, Maple Leafs 4 (OT)
Wild 3, Capitals 2 (SO)
Predators 4, Coyotes 2
Blackhawks 2, Golden Knights 1
Rangers 4, Ducks 1
Kings 4, Red Wings 0

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
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    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

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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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    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.