NHL Rink Wrap: Big (but clean?) Tom Wilson hit; Oilers streak continues

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Top players from Thursday in the NHL

Jason Robertson and Tyler Seguin, Stars

Overall, it’s not ideal that the Stars narrowly beat the Sabres, and needed four power-play goals to do it. But there’s something to be said for exerting your will to win a game, and that can be seen most immediately in 47 shots on goal for the Stars.

Robertson and Seguin collected 5 SOG apiece on their way to two-goal, one-assist performances. If this is one of John Klingberg‘s last games with the Stars, at least he factored into the win, generating three assists.

Even with this three-goal outburst, Seguin’s season totals are disappointing. He’s just shy of a point every other game with 18 in 36 contests. If nothing else, Seguin may be heating up, as he’s stacked up two straight multi-point games (3G, 2A).

Darcy Kuemper, Avalanche

The Avs topped the Kings 4-1 to spoil Quinton Byfield‘s season debut. The biggest roadblock in LA’s way was Kuemper, who stopped 40 of 41 shots faced in the win. It was a good rebound for the Colorado netminder after leaving Monday’s game following a collision with Jordan Greenway.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Panthers

No doubt, plenty will be made about the Oilers seeing their losing streak reach seven games. It’s also their seventh loss in eight home games.

But the story could’ve been very different if Sergei Bobrovsky wasn’t on fire. Instead, “Bob” stopped all 40 shots on goal to make life more miserable for the Oilers.

More on that in the NHL Takeaways section of the Thursday Rink Wrap …

NHL highlights from Thursday

Nice tribute from the Flyers for Jakub Voracek:

Likewise, a nice video for Matt Murray for the Penguins, who call him an “all-time great human.”

Scroll for more on the nastiness of Capitals – Bruins, including another big Tom Wilson hit. Beyond the nastiness, the teams also displayed great skill, including a nice goal by Evgeny Kuznetsov, and a late game-winner by Charlie McAvoy:

Watching the Sabres can’t be easy these days, except when Rasmus Dahlin does something remarkable.

Kudos to Stars sophomore Jason Robertson for scoring a baseball-themed goal during Rangers night.

Few modern NHL players are as strong on the backhand as Sidney Crosby, something he put on display on Thursday:

Shea Theodore netted the overtime winner for the Golden Knights and did it after some offensive zone domination:

Thursday NHL Takeaways

Hot start isn’t enough for Oilers, who see losing streak hit seven games

If you go by the first period alone, the Oilers deserved better against a formidable Florida Panthers team.

During that opening frame, the Oilers were humming, hammering 17 shots on goal (compared to seven for the Panthers). That volume generally continued, but Sergei Bobrovsky kept coming up big.

The air really went out of the Oilers’ sails on Aleksander Barkov‘s second goal of the night, a shorthanded tally.

From there, a reasonably close game devolved into a 6-0 stomping. The last player to score a Florida Panthers goal against David Tippett and the Oilers? Cruelly, it was Owen Tippett. (No relation.)

With that, the Oilers saw their losing streak grow to an unnerving seven games. It’s foolish to panic over cold streaks, but what if those cold streaks put the same old problems on display?

Tom Wilson delivers another big hit, but Bruins take issue with a different Capitals hit

Tom Wilson is no stranger to getting booed by opposing fans. That certainly happened on Thursday, as Bruins fans showered him with profane chants after a hard hit on Anton Blidh.

Blidh left that rough Bruins – Capitals game with an injury. Yet, while some took issue with the latest Tom Wilson hit, plenty of others called it clean. You be the judge:

Instead, the bigger issue was a Garnet Hathaway check that injured Brad Marchand. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy believed it was “cheap.” Again, judge for yourself:

Despite those controversial hits (and some painful injury losses), the Bruins gutted out a 4-3 win over the Capitals. While the Bruins haven’t really improved their playoff seeding, they’ve still been hot lately, winning eight of their last 10 games.

Flyers ‘accomplish’ rare feat of two 10-game losing streaks already this season

So far, the Flyers have played 40 games in this lost season. Somehow, the Flyers already suffered two different 10-game losing streaks. The AP’s Dan Gelston notes that the 2010-11 Colorado Avalanche are the last NHL team to suffer two losing streaks of at least 10 games in a single season.

(Considering those 10-game losing streaks, you’d almost expect the Flyers to sport an even uglier record than 13-19-8. Not that it’s much solace.)

In case you’re wondering, the Flyers’ franchise record for longest losing streak is 12 games.

Hey, at least the Flyers still have their first-round pick, though. (Not their second-rounder, however. They gave that up to trade away Shayne Gostisbehere.)

At this point, the Flyers are aiming to avoid making more dismal history, while fans may be focusing on the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline and the 2022 NHL Draft. You have to wonder if Flyers management will be around to make calls in free agency and the draft after this wasted (and wastefully expensive) season.

Friday’s big story

Rangers – Hurricanes in a clash of contenders; Metro Division title implications?

Heading into the NHL action on Friday, the Rangers boast the most standings points (56 points in 40 games played) while the Hurricanes could easily close that gap (54 points, but with four games in hand [36 GP]).

In the most direct terms, the Rangers and Hurricanes get to influence the battle for the Metropolitan Division title.

But this could be an especially nice opportunity for the Rangers to make a statement. Despite being fairly close in the standings, the Hurricanes carry a bit more longer-term credibility than the Rangers. You can delve deeper into fancy stats, or merely note that the Hurricanes loom large with an impressive +45 goal differential, more than double the also-good Rangers’ differential (+20).

Beating the Hurricanes in Carolina wouldn’t dissolve all doubt about the Rangers. It would rank as one of their better wins, though. (Of course, that’s easier said than done.)

NHL scores from Thursday

Bruins 4, Capitals 3
Stars 5, Sabres 4
Blue Jackets 2, Flyers 1
Penguins 6, Senators 4
Predators 5, Jets 2
Panthers 6, Oilers 0
Avalanche 4, Kings 1
Golden Knights 4, Canadiens 3 (OT)
Kraken 3, Sharks 2

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.

Ovechkin, and Ovi Jr., take the ice at All-Star skills night

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SUNRISE, Fla. — When you’ve got the second-most goals in NHL history, you’re evidently permitted to bring a guest onto the ice for the All-Star Skills competition.

That’s why there were two No. 8 Washington jerseys out there.

Capitals star Alex Ovechkin took the ice with his Metropolitan Division teammates – and his oldest child, 4-year-old Sergei.

Sergei, named for Ovechkin’s late brother, was wearing an Ovi Jr. jersey. The kid has built a bit of a following in recent weeks, after scoring a goal at a Caps practice in December and playing a role in helping the Washington crowd celebrate his dad’s 800th goal.

It was Ovi Jr.’s first chance at being part of an All-Star weekend. His father hasn’t participated at All-Star since 2018, either because of COVID-19 or injuries. The last time his dad played in an All-Star event, Sergei hadn’t been born.

Alex Ovechkin has 812 goals. He only trails Wayne Gretzky’s 894 in NHL history.

And later in the night, Ovi Jr. got to center a line alongside his dad and Pittsburgh great Sidney Crosby. They each got an assist on a goal that Sergei scored – beating Roberto Luongo, the Florida great who came out of retirement for All-Star weekend.

Said Ovechkin after his son scored: “I think he’s really enjoying it.”

WELCOME HOME, LU

Luongo got to be part of one more All-Star competition.

In a building where a banner bearing his No. 1 jersey hangs – he’s the only former Panthers player to have that distinction – Luongo was a celebrity goaltender during the Breakaway Challenge during the Skills Competition on Friday night.

He stopped his lone shot in the breakaway, off the stick of Toronto’s Mitch Marner. On one hand, Marner is the Maple Leafs’ leading scorer this season. On the other hand, he was also wearing a white suit, sunglasses and a light blue T-shirt to keep with a “Miami Vice” theme.

Luongo, who was regaled by “Luuuuu” chants from the Florida fans all night, was up to the challenge. Marner tried to beat him to the glove side, but Luongo got enough of it to make the save – then flopped forward to cover up the rebound, the smile clearly seen through his mask.

“You got too close,” Luongo told Marner.

Later, Luongo told ESPN during the telecast of the event that “this is my house. This is my home right here. The crease is my home.”

Luongo’s pads paid tribute to his career – the design depicted his time both as a member of the Panthers and the Vancouver Canucks. They were a gift from CCM for his making the Hockey Hall of Fame.

“I’d never put the pads on since I retired,” Luongo said. “First time I put them on was this week. Felt pretty good.”

He also took part, and scored a goal, in a Florida alumni game on Wednesday night. But if there’s more alumni games, Luongo suggested he might jump back into the net.

“It back some good memories tonight to be in the blue paint, hearing the chants,” Luongo said. “Maybe one day we’ll hear them again.”

REMEMBERING JIMMY

Sergei Ovechkin – who knocked a shot into an open net during a stoppage of the skills events – wasn’t the only child who got a great view of the night.

Philadelphia forward Kevin Hayes has his 3-year-old nephew Beau with him for All-Star weekend. Beau’s father was Jimmy Hayes, Kevin Hayes’ brother.

Jimmy Hayes was 31 when he died in 2021 with fentanyl and cocaine in his system. He played for four NHL teams, including Florida.

Kevin Hayes is part of an All-Star weekend for the first time.

ANTHEM POISE

“The Star-Spangled Banner” was performed by the South Florida Gay Men’s Chorus, and group crushed it – never minding that the crowd, representing several different fan bases, was going to shout some term specific to their team at various points in the lyrics.

Florida fans shout along with “red” and “Knight,” one a nod to one of the team’s primary colors, the other for goaltender Spencer Knight. There also were some shouts from other fan bases; some St. Louis fans, for example, could be heard singing “home of the Blues” instead of “home of the brave” to close the song.

And “O Canada” performer Hannah Walpole had some shouting as she sang as well, particularly when she reached the “true North” portion of those lyrics – something typically heard at Winnipeg games.

SLAP SHOTS

Cale Makar, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner from the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, was the first participant in the Fastest Skater event – the opening competition of the night. He fell coming around the second turn. … Tampa Bay’s Pat Maroon, one of the broadcasters on the event, reported that he was “freezing” by working at ice level. “I’m used to the gear,” said Maroon, who was in a blazer and open shirt Friday night. … A big hit for those used to the regular colors of FLA Live Arena – and basically all other hockey arenas – was the ocean-water-shade of blue used for the blue lines and the creases. The faceoff dots at the circles on either end of the ice aren’t the standard solid red this weekend, but depict an image of the sun instead.

Capitals sign Dylan Strome to five-year, $25 million extension

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FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Washington Capitals signed forward Dylan Strome to a five-year extension worth $25 million.

The team announced the contract during NHL All-Star Weekend, which is taking place in South Florida – the place Strome was drafted third in 2015.

Strome will count $5 million against the salary cap through the 2027-28 season. He was set to be a restricted free agent this summer.

“Dylan is an intelligent and skilled center and has been a great addition to our organization,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We are pleased to sign him to a long-term contract. We feel his skill set is a great fit for our team as he enters the prime years of his career at an important position.”

Strome is getting a raise from the $3.5 million deal he signed with the Capitals after the Chicago Blackhawks opted not to tender him a qualifying offer and made him a free agent. Strome has 11 goals and 25 assists in 36 games this season and ranks third on Washington’s roster with 14 power-play points.

The Mississauga, Ontario, native who played his junior hockey alongside Connor McDavid with the Erie Otters has 206 points in 325 regular-season NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Blackhawks and Capitals.

Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

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DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.