NHL Rink Wrap: Crosby hat trick; Hurricanes school Rangers

NHL Rink Wrap: Crosby hat trick; Hurricanes school Rangers
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Top players from Friday in the NHL

Sidney Crosby, Penguins

Most engaged hockey fans realize that, while Sidney Crosby isn’t at the very top of Hart Trophy conversations* as much these days, he’s still an elite player. The deeper you dig into his game, the clearer it is that Crosby has evolved into an all-around dynamo.

Nonetheless, Crosby isn’t necessarily scoring as explosively as he once did — at least not that often. During the NHL action on Friday, Sidney Crosby reminded us that he can still light up the occasional scoreboard.

Crosby swipes NHL player of the night for Thursday with a hat trick plus an assist.

This marks the 15th hat trick of Sidney Crosby’s career. Of those hat tricks, 12 happened during regular season games, and three in the playoffs. (One of those three happened to be a Crosby – Alex Ovechkin hat trick duel. Can we order another of those, please? Is there an app for that?)

With that hat trick + assist, Crosby improved to 31 points (10G, 21A) in 28 games this season.

* – That doesn’t mean Crosby is totally absent from Hart Trophy conversations, mind you.

NHL highlights from Friday

Hey, speaking of that Sidney Crosby hat trick:

Two fights for the price of one (click). Now that’s value.

When you’re listing the most underrated players in the NHL, don’t forget Stars center Roope Hintz. He won’t slip under the radar forever if he keeps scoring OT game-winners, though:

Read more about the Hurricanes beating the Rangers below, or use this goal as a testament to what happened:

Not just a great goal by Dylan Larkin, but also one that can help you delude yourself into thinking your hockey video game successes count as “realistic.”

Friday NHL Takeaways

Hall of Famer Clark Gillies dies at age 67

Sad news on Friday: Hockey Hall of Famer Clark Gillies died at age 67. Best known for his time with the Islanders (four Stanley Cup wins, 12 seasons), Gillies also played two seasons for the Sabres. Read more about Clark Gillies here.

AHL suspends Hrabik 30 games for racist gesture toward Imama

The AHL suspended San Jose Barracuda forward Krystof Hrabik 30 games for making a racist gesture toward Boko Imama of the Tucson Roadrunners.

Disgustingly, this is the second time Boko Imama has been the target of a racist gesture during AHL play in the last three years. In Jan. 2020, the AHL suspended Brandon Manning five games for directing a racial slur at Imama, who was then playing for the Ontario Reign. When the two players met in a game weeks later, the two fought.

Later on Friday, Imama expressed his frustration with the racism he’s faced during his hockey career.

Hurricanes teach the Rangers a bit of a lesson?

When discussing Rangers – Hurricanes as the big NHL story for Friday, the question was: can the Rangers prove that they belong with a team like the Canes?

One loss or win wouldn’t definitively answer that question. But after a dominant Hurricanes win, it feels more reasonable to pose the question. Simply put, New York might not be “there” yet. That’s not necessarily something to be ashamed of, though, because it simply wouldn’t be that outrageous if the Hurricanes ended up raising the Stanley Cup this season.

Don’t think there was a bit of a feeling of “learning a lesson?” Mika Zibanejad used that verbiage after a decisive defeat.

(Stats tell the story, too, including the Hurricanes generating a 23-9 advantage in even-strength high-danger chances against the Rangers.)

Your mileage will probably vary on one of the subplots of the Hurricanes beating the Rangers. Tony DeAngelo performed well against his former team, matching Sebastian Aho by scoring a goal and two assists.

It seems silly to slam the Rangers for parting ways with DeAngelo, but it’s also silly to deny that he’s had a strong season with Carolina.

Ducks end losing streak by beating Lightning

Amid a four-game losing streak and 2-7-1 stretch, the Ducks’ playoff hopes were waddling in the wrong direction. Beating (and hanging with) the repeat Stanley Cup champion Lightning might just be the tonic to improve the Ducks’ confidence.

While the high-danger chances weren’t always there at even-strength early on, the Ducks brought a lot of effort to the table vs. the Lightning. In the first period, the Ducks generated 18 shots vs. seven for the Lightning as Anaheim went up 2-0.

By the early point of the third, it was 4-0 Ducks. That said, the Lightning started to really cook on offense, but John Gibson looked a lot like the John Gibson many of us missed during two relative down years. Gibson came into the NHL action on Friday with a .918 save percentage that might be even better than it looks. He was dynamite in limiting the damage of the Bolts’ late surges.

With the Ducks ending their skid, the Lightning’s winning streak ended at four games, as did a 10-game point streak.

Saturday’s big story

Flames get a chance to spoil things even more for the Oilers

Over and over again, the addled Oilers keep getting asked, “is this rock bottom?” If squandering a lead against the befuddled Senators wasn’t enough, then you have the Oilers playing well yet getting thumped 6-0 to the Panthers.

And yet …

If you really want to rub salt in the Oilers’ wounds, wouldn’t you do it by sprinkling in the agony of a brutal loss to the Flames?

Sure, it would ruin my joke about Owen Tippett scoring the last goal of the Dave Tippett era in Edmonton, but losing to your local rival can often be the final straw. With the Flames enduring struggles of their own (3-6-1 in their last 10 games), they have even more incentive to beat the Oilers.

Could also be quite the way for Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to shake off very unusual scoring slumps.

NHL scores from Friday

Hurricanes 6, Rangers 3
Penguins 5, Blue Jackets 2
Stars 5, Red Wings 4 (OT)
Islanders 4, Coyotes 0
Wild 5, Blackhawks 1
Panthers 2, Canucks 1 (SO)
Ducks 5, Lightning 1
Blues 5, Kraken 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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    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 Friday night.

    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 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 paid tribute to his time both as a member of the Panthers and the Vancouver Canucks.

    He also took part, and scored a goal, in a Florida alumni game on Wednesday night.

    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.