NHL Rink Wrap: Chris Kreider hat trick; Draisaitl helps Oilers end streak

NHL Rink Wrap: Chris Kreider hat trick; Draisaitl helps Oilers end streak
Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

Top players from Saturday in the NHL

Chris Kreider, Rangers

Following the NHL action on Saturday, Chris Kreider has played 42 games this season for the Rangers. He’s already set a new career-high with 29 goals.

In the case of the Rangers’ win over the Coyotes, Kreider generated a hat trick and added an assist (not unlike Sidney Crosby on Friday). That four-point output put Kreider at exactly a point-per-game (42 in 42) this season.

Kreider’s already extended his 20+ goal streak to four consecutive seasons, a level he’s reached in seven of his past eight campaigns.

Ultimately, Igor Shesterkin ranks as the most important part of the Rangers performing better than expected. Enjoying career years from Kreider and Ryan Strome helps, too, alongside usual suspects such as Artemi Panarin and Adam Fox.

Jacob Trouba wasn’t far behind Kreider, scoring two goals and one assist.

(If you’re wondering where Leon Draisaitl is, considering him 1B to Kreider’s 1A. Scroll for more.)

NHL highlights from Saturday

Watch Kreider collect that hat trick, the fifth of his career, and third since Feb. 24, 2021.

Lately, the Avalanche have been winning, but winning somewhat ugly. Maybe that’s a good thing, being that the playoffs often seem all about eschewing style points? Gabriel Landeskog notched the OTGWG:

Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom also found the net for an overtime goal:

Watch the highlights of the Sabres extending the Flyers’ losing streak to 11 games to watch Peyton Krebs score his first two NHL goals:

Absolutely beautiful game-winner from Leon Draisaitl:

Saturday NHL Takeaways

Oilers end losing streak; Koskinen, Draisaitl make difference vs. Flames

Heading into a huge game for the Oilers on Saturday, people around the NHL were laying the blame on plenty of different members of the organization.

Listen to certain pundits, and you’d feel like the mistakes start and stop with Mikko Koskinen. No doubt, Koskinen’s struggled, but blaming him for the edginess growing in Edmonton makes little sense. Either way, on Saturday, Koskinen mostly came up huge to help end the Oilers’ losing streak at seven games.

Koskinen allowed three goals, but made 44 saves.

If you want to go “old school,” you could also blame the team’s best players.

Of course, beating up on Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl for Edmonton’s larger problems is pretty absurd, but the two have been cold during the latter part of this cold streak. During Saturday’s game, McDavid and Draisaitl broke their own slumps, along with the Oilers ending their losing streak.

[The same old questions plague the Oilers]

McDavid made plenty of plays, collecting two assists. Draisaitl was especially impressive, though, capping a four-point night (2G, 2A) with an empty-netter.

Draisaitl’s game-winning goal is a reminder that wins often come from a mixture of hard work and good luck. Draisaitl’s great move made the goal happen. Yet officials also missed that Flames defenseman Oliver Kylington was taken out of the play in what should have been an interference penalty.

That went uncalled, and the Oilers get to breathe a sigh of relief.

They also have at least one tweak to think of. After scoring two power-play goals, should the Oilers turn to Evan Bouchard more often? The young defenseman got that chance due to a Tyson Barrie injury, but perhaps he deserves more reps.

By no means are the Oilers out of the woods, but they desperately needed to end this losing streak. For all we know, the Oilers saved someone’s job by beating the Flames. (At least for now?)

Flyers lose to Sabres, see streak grow to 11 games

The Flyers are already the first team in more than a decade to suffer two 10-game losing streaks during the same season. (And they’re only halfway through their season, yikes.)

Now the Flyers are just one defeat short of tying their franchise record for a losing streak (12 games) after the Sabres pushed Philly’s skid to 11 games on Saturday.

[What went wrong for the Flyers this season?]

“We got outworked from the first shift of the game,” Rasmus Ristolainen said, via the Associated Press. “When you have a lot of losses coming in a row, I think it should hurt more every time. And when you get outworked like this, it obviously hurts even more.”

That’s already disturbing stuff. It gets a little worse when you add context. Philly’s last two losses come against the lowly Sabres and Blue Jackets. Before that, the Flyers dropped two losses to an Islanders team enduring a disappointing season of their own.

Sunday’s big story

Jets need to win games like Sunday’s vs. the Penguins

How strong are the Winnipeg Jets’ chances at making the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs? Truly, it depends where you look.

The Penguins are enjoying another strong season, with especially impressive play lately (four-game winning streak, 8-2-0 in their last 10). Combine the Penguins’ play and their place outside of the Jets’ division and conference, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if Winnipeg lost.

But if you really want to be a playoff team — particularly if you don’t just want to be playoff fodder — then you have to win games like these every now and then.

NHL scores from Saturday

Sabres 6, Flyers 3
Bruins 3, Jets 2
Devils 7, Hurricanes 4
Rangers 7, Coyotes 3
Capitals 3, Senators 2 (OT)
Avalanche 3, Canadiens 2 (OT)
Maple Leafs 3, Islanders 1
Predators 4, Red Wings 1
Wild 4, Blackhawks 3 (OT)
Oilers 5, Flames 3
Lightning 7, Sharks 1

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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    Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

    The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

    Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

    Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

    Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

    The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

    Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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    ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

    Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

    These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

    In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

    “Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

    Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

    “He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

    Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

    “I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

    Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

    “I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

    Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

    “I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

    Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

    The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

    One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

    “It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

    Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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    SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

    Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

    “Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

    The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

    Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

    Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

    Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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    The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

    The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

    General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

    The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

    Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

    Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

    “I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

    Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

    “Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

    After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.