NHL Rink Wrap: Scheifele vs. Gourde; Oilers stay hot; Laine hat trick

NHL Rink Wrap: Scheifele vs. Gourde; Oilers stay hot; Laine hat trick
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Top players from Thursday in the NHL

Patrik Laine, Blue Jackets

When Patrik Laine managed to suit up earlier this season, he was quietly piling up points. He’s racking up numbers in ways that won’t just slip under the radar lately, though.

With a hat trick during the NHL action on Thursday, Laine improved to 16 goals and 31 points in 29 games this season. That Laine hat trick also pushed his point streak to eight games (10G, 6A). During that eight-game point streak, Laine generated multiple goals on four different occasions.

Did someone tell Laine he’s in a contract year?

[Another recent look at Laine getting in a groove]

While Laine generated two-goal games even when things were awkward with John Tortorella, this marks his first hat trick with the Blue Jackets.

This brings up a point that’s been mentioned before. Is Laine heating up so much that maybe a trade could make sense? The Blue Jackets are probably best off losing a ton, and even with this surge, it’s unclear if Laine should stick with the CBJ or go elsewhere.

Wherever he stays, it’s easier and easier to imagine Laine grabbing the big bucks. For a while there, it wasn’t so clear.

Thursday NHL highlights

Do coast-to-coast goals ever get old? Maybe if you’re allowing them. Anyway, Morgan Rielly pulled offered one up during the Maple Leafs’ win against the Penguins:

Can a goalie ever relax when Trevor Zegras is at what should be an impossible angle? Almost cruel at this point.

Check out Patrik Laine collecting his first Blue Jackets hat trick:

The Canucks ended up winning in OT anyway, but buzzer beaters are fun, and Alexander Barabanov just barely slipped this paper under the deadline.

Cole Caufield‘s OT-winner ended the Canadiens’ losing streak at 10 games (Montreal’s last win before this happened on Jan. 18).

Thursday NHL Takeaways

Brown, Fitzhugh make history with

Everett Fitzhugh and JT Brown made NHL history by becoming the first all-Black broadcast team when they covered the Jets – Kraken game on Thursday. Although there’s an instinct to wonder what took so long, this is also very cool stuff.

Kevin Weekes shared some great insight on what Brown and Fitzhugh achieved.

“Everett, I’m happy to see his progression, somebody who had to ride the buses and overcome a ton to be here and to stay here,” Weekes said, via NHL.com’s William Douglas. “I’m really proud of him. For JT, as a fellow former player that’s working really hard to continue to grow and improve his craft, which I think is excellent … It’s amazing for the sport, it’s amazing for the game.

Oilers hot under Woodcroft; Ducks keep sinking

Despite building an early 2-0 lead, the Ducks lost badly (7-3) to the Oilers in a game that was significant for both teams. With that, the Oilers are on a four-game winning streak, while the Ducks have dropped four in a row.

The diverging paths continue when you zoom out a bit.

Oilers enjoy four-game winning streak under new coach Jay Woodcroft

Take a look at the Oilers’ undefeated four-game run under Jay Woodcroft so far.

Feb. 11: 3-1 win vs. Islanders
Feb. 14: 3-0 win at Sharks
Feb. 15: 5-2 win at Kings
Fan. 17: 7-3 win vs. Ducks

At this point, Edmonton won’t be too picky with any wins. Yet, notice that the Oilers beat two Pacific Division rivals (and potential wild-card threats) during this streak: the Ducks, Kings, and Sharks. Maybe an empty-netter or two inflated scores, but each of those wins took place in regulation. Important stuff.

Promising stuff for Woodcroft and the Oilers. That said, the new coach faces a big challenge ahead. Seven of their next nine games take place away from home, including a five-game road trip.

If the Oilers are still hot after a March 7 test against the Flames, then watch out. Even if the Oilers cool off, winning games like Thursday’s vs. the Ducks could make a big difference.

Ducks increasingly swimming against the stream with losing streak

On the other end, the Ducks dropped their fourth in a row, including a back-to-back set against the Flames and than the Oilers. On Thursday, the Oilers beat a Ducks team wrapping up a back-to-back. Understandable, if disappointing for Anaheim. It’s extra-irritating for the Ducks that they couldn’t beat a Flames team that faced a rest disadvantage on Wednesday.

To sprinkle a little optimism in, the Ducks face a chance to turn things around. After Saturday’s game vs. the Canucks in Vancouver, the Ducks enjoy a six-game homestand.

Yet, with all of that optimism, it’s startling that the Oilers (57 points in 48 games played) are closer to the Golden Knights (59 in 49 GP) than they are to the Ducks (55 in 51 GP).

Red-hot Mark Scheifele made boiling-mad by Gourde hit

It’s been quite the couple weeks for Jets center Mark Scheifele.

For the most part, he’s been making waves with red-hot play. On Wednesday, that culminated with Scheifele generating a natural hat trick and an assist. On Thursday, the heat meant something different: righteous anger.

Kraken forward Yanni Gourde delivered a dangerous boarding hit on Scheifele. Wasting no time, Scheifele got up right after that hit, and went after Gourde. It created quite the fracas:

Unfortunately for Scheifele, his blistering five-game point streak (7G, 4A) ended during the NHL games on Thursday. His partner-in-crime Blake Wheeler stayed hot with a goal and an assist, however, and the Jets got the last laugh by beating the Kraken.

At the moment, it looks like Scheifele avoided an injury from that Gourde board. That can’t be said for every Jets player, however, as Cole Perfetti ranked among those banged up.

Friday’s big story

East powerhouse Panthers meets rising West threat the Wild

Sometimes, we hype up potential Stanley Cup Final previews featuring teams just about everyone expected to be in the mix. It might be even more fun to watch two teams rising up the ranks, though.

Yes, it’s true that it feels hasty to call Panthers – Wild a potential Stanley Cup Final preview. The Wild haven’t won a playoff series 2014-15, while the Panthers last made a deep playoff run when barely anyone had regular Internet access. Along with lacking track records, the Wild and Panthers would likely need to clear serious hurdles, including divisional rivals such as the Avalanche and Lightning.

So, fine. Call it a way off-the-board SCF choice.

But just about anyone paying attention can notice two teams on the rise. And, even ignoring their considerable success, the Wild and Panthers rank as the highest-scoring teams in the NHL this season.

While the Panthers have been scary since last season, the Wild ramped things up in 2021-22, especially once Matt Boldy hit the scene. This should be a fun one, and maybe a check on where the Wild and Panthers are at in their hopeful ascents.

NHL scores from Thursday

Canadiens 3, Blues 2 (OT)
Senators 3, Sabres 1
Red Wings 3, Rangers 2 (SO)
Maple Leafs 4, Penguins 1
Capitals 5, Flyers 3
Islanders 4, Bruins 1
Jets 5, Kraken 3
Blue Jackets 7, Blackhawks 4
Oilers 7, Ducks 3
Canucks 5, Sharks 4 (OT)

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.