NHL Rink Wrap: Keith’s Chicago return, Cooper ejected, and surprising results

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Top player in the NHL on Thursday

Craig Smith, Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins are starting to put it together and are now 7-2-1 in their past 10 games thanks to Thursday’s 5-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights. Jeremy Swayman has been a difference maker in net, and he was great again on Thursday, but Craig Smith provided the boost in this game with this third career hat trick. He helped the Bruins jump out to a 2-0 lead and then helped add some insurance in the third period. It has been a down year for Smith with just six goals in 47 games entering play on Thursday, so he and the Bruins absolutely needed a game like this.

Highlights from around the NHL on Thursday

Duncan Keith made his first return to Chicago on Thursday night and received a very warm welcome on the same night that the Blackhawks were honoring his long-term defense partner, Niklas Hjalmarsson. The Blackhawks were also 4-3 overtime winners against the Edmonton Oilers thanks to Alex DeBrincat‘s game-winning goal.

The Minnesota Wild needed a win to snap out of their recent funk and they got it in Philadelphia thanks to two goals within 25 seconds in the third period to tie the game and then take the lead.

The save of the night belongs to Swayman against Reilly Smith.

Three takeaways from the NHL on Thursday

Avalanche, Flames lose to Coyotes and Canadiens

Maybe the Colorado Avalanche and Calgary Flames were looking ahead to their weekend matchup against each other. Maybe hockey is just random sometimes. Either way, the Avalanche and Flames both lost on Thursday night in games where they were heavily favored. The Avalanche lost a 2-1 decision to the Arizona Coyotes, the team with the league’s worst record, while Calgary lost 5-4 in overtime to the Montreal Canadiens thanks to a two-goal game, including the game-winner in overtime, from defenseman Ben Chiarot who no doubt boosted his trade value. Colorado and Calgary are the two best teams in the Western Conference and have both been playing outstanding hockey lately, so these two results are pretty surprising. Arizona has beaten Colorado two times this season.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper ejected

The Pittsburgh Penguins absolutely dominated the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night, winning 5-1 and doubling them on the shot chart to make quite a statement in the Eastern Conference and extend their current winning streak to three consecutive games. Evgeni Malkin was the star of this game with a dominant performance that included a goal and two assists, while Sidney Crosby, Danton Heinen, Brock McGinn, and Jake Guentzel also scored goals. Pierre-Eduard Bellemare scored the only goal for the Lightning. The weirdest moment of this game came late in the second period when Lightning coach Jon Cooper was ejected after screaming at referee Wes McCauley from the bench. During a mini-line brawl in front of the Pittsburgh net the Lightning ended up getting the extra penalty, resulting in Cooper’s anger. His game misconduct also resulted in another penalty, putting the Lightning into a two-minute 3-on-5 situation.

Western Conference Playoff race update

Interesting night here with the Oilers getting a point, the Canucks winning, and the Golden Knights losing. All of that means Edmonton moves into the third spot in the Pacific Division behind Calgary and the Los Angeles Kings, while the Golden Knights now currently find themselves outside of a playoff spot based on points percentage. Their .582 points percentage is ninth in the Western Conference while the Anaheim Ducks and Canucks are now right behind them.

Friday’s big story

Friday is going to be another significant day in the Western Conference playoff race with Los Angeles (at Columbus), Dallas and Winnipeg (playing each other) and Vegas and Anaheim (also playing each other) all in action. The Kings, Golden Knights, and Ducks are all separated by just four points in the standings, while Dallas is making a strong push with a 12-4-1 record in its most recent 17 games.

Thursday’s NHL Scores

Pittsburgh Penguins 5, Tampa Bay Lightning 1
Florida Panthers 3, Ottawa Senators 0
Minnesota Wild 5, Philadelphia Flyers 4
Washington Capitals 4, Carolina Hurricanes 0
Vancouver Canucks 4, New York Islanders 3
Chicago Blackhawks 4, Edmonton Oilers 3 (OT)
Boston Bruins 5, Vegas Golden Knights 2
Montreal Canadiens 5, Calgary Flames 4 (OT)
Arizona Coyotes 2, Colorado Avalanche 1