NHL Rink Wrap: Seven for Nick Schmaltz; Ovechkin reaches 764 goals

NHL Rink Wrap: Seven for Nick Schmaltz; Ovechkin reaches 764 goals
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Saturday’s top NHL players

Nick Schmaltz, Coyotes

How could it be anyone other than Nick Schmaltz, who set a new Coyotes franchise record by scoring a whopping seven points (two goals, five assists)?

Sure, you can ding Schmaltz because he’s playing for a Coyotes team that felt spiritually (though not mathematically) eliminated from day one. And Schmaltz did collect his seven points against a Senators team that clearly still isn’t ready for primetime.

C’mon, though. Nick Schmaltz became the first player to score 7+ points in a hair over a decade. The last person to do so was Sam Gagner, who collected eight points in February 2012.

Read more about Schmaltz’s seven points in this post. You can watch the highlights below.

Saturday NHL highlights

As promised, here’s footage of all seven Nick Schmaltz points:

 

As impressive as the accomplishment is, Schmaltz’s Coyotes record feels like a quirky bit of trivia. (Sort of like Sam Gagner collecting eight points.) With Rick Nash and the Blue Jackets, there’s no mistaking his place atop the franchise’s most prominent skater records. During the NHL games on Saturday, the Blue Jackets retired Nash’s number 61. More of that here, but watch the ceremony in this clip:

Alex Ovechkin reached 764 goals with the type of goal most people picture when you say “Alex Ovechkin goal.”

Going to counter the Predators’ social media crew. Matt Duchene‘s move was delicious. That 8-0 score was disgusting.

If you hear Flames – Avalanche, your ears might perk up. Calgary and Colorado delivered more often than not, including Nathan MacKinnon:

Johnny Gaudreau and the Flames got the last laugh with this overtime game-winner:

Playing 1,000 NHL games is already an impressive accomplishment. Doing it after not being drafted? Mark Giordano reached that 1,000-game plateau. Wonder how many more games he’ll play for the Kraken?

Saturday NHL Takeaways

Nick Schmaltz, seriously

Read up, because that was quite the performance.

Blue Jackets retire Rick Nash’s number 61

You can also check that out, along with some context about his accomplishments. Asking again: if there’s a second Blue Jackets number retired, whose would it be?

It’s really only fitting that the Blue Jackets lost on the night they retired Rick Nash’s number, right?

Matthews takes Maurice Richard lead; Ovechkin scores 764th goal

The Saturday NHL action wasn’t just about Nick Schmaltz and points. Goals stole some headlines, too.

Alex Ovechkin scored his 764th goal from an area the ice he’s made his office. (Honestly, at this point, maybe the NHL should stamp an “8” on that spot whenever Ovechkin retires.)

At goal 764, Ovechkin is only two goals behind Jaromir Jagr (766) for third in NHL history. After Jagr, there’s Gordie Howe at 801, and Wayne Gretzky up top with 894.

As far as this season goes, Ovechkin extended a two-game goal streak, and now has 34 on the season. Stunning stuff, but only good enough for fourth-best.

With two goals during the NHL games on Saturday, Auston Matthews ended the night first in the Maurice Richard Trophy race with 39 tallies. Leon Draisaitl was limited to an assist, keeping him at 38 goals. Both Matthews and Draisaitl likely focused more on their teams’ losses than that trophy race.

Chris Kreider‘s Rangers were idle, so he remained in third place with 36 goals. Kyle Connor (33), David Pastrnak (31), and Alex DeBrincat (31) would need to heat up to make the Maurice Richard Trophy race more crowded.

Sharks should drop facade of playoff contention, sell at trade deadline

Most times, a blowout loss should tell you nothing. For the Sharks, an 8-0 loss to the Predators should be the last straw. Management cannot just ignore the obvious truth that this team isn’t good enough.

As painful as it might be, trading Tomas Hertl is the wisest, most honest thing to do. Frankly, they’d be wise to trade just about anyone beyond the occasional prospect. Timo Meier needs a new contract after next season, and the mature move would likely be to trade him soon.

Think of it this way: the Sharks are virtually certain to miss the playoffs even with a lot going their way. Hertl, Meier, and Logan Couture are playing at a high level. Erik Karlsson‘s enjoyed a redemptive year, but how likely will that maintain (and can he reliably stay healthy)? They’ve even enjoyed passable goaltending.

A desperate front office might dream of all of that happening next season, only with (insert hasty addition that sacrifices the future for the present).

Look up and down the Sharks’ salary structure, and you’ll see that this team keeps getting burned by such decisions. Pull off the Band-Aid, sell high, and bulk up so you have a better chance to win when you fight another day.

Sunday’s big story

Will Stars keep climbing and Wild keep slipping?

Considering the Stars’ lows and the bright highs of the Wild, it’s surprising to see Dallas and Minnesota a streak away from staring eye-to-eye.

On the strength of a three-game winning streak, the Stars have 65 points in 54 games played (31-20-3). Baffling or not, they keep hanging in there.

With the Wild, they’ve beaten expectations often enough, for long enough, that it was tempting to take those good times for granted. Maybe a few cracks are forming, however. With a bumping 3-7-0 mark in their last 10, the Wild have 67 points in 53 games played (32-18-3).

To be clear, two points and a game in hand is not an advantage to dismiss. But that gap could really shrink if Dallas wins in regulation. The Wild could also end up losing ground if the Predators heat up after their own swoon.

Beyond the juggernaut Avalanche, the Central Division retains some room for movement, and thus chaos. Stars – Wild could nudge things in a wilder direction, or Minnesota may instead push things back toward predictability.

Saturday NHL scores

Islanders 2, Blues 1
Flyers 4, Blackhawks 3
Coyotes 8, Senators 5
Panthers 6, Red Wings 2
Canucks 6, Maple Leafs 4
Capitals 5, Kraken 2
Bruins 5, Blue Jackets 4 (SO)
Canadiens 5, Oilers 2
Predators 8, Sharks 0
Flames 4, Avalanche 3 (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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    MVP Matthew Tkachuk lifts Atlantic to NHL All-Star Game win

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    SUNRISE, Fla. – Florida’s Matthew Tkachuk was right at home at the NHL All-Star Game.

    Again.

    Detroit’s Dylan Larkin had a hat trick, Toronto’s Mitch Marner had three assists and the Atlantic Division topped the Central Division 7-5 in the All-Star Game final on Saturday.

    All-Star Game MVP Matthew Tkachuk – playing alongside his brother Brady Tkachuk of the Ottawa Senators – had seven points on the day, after a five-point outburst in a semifinal win over the Metropolitan Division. Larkin had five goals in the Atlantic’s two games.

    “We wanted to get a win for the home crowd, the fans,” Montreal’s Nick Suzuki said. “They did a good job of cheering on the Atlantic Division. We just wanted to put on a good show for them.”

    And for the MVP, winning in front of Panthers fans meant more than just winning.

    “It’s been an honor to play in front of them this whole year and it’s great that the other players in the league can see what a great place this is to play,” Matthew Tkachuk said. “I’m as happy as can be here.”

    Arizona’s Clayton Keller, Dallas’ Jason Robertson, Colorado teammates Cale Makar, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen all had goals for the Central in the final. Makar also had two assists.

    It was the first time the Atlantic won the All-Star Game, after six previous tries in the divisional format. The 11 players – nine skaters and two goalies – on the Atlantic roster split $1 million for the win.

    “It was so much fun,” said Larkin, who had five goals in the two games. “I’m proud of how we won it. What a great group of guys … it was just a great weekend.”

    Matthew Tkachuk has now been on the winning team in both of his All-Star appearances, and both times, he enjoyed the comforts of home. He helped the Pacific win the 2020 All-Star title in St. Louis, his hometown and one of the many spots that his father – Keith Tkachuk, who was in the crowd Saturday – played during his career.

    “I’ve been very fortunate, the two that I’ve been in that I know the ins and the outs of everything that goes on away from the rink,” Matthew Tkachuk said. “It just made it so much more comfortable for me and extra special.”

    And this one truly had home-ice advantage. Matthew Tkachuk – the former Calgary standout who picked Florida this past offseason, despite much speculation that he would be going to St. Louis – had three goals and two assists in the Atlantic’s 10-6 win over the Metropolitan in the second semifinal.

    It was 3-0 Atlantic after the first half of the 20-minute final; all games under this All-Star format are 3-on-3, 20 minutes in length with a brief break after 10 minutes. The lead got to 4-0 early in the second half of the final, giving the Atlantic 10 consecutive goals; it trailed 6-4 in the semifinal before closing on a 6-0 run.

    Larkin scored with 1:06 left to make it 6-2, the first of five goals in a frantic finish.

    “It’s been a blast,” said Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who scored for the Atlantic with 36 seconds left to make it 7-3. “I met a lot of great people.”

    NOTES: The NHL gets right back to play on Monday with six games, including a home game for Florida – meaning it’ll be a quick turnaround for the arena. … The Central Division is now the only one yet to win an All-Star Game in this format. The Pacific has three wins, the Metropolitan has three wins and now the Atlantic has one. … Florida was supposed to host this game in 2021, only to have it canceled by the pandemic. The Panthers hosted All-Star weekend in 2023. … Attendance was a sellout, 19,250.

    SEMIFINAL 1: CENTRAL 6, PACIFIC 4

    Keller had two goals and an assist, MacKinnon scored twice and the Central moved into the title matchup. St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and three assists for the Central. Vancouver’s Elias Pettersson had two goals, while San Jose’s Erik Karlsson and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid also scored for the Pacific.

    SEMIFINAL 2: ATLANTIC 10, METROPOLITAN 6

    The teams combined for a record-tying – in the 3-on-3 era, anyway – 16 goals. Matthew Tkachuk had three goals and two assists, tying a single-game record for the format. Larkin scored twice and Brady Tkachuk had a goal and three assists for the Atlantic. Columbus’ Johnny Gaudreau had three goals for the Metropolitan. Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby had two goals and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin had the other.

    UP NEXT

    The next NHL All-Star weekend is Feb. 2-3, 2024 in Toronto.

    Panthers offer Sarah Nurse deal to lead girls hockey program

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    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers are trying to sign a high-scoring forward who has an Olympic gold medal and two world championships, with hopes of getting the deal done in the coming days.

    If it happens, she won’t be playing for the Panthers.

    Sarah Nurse, the Canadian forward who had a highlight-reel goal against the New York Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin during the NHL’s All-Star Skills Competition, has the chance to run the Panthers’ new program designed to get more girls playing hockey.

    Florida president Matthew Caldwell offered the job to Nurse publicly – very publicly, at a lectern, with a microphone, before a crowd of onlookers. And he was serious.

    “I’m going to embarrass you, but we’re going to offer you a job today,” Caldwell told Nurse, who was seated in the crowd. “We want you to be the face of our girls program at the War Memorial. So, are you in? On the spot? We don’t deal with agents, OK. I’m a tough negotiator.”

    The idea to hire Nurse was first floated to Caldwell by Melissa Fitzgerald. She’s the general manager for the War Memorial, which is the two-rink facility being refurbished by the team and will become its practice headquarters.

    “We’ve been talking about it for a few weeks,” Caldwell told The Associated Press. “Our youth hockey team kind of brought it up as a joke to me, but I said, `Let’s think big. We’re building this huge facility. Let’s put our money where our mouth is.”‘

    The only part Caldwell was less than serious about with Nurse was how the Panthers don’t deal with agents. He spoke with Nurse’s representative, Thomas Houlton, after the event.

    Houlton did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He and Caldwell spoke for about 15 minutes after the event, which was attended by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Panthers stars Aleksander Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk, and dozens of kids who got to play ball hockey afterward.

    Nurse played for Canada’s world-champion teams in 2021 and 2022, along with Canada’s Olympic gold winners at the Beijing Games last year.

    She was one of five women’s players from USA Hockey and Team Canada – the two most dominant women’s national teams in the world – who were part of the skills events. She wore custom skates highlighting Black History month and the Black Girl Hockey Club, a nonprofit focused on getting more Black girls and women into the sport.

    She used a move made famous by Hall of Famer Peter Forsberg when he helped Sweden win gold at the 1994 Olympics against Shesterkin, a Vezina Trophy-winning goalie.

    U.S. star Hilary Knight didn’t think Nurse’s goal should have surprised anyone, saying, “she’s a top scorer.”

    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.