Top player in the NHL on Thursday
Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
There were a couple of outstanding matchups on the Thursday schedule featuring potential Stanley Cup matchups with Colorado facing Carolina and Calgary hosting Tampa Bay. Calgary ended up getting the best of the Lightning in a 4-1 win that was highlighted by a hat trick by Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau as he continues to have an outstanding season for his first place team. He now has 26 goals and 77 points in 57 games this season. Thanks to the Flames win, combined with the Vegas Golden Knights’ loss to the Buffalo Sabres and the Los Angeles’ Kings overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks, the Flames now have a five point lead over the second place Kings and a nine point lead over the third place Golden Knights. They also have two games in hand on both teams. The Pacific Division looks to be theirs.
Highlights from around the NHL on Thursday
All three of Gaudreau’s goals for his sixth career hat trick.
Jack Ahcan‘s first career NHL goal was a thing of beauty for the Bruins in their 4-3 win against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Anders Lee recorded his first career hat trick for the New York Islanders on Thursday night in a 6-0 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets, that also included Ilya Sorokin‘s sixth shutout of the season. Here are all three of Lee’s goals from Thursday.
The opposite of highlights: Some goaltending blunders.
Three takeaways from the NHL on Thursday
Sabres win in Jack Eichel‘s return to Buffalo
Jack Eichel was mostly booed in his first return to Buffalo as a visiting player while the Sabres were able to get a 3-1 win thanks to goals from Peyton Krebs and Alex Tuch, the two key players acquired in the Eichel trade earlier this season. This is probably the highlight of the Sabres’ season and a fun night for fans that have watched a lot of tough games over the past decade. Goalie Craig Anderson also recorded his 300th career win in the victory.
Maple Leafs goalie problems are not going away
The Maple Leafs dropped another game they probably should have won on Thursday night by losing to the Arizona Coyotes, 5-4, in overtime thanks to a pair of goals from Jakob Chychrun, including the game-winning goal in overtime. The big story in this game is the fact that Maple Leafs goalie Petr Mrazek was benched after giving up four goals in less than two periods, including a pair of brutal goals in the first five minutes. The Maple Leafs have now lost to Montreal, Buffalo, and Arizona (three of the league’s worst teams) over the past few weeks while their goaltending has been lousy for some time now. With Jack Campbell injured and Mrazek really struggling on Thursday you have to think the pressure to address the goaltending situation is only going to continue to grow.
Carolina shuts out Colorado
The other big game on Thursday involving a potential Stanley Cup Final matchup was the Carolina Hurricanes shutting out the Colorado Avalanche, 2-0, thanks to a 36-save performance from Antti Raanta and goals from Ethan Bear and Sebastian Aho. This was a goaltending duel with the game remaining scoreless until the 14-minute mark of the third period.
Friday’s big story
The Vancouver Canucks are hosting the Washington Capitals in a big game for a number of reasons. There is the possibility that Alex Ovechkin will score career goal number 767 to officially move ahead of Jaromir Jagr for sole possession of third place on the NHL all-time goal scoring list, while the Canucks are trying to maintain their recent strong play to stay in the Stanley Cup Playoff race in the Western Conference. The game will also featurer Ovechkin and the Capitals going against their former long-time coach, Bruce Boudreau. Lot of storylines to watch there.
Thursday’s NHL Scores
Boston Bruins 4, Chicago Blackhawks 3
Buffalo Sabres 3, Vegas Golden Knights 1
Arizona Coyotes 5, Toronto Maple Leafs 4 (OT)
Ottawa Senators 4, Seattle Kraken 3 (OT)
Minnesota Wild 6, Detroit Red Wings 5 (SO)
Florida Panthers 6, Philadelphia Flyers 3
Winnipeg Jets 2, New Jersey Devils 1
Carolina Hurricanes 2, Colorado Avalanche 0
New York Islanders 6, Columbus Blue Jackets 0
St. Louis Blues 6, New York Rangers 2
Nashville Predators 4, Anaheim Ducks 1
Calgary Flames 4, Tampa Bay Lightning 1
San Jose Sharks 4, Los Angeles Kings 3 (OT)
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.