NHL Rink Wrap: Ovechkin passes Jagr; Ducks, Golden Knights keep losing

NHL Rink Wrap: Ovechkin passes Jagr; Ducks, Golden Knights keep losing
John McCreary/NHLI via Getty Images

Tuesday’s top NHL players

Erik Källgren, Maple Leafs

Now this is how you make your NHL debut. During a brutal time for Maple Leafs goaltending, Erik Källgren pitched a 35-shutout to blank Dallas, handing the Stars their third consecutive loss. (Not the best way to celebrate keeping Joe Pavelski around, by the way.)

Understandably, a natural reaction to Erik Källgren pitching a shutout during the NHL action on Tuesday is to ask, “Who is Erik Källgren?”

Here are a few quick tidbits:

  • He’s the fourth goalie in Maple Leafs franchise history to generate a shutout in their NHL debut.
  • The 25-year-old was drafted … barely. Back in 2015, the Coyotes picked Erik Källgren in the seventh round (183rd overall).
  • Källgren apparently skated with fellow Swede Rasmus Dahlin this summer. Sandin told David Alter that the netminder “smiles a lot” and is the “nicest guy.”
  • So far, his work has been sparse in North America. In 26 games with the AHL’s Marlies this season, Källgren recorded a 15-8-1 record and .904 save percentage. In 2019-20, Källgren played two games for the Coyotes’ AHL affiliate. Other than that, he’s spent most of his time playing overseas.

So, not much to go off of there. Strange things can happen with goalies, but this mostly seems like a nice story instead of a building storyline.

Tuesday NHL highlights

Watch Alex Ovechkin pass Jaromir Jagr for third all-time in NHL goals with number 767:

In an emotional moment, Sharks fans greeted Joe Thornton during his return to the “Shark Tank.” Apparently 6,934 days passed between Thornton’s games as a visitor in San Jose.

Artemi Panarin set up Adam Fox for an overtime game-winner. Both Rangers players generated three points in that win against the Ducks:

David Pastrnak, Taylor Hall, and Matt Grzelcyk combined for a nice OT game-winner to keep the Bruins hot:

Not many announcers will use the phrase “full tentacles,” but this Jake Oettinger save earned the unusual description. Did you guess that Daryl “Razor” Reaugh made that call?

Josh Bailey made some great moves to set up Kyle Palmieri:

Tuesday NHL Takeaways

Alex Ovechkin passes Jaromir Jagr for third all-time in goals with number 767

In the 1,256th game of his career, Alex Ovechkin scored goal 767, breaking a tie with Jaromir Jagr for third all-time in NHL goals. You can see that nice little tally in the Tuesday NHL highlights section.

With that, Ovechkin only trails Gordie Howe (801) and Wayne Gretzky (894) on the NHL’s all-time goal scoring list.

As Jagr noted in a kind video to Ovechkin, the Capitals winger now owns the most goals scored of any European skater. For all Jagr accomplished in his splendid (and still-going) career, Ovechkin’s goal pace really is on another level:

Auston Matthews and others hold an edge in the Maurice Richard Trophy race, but Ovechkin’s 37 goals remain impressive. Consider a few other facts about Ovechkin at 767 goals:

  • In the likely event Ovechkin reaches 40 goals, he’d hit that mark for a 12th time, which would tie Wayne Gretzky for the all-time mark.
  • If Ovechkin reaches 50, he’d be the third player (along with Gretzky and Mike Bossy) to record nine seasons of 50+ goals, and he’d be the first to do so at age 36 or older.
  • With 120 career game-winning goals, Ovechkin ranks third all-time. He’s one away from tying Gordie Howe for second (121 GWG), while Jagr is number one with 135.
  • Ovechkin’s 279 power-play goals already represent the most in NHL history.

Golden Knights, Ducks both lose fifth game in a row

It’s been mentioned before, but every loss should push the Ducks closer to being obvious trade deadline sellers. Generally, Ducks GM Pat Verbeek has been messaging that way, and they already traded defenseman Josh Manson.

As bizarre as it might seem, the Golden Knights inspire at least some questions about slipping to trade deadline seller status. Really, how could they not?

Following an ugly 7-3 loss to the Jets, the Golden Knights are now on a five-game losing streak. They managed zero points from a five-game road trip, as every defeat happened during regulation.

[A look at the Golden Knights’ predicament earlier in this losing streak]

Painfully, the Golden Knights should’ve won most of these games, at least on paper. Beyond the Penguins, the Golden Knights lost to four teams likely to miss the playoffs: Buffalo, Philadelphia, Columbus, and Winnipeg.

Yes, injuries hurt matters. To an extent, that’s a risk you run with a top-heavy team, not to mention one that’s skewing a bit on the older side. In the case of this loss to the Jets, Peter DeBoer grumbled about goaltending.

But that’s not really been a fair way to summarize their overall struggles. Despite paying big on the likes of Alex Pietrangelo, the Golden Knights’ defense has often been a big problem this season. Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Chandler Stephenson are doing what they can, but the team’s only point-per-game players are injured.

Should this losing streak push the Golden Knights to sell at the trade deadline? They don’t need to panic — really, they’re stuck to the point where they can’t really “blow things up” — but it may not be a bad idea to be mild sellers. With expiring contracts, Reilly Smith and others likely know their days are numbered. Maybe it would be best to move them along, and hope to make the playoffs anyway?

Not a lot of easy answers for Vegas right now.

Avalanche trade for Sturm, Wild receive Jost

Wisely or not, teams are marking names off of the trade deadline list. The Avalanche are still working on moves, though, ones that may or may not open up a possible Claude Giroux trade. Either way, saving some money and possibly upgrading by landing Nico Sturm for Tyson Jost is a nice bit of business.

Here’s hoping that we see some splashy trades, though. This is more a nice, modest move, as this RAPM comparison chart exemplifies (via Evolving Hockey):

NHL Rink Wrap: Ovechkin passes Jagr; Ducks, Golden Knights keep losing trade Sturm Jost
via Evolving Hockey

While I’m not in love with the trade for the Wild, they might bank on perceived potential. Jost (24) is a little younger than Sturm (26).

Wednesday’s big story

Bruins vs. Wild: battle of two 2022 NHL Trade Deadline buyers?

Few teams make as much sense as trade deadline buyers as the Bruins and Wild. There are teams in more desperate situations, and clearer top contenders. But context gives each team incentive to improve via a trade.

In the case of the Wild, they’ll see a big salary cap crunch starting next season, and spiking for the two seasons afterward. The Bruins have their own looming uncertainty (particularly Patrice Bergeron‘s expiring contract), and also boast the sort of aging core whose window may close.

[PHT Roundtable on teams who should be aggressive at trade deadline]

So both the Bruins and Wild should gear up at the trade deadline. They’re worth watching beyond that armchair GM angle, too. The red-hot Bruins are hot enough to possibly move above the wild-card fray. Due to some recent slippage, the Wild have to worry about the West wild card situation at least a bit. (Games in hand make things a little complicated.)

The Bruins and Wild don’t meet that often, yet a game like this could nudge each team ever so slightly toward being more or less aggressive at the trade deadline.

Tuesday NHL scores

Maple Leafs 4, Stars 0
Coyotes 6, Canadiens 3
Rangers 4, Ducks 3 (OT)
Capitals 4, Islanders 3 (SO)
Predators 4, Penguins 1
Jets 7, Golden Knights 3
Bruins 2, Blackhawks 1 (OT)
Oilers 7, Red Wings 5
Canucks 6, Devils 3
Avalanche 3, Kings 0
Panthers 3, Sharks 2 (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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    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

    Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports

    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

    caufield surgery
    David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports

    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

    matty beniers
    Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.

    Kuzmenko signs 2-year extension with Canucks

    Andrei Kuzmenko
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Forward Andrei Kuzmenko signed a two-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

    The deal has an average annual value of $5.5 million.

    The 26-year-old Kuzmenko has played in 47 games for the Canucks this season with 21 goals and 22 assists, four penalty minutes and a plus-4 defensive ranking.

    Kuzmenko ranks second on the team in goals and power-play goals (nine) this season.

    His 43 points are also tied for third on the team in overall scoring, while his 32 even-strength points (12 goals, 20 assists) are second on the Canucks.

    Kuzmenko leads all Vancouver skaters in shooting rate (24.7%) and ranks third in the NHL in that category (minimum of 20 games).

    He leads all first-year NHLers in almost every offensive category, including goals, assists, points, points per game (0.91), power-play goals, and power-play points.

    He has also had 14 multi-point games so far this season (second most on the Canucks), highlighted by his first-career NHL hat trick and season-high four-point game against Anaheim on Nov. 3.

    A native of Yakutsk, Russia, Kuzmenko spent his first eight professional seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with CSKA Moscow and SKA St. Petersburg, getting 200 points (85-115-200) in 315 regular-season games. He set career highs in goals (20), assists (33), and points (53) last season, ranking second in the league in scoring.

    Kuzmenko has also represented his country on the international stage on multiple occasions, totaling 16 points (10-6-16) and six penalty minutes in 37 games played. He was originally signed by Vancouver to a one-year, entry-level contract on July 13, 2022.