Sunday’s top NHL players
Evgeni Malkin, Penguins
Do you give someone less credit for a big game when their team just decimates an overmatched opponent? That’s about the only way you can deny Evgeni Malkin, who generated a hat trick and an assist as the Penguins blew out the Red Wings 11-2.
This marks the 15th hat trick for Evgeni Malkin (13 in the regular season, two in postseason play). Malkin last generated a hat trick on Jan. 20, 2018 against the Sharks.
Malkin’s hat trick + assist leaves him at 32 points (16G, 16A) in 30 games.
If it wasn’t already clear, Malkin seems to have shaken off a six-game pointless streak, which took place from March 3-17. The Penguins are no strangers to playing without Malkin, yet it’s worth wondering just how much scarier this team could be if he can truly remain healthy come playoff time.
(Unfortunately, that’s almost always a big “if.”)
Scroll for more on those 11 goals from the Penguins.
Sunday NHL highlights
Watch the Penguins score those 11 goals in these highlights/lowlights for the Red Wings.
Nathan MacKinnon didn’t take kindly to Matt Dumba‘s hit on Mikko Rantanen, so there was a fight. On one hand, kudos to MacKinnon for sticking up for a teammate (and regular running mate). On the other hand, there’s the worry about his hands, as you can always injure yourself in a fight. For an Avalanche team that’s quietly dealt with quite a few injury issues for years, they may want to ask MacKinnon to outsource that fighting job in the future.
Nate MacKinnon challenges Matt Dumba and takes him down in a fight pic.twitter.com/RLsYSOmt9U
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) March 28, 2022
Kevin Fiala scored just 15 seconds into OT to secure the extra point (and the last laugh) for Minny:
Fiala gives the @mnwild the OT win! pic.twitter.com/brXF7jil3n
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) March 28, 2022
Frankly, most of the Twitter reactions to Will Smith slapping (or fake-slapping?) Chris Rock compared the Oscars to pro wrestling. There’s at least one strong hockey joke for the moment, too, however:
Will Smith got into a fight and won an Oscar. He’s an assist away from a Gordle Howe hat trick
— JEFF (@jeffisrael25) March 28, 2022
Gang, Ilya Mikheyev is on quite the run lately.
K'Andre Miller capped a nice bit of work from the Rangers to beat the Sabres in overtime:
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) March 27, 2022
Sunday NHL Takeaways
2022 PHF Isobel Cup Final set; Frozen Four also determined
It was a busy Sunday (and weekend) for the hockey world beyond the NHL.
- The Boston Pride will face the Connecticut Whale in the 2022 PHF Isobel Cup Final on Monday after both teams won their semifinal matchups.
- Michigan will take on Denver and Minnesota draws Minnesota St. in the Frozen Four. Those games take place on April 7, then the championship contest is on April 9.
Penguins pulverize Red Wings with 11 goals
At some point, blowouts must start to feel downright mean. The Penguins dropped an absurd 11 goals on the Red Wings, who only managed two goals in response.
While the Penguins boast some historic scorers (active and retired, and active outside the NHL), they don’t score 11 goals every day, or year. The team notes they last scored that many on Nov. 16, 1993 against the hated Flyers.
Interestingly, the Penguins became the first team to reach 11 goals in the salary cap era.
The Penguins are the first team to score 11 goals in a single game in the salary cap era. First team since Washington in 2003.
— dom at the athletic (@domluszczyszyn) March 27, 2022
This marks the fifth 11+ goal game for the Penguins, with the team mark being 12. That’s where that rich history business crops up again.
Kessel: 965 games in a row, second only to Yandle for longest “ironman” streak
Read this post for more, including musings about how both players might struggle to find teams interested in extending their streaks. Maybe?
That's our Iron Man 🦾 pic.twitter.com/yKWMXGPeDQ
— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) March 27, 2022
Wild push streak to six straight wins; MacKinnon fights Dumba
If you jumped straight to the takeaways, scroll back up for Nathan MacKinnon vs. Matt Dumba. Sounds like these two teams have some ill will beyond that specific encounter:
Dumba expected to be challenged after monster hit on Rantanen. Not necessarily by MacKinnon. But physicality was totally expected: “Everyone knows the rivalry we have with these guys. We don’t like them very much and they don’t like us.” #mnwild
— Brian Murphy (@murphmedia_) March 28, 2022
Maybe the Avalanche and Wild are planting seeds for a potentially enthralling second-round series? OK, that’s thinking too far ahead.
That said, we’re witnessing the latest upswing from the hot-and-cold Wild. This marks the Wild’s sixth win in a row, making Minnesota the first team in the NHL to rack up three winning streaks of at least six games this season.
Things can change, but the Wild look almost certain to grab the Central Division’s second spot, or at least finish in the top three. The Avalanche look most likely to win the Presidents’ Trophy, not just the division.
Could these teams be on a collision course? Hopefully. After all, it’s entertaining — if hard on the knuckles — when they collide.
Monday’s big story
Another possible playoff preview in Capitals vs. Hurricanes?
After the NHL action on Sunday, the Hurricanes lag ever so slightly behind the Panthers in the race to get the East’s top seed. Again, things could change, but taking the conference’s top spot sure looks like it would translate into meeting the Capitals in the first round.
So, it wouldn’t take much for Monday’s Capitals – Hurricanes game to be a playoff preview, possibly to open the postseason. (Wild cards could get thrown into different divisional brackets, depending upon seeding.)
In 2018-19, the Hurricanes held off the Capitals in a Game 7. That opening round defeat ended the Capitals’ attempt to repeat, and Washington hasn’t won a playoff series since.
With years past, the Hurricanes are only clearer favorites against the Capitals. That said, Washington’s game travels well. While the Capitals are just 16-13-5 at home, they’ve produced an impressive 21-7-5 record. Between that and employing sustained stars such as Alex Ovechkin, it would be foolish to dismiss the Caps as an upset threat. Maybe we’ll get a glimpse of that spoiler potential on Monday?
Sunday NHL scores
Lightning 4, Islanders 1
Rangers 5, Sabres 4 (OT)
Penguins 11(!), Red Wings 2
Predators 5, Flyers 4
Wild 3, Avalanche 2 (OT)
Maple Leafs 5, Panthers 2
Devils 3, Canadiens 2 (SO)
Jets 2, Coyotes 1 (OT)
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.