Sunday’s top NHL players
Josh Norris, Senators
For the first time in his NHL career, Josh Norris collected a hat trick.
Overall, Norris’ goal totals jumped in a big way this season. After scoring 17 goals (and 35 points) in 2020-21, Norris already reached 30 goals (and 43 points) in 52 games this season. Clearly, he was more than just a throw-in as a part of the Erik Karlsson trade.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Islanders
While that was the first hat trick for Josh Norris, Jean-Gabriel Pageau notched his fourth. This was, however, the first hat trick Pageau generated for the Islanders. Pageau also collected an assist. With four points in this one, Pageau reached 33 points in 66 games on the season.
Sunday NHL highlights
During their first home game since his passing, the Senators honored Eugene Melnyk:
Watch highlights of Josh Norris’ first hat trick at the NHL level:
If Pageau getting a natural hat trick wasn’t cool enough, he also caught a hat with his stick.
First, the Pageau hat trick:
Then, the Pageau trick with a hat:
Did he just catch that hat on his stick⁉️
Everything's coming up Pageau in New Jersey #NHLonTNT pic.twitter.com/oq7m6OGcqV
— NHLonTNT (@NHL_On_TNT) April 3, 2022
Shea Theodore scored the overtime game-winner to win it for the Golden Knights over the Canucks.
"Game." -Shea Theodore pic.twitter.com/a2NGjvjn69
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) April 4, 2022
Sure, it didn’t mean as much as the Theodore goal, but Shayne Gostisbehere also scored an OT-winner for the Coyotes:
GHOST CALLED GAME! 👻 pic.twitter.com/egkyp76Y0x
— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) April 4, 2022
Leon Draisaitl scored his 50th goal of the season here, not long after reaching 100 points yet again.
That's two-time fifty-goal scorer Leon Draisaitl to you. #LetsGoOilers pic.twitter.com/3c9LMFAipw
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) April 4, 2022
Jonathan Huberdeau reached 97 points on the season, setting a new single-season Panthers franchise record with this goal:
The most points in a single @FlaPanthers season now belongs to Jonathan Huberdeau (@JonnyHuby11) with point No. 97! 😼 pic.twitter.com/eEhP2yWhCm
— NHL (@NHL) April 3, 2022
Sunday NHL Takeaways
Western Conference playoff race updates with Golden Knights, Stars, Oilers active
It’s been clear for quite some time now, yet it remains true. The intrigue in the Eastern Conference boils down to playoff positioning. There’s drama to be there, for sure.
That said, there’s just more sizzle and steak involved when a team will either make the playoffs or go home early. For that level of drama, turn to the races for the final Western Conference playoff spots.
Three key teams battling for the final West playoff spots were active during the NHL action on Sunday. Here’s how that went.
- For the Golden Knights, the bad news was that they squandered a 2-0 lead to the Canucks. They pulled off the win in OT, however, pushing their winning streak to five games.
- On Friday, the Anaheim Ducks broke an 11-game losing streak by beating the crummy Coyotes. That turned out to be a brief reprieve, as the Oilers crushed the Ducks 6-1. Leon Draisaitl hit milestones, Connor McDavid loomed large, and even Tyson Barrie collected three points.
- It seemed like the theme of Sunday’s key NHL games would be the rich getting richer. Instead, the Stars looked tired, and fell 4-1 loss to the Kraken. There’s a bright side for the Stars, though: they begin a three-game homestand on Tuesday, also play six of their next seven games in Dallas.
After the NHL games on Sunday, here’s how those three teams rank. Do note that games in hand remain a significant advantage for Dallas.
Oilers (currently ranked third in the Pacific): 85 points in 70 games played, 36 ROW
Golden Knights (currently second wild card): 82 points in 71 GP, 35 ROW
Stars (outside wild cards): 81 points in 68 GP, 35 ROW
All things considered, things still look challenging for the Golden Knights. Vegas winning and Dallas losing in regulation moves things a bit the Golden Knights’ way, though.
Panthers become first NHL team to clinch a playoff spot during 2021-22 season
Although the Avalanche have more standings points (104), the Panthers became the first NHL team to clinch a playoff spot in 2021-22 after reaching 102. Click here for the lowdown, and also how Claude Giroux and Ben Chiarot look early in their time with the Panthers.
Ovechkin passes Kurri, other milestones and records
With the season winding down, and players scoring at paces not seen in a long time, we’re seeing people hit milestones and break records. Consider a few from the NHL games on Sunday.
- Alex Ovechkin recorded the 1,399th point of his career. With that, Ovechkin broke his tie with Jari Kurri, and now ranks all alone for 21st all-time. One of the more impressive parts is how quickly Ovechkin reached 1,399 points. While Kurri got to 1,398 faster than Ovechkin reached 1,398 (1,251 games for Kurri; 1,263 for Ovechkin), Ovechkin didn’t get to play in the most highly-charged offensive era in NHL history. Dude has a shot at the Hockey Hall of Fame. Perhaps.
- Again, Jonathan Huberdeau set a new Panthers franchise record with 97 points, and in merely 69 games. Aleksander Barkov‘s previous record was 96 points in 82 games, back in 2018-19. Barkov has 72 points of his own, while being limited to 56 games played. As a reminder, the Panthers also clinched a playoff spot on Sunday.
- In case you missed it, Kirill Kaprizov set a new Wild franchise record with 85 points, albeit earlier in the weekend.
- Leon Draisaitl got to the 50-goal and 100-point marks, too. Draisaitl (101 points) and Connor McDavid (105) are the only players above 100 thus far this season. Huberdeau (97) and Johnny Gaudreau (92) are the only others above 90 points. Auston Matthews (51 goals) and Draisaitl are the two players with 50+ goals.
Monday’s big story
Maple Leafs – Lightning could influence who gets home-ice advantage
After the NHL action on Sunday, Atlantic Division ranks 2-4 look like this:
Maple Leafs: 93 points in 68 games played, 42 regulation/OT wins
Lightning: 93 points in 68 GP, 41 ROW
Bruins: 91 points in 68 GP, 41 ROW
As you can see, the Maple Leafs, Lighting, and Bruins are all very close in the Atlantic standings. (The Panthers could conceivably slip into that mix, but it’s unlikely, with Florida sitting at 102 points.)
With the Bruins on such an upward trajectory, it’s possible the Lightning or Maple Leafs will fall from a 2/3 Atlantic Division matchup down to the wild card ranks. That said, as of this moment, we’d see a Maple Leafs – Lightning series.
So, it’s easy to see the stakes for Lightning – Maple Leafs. Between this game, and an April 21 game (also in Tampa Bay), these two teams finish the regular season with two contests. For all we know, those matches could determine home-ice advantage in a series, or even the series matchup itself.
Right now, the Maple Leafs are on a four-game winning streak, while the Canadiens just ended the Lightning’s four-game run. This indicates that we’re getting two strong teams who are generally playing very well. They could very well be planting some seeds of disdain for a possible first-round series.
(And, yes, that would be a first-round battle that would be more suited for a second round, if not a conference final, in a different playoff format.)
Sunday NHL scores
Panthers 5, Sabres 3
Senators 5, Red Wings 2
Islanders 4, Devils 3
Kraken 4, Stars 1
Oilers 6, Ducks 1
Golden Knights 3, Canucks 2 (OT)
Coyotes 3, Blackhawks 2 (OT)
Rangers 4, Flyers 3 (SO)
Wild 5, Capitals 1
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.