NHL Rink Wrap: More Ovechkin history; Draisaitl reaches 50 and 100

NHL Rink Wrap: More Ovechkin history; Draisaitl reaches 50 and 100
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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:

Shea Theodore scored the overtime game-winner to win it for the Golden Knights over the Canucks.

Sure, it didn’t mean as much as the Theodore goal, but Shayne Gostisbehere also scored an OT-winner for the Coyotes:

Leon Draisaitl scored his 50th goal of the season here, not long after reaching 100 points yet again.

Jonathan Huberdeau reached 97 points on the season, setting a new single-season Panthers franchise record with this goal:

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 phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Penguins plot a way forward as Letang recovers from stroke

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    PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang returned to the ice on Thursday, just three days after suffering the second stroke of his career.

    The “twirl” the longtime Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman took at the club’s practice facility was approved by team doctors, a spin designed to help Letang’s mental health and nothing else. While the 35-year-old remains upbeat, it remains far too early to put a timeline on when his familiar No. 58 will return to the lineup.

    Though Pittsburgh general manager Ron Hextall indicated this stroke isn’t as severe as the one Letang endured in 2014 – when a hole in the wall of his heart led to a stroke that forced him to miss two months – the six-time All-Star is continuing to undergo tests.

    There are no plans for Letang to participate in any sort of hockey-specific drills anytime soon, with coach Mike Sullivan stressing the club will “err on the side of caution” when it comes to whatever rehab Letang might need.

    While Letang – one of the most well-conditioned players in the NHL – essentially went through the motions by himself, his teammates were 30 minutes south at PPG Paints Arena getting ready for a visit from Vegas and trying to plot a way forward without one of the franchise cornerstones, at least in the short term.

    Letang made it a point to help break the news to the rest of the Penguins following a 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina on Tuesday. Pittsburgh scratched Letang from the lineup with an unspecified illness and he spent a portion of the game watching from the press box next to Hextall.

    Afterward, Letang informed a somber locker room about his condition, a revelation that came as a shock even as he did his best to reassure those around him that he was and is OK.

    “It’s very serious health stuff,” defenseman Chad Ruhwedel said. “You hear about strokes and it’s never really good so we’re just glad to see he’s doing well and everything is good with him.”

    Sullivan understands it would be practically impossible for any of the other defensemen on the roster to replicate what Letang brings to the ice, so he’s not going to ask any one player to try. There are few players at the position in the NHL who have Letang’s mix of speed, skill and almost bottomless energy.

    The highest-scoring defenseman in franchise history is averaging a team-best 23:54 of ice time and has long been a fixture on the power play and in just about every crucial late-game situation.

    “I just think Tanger is not an easy guy to replace,” Sullivan said. “I don’t think from a tactical standpoint things change drastically. It’s just personnel based. But as you know, personnel can mean a lot in those types of situations.”

    It’s more than that, however. This isn’t a routine injury. There’s an emotional component and an unknown element to Letang’s status even as the Penguins insist they don’t believe his condition is career-threatening.

    “This is a whole different circumstance than an ankle injury or a shoulder injury,” Sullivan said. “This is a very different circumstance.”

    Letang’s on-ice presence is just one aspect of his importance to a team that has never missed the playoffs since he made his debut in 2007. He’s become a mentor to younger teammates like 23-year-old defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph, who like Letang is French-Canadian and who, like Letang, plays with a graceful fluidity.

    Joseph, who declined to get into specifics about Letang’s message to the team on Tuesday night, believes the best thing the Penguins can do during Letang’s absence is attack the game with the same passion he’s shown for 17 seasons and counting.

    “The way he plays for the team every single night and the way he puts his heart and soul into the game on the ice, it’s the least we can do is have our thoughts of him whenever we get on the ice,” Joseph said.

    Sullivan shuffled the lineup on Tuesday, elevating veteran Jeff Petry and Brian Dumoulin to the top defensive pair. Petry possesses a skillset that’s not too far removed from Letang’s, but it’s also his first year in Pittsburgh. Asking him to provide the leadership that’s innate to Letang is unfair. It’s one of the reasons Sullivan is insistent that it will take a group effort to fill in for a singular presence.

    “We have some diversity on our blue line right now,” Sullivan said. “We feel like we have guys capable of stepping in and getting the job done for us and we’re going to try and do that.”

    LA Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers

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    LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers, a surprising move for a player once considered the successor in net to two-time Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Quick.

    Petersen, 28, went on waivers the day after allowing four goals on 16 shots in relief of Quick during a 9-8 overtime loss to the Seattle Kraken. Quick was pulled after giving up five goals on 14 shots.

    Only one NHL goalie has a save percentage lower than Petersen’s .868 this season, Elvis Merzlikins of the Columbus Blue Jackets with .864. Petersen is 5-3-2 in 10 games with a 3.75 goals-against average in his third full season with the Kings and fifth overall.

    L.A. signed Petersen to a three-year, $15 million contract in September 2021, and he figured to take the starting job from Quick, who turns 37 in January and is set to be a free agent after the season. Petersen has two years left on that deal after this one at an annual salary cap hit of $5 million.

    Penguins’ Kris Letang out indefinitely after 2nd stroke

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    PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang plays hockey with a grace and inexhaustible fluidity seemingly impervious to the rigors of spending nearly half his life in the NHL.

    For the second time in less than a decade, however, a major health scare has brought Letang’s career to a halt.

    The 35-year-old Letang is out indefinitely after suffering a stroke for a second time. Letang reported feeling ill and was taken to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

    While general manager Ron Hextall said Wednesday this stroke doesn’t appear to be as serious as the one Letang sustained in 2014, the Penguins will have to find a way forward at least in the short term without one of their franchise pillars.

    “I am fortunate to know my body well enough to recognize when something isn’t right,” Letang said in a release. “While it is difficult to navigate this issue publicly, I am hopeful it can raise awareness. … I am optimistic that I will be back on the ice soon.”

    The three-time Stanley Cup champion missed more than two months in 2014 after a stroke, which doctors determined was caused by a small hole in the wall of his heart. He spent Monday feeling off and told team trainers he was dealing with what Hextall described as a migraine headache.

    Penguins team physician Dr. Dhamesh Vyas recommended Letang go to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

    “He didn’t know (he had a stroke),” Hextall said. “He just knew something wasn’t right.”

    Letang is continuing to undergo tests but felt well enough on Tuesday to be at the arena for Pittsburgh’s 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina. He spent the second period chatting with Hextall then addressed his teammates in the locker room afterward in an effort to help allay their concerns.

    “I think it was important for Kris to be there because his teammates got to see him in good spirits and that he’s doing well,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.

    Sullivan added initial test results on Letang have been “very encouraging.” Letang will continue to undergo testing throughout the week, though he felt good enough in the aftermath to ask Sullivan and Hextall if he could skate, an activity that is off the table for now.

    Hextall said he “couldn’t even guess” how long the Penguins may be without the married father of two, adding hockey is low on the team’s list of concerns about a player who, along with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, has helped the franchise to three Stanley Cups during his 17-year career.

    “First and foremost this is about the person and I told Tanger about that last night,” Hextall said. “This is Kris Letang, the father and family guy, the Pittsburgh Penguins, that’s second.”

    Letang, a six-time All-Star, has been one of the most durable players in the NHL. His 662 career points (145 goals, 517 assists) are a franchise record for a defenseman. He’s averaged well over 24 minutes of playing time over the course of his career, a number that’s ticked above 25 minutes per game seven times in eight-plus seasons since he returned from the initial stroke.

    The Penguins felt so confident in Letang’s durability that they signed him to a six-year contract over the summer rather than let him test free agency for the first time.

    “The level of hockey he’s played for as long as he’s played is absolutely incredible,” Hextall said. “The level he’s continued to play at at his age, the type of shape he’s in … he’s a warrior.”

    Letang has one goal and 11 assists in 21 games so far this season for Pittsburgh, which hosts Vegas on Thursday night. The Penguins are pretty deep along the blue line, but Sullivan knows he can’t try to replace Letang with any one player.

    “It’s not anything we haven’t been faced with in the past and the reality is we have what we have, and we’ll figure it out,” Sullivan said, adding “it’ll be by committee, as it usually is when you replace a player of that stature.”

    Ovechkin tops Gretzky for most road goals, Capitals beat Canucks

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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Alex Ovechkin scored twice, passing Wayne Gretzky for the most road goals in NHL history, and the Washington Capitals beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-1 on Tuesday night.

    Ovechkin has scored 403 of his 793 career goals away from home. Gretzky holds the overall record with 894.

    “It’s always nice when you beat the Great One,” Ovechkin said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of milestone it is. It’s history.”

    Anthony Mantha added a goal and an assist for the Capitals (10-11-3). John Carlson and Martin Fehervary also scored, and Darcy Kuemper stopped 31 shots.

    Nils Hoglander scored for the Canucks (9-11-3), who had won three in a row. Spencer Martin made 23 saves.

    “Spencer’s been great for us. He’s probably a bit like the other players tonight. They weren’t ready to play and it showed on the scoreboard,” Vancouver coach Bruce Boudreau said.

    The 37-year-old Ovechkin nearly netted a hat trick when Vancouver pulled Martin for an extra skater with just over six minutes left, but his rocket of a shot skimmed the outside of the post.

    “I think he has 13 goals this year and I want to say like eight or nine have been like a new record. So it’s been cool,” Washington center Dylan Strome said. “Any time you pass Wayne Gretzky in anything, it deserves a standing ovation, which he got.”

    Fehervary was the one who sealed it, flipping the puck high into the Canucks zone and into the empty net at 15:57 of the third period.

    Ovechkin topped Gretzky 11:52 into the first, firing a one-timer from the left circle past Martin to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead with his 13th goal of the season.

    “On his second goal, it looks like, `Oh, maybe (Martin) should have had it.’ But I’ve seen (Ovechkin) score 100 goals like that,” said Boudreau, who coached the Capitals from 2007-11. “He’s got a shot that finds its way in.”

    The star forward from Russia got his first of the night 5:35 in, taking the puck off the stick of Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes near the net and batting in a quick shot.

    “It could have been 6-1 after the first period, quite frankly, with the amount of chances (Washington) had,” Boudreau said.

    It was Ovechkin’s 135th game-opening goal, tying Jaromir Jagr for the most in NHL history.

    “(Ovechkin) was really good in the first and I thought we were really good in the first so it was nice to get out and get a jump like that,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “He certainly led. We knew we needed to have a good first period, have a good game, and you need your best players to do that.”

    Carlson scored the lone goal of the second, chipping in a loose puck from the low hash marks at 18:47 to give Washington a 4-1 cushion.

    “It’s frustrating. Because when you lose games, it should never be about your compete level and battle level,” Canucks center J.T. Miller said. “It’s frustrating because they didn’t out-skill us today, they didn’t out-system us. They literally just outbattled us and created their own chances.”

    NOTES: Washington’s Lars Eller got his 200th career assist. … Miller had an assist, extending his point streak to nine games (four goals, seven assists). … The Capitals swept the two-game season series. … Vancouver assigned winger Vasily Podkolzin and defenseman Jack Rathbone to the Abbotsford Canucks on Monday, then recalled forward Phillip Di Giuseppe from the American Hockey League club on Tuesday.

    UP NEXT

    Washington: At Seattle on Thursday in the second of a five-game trip.

    Vancouver: Host Florida on Thursday in the second of a four-game homestand.