NHL Rink Wrap: Avalanche clinch; Maple Leafs, Panthers put on a show

NHL Rink Wrap: Avalanche clinch; Maple Leafs, Panthers combine for 13 goals
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Tuesday’s top NHL players

Jonathan Huberdeau, Panthers

A night after Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and the Maple Leafs scored a ton against a contender (the Lightning), they did the same against another one (the Panthers). Marner even scored four points on two goals and two assists. This time, Matthews and Marner weren’t even the top players in their own game, as Jonathan Huberdeau and the Panthers beat the Maple Leafs to headline a busy Tuesday in the NHL.

Impressively, Huberdeau put an exclamation point on a five-point night by scoring an overtime game-winner. That was Huberdeau’s second goal, while he also collected three assists.

Apparently, it wasn’t enough for Huberdeau to set a new single-season scoring record for the Panthers (in his last game, he did so by reaching 97 points). Huberdeau also became the first Panthers player to break the 100-point barrier, finishing at 102 points in just 70 games.

(Aleksander Barkov is a distant second in Panthers scoring with 76 points, though injuries limited to 57 games played.)

The Panthers point out that Huberdeau is now at 600 points in 661 career regular-season games. The franchise also set a team record already at 104 standings points.

When it comes to the Hart Trophy conversation, many will note that Huberdeau’s defensive deficiencies slip under the radar. People may have similar worries about the Panthers’ defense after allowing six Maple Leafs goals. But should we totally disregard all of the good things in the process?

Tuesday NHL highlights

Maple Leafs – Panthers highlights

Truly, the Maple Leafs and Panthers provided an entire night’s worth of highlights in a single game:

Want some standout individual moments? Mitch Marner’s brilliant anticipation and shiftiness made the difference on this splendid shorthanded score:

However, Huberdeau’s overtime goal was the difference-maker:

More NHL highlights from Tuesday

For the first time in his NHL career (774 games), Predators forward Ryan Johansen notched a hat trick. He also reached 20 goals for the first time with Nashville (he scored 33 and 26 with Columbus).

Making 47 saves in the Red Wings’ upset of the Bruins apparently wasn’t enough for Alex Nedeljkovic. He also truly earned this assist on an empty-netter:

Mike Smith generated an even impressive point for a goalie, scooting the puck deftly to Connor McDavid for an overtime game-winner:

Tuesday NHL Takeaways

Ryan Getzlaf says he’ll retire after this season

Is anyone else a little sad that the Ducks couldn’t/didn’t trade Ryan Getzlaf to a contender during the deadline? It looks like Getzlaf will never wear another NHL team’s jersey, as he announced that he’ll retire after this season. Click here for more on Getzlaf deciding to retire.

Season-ending injury for Jack Hughes

With the Devils once again struggling, many may have missed a real breakthrough for Jack Hughes. Hughes won’t get a chance to make additional impressions, as his season’s over due to a knee injury.

Panthers win thriller vs. Maple Leafs; Bruins fall below Lightning

At this point, you’re likely up to date on a zany, messy, fun game between the Maple Leafs and Lightning. If not, read this post.

While the Panthers only made it clearer that they’ll probably win the Atlantic Division, the Maple Leafs at least battled for a standings point. The idle Lightning actually rose in the NHL standings on Tuesday after the Bruins fell to the Red Wings in regulation.

Here’s the updated 2-4 race in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 96 points in 70 games played, 43 regulation/OT wins
Lightning: 93 points in 69 GP, 41 ROW
Bruins: 93 points in 70 GP, 42 ROW

Want more direct confrontations in that Atlantic Division race? You won’t need to wait long; the Lightning host the Bruins in Tampa Bay on Friday.

Avalanche reach 50 wins, clinch playoff spot

OK, maybe it’s not that big of a deal that the Avalanche clinched a playoff spot. (Though it’s mildly surprising that the Panthers clinched before them.)

But it’s still worth noting that the Avalanche train just keeps chugging along. By beating the Penguins, the Avalanche improved to 50-14-6, making them the first team to reach 50 wins this season. They hold 15-point advantages in their division (over the Wild) and conference (over the Flames), so it may not be long until the Avalanche clinch other key things.

When it comes to the Presidents’ Trophy race, it could very well come down to the wire between the Panthers and Avalanche.

Wednesday’s big story

Huge stakes for Golden Knights, while Canucks hope to hold onto slim hopes

Amid a five-game winning streak, the Golden Knights must be feeling at least a bit better about their playoff chances. They’ll probably need to finish the season on a hot streak, yet so far, so good.

As far as the Canucks go, well … hey, at least they’ve tried.

In 45 games under Bruce Boudreau, the Canucks sport a strong .622 points percentage. While you’d think this strong work would convince the Canucks to keep Boudreau around, it’s almost certainly too late to make a credible playoff push.

However realistic Vancouver’s chances are, you can bet that both the Canucks and Golden Knights will play with urgency on Wednesday.

Tuesday NHL scores

Panthers 7, Maple Leafs 6 (OT)
Sabres 4, Hurricanes 2
Senators 6, Canadiens 3
Rangers 3, Devils 1
Blue Jackets 4, Flyers 2
Avalanche 6, Penguins 4
Red Wings 5, Bruins 3
Predators 6, Wild 2
Stars 3, Islanders 2
Oilers 2, Sharks 1 (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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