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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    Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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    SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

    Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

    “Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

    The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

    Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

    Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

    Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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    The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

    The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

    General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

    The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

    Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

    Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

    “I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

    Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

    “Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

    After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.

    Bruins rolling, rest of NHL making final push for playoffs

    John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
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    SUNRISE, Fla. — Bruce Cassidy’s Vegas Golden Knights lost eight of 10 games going into the All-Star break after leading the Pacific Division at the midway point of the NHL season.

    They’re still safely in a playoff spot in the Western Conference, but they can’t keep it up.

    “We’re still in a good position – that’s the way we look at it,” Cassidy said. “There’s not too many teams that can cruise home the last 30 games in this league, and we’re certainly not one of them.”

    Cassidy’s old team, the Boston Bruins, probably could. They’re atop the NHL and running away with the Atlantic Division.

    With 39 wins and 83 points through 51 games, Boston is on pace to break the record for the best regular season in NHL history. The Carolina Hurricanes, who beat Boston in seven games in the first round last year, are next in the standings at 76 points.

    “Top to bottom, there’s no weaknesses,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said.

    The Bruins are in a class of their own, but the playoff races behind them in the East and West should be hot down the stretch with roughly 30 games to go before the chase for the Stanley Cup begins.

    METROPOLITAN DIVISION

    The Hurricanes rode a seven-game winning streak into the break, putting some fear into the Bruins in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy and home-ice advantage through the postseason. Winger Max Pacioretty re-tearing his right Achilles tendon five games into his return didn’t slow them down, and if their goaltending holds up, Carolina stands a good chance of reaching the East final.

    “This team, it’s a special group of guys,” said Brind’Amour, who captained Carolina to the Cup in 2006 and is in his fifth year as coach. “We kind of show that nightly. It’s just very consistent, and they take their job real serious. They do it right.”

    The second-place New Jersey Devils are contending for the first time since 2018. Bottoming out the next season helped them win the lottery for No. 1 pick Jack Hughes, a two-time All-Star who has them winning ahead of schedule.

    “Much better than being out of the mix,” Hughes said. “We’re really excited because it’s going to be a lot of important hockey, and it’s going to be really competitive and we’re really pumped to be where we are.”

    They’re followed by the New York Rangers, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders. All three New York-area teams could make it, which was the expectation for the Rangers after reaching the East final last year.

    “I think the run last year really taught us a few things and stuff that we obviously could build on for the rest of this year,” 2021 Norris-Trophy winning defenseman Adam Fox said.

    ATLANTIC

    The Rangers lost to the Lightning in six games last spring, when two-time champion Tampa Bay reached the Stanley Cup Final for the third consecutive season before getting beat by the Colorado Avalanche.

    The Lightning are almost certain to face the Toronto Maple Leafs – who haven’t won a playoff series since the NHL salary cap era began in 2005 – in the first round and remain a threat to the Bruins.

    But Boston has separated itself despite starting the season without top left winger Brad Marchand and No. 1 defenseman Charlie McAvoy. The Bruins have lost only 12 games under new coach Jim Montgomery.

    “You just keep winning,” said All-Star right winger David Pastrnak, who’s tied for third in the league in scoring. “Every single line and every single guy is going and it obviously builds our confidence. It’s funny sometimes what confidence can do in hockey.”

    The Islanders should have some more confidence after acquiring 30-goal scorer Bo Horvat from Vancouver, but still need to make up ground to get in.

    CENTRAL

    Defending champion Colorado climbed in the standings – winning seven of eight going into the break despite an injury-riddled first half of the season. Captain Gabriel Landeskog still has not made his season debut since undergoing knee surgery. It would be foolish to bet against the Avs coming out of the West again.

    “It’s up to us: We control our own fate,” All-Star center Nathan MacKinnon said. “We need to definitely keep playing the way we were before the break. No matter who’s in the lineup we were playing well, playing hard, so it would definitely help with healthy bodies.”

    They still trail the Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild in the Central, and the Nashville Predators are on their heels. Only the Stars and Jets are essentially guaranteed a spot.

    “Every point, you grind for it,” Stars leading scorer Jason Robertson said. “Every point’s going to be a dog fight, so it’s going to be a fun 30 games down the stretch.”

    PACIFIC

    Undisputed MVP favorite Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, who were swept by Colorado in the West final, have a little bit of catching up to do in the Pacific Division.

    The top spot is held by the Seattle Kraken, who surprisingly are on pace to make the playoffs in their second season but still need to fend off the Los Angeles Kings and the Vegas Golden Knights.

    Edmonton – and the Battle of Alberta rival Calgary Flames – have the talent to not only get in but make a run. McDavid leads the league with 41 goals and 92 points, 16 more than No. 2 scorer and teammate Leon Draisaitl, and is producing unlike anyone since Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux in the mid-1990s.

    Now he’ll try to carry the Oilers into the playoffs and beyond.

    “It hasn’t been easy at all for our group. We’ve kind of had to battle for everything that we’ve got,” McDavid said. “We’ve always been a second-half team for whatever reason. Even since my first year, we’ve always been better in the second half, so we’ll definitely look to continue that. That being said, we’re not going to hang our hat on that and expect that to carry us to the playoffs. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

    Capitals sign Sonny Milano to 3-year, $5.7 million extension

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    ARLINGTON, Va. — The Washington Capitals signed winger Sonny Milano to a three-year extension worth $5.7 million.

    General manager Brian MacLellan announced the contract, adding to an already busy All-Star break for taking care of future business. The Capitals extended forward Dylan Strome for five years, $25 million.

    Like Strome, Milano has fit in as a new addition for Washington. He’s now set to count $1.9 million against the salary cap through the 2025-26 season.

    The 26-year-old Milano has been a near-perfect bargain signing for the Capitals after joining them on an NHL veteran one-year deal after this season got underway. He has eight goals and 14 assists for 22 points in 40 games since getting called up from Hershey of the American Hockey League.

    Originally drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets 16th in 2014, Milano split his first eight seasons in the league with them and the Anaheim Ducks. He went unsigned as an unrestricted free agent last summer despite putting up 34 points in 66 games with Anaheim.