NHL Rink Wrap: Jets top Canadiens; Kings lose Doughty; Malkin suspension

NHL Rink Wrap: Jets top Canadiens; Kings lose Doughty; Malkin suspension
Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

Top player from Jets – Canadiens

Morgan Barron, Jets

After going pointless in his first five games with the Jets, Morgan Barron scored a goal and an assist vs. the Canadiens on Monday.

In his previous 18 games with the Rangers (13 games this season, five in 2020-21), Barron managed a goal and an assist. He was part of the significant trade that sent Andrew Copp to the Rangers. (The Rangers selected Barron in the sixth round [174th overall] in 2017.)

In grading the Andrew Copp trade, The Athletic’s Corey Pronman wrote the following (sub required) about Morgan Barron:

Morgan Barron is a big center with good hockey sense and competitiveness who can finish from mid-range but has heavy feet. He’s got a chance to be a fourth-line center. Also funny note that he gets traded on the same day his brother Justin is dealt to Montreal.

Nothing wrong with seeing what Barron, 23, can bring to the table as the Jets’ season is toast.

Jets – Canadiens highlights

With only one game in the NHL on Monday, check out all that Jets – Canadiens had to offer:

Monday NHL Takeaways

Big blow to Kings: Season-ending surgery for Drew Doughty

With Mark Stone nearing a return, the Kings already seemed to have a tenuous grip on their playoff spot. Now the Kings need to hold on without Drew Doughty, as he underwent season-ending surgery.

As this post notes, they’ve at least had some experience. Doughty’s been sidelined since March 10, and only played in 39 games overall this season.

NHL suspends Evgeni Malkin for four games

In a somewhat surprising verdict, the NHL suspended Evgeni Malkin four games for cross-checking Mark Borowiecki.

Frankly, Malkin’s history of blurring the line (at best) when he loses his temper is robust enough that it’s honestly a bit surprising he’s only been suspended twice in his career. (That’s counting this latest verdict.)

What do you think of the decision? Feel free to share in the comments, on social media, or elsewhere. Just … you know, try to be more civil than Malkin was with Borowiecki. Here’s the explanation video:


What can we expect from the Winnipeg Jets after another lost season?

Remember when the Jets looked like they were built for years of contention? Not that long ago, this seemed like the team of the future.

Heading into this season, expectations weren’t nearly as high for the Jets as those loftier days. Still, with what seemed like a more competent defense, a playoff berth wasn’t an outrageous thought.

Instead, the Jets faced the Canadiens with a lot of the same thoughts. Each team was thinking about next season, at least when they weren’t already daydreaming about golf and vacations.

So, what kind of expectations should we have for the Jets going forward? If you want an interesting exercise, realize how many different Jets players seem like they could be part of something more successful.

  • Has Kyle Connor produced the quietest 40+ goal season in ages? It’s remarkable that he has a shot at 50. Connor’s in the meat of his prime at just 25, too.
  • Also quiet: Mark Scheifele‘s point-per-game season (70 points in 67 games).
  • They’ve still enjoyed quality production from Blake Wheeler and Nikolaj Ehlers. Some may also forget that they employ Pierre-Luc Dubois, who’s put up numbers (26 goals, 54 points) and shown some serious snarl (100 penalty minutes).
  • You may look at Connor Hellebuyck‘s numbers (.911 save percentage heading into Jets – Canadiens) and think he’s stumbled. If so, he’s only dipped by his own high standards. This Hockey Viz chart points to a goalie who continues to shine:

[PHT’s latest Power Rankings]

That bloated expected goals total above hints at the bad part. Some of the Jets’ best offensive players also rank among their biggest defensive problems.

Truly, it’s kind of jaw-dropping to see both Kyle Connor and Mark Scheifele display the drastic extremes you see in visualizations such as Evolving Hockey’s player cards.

Does the good outweigh the bad? It’s an easier pro-con situation to stomach considering that neither Scheifele ($6.125M cap hit through 2023-24) nor Connor ($7.14M through 2025-26) break the bank.

However, to take a step forward, the Jets need to find some answers.

How much of these defensive issues just come down to who these forwards are? With underlying numbers so extreme, could a coaching change solve some of these issues? If not, is it about putting Connor, Scheifele, and others in truly extreme offensive situations, and finding truly great defensive forwards to shoulder huge own-zone burdens?

Despite these last few troubling seasons, it’s not so difficult to picture the Jets figuring this out. Connor Hellebuyck’s frequently in the conversation for best goalie in the world. They boast some top-end scoring talent. Cole Perfetti is the sort of prospect who could help, and possibly soon. Maybe a coaching upgrade can tighten up some loose ends.

Nonetheless, right now, the Jets look more than a little lost (though they won against the Canadiens).

A big story for Tuesday

Can Rangers wrestle the Metropolitan Division away from the Hurricanes?

For a decent chunk of time, it seemed like the Hurricanes would cruise to a Metropolitan Division title. The bigger question revolved around whether or not they might grab the top spot in the East.

Amid some modest stumbles, the Hurricanes’ ambitions are now more muted. Heading into Tuesday’s game against the Rangers, the Hurricanes only hold a two-point lead (102 to 100) for the Metro title. While the Hurricanes would still maintain a tiebreaker edge, the Rangers could create a virtual tie by beating Carolina in regulation. Both teams have played 73 games so far this season, so there’s no games in hand advantage to consider.

Ultimately, the Hurricanes hold a meaningful edge over the Rangers to win the Metro title. It’s remarkable that the Rangers gained so much ground, though, and this could get really tight if the Hurricanes lose on Tuesday.

Jets – Canadiens score

Jets 4, Canadiens 2

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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    Kyle Ross/USA TODAY Sports
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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

    Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

    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

    Kris Letang Penguins
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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

    Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

    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.


    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.