NHL Rink Wrap: Hurricanes beat Rangers; Key wins for Kings, Stars

NHL Rink Wrap: Hurricanes beat Rangers; Key wins for Kings, Stars
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Tuesday’s top NHL players

Plenty of strong NHL performances on Tuesday

There were several high-quality performances from NHL players (and goalies) on Tuesday. That said, no one presented just an undeniable top performance. With that in mind, here are a few who stood out.

  • Both Juuse Saros and Scott Wedgewood pitched 25-save shutouts for the Predators and Stars respectively. Each goalie needed to produce those goose eggs, too. The Predators won 1-0 in OT, while the Stars beat the Lightning in a one-goal game.
  • It didn’t help that two of the better nights included empty-netters. Sebastian Aho reached three points by getting his third via ENG, while Matthew Tkachuk generated a hat trick capped by a third tally into an empty net. (Whoever voted the three stars in Calgary ranked Johnny Gaudreau ahead of Tkachuk, perhaps in part because Gaudreau passed the 100-point barrier?)
  • Elias Pettersson made the Golden Knights miserable with a goal and two assists.

Tuesday NHL highlights

Matty Beniers (or Matthew Beniers, if you’re not into that whole brevity thing) made an immediate impact for the Kraken, recording an assist in his NHL debut:

Jonathan Huberdeau continued his scoring tear with this tremendous overtime game-winner:

Quinn Hughes scored the overtime game-winner for the Canucks over the Golden Knights:

Roope Hintz scored the lone goal as the Stars shut out the struggling Lightning:

The latest Tom Wilson hit, with Cam Atkinson being the recipient. This ended up being ugly for the Flyers, as the Capitals dropped them to the tune of a 9-2 blowout.

Nifty, nifty backhander from David Perron:

 

Not much room for interpretation here regarding Ryan Hartman‘s, uh, gesture.

It wasn’t enough to complete a comeback, but Chris Kreider reached the 50-goal mark late in the Rangers’ loss to the Hurricanes. Kreider is the fourth player in Rangers franchise history to score at least 50 goals in one season. Not bad for a player whose previous career-high was 28 goals.

Tuesday NHL Takeaways

Wednesday’s Kraken – Jets game postponed due to blizzard

Here’s one that won’t make it into a Winnipeg tourism guide or a pamphlet the Jets hand to potential free agents. An impending blizzard caused a mid-April game between the Jets and Kraken to be postponed from Wednesday to May 1.

Someone, somewhere might wonder: does that Kraken – Jets game really even need to happen anyway? (The NHL’s answer: probably just a shoulder shrug.)

Owen Power and other NHL debuts

Truthfully, it almost always feels a little odd when rookies debut with mere weeks remaining in a season. Plenty of players do just that after the NCAA’s season (and Frozen Four) wraps up. Read up on the debuts here, including Owen Power (top pick of the 2022 NHL Draft) playing his first game with the Sabres.

OK, fine, a quick rundown.

Owen Power logged 19:50 as the Sabres upset the Maple Leafs in his NHL debut. Power ended the night with a +2 rating, a hit, and a blocked shot.

For the most part, Owen Power almost broke even as far as fancy stats went. Not bad at all, especially considering that while the Sabres won, the Maple Leafs carried most of the play.

As the Western Conference playoff race turns …

Stay tuned for PHT’s daily “Push for the Playoffs” for full standings and other information.

Overall, though, the Kings, Predators, and Stars were big winners, while the Golden Knights can only take small solace in squeezing out a single standings point.

The Predators were able to grind out a tight OT win over the Sharks, while the Stars shut out the Lightning 1-0 in regulation.

If the Kings lost to the Blackhawks, especially in regulation, they’d really be sweating Wednesday’s game vs. the Avalanche. Instead, Los Angeles took care of business.

That’s relevant because a) the Golden Knights rallied to get to overtime, but lost to the Canucks and b) the Oilers lost badly to the Wild in regulation.

The Kings now have a shot at the Pacific’s second seed, while they hold a three-point advantage over the Golden Knights. Vegas does have one game in hand (8 games remaining vs. 7 for the Kings), but every point counts, so Vancouver definitely stung the VGK. The Predators (89 points, 9 games remaining) and Stars (88 points, 9 GR) now hold significant advantages over the Golden Knights, too.

Hurricanes strengthen lead in Metro with regulation win against Rangers

Sheesh, kind of rude of Carolina to deal a big blow to Eastern Conference drama.

Sure, there’s room for East teams to maneuver, including powerful teams possibly slipping to the wild-card ranks. Yet, with the Panthers opening up a commanding Atlantic Division lead, the Metro was where there was some hope for division title drama.

Perhaps there’s still a bit, but that race looks a lot less interesting after the NHL action on Tuesday.

The Hurricanes beat the Rangers in regulation, so now their Metro title lead is at four points (104 to 100). Both teams have played 74 games this season.

While the Rangers do get another shot at the Hurricanes, it may already be too late. Carolina’s schedule is pretty cushy going forward. They face the Devils twice, and also take on the Red Wings, Coyotes, and Jets. Maybe the pesky Islanders have some upset potential, and the Avalanche also await … but it sure seems like the Hurricanes are going to nab that top spot in the Metro.

The way things are going, the Hurricanes may face the Penguins instead of the Capitals to open things up.

Wednesday’s big story

A tough test for the Kings vs. the rested Avalanche

There aren’t many, if any, situations where the Colorado Avalanche look like an easy matchup on paper. That’s true even when they’re lacking a key player or two due to injuries.

The Kings have extra odds stacked against them when they face the Avalanche. While the Kings took care of business against the Blackhawks during the Tuesday NHL action, the Avalanche rested. To increase the degree of difficulty, the Kings also face the Avalanche in Colorado. Los Angeles also may still be coming to grips with Drew Doughty‘s season-ending surgery.

Then again, maybe the Kings can use these factors as motivation? While they lack that “nothing to lose” factor, they’re expected to, so a win (or even a “charity point”) would be gravy, right?

By the way: who would have expected the Golden Knights to be rooting hard for the Avalanche this late in the season? Yikes.

Tuesday NHL scores

Blues 4, Bruins 2
Sabres 5, Maple Leafs 2
Panthers 3, Ducks 2 (OT)
Hurricanes 4, Rangers 2
Capitals 9, Flyers 2
Islanders 5, Penguins 4 (SO)
Senators 4, Red Wings 1
Wild 5, Oilers 1
Predators 1, Sharks 0 (OT)
Kings 5, Blackhawks 2
Flames 5, Kraken 3
Stars 1, Lightning 0
Canucks 5, Golden Knights 4 (OT)
Devils 6, Coyotes 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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    Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

    The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

    Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

    Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

    Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

    The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

    Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

    avalanche injuries
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    ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

    Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

    These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

    In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

    “Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

    Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

    “He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

    Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

    “I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

    Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

    “I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

    Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

    “I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

    Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

    The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

    One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

    “It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

    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.