NHL Rink Wrap: Wild clinch playoff spot; Maple Leafs set team records

NHL Scores
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Top player in the NHL on Sunday

Kevin Fiala, Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild officially clinched a playoff spot on Sunday with a 5-4 overtime win against the San Jose Sharks. Fiala played a starring role in the win with a goal and three assists, including the helper on Jared Spurgeon‘s game-winning goal. The line of Fiala, Matthew Boldy, and Frederik Gaudreau was dominant all day on Sunday and helped drive the Wild’s offense. Fiala is having a fantastic season for Minnesota and playing his way to a significant raise this offseason. It is going to be a challenge to re-sign him given the salary cap situation but he is a must-sign for the Wild given how important he has been for the offense this season.

Highlights from around the NHL on Sunday

Spurgeon’s game-winning goal in overtime that helped the Wild clinch their playoff spot.

The Blues offense is rolling and scored eight goals on Sunday in an 8-3 win against the Nashville Predators, including these seven goals (from five different goal scorers) in the second period. The seven goals in a singe period is a franchise record for the Blues.

The Anaheim Ducks score some beautiful goals, and it is usually Trevor Zegras involved in them in some way.

Three takeaways from the NHL on Sunday

Maple Leafs set new franchise records

With their 4-2 win over the New York Islanders on Sunday night the Toronto Maple Leafs set new franchise records for single season wins (50) and points (106). The Maple Leafs are playing great hockey right now and are looking like one of the league’s top teams going into the playoffs. That is where they will be measured. All of the regular season wins and points are not going to mean a thing until this team does something in the playoffs, and after five consecutive seasons of First Round exits there is no group of players and no team facing more pressure to win this season than this Maple Leafs team.

Goals for everybody and winning streaks for everybody

According to the NHL this was the highest scoring weekend in NHL history and boosted the league’s average goals per game to 6.3 goals per game. It has been 26 years (1995-96 season) since the league had a 6.3 goals per game average. Teams like the Florida Panthers and St. Louis Blues are helping to drive that offensive surge. They also happen to have two of the longest winning streaks in the NHL with the Panthers winning 10 games in a row and the Blues now at nine games in a row thanks to their big wins on Sunday. The Colorado Avalanche, who were off on Sunday, have also won nine games in a row. That is now three teams currently with a winning streak of at least nine games or more.

The Eastern Conference Playoff field is set

The New York Islanders loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday officially put the Washington Capitals back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the eighth straight year (second longest active streak in the NHL, trailing only the Pittsburgh Penguins at 16 seasons) and for the 14th time in the past 15 seasons. That means all eight Eastern Conference playoff teams are officially set with still two weeks to play in the regular season. There are still four playoff spots open in the Western Conference.

Monday’s big story

The Vegas Golden Knights look to gain some ground in the Western Conference playoff race when they host the New Jersey Devils, while the Dallas Stars visit the suddenly streaking Vancouver Canucks. The Stars and Golden Knights are both competing for the remaining playoff spots in the West. The Stars currently have the inside track to a spot, but Vegas is making a strong push now that it is finally starting to get healthy.

Sunday’s NHL Scores

Florida Panthers 6, Detroit Red Wings 1
Buffalo Sabres 5, Philadelphia Flyers 3
St. Louis Blues 8, Nashville Predators 3
Minnesota Wild 5, San Jose Sharks 4 (OT)
Toronto Maple Leafs 4, New York Islanders 2
Anaheim Ducks 6, Columbus Blue Jackets 4

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    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.