NHL Rink Wrap: Hope for Canucks, despair for Golden Knights

NHL Rink Wrap: Hope for Canucks, despair for Golden Knights
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Monday’s top NHL players

Andrew Hammond, Devils

Remember when Andrew Hammond dragged the Senators to a playoff berth, and himself to all sorts of free McDonald’s food? Frankly, it was always a bit surprising that “The Hamburglar” didn’t receive longer NHL looks after that run, Cinderella or not.

Well, if this represents Andrew Hammond’s last real stretch of NHL opportunities, he may have made an impact on another playoff run. This time, it meant hurting someone’s chance to make it, not spurring a rise.

Hammond made an impressive 42 saves to help the Devils upset the desperate Golden Knights in regulation. While Andrew Hammond frustrated the Golden Knights, Peter DeBoer seemed disappointed with Robin Lehner‘s play.

The Golden Knights are notorious for making big, sometimes almost reckless offseason changes. In the increasingly likely scenario where Vegas misses the playoffs, could something odd happen with Robin Lehner? With typical teams, you’d say “C’mon.” With the Golden Knights? Who knows.

Monday NHL highlights

Johnny Gaudreau reached 600 career points in a very stylish way. The Blackhawks won’t enjoy watching this one in various Gaudreau retrospectives:

Great execution as Elias Pettersson set up Brock Boeser for a pretty 2-on-1 finish:

Tricky stuff from Jesper Boqvist:

Monday NHL Takeaways

Brutal loss for the Golden Knights; Canucks keep hopes alive by beating Stars

Not going to deny it: I didn’t think the Canucks really had any chance of making a playoff push.

After the NHL action on Tuesday, the Canucks aren’t exactly frontrunners. Yet, with a win against a wild-card team in the Stars, and the Golden Knights dropping a painful one to the Devils, things look as bright as one could expect. Really, things do tend to look brighter when you’ve rattled off six straight wins.

No doubt, there’s some relevance to the Canucks beating the Stars, a current wild card team, especially in regulation. Yet, a lot like the Golden Knights, the clearest playoff route for the Canucks is through the Kings and the third spot in the Pacific Division.

For a deeper look at the standings, stay tuned for “The Push for the Playoffs.” But here’s a quick rundown after a big Canucks win and a jarring Golden Knights loss.


Kings, third in Pacific: 90 points in 77 games played (36 regulation/overtime wins)


Predators, first wild card: 91 points in 76 GP (41 ROW)
Stars, second wild card: 91 points in 76 GP (39 ROW)


Golden Knights, outside West playoffs: 87 points in 77 GP (37 ROW)
Canucks, outside West playoffs: 86 points in 76 GP (35 ROW)


[Check out PHT’s latest Power Rankings]

Of course, the Kings would’ve preferred both the Golden Knights and Canucks to lose, preferably in regulation. Still, if they only had one choice, this was the way Los Angeles likely would’ve picked it. The Golden Knights lost to a long-ago eliminated team, in regulation, squandering a precious game in hand and remaining three points behind the Kings.

The Canucks turn around and face the Coyotes on Tuesday. Winning would leave them two points behind the Kings. That’s a bigger gap that it may sound to some, but there’s a key point: the Canucks have a game left against the Kings. Theoretically, the Canucks could win that April 28 contest (in Vancouver) without giving Los Angeles a point, making this close to a “tie.”

Then they’d need to execute, and maybe get a little luck. Not impossible, at least.

Technically, the Golden Knights aren’t totally hopeless, either. But this sure felt like the sort of night you point to when you miss the playoffs, and maybe make some painful offseason decisions.

Wow.

Capitals end Avalanche’s winning streak at 9 games, gain on Penguins

Both the Capitals and Avalanche clinched playoff spots, so their game on Tuesday was about NHL playoff positioning.

With the Avalanche, it’s about winning the Presidents’ Trophy, as they already clinched home-ice advantage in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, the Capitals hope to jump out of the wild card and ahead of the Penguins for the Metro’s third spot.

So, to quality teams with something to play for. Maybe that’s the formula for some Tom Wilson physicality, and some intrigue. The Capitals ended up beating the Avalanche, ending Colorado’s winning streak at nine games.

Intriguing stuff, as it opens the door for the Panthers to take a slight advantage over the Avalanche in the Presidents’ Trophy race. (The Capitals merely care about chasing the Penguins, who are one point ahead of them, but Washington has a game in hand.)

Either way, though, these teams won’t necessarily enjoy easy hauls. The East is pretty stacked, and the Capitals are likely to face a tough opponent right off the bat. The Avalanche can’t change the Central Division bracket, which means they’re readying to face one of two hot teams in the Blues or Wild if Colorado can get to the second round.

So, yeah, there were stakes here. Both teams should really just get ready and try to stay healthy for the playoffs most of all.

Johnny Gaudreau reaches 600 points, and matches a Jagr milestone

Johnny Gaudreau already passed 100 points for the season for the first time in his already-impressive career. As noted in the highlights section, Gaudreau also passed 600 points for his career during the NHL action on Tuesday.

That 600-point milestone might not be his most impressive of the night. Johnny Gaudreau is now the first player to record at least 85 even-strength points since Jaromir Jagr did it in 1995-96.

It’s a pretty lofty list of 85+ even-strength point seasons, as Johnny Gaudreau is just the 18th player to pull this off in NHL history.

This season is so jam-packed full of outstanding play, it’s not even clear if Gaudreau should be a Hart finalist. It’s clear that he should be in the conversation, though.

He’s also clearly pushing his potential earning power through the roof.

By the way, fellow Flames free agent Matthew Tkachuk is closing in on his own 100-point season, as he’s at 98.

A big story for Tuesday

Another big day in the West playoff races with Canucks, Kings, Predators in action

After the Monday NHL games, several West teams know they need to take care of business on Tuesday.

  • The Predators face the toughest challenge, on paper. They don’t want to loosen their (currently strong-looking) grip on a wild-card spot, so beating the Flames would be a real stress-reducer. If nothing else, Nashville gets the rest advantage.
  • From there, we have two games where playoff hopefuls are heavily favored. First, the Canucks aim for a seventh consecutive win against the Senators. Closing a back-to-back set off rarely counts as easy, but they need this.
  • The Ducks also linger as one of those teams you’re supposed to beat. One of their all-too-rare wins happened against the lowly Blue Jackets. That said, it’s interesting that the Ducks took both the Panthers and Lightning to overtime before that win against Columbus. As sparse as motivation might be right now for the Ducks, they’d also love to spoil things for the nearby Kings. It won’t be the only chance for the Ducks to spite the Kings, as the two teams also meet on Saturday (making it two matchups in the Kings’ next three games).

Monday NHL scores

Flames 5, Blackhawks 2
Capitals 3, Avalanche 2
Kraken 4, Senators 2
Hurricanes 5, Coyotes 3
Devils 3, Golden Knights 2
Canucks 6, Stars 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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    Ovechkin, and Ovi Jr., take the ice at All-Star skills night

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    SUNRISE, Fla. — When you’ve got the second-most goals in NHL history, you’re evidently permitted to bring a guest onto the ice for the All-Star Skills competition.

    That’s why there were two No. 8 Washington jerseys out there.

    Capitals star Alex Ovechkin took the ice with his Metropolitan Division teammates – and his oldest child, 4-year-old Sergei.

    Sergei, named for Ovechkin’s late brother, was wearing an Ovi Jr. jersey. The kid has built a bit of a following in recent weeks, after scoring a goal at a Caps practice in December and playing a role in helping the Washington crowd celebrate his dad’s 800th goal.

    It was Ovi Jr.’s first chance at being part of an All-Star weekend. His father hasn’t participated at All-Star since 2018, either because of COVID-19 or injuries. The last time his dad played in an All-Star event, Sergei hadn’t been born.

    Alex Ovechkin has 812 goals. He only trails Wayne Gretzky’s 894 in NHL history.

    And later in the night, Ovi Jr. got to center a line alongside his dad and Pittsburgh great Sidney Crosby. They each got an assist on a goal that Sergei scored – beating Roberto Luongo, the Florida great who came out of retirement for All-Star weekend.

    Said Ovechkin after his son scored: “I think he’s really enjoying it.”

    WELCOME HOME, LU

    Luongo got to be part of one more All-Star competition.

    In a building where a banner bearing his No. 1 jersey hangs – he’s the only former Panthers player to have that distinction – Luongo was a celebrity goaltender during the Breakaway Challenge during the Skills Competition on Friday night.

    He stopped his lone shot in the breakaway, off the stick of Toronto’s Mitch Marner. On one hand, Marner is the Maple Leafs’ leading scorer this season. On the other hand, he was also wearing a white suit, sunglasses and a light blue T-shirt to keep with a “Miami Vice” theme.

    Luongo, who was regaled by “Luuuuu” chants from the Florida fans all night, was up to the challenge. Marner tried to beat him to the glove side, but Luongo got enough of it to make the save – then flopped forward to cover up the rebound, the smile clearly seen through his mask.

    “You got too close,” Luongo told Marner.

    Later, Luongo told ESPN during the telecast of the event that “this is my house. This is my home right here. The crease is my home.”

    Luongo’s pads paid tribute to his career – the design depicted his time both as a member of the Panthers and the Vancouver Canucks. They were a gift from CCM for his making the Hockey Hall of Fame.

    “I’d never put the pads on since I retired,” Luongo said. “First time I put them on was this week. Felt pretty good.”

    He also took part, and scored a goal, in a Florida alumni game on Wednesday night. But if there’s more alumni games, Luongo suggested he might jump back into the net.

    “It back some good memories tonight to be in the blue paint, hearing the chants,” Luongo said. “Maybe one day we’ll hear them again.”

    REMEMBERING JIMMY

    Sergei Ovechkin – who knocked a shot into an open net during a stoppage of the skills events – wasn’t the only child who got a great view of the night.

    Philadelphia forward Kevin Hayes has his 3-year-old nephew Beau with him for All-Star weekend. Beau’s father was Jimmy Hayes, Kevin Hayes’ brother.

    Jimmy Hayes was 31 when he died in 2021 with fentanyl and cocaine in his system. He played for four NHL teams, including Florida.

    Kevin Hayes is part of an All-Star weekend for the first time.

    ANTHEM POISE

    “The Star-Spangled Banner” was performed by the South Florida Gay Men’s Chorus, and group crushed it – never minding that the crowd, representing several different fan bases, was going to shout some term specific to their team at various points in the lyrics.

    Florida fans shout along with “red” and “Knight,” one a nod to one of the team’s primary colors, the other for goaltender Spencer Knight. There also were some shouts from other fan bases; some St. Louis fans, for example, could be heard singing “home of the Blues” instead of “home of the brave” to close the song.

    And “O Canada” performer Hannah Walpole had some shouting as she sang as well, particularly when she reached the “true North” portion of those lyrics – something typically heard at Winnipeg games.

    SLAP SHOTS

    Cale Makar, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner from the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, was the first participant in the Fastest Skater event – the opening competition of the night. He fell coming around the second turn. … Tampa Bay’s Pat Maroon, one of the broadcasters on the event, reported that he was “freezing” by working at ice level. “I’m used to the gear,” said Maroon, who was in a blazer and open shirt Friday night. … A big hit for those used to the regular colors of FLA Live Arena – and basically all other hockey arenas – was the ocean-water-shade of blue used for the blue lines and the creases. The faceoff dots at the circles on either end of the ice aren’t the standard solid red this weekend, but depict an image of the sun instead.

    Capitals sign Dylan Strome to five-year, $25 million extension

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    FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Washington Capitals signed forward Dylan Strome to a five-year extension worth $25 million.

    The team announced the contract during NHL All-Star Weekend, which is taking place in South Florida – the place Strome was drafted third in 2015.

    Strome will count $5 million against the salary cap through the 2027-28 season. He was set to be a restricted free agent this summer.

    “Dylan is an intelligent and skilled center and has been a great addition to our organization,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We are pleased to sign him to a long-term contract. We feel his skill set is a great fit for our team as he enters the prime years of his career at an important position.”

    Strome is getting a raise from the $3.5 million deal he signed with the Capitals after the Chicago Blackhawks opted not to tender him a qualifying offer and made him a free agent. Strome has 11 goals and 25 assists in 36 games this season and ranks third on Washington’s roster with 14 power-play points.

    The Mississauga, Ontario, native who played his junior hockey alongside Connor McDavid with the Erie Otters has 206 points in 325 regular-season NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Blackhawks and Capitals.

    Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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    LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

    The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

    This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

    But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

    Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

    Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

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    DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

    Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

    The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

    According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

    The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

    Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

    Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

    The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

    The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.