NHL Rink Wrap: Hockey world mourns Guy Lafleur; Big nights from Fiala, Kane

NHL Rink Wrap: Hockey world mourns Guy Lafleur; Big nights from Fiala, Kane
Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images
1 Comment

Friday’s top NHL players

Kevin Fiala (and Kirill Kaprizov), Wild

During the Friday NHL action, Kevin Fiala, Kirill Kaprizov, and the Wild team overall set some significant records.

  • Kaprizov (one goal, three assists) became the first Wild player to score 100 points in a single season. He finished the night with 45 goals and 56 assists, generating 101 points in 77 games.
  • With five assists, Kevin Fiala set a single-game Wild franchise record for helpers.
  • The Wild set some new franchise records as a team with 50 wins and 107 standings points. They could set a point streak record soon, too, as their active 13-game point streak ties a Wild franchise record.

For just about every level of NHL fan, Friday presented just another example of Kirill Kaprizov being a clear superstar.

It’s probably worth noticing that Kevin Fiala hovers somewhere between star and superstar, too.

Here and there, we’ve heard rumors about the Wild possibly needing to trade Fiala. Part of that could be a numbers game: the cap-strapped Wild will get hit with the Ryan Suter/Zach Parise buyouts as pending RFA Fiala readies for a raise.

If at all possible, the Wild should make other omissions (painful or not) to keep Fiala instead.

Evander Kane (and Connor McDavid), Oilers

It may not be the feel-good story of the 2021-22 season, but credit’s where credit’s due. Evander Kane has been very productive with the Edmonton Oilers. He helped the Oilers clinch an NHL playoff berth on Friday.

If you only could pick one top NHL star from Friday, it would be a real debate between Kane, McDavid, Kaprizov, and Fiala. In the case of Evander Kane, he generated a hat trick and an assist. McDavid was close behind, producing three assists.

While Fiala generated five points, Kane faced tougher competition in the Avalanche. So it may come down to what you weigh more or less. Through 38 games, Evander Kane’s generated 32 points (17G, 15A).

When it comes to the next Evander Kane contract, I’d advise the Oilers and/or other suitors to note that he’s ridden shotgun very often alongside Connor McDavid. We’ve seen the Oilers get lured into risky investments in players propped up at least some extent by McDavid before, such as the ill-fated Zack Kassian extension.

Yes, Evander Kane has produced without McDavid, and he’s a clear first-liner where Kassian was not. Still, McDavid’s inevitable boost to Kane’s production and Kane’s long list of on-and-off-ice incidents should at least give future suitors some pause if there ends up being a bidding war.

So, there are circumstances for future “buyer beware” scenarios in free agency.

But for the Oilers in a truncated season? If production is the only thing that matters to the Oilers, then this has been a success.

Friday NHL highlights

With a mere four NHL games on the docket for Friday, why not watch highlights for them all?

Watch Evander Kane rack up that hat trick as the Oilers notched an impressive win over the Avalanche:

Kaprizov, Fiala, and the Wild set some records and leashed the Kraken:

You may gain more entertainment reading about possible mixed messages from the Blue Jackets’ 2021-22 season, but here’s their game against the Senators:

Finally, the Coyotes avoided getting blown out in their loss to the Capitals:

Friday NHL Takeaways

Hockey world remembers Guy Lafleur

Sad news surfaced for the hockey world on Friday: Montreal Canadiens legend Guy Lafleur died at age 70.

Many in the hockey world mourned Guy Lafleur’s passing.

Canadiens owner Geoff Molson shared his condolences.


Wayne Gretzky mourned losing Guy Lafleur and Mike Bossy in such quick succession.

Mario Lemieux and the Penguins evoked a great photo in remembering Guy Lafleur:

Fans shared memories of Guy Lafleur in this thread from Marc Dumont:

The Canadiens shared a similar collection of Guy Lafleur fan memories here.

Flames coach Darryl Sutter shared fond memories of facing Guy Lafleur during a high-scoring opening night.

For all the players who’ve been great, there are some who were transcendent. Clearly, Guy Lafleur was one of those transcendent players.

In Ken Dryden’s classic book “The Game,” he noted that for all the big ovations during those dynastic years, Canadiens fans simply celebrated Guy Lafleur most of all.

Finally, a nice video tribute to Guy Lafleur from the NHL:

Whatever happens with Robin Lehner and the Golden Knights, this got ugly pretty fast

To put things mildly, things haven’t gone as planned for the Golden Knights. That includes in net.

Even if the Golden Knights barely squeeze into the playoffs — possible, but less and less likely — this will have been a messy misadventure. Injuries have been a story for much of the season, and Robin Lehner has not been immune.

Does Robin Lehner need season-ending surgery, or not? Peter DeBoer at least cast some doubt on that.

Then again, this is the same Peter DeBoer who … didn’t exactly stick up for Robin Lehner after a recent loss.

Really, there were rumors about Robin Lehner’s injuries possibly ending his season early at least a month ago. Plausibly, Lehner’s been playing hurt (or at least at “not 100-percent”) for the Golden Knights; you’d think that would buy a little leeway.

It’s an all-around strange situation.

We’ve already wondered what might happen if the Golden Knights miss the playoffs, and that was before Robin Lehner’s injury situation truly became a source of drama. At best, it’s something you at least raise an eyebrow about.

At some point, making expensive, dramatic player changes every year seems like a losing proposition. Shouldn’t that borderline-mercenary attitude about waving goodbye to fan favorites like Marc-Andre Fleury and Nate Schmidt extend to a management team that’s been far from perfect?

Really, the Golden Knights may be best served to take a breath and not overreact or overthink things — for once. But if changes need to be made, perhaps they should come behind the bench, or among those wearing suits.

Lightning to visit White House in celebration of Stanley Cup victories

A global pandemic can put things in perspective. (Maybe not as much as some of us would like, but still.) Sometimes you come to realize that traditions and common practices don’t need to last forever just because they were once fixtures.

Honestly, that’s generally how I view the “Stanley Cup winner visits the White House for a photo-op” routine. That goes for all sports, really. It just seems like going through the motions for the sake of going through the motions. Especially since that whole global pandemic thing is still a real problem.

But … at least the Lightning’s White House visit might feel relatively special.

As Sean Leahy’s post notes, this will be the Lightning’s first White House visit despite winning three Stanley Cups as a franchise. COVID disrupted a visit, while a lockout kept the Martin St. Louis/Vincent Lecavalier Lightning Stanley Cup team from their own trip to the White House.

This tradition seems a little tedious to maintain much longer, but at least this specific photo-op is kinda sorta special.

A big story for Saturday

Can Kings, Stars, Predators create room ahead of Golden Knights in West playoff race?

It was a quiet night in the West wild-card race during the Friday NHL games. Still, here’s a reminder of where things stand between the Kings, Predators, Stars, Golden Knights, and Canucks.

Kings, third in the Pacific: 94 points, three games left, 38 regulation/overtime wins

Predators, first wild card: 93 points, five games remaining, 41 ROW
Stars, second wild card: 91 points, four games remaining, 39 ROW

Golden Knights: 89 points, four games remaining, 38 ROW
Canucks: 87 points, four games remaining, 35 ROW

Truly, the Golden Knights themselves face long odds, so including the Canucks here feels a bit generous. Vegas’ ups and downs keep getting bumpier, even beyond their latest goalie headaches. For a while, the Kings represented the team the Golden Knights had the best chance to surpass in the West playoff races. Now, the slipping Stars may actually provide the most realistic path for Vegas (and perhaps Vancouver).

The Golden Knights are very much at the point of rooting for teams ahead of them to slip. With that in mind, they may almost feel “active” on Saturday.

  • The seemingly-too-distant Predators face a challenge in the Lightning.
  • Stars lack much in the way of excuses, as the Kraken are closing off a back-to-back set.
  • After beating the Ducks on Tuesday, the Kings hope to do so again on Saturday.
  • Also, the Canucks try to keep some hope alive by beating the formidable Flames.

On face value, it seems like the Kings and Stars could distance themselves from the Golden Knights (and Canucks?). We’ve seen some odd twists in these races lately, though, so we’ll see what actually happens.

Friday NHL scores

Wild 6, Kraken 3
Senators 2, Blue Jackets 1 (SO)
Oilers 6, Avalanche 3
Capitals 2, Coyotes 0

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.

Ovechkin, and Ovi Jr., take the ice at All-Star skills night

ovechkin all star
Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

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.”


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.”


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.


“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.


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

Chase Agnello-Dean/Getty Images

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

mark stone surgery
Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports

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

brunette dui
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
1 Comment

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.