NHL Rink Wrap: Panthers win Presidents’ Trophy, but more must be decided

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Thursday’s top NHL players

Patrice Bergeron, Bruins

The Lightning had a chance to clinch the third spot in the Atlantic, thus relegating the Bruins to the East’s first Wild Card spot. Instead, the Lightning lost to the Blue Jackets (even while dressing some key players) while the Bruins scorched the Sabres.

Patrice Bergeron played a big role in said scorching, scoring four points on a hat trick and an assist.

This marks the eighth hat trick of Bergeron’s career. It’s his second this season, and third since 2021. Remarkably, Bergeron’s collected seven of his eight career hat tricks since 2018. Seems like a nice time to mention that Bergeron should be a runaway Selke Trophy winner this season. Bergeron reached 400+ goals on his career, too.

(Bergeron’s basically aging as well as Phoenix Suns star Chris Paul.)

Thursday NHL highlights

This scrumptious Roman Josi goal helped the Predators rally to eventually beat the Avalanche, which clinched the Presidents’ Trophy for the Panthers.

Johnny Gaudreau hit another first as he keeps adding to his Hart Trophy resume. Already (comfortably) over 100 points for the first time in his career, Gaudreau reached 40 goals for the first time. Fittingly, Matthew Tkachuk beautifully assisted on Gaudreau’s 40th goal:

Speaking of reaching that 40-goal mark, David Pastrnak did it for the second time in his career:

Tremendous goal from the AHL’s Laval Rocket; a great pass, and then Brandon Gignac with the outstanding finish.

Noah Gregor scored two goals just 26 seconds apart.

Enjoy a couple of tasty kick/foot/skate saves from goalies:

Thursday NHL Takeaways

Dustin Brown decides to retire after Kings’ playoff run

Read up on the longtime Los Angeles Kings forward who was a master at drawing penalties (among other things).

Panthers win Presidents’ Trophy after Avalanche lose to Predators

The Presidents’ Trophy race could have bled into Friday’s NHL games, but the Panthers instead locked it up on Thursday. The Panthers did so by cruising past the Senators, then watched as the Predators rallied to beat the Avalanche in a shootout.

Other NHL playoff picture updates: More to be settled after missed opportunities

While the stakes mainly boiled down to “which of the rich would get richer?,” there were still some Thursday games with NHL playoff positioning implications. Generally, the results mean there will also be Friday games with similar implications.

  • Again, the Lightning failed to clinch the third seed in the Atlantic Division after losing and seeing the Bruins win.
  • By beating the Avalanche, the Predators finished Thursday a point ahead of the Stars in one of the remaining NHL races: the battle for the West’s first Wild Card spot. As a reminder, the first West wild card faces the Flames, while the second one takes on the Avalanche. (Clearly, not an easy task either way.)
  • Instead of gaining an advantage over the Penguins for the third Metropolitan Division spot, the Capitals lost to the Islanders. The idle Penguins have a one point lead over the Capitals, with both teams set to play during the Friday NHL action.

Juuse Saros update not promising for the Predators; Ovechkin missing more time

As is the custom, the Predators didn’t provide much concrete information about the health of crucial goalie Juuse Saros. It doesn’t sound promising, though.

Things also remain murky for Alex Ovechkin as the Capitals jockey for positioning with the Penguins.

Click here for more on Saros and Ovechkin.

Some fallout from Golden Knights missing the playoffs

PHT’s Adam Gretz on a shocking failed season for the Golden Knights.

Friday’s big NHL story

The virtual last day of the 2021-22 regular season lacks must-win games, but there’s plenty to be decided

As you saw in that NHL playoff update in the Thursday takeaways section, teams had the opportunity to sap any last bit of drama out of Friday’s games. While the Panthers locked down the Presidents’ Trophy from the Avalanche, there’s still NHL playoff seeding to be determined.

  • The Penguins hope to put the finishing touches on grabbing the Atlantic third seed by beating the Blue Jackets, or at least getting a point. Meanwhile, the Capitals face a team that already clinched the Metro 2 spot: the Rangers.
  • Similarly, the third seed in the Atlantic remains up for grabs between the Lightning (vs. Islanders) and the Bruins (vs. Maple Leafs). There’s even the parallel of the Maple Leafs possibly facing their first-round opponent if the Bruins were to surpass the Lightning.
  • Will it be the Predators who will remain the West’s first wild-card seed (and thus, the Flames’ opponent) and hold the Stars to the second WC (partnering Dallas up with the Avalanche)? Friday’s NHL games will also answer those questions.

Frankly, all of these teams should also debate the potential rewards of better playoff seeding with the risks of injuries. When it comes to health, you can only control so much, but it’s a serious gamble to lean on your workhorses when you’ve already clinched a playoff spot, and it’s the last “real” day of the NHL season.

(Sorry for disparaging your Sunday makeup game, Kraken and Jets.)



Tampa Bay will clinch the No. 3 seed in the Atlantic Division (and an A2-A3 First Round matchup vs. Toronto) and Boston will clinch the Wild Card 1 seed (and an M1-WC1 First Round matchup vs. Carolina):

* If Tampa Bay defeats NY Islanders in any fashion


* If Tampa Bay gets one point vs. NY Islanders AND Toronto defeats Boston in any fashion


* If Toronto defeats Boston in regulation.

Boston will clinch the No. 3 seed in the Atlantic Division (and an A2-A3 First Round matchup vs. Toronto) and Tampa Bay will clinch the Wild Card 1 seed (and an M1-WC1 First Round matchup vs. Carolina):

* If Boston defeats Toronto in any fashion AND NY Islanders defeat Tampa Bay in any fashion


* If Boston gets one point vs. Toronto AND NY Islanders defeat Tampa Bay in regulation.

Pittsburgh will clinch the No. 3 seed in the Metropolitan Division (and an M2-M3 First Round matchup vs. NY Rangers) and Washington will clinch the Wild Card 2 seed (and an A1-WC2 First Round matchup vs. Florida):

* If Pittsburgh gets at least one point vs. Columbus


* If NY Rangers defeat Washington in any fashion.

Washington will clinch the No. 3 seed in the Metropolitan Division (and an M2-M3 First Round matchup vs. NY Rangers) and Pittsburgh will clinch the Wild Card 2 seed (and an A1-WC2 First Round matchup vs. Florida):

* If Washington defeats NY Rangers in any fashion AND Columbus defeats Pittsburgh in regulation.


Minnesota will clinch the No. 2 seed in the Central Division (and home-ice advantage in the C2-C3 First Round matchup vs. St. Louis):

* If Minnesota gets at least one point vs. Colorado


* If Vegas defeats St. Louis in any fashion.

St. Louis will clinch the No. 2 seed in the Central Division (and home-ice advantage in the C2-C3 First Round matchup vs. Minnesota):

* If St. Louis defeats Vegas in any fashion AND Colorado defeats Minnesota in regulation.

Nashville will clinch the Wild Card 1 seed (and a P1-WC1 First Round matchup vs. Calgary) and Dallas will clinch the Wild Card 2 seed (and a C1-WC2 First Round matchup vs. Colorado):

* If Nashville gets at least one point vs. Arizona


* If Anaheim defeats Dallas in any fashion.

Dallas will clinch the Wild Card 1 seed (and a P1-WC1 First Round matchup vs. Calgary) and Nashville will clinch the Wild Card 2 seed (and a C1-WC2 First Round matchup vs. Colorado):

* If Dallas defeats Anaheim in any fashion AND Arizona defeats Nashville in regulation.

Thursday NHL scores

Bruins 5, Sabres 0
Panthers 4, Senators 0
Hurricanes 6, Devils 3
Blue Jackets 5, Lightning 2
Islanders 5, Capitals 1
Wild 3, Flames 2 (OT)
Predators 5, Avalanche 4 (SO)
Oilers 5, Sharks 4 (OT)
Canucks 3, Kings 2 (OT)

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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    Flyers trade Pride-night boycott defenseman Provorov in 3-team deal

    flyers trade
    Dennis Schneidler/USA TODAY Sports

    PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Flyers have traded Ivan Provorov, sending away the defenseman who boycotted the team’s Pride night as part of a three-team trade that included the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Los Angeles Kings.

    The seventh overall pick of the 2015 draft, the 26-year-old Provorov lands in Columbus and is set to enter the fifth season of a $40.5 million, six-year contract. He was the centerpiece Tuesday of the first major move under new Flyers’ leadership.

    There were plenty of moving parts in the three-team deal.

    — Philadelphia traded Provorov and forward Hayden Hodgson to Los Angeles in exchange for goalie Cal Petersen, defenseman Sean Walker, defenseman Helge Grans and the Kings’ 2024 second-round pick. The Kings lost in the first round of the playoffs.

    — Columbus acquired defenseman Kevin Connauton from Philadelphia in exchange for a 2023 first-round pick (22nd overall) and a conditional second-round pick in either the 2024 or 2025 NHL Draft. Columbus acquired Provorov from Los Angeles in exchange for Connauton.

    The Flyers already hold the No. 7 pick in this season’s draft and now also have the 23rd pick as they start accumulating key assets for long-range success in what is expected to be a deep draft.

    Flyers general manager Danny Briere had said no player was untouchable after the Flyers missed the playoffs for the third straight season and went to work with the Stanley Cup Final still underway. The Flyers named broadcaster Keith Jones team president last month and he is still working the Final for TNT. But it’s clear the overdue rebuild is underway for a franchise that hasn’t won a Stanley Cup in 48 years.

    “We felt that the picks and the direction that we wanted to go in, it was really enticing, very exciting,” Briere said. “We have a chance to really start building the team the way we wanted. The right way.”

    Briere said the Flyers are “open for business” this summer and that included potentially listening to offers for No. 1 goalie Carter Hart. Coach John Tortorella, Briere and Jones have all tempered offseason expectations for any fan looking for a quick fix. The trio all insist the Flyers have a cohesive plan for the future.

    Provorov had 65 goals and 217 points in 532 career games with the Flyers. The Russian was widely criticized in January when he cited his Russian Orthodox religion as the reason he did not participate in pregame warmups when the Flyers wore Pride-themed jerseys and used sticks wrapped in rainbow Pride tape.

    “I respect everybody’s choices,” Provorov said after the game. “My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion.”

    Now, he’s traded during Pride month.

    Briere said the backlash over Pride night had nothing to do with trading Provorov.

    The Blue Jackets, who missed the playoffs this season, were ready to take a flier on a defenseman seemingly with many productive years ahead.

    “Improving our blue line has been a priority for us and acquiring Ivan gives us an established left-shot defenseman who is still a young player with his best seasons in front of him,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. “He immediately improves our group on defense as he is durable, has great skill, skates well, is an excellent passer with an accurate shot and can effectively play at both ends of the ice.”

    Provorov said at the end of the season he wasn’t necessarily happy the Flyers planned to rebuild but understood the decision. Briere declined to say if Provorov wanted out of Philadelphia.

    “I wouldn’t say it’s the most positive news you can hear, but there’s a bright future here, and there’s a lot of great players that can keep growing,” Provorov said in April. “Obviously, it depends on how quick everybody gets better and how quickly the team game gets better. I think that’s what determines the length of the rebuild.”

    Turns out, the potential success out of the haul the Flyers got for Provorov just may determine the length of the rebuild.

    Golden Knights take 2-0 lead in Stanley Cup Final with 7-2 win over Panthers

    Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

    LAS VEGAS — No team in over 25 years has been more dominant than the Vegas Golden Knights through the first two games of a Stanley Cup Final.

    They have outscored the Florida Panthers by eight goals, including a 7-2 victory in Game 2 that put the Knights two wins from the first championship in the franchise’s short six-year history.

    It will take a rare rally for the Panthers to come back as the series shifts to Florida for Game 3 on Thursday. Teams that took a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final are 31-3 in the expansion era, but the Panthers opened the playoffs by storming back from 3-1 down to beat the heavily favored Boston Bruins.

    Florida will have to significantly up its level of play to beat a Vegas team that won by three goals on Saturday and then five in this game. The last team to win the first two games of a Cup Final by more than eight combined goals was the 1996 Colorado Avalanche – who outscored the Panthers by nine.

    “I think our depth has been a strength all year,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It is the biggest reason we are still here, why we beat Winnipeg, Edmonton, Dallas. I just feel that we have the best team from player one through 20.”

    Jonathan Marchessault scored twice for the Knights and started an early blitz that chased Sergei Bobrovsky, the NHL’s hottest postseason goalie.

    Marchessault also had an assist to finish with three points. His 12 postseason goals set a Golden Knights record, with all of them coming after the first round. The only player with more following the opening round was Pavel Bure, who scored 13 for Vancouver in 1994.

    “They want to set the tone with being undisciplined like Game 1 and we set the tone back,” Marchessault said. “It was scoring that first goal there. But we’re still pretty far from our goal here.”

    Brett Howden scored twice for the Knights, who also got goals from Alec Martinez, Nicolas Roy and Michael Amadio. Six players had at least two points for Vegas, all 18 Knights skaters were on the ice for even-strength goals and their nine goal scorers through the first two games are a Stanley Cup Final record. The Knights’ seven goals tied a franchise mark for a playoff game.

    It was too much for Bobrovsky, who was removed 7:10 into the second period down 4-0. It was the fifth time in 12 games the Knights have chased the opposing goalie.

    Bobrovsky, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, carried Florida through the Eastern Conference playoffs. Coming into the Stanley Cup Final, he had won 11 of his past 12 starts with a 1.95 goals-against average and .942 save percentage during that stretch. But he’s given up eight goals in 87 minutes against Vegas, compiling a 5.52 GAA and .826 save percentage in the series.

    “We can be a little better in front of our goaltender,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “I got him out to keep him rested.”

    Matthew Tkachuk and Anton Lundell scored for Florida.

    Adin Hill continued his stellar play in net with 29 saves for the Knights. Hill once again brought his feistiness as well as his A-game. He stopped Carter Verhaeghe on a breakaway in the first, and later that period hit Tkachuk, who was in his net, with his blocker and then slashed him with his stick.

    “He’s been unreal for us,” Vegas forward William Carrier said. “He’s been unbelievable.”

    A group of four fans behind one of the nets wore sweaters that spelled out his last name, and Hill has often received the loudest cheers from Knights fans, reminiscent of when Marc-Andre Fleury was in goal for Vegas in its first three seasons.

    “It’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey,” Hill said. “I’m just enjoying it, cherishing every day. It’s been awesome to be part of the journey with this team.”

    The Knights were dominant early, taking a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from Marchessault and Martinez. It was Vegas’ third game in a row with a power-play goal, its first such stretch since Christmas week.

    The Panthers lost their biggest, toughest defenseman early in the game when Radko Gudas was injured on a hit by Vegas forward Ivan Barbashev. Gudas left 6:39 in and did not return.

    That was one of several big hits by Barbashev, the Golden Knights’ biggest trade-deadline acquisition, a Stanley Cup champion with St. Louis in 2019. Barbashev broke the sternum of Colorado defenseman Samuel Girard during the playoffs last year, also on a clean hit.

    Vegas had its own scare late in the second period when Jack Eichel was nailed in the right shoulder by Tkachuk. Eichel returned in the third and set up Marchessault’s second goal for his second assist of the game.

    “We did a good job managing momentum tonight,” Eichel said. “And we got some timely goals.”

    Ducks hire former Leafs, Islanders assistant Greg Cronin as head coach

    Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

    ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Anaheim Ducks have hired veteran NHL assistant and AHL head coach Greg Cronin to be their new head coach.

    Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek announced the decision to hire the 60-year-old Cronin, who will be a first-time NHL head coach.

    Cronin has 12 years of experience as an NHL assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs and in two stints with the New York Islanders. The Massachusetts native has been the head coach of the AHL’s Colorado Eagles since 2018, and he spent six years as a collegiate head coach at Northeastern.

    Verbeek called Cronin “the ideal fit” to take over a young, rebuilding team.

    “I felt we needed a teacher of the finer points of the game, and someone who has worked extensively over time with talented young players, helping them develop into successful NHL players,” Verbeek said. “Greg has done all that and more.”

    Cronin replaces Dallas Eakins, whose contract wasn’t renewed in April after the Ducks finished their fourth consecutive losing season of his tenure. Anaheim finished in last place in the overall NHL standings at 23-47-12.

    The Ducks never finished higher than sixth in the Pacific Division during Eakins’ four years in charge. They’ve missed the playoffs in a franchise-record five straight seasons, and Anaheim was the NHL’s worst defensive team of the 21st century by several measures during the just-completed season.

    Cronin takes over a struggling team that is still loaded with young talent, including the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming draft and a wealth of farm prospects seemingly ready to break into the NHL. Anaheim has a solid long-term base with playmaking center Trevor Zegras, two-time All-Star Troy Terry and promising forward Mason McTavish.

    Cronin has never led an NHL bench, but he interviewed for the Boston Bruins’ vacancy a year ago.

    He becomes only the Ducks’ fourth permanent head coach since Henry and Susan Samueli bought the franchise from Disney in 2005, joining Randy Carlyle, Bruce Boudreau and Eakins.

    Canadiens sign Cole Caufield to 8-year, $62.8 million extension

    David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

    MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens signed Cole Caufield to an eight-year, $62.8 million contract extension.

    The deal, which will pay the 22-year-old winger an average annual salary of $7.85 million, runs through the 2030-31 season.

    Caufield scored 26 goals and added 10 assists in 46 games in 2022-23 before he underwent season-ending surgery on his right shoulder in February.

    Despite missing nearly half the season, Caufield led the Canadiens in goals for the second consecutive season, tied with Nick Suzuki.

    Montreal selected Caufield in the first round (15th overall) of the 2019 draft.

    Since making his NHL debut in 2020-21, the forward has 84 points (53 goals, 31 assists) in 123 NHL games.