NHL Rink Wrap: Verhaeghe stars, Crosby injured on night of comebacks

NHL Rink Wrap: Verhaeghe stars, Crosby injured on night of comebacks
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

• During a night where leads weren’t safe, neither was Sidney Crosby. The Penguins have to hope Crosby’s injury is minor, as the Rangers rallied to stay alive in Game 5.

• The Panthers’ comeback was even more dramatic against the Capitals, although maybe you’d argue that every goal is like precious gold in the sludgy series between the Stars and the Flames. Either way, the three playoff games ended with the Flames, Panthers, and Penguins being up 3-2 in their First Round series.

• Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse received a one-game suspension for head-butting Kings forward Phillip Danault. The Oilers will face elimination without a key defenseman.

Trevor Zegras, Michael Bunting, and Moritz Seider were announced as the 2022 Calder Trophy finalists.

Game 5: New York Rangers 5, Pittsburgh Penguins 3 (PIT leads 3-2)

Well, this one went places.

Early in Game 5, the Penguins went up 2-0, and the Rangers looked done. Then a Jacob Trouba hit sidelined Sidney Crosby, the Rangers scored three of four goals in a dizzying stretch, and they rallied against the Penguins to keep this series going.

Really, there’s a lot to digest. Read up on Game 5 of Penguins – Rangers here.

Game 5: Florida Panthers 5, Washington Capitals 3 (FLA leads 3-2)

With a punchless power play and facing a red-hot Ilya Samsonov, the Panthers looked listless against the Capitals. Once it was 3-0, it was fair to wonder if Washington simply turned the Presidents’ Trophy-winners toothless.

Then we witnessed maybe the clearest glimpse of the Florida Panthers team that dominated the playoffs with blazing speed, overwhelming pressure, and remarkable comebacks.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 First Round schedule, TV info]

Yes, the Panthers tied the Gretzky-era Oilers for the single-season record with 29 comeback wins, but it was still bewildering to see the Panthers impose their will (and style) on the Capitals. That’s what they did, though, as Carter Verhaeghe, Claude Giroux, Aleksander Barkov, and others conjured the return of those “Comeback Cats.”

Sergei Bobrovsky also deserves credit for frequently making saves to keep the Panthers in games during what’s been a challenging series against the Capitals.

Game 5: Calgary Flames 3, Dallas Stars 1 (CGY leads 3-2)

In a vacuum, rallying from a 1-0 deficit is the least impressive comeback of Wednesday’s playoff games. Maybe that’s true.

Yet, considering how tough it’s been to score against Jake Oettinger and the Stars, you cannot totally blame the Flames for being pumped about breaking through. Midway through the second period, Jason Robertson gave the Stars that 1-0 lead. It wasn’t until the third that Calgary started heating up.

Andrew Mangiapane assisted on Mikael Backlund‘s tying goal, then scored the eventual game-winner. The empty-netter provided that key insurance in yet another tight Stars – Flames contest.

(Hot take: the Stars might want to try to score more than a goal, just saying.)

Three Stars in NHL Playoffs on Wednesday

1. Carter Verhaeghe, Panthers

How could it be anyone other than Carter Verhaeghe?

In a desperate situation for the Panthers, Verhaeghe catalyzed the “Comeback Cats” with an outstanding two goals and three assists. Impressively, Verhaeghe didn’t just score those goals and generate those assists. Often, Verhaeghe powered sequences by gaining loose pucks, knifing through defenders, and finishing with great touch.

Verhaeghe already had a solid five points through the first four playoff games, so it’s not just one hot night. Pretty incredible stuff from a player whose NHL career took quite a while to blossom.

2. Andrew Mangiapane, Flames

Through four games, Andrew Mangiapane failed to generate a single point. That’s frustrating, for sure, but it’s been difficult for anyone to score in this slog of a series.

Mangiapane just kept plugging away, and he was rewarded for his efforts with a nice assist and a game-winning goal. Mikael Backlund contributed to that win, too, also scoring a goal and an assist as he found rhythm with Mangiapane.

3. Alexis Lafrenière, Rangers

The Rangers’ Game 5 rally was done by committee. That said, we saw some flourishes of that No. 1 overall pick talent with Alexis Lafrenière, who scored a key 2-2 goal, and assisted on Filip Chytil‘s power-play game-winner.

Kudos to Lafrenière for engaging in the physical game, too, delivering three hits and blocking one shot in a physical contest. If nothing else, if he’s not scoring, Lafrenière might stay in Gerard Gallant’s good graces by playing rough.


Game 6: Carolina Hurricanes at Boston Bruins, 7 p.m. ET — TNT (CAR leads 3-2)
Game 6: Toronto Maple Leafs at Tampa Bay Lightning, 7:30 p.m. ET — TBS (TOR leads 3-2)
Game 6: Minnesota Wild at St. Louis Blues, 9:30 p.m. ET — TNT (STL leads 3-2)
Game 6: Edmonton Oilers at Los Angeles Kings, 10 p.m. ET — TBS (LAK leads 3-2)

PHT’s 2022 Stanley Cup previews

Maple Leafs vs. Lightning
Hurricanes vs. Bruins
Blues vs. Wild
• Avalanche vs. Predators
Oilers vs. Kings

Flames vs. Stars

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info
First Round, Stanley Cup predictions
• NHL Draft Lottery set: Canadiens have best odds for top pick
Why your team will (and will not) win the Stanley Cup

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    LA Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers

    Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

    LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers, a surprising move for a player once considered the successor in net to two-time Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Quick.

    Petersen, 28, went on waivers the day after allowing four goals on 16 shots in relief of Quick during a 9-8 overtime loss to the Seattle Kraken. Quick was pulled after giving up five goals on 14 shots.

    Only one NHL goalie has a save percentage lower than Petersen’s .868 this season, Elvis Merzlikins of the Columbus Blue Jackets with .864. Petersen is 5-3-2 in 10 games with a 3.75 goals-against average in his third full season with the Kings and fifth overall.

    L.A. signed Petersen to a three-year, $15 million contract in September 2021, and he figured to take the starting job from Quick, who turns 37 in January and is set to be a free agent after the season. Petersen has two years left on that deal after this one at an annual salary cap hit of $5 million.

    Penguins’ Kris Letang out indefinitely after 2nd stroke

    Kris Letang Penguins
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    PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang plays hockey with a grace and inexhaustible fluidity seemingly impervious to the rigors of spending nearly half his life in the NHL.

    For the second time in less than a decade, however, a major health scare has brought Letang’s career to a halt.

    The 35-year-old Letang is out indefinitely after suffering a stroke for a second time. Letang reported feeling ill and was taken to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

    While general manager Ron Hextall said Wednesday this stroke doesn’t appear to be as serious as the one Letang sustained in 2014, the Penguins will have to find a way forward at least in the short term without one of their franchise pillars.

    “I am fortunate to know my body well enough to recognize when something isn’t right,” Letang said in a release. “While it is difficult to navigate this issue publicly, I am hopeful it can raise awareness. … I am optimistic that I will be back on the ice soon.”

    The three-time Stanley Cup champion missed more than two months in 2014 after a stroke, which doctors determined was caused by a small hole in the wall of his heart. He spent Monday feeling off and told team trainers he was dealing with what Hextall described as a migraine headache.

    Penguins team physician Dr. Dhamesh Vyas recommended Letang go to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

    “He didn’t know (he had a stroke),” Hextall said. “He just knew something wasn’t right.”

    Letang is continuing to undergo tests but felt well enough on Tuesday to be at the arena for Pittsburgh’s 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina. He spent the second period chatting with Hextall then addressed his teammates in the locker room afterward in an effort to help allay their concerns.

    “I think it was important for Kris to be there because his teammates got to see him in good spirits and that he’s doing well,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.

    Sullivan added initial test results on Letang have been “very encouraging.” Letang will continue to undergo testing throughout the week, though he felt good enough in the aftermath to ask Sullivan and Hextall if he could skate, an activity that is off the table for now.

    Hextall said he “couldn’t even guess” how long the Penguins may be without the married father of two, adding hockey is low on the team’s list of concerns about a player who, along with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, has helped the franchise to three Stanley Cups during his 17-year career.

    “First and foremost this is about the person and I told Tanger about that last night,” Hextall said. “This is Kris Letang, the father and family guy, the Pittsburgh Penguins, that’s second.”

    Letang, a six-time All-Star, has been one of the most durable players in the NHL. His 662 career points (145 goals, 517 assists) are a franchise record for a defenseman. He’s averaged well over 24 minutes of playing time over the course of his career, a number that’s ticked above 25 minutes per game seven times in eight-plus seasons since he returned from the initial stroke.

    The Penguins felt so confident in Letang’s durability that they signed him to a six-year contract over the summer rather than let him test free agency for the first time.

    “The level of hockey he’s played for as long as he’s played is absolutely incredible,” Hextall said. “The level he’s continued to play at at his age, the type of shape he’s in … he’s a warrior.”

    Letang has one goal and 11 assists in 21 games so far this season for Pittsburgh, which hosts Vegas on Thursday night. The Penguins are pretty deep along the blue line, but Sullivan knows he can’t try to replace Letang with any one player.

    “It’s not anything we haven’t been faced with in the past and the reality is we have what we have, and we’ll figure it out,” Sullivan said, adding “it’ll be by committee, as it usually is when you replace a player of that stature.”

    Ovechkin tops Gretzky for most road goals, Capitals beat Canucks

    Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Alex Ovechkin scored twice, passing Wayne Gretzky for the most road goals in NHL history, and the Washington Capitals beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-1 on Tuesday night.

    Ovechkin has scored 403 of his 793 career goals away from home. Gretzky holds the overall record with 894.

    “It’s always nice when you beat the Great One,” Ovechkin said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of milestone it is. It’s history.”

    Anthony Mantha added a goal and an assist for the Capitals (10-11-3). John Carlson and Martin Fehervary also scored, and Darcy Kuemper stopped 31 shots.

    Nils Hoglander scored for the Canucks (9-11-3), who had won three in a row. Spencer Martin made 23 saves.

    “Spencer’s been great for us. He’s probably a bit like the other players tonight. They weren’t ready to play and it showed on the scoreboard,” Vancouver coach Bruce Boudreau said.

    The 37-year-old Ovechkin nearly netted a hat trick when Vancouver pulled Martin for an extra skater with just over six minutes left, but his rocket of a shot skimmed the outside of the post.

    “I think he has 13 goals this year and I want to say like eight or nine have been like a new record. So it’s been cool,” Washington center Dylan Strome said. “Any time you pass Wayne Gretzky in anything, it deserves a standing ovation, which he got.”

    Fehervary was the one who sealed it, flipping the puck high into the Canucks zone and into the empty net at 15:57 of the third period.

    Ovechkin topped Gretzky 11:52 into the first, firing a one-timer from the left circle past Martin to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead with his 13th goal of the season.

    “On his second goal, it looks like, `Oh, maybe (Martin) should have had it.’ But I’ve seen (Ovechkin) score 100 goals like that,” said Boudreau, who coached the Capitals from 2007-11. “He’s got a shot that finds its way in.”

    The star forward from Russia got his first of the night 5:35 in, taking the puck off the stick of Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes near the net and batting in a quick shot.

    “It could have been 6-1 after the first period, quite frankly, with the amount of chances (Washington) had,” Boudreau said.

    It was Ovechkin’s 135th game-opening goal, tying Jaromir Jagr for the most in NHL history.

    “(Ovechkin) was really good in the first and I thought we were really good in the first so it was nice to get out and get a jump like that,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “He certainly led. We knew we needed to have a good first period, have a good game, and you need your best players to do that.”

    Carlson scored the lone goal of the second, chipping in a loose puck from the low hash marks at 18:47 to give Washington a 4-1 cushion.

    “It’s frustrating. Because when you lose games, it should never be about your compete level and battle level,” Canucks center J.T. Miller said. “It’s frustrating because they didn’t out-skill us today, they didn’t out-system us. They literally just outbattled us and created their own chances.”

    NOTES: Washington’s Lars Eller got his 200th career assist. … Miller had an assist, extending his point streak to nine games (four goals, seven assists). … The Capitals swept the two-game season series. … Vancouver assigned winger Vasily Podkolzin and defenseman Jack Rathbone to the Abbotsford Canucks on Monday, then recalled forward Phillip Di Giuseppe from the American Hockey League club on Tuesday.


    Washington: At Seattle on Thursday in the second of a five-game trip.

    Vancouver: Host Florida on Thursday in the second of a four-game homestand.

    Deal for Coyotes’ proposed arena approved by Tempe council

    David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports
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    TEMPE, Ariz. — The Tempe City Council has unanimously approved a proposal for a new Arizona Coyotes arena and entertainment district, clearing the way for a public vote on the project next year.

    The City Council approved the proposal 7-0 after a lengthy meeting that included NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

    The $2.1 billion project would include a 16,000-seat arena, practice rink, 1,600 apartments, two hotels and a theater. Approval of the project was the final step before it goes to referendum on May 16.

    The team is currently playing at Arizona State’s 5,000-seat Mullett Arena, by far the NHL’s smallest arena.

    The Coyotes have been searching for a permanent home since the city of Glendale pulled out of a multimillion-dollar lease at Gila River Arena. Arizona had been playing on an annual lease until Glendale said it would not be renewed for the 2022-23 season.