NHL Rink Wrap: Bruins, Lightning, Oilers force Game 7s

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• We will have three Game 7s on Saturday night thanks to wins by Boston, Tampa Bay, and Edmonton on Thursday night. 

• The Toronto Maple Leafs miss another chance to advance in a way that only they can. 

• The St. Louis Blues are advancing to the Second Round for a rematch with the Colorado Avalanche. 

Game 6: Boston Bruins 5, Carolina Hurricanes 2 (Series tied 3-3)

Given the way the regular season series between these two teams went, and the way this playoff series started, it is hard to believe these two teams would be going to a Game 7. But they are thanks to Boston’s convincing win on Thursday night that was highlighted by a balanced Bruins offensive attack, a stellar defensive effort that limited Carolina to just 25 shots on goal, and 23 saves from starting goalie Jeremy Swayman. After losing five consecutive games to Carolina, Boston has now won three of the past four and is just one game away from advancing.

Game 6: Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Toronto Maple Leafs 3 (Series tied 3-3)

The Toronto Maple Leafs were 10 minutes away from winning their first playoff series in 18 years. Just 10 minutes. But a pair of high-sticking penalties, a Nikita Kucherov 5-on-3 goal, and an unfortunate sequence of events in overtime allowed the Lightning to even the series and send this series to a massive Game 7 on Saturday night in Toronto. The Maple Leafs are the ones facing all of the pressure, needing to re-write the narrative of postseason failure that has followed them around for the past five years.

Game 6: St. Louis Blues 5, Minnesota Wild 1 (Blues win series 4-2)

We now know if at least one Second Round matchup that is set. The St. Louis Blues are moving on to face the Colorado Avalanche thanks to a convincing 5-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday. The Blues wrapped up this series by winning three consecutive games, scoring five goals in each contest. Their offense is one of the best in the NHL and it was on display in this series. Ryan O'Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko both scored five goals in the series, while the goalie switch in Game 4 to go from Ville Husso to Jordan Binnington helped swing the series in St. Louis’ favor.

Game 6: Edmonton Oilers 4, Los Angeles Kings 2 (Series tied 3-3)

The Edmonton Oilers fought off elimination by defeating the Los Angeles Kings by a 4-2 margin on Thursday, sending the series to a decisive seventh game on Saturday. The Oilers allowed a two-goal lead to slip away and it seemed as if they might be headed for another disappointing first-round exit. But Tyson Barrie scored the game-winning goal with just under six minutes to play in regulation, the Oilers killed off a late penalty, and Evander Kane added an empty net goal (his second goal of the game) to secure the win.

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

Three Stars in NHL for Thursday (Eleventh day of playoffs)

1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

McDavid was sensational on Thursday, almost single-handedly willing the Oilers to victory. He played more than 24 minutes, scored an absolutely beautiful goal to open the scoring in the first period, and then added two assists, including the helper on Barrie’s game-winning goal late in the third period to cap off an incredible shift. He now has 12 points in the first six games of the series. If they do not win, it will not be his fault.

2. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

Vasilevskiy’s numbers are not what they typically are, especially what we are used to seeing from him in the playoffs, but he played a sensational game on Thursday to help the Lightning push their series to a decisive seventh game. He was at his best in the third period and overtime when Toronto was really pushing the play, giving his teammates an opportunity to get the game-winning goal. He made several stops on prime scoring chances in overtime.

3. Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins

He has been the Bruins’ best player this postseason and he was great again on Thursday. He opened the scoring just 46 seconds into the second period and added an assist on Charlie Coyle‘s power play goal later in the period to continue his great playoff run. With his two points on Thursday he now has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his first six games this postseason while also playing his usual great defensive game. He is simply one of the best players in the league, and he is playing like it right now. Without him this series might already be over in Carolina’s favor.

FRIDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 6: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers (PIT leads series 3-2), 7 p.m. ET — TNT
Game 6: Washington Capitals vs. Florida Panthers (FLA leads series 3-2), 7:30 p.m. ET — TBS
Game 6: Calgary Flames vs. Dallas Stars (CGY leads series 3-2), 9:30 p.m. ET — TNT

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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    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.

    Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

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    DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

    At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

    “Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

    The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

    There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

    The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

    “Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

    “Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

    The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

    “Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

    Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

    “We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

    The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

    Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

    Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

    Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

    “They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”