NHL Rink Wrap: McDavid earns his M-V-P chants; Panthers on brink

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• Tough news for the Blues: Jordan Binnington will not be available for the rest of their Second Round series against the Avalanche after a collision with Nazem Kadri. The AP detailed the scrutiny surrounding Kadri, and the racist threats he’s faced.

Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Evander Kane put on a big show for the Oilers, who dominated the Flames in Game 3. Milan Lucic also collided with Mike Smith, so this was a big weekend for people who love goalie hits.

• The repeat defending Stanley Cup champions could sweep the reigning Presidents’ Trophy winners by Monday. The Lightning convincingly beat the Panthers in Game 3, and Florida looks lost.

• Much like in their previous series, the Hurricanes keep winning playoff games at home, then losing them on the road. In this case, the Rangers won Game 3 in another tight contest against the Hurricanes. There was nastiness afterward.

• Want to create a blueprint for a “hometown discount” contract? Consult the sweetheart deal Mark Giordano agreed to with the Maple Leafs.

Game 3: Edmonton Oilers 4, Calgary Flames 1 (EDM leads 2-1)

Earlier in the “Battle of Alberta,” the Oilers would surge back from poor starts, winning once and losing once against the Flames. In Game 3, the Oilers skipped the “slow start” part.

Granted, the Oilers didn’t receive an immediate reward for their strong start against the Flames in Game 3. The score was 0-0 despite Edmonton impressively beginning with a 21-7 shots on goal advantage.

Maybe that first period was a dress rehearsal of sorts? Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Evander Kane took over the middle frame, scoring four goals. Many of the goals were the sort of high-speed, high-skill, low-defense specials you only see so much during the postseason.

Fifty-two seconds in, Zach Hyman scored a 1-0 goal. Then, in six minutes of game time, Evander Kane recorded a natural hat trick. It’s already his second hat trick of these playoffs.

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

With performances like those (see more in the 3 Stars section), other moments get forgotten. It’s worth remembering moments like Mike Smith’s great save, and really, his beyond-his-years performance lately. If the Flames don’t get back into this series, the Oilers could run away with the “Battle of Alberta.”

During the third period, the battle part of “Battle of Alberta” was emphasized. Click here for more on Milan Lucic getting ejected for hitting Mike Smith. At the moment, it appears that Smith avoided an injury.

Game 3: Rangers 3, Hurricanes 1 (CAR leads 2-1)

In such a tight-checking, low-scoring series, sometimes you need to sprinkle in a little salt. Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant maybe seasoned things even a little too much after his team beat the Hurricanes in Game 3.

As you can read more about here, Gallant wasn’t happy about what he believed was a Max Domi “cheap shot” on Ryan Lindgren. Chaos ensued, and Gallant then went profane.

Beyond the rough stuff, the big story of Hurricanes – Rangers Game 3 was Igor Shesterkin sure looking a lot like the goalie who made a claim not just to the Vezina Trophy, but maybe the Hart Trophy this season.

Via Natural Stat Trick, the Hurricanes put the sort of pressure that translated to 3.39 expected goals at even-strength, and 4.5 at all strengths (the Rangers were close in both categories). Spoiler: the Hurricanes only scored once.

Game 3: Lightning 5, Panthers 1 (TBL leads 3-0)

Another Lightning – Panthers game, another big Corey Perry goal. Yet another time, Andrei Vasilevskiy gave the Panthers little (in the rare moments when the Lightning sprung any leaks). Maybe most predictably, Nikita Kucherov took over another contest.

Once again, the Panthers find themselves shaking their heads and searching for answers against the Lightning. Plenty of people picked the Lightning, citing their experience advantage (among other edges) over the Panthers. Did many people see a possible sweep happen?

Andrew Brunette doesn’t have much time to brainstorm for answers. Due to some strange scheduling, these two teams close off a rare-for-the-playoffs (outside the bubble) back-to-back set on Monday.

If nothing else, this would be as good an opportunity as any to take advantage of all of the mileage on Tampa Bay’s top players. Florida hasn’t exactly done a stellar job of exploiting what may just be a perceived advantage.

Three Stars from Sunday’s NHL playoff games

1. Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Evander Kane, Oilers

What’s the sense in picking just one after that Game 3 masterpiece?

In the case of Connor McDavid, he’s already putting up the sort of numbers players dream about for a full, best-in-career playoff run. Sportsnet notes that McDavid became the first player in NHL history to record nine multi-point games within 10 playoff contests. With three assists through 40 minutes, McDavid extended his active multi-point streak to six games.

Considering how the game’s changed, it’s still a little surprising to see McDavid standing shoulder-to-shoulder with legends like Wayne Gretzky.

Finishing the night with an absurd 23 points through 10 playoff games, we’re going to be talking about Connor McDavid’s torrid start for a while. Especially if this is just part of the fun, and not the peak.

Of course, he didn’t do it alone. Evander Kane is now at 10 goals and 13 points in 10 playoff contests. He recorded one of the fastest hat tricks in NHL playoff history.

Oh, and with four assists during that stupendous second period, Leon Draisaitl recorded the most assists in a single period in playoff history. Draisaitl’s 19 points in 10 games isn’t that far behind McDavid’s 23.

Via Sportsnet, Wayne Gretzky’s 29 points (1983) ranks as the most points through 10 playoff games in NHL history. Gretzky (1985) and Mario Lemieux (1992) are tied for second with 25, while McDavid’s now tied with Rick Middleton at 23.

Staggering stuff.

2. Nikita Kucherov, Lightning

If you can set aside superhuman Connor McDavid’s work, Nikita Kucherov’s enjoying an incredible playoff run of his own. (Frankly, he already deserved a Conn Smythe Trophy stemming from the repeat runs … but that’s a discussion for another time.)

Kucherov’s been the biggest difference in a surprisingly one-sided series between the Panthers and Lightning. That was the case early on, when the scores were skin-tight. Game 3 of Panthers – Lightning was less subtle. Kucherov scored a goal and three assists for four points in that one, giving him 15 points over 10 playoff contests.

And he’s staying red-hot without Brayden Point. Remarkable.

3. Igor Shesterkin, Rangers

The reports of Igor Shesterkin’s departure have been vastly exaggerated. That said, if you believe that Shesterkin turned average early in the Penguins series, he’s back to being a huge difference-maker.

Shesterkin stopped 43 out of 44 shots as the Rangers shrunk the Hurricanes’ series lead to 2-1 in Game 3.

You may look at a tight final score inflated by an empty-netter (3-1 for the Rangers), and think it was another game where New York hung with the Hurricanes. Maybe that’s true in some ways, yet in others, it was more like what we were expecting. The Rangers needed Shesterkin to be the difference here, and he was.

Over the last four playoff games, Shesterkin’s save percentage has been .923 or better. Despite some high-scoring Penguins – Rangers games at times, Shesterkin’s overall save percentage is at .921 during this playoff run. If he left, Shesterkin is back.


Game 4 (TBL leads 3-0): Panthers at Lightning, 7 p.m. ET (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 4 (COL leads 2-1): Avalanche at Blues, 9:30 p.m. ET (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)

PHT’s 2022 Stanley Cup previews
Avalanche vs. Blues

Lightning vs. Panthers
Makar, McDavid lead Conn Smythe watch after First Round
NHL Second Round predictions
Storylines for the NHL’s Second Round

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    Blue Jackets acquire D Damon Severson from Devils after he signs 8-year deal

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    The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired Damon Severson from the New Jersey Devils on Friday after the veteran defenseman and soon-to-be free agent signed an eight-year $50 million contract.

    Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen sent a third-round pick, 80th overall, in this month’s draft to the Devils for Severson, who will be under contract through the 2030-31 NHL season.

    Severson had 58 goals and 205 assists in 647 career appearances with the Devils since making his NHL debut in 2014-15. He scored seven game-winning goals and averaged more than 21 minutes of playing time during his nine seasons. The 28-year-old had seven goals and 26 assists this season, including two game-winning goals, in 81 games.

    “Damon is a versatile defenseman who has great vision, moves the puck extremely well, has good size and can play heavy minutes at both ends of the ice,” Kekalainen said.

    The Canadian was selected in the second round in the 2012 draft. He has collected 30 or more points five times in his career and twice notched 11 or more goals. He played in every game in three straight seasons from 2018-21 and has played 80 or more contests four times in his career.

    With the addition of the third-round pick, New Jersey now has six selections in the draft, including its own picks in rounds two, four, five, six and seven.

    Matthew Tkachuk returns from big hit in Stanley Cup Final, adds more playoff heroics

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    Matthew Tkachuk was down, out briefly and then back with plenty of time to make a difference.

    The Florida Panthers star left early in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final after a big hit from Vegas Golden Knights forward Keegan Kolesar, and he missed most of the first period and didn’t return immediately following intermission while being evaluated for a concussion. After looking as if he might be lost for the night, Tkachuk returned in the second and then came through with more of his now trademark playoff heroics.

    Tkachuk scored the tying goal with 2:13 left in regulation, forcing overtime and giving the Panthers new life. He then provided the screen on Carter Verhaeghe‘s OT goal for a 3-2 victory that cut Florida’s series deficit to 2-1.

    The 25-year-old said he knew he was coming back when he left the game, pulled by concussion spotters. That absence felt like a long time ago in the aftermath of another big win he was largely responsible for.

    “I felt great – I feel great,” Tkachuk said. “I’m ready to go. Everybody’s excited that we’re in this position right now.”

    Florida is in this position rather than facing elimination in Game 4 on Saturday thanks in large part to Tkachuk, who also set up Brandon Montour‘s goal that opened the scoring less than five minutes in.

    Not long after, Tkachuk stumbled getting up after the hit from Kolesar and skated to the bench. He took a shift on Florida’s power play before going down the tunnel at the demand of concussion spotters mandated by NHL protocol.

    At that point, there was zero clarity, even on the Florida bench.

    “You’re not informed at all: It’s a complete shutdown,” coach Paul Maurice said. “You are completely in the dark on those. You don’t know when the player’s coming back. There’s not an update.”

    Players insist they were not worried. Montour called it a no-brainer.

    “He’s going to come back no matter what,” captain Aleksander Barkov said. “He’s really tough guy, and he’s going to battle through everything.”

    Tkachuk rejoined his teammates on the bench a few minutes into the second. When he stepped back onto the ice for his first shift since leaving, fans cheered and chanted, “Chucky! Chucky!”

    The crowd was even louder and threw rats when Tkachuk scored his biggest goal of many during this run to tie it. He didn’t get an assist on Verhaeghe’s goal but made it happen with a tape-to-tape pass in the neutral zone and was in front of Adin Hill when it happened.

    Asked if he was happy Tkachuk returned, Maurice joked that it was after midnight.

    “It was fine,” he quipped.

    Panthers rally, top Golden Knights 3-2 in OT of Game 3 of Stanley Cup final

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    SUNRISE, Fla. — Carter Verhaeghe scored 4:27 into overtime and the Florida Panthers pulled off some more postseason dramatics to beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night.

    Matthew Tkachuk tied it with 2:13 left in the third period for the Panthers, who got the franchise’s first title-series game win in seven tries. Florida had to fend off a power play to start overtime, and Verhaeghe got the winner from the slot to get the Panthers within 2-1 in the series.

    Game 4 is Saturday night.

    Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 25 shots for Florida. Adin Hill made 20 saves for Vegas, but got beat on the only shot that came his way in overtime.

    Brandon Montour also scored for Florida, which pulled Bobrovsky down 2-1 late in the third for the extra attacker and Tkachuk — who left for parts of the first and second periods after taking a big hit — made that move pay off when he tied the game.

    His goal breathed life into a very nervous building. But the Panthers were furious — and replays showed they had a case — when Gustav Forsling was sent to the box with 11.2 seconds remaining for tripping. Florida survived that scare, and a few minutes later, had life in the series again.

    The odds are still long, but the Panthers at least have a bit more statistical hope now. Of the previous 55 teams to trail 2-1 at this point of the Stanley Cup Final, 11 have actually rallied to hoist the trophy.

    It’s improbable, sure. So are the Panthers, who were the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, were down 3-1 to Boston in Round 1, were 133 seconds away from trailing this series 3-0 — and now have tons of reasons for optimism.

    Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone each had power-play goals for Vegas.

    Marchessault’s goal was his 13th in his last 13 playoff games, his fourth of this series and his third with the man advantage.

    As if all that wasn’t enough, there was a little history in there as well. Vegas joined the 1980 New York Islanders as the only team with at least two power-play goals in three consecutive games in the Cup final. And Marchessault became the third player in the last 35 years to score in each of the first three games of a title series — joining Steve Yzerman in 1997 with Detroit and Jake Guentzel with Pittsburgh in 2017.

    But it wasn’t enough to give Vegas a 3-0 lead in the series.


    Before Thursday, Florida’s last home game in the title series was June 10, 1996, when Uwe Krupp scored in the third overtime for a 1-0 win as Colorado finished off a four-game sweep of the Panthers for the Cup. … Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was in the crowd, as was NBA great Charles Barkley, and former Dolphins star Dan Marino was the celebrity drummer to welcome the Panthers onto the ice.

    Blackhawks, Athanasiou agree to 2-year, $8.5 million contract

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    CHICAGO — The rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks locked in one of their top scorers, agreeing to a two-year, $8.5 million contract with forward Andreas Athanasiou on Thursday.

    The 28-year-old Athanasiou tied for the team lead with 20 goals and ranked third with 40 points in his first season with Chicago. He matched career highs with four game-winning goals and three power-play goals.

    The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Athanasiou has 125 goals and 111 assists in 459 games with the Detroit Red Wings (2015-20), Edmonton Oilers (2020), Los Angeles Kings (2020-22) and Blackhawks.

    Chicago went 26-49-7 and finished last in the Central Division. The Blackhawks dealt Patrick Kane to the New York Rangers prior to the trade deadline and announced in April they would not re-sign Jonathan Toews, parting with two players who led them to Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013 and 2015.