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.

MONDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

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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    Bruins extend NHL-record season-opening home win streak

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    BOSTON – Taylor Hall scored twice and the Boston Bruins extended their NHL-record streak of home victories to open a season to 13 games with a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.

    Backup goalie Jeremy Swayman made 27 saves and Brad Marchand added an empty-netter for the Bruins, whose 3-2 overtime win over Carolina on Friday broke the record of 11 set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and matched by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “For us, it’s more about our process that allows us to have positive outcomes,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said of the streak. “We’re together on how we think things should work and we believe in that process.”

    Steven Stamkos had a power-play goal, raising his career point total to 999, and Andrei Vasilievskiy stopped 23 shots for Tampa Bay. The Lightning had won six of their last seven games.

    “I think these are the (games) you circle,” Tampa Bay center Ross Colton said. “These are the ones you want to measure up against. For the most part, I think we played really well.”

    Hall snapped off a shot from the slot for the eventual winner 2:49 into the third period after collecting a pass from Nick Foligno, who started to circle the net before quickly turning and centering the puck.

    “I think we’re showing, that no matter who we’re playing, that its really about us and how we play,” Hall said. “We’re going to get team’s bests, they’re going to come hard. I think we have the confidence that if we play our game, we’re probably going to win.”

    Swayman came across the crease, flashing his right pad to make a splendid stop on Corey Perry with just under seven minutes left in the game.

    “That’s the best he’s looked this year to me,” Montgomery said of his netminder. “Very calm in the crease.”

    Tampa Bay had tied it on Stamkos’ score with 1:40 left in the second period.

    Swayman stopped about four or five excellent chances in the period before Stamkos scored on a one-timer off a pass from Nikita Kucherov from near the left circle.

    “Even though we’ve had success in the win column, it doesn’t mean guys haven’t gone up and down in different mental states and stuff,” Swayman said. “They’re doing what it takes to perform on the ice, and that’s special.”

    In an opening period with few quality scoring opportunities, Hall made it 1-0 just 67 seconds into the game. Positioned in the slot, Hall tipped in Brandon Carlo‘s shot from the point, with the puck dropping from about waist high and going between Vasilievskiy’s pads.

    Vasilievskiy robbed Jake DeBrusk‘s short-handed bid midway into the period with a blocker stop when the winger broke free for a wrister between the circles.

    DOWN BUT NOT OUT

    Bruins standout defenseman Charlie McAvoy was down for a while after the puck deflected under his visor and hit him on the bridge of his nose. He got up slowly, headed down the runway toward the locker room, but quickly came back and didn’t a shift.

    NOTES: Stamkos, who had two goals, including the game-winner in a 6-5 OT victory at Buffalo on Monday night, notched his 26th career goal against the Bruins. . Boston defenseman Derek Forbort returned to the lineup after missing the previous 11 games with a broken finger, and forward Trent Frederic was back after being sidelined the last two games with an undisclosed injury.

    UP NEXT

    Lightning: At the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.

    Bruins: Host the Colorado Avalanche Saturday night.

    Stars sign Hintz to $67.6M, 8-year extension through 2030-31

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    FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Stars have signed center Roope Hintz, a nearly point-a-game player in the prime of his career, to a $67.6 million, eight-year contract extension.

    “He brings so much to us,” Stars general manager Jim Nill said Tuesday. “He realizes now who he is. He came into the league three, four years ago finding his way. He started out probably as the third-line center man and very responsible, and all of a sudden he’s groomed into this No. 1 center man. You can just see the confidence that he has now.”

    The 26-year-old Hintz has 88 goals and 106 assists in his 261 games over five seasons, all with Dallas, including 139 points in 142 games since the start of the 2020-21 season.

    The Finland native set career highs with 37 goals and 35 assists last season, and has eight goals and 16 assists in 22 games this season for the Central Division-leading Stars.

    The extension takes effect after the end of this season, when Hintz could have become a restricted free agent. It goes through the 2030-31 season and has an average value of $8.45 million.

    “We wanted to do something quick if we could. We didn’t want this to drag on. It’s not easy for players during the season to live through negotiations,” Nill said. “He’s a 6-foot-3, No. 1 center man in the NHL that can skate well and has got great skills and is putting up big points, so he’s a high-demand player. He’s a hard player to find.”

    The Hintz contract is identical to the one defenseman Miro Heiskanen signed before last season. Before this season, the Stars signed restricted free agent Jason Robertson a $31 million, four-year deal, and goaltender Jake Oettinger to a $12 million, three-year deal. All three of those players are 23 years old. Robertson, a 41-goal scorer last season, leads the NHL with 19 goals in 23 games this season, and also has 17 assists.

    “We now have our core signed up,” Nill said. “Trying to get this core together, keep it together for as many years as we can, and that’s why we made this move now.”

    Devils rally from two goals down to beat Rangers 5-3

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    NEW YORK – Jack Hughes and Michael McLeod scored in the second period, Vitek Vanecek stopped 35 shots and the surging New Jersey Devils rallied from an early two-goal deficit to beat the New York Rangers 5-3 on Monday night.

    Yegor Sharangovich had two goals and Tomas Tatar also scored to help the first-place Devils win their third straight since having their 13-game winning streak snapped last week. New Jersey has won 10 straight road games and has only one loss since starting the season 3-3-0.

    The Rangers raced to a 2-0 lead just three minutes into the contest but the Devils scored twice to tie it later in the first period to tie it and then scored twice in the second period to take the lead.

    “We stayed with our game. There was a calmness on the bench,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said of his team’s early deficit. “All I said on the bench was ‘let’s get the next goal and we’ll be back in the game.”‘

    Vanecek improved to 11-2-0 as scattered chants of “Let’s Go Devils” were heard at Madison Square Garden.

    The Devils have made the playoffs only once – in 2018 – since beating the Rangers in six games in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals.

    “It was great to hear the fans here on our side,” Devils forward Miles Wood said. “We can’t thank them enough.”

    Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Vincent Trocheck scored and Chris Kreider had two assists for the Rangers, who fell to 4-5-3 at home. Igor Shesterkin had 33 saves.

    New York also lost its second straight at home in a disheartening fashion. The Rangers squandered a 3-0 third-period lead against Edmonton on Saturday to lose 4-3. Last season, they won 27 of 41 games at the Garden.

    “When one thing goes wrong it starts to snowball on us,” Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren said. “We keep saying we have to play a full 60. You can’t keep talking about it, you have to go out and do it.”

    Rangers coach Gerard Gallant credited the young and hungry Devils with playing a superior game.

    “They put lots of offense at you, they play fast and they showed that,” Gallant said. “Tonight they were the better team.”

    Tatar narrowed the deficit to 2-1 at 7:31 of the first with a nifty high backhand shot past Shesterkin for his sixth of the season. Jesper Bratt had an assist on the play, giving him a point in 18 for the Devils’ 23 games this season.

    Sharangovich tied it with an unassisted goal with 6:35 left in the first.

    Hughes put the Devils ahead at 5:44 of the second after he gained a stride on Lindgren before sliding the puck past Shesterkin for his 12th of the season and fourth in the last two games.

    McLeod made it 4-2 at 9:40 with his third goal after Wood hit the crossbar behind Shesterkin.

    “I have to play better,” said , who was also in goal for Saturday’s meltdown against Edmonton and has lost three of his last five games.

    It was the fourth time in their last six games the Devils scored at least four times and New Jersey improved to 9-0-0 when the 21-year-old Hughes – the top overall pick by the Devils in the 2019 draft – has a goal.

    Trocheck scored his eighth goal on the power play for the Rangers with 6:42 left in the third to pull within one, but Sharangovich added an empty-netter with 16 seconds remaining to seal the win.

    The Devils improved a franchise-best 13-1-0 in November and an NHL-best 16-0-0 when leading after two periods.

    “It’s fun playing here,” Hischier said. “It feels great to beat the Rangers,?

    Panarin scored 1:20 into the game to end a personal 12-game goal-scoring drought with his sixth of the season and first since Oct. 30 at Arizona.

    Zibanejad made it 2-0 at 3:01 with his team-best 11th of the season.

    UP NEXT

    Devils: Host Nashville on Thursday night.

    Rangers: At Ottawa on Wednesday night.

    Stamkos lifts Lightning past Sabres 6-5 in OT

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    BUFFALO, N.Y. – Steven Stamkos scored his second goal of the game 2:44 into overtime to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 6-5 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.

    Brayden Point also had two goals, Brandon Hagel had a goal and an assist, and Corey Perry also scored for the Lightning, who rallied from two goals down in the third period to force overtime. Nikita Kucherov and Mikhail Sergachev each had three assists, and Stamkos added one for a three-point night.

    Brian Elliott had 32 saves to get the win.

    “We got the breaks at the end to pull us back, some big-time players got us back into it,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said.

    Tage Thompson had a goal and an assist, and Tyson Jost, Jeff Skinner, Jack Quinn and Dylan Cozens also scored for Buffalo. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 19 saves.

    “You allow good players a little bit of extra time and a little bit of extra space, they’re going to make plays on you,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “We had hesitation in our game and it was only the last 10 minutes.”

    In the extra period, Stamkos got the winner on a blast from the right circle for his 12th of the season.

    “There’s going to be games where we don’t deserve the two points and tonight was probably one of those, but we’ve been on the other side of that too,” Stamkos said.

    With the score tied at 3-3 to open the third period, the Sabres appeared to take control in the third with two goals for a 5-3 lead with a little more than 5 1/2 minutes remaining.

    Cozens put Buffalo ahead at 9:37, ripping a shot from the right circle under the crossbar and beating Elliott on the glove side. Skinner made it 5-3 with 5:41 remaining, finishing from a tight angle after an odd-man rush was initially stopped.

    However, the Lightning answered back with two goals 3 1/2 minutes apart.

    Stamkos scored just 16 seconds after Skinner’s goal to get the Lightning within one. Hagel tied it with a power-play goal with 2:02 remaining. With Elliott pulled to create a 6-on-4 advantage, Kucherov’s shot from the right circle was deflected by Hagel past Luukkonen.

    Point opened the scoring 7:54 into the game with a power-play goal from close range for his ninth.

    Perry made it 2-0 with 3:12 left in the first off a cross-ice pass from Stamkos.

    Thompson put Buffalo on the board with 2:06 left in the first, beating Elliott with some nifty stick-handling after forcing a turnover in front of the Tampa net.

    Quinn evened it 59 seconds later, finishing a nice feed from JJ Peterka on a quick offensive rush.

    Jost gave Buffalo a 3-2 lead midway through the second period, scoring his first goal with the Sabres after he was acquired off waivers from Minnesota on Nov. 19.

    Point tied it 3-3 on the power play with 3:34 left in the second after getting a pass from Kucherov.

    INJURY RETURNS

    Each team had one player return from a recent injury. Sabres center Rasmus Asplund returned after missing two games with an upper-body injury. Tampa Bay forward Cole Koepke returned after missing three games with an upper-body injury.

    UP NEXT

    Lightning: At Boston on Tuesday night.

    Sabres: At Detroit on Wednesday night.