NHL Rink Wrap: Lightning sweep Panthers; Kadri pushes Blues to brink

NHL Rink Wrap: Lightning sweep Panthers; Kadri pushes Blues to brink
Vasilevskiy (L) Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images; Kadri (R) Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images

• The Presidents’ Trophy-winning Panthers have been eliminated from the playoffs, as the Lightning completed a sweep in Game 4. Andrei Vasilevskiy had, uh, a lot to do with it.

Via the Associated Press: the NHL and St. Louis police were looking into threats made toward Nazem Kadri following the Jordan Binnington collision heading into Game 4. To put things mildly, Kadri was a huge factor in Game 4, even beyond a spiteful hat trick.

• Speaking of goalie collisions, Milan Lucic didn’t face supplemental discipline for hitting Oilers goalie Mike Smith.

• Adam Gretz looks over the biggest surprises of 2021-22 in the latest PHT Power Rankings.

Game 4: Tampa Bay Lightning 2, Florida Panthers 0 (TBL wins series 4-0)

There are a lot of ways to summarize how explosive the Florida Panthers’ offense was in 2021-22. One way: no one shut them out … until the Lightning did so to sweep the Panthers in Game 4 on Monday.

While there were stretches of these playoffs (against both the Capitals and Lightning) where the Panthers didn’t look like that locomotive team, the effort was mostly there in Game 4. Tampa Bay slowed Florida, sure, but this feels like one might have expected the Cats to look against postseason competition.

For all the volume the Panthers sent Andrei Vasilevskiy’s way, none of it mattered. Scroll for more on Vasilevskiy in the 3 Stars section. The short version, though: he made a 49-save shutout.

All series long, the Panthers only managed three goals through four games. Chances are, Sergei Bobrovsky allowed a tough goal or two. But how much can you blame Bob when he’s receiving zero goal support?

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

Ultimately, the Panthers remain the team with the least power-play goals of any team during this postseason: one, on 31 attempts. The Stars fell in the First Round, and they scored more (2-for-24).

Over a small sample size, you can sometimes lose track of how bad luck can derail a series. Not every element of the Panthers’ playoff play should inspire concern.

Yet, there are gnawing questions. Why not try loading up with Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov sooner? Should it have taken until Game 4 to give Joe Thornton and his big body a chance? Did Andrew Brunette experiment enough to get more out of that power play?

Most hauntingly, the Panthers couldn’t win a single game against the Lightning, even with Tampa Bay lacking Brayden Point. Claude Giroux‘s the sort of rental you can only make so many times (especially with the cupboard largely bare of first-rounders). Jonathan Huberdeau will only be a bargain ($5.9 million cap hit) for one more season.

While this core is fairly young, you don’t always know when you had your best chance. The Panthers shouldn’t panic, but they’re justified in carrying some huge regrets from this Lightning sweep.

Game 4: Colorado Avalanche 6, St. Louis Blues 3 (COL leads 3-1)

Heading into Game 4, Nazem Kadri — and how the Blues/their fans reacted to Kadri — was a big focus. Yet, in a team sport like hockey, on-ice play doesn’t always reflect the buzziest stories.

This one did.

Heading into the first intermission, David Perron‘s goal put St. Louis up 1-0. Then a stunning second period truly overwhelmed the senses.

In less than a five-minute span, the Avalanche scored four consecutive goals. Kadri motioned to Blues fans on each goal, and inspired some violent on-ice reactions. For a stretch, the Blues really let Game 4 get away from them, and the Avalanche took advantage.

To their credit, the Blues surged back into the second period to make it close. Yet, a Kadri hat trick goal was the dagger. Whether Perron (or Pavel Buchnevich) face a suspension or not, the Blues now face the prospect of another quick elimination at the hands of the Avalanche.

Might be wise for them to focus more on stopping Nazem Kadri, rather than going after him. Just a thought.

Three Stars from Monday’s NHL playoff games

1a: Nazem Kadri, Avalanche

Another night where it’s tough to say who had the absolute best performance of the night (in a good way). Nazem Kadri and Andrei Vasilevskiy both put together sensational games. Both the pest-star and brick wall goalie have also made big impacts beyond Game 4 in their respective series.

Under all that scrutiny (and the stress of facing threats, often racist, for colliding with a goalie), Kadri tormented the Blues and their fans in Game 4. Impressively, Kadri made an impact even beyond collecting his first career playoff hat trick. He also grabbed an assist on Mikko Rantanen‘s empty-netter.

Blues players like David Perron and Pavel Buchnevich lost their cool toward Kadri. In doing so, Kadri drew penalties. Frankly, it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if supplemental discipline comes from that. (Perron was part of at least two very dangerous incidents.)

After the best regular season of his career, Nazem Kadri is showing that he can be a premium playoff performer. Maybe this will quiet some of the criticisms from previous playoff suspensions?

(Then again, as Game 4 showed us, a lot more could happen between the Blues and Avalanche before this series wraps up.)

1b. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning

Don’t blame someone if they call Andrei Vasilevskiy “The Closer.”

Again, the Lightning deserve credit as a team for limiting the highest of high-danger chances. But a 49-save shutout is still impressive work by Andrei Vasilevskiy.

While this is a nightly award, take a step back and consider Vasilevskiy’s knack for stifling the Panthers. He allowed just three goals over those four games, finishing with a .981 save percentage (three goals allowed on 153 shots faced).

Goalies like Vasilevskiy can sometimes make you look worse than you really are.

3. Valeri Nichushkin (and Bowen Byram), Avalanche

There’s a real argument that David Perron earned 3 Star recognition with two goals. Perron scored the 1-0 goal for an early lead, and helped the Blues rally during the zany second period.

But Perron losing his cool helped the Avalanche build the sort of lead that made that rally fall short.

Both Bowen Byram and Valeri Nichushkin collected two assists in Blues – Avalanche Game 4. Each player put up eye-popping underlying numbers to boot.

Not every team has the luxury to win playoff games when players like Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon aren’t scoring. Kadri, Byram, Nichushkin, and others helped Colorado win on a relatively quiet night for those go-to players.


Game 4 (CAR leads 2-1): Hurricanes at Rangers, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVA Sports)
Game 4 (EDM leads 2-1)Flames at Oilers, 9:30 p.m. ET (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN)

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’ Patrik Laine out 2-4 weeks with triceps injury

    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine is out 2-4 weeks after straining a triceps muscle in practice, yet another blow to the last-place team in the NHL that has been hampered by injuries all season.

    The Blue Jackets announced Laine’s absence before their home game against the New York Islanders.

    They already have 454 man-games lost to injury, one of the highest numbers in the league, and have a record of 22-41-7.

    Laine missed two separate stints with elbow and ankle injuries in the fall. The 24-year-old Finn is the team’s second-leading scorer with 52 points in 55 games.

    Columbus has been top defenseman Zach Werenski since November because of a torn labrum and separated shoulder. Forward Sean Kuraly recently went on injured reserve with a strained left oblique muscle but is set to return Friday.

    Tortorella earns 700th career win, Flyers top Wild 5-4

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    PHILADELPHIA — John Tortorella needed one word to sum up if 700 career wins meant anything to the Flyers coach.


    OK, then. Good thing the brusque Stanley Cup winner isn’t paid by the word.

    James van Riemsdyk scored the only goal in a shootout, and Philadelphia beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 on Thursday night for Tortorella’s 700th victory.

    Tortorella is 700-573-181 in 1,454 games as an NHL head coach. His 700 wins rank 12th in NHL history and his career games rank ninth in NHL history. He led Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup in 2004. In his first season coaching the Flyers, Tortorella joined Peter Laviolette as the second American-born coach to win 700 games.

    “I think the culture’s kind of changed around here,” Flyers forward Joel Farabee said. “I think he’s done a really good job of keeping the group together.”

    Farabee, Scott Laughton, Rasmus Ristolainen and Tyson Foerster scored for Philadelphia. The Flyers have two straight games for the first time since Jan. 9-14 when they won three straight. Yeah, it’s been that kind of season.

    “Farabee’s starting to pop, he’s looking real good. Tyson is looking real good,” Flyers defenseman Tony DeAngelo said. “This is all about laying the foundation for next year but we get a lot of money to do this job. It’s something we love, so we’re gonna go out and give it our best every night.”

    Matt Boldy had two goals for the Wild, and Oskar Sundqvist and Marcus Foligno also scored.

    “We weren’t very good. They were good,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “We knew they were playing well, they played well tonight. We were loose. We were not firm, turnovers, it didn’t look like our hockey club.”

    The Flyers and Wild were tied 1-all at the end of the first period, 3-3 at the end of the second and 4-4 headed into OT.

    The rebuilding Flyers have been plucky of late. They had won two of three coming into the game, with the lone loss in overtime. They showed some of that grit in the final two periods, scoring late tying goals.

    “It’s a credit to their group, to their coaching staff, that they’ve got them playing the right way,” Evason said.

    Boldy poked a backhander past Carter Hart with 6:28 left for a 4-3 lead. The Flyers, playing more for the No. 1 pick and for pride, tied the game on Foerster’s second goal of the season.

    Farabee tipped in Cam York’s shot early in the second for a 2-1 lead.

    The Wild got going when Boldy ripped one top shelf past Hart for his 24th goal of the season that tied the game 2-all. Foligno scored his seventh goal for the 3-2 lead.

    Ristolainen buried a hard slapper from the blue line on the power play for the tying goal with 23 seconds left in the second.

    “I think it’s good to try to lay this foundation, kind of get ready for next year. You see guys getting confidence,” DeAngelo said.

    The Flyers only played ahead in the first period.

    Laughton scored off the rush for his 17th goal of the season and a 1-0 lead. Sundqvist celebrated his birthday with a deflection for the tying goal with 3:24 left in the period.

    The Flyers had been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL until the start of this seven-game homestand (3-2 so far). They have scored at least three goals in every game and at least four in the last four.

    “We have definitely gotten to the net better,” Tortorella said. “We have spent a lot of time on the ice and with tape as far as getting to that area.”


    Wild: Host Chicago on Saturday.

    Flyers: Host Detroit on Saturday.

    Crosby reaches 30-goal mark, Penguins knock off Avalanche 5-2

    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    DENVER – Sidney Crosby wasn’t even aware of reaching yet another milestone. He’s simply locked in on helping the Pittsburgh Penguins make a 17th straight postseason appearance.

    Jeff Carter had a pair of goals, Crosby scored on a nifty backhand shot in the second period to reach the 30-goal mark for an 11th season and the Penguins beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.

    Crosby moved into a tie with Hall-of-Fame center Mario Lemieux for the most 30-goal seasons in Penguins history. Another milestone reached – it came as news to him.

    “I think the most important thing for me is just try to be consistent and if that reflects that great,” said Crosby, who turns 36 in August.

    Even more, Crosby’s the first player in league history to post a 30-goal campaign at 18 years old and again when he was 35-plus, according to NHL Stats.

    “It means I’ve been in the league for a while,” Crosby cracked. “That’s been the thing that’s driven me since since I got into the league – in your first year, you want to prove that you belong. Even at 35, I still think you want to prove you belong, because it is a younger league.”

    Jake Guentzel also scored and Bryan Rust added an empty-net goal for the Penguins, who snapped a four-game slide and moved back into a wild-card spot in the East.

    “It’s definitely a big one for us, for sure,” Guentzel said. “Defending champs, coming to their building, you know how good they are. Top to bottom, we defended hard and that’s what we have to do at this time of the year.”

    Pittsburgh goaltender Tristan Jarry stopped 28 shots in improving to 11-4 this season against teams from the Western Conference.

    J.T. Compher and Devon Toews had goals for the Avalanche, whose six-game winning streak was halted. Nathan MacKinnon had an assist to extend his home points streak to 18 games.

    It was a missed opportunity for Colorado, which could’ve pulled into a three-way tie with Dallas and Minnesota in the Central Division with a victory.

    “We knew they were going to play with urgency,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “But I didn’t feel like there was any reason why we couldn’t, either. … We didn’t get it done. Hopefully we get another one.”

    Alexandar Georgiev made 40 saves, including several critical ones in a second period controlled by the Penguins, who outshot the Avalanche by a 21-9 margin. It could’ve been more than a 3-1 deficit heading into the third period.

    Toews’ power-play goal made it 3-2 with 9:32 remaining. But Carter wrapped up the win with his first multigoal game in the regular season since Jan. 11, 2022.

    “I’m thrilled for him. We’re all thrilled,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of Carter. “He cares about the Penguins. He wants to win, and he wants to contribute in helping us win so we couldn’t be happier for him.”


    Bednar was appreciative of the three-year extension he signed Tuesday that goes through the 2026-27 season. In his seventh season, he’s the third-longest tenured coach in the NHL behind Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (March 2013) and Sullivan (December 2015).

    “It’s not a forgiving league or sport, for the most part, but obviously that’s part of the reason why I’m so grateful and thankful,” Bednar said. “Because there were times over my tenure that got a little hairy and management could have made another decision. But obviously they didn’t.”


    Avalanche D Cale Makar missed a second straight game with a lower body injury. “I still have him as day-to-day,” Bednar said. … F Darren Helm returned after missing 64 of 69 games this season with a lower-body injury. … Penguins D Jeff Petry (upper body) skated in the morning but sat out his third straight game. … The Penguins are 11-1 against the Central Division this season. … Penguins standout Evgeni Malkin assisted on Guentzel’s goal to reach the 50-assist mark for a seventh time in his career.


    Penguins: At Dallas on Thursday night.

    Avalanche: Host Arizona on Friday night.

    Report: Blackhawks will not wear Pride-themed jerseys

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    CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks will not wear Pride-themed warmup jerseys before Sunday’s Pride Night game against Vancouver because of security concerns involving a Russian law that expands restrictions on activities seen as promoting LGBTQ rights in the country.

    The decision was made by the NHL organization following discussions with security officials within and outside the franchise, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke to the AP on Wednesday on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the move.

    The Blackhawks have worn Pride warmup jerseys previously and donned special warmup jerseys on some other themed nights this season. There had been ongoing conversations about a Pride jersey with the players, according to the person who talked to the AP, but the organization made the decision to hold Pride Night without the jerseys this year.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law in December that significantly expands restrictions on activities seen as promoting LGBTQ rights in the country. Chicago defenseman Nikita Zaitsev is a Moscow native, and there are other players with family in Russia or other connections to the country.

    The decision by the Blackhawks comes after San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov refused to take part in warmups with Pride-themed jerseys. The New York Rangers opted not to wear Pride jerseys or use Pride stick tape as part of their night in January despite previously advertising that plan.

    Russians Nikolai Knyzhov and Alexander Barabanov wore the Pride-themed jerseys for the Sharks on Saturday.

    While Chicago will go without Pride warmup jerseys this year, the team has planned a variety of activities in conjunction with Sunday’s game. DJs from the LGBTQ community will play before the game and during an intermission, and the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus also is slated to perform. There also are plans to highlight a couple of area businesses with ties to the LGBTQ community.