Andrei Vasilevskiy

Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 and Brayden Point #21 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate
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The Buzzer: Lightning win ninth straight; Smith’s hat trick powers Predators

Three Stars

1) Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

Vasilevskiy extended his point streak to 20 games after a 29-save performance in the Lightning’s 3-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers. The Russian goaltender improved to 18-0-2 during the impressive streak. The Bolts have erased a slow start thanks to a 10-game winning streak at home and a 21-2-1 record in their past 24 games. The Boston Bruins currently have a one-point advantage in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference standings on the surging Bolts.

2) Zach Sanford, St. Louis Blues

A four-goal performance wasn’t enough to help the Blues escape Las Vegas with two points, but was a career night for the forward, nevertheless. Sanford scored in a variety of ways around the net and added a wicked wrist shot to cap off his excellent performance. Sanford gave the Blues a one-goal lead with 8:15 remaining in the final period, but the Golden Knights found a way to tie the game and notch the overtime winner. It was St. Louis’ first game since Jay Bouwmeester’s medical incident on Tuesday.

3) Craig Smith, Nashville Predators

Smith’s first career hat trick helped Nashville snap a two-game losing streak. Juuse Saros made 31 saves and collected his second shutout of the season in the Predators’ 5-0 win against the New York Islanders. Smith buried a sharp-angled shot to open the scoring 35 seconds into the game. He later wired two wrist shots from the slot to complete the hat trick. The 30-year-old has five goals in the previous three games.

3A) Mikael Backlund, Calgary Flames

In a 6-0 rout against the Anaheim Ducks, Backlund scored twice as the Flames picked up their third win in the previous five games. The Swedish centerman benefitted from Michael Stone’s spinning pass midway through the opening period to give the Flames a 2-0 lead. Fast forward to late in the second period, Ducks forward Rickard Rakell floated a backhand pass from the point that Backlund easily intercepted. Backlund raced up ice and converted a neat deke to his backhand to help the Flames run away with this one.

Other notable performances

  • James van Riemsdyk recorded a goal and an assist in the Flyers’ 6-2 win against the Panthers.
  • Artemi Panarin had a goal, an assist and shootout tally as the Rangers collected their third straight win.
  • Wayne Simmonds scored twice as part of a four-goal third period in the Devils’ 4-1 win against the Red Wings.
  • Tyler Seguin ended a 17-game goal drought in the Stars’ 3-2 win against the Maple Leafs.
  • Jack Eichel had a goal, an assist and a beautiful set up for Victor Olofsson for the overtime winner.

Highlights of the Night

Jack Eichel raced past a defender in overtime, then stopped on a dime and set up Victor Olofsson for the overtime winner.

Auston Matthews fired a laser past Ben Bishop to tie David Pastrnak for the NHL scoring lead at 41 goals.

Smith picked Nick Leddy‘s pocket, then found an opening from a sharp angle 35 seconds into the game.

Vladislav Gavrikov found Nathan Gerbe trailing the play when the Blue Jackets took a one-goal lead in final minute of opening period.

Panarin showed great patience with this impressive deke, but should it have counted?

Stats of the Night

Scores

Buffalo Sabres 4, Columbus Blue Jackets 3 (OT)

Dallas Stars 3, Toronto Maple Leafs 2

Tampa Bay Lightning 3, Edmonton Oilers 1

Philadelphia Flyers 6, Florida Panthers 2

New Jersey Devils 4, Detroit Red Wings 1

Ottawa Senators 3, Arizona Coyotes 2

New York Rangers 4, Minnesota Wild 3 (SO)

Nashville Predators 5, New York Islanders 0

Washington Capitals 3, Colorado Avalanche 2

Vegas Golden Knights 6, St. Louis Blues 5 (OT)

Calgary Flames 6, Anaheim Ducks 0


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

The Buzzer: Benn’s hat trick; Draisaitl keeps rolling for Oilers

NHL Scores
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Three Stars

1. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars. It hasn’t been the best season for Benn but he is refusing to go down quietly and now finds himself as the Stars’ leading goal scorer (18) this season thanks to his hat trick on Tuesday night in a 4-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. He has scored nine of those goals in the 15 games since January 1, and is just one goal away from the 300-mark for his career. He is now on pace for 26 goals this season.

2. Mike Matheson and Mark Pysyk, Florida Panthers. It might be cheating to include two players as one entry in the three stars section, but look, these two guys deserve some recognition here. The Panthers dressed eight defensemen on Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils and played two of them — Matheson and Pysyk — at forward on a line with Noel Acciari. All that line did was score three goals (one for each player) in a 5-3 win, while Matheson and Pysyk each had a goal, two assists, and finished as a plus-three. Pysyk has previously played forward for the Panthers this season and had a hat trick a couple of weeks ago.

3. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers. No Connor McDavid, no problem for Draisaitl and the Oilers on Tuesday. The Oilers were 5-3 winners over the Chicago Blackhawks and it was Draisaitl leading the way with a four-point night (one goal, three assists) as he extended his current lead in the NHL scoring race to eight points over McDavid. He is now at 89 points on the season and on pace for 129 points this season. He had 105 points a year ago. If he continues that level of play during McDavid’s absence and helps get the Oilers back in the playoffs it might be enough to take the MVP award away from his teammate.

Along with Draisaitl, 2017 first-round pick Kailer Yamamoto also had another big game for the Oilers, scoring two goals in the win. He is now up to seven goals and 14 points in his first 15 games this season after joining the team in late December.

Other Notable Performances From Tuesday

  • Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 37 shots for the Tampa Bay Lightning as they beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime to extend their winning streak despite a growing injury list. Read all about it here.
  • Alex Stalock stopped all 26 shots he faced for the Minnesota Wild as they shut out the Vegas Golden Knights. Kevin Fiala also had a big game for the Wild to extend his point streak to five games.
  • Another strong game for rookie New York Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin as he stopped turned aside 42 shots in a 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Chris Kreider also scored two goals in the win.
  • Mathew Barzal had three assists for the New York Islanders as they won a wild game over the Philadelphia Flyers. Read all about it here.
  • Philipp Grubauer stopped 36 shots for the Colorado Avalanche in a 3-0 win over the Ottawa Senators.

Highlights of the Night

Mikko Rantanen scored an absolutely beautiful goal late in the first period against the Ottawa Senators, starting it off with a spin move at the blue line.

Here is one of Mathew Barzal’s three assists on Tuesday night, setting up Jordan Eberle for a first period goal to give the Islanders a 3-0 lead. He just flipped it to himself and created a shot like it was nothing.

Not long after a potential Arizona Coyotes game winner was overturned for goaltender interference, Kasperi Kapanen scored the winner for the Toronto Maple Leafs by batting a puck out of mid-air, sending himself on a breakaway, and scoring the goal.

Moment of the Night

Jacob Trouba returned to Winnipeg for the first time as a visiting player on Tuesday night. He did this before the game.

 

Factoids

  • Kucherov extended his point streak to 12 games before leaving with an injury. It is the longest current point streak in the NHL and the fifth-longest in Tampa Bay Lightning franchise history. [NHL PR]
  • Rasmus Dahlin is now tied for the most assists (76) by a teenage defenseman in NHL history. [NHL PR]
  • Jack Hughes became just the third 18-year-old to record at least 20 points in a season for the New Jersey Devils. [NHL PR]

Scores

Buffalo Sabres 3, Detroit Red Wings 2
Toronto Maple Leafs 3, Arizona Coyote 2 (OT)
Florida Panthers 5, New Jersey Devils 3
New York Islanders 5, Philadelphia Flyers 3
Tampa Bay Lightning 2, Pittsburgh Penguins 1 (OT)
Minnesota Wild 4, Vegas Golden Knights 0
New York Rangers 4, Winnipeg Jets 1
Dallas Stars 4, Carolina Hurricanes 1
Colorado Avalanche 3, Ottawa Senators 0
Edmonton Oilers 5, Chicago Blackhawks 3
St. Louis Blues-Anaheim Ducks (Postponed)

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Lightning stay hot but lose Kucherov, Cirelli to injuries

Lightning
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PITTSBURGH — Thanks to a 37-save effort from Andrei Vasilevskiy and a game-winning goal from Yanni Gourde to snap what had been a 35-game goal drought, the Tampa Bay Lightning extended their winning current winning streak to eight games with a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night.

The Lightning are now 20-3-3 over the past 26 games and are rapidly gaining ground in the Presidents’ Trophy race, now sitting just one point back of the Boston Bruins for the top spot in the league.

The only concerning news for the Lightning on Tuesday is that they lost two more key forwards to injuries as Nikita Kucherov and Anthony Cirelli both exited the game with lower-body injuries and did not return. Coach Jon Cooper had no update on the status of either player after the game, only to say they are being evaluated.

The Lightning were already playing shorthanded on Tuesday with as Steven Stamkos, Ryan McDonagh and Jan Ruuta were already sidelined.

As if that was not enough, the Lightning were also playing the second half of a back-to-back, on the road, against one of the league’s best teams in Pittsburgh and still managed to come away with two points.

Kucherov assisted on Mikhail Sergachev‘s power play goal in the second period before exiting the game.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Ovechkin 700: Opponents helpless vs. NHL’s best goal-scorer

WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin arrived in Washington in the summer of 2005 wearing mismatched flip flops and Daisy Duke shorts. He looked like a lost tourist.

Ovechkin went No. 1 in the draft and was touted as a can’t-miss prospect, but Capitals teammates wondered aloud if this guy really was supposed to be the new face of the franchise, much less an elite player.

A decade and a half later, Ovechkin is the grinning, gap-toothed face of NHL goal-scoring, much to the continued bewilderment of his opponents.

The big Russian left winger is on the verge of becoming just the eighth player to score 700 career goals thanks to a once-in-a-generation combination of physicality, power and a unique shot that has made him nearly impossible to stop.

”He just can score from anywhere,” Calgary defenseman Mark Giordano said. ”You sort of think teams would come up with a game plan to stop him, but you can’t.”

No game plan has worked. Like the cutter flustered batters knew was coming from New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, Ovechkin comes at goaltenders and defensemen with the same relentless, masterful approach – and the numbers keep climbing.

Ovechkin has never scored fewer than 32 goals in a season, and his 11 seasons of 40 or more trails only Wayne Gretzky for the most in league history. He has averaged 0.5 goal every playoff game, 10th-best all time, and contributed to winning the Stanley Cup and postseason MVP honors in 2018.

A dozen goaltenders and defenders who have tried to contain Ovechkin described the task to The Associated Press as his milestone approached.

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS

”Whatever small inch you give him, he’s going to find a way to throw it through your legs from the blue line top cheese and you’re like, ‘What the heck just happened?”’ said Colorado forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who faced Ovechkin in the 2018 final with Vegas. ”Maybe you’re thinking your goalie should have it and you look at the replay like, ‘OK, that was a heck of a shot.’ … It’s just that at any time in a game he can have an off night and out of nowhere, boom, he can have a hat trick.”

Bellemare made that observation just days before Ovechkin had no shots with six minutes left against Los Angeles. He then scored once to tie it, a second time to give Washington the lead and a third into an empty net to seal another win.

Those were goal Nos. 696, 697 and 698.

PROLIFIC SNIPER

Ovechkin’s job from day one has been to shoot the puck as much as possible. He has an NHL-best 5,483 shots since 2005-06. No other player has 4,000. Ovechkin’s stick – an open blade with a big curve at the toe – and how he releases a shot also puts him in a class of his own.

”His puck flies not straight,” said Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who has allowed nine goals to Ovechkin. ”It’s kind of changing direction every time, so it’s pretty hard to stop for a goalie. It’s like knuckleball.”

A knucklepuck with a 6-foot-3, 235-pound linebacker’s strength behind it. It’s not just Ovechkin’s release but how the puck feels when it gets on net.

”His shot is absolutely a rocket or missile,” said Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen, who has given up six of Ovechkin’s goals. ”He shoots from anywhere and he shoots it hard and heavy.”

LETHAL SPEED

Ovechkin has made a living – roughly $113 million so far with another contract expected to start in 2021-22 – by not only making goalies but the league’s best defensive defensemen miss. Norris Trophy winner Drew Doughty believes the only way to slow Ovechkin down is to get in his face in the neutral zone before he can pick up steam.

Problem is, even at 34 and past the prime of most scorers, Ovechkin still has the lower-body strength and footspeed to glide around opponents like they’re pylons.

”He still has that ability from when he was younger to beat you one-on-one, so you can’t just play the shot or you can’t just back off,” said Avalanche defenseman Ian Cole, who battled Ovechkin for years as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. ”You’re in a bit of a quagmire when you’re playing against him just because there’s so many ways that he can beat you and he is so good, he’s so good at cutting to the middle, too, on his off side and letting these pucks go through traffic.”

LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION

There is no safe area when it comes to defending Ovechkin.

”He can make moves and shoot from anywhere and it can go in,” Kings forward Trevor Lewis said. ”Most guys, if you keep them to the outside and they’re shooting, they’re not going to bury it every time. But it seems like every shot he takes, it’s got a chance to go in.”

Connor Hellebuyck vividly remembers his first encounter with Ovechkin as a rookie. The Winnipeg goaltender felt like the scene played out in slow motion before the puck barely stayed out, but he allowed two goals to Ovechkin in a game a couple of years later.

”He came down and ripped what looked like a little snap shot from the top of the circle,” Hellebuyck recalled. ”It came off so heavy and I got such a good beat on it, but I was able to watch it completely pass me and I missed it.”

OVI’S OFFICE

It’s the elephant in the room. Everyone knows, at some point, Ovechkin will rifle a blazing one-timer from the left faceoff circle on the power play. It is telegraphed almost every time, and yet it has proven to be one of the most potent shots in the history of the sport.

”It’s sometimes hard to get it by a shot-blocker but sometimes it’s easy,” Doughty said. ”And he’s going to be able to get it by one way or the other. You just have to be on the same page as your goalie to be able to make the save or make the block. We all know it’s coming, but that shot’s so good.”

Ovechkin on the power play is such an institution that teammates told Bellemare when he entered the league not to try to chase him on the penalty kill and look like a fool. Bellemare is in awe of how much opponents can focus on him and still end up watching him celebrate another goal.

”We watch video, we study, but still, it keeps happening,” he said. ”This is what it is. Everybody’s trying to play their best game when we meet that guy, and still he finds a way to go through you. This is what is unbelievable.”

Ovechkin last season became the oldest player to lead the NHL in goals since Phil Esposito in 1974-75. He refuses to reflect on his accomplishments until he hangs up his skates.

”I’m still playing,” Ovechkin said. ”After career, yeah, I’m pretty sure me and my family and my friends are gonna talk about it. But now, we, and me personally, I’m gonna try to concentrate about just go out there and do my job.”

The Buzzer: Stone ties career high; Vasilevskiy keeps point streak alive

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Three Stars

1) Mark Stone, Vegas Golden Knights

He opened the game with two goals and then added three assists in the Golden Knights’ 7-2 win. Stone tied a career high with five points, a feat he previously recorded twice with the Ottawa Senators. Stone lit the lamp early in the first period when he banged home a loose puck in front, but his prettiest goal of the game came early in the second period. No. 61 danced around Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson and then lifted a shot over the glove of Sergei Bobrovsky. His three assists were also impressive as the Golden Knights ended a season-long eight-game road trip.

2) Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings

It can’t get much worse in Detroit this season. However, Larkin has given Red Wings fans a reason to believe they have a foundational building block for the future. No. 71 scored twice including a neat breakaway deke with less than one second remaining in the opening period as Detroit snapped a nine-game losing streak with a 4-3 shootout win over the Buffalo Sabres. Larkin also added a shootout tally after Detroit surrendered the game-tying goal in the final minute.

3) Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

The Russian netminder improved to 15-0-2 in his last 17 starts and set a Lightning record for longest point streak by a goalie in the 4-2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Vasilevskiy made 29 saves as he broke Nikolai Khabibulin’s record that stood since April of 2003. He also picked up his fourth assist of the season when Nikita Kucherov tallied an empty-net goal in the final minute. After a slow start to the season, the Bolts have regained their form as an elite team in the Eastern Conference.

Other notable performances

  • Marc-André Fleury claimed sole possession of fifth place on the NHL all-time wins list with his 460th victory, passing Henrik Lundqvist.
  • Kieffer Bellows scored twice in his second career NHL game in the New York Islanders’ 5-3 win against the Los Angeles Kings.
  • Cale Makar has made the transition to the NHL look too easy as he picked up his 39th and 40th point of the season.
  • Mackenzie Blackwood made 46 saves in his second career shutout as the New Jersey Devils rolled past the Philadelphia Flyers, 5-0.
  • Andrei Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho each had two goals and an assist as the Hurricanes topped the Coyotes, 5-3.
  • Steven Stamkos recorded his 25th of the season and has scored seven goals in the previous six games.
  • Jeff Petry sniped the overtime winner as the Montreal Canadiens collected their fourth win in the past five games.

Highlights of the Night

Connor McDavid can fly on the ice but his speed when he has possession of the puck makes him the most dangerous player in the NHL.

Vincent Trocheck showed great vision when he fired a pass from the top of the crease on one knee to set up Mike Hoffman late in the first period.

Kieffer Bellows scored his first NHL goal after Anthony Beauvillier delivered a pretty touch pass to set up the rookie forward. In two career NHL games, Bellows has a two-game point streak.

Damon Severson went coast to coast and wired a wrist shot off the post and in to give the Devils a two-goal advantage early in the second period

Ryan Dzingel sets up in Wayne Gretzky’s office and finds Jaccob Slavin darting toward the high slot.

Nikita Kucherov is known for his offense, but made a strong play in the defensive zone which led to a Stamkos goal. The Russian hustled back to intercept a cross-ice pass from Sidney Crosby, then corralled the loose puck to set up the Lightning’s offensive attack.

Bloopers of the Night

Jacob Markstrom has to make a smarter play with the puck in this situation.

Panthers defenseman Riley Stillman over skated the puck, then struggled to find it and the Golden Knights capitalized.

Stat of the Night

Injury News

  • Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh did not return after blocking a shot in the second period against the Penguins.
  • Penguins defenseman John Marino took a puck to the face but early reports are that it was not as bad as it looked.

Scores

New York Islanders 5, Los Angeles Kings 3

Detroit Red Wings 4, Buffalo Sabres 3 (SO)

Montreal Canadiens 3, Anaheim Ducks 2 (OT)

Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Pittsburgh Penguins 2

Vegas Golden Knights 7, Florida Panthers 2

New Jersey Devils 5, Philadelphia Flyers 0

Colorado Avalanche 4, Ottawa Senators 1

Winnipeg Jets 4, St. Louis Blues 2

Minnesota Wild 4, Vancouver Canucks 2

Nashville Predators 3, Calgary Flames 2

Carolina Hurricanes 5, Arizona Coyotes 3

San Jose Sharks 6, Edmonton Oilers 3


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.