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The Buzzer: Kucherov and Kane ride again

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Three Stars

1. Nikita Kucherov

Kucherov helped the Lightning pass the 90-point standings barrier (before any other team has hit 80), while passing the 90-point mark himself. With an impressive one goal and three assists, Kucherov now has a ridiculous 92 points in just 58 points.

PHT’s covered the “Kucherov is awesome” thing quite well recently, from his fantastic performance on Thursday to his wider dominance from a historical perspective.

It’s probably not shocking, what with the Lightning winning 6-0 against Dallas, that the Bolts generated other quality top three considerations. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 32 saves to pitch a shutout, already his fifth of the season. He has an outside chance of tying or exceeding his career high of eight from last season.

Steven Stamkos deserves another honorable mention, scoring two goals and one assist, with one of his tallies being the GWG, and Stamkos also fired six shots on goal. Yeah, it was a good night for quite a few Lightning players.

Kucherov stands above the rest with four points, but he also has two straight four-point nights, and had a three point-game before that, so that’s 11 points in his last three contests. Wow.

2. Auston Matthews

Speaking of players who’ve already received attention, Matthews crossed the 100-goal barrier on Thursday, which you can read about on a broader level in this post.

Matthews is now at 101 goals, actually, as he scored two goals and one assist in Toronto’s win against the Vegas Golden Knights. Matthews fired six SOG in this one, so he was quite active in that victory.

In 43 games this season, Matthews has 27 goals and 26 assists for 53 points.

3. Patrick Kane

With a goal and two assists, Kane didn’t just barely extend his 16-game point streak, he truly powered another Blackhawks win.

But, seriously, that 16-game point streak.

By generating an assist, Kane has had a helper in 15 consecutive games, breaking a tie with Stan Mikita for the Blackhawks’ franchise record. He’s the seventh player with an assist streak of 15 games or more in NHL history.

This marks Kane’s fifth 50+ assist season, putting him on a list of the best passing wingers of all-time. Yeah, there are a lot of ways to carve up the great play of runs like that of Kane and Kucherov.

Highlights of the Night

After this fake-out by Stamkos, Andrew Cogliano might prefer being traded to anonymity.

What a rifle of a shot by Elias Pettersson.

Ilya Kovalchuk does his Brooks Orpik impression.

If you need a smile, and this doesn’t bring that to your face … I just don’t know how to help you.

More Factoids

  • Some significant team streak news, too. The St. Louis Blues won again, stretching their winning streak to eight games. They hold a game in hand over Dallas, so the Blues are now ranked third in the Central. On the other end of the positive streak spectrum, the Avalanche finally won, ending a grueling eight-game skid.
  • Not all streak news was positive. The Sharks fell to the Capitals, so they’re run ended at six wins in a row.
  • Moving to players, T.J. Oshie collected his 500th point, while Chris Kunitz played in his 1,000th game.

Scores

FLA 3 – CGY 2 (SO)
NYI 3 – CBJ 0
DET 3 – OTT 2
TBL 6 – DAL 0
NSH 3 – MTL 1
COL 4 – WPG 1
CHI 5 – NJD 2
STL 4 – ARI 0
TOR 6 – VGK 3
VAN 4 – LAK 3 (SO)
WSH 5 – SJS 1

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks meet Capitals on NBC

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NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Capitals have hit their biggest road block in their title defense after going 3-5-2 in their last 10 games, including four straight losses (0-3-1). The last time Washington lost four straight games was in March of 2017. During this four-game losing streak, the Caps have been outscored 12-1 in 5-on-5 play, and the lone goal in that scenario came against Nashville with the team trailing 7-1 late in the third period.

The last time the Capitals lost five straight games was Oct. 26 to Nov. 4 2014.

Alex Ovechkin enters this game tied with Dave Andreychuk for 14th place on the all-time goals (640) list. He is also only five points away from tying Hockey Hall of Famer Sergei Fedorov for the most in League history by a Russian player (1,179).

The Blackhawks have lost seven of their eight games in the new year (1-4-3), including five straight losses (0-3-2) and are once again last in the NHL. Since Jeremy Colliton took charge on November 6, Chicago has lost 24 of their 34 games under their new head coach (10-18-6) after going 6-6-3 in 15 games under Joel Quenneville. The Hawks are coming off a 4-3 loss to the Rangers on Thursday.

A bright spot for Chicago has been its power play which has now scored in seven consecutive games (9-for-21, 42.9 percent). That hot streak has put them in the middle of the pack in the NHL at 18.9 percent for the season.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 12:30 P.M. ET – NBC]

What: Washington Capitals at Chicago Blackhawks
Where: United Center
When: Sunday, Jan. 20, 12:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
Live stream: You can watch the Capitals-Blackhawks stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BLACKHAWKS
Drake CaggiulaJonathan ToewsPatrick Kane
Alex DeBrincatDylan StromeDominik Kahun
Brandon SaadDavid KampfMarcus Kruger
John HaydenArtem AnisimovChris Kunitz

Duncan KeithBrent Seabrook
Carl DahlstromConnor Murphy
Slater KoekkoekErik Gustafsson

Starting goalie: Collin Delia

CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas BackstromT.J. Oshie
Jakub VranaLars EllerTom Wilson
Andre BurakovskyEvgeny KuznetsovBrett Connolly
Chandler StephensonNic DowdDevante Smith-Pelly

Dmitry OrlovJohn Carlson
Michal KempnyMatt Niskanen
Brooks OrpikMadison Bowey

Starting goalie: Braden Holtby

Six-time Emmy Award-winner Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick, U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Eddie Olczyk, and ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst Pierre McGuire will have the call from United Center.

WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks visit Rangers on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Thursday’s matchup between the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Last season was the first since 2003-04 in which both the Blackhawks and Rangers failed to make the postseason. The Blackhawks had made nine straight postseason appearances prior to last season, while the Rangers had made the postseason in 11 of the previous 12 seasons prior to last year. However, both teams continue to struggle this season.

The Blackhawks have lost six of their seven games in the new year (1-3-3), including four straight losses (0-2-2). Since Jeremy Colliton took charge on November 6, Chicago has lost 23 of their 33 games under their new head coach (10-17-6) after going 6-6-3 in 15 games under former head coach Joel Quenneville. The Hawks are coming off a disappointing 8-5 loss at New Jersey on Monday, which included an eight-goal second period in which Chicago was outscored 5-3.

Chicago has won four of their last six on the road (4-1-1) after winning just four of their first 18 away games this season (4-12-2). Recent notable road wins have come at Colorado (Dec 29) and at Pittsburgh (Jan 6). The Blackhawks will look to continue this good away run, with four of their next six games coming on the road.

After losing six of seven games, the Rangers were called out by head coach David Quinn, who called the team’s performance in a 7-5 loss against Columbus “a freaking joke,” saying the team “failed miserably.” They responded with a 6-2 win vs Carolina on Tuesday, led by a four-point night from Mika Zibanejad (2G-2A). It was the Rangers’ most goals scored this season and their biggest win since November 21.

Mats Zuccarello has seven points in his last five games (3G-4A), after having just six points in his previous 19 games. The forward is currently on a three-game point streak (3G-3A), and is coming off a three-assist performance against Carolina, which included this no-look through-the-legs pass for Zibanejad’s second goal. Zuccarello has been the Rangers’ top scorer each of the past three seasons, but has been rumored with a trade away from New York as he is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Chicago Blackhawks at New York Rangers
Where: Madison Square Garden
When: Thursday, Jan. 17, 6 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Blackhawks-Rangers stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BLACKHAWKS
Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsAlex DeBrincat
Drake CaggiulaDylan StromePatrick Kane
Chris KunitzArtem AnisimovBrendan Perlini
David KampfMarcus KrugerDominik Kahun

Duncan KeithErik Gustafsson
Henri Jokiharju – Brent Seabrook
Carl DahlstromConnor Murphy

Starting goalie: Collin Delia

RANGERS
Chris Kreider – Mika Zibanejad – Mats Zuccarello
Filip ChytilRyan StromeJesper Fast
Jimmy VeseyBoo NievesVladislav Namestnikov
Cody McLeodBrett HowdenPavel Buchnevich

Marc StaalTony DeAngelo
Brady SkjeiAdam McQuaid
Ryan Lindgren – Kevin Shattenkirk

Starting goalie: Henrik Lundqvist

John Walton (play-by-play) and Brian Boucher will have the call from Madison Square Garden.

Blackhawks rally to end Penguins’ run at eight games

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By generating a 2-0 lead less than five minutes into Sunday’s game, it looked like the Pittsburgh Penguins would cruise to their ninth consecutive win, ending a run of futility against the Chicago Blackhawks in the process.

Pittsburgh’s losing ways against the Blackhawks ended up continuing instead, as Chicago won 5-3. The Blackhawks have now won 10 straight games against the Penguins.

Patrick Kane dished out three assists in this one, including Alex DeBrincat‘s goal to cut Pittsburgh’s lead to 2-1 in the first period, and Dylan Strome‘s game-winner. There was some great puck movement on that Strome goal:

After former Penguin Chris Kunitz tied things up at 2-2, the Penguins gained another lead after Derick Brassard finished on a great Phil Kessel pass, but that would be the last time Pittsburgh would end up beating Cam Ward in this game. Kane’s playmaking ways paved the way for an impressive milestone:

This loss saw the end of a personal six-game point streak for Sidney Crosby, who went without a goal and an assist after rattling off three goals and 10 assists for 13 points during that span.

The Blackhawks were only credited with going 1-for-3 on the power play, but Duncan Keith‘s goal came mere moments after a man advantage ended. Combine that with Pittsburgh going 0-for-3 (including some 5-on-3 time), and it’s clear that special teams went Chicago’s way.

Keith’s teammates would remind you that he hasn’t scored many goals lately, with that being his first in 2018-19 after scoring only two last season.

The Capitals, Blue Jackets, and Islanders all won their most recent games, so updated versions of various Metro races look quite a bit worse for the Penguins:

1. Capitals: 25-12-4 for 54 points, 41 GP, 22 ROW
2. Penguins: 23-13-6 for 52 points, 42 GP, 22 ROW
3. Blue Jackets: 24-14-3 for 51 points, 41 GP, 24 ROW
4. Islanders: 23-13-4 for 50 points, 40 GP, 21 ROW

It’s tough to imagine the Blackhawks rallying to a spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, yet they’ve been picking up steam lately, going 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. If nothing else, contending teams shouldn’t look at them as an easy two points when they see the Blackhawks on their schedules.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Penguins host Blackhawks on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Sunday night’s matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Penguins are one of the hottest teams in the league, with wins in eight straight games. They defeated the Winnipeg Jets 4-0 on Friday night in a 33-save shutout by Matt Murray. After struggling to start the year and missing time with an injury, Murray has now won seven in a row, matching the best stretch of his career.

Sidney Crosby is riding a six-game point streak (3G, 10A) and has 51 points (19G-32A) in 38 games this season, a 1.34 points per game clip. He hasn’t had a scoring rate that high in a full season since 2009-10 (1.35 ppg). He’ll skate in his 903rd career regular-season game as he closes in on Mario Lemieux’s franchise record (915 GP).

Kris Letang has also tallied a point in six straight games (3G, 6A) and is leading the team in time on ice per game during the winning streak (26:16).

Erik Gustafsson leads all Blackhawks defensemen with 23 points and eight goals, both of which are already career highs for the 26-year-old, who is in his third NHL season. Jeremy Colliton scratched Gustafsson on December 2, and since being benched, Gustafsson has responded with 12 points (4G, 8A) in 13 games.

Gustafsson has been on the top pair with Duncan Keith while Henri Jokiharju is at World Juniors. He has also been the primary point man on the power play unit.

“He’s got the world at his feet if he wants…we push him because we know he can do it,” said Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton. “At times, he does do it, as far as his gap and being aggressive to get pucks back, and being physical at times, and even better around his own net. He can do it. It’s not a question of ability. It’s a question of committing to it. So it’s an easy decision to try to hold him accountable, because he can give us so much.”

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Chicago Blackhawks at Pittsburgh Penguins
Where: PPG Paints Arena
When: Sunday, Jan. 6, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Blackhawks-Penguins stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BLACKHAWKS
Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsDominik Kahun
Artem AnisimovDylan StromePatrick Kane
Alex DeBrincatDavid KampfBrendan Perlini
Chris KunitzMarcus KrugerDrake Caggiula

Duncan Keith – Erik Gustafsson
Gustav ForslingBrent Seabrook
Carl DahlstromConnor Murphy

Starting goalie: Cam Ward

PENGUINS
Jake Guentzel – Sidney Crosby – Bryan Rust
Dominik SimonEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist
Tanner PearsonDerick BrassardPhil Kessel
Riley SheahanMatt CullenZach Aston-Reese

Brian Dumoulin – Kris Letang
Marcus PetterssonJack Johnson
Olli MaattaJuuso Riikola

Starting goalie: Casey DeSmith

MORE: Kris Letang is playing the best hockey of his career