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Panthers’ Barkov explodes for five assists, sets franchise record

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Aleksander Barkov was already having a remarkable season for the Florida Panthers prior to Friday night.

His five-assist effort against the Minnesota Wild just added another chapter to the tale he’ll be able to tell and another passage in the Panthers’ history book.

You see, five assists are the most any one Panther has ever recorded in a game. Barkov was magical, his hands in on five of Florida’s six goals in a 6-2 win, including four primary apples.

Barkov came into Friday with 70 points, eight back of his career-high. He’s now just three off 78-point season he had last year. His 29 goals this season were already one more than his previous career-high, and his 46 assists now are five shy of the 51 he has last season.

The Finn has scored some ridiculous goals this year, too.

The Panthers, nine points out of a playoff spot coming into the night, chased Devan Dubnyk after one period. Jonathan Huberdeau had four points, Evgeni Dadonov had three assists, and MacKenzie Weegar and Mike Matheson each had a brace.

Sam Montembeault, making his second NHL start, picked up his first NHL win after stopping 25 shots.

This weird thing also happened:


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

The Buzzer: Hats off to Zucker, Radulov; Kuemper shines again for Coyotes

Three Stars

1. Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild. The Minnesota Wild just keep on winning. They dramatically improved their playoff chances on Thursday night with a 3-0 win over the NHL’s best team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, thanks to huge games from Jason Zucker and and starting goalie Devan Dubnyk. Zucker scored all three goals for the Wild who now find themselves three points up on a playoff spot in the Western Conference. It is an incredible run for a Wild team that has been ripped apart by trades and injuries over the past few weeks.

2. Alexander Radulov, Dallas Stars. This was a huge win for the Dallas Stars, not only because it was two points in the standings as they look to secure a playoff spot, but because it was two points in a head-to-head game with a team they are competing with for one of those spots. By defeating the Colorado Avalanche, 4-0, they now find themselves five points ahead of the Avalanche and four points ahead of the Arizona Coyotes. Alexander Radulov had the big night in the Stars’ win with three goals to give him 20 on the season.

3. Darcy Kuemper, Arizona Coyotes. With Dallas and Minnesota both winning on Thursday night this was a game the Arizona Coyotes absolutely had to have to keep pace. They got it, and in rather impressive fashion, by beating the top team in the Western Conference, the Calgary Flames. Darcy Kuemper continued his incredible play by stopping all 30 shots he faced in a 2-0 win.

Highlights of the Night

The Boston Bruins scored two goals in 30 seconds to come from behind against the Florida Panthers.

Somehow the Edmonton Oilers are going to miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third time in four years with Connor McDavid on their team.

The St. Louis Blues kept rolling with a win over the Los Angeles Kings, and it was Vladimir Tarasenko getting things going early.

Factoids

  • This was the second time in franchise history the Boston Bruins have erased a deficit in the final minute of a game then won in regulation. [NHL PR]
  • Patrick Kane passed Steve Larmer for fourth place on the Chicago Blackhawks’ all-time points list. [NHL PR]
  • Henrik Lundqvist appeared in his 850th game for the New York Rangers on Thursday night, which is a pretty big deal. [NHL PR]

Scores

Boston Bruins 4, Florida Panthers 3

Pittsburgh Penguins 3, Columbus Blue Jackets 0

New York Islanders 4, Ottawa Senators 2

Detroit Red Wings 3, New York Rangers 2 (SO)

Minnesota Wild 3, Tampa Bay Lightning 0

Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres 4 (SO)

Dallas Stars 4, Colorado Avalanche 0

Edmonton Oilers 3, Vancouver Canucks 2

Arizona Coyotes 2, Calgary Flames 0

St. Louis Blues 4, Los Angeles Kings 0

San Jose Sharks 5, Montreal Canadiens 2

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.

Wild aren’t going away, despite injuries and trades

You’re to be forgiven if you had already written off the Minnesota Wild this season because, well, it was a pretty easy thing to do.

It was just a couple of weeks ago that they were in the middle of a stretch where they had lost nine out of 10 games, were on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture and surrounded by a pile of teams that all seemed to be in a better position to make a run at a playoff spot than they were, and the roster was in the process of being torn apart by trades and injuries.

Already playing without one of their top defenders in Mathew Dumba, they also lost their captain, Mikko Koivu, for the remainder of the season.

As if those two injuries were not enough, there were the trades that saw Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, and Mikael Granlund all get shipped off in exchange for Victor Rask, Ryan Donato, and Kevin Fiala. Those trades allowed the Wild to get younger and a little cheaper, but it didn’t seem to make the team much better in the short-term (or even the long-term where a couple of those trades are still questionable moves).

There was every reason to believe the season was teetering on the edge of collapse not long after coach Bruce Boudreau all but guaranteed a playoff berth.

Somehow, even with all of that adversity and roster upheaval, the Wild have managed to collect a point in seven consecutive games (winning five of them) and still have a hold on a playoff spot in the Western Conference, sitting two points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche for the second Wild Card spot and only two games back of the St. Louis Blues for the third spot in the Central Division.

Their past five games alone have been against Calgary, Winnipeg, St. Louis, and Nashville (twice) and they managed to come out of that stretch with eight out of a possible 10 points. That is three of the top teams in the Western Conference and a fourth (St. Louis) that is one of the hottest teams in the league. And they came out way better than could have reasonably been expected going in.

What is driving that recent success?

For one, starting goalie Devan Dubnyk deserves a lot of credit for playing some outstanding hockey over that stretch, posting a .935 save percentage and a 5-0-1 record. If you get a .935 save percentage (and let’s not forget backup Alex Stalock posted a .953 mark in his one appearance during that stretch, too)  you are going to have a chance to win a lot of hockey games no matter what the rest of your roster looks like or who you are playing on any given night.

They have also received some big contributions from some of their newest acquisitions.

Since arriving from Boston in the Coyle trade Donato has been one of the team’s best offensive players with two goals and five assists in seven games.

Fiala also had a big game on Tuesday night with a pair of goals against his former team to help the Wild secure at least a point in the standings.

Eric Staal has also been on a role as of late with nine points over the past seven games.

[Related: Zach Parise having sneaky good season for Wild]

Put all of that together and suddenly the playoffs don’t just seem to be a possibility for the Wild, they seem to have a great chance to punch their ticket even with all of the chaos that has happened within.

It certainly helped that they caught Calgary, Winnipeg, Nashville when they did, because while all three are the top teams in the West, none of them have really played their best hockey as of late.

It has also helped that the competition for the two Wild Card spots in the Western Conference has thinned out dramatically.

Vancouver, Chicago, Edmonton, and Anaheim — teams that were all within a point or two of a playoff spot just a couple of weeks ago — have fallen back out of the race and now sit as many as seven points back. None of them, realistically speaking, are a serious threat to the Wild (or anyone else in the playoff race, for that matter).

The two biggest threats on the outside remain Colorado and Arizona, while Minnesota still has a head-to-head game remaining with each.

A couple of weeks ago the Wild were a battered team whose roster was in the process of being broken apart and were one of nine teams fighting for what would only be three playoff spots.

Today that potential playoff race has been whittled down to just five teams fighting for the same three spots.

The Wild are not only one of the five teams still in it, they are probably sitting in a better position and playing better than at least three of them. That might be all they need to get in the postseason and give themselves a chance.

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.

WATCH LIVE: Wild visit Predators on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with the Tuesday night’s matchup between the Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

This is the second half of a home-and-home series after the Predators defeated the Wild 3-2 in a shootout on Sunday in Minnesota. This is the third of four regular season meetings this season after Nashville won the first two. They will meet a final time on March 25 in Minnesota.

It was a momentous win for the Predators, who had lost three of their previous four games in regulation, all of them to Central Division opponents. The Predators are just one point behind the Jets for first in the Central, but Winnipeg has three games in hand.

After the loss on Sunday, Minnesota still has a six-game point streak (5-0-1) and occupies the second Wild Card spot in the West. Still, they do not have much breathing room with Arizona (two points back) and Colorado (three points back) nipping at their heels.

The Wild are tied with the Ducks for the second longest active playoff streak in the league. Right now, it is highly unlikely Anaheim makes the postseason and Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes, the only team ahead of them, are still in doubt in the East.

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

What: Minnesota Wild at Nashville Predators
Where: Bridgestone Arena
When: Tuesday, March 5, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Wild-Predators stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

PREDATORS
Filip ForsbergRyan JohansenViktor Arvidsson
Mikael GranlundKyle TurrisCraig Smith
Rocco GrimaldiNick BoninoWayne Simmonds
Frederick Gaudreau / Brian BoyleColton SissonsCalle Jarnkrok

Roman JosiRyan Ellis
Mattias EkholmP.K. Subban
Matt Donovan – Matt Irwin

Starting goalie: Pekka Rinne

WILD
Jordan GreenwayEric StaalJason Zucker
Zach PariseLuke KuninKevin Fiala
Ryan Donato – Joel Eriksson EkPontus Aberg
Marcus FolignoEric Fehr – J.T. Brown

Ryan SuterJared Spurgeon
Jonas BrodinBrad Hunt
Nick SeelerAnthony Bitetto

Starting goalie: Devan Dubnyk

2017 NTT IndyCar Series champion and Nashville Predators fan Josef Newgarden will be an ‘Inside-the-Glass’ guest tonight during the first period of Wild-Predators. He will join Pierre McGuire and John Walton (play-by-play), who will have the call from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Keith Jones and Jeremy Roenick.

* * *

NBC Sports will take fans inside the sounds and passion of hockey with a one-hour special – “Wired: Stadium Series – Penguins vs. Flyers” – that will utilize audio from players, coaches and referees from the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers on NBC. It airs March 5 at 11 p.m. ET on NBCSN here.

NHL on NBCSN: Predators look to keep ball rolling vs. Wild

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with the Tuesday night’s matchup between the Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Life has been far from easy for the Nashville Predators this season.

They aren’t running away with the Presidents’ Trophy or leading the Central Division by a wide margin. Heck, they aren’t even leading the Central.

Stringing together multiple wins hasn’t been their forte, and they’ve just emerged from the throes of a stretch where they lost three of four after taking down the Minnesota Wild 3-2 in a shootout on Sunday — a game where they trailed 2-1 with fewer than five minutes remaining.

The second half of a home-and-home series is another chance for the Predators to mount a charge. They’re one point back of the Winnipeg Jets (also in action on Tuesday) for first place but have three fewer games to work with heading down the stretch.

“We’ve really been trying to find our game,” said Predators forward Ryan Johansen, who scored the winner in the shootout on Sunday. “(We’ve) faced a lot of adversity lately and (have been) trying to find our team game and get on a roll, and [this is] a step in the right direction. Some more adversity today on the road and just finding a way to win. We’re going to build off that and keep moving forward… All I can say is Nashville’s put their band together, and we’re ready to play.”

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

The Wild appear to be making good on a promise head coach Bruce Boudreau made while the club was slipping recently.

Boudreau guaranteed the Wild would make the playoffs during a five-game losing streak that preceded their current stretch of points in six straight games (5-0-1).

The Wild own the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference, a spot they’ve occupied for some time now (though they did lose it for a moment of the weekend to the Arizona Coyotes).

Those Coyotes are two points back of the Wild, with the Colorado Avalanche three points adrift. The Wild are by no means out of the woods at this points, but there’s optimism.

“[This team has] got a lot of heart. They want to win. They don’t want to be thought of as the team that didn’t make it. They are giving it everything that they have.”

Given that the Wild didn’t get home until after 5 a.m. on Sunday after snapping the Calgary Flames seven-game winning streak, there’s merit Boudreau’s comments and the fact they still managed a point just hours later.

“I thought our effort was great. With kind of the adversity we faced the last day here, I thought our effort was great and I thought Al (Stalock) played solid and it was a good night.”

Stalock made 41 saves in the shootout loss but it appears that Devan Dubnyk, who has been lights out as of late, will carry the torch coming up. Dubnyk has won each of his past five starts behind a 1.59 goals-against average and .950 save percentage.

2017 NTT IndyCar Series champion and Nashville Predators fan Josef Newgarden will be an ‘Inside-the-Glass’ guest tonight during the first period of Wild-Predators. He will join Pierre McGuire and John Walton (play-by-play), who will have the call from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Keith Jones and Jeremy Roenick.

* * *

NBC Sports will take fans inside the sounds and passion of hockey with a one-hour special – “Wired: Stadium Series – Penguins vs. Flyers” – that will utilize audio from players, coaches and referees from the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers on NBC. It airs March 5 at 11 p.m. ET on NBCSN here.


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