NHL

Kuhnhackl scores weird, wild goal against Canucks

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Tom Kuhnhackl doesn’t find himself on the scoresheet very often.

Entering play on Tuesday night he had one goal in six games this season, only three in his past 75 games dating back to last season, and only 12 in 174 career games.

In any given season he might give you five goals.

At this point in his career he is what he is: A fourth-liner that eats up some minutes at the bottom of the lineup and kills penalties by wildly throwing his body in front of slap shots with little to no regard for his own well being. He showed enough doing that over the first three years of his career to get a one-year contract from the New York Islanders over the summer.

In the first period of their game against the Vancouver Canucks he netted his second goal of the season, and it might be one of the weirdest goals we see all year.

It was beautiful, and at the same time, incredibly ugly.

Beautiful in the sense that he even managed to get the puck on net as he fell to the ice, ended up on his back, and facing away from the net.

Ugly in the sense that Canucks goalie Jakob Markstrom should never give up a goal on this shot.

I hate it when people say “[insert random NHL goalie here] would love to have that goal back,” because goalies are competitive people and never think they should give up a goal and would like to have all of them back … but maybe it would be in Markstrom’s best interest to just stop thinking about that goal and its very existence. Just pretend it never happened.

Just 44 seconds later the Islanders took the lead on a Josh Bailey goal and then extended their lead later in the period thanks to Jordan Eberle.

For as good as the Canucks have been so far this season their goaltending has not been good. That was obviously on display here.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

The Buzzer: Horvat erupts; Luongo spectacular

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Three Stars

1. Bo Horvat, Vancouver Canucks

Horvat was one of 11 Canucks to record a point on Thursday, and he topped the heap with two goals and two assists as the Canucks doubled up the Boston Bruins 8-4. The game featured no goaltending. Horvat took three minor penalties in the game, too, so he could have likely done even more damage against unenthused Boston club.

2. Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers

He stopped 26-of-27 saves. It’s not a 50-save performance by any means, but when you watch the highlights, Luongo will be sprinkled all over them. ‘Lu’ made two incredible glove-hand saves in the game, one of which you will see below. Luongo has now won both starts since returning from an injury sustained in the first game of the regular season. Florida struggled mightily with Luongo out of the lineup but have now beaten the Winnipeg Jets and the Oilers since his return as he tries to turn around Florida’s terrible start.

3. Jeff Skinner, Buffalo Sabres

He might have been the acquisition of the summer. Skinner scored two more goals on Thursday as the Sabres edged the Montreal Canadiens 6-5 in overtime. Skinner has 11 goals on the season, including six in his past six games. His career high is 37 and he’s on pace to flirt with 40 this season.

Other notable performances

  • Jake DeBrusk did his best to help the Bruins win with two goals and an assist. He didn’t get much help from his goaltenders in a walloping to the Canucks though.
  • Skinner wasn’t the only one scoring in multiples on Thursday. Vladimir Sobotka notched two of his own in the Sabres win.
  • Like DeBrusk above, New York Islanders forward Josh Bailey was a victim of lackluster goaltending after putting up a brace of his own.
  • Mikko Koivu assisted on all three Wild goals in a 3-1 win against the Kings.

Highlights of the Night

Not so fast, Rattie:

This kind of thing should be banned:

A powerful message from Los Angeles and Minnesota:

Factoids

Scores

Canucks 8, Bruins 5

Panthers 4, Oilers 1

Flyers 5, Coyotes 4 (OT)

Golden Knights 5, Senators 3

Lightning 4, Islanders 2

Sabres 6, Canadiens 5 (OT)

Hurricanes 4, Blackhawks 3

Starts 4, Sharks 3

Wild 3, Kings 1


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

How Islanders have jumped to top of Metropolitan Division

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After they lost John Tavares in free agency, the New York Islanders kind of became an afterthought ahead of the 2018-19 season. No one expected them to be competitive this season. No one. The season is still young, but the fact that they’re in the top spot in the Metropolitan Division is remarkable, but how have they been able to pull this off?

First, the impact their goaltenders have had on the team can’t be ignored. Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner have exceeded expectations in every way. The goalies are a big reason why the Islanders have been able to rattle off five wins in a row over division rivals like the Penguins (twice), the Flyers, the ‘Canes and Devils. Greiss has accumulated three of the five victories, while Lehner has been between the pipes for two of them. Neither one of them has allowed more than two goals in any of the last five games. That’s terrific.

Can both guys keep this up? Can the Islanders keep this going? Last week, PHT’s Adam Gretz broke down whether or not you should buy the Islanders’ fast start.

The other reason they’ve had so much success is because of the amount of balanced scoring they’ve received. Over the last five contests, Brock Nelson (four goals) Anders Lee (three), Jordan Eberle (three), Josh Bailey, Ryan Pulock, Andrew Ladd, Anthony Beauvillier, Tom Kuhnhackl, Leo Komarov, Scott Mayfield, Adam Pelech and Matt Martin all found the back of the net. That’s 12 different scorers over five games. That’s really impressive.

“I have the same mindset as the team right now,” Bailey said, per NHL.com. “I just turn the page after each game and get ready for the next one. When you get on these streaks as a team, and individually, you want to ride them for as long as you can but it’s about staying [on an] even keel, not thinking too much about it and preparing the same way you do every game.”

They’ve done all of this with a struggling Mathew Barzal. Not only has Barzal not picked up a goal in 11 consecutive games, he’s also been held point-less in three of the five games during this current winning streak.

Whether or not this group of players is good enough to keep this up remains to be seen. It’ll be interesting to see how they respond to their upcoming schedule, as they’ll play tough games against the Canadiens and Lightning this week, before closing out their quick two-game Florida trip with a game against the Panthers on Saturday night.

“When you get the results you’re looking for it adds to that confidence, and I think our staff does a great job preparing us,” added Bailey. “I think there’s a belief within our group that we can win every night, and we take the same approach every game. We’ll turn the page after this one and get ready for the next one.”

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Greiss steals point for Islanders thanks to gutsy OT poke-check on Crosby

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The New York Islanders completed a successful home-and-home sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night with a 3-2 shootout win, coming just 48 hours after beating them in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.

The star of Thursday’s game had to be starting goaltender Thomas Greiss as he turned aside 29 of the 31 shots he faced during regulation and overtime, and then all three shots he faced in the shootout.

He was at his best in the overtime period when he made an incredible pad save along the goal line to rob Penguins defense Jack Johnson of a potential winner, and then an incredible glove save on Phil Kessel at the buzzer to send the game to the shootout.

Perhaps the most highlight reel worthy play of the overtime period was this play to thwart the breakaway attempt of Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.

Crosby had a clear, wide open breakaway from the center red line and looked to have the game on his stick.

Then Thomas Greiss did this.

The best way to make sure Crosby can not score a goal: Do not let him get the shot on goal. It was, to say the least, gutsy. If he fails, he looks like a doofus as Crosby skates around him and deposits the puck into an empty net. If he succeeds, he looks like a gutsy genius. He succeeded.

Josh Bailey, who scored a shorthanded goal during the game, scored the game-winner in the shootout.

With the win the Islanders moved into a tie for first place in the Metropolitan Division, matching the Penguins with 15 total points in the standings.

The biggest factor in the Islanders’ early season success has probably been the performance of their two goalies as they have a combined save percentage over .930 on the season, helping the team sit near the top of the league when it comes to preventing goals against.

On Thursday night, it was Greiss making the big saves.

The Islanders have now won four games in a row.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Mathew Barzal is Islanders’ reason for hope

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It obviously remains to be seen how many games the New York Islanders are going to be able to win this season. Even with their promising start — including a decisive 4-0 win over the San Jose Sharks on Monday afternoon — this is still not a particularly great roster on paper, and there is definitely some rebuilding to be done in the coming months, especially as they face the potential unrestricted free agency of Anders Lee (their newly appointed captain), Jordan Eberle, and Brock Nelson.

The one thing that should give Islanders fans some amount of hope is they seem to have the most important part of any rebuild already in place: A young, cornerstone franchise player.

That player is second-year sensation Mathew Barzal, and three games into the 2018-19 season he is showing just how impactful he can be, even as he now becomes the focal point of the team’s offense.

He is also already starting to show that there was nothing fluky about his debut season.

Barzal’s rookie performance was one of the best we have ever seen in the NHL, especially when you account for the era it took place in. His 85 total points were the 19th most among rookies in league history, while his 63 assists were the second most, behind only Joe Juneau and Peter Stastny (both of whom had 70 assists in their rookie seasons). Among the total point leaders, almost all of them were from players that entered the NHL in the firewagon days of the 1980s when every top-line player in the league was capable of 80 or 90 points. The only rookies in the past 20 years that had more points than Barzal in their rookie seasons were Alex Ovechkin (106) and Sidney Crosby (102), while Evgeni Malkin was the only other player that topped 80 points in his rookie season during that stretch.

That is elite company, and it should be a strong indication of what Barzal is capable of in his career.

He isn’t just a good young player, and he isn’t even just a blossoming “star” at this point; he could be on the verge of becoming a superstar.

So far this season he has already recorded at least a point in all three of the Islanders’ games (continuing a point streak that goes back to the end of the 2017-18 season and is now at seven games) and has once again been a one-man highlight reel when he is on the ice.

The puck just seems to follow him, and when he gets it he skates at a different speed than everyone else around him.

He is nearly impossible to contain, even when teams make him their top priority. Sharks defenseman Brent Burns found that out the hard way on Monday afternoon.

Beyond that, just look at what happened in the first period of Monday’s game against the Sharks.

As soon as the puck touches his stick, the Sharks penalty killers swarm to him and attempt to surround him. It does nothing as Barzal calmly finds a shockingly wide open Josh Bailey on the other side of the ice for a clean one-time blast that leads to Anders Lee pouncing on a rebound for a power play goal.

It was nearly identical to the play that resulted in Bailey’s game-winning goal in the season-opener against the Carolina Hurricanes.

He is, quite simply, already one of the game’s most electrifying players and a player that commands your attention as soon as his skates touch the ice.

He has the game-breaking speed that few of his peers can match, and he has the hands and vision to make him a complete, all-around force offensively.

All of that together makes him the type of player that can make everybody around him better, and he is just the type of player the Islanders need to be the focal point of their rebuild.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.