Mikael Granlund

Capitals hold on for win, put an end to Wild’s winning streak

Thanks to another two-goal effort from Alex Ovechkin the Washington Capitals were able to gain some extra breathing room in the Metropolitan Division race on Sunday night with a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Wild.

Washington’s win also puts an end to the Wild’s three-game winning streak as they attempted to climb back into a playoff spot in the Western Conference Wild Card race.

Tom Wilson scored the game-winning goal for the Capitals early in the third period, while Braden Holtby stopped 37 out of 40 shots.

A few things that stood out from this one.

It was oddly physical and intense

For two teams that only play twice per season and had yet to play this season there was a lot of anger in this game. Maybe it’s just the time of year as the playoff races heat up, but this game had a ton of chippy play that reached its boiling point with this first period fight between Brenden Dillon and Ryan Hartman.

Ovechkin gains ground in goal scoring race.

With two goals on Sunday Ovechkin hit the 45-goal mark for the season and pulled himself to within two goals of Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak for the league lead.

He opened the scoring for the Capitals with a power play goal to tie the game at one early in the first period, and then added another goal just three minutes later to extend the Capitals’ lead to 3-1. That goal came right after Richard Panik had scored to give the Capitals the lead.

It is already his 12th multi-goal game of the season, the most in the NHL. Auston Matthews (10) is the only other player in the NHL to have at least 10 such games this season.

We saw the Ovechkin-Kuznetsov-Kovalchuk line

The Russian line ended up playing around four minutes of 5-on-5 ice-time together and ended up scoring one of the Capitals’ goals when Kovalchuk and Ovechkin teamed up for an NHL goal for the first time in their careers.

It was Ovechkin’s second goal of the game.

Kevin Fiala stayed hot for the Wild

The one bright spot for the Wild on Sunday was the continued great play of forward Kevin Fiala.

He scored his 20th goal of the season and added an assist in the win to give him his fourth consecutive multi-point game.

Acquired at the trade deadline a year ago for Mikael Granlund, Fiala is putting together a career year for the Wild and has been especially hot since the start of February.

The Wild had a chance to move into a playoff spot with a win. They remain one point back of a Wild Card spot.

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: Hats off to Ryan, Kubalik; Granlund’s late-game heroics

Mikael Granlund #64 of the Nashville Predators celebrates his game tying last second goal
Getty Images

Three Stars

1) Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators

He struggled to fight off the tears as Senators fans chanted his name at Canadian Tire Centre late in the third period after Ryan completed his fifth career hat trick to seal Ottawa’s 5-2 victory against the Vancouver Canucks. It was Ryan’s second, and first at home, since returning from an extended absence in order to deal with an alcohol addiction problem. Ryan scored in a variety of ways including a slick redirection, a short-side snipe and an empty-net tally as Ottawa snapped a four-game losing streak.

2) Dominik Kubalik, Chicago Blackhawks

The Czech rookie starred in a five-goal third period for the Blackhawks as they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-2. The 24-year-old collected goals 27, 28, 29 for his first NHL hat trick while Chicago snapped a two-game losing streak. Kubalik knotted the game at 2-2 shortly after Brandon Saad opened the scoring for Chicago. The Blackhawks’ rising star relentlessly followed the puck and finally lit the lamp on his third chance of the sequence. Chicago took a two-goal advantage when Kubalik fired a blistering one-timer past Curtis McElhinney. He would complete the hat trick with an empty netter in the final minutes of the third. The playoffs are out of reach for Chicago this season, but Kubalik’s emergence will help the Blackhawks return to the postseason in the coming years.

3) Mikael Granlund, Nashville Predators

The saying “every second counts” applied to the Predators as Granlund score with one-tenth of a second remaining to force overtime against the Calgary Flames. The Predators didn’t give up during the final moments of a hectic finish and Filip Forsberg slid a puck to Granlund’s stick before the equalizer. Granlund wasn’t finished until he notched the overtime winner to send Bridgestone Arena into a frenzy. A loss would have had costly ramifications on the Predators’ playoff pursuit, but Granlund’s heroics allowed Nashville to slide into the second wild card spot for the time being.

Highlights of the Night

Charlie Coyle batted the puck out of mid-air to even the game at 1-1 late in the first period.

Evander Kane kicked the puck to himself and then fed Logan Couture, who netted the game-winning goal in his second game back from an ankle injury.

Colton Parayko finished off the Islanders with this wraparound in overtime to lead the Blues to a 3-2 victory.

Tomas Tatar stickhandled back and forth until an opening presented itself.

Auston Matthews‘ 44th of the season helped Toronto capture an important 5-3 victory against the Florida Panthers.

Mathew Dumba scored twice including this one-timer as the Wild scored seven in their victory against the Red Wings.

Alexandar Georgiev turned the puck over but recovered with this spectacular save.

Stats of the Night

Scores

New York Rangers 5, Montreal Canadiens 2

Chicago Blackhawks 5, Tampa Bay Lightning 2

Toronto Maple Leafs 5, Florida Panthers 3

Boston Bruins 4, Dallas Stars 3

Ottawa Senators 5, Vancouver Canucks 2

Minnesota Wild 7, Detroit Red Wings 1

St. Louis Blues 3, New York Islanders 2 (OT)

Nashville Predators 4, Calgary Flames 3 (OT)

Winnipeg Jets 3, Washington Capitals 0

San Jose Sharks 3, New Jersey Devils 2 (OT)


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.

Wild’s Guerin: ‘If there is quit, there will be more trades’

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota general manager Bill Guerin, after trading one of the team’s most productive players, said he’s still expecting the Wild to make a strong push for the postseason.

Guerin, who sent left wing Jason Zucker to Pittsburgh for his first deal on the job, will be watching.

”I can promise you this: If there is quit, there will be more trades,” Guerin said. ”So I wholeheartedly expect this team to compete for a playoff spot. We’re right there, and if there’s any signs of anybody taking their foot off the gas, that will be an indication.”

Zucker, who was second on the Wild in goals per game with 14 goals in 45 games, was shipped on Monday night to the Penguins for left wing Alex Galchenyuk, defenseman prospect Calen Addison and a conditional 2020 first-round draft pick.

Guerin met with reporters before the Wild hosted Vegas on Tuesday. They entered the evening tied for 11th place in the Western Conference, five points below the top-eight cut but with fewer games played than most of the teams ahead of them. Guerin, who was hired in August following the firing of Paul Fenton after just one season in the position, left open the possibility of further moves before the trade deadline on Feb. 24.

”I have to plan for anything. If a deal makes sense, whether it’s for futures or whether it’s for right now, if it’s going to help us either way, we’re going to have to weigh the pros and cons of going either direction,” Guerin said. ”I felt that this deal did a little bit of both. It set us up for the future, and we got help for right now, too.”

Galchenyuk, the third overall pick by Montreal in the 2012 draft, spent just seven months with Pittsburgh after being acquired in a trade with Arizona. The 25-year-old struggled to find a niche with the Penguins, managing just five goals and 12 assists in 45 games. His ice time decreased as the season wore on, playing fewer than 10 minutes in seven of the team’s last eight games, but Wild coach Bruce Boudreau immediately put him in the lineup against the Golden Knights.

”He’s one of these young kids that came into the league and instantly had a major impact,” Guerin said. ”The last year and a half maybe hasn’t gone the way he’s wanted it to, but that’s our job to help build him back up and resurrect his career and find his scoring touch again.”

Zucker was the subject of on-and-off trade speculation for the last year.

”I think everyone’s pretty surprised,” left wing Zach Parise said. ”There’s always talk, but you never really believe it. Rumors, they’re always rumors, until something like that happens.”

There are several others on the roster undoubtedly wondering if they’re going to be next, with Guerin trying to restock the pool of young talent for an organization that has long been stuck in the middle of the pack.

”They’ve got to be professionals. They have to show up and play tonight,” Guerin said. ”This is part of the business.”

Boudreau, who watched Fenton trade forwards Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter in separate deals before the deadline last winter, said he wasn’t sensing any resignation in the locker room.

”We loved Jason Zucker for the four years I had him, but hopefully the two wingers equal out and then all of a sudden it’s a real bona fide win for our team,” Boudreau said.

NHL Trade Deadline: Non-UFAs who could move

NHL Trade Deadline
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The NHL trade deadline is just a few weeks away and we already have a pretty good idea as to which players are a good bet to be traded based on their contract situation (pending unrestricted free agents) and their current team’s place in the standings (out of the playoff picture with little hope of playing back into it).

Ottawa is almost certainly going to trade Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

The New York Rangers are probably going to trade Chris Kreider.

The Los Angeles Kings seem like a good bet to deal Tyler Toffoli.

Montreal should absolutely try to see what it can get for Ilya Kovalchuk following his brief offensive resurgence with the Canadiens.

These are the near-locks, as many pending UFA’s are on non-playoff teams. But every year there is always that surprising trade, usually one that involves in a player that still has term remaining on their contract. Last year it was Los Angeles trading Jake Muzzin and Minnesota trading Mikael Granlund.

Let’s take a look at some potential options this season.

Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild

Contract remaining: Three more full seasons (through 2022-23 season) with a $5.5 million per year salary cap hit.

Why he could be moved: The already tried to move him (and very nearly did) on two different occasions over the past year. To be fair, that was a different general manager pulling those strings and it’s possible that Bill Guerin has a long-term vision that includes Zucker. But barring some kind of dramatic second half turnaround the Wild seem destined to miss the playoffs for a second straight year and shouldn’t be opposed to listening to offers on any player. One team that apparently has a lot of interest: Guerin’s former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. They have a need for a top-six winger with Jake Guentzel sidelined, Zucker would be a fit with their style of play, and they were one of the teams that nearly acquired him when Paul Fenton seemed hellbent on trying to trade him.

What he might cost: Zucker’s not a star, but he is a fast, two-way player that is going to score 20 goals and 50 points every year while helping out on the defensive end. With still three years remaining the Wild should easily be able to get two or three assets for him if they decide to move on: First-round pick, a good prospect or young NHL player, and one lesser “throw in” asset (late round pick, fringe prospect).

(UPDATE: Zucker has been dealt to the Penguins for a package of Alex Galchenyuk, prospect Calen Addison, and a conditional first-round pick.)

Tomas Tatar, Montreal Canadiens

Contract remaining: One more full season (through 2020-21) with $5.3 million salary cap hit

Why he could be moved: The Canadiens are going nowhere this season and it could be a good opportunity to sell high on Tatar who has been simply outstanding in his season-and-a-half with the team. Since joining the Canadiens he has 43 goals and 104 points in 132 games, while also posting some of the best possession numbers in the entire league. Of the more than 660 players that have played at least 500 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey since the start of the 2018-19 season, Tatar ranks in the top-five in shot attempt share, scoring chance share, high-danger scoring chance share, expected goals share, and goal differential. Even going back to his Detroit days he is a near lock for 25 goals and is an outstanding possession driver.

What he might cost: We have some idea here because Tatar has been traded twice on this very same contract, including once at the deadline when a bad Detroit team traded him to a contender (Vegas) in 2017-18. Vegas gave up a first, second, and third round pick for him. Three assets. It was viewed as an overpayment at the time — and still is — but that’s not entirely fair. Had Tatar worked out in Vegas they would have had a top-line talent for what amounts to three low-ceiling lottery tickets. Unfortunately he got off to a slow start, never had a chance to prove himself over a full season, and was traded for Max Pacioretty (a trade that has worked out for Vegas).

Alec Martinez, Los Angeles Kings

Contract remaining: One more full season (through 2020-21) with a $4 million salary cap hit.

Why he could be moved: The Kings are one of the worst teams in the league and need to re-tool rapidly. Martinez is one of the few players on the team that might bring a decent return.

What he might cost: Los Angeles traded Jake Muzzin last season under almost the exact same circumstances — A bad Kings team trading a veteran defenseman with one year remaining with a $4 million salary cap hit. The only big difference is that Muzzin was 29 (vs. Martinez at age 32) and was having a better season. The Kings received a first-round pick and two prospects (Carl Grundstrom and Sean Durzi) for Muzzin. Given Martinez’s age and somewhat down season they probably shouldn’t expect quite as much, but the framework should be similar (draft pick and a prospect).

(UPDATE: Martinez has been dealt to the Golden Knights in exchange for second-round picks in 2020 and 2021.)

Kyle Palmieri, New Jersey Devils

Contract remaining: One more full season (through 2020-21) with a $4.65 million salary cap hit

Why he could be moved: The Devils have been a spectacular disappointment this season, still seem to be several pieces away from contending, and outside of their pending free agents don’t really have many realistic trade options that can bring a return. Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes are the untouchables. P.K. Subban‘s value has to be at an all-time low given his performance this season and remaining contract. Travis Zajac and Andy Greene have complete no-trade clauses, with Zajac reportedly declining a trade already this year.

Palmieri is a really good player, but turns 29 on Saturday, will be 30 when he starts his next contract, and only has a limited no-trade clause, making it easier to deal him. As good as he is, he might have more trade value to the Devils right now than he does as a player for them beyond this season. They’re probably not a playoff team next season whether he plays for them or not.

What he might cost: Very similar to the Zucker/Tatar price. Tatar and Zucker are both probably better overall players, but there is a lot to be said for Palmieri’s ability to put the puck in the net. He’s averaged a 30-goal pace per 82 games with the Devils (a lousy offensive team during his time with the team) and still has another full year remaining on his deal. A first-round pick and a good prospect seems like a must-have starting point for the Devils.

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.

Alex Ovechkin passes Steve Yzerman in Capitals’ loss against Predators

Filip Forsberg #9 of the Nashville Predators skates past Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals
Getty Images

The Nashville Predators overcame several turnovers and a one-goal third-period deficit in a 5-4 win against the Washington Capitals.

Yannick Weber scored the go-ahead goal at 15:23 of the third period and Juuse Saros added 29 saves as Nashville won for the second time in three games. Jarred Tinordi, Mikael Granlund, Rocco Grimaldi and Ryan Johansen also scored for the Predators while Filip Forsberg recorded two assists.

Alex Ovechkin scored a milestone goal and Richard Panik scored twice but the Capitals’ four-game losing streak came to an end.

Ovechkin surpasses Yzerman

The Capitals captain eclipsed another NHL legend in his quest to join the 700-goal club. Ovechkin buried a loose puck late in the first period Wednesday and passed Steve Yzerman for sole possession of ninth place on the NHL’s all-time scoring list with his 693rd goal.

Ovechkin is one goal away from passing Mark Messier and seven goals from becoming the eighth player in NHL history to score 700.

“You’ve had a tremendous career to date, and it looks like you’re going strong and might play forever,” Yzerman said in a video played inside the arena. “Best of luck and continued success. I’ve really enjoyed watching you play and watching you fill the net.

“One more thing, if you ever do break Wayne Gretzky’s all-time record for most goals in the league, after watching your Stanley Cup celebrations, I want to be invited to your party.”

[RELATED: Alex Ovechkin honors late Kobe Bryant with No. 24 jersey]

What in the World?

Each goalie made a crucial mistake and Nick Bonino managed to score an own-goal in a wacky back-and-forth game between the Capitals and Predators.

Ovechkin pulled the Capitals to within one goal late in the first period when Juuse Saros misplayed a puck behind the net that resulted in an easy tap-in opportunity for the Russian forward.

But the Predators were not finished with mind-boggling mistakes as Bonino’s outlet pass ended up in the back of the net early in the middle frame. Nashville’s center paid the price for a bad pass through the crease when the puck deflected off Saros and the Capitals tied the game at 3-3.

However, in order to even things out, Braden Holtby had a costly turnover early in the third period that directly led to Johansen’s game-tying goal.

All in all, these mistakes are not what would you expect from highly skilled NHL teams.

 


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.