Nazem Kadri

AP Images

The Buzzer: Panthers get last-gasp winner; Kadri, Makar lead Avs

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THREE STARS

1. Keith Yandle, Panthers

A wild game in Minnesota ended with the Panthers topping the Wild 5-4 and Yandle finishing with a goal and four points. Noel Acciari tipped home a shot with 5.6 seconds left for the win. The final period began with the game tied at two. Evgenii Dadonov put home his 22nd of the season and Minnesota scored twice to make it a 4-3 Wild lead. Then it was Vincent Trocheck tying the game with 4:08 to go and Acciari giving Florida the two points with the late winner:

2. Nazem Kadri, Avalanche

Kadri had two goals and an assist during a 6-3 Monday matinee win over the Red Wings. With his pair of goals Kadri now has 17 on the season, surpassing his total from 2018-19. His career high is 32, which was reached in back-to-back seasons in 2016-17 and 2017-18 with the Maple Leafs.

3. Cale Makar, Avalanche

One of the favorites for the Calder Trophy, Makar picked up two primary assists in the Avs’ win. He’s now in sole possession of first place in the rookie scoring race with 37 points and is three helpers behind Quinn Hughes for tops among rookies. Per the NHL, Makar’s multi-point day helped him match Bruce Bell for most points in a single season by a rookie defenseman in Avalanche/Nordiques history.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NIGHT

• This was a pretty setup by the Red Wings for Givani Smith‘s second career NHL goal:

Nathan MacKinnon scored twice and reached the 30th goal mark for the third straight season:

Aleksander Barkov keeps doing wonderful things:

• The Wild’s pup, Breezer, took care of some business pregame:

STAT OF THE NIGHT

SCORES
Avalanche 6, Red Wings 3
Panthers 5, Wild 4

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Rangers’ Lindgren avoids suspension for hit on Avs’ Donskoi

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Usually, when you hear about a hearing with Player Safety, you assume a suspension is coming. New York Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren bucked that trend, as he avoided supplemental discipline for his hit on Colorado Avalanche forward Joonas Donskoi.

Nazem Kadri gave Lindgren an epic beating in a fight following that hit, so maybe the league believed that the on-ice “justice” was good enough?

Lindgren left the game after the fight, and Donskoi did not come back after the hit. It’s unclear if either player will miss more time beyond the remainder of the Rangers’ 5-3 comeback win from Tuesday.

The league determined that while there was significant head contact, Lindgren “took a proper angle of approach.”

This all seems … a bit unusual? Maybe Lindgren/the NHLPA made a really good argument over the phone? In my experience, such hearings typically don’t work out this well for offending parties. Borderline hits typically just don’t make it that deep into the process.

Here is a screen shot of the moment of impact:

Rangers Lindgren Avs Donskoi
via Sportsnet/Youtube by way of NBCSN

Lindgren received a five-minute fighting major during the game, but nothing for the hit. Kadri also received a fighting major, a misconduct, and an instigator penalty.

Do you think the league made the right calls — on the ice, and over the phone?

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.

Rangers top Avalanche in Shesterkin’s debut: 3 takeaways

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The New York Rangers really wanted to give Igor Shesterkin a taste of NHL action.

They put him right into the deep end of the pool by sending him out against the Colorado Avalanche — one of the NHL’s best teams — for his debut on Tuesday night. It went about as well as could have been expected in a 5-3 Rangers win.

Let’s take a quick look at three takeaways from the Rangers win.

1. It was a slow start for Shesterkin, but he bounced back

Early on it looked like maybe the Rangers were asking a bit too much from their rookie netminder. A couple of defensive breakdowns later and he had surrendered two goals on the first four shots he faced, including an incredible Nathan MacKinnon breakaway goal following a defensive giveaway by the Rangers. But once he shook off the early nerves he was outstanding the rest of the way and stopped 27 of the final 28 shots he faced.

The 24-year-old Shesterkin is in his first year of pro hockey in North America following a successful run in the KHL. He was a fourth-round pick by the Rangers in the 2014 draft (No. 118 overall).

After dominating for for Hartford in the AHL, the Rangers made the surprising decision to call him up and carry three goalies along with Henrik Lundqvist and Alexander Georgiev. Both goalies have played well this season behind a below average defensive team, making the decision to carry a third goalie even more surprising.

2. Things got rough late in the first period

This sequence late in the first period ended up taking two players out of the game.

Avalanche forward Joonas Donskoi was injured on this devastating hit by Ryan Lindgren, forcing him out of the game. He did not return. In response to that hit, Colorado’s Nazem Kadri pounded Lindgren in a fight. Lindgren exited the game with an “upper-body” injury and did not return.

Kadri ended up getting 17 penalty minute — two for instigating, five for fighting, and a 10-minute misconduct.

3. Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin were great for the Rangers

As they have been all season.

No matter what else is happening for the Rangers, Zibanejad and Panarin have been outstanding for the Rangers. They continued that on Tuesday night.

Zibanejad finished with a pair of points (giving him 33 in 29 games) while his goal, his 17th of the season, tied the game, 2-2, late in the first period. He was also a constant threat every time he was on the ice and was again one of the Rangers’ most dangerous forwards. On a per-game basis this is the best offensive season of his career.

Panarin, meanwhile, has simply been sensational and looks to be worth every penny the Rangers paid him in free agency. He finished Tuesday’s game with a goal (empty net) and two assists. With 23 goals and 58 total points in 42 games he is on pace for 45 goals and 114 total points. Both numbers what shatter his career highs. It may not get the Rangers to the playoffs this season, but if they can keep building around him he is the type of impact player every contending team needs.

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.

Avalanche crush Blues to break out of slump

When the Colorado Avalanche are clicking on all cylinders that can look downright unbeatable. Like one of the scariest, most intimidating teams in the league. A true Stanley Cup favorite. We have not seen that version very much over the past couple of weeks, but it showed up in a big way on Thursday night in a huge 7-3 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.

Nazem Kadri scored two goals, Nathan MacKinnon and Sam Girard both finished with four points, and Cale Makar continued his Calder Tropy caliber season with another huge game in the win.

The win snapped what had been a three-game losing streak for Colorado and is just its third win in the past nine games.

Breaking out of this little funk isn’t the only reason this was a big night for the Avalanche.

Even though it’s only the halfway point of the season, this was still a pretty massive game in the Central Division and could have helped swing the top spot in a certain direction. The Blues entered the game with an eight-point lead over the Avalanche and were already 2-0 against them this season. A regulation win would have given them a 10-point cushion with only two more head-to-head meetings the rest of the way.

Certainly too soon to call it in St. Louis’ favor, but it would have a huge deficit for the Avalanche to overcome in half a season. But with Thursday’s win the Avalanche were able to close that gap down to just six points. They also still have a game in hand and two more head-to-head matchups ahead of them. That may not seem like much of a swing, but it could be massive in the big picture.

Thursday’s win is only the fourth time the Avalanche have beaten the Blues in their past 17 meetings. It also snapped a six-game losing streak against the Blues.

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: Avalanche host Wild on NBCSN

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Friday’s matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The League returns from the Christmas break with 11 games on the schedule, including this Central Division matchup – the third of five regular-season meetings between the Wild and Avalanche. Each team has won at home against the other with the Avs winning, 4-2, on Oct. 5 (second game of the season for both clubs) and the Wild pulling out a 3-2 victory on Nov. 21.

Colorado, looking to return to the postseason for the third straight year, sit second in the Central, while Minnesota is in the thick of the Wild Card hunt – two points back of Calgary for the second position – and certainly not out of the race for a division spot, just three points behind Winnipeg. The Wild missed the playoffs a season ago after making six consecutive appearances from 2012-13 to 2017-18.

Nathan MacKinnon was voted an All-Star captain for the second straight season. Having another MVP caliber season (was the Hart Trophy runner-up two seasons ago), the No. 1 pick in 2013 has played in all 37 games this season and leads the Avs in most major statistical categories – goals (21), assists (34), points (55), shots (168), power-play goals (7), power-play points (20).

Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk missed over a month with a family issue, playing on Nov. 16 and then coming back on Dec. 19. He’s played in three games since his return (two starts). He allowed five goals at Arizona in a win in his first game back and then had the shutout against Calgary on Monday.

The consistent line of Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen is now fully healthy and the second line of Andre BurakovskyNazem KadriJoonas Donskoi, which is entirely new this season, has been just as productive a trio. After MacKinnon (21), it’s Burakovsky and Donskoi (13 each) and Kadri (12), who are tops on the team in goals this season.

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

WHAT: Minnesota Wild at Colorado Avalanche
WHERE: Pepsi Center
WHEN: Friday, Dec. 27, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Wild-Avs stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

WILD
Zach PariseEric StaalMats Zuccarello
Ryan DonatoJoel Eriksson EkKevin Fiala
Jordan GreenwayNico SturmLuke Kunin
Marcus FolignoVictor RaskRyan Hartman

Ryan SuterJared Spurgeon
Jonas BrodinCarson Soucy
Brad HuntMathew Dumba

Starting goalie: Devan Dubnyk

AVALANCHE
Gabriel Landeskog – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen
Andre Burakovsky – Nazem Kadri – Joonas Donskoi
Matt NietoPierre-Edouard BellemareMatt Calvert
Tyson JostJ.T. CompherValeri Nichushkin

Cale MakarSam Girard
Nikita ZadorovRyan Graves
Ian ColeErik Johnson

Starting goalie: Pavel Francouz

Kathryn Tappen will host Friday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Mike Milbury and Keith Jones. Chris Cuthbert will handle play-by-play duties alongside Pierre McGuire at Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo.

Episode 2 of the three-part docuseries “Road To The NHL Winter Classic” will air on Friday, Dec. 27, at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. The season finale will be presented on Monday, Jan. 6, at 10:30 p.m. ET immediately following Oilers-Maple Leafs on NBCSN. 

The series will chronicle the Stars and Predators as they prepare to meet outdoors in the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on January 1 at Cotton Bowl Stadium at 1 p.m. ET on NBC.