The Buzzer: Skinner ends Sabres’ skid, Ovi’s hat trick, Oilers win again

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Three Stars

1. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals.  What else can you say about him at this point? He scored three goals in the Washington Capitals’ 6-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night and now leads the league with 25 goals this season. Read about all of it here, including how he has never scored this many goals 30 games into any season.

2. Jeff Skinner, Buffalo Sabres. The Buffalo Sabres snapped their five-game losing streak on Tuesday night with a come-from-behind win against the Los Angeles Kings. It was yet another one-goal game that needed overtime, and it was yet another game where Jeff Skinner came through for them when they needed it. Fourteen of the Sabres’ past 16 games have been decided by just one goal, with 10 of them going to overtime. With that many close games the bounces are not always going to go your way, and the Sabres have experienced both the highs and lows of that randomness during this recent stretch with a 10-game winning streak and a five-game losing streak mixed in. On Tuesday, though, things went the Sabres’ way. Skinner’s goal was his already his 21st goal of the season and his fourth game-winning goal. Three of those game-winning goals have come in overtime, with all of three of those coming since Nov. 23 when this recent stretch of close games began.

3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers. The Edmonton Oilers won again on Tuesday night and officially moved back into a playoff spot thanks to their 6-4 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was one of the stars of the night for them with three points, including a pair of goals. The Oilers are now 8-2-1 under new coach Ken Hitchcock.

Other notable performances from Tuesday

William Nylander is officially on the stat sheet for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season thanks to a pair of assists in their 4-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.

— The Colorado Avalanche did not get the win on Tuesday night, but Mikko Rantanen became the first player in the NHL this season to hit the 50-point mark with a four-point effort. He and Nathan MacKinnon, first and second in the points race, are still chasing some rare feats this season.

— Elsewhere in that game Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl both had three points to continue their outstanding play in the Edmonton Oilers win.

Brad Marchand, playing alongside David Pastrnak and David Krejci on the Boston Bruins’ top line, scored two goals in their 4-3 win over the Arizona Coyotes. All three players on the top line had three points in the win.

Kyle Connor played a big role for the Winnipeg Jets in their win over the Chicago Blackhawks, scoring two more goals to continue his strong season.

Highlights of the Night

It was another bad performance with yet another slow start by the Chicago Blackhawks but at least Cam Ward made one of the best saves of the season.

Charlie Coyle helped lead the Minnesota Wild to a much-needed 7-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens by making Shea Weber look really bad on this play.

The Boston Bruins needed Tuukka Rask to make a big save at the buzzer to secure their win over the Arizona Coyotes.

The Vancouver Canucks rallied late for the win in Columbus with Jake Virtanen‘s goal being the game-winner. Just make sure you get it at the net and good things might happen for you.

For some highlights of the weird check out the glass randomly shattering after a fight in Colorado, and the St. Louis Blues having a goal disallowed on the weirdest play of the season so far.

Factoids

Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have been a huge part of the Chicago Blackhawks’ success over the years, and they made some history on Tuesday night. That was probably the highlight of the night for the team in their 6-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

Alex Ovechkin is a force that will not slow down.

Big start to the season for Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba.

Scores

Boston Bruins 4, Arizona Coyotes 3

Buffalo Sabres 4, Los Angeles Kings 3 (OT)

Toronto Maple Leafs 4, Carolina Hurricanes 1

Vancouver Canucks 3, Columbus Blue Jackets 2

Washington Capitals 6, Detroit Red Wings 2

St. Louis Blues 4, Florida Panthers 3

Nashville Predators 3, Ottawa Senators 1

Minnesota Wild 7, Montreal Canadiens 1

Winnipeg Jets 6, Chicago Blackhawks 4

Edmonton Oilers 6, Colorado Avalanche 4

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.

PHT Power Rankings: Blackhawks hit bottom

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If you turn on any random Chicago Blackhawks game on any random night against any random opponent it is a good bet they are already going to be losing by two or three goals 10 minutes into the first period. It has been a constant trend for about two months now.

Sometimes they are able to push back a little and tie the game only to lose in backbreaking fashion, just as they have done in their most recent losses to the Vegas Golden Knights and Montreal Canadiens.

Sometimes they never push back and just get completely run out of the building.

Either way the result is the same — a loss. Those losses keep piling up at an alarming rate and are sending the Blackhawks toward what is looking to be their worst season in years.

Thanks to the seven-game losing streak they are carrying into the week the Blackhawks officially have the worst record (based on points percentage) in the entire league and are just 3-11-2 since firing Joel Quenneville.

In other words, things are bad. Really bad.

The problems are obvious. The good players that were part of the core that won three Stanley Cups in six years are older, more expensive and not as good as they once were (if they are even still on the team). Those larger contracts, combined with the salary cap, once again ripped apart the depth that always made the Blackhawks such a strong team.

The latter point is where a lot of the problems really start to show up. The Blackhawks went through salary cap purges before but were always able to find ways to restock the cupboards, often times to the point of them still being able to compete for, and even win, championships.

They have not done that over the past few years.

Just consider this question: Who is the last truly impactful and useful the Blackhawks have added to their organization through free agency or a trade? Have there been any over the past three or four years? The re-acquisition of Brandon Saad is probably the answer you could come up with because he is a fine, decent player. But when you had to give up an even better player (Artemi Panarin) to get him back that does not really help things.

Big contracts, an aging core, and no fresh talent entering the organization is a bad combination, and for this week it has the Blackhawks at the bottom of the PHT Power Rankings. They may be there for a while, too.

On to the rest of the rankings!

The Elites

1. Tampa Bay Lightning — Quite simply the best hockey team in the NHL. Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point are early season MVP candidates, Steven Stamkos is a point-per-game player right behind them, and they are 11-3-0 since their Vezina Trophy finalist goalie has been injured. That includes the six-game winning streak they carry into the week. They also are coming off of a dominant 7-1 win against a really good Colorado Avalanche team.

2. Winnipeg Jets — The Jets are 10-4-1 in their past 15 games and are averaging more than four goals per game during that stretch. There may not be a better collection of top-line forward talent anywhere in the league.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs — Not too worried about the fact they haven’t won since William Nylander returned. The biggest concern here, just like last season, is that Frederik Andersen gets worn down from the workload he is being asked to carry. His play will determine how far they go in the playoffs.

4. Nashville Predators — They have cooled off a bit in recent weeks but that has coincided with the team being crushed by injuries. When healthy this is still one of the league’s best teams.

5. Washington Capitals — The champs are starting to get on a roll and Alex Ovechkin is still scoring goals at an unprecedented pace given his age.

The Surprises

6. Colorado Avalanche — Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon are both on pace for more than 120 points this season. Doubtful they will maintain those numbers over 82 games, but the fact they have done it over even 30 games is incredible.

7. Calgary Flames — Have to be honest, did not see the Flames being the team to crawl to the top of the Pacific Division at any point this season. How long will they remain there?

[Related: Are the Flames ready to contend?]

8. Buffalo Sabres — When every game you play is decided by a single goal sometimes you are going to get the breaks, and sometimes you are not. Thirteen of the Sabres’ past 15 games have been one-goal games, a stretch that has seen them win 10 games in a row and then also lose five games in a row.  They are not as good as they looked during the winning streak and they are not as bad as they have looked during the losing streak. Things balance out.

Strong Playoff Teams

9. Boston Bruins — They are still going to have to find some secondary scoring if they are going to be a serious threat to win the Stanley Cup.

10. Columbus Blue Jackets — Sergei Bobrovsky picked a terrible time to have his worst season as a starter. How good would the Blue Jackets be this season if he was playing at his normal level?

The Middle Ground

11. Vegas Golden Knights –– They might still be the best team in the Pacific Division and when all is said and done will probably end up winning it.

12. Dallas Stars — The rapid emergence of rookie defenseman Miro Heiskanen has helped make up for the absence of John Klingberg.

13. Anaheim Ducks — John Gibson should be a finalist for MVP at this point, while Daniel Sprong has made a nice little impact in his first few games with the team. Nice move in the shootout on Sunday night to help pick up the win.

14. Edmonton Oilers — If this team makes the playoffs Connor McDavid should be a unanimous MVP winner. He is doing even more than he did a year ago.

Related: Seven stunning numbers from the first two months of the NHL season]

15. San Jose Sharks — They have won three out of their past four and they don’t have a tough schedule coming up this week. Is this where it starts to turn around?

16. Montreal Canadiens — The P.K. Subban for Shea Weber trade gets ripped (and deservedly so) which makes it kind of easy to forget that Weber is still pretty good. He is just older, has a worse contract, and might be starting to break down a bit physically. Still, he can play a little. He has five points in his first six games since returning to the lineup this season.

17. Pittsburgh Penguins — Every time it looks like they are going to get everything together and go on a roll they put together a terrible showing. Still, they have picked up 13 out of a possible 20 points over their past 10 games.

18. Minnesota Wild — They have some concerns right now, with the biggest potentially being whatever is wrong with starting goalie Devan Dubnyk.

19. New York Islanders — Still not sure they have enough offense to emerge from the pack and make the playoffs this season.

20. Carolina Hurricanes — The Hurricanes can not catch a break in goal. Curtis McElhinney came out of nowhere to solidify the position for a little bit, played extremely well, and then ended up injured. Now it is back to the Scott Darling and Petr Mrazek duo that was not working earlier this season

21. Arizona Coyotes — It is really tough to see the Coyotes hanging around in the Western Conference playoff race given the injury situation with Antti Raanta.

22. Detroit Red Wings — Dylan Larkin is on track for the best season of his career and several of their potential trade chips (Gustav Nyquist, Jimmy Howard) are having productive seasons. So they have that going for them.

23. New York Rangers — Henrik Lundqvist is still getting it done, he just doesn’t have enough around him for it to really matter.

24. Philadelphia Flyers — Now that they have a new general manager in place it will be interesting to see where this team goes from here and where “bias for action” takes them.

[Related: Chuck Fletcher’s plate will be full as new Flyers’ GM]

25. Ottawa Senators — Losing Matt Duchene and Bobby Ryan to injury for the foreseeable future is really going to hurt what has been a surprisingly good offense this season.

26. Florida Panthers — With better goaltending this season they may not be needing another second half surge just to get back into playoff contention.

Lose For Hughes

27. Los Angeles Kings — The worst goal scoring team in the league by a huge margin and the third-fewest shots on goal per game. They are redefining what bad offensive hockey is in this era.

28. Vancouver Canucks — Since starting the season 10-6-2 the Canucks have managed to go only 3-10-1 over their past 14 games. Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser are still studs, though.

29. New Jersey Devils — Taylor Hall has to be having flashbacks to his Oilers days.

30. St. Louis Blues — After getting blown out on Sunday the Blues sounded like a completely broken team. They are still better than their rivals.

31. Chicago Blackhawks — Maybe Jeremy Colliton goes on to be a good NHL head coach, but right now the decision to fire Quenneville just looks comical.

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: Quick gets first win, Aberg nets two in epic Ducks comeback

Associated Press
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Three stars

1. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings

Quick needs to be eating for free for the rest of the year — his teammates owe him that after Sunday’s performance.

Alec Martinez, who scored the eventual game-winner late in the third period, told the Fox Sports broadcast that without Quick on Sunday, the Kings wouldn’t have been in contention to win the game if not for Quick. Truer words have never been spoken.

Quick made 34 saves — many of them coming in the ridiculous variety — including 14 in the third period and a couple when the Carolina Hurricanes were enjoying a 5-on-3 in the third.

It all adds up to Quick’s 50th shutout, and consequently, Quick’s first win of the season. He was 0-4-1 in five starts heading into Sunday after battling injuries and while playing on a poor team.

2. Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche

It’s not always Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen in Colorado (OK, it is most of the time). And while that line combined for every possible point (six) on both of Colorado’s goals in the game, it was Varlamov’s 24 saves that ensured that the Avs walked away from this one unscathed in a 2-0 win against the Detroit Red Wings.

The shutout was Varlamov’s first of the year (and 24th for his career) and he’s rocking a 9-5-0 record with a .930 save percentage in 19 games played.

The Avs have an 11-game point streak going.

3. Pontus Aberg, Anaheim Ducks

Unwanted in Nashville and then again in Edmonton, Aberg has found a home with the Ducks.

Before this season, Aberg only ever amassed a paltry two goals in each of the three seasons he played parts in before. As of the conclusion of Sunday’s game, Aberg has more than quadrupled that total with nine.

Two of those goals came Sunday with one being the 6-5 goal after the Ducks made history and clawed back from a four-goal deficit. Aberg has 14 points on the season, six more than his previous career-high with many games to come.

Other notable performances:

  • Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers — The Rangers didn’t win the game and they blew a 3-0 third-period lead, but none of that matters when it comes to Lundqvist who, if he wasn’t in the Rangers’ crease on Sunday, the scoreline may have hit double digits for the Winnipeg Jets. Lundqvist made several ridiculous saves, fitting of the man nicknamed the ‘King’. The Jets outshot the Rangers 42-19 in the game, including 8-2 in the overtime frame. Lundqvist was simply superb.

Highlights of the night

Here’s one from Quick:

Here’s another:

Here’s Shea Weber breaking Martin Jones‘ stick with a one-timer:

Here’s one of those Lundqvist saves:

Aberg’s winner, but watch the deft touch by Ryan Getzlaf:

Factoids

Scores

Ducks 6, Capitals 5

Jets 4, Rangers 3 (OT)

Flames 3, Blackhawks 2

Sharks 3, Kings 1

Avalanche 2, Red Wings 0

Kings 2, Hurricanes 0


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: Boedker shines in Karlsson’s return; Weber’s big game

AP

Three Stars

1. Mikkel Boedker, Ottawa Senators. It was a big day in Ottawa as Erik Karlsson, one of the best players (arguably the best) to ever wear a Senators uniform returned for the first time as a visitor. In the end, it was Mikkel Boedker that ended up stealing the spotlight on Saturday with a four-point effort in the Senators’ 6-2 win over Karlsson and the Sharks. The Senators acquired Boedker over the summer in their other big trade with the Sharks when they sent Mike Hoffman to San Jose as part of their ongoing rebuild. His performance on Saturday snapped what had been a four-game point-less streak and was just his third multi-point game of the season.

2. Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens. He has only played two games this season but Shea Weber has already made a huge impact on the ice for the Montreal Canadiens. After recording 25 minutes, 13 total shot attempts, and an assist in his 2018-19 debut, he had an even better game on Saturday night by scoring a pair of goals in a 5-2 win over the New York Rangers. That win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Canadiens.

3. Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes. The Arizona Coyotes won their third consecutive game on Saturday night by crushing the St. Louis Blues, 6-1. Clayton Keller was the big star in this one with a goal and two assists, one of which was an absolute beauty to set up Alex Goligoski. One of the NHL’s top rookies a year ago, Keller is now up to eight goals and 10 assists in his first 25 games this season. With a 12-11-2 record the Coyotes are significantly ahead of where they were at this time a season ago. They did not win their 12th game of the 2017-18 season until Jan. 22, so there are definitely big steps being taken in Arizona.

Other big performances on Saturday

— The New York Islanders made quite a return to the Nassau Coliseum on Saturday by rallying from a two-goal deficit to defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets, 3-2. After allowing the Blue Jackets to jump out to a 2-0 lead, the Islanders scored two goals during a five-minute stretch in the second period to tie the game, setting the stage for a Casey Cizikas game-winner in the third period.

— Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald is not really known for his offense but he recorded three assists in their 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

— Starting goalie Ben Bishop returned to the lineup and stopped 24 out of 25 shots in the Dallas Stars’ 2-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks.

— With Wililam Nylander finally signed to a six-year contract and Auston Matthews back in the lineup we are about to see the firepower of a fully armed and operational Toronto Maple Leafs team. They were 5-3 winners against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night with Matthews scoring his 13th goal of the season. He is averaging a goal per game this season and is now up to 20 total points. He has four points (including three goals) in two games since returning to the lineup.

Gustav Nyquist had a goal and two assists for the Detroit Red Wings in their 4-2 win over the Boston Bruins.

Mikko Koskinen improved to 8-2-1 for the Edmonton Oilers with a 31-save effort against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Highlights of the Night

The Winnipeg Jets and New Jersey Devils played one of the best overtime periods of the season on Saturday night. Keith Kinkaid made some incredible saves for the Devils, but Mark Scheifele made the play of the game when he stole the puck from Nico Hischier, collected his own rebound, and scored the game-winning goal.

Connor McDavid played big minutes and scored another highlight reel goal as the Edmonton Oilers improved to 4-1-1 under new coach Ken Hitchcock.

Factoids

Brayden Point scored his 19th goal of the season to complete a huge comeback for the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was also his 15th game-winning goal since the start of the 2017-18 season. No one in the NHL has more since then.

The Nashville Predators had quite the start on Saturday night against the Chicago Blackhawks. It was another tough game for the Blackhawks, and especially defenseman Duncan Keith as he was ejected and assessed 27 penalty minutes in only four minutes of ice-time.

 

Scores

Ottawa Senators 6, San Jose Sharks 2

Dallas Stars 2, Vancouver Canucks 1

Toronto Maple Leafs 5, Minnesota Wild 3

Detroit Red Wings 4, Boston Bruins 2

Montreal Canadiens 5, New York Rangers 2

Tampa Bay Lightning 5, Florida Panthers 4 (OT)

Winnipeg Jets 4, New Jersey Devils 3 (OT)

New York Islanders 3, Columbus Blue Jackets 2

Philadelphia Flyers 4, Pittsburgh Penguins 2

Arizona Coyotes 6, St. Louis Blues 1

Nashville Predators 5, Chicago Blackhawks 2

Edmonton Oilers 2, Vegas Golden Knights 1

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: McElhinney steals another; MacKinnon scores two more

AP
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Three Stars

1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche. Nathan MacKinnon is on some kind of a roll for the Colorado Avalanche. His two goals on Tuesday night were the difference in a 3-2 win over the Nashville Predators and gave him his fifth consecutive multi-point game. He now has at least two points in six of his past seven games, a stretch that includes six goals to give him 17 on the season. His 37 points on the season are second in the league, trailing only his linemate Mikko Rantanen. Rantanen set up both of MacKinnon’s goals on Tuesday.

2. Curtis McElhinney, Carolina Hurricanes. Did you expect Curtis McElhinney to be the savior for the Carolina Hurricanes this season? Of course you didn’t, but he has been a rock for them in net lately and continued his strong play on Tuesday night by making a career-high 48 saves in a 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens. With that performance he has now won each of his past four decisions and allowed just five goals on the past 150 shots he has faced. That is a .966 save percentage during that stretch.

3. Shea Theodore, Vegas Golden Knights. Pretty much everybody had a hand in the Golden Knights’ big win over the Chicago Blackhawks, but Shea Theodore had perhaps the biggest night of them all by logging more than 23 minutes, scoring a pair of goals, adding an assist, and finishing as a plus-four. The Golden Knights are starting to get on a roll to climb back up the Pacific Division standings.

More big performances from Tuesday

Oscar Klefbom scored in overtime to give the Oilers a win in Ken Hitchcock’s home debut. That goal came just after Connor McDavid appeared to score the winning goal, only to have a replay review determine the puck never fully crossed the goal line.

Shea Weber made his 2018-19 debut for the Montreal Canadiens and was not exactly eased back in. He played a team-high 25 minutes, attempted 13 shots, got three on net, and assisted on their only goal in their 2-1 loss to the Hurricanes.

Brady Tkachuk scored a pair of goals — just three minutes apart — for the Ottawa Senators to help them erase a 3-1 deficit with less than 10 minutes to play in the third period.

— The Pittsburgh Penguins received two goals from their fourth line (and one from their third line) to defeat the Winnipeg Jets. They have now collected eight out of a possible 10 points in their past five games. Sidney Crosby scored his 10th goal of the season on yet another ridiculous backhand shot.

Dustin Brown had another big game for the Los Angeles Kings, recording two more points and scoring the game-winning goal in overtime to lift them over the Vancouver Canucks.

— The Arizona Coyotes rallied from a 3-1 third period deficit to beat the Minnesota Wild thanks in large part to a pair of goals from Josh Archibald.

Highlights of the Night

Rasmus Ristolainen helped the Buffalo Sabres push their winning streak to 10 games with this incredible individual effort against the San Jose Sharks.

Even with Weber back in the lineup it was starting goalie Carey Price taking care of the physical play for the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.

Matt Duchene scored the goal of the night to help lift the Ottawa Senators to a come-from-behind win against the Philadelphia Flyers. This came just a few minutes after Tkachuk scored his two goals to tie the game.

Factoids

The Philadelphia Flyers have used a lot of goalies this season. They added another starter to the list on Tuesday night. The result was more of the same.

The Vegas Golden Knights crushed the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night by scoring eight goals. That is a franchise record.

Ryan Miller backstopped the Anaheim Ducks to a big win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, and in the process moved one step closer to the top of the all-time wins list for American-born goalies.

Scores

Buffalo Sabres 3, San Jose Sharks 2 (OT)

Ottawa Senators 4, Philadelphia Flyers 3

Carolina Hurricanes 2, Montreal Canadiens 1

Anaheim Ducks 3, Tampa Bay Lightning 1

Colorado Avalanche 3, Nashville Predators 2

Arizona Coyotes 4, Minnesota Wild 3

Pittsburgh Penguins 4, Winnipeg Jets 3

Vegas Golden Knights 8, Chicago Blackhawks 3

Edmonton Oilers 1, Dallas Stars 0 (OT)

Los Angeles Kings 2, Vancouver Canucks 1 (OT)

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.