Alexei Kovalev

The Buzzer: Laine rubs elbows with Gretzky on five-goal night

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Patrik Laine, number one with a bullet

When you have a night a special as the one Laine experienced, you get your own section.

On a night of hat tricks, Laine refused to settle for a mere three goals, nearly managing a double-hatty. Ultimately, he finished with a ridiculous five goals on five shots. If anyone can do that, it’s Laine.

This isn’t just a one-night outburst for Laine, either. By the three-goal mark, he had reached at least a hat trick for the seventh time in his young career … and the third during the month of November.

In case you’re wondering, yes, it’s been a very long time since someone managed a hat trick of hat tricks during a single month.

Laine, 20, won’t turn 21 until April 19. That’s relevant to note because, while he’s unlikely to match this Wayne Gretzky mark, it’s also true that it was already unlikely that he’d generate three hat tricks in a single month.

Laine lands in Gretzky-rarified-air more than once. Sportsnet’s stats staff also notes that he’s the first 20-year-old to collect five goals since Gretzky managed that mark twice. Again, it would be asking a lot for the winger to match that mark by number 99, yet he also has the rest of the season to do so (Winnipeg’s last regular-season game comes on April 6, almost two weeks before his 21st birthday).

PHT’s Scott Billeck did a great job of recapping Laine’s red-hot ways:

Thanks to this ridiculous night, Laine now has 19 goals in 2018-19, giving him the NHL lead. Interestingly, Saturday left him at 99 career regular-season goals. It should be fascinating to see Laine try to climb this list, too.

Interesting to see Jimmy Carson right behind Gretzky, the name he’ll be linked with forever thanks to that famous trade, eh?

The other three stars

1. Kyle Connor and Bryan Little

Let’s give Laine’s partners-in-crime a little love, too.

Both Connor and Little collected four assists during Laine’s five-goal night. If you have to choose one of the two, Connor would probably get quite a bit more credit for driving play, as he finished the night with four shots on goal to go with his four assists (Little had one SOG).

Many joked about how Laine’s going to get paid on his next contract. The way things going, Connor might not be too cheap, either.

2. Andreas Johnsson

Heading into Saturday, this 24-year-old Leafs forward had two goals over his entire, young NHL career. Johnsson generated a hat trick in a single period on Saturday, and actually hit that mark with about seven minutes remaining in the opening frame.

Would Johnsson have generated even more offense if the Flyers ever got on the board in this one? Maybe, but he still enjoyed one of the night’s great performances.

(Garret Sparks‘ 34-save shutout likely kept Toronto from going too over the top.)

Read more about Toronto making life miserable for Philly’s goalies here.

3. Jake Guentzel

Guentzel didn’t need three periods to collect his hat trick. He took advantage of some splendid Sidney Crosby passing to gain three goals without about four minutes left in the second period.

This marks the first regular-season hat trick for Guentzel, who now has 18 points in 22 games during the 2018-19 campaign.

Fun fact unless you’re the one managing Pittsburgh’s salary cap: like Connor and Laine, Guentzel is headed toward RFA status. A big season would go really well with all of those playoff heroics, huh?

Highlights of the Night

Quite the no-look pass by Crosby

Matt Luff had the right stuff to make Jacob Markstrom take his bluff:

Non-Laine, non-Sabres-topping-the-league factoids

Laine isn’t the only youngster playing beyond his years.

Gotta love how specific this stat is:

Scores

WSH 5 – NYR 3
TOR 6 – PHI 0
BOS 3 – MTL 2
BUF 3 – DET 2 (SO)
CHI 5 – FLA 4 (OT)
NYI 4 – CAR 1
PIT 4 – CBJ 2
WPG 8 – STL 4
COL 3 – DAL 2
VGK 6 – SJS 0
VAN 4 – LAK 2

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Under Pressure: P.K. Subban

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P.K. Subban has always been a lightning rod for criticism because he doesn’t just play the game, he does it with flare; Subban isn’t afraid to do a little talking on the ice adding an eccentric celebration following a goal or a win to add salt to the wound.

As childhood on-ice nemesis, and current Maple Leaf Nazem Kadri once told me, “That’s what drives people crazy: he’s a good player and he runs his mouth a little. When good players are chirping and running their mouth, it just makes the other team want to kill him that much more.

“Then next thing you know, he’s putting one in the back of your net, which makes you even more angry.”

In Montreal, it’s hard to say Subban could be under any more pressure that was until he inked his new mammoth eight-year, $72 million contract earlier this month.

“I’ll tell you something, it’s nothing I haven’t heard in my career before,” Subban joked last week of criticism heard during the arbitration process.

Subban added, that he’s used to the added attention he garners, “I understand when it’s me, it’s a little more magnified, that’s fine.”

Now everyone’s coming out of the woodwork to offer their two cents including former Hab, Alexei Kovalev, who last week paid Subban a back-handed compliment comparing Subban to Hall of Famer Brian Leetch, before adding that he didn’t understand why Subban was making so much money.

The criticism will likely follow Subban for the duration of his contract and beyond, especially if he plays more like he did in 2013-14 than he did in 2012-13 when he won the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman.

This past season Subban had just 15 more points than he did in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, but what’s more glaring is that as one of the team’s top defenseman, he carried a minus rating.

Now how could one go about adding more pressure to the 25-year-old’s shoulders? Is that even possible?

Well with the departure of captain Brian Gionta along with fellow veterans Daniel Briere and Josh Georges, the Canadiens now need to appoint a new captain.

Why not the highest paid guy on the team?

“I think the interesting thing about our team is that we have a lot of guys who are leaders, and guys that are growing into leaders,” Subban said attempting to deflect attention. “At the end of the day that’s management’s decision, they’ll make the decision as to who they feel fits the best mold as a captain.”

Playing under pressure is what Subban’s done ever since he burst on to the scene in Montreal, but it’s how he performs under that pressure going forward that Canadiens fans care about.

“I think playing in Montreal, not just me, but also my teammates, we understand the magnitude of wearing the ‘C-H ‘and playing for the Montreal Canadiens,” said Subban. “But that’s exciting, that’s the exciting thing about playing in Montreal is, to me anyway, being under the spotlight and excelling.

“This is a city that craves for success, craves for a championship and that motivates you. Its just added motivation.”

Well P.K. sounds like he knows what he’s talking about, lets hope for the sake of Habs’ fans, he can back it up on the ice.

Related: Markov represents Montreal’s other pricey extension

Kovalev doesn’t travel with Panthers; retirement looming?

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Sounds as though Alexei Kovalev’s time with the Florida Panthers will soon come to an end.

Kovalev, 40, didn’t travel with Florida to Carolina — the Panthers and ‘Canes play on Saturday — and head coach Kevin Dineen said an announcement about the veteran forward’s future is pending.

Here’s more, from the Miami Herald’s George Richards:

Kovalev has been a healthy scratch on numerous occasions this year, appearing in 14 of Florida’s 20 games thus far. He’s scored 2G-3A-5PTS with a minus-1 rating, but only has one point in his last seven contests.

The former Ranger, Penguin, Canadien and Senator signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Panthers in early January, a deal that included games-played bonuses. The deal marked his return to the NHL after a one-year hiatus.

Update: Here’s more context, from RDS’ Renaud Lavoie…

 

Whitney, Kovalev healthy scratches again

Two veteran NHLers that have already spent time in the press box will be back there again on Thursday.

In Edmonton, defenseman Ryan Whitney will be a healthy scratch when the Oilers take on the Minnesota Wild. Theo Peckham will replace Whitney in the lineup and make his season debut.

Whitney has been held out of three games this year by head coach Ralph Krueger,

In Florida, forward Alexei Kovalev will be a healthy scratch when the Panthers take on the Flyers in Philadelphia.

Kovalev, who turns 40 on Sunday, has missed just two games this season and has put up decent numbers following a one-year hiatus from the NHL, recording 2G-3A-5PTS while averaging over 16 minutes per game.

It sounds as though winger Mike Santorelli will draw into the Florida lineup to replace Kovalev.

Report: Kovalev to attend Panthers camp

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Alexei Kovalev is taking another kick at the can.

That’s the word out of Florida on Tuesday — the veteran forward has reportedly accepted an invite to Panthers training camp, according to George Richards of the Miami Herald.

Kovalev, who will turn 40 in February, last played in the NHL during the 2010-11 season, racking up 16G-18A-34PTS in 74 games split between Ottawa and Pittsburgh.

He spent the 2011-12 season with KHL Atlant and has been without a club this year, spending most of his time rehabbing a bothersome knee (though he did practice with Swiss second division team Martigny for a spell.)

Kovalev does have some ties to the Panthers organization. He played with goalie Jose Theodore in Montreal and spent a season with Filip Kuba in Ottawa.

Of note, Kovalev won’t be the only reclamation project attending Florida’s training camp. Another veteran forward, Marek Svatos, will also be participating after taking last year off to recover from injury.

UPDATE

Richards spoke with Kovalev on Tuesday:

Kovalev said a few teams asked him about coming to camp, but he seems to like the Panthers and Kevin Dineen.

“I like the people in the organization and they changed the coach. I played against him many times. I know what they have done, I saw what they did last year with the changes and making the playoffs. I feel this is a good place for me, a good environment with the organization and the players.”

“No one has promised me anything. They just want me to come in and they are hoping I make the team. I don’t know. I can’t predict anything. I’m just going to do what I’m able to do and we’ll see what happens. They could go with the younger guys or something like that. You never know. It’s just good to have the chance to come to camp and hopefully make the team.”

It sounds like ex-Canadien and Predator Andrei Kostitsyn will also be at Florida’s training camp.