Jesper Fast

Hurricanes beat Rangers in Game 1, but don’t blame Lundqvist

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The Rangers and Hurricanes made Game 1 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers (and the first of the NHL Return to Play) a passionate, violent, and sloppy affair. Ultimately, the Hurricanes took care of business 3-2 in Game 1, taking a 1-0 series lead against the Rangers.

Hurricanes, Rangers get Game 1 off to wild, violent start

Heading into the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, people wondered if teams like the Rangers and Hurricanes would need time to find that playoff-level passion. Nope.

Brady Skjei‘s massive hit on Jesper Fast set the tone for a physical, nasty first period.

While Jaccob Slavin scored the first goal of the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers on the Hurricanes’ first shot, Henrik Lundqvist kept the Rangers in Game 1. With Igor Shesterkin deemed “unfit to play,” the Rangers went from a controversy to an obvious choice in Lundqvist. Despite the loss, Lundqvist often looked like “King Henrik” in Game 1.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Really, it’s fair to wonder how lopsided Game 1 could have been if Lundqvist wasn’t so sharp. Even if you blame Lundqvist for a goal or more — already dubious — he made plenty of tough saves to keep the Rangers in shooting distance.

Sloppy Game 1 for both teams; Rangers need more from Panarin and others

If you wanted a sign of rust, look no further than the two teams’ many trips to the penalty box. At times, it felt like even-strength play was the exception rather than the rule for the Hurricanes and Rangers in Game 1.

Through much of Game 1, the Rangers looked sloppy, and the Hurricanes controlled much of the proceedings. Even so, it’s noteworthy that the contest ended up close on the scoreboard.

While Artemi Panarin probably drew a little more heat than he deserved — there’s only so much you can do in a Game 1 like this — the Rangers will probably need some magic from him to succeed more in Game 2 and beyond.

Mika Zibanejad performed well, though. Mika Z carried over his hot streak from 2019-20, scoring the Rangers’ first goal on the PP with a nice tip. Zibanejad also served as a workhorse considering how much time he logged on the PK.

Marc Staal experienced a busy Game 1. Staal got physical with Martin Necas early on. Later in Game 1, the Hurricanes’ third goal went off of Staal, but he redeemed himself with a 3-2 tally. The Rangers probably don’t want Marc Staal to be such a prominent factor at this point in his career, but these are strange times.

As far as Game 2 goes, it’s fair to wonder if the Rangers will go with Lundqvist or Shesterkin. Yet, such a decision wouldn’t be about Lundqvist playing poorly. Instead, the question might be: can Shesterkin bail the Rangers out even more than Lundqvist tried to?

Because, if the Rangers and Hurricanes continue playing this well, New York will need some incredible goaltending — and more from its biggest stars.

Hurricanes – Rangers 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule (start times, TV networks)

(6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (11) New York Rangers (Hurricanes lead series 1-0)

Monday, Aug. 3: Rangers vs. Hurricanes, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Hurricanes vs. Rangers, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Thursday, Aug. 6: Hurricanes vs. Rangers*
Saturday, Aug. 8: Rangers vs. Hurricanes*

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers 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.

Rangers – Hurricanes Game 1 starts with goal, huge hits, Williams – Strome fight

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The Rangers and Hurricanes are wasting no time creating playoff-level hatred in Game 1 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers. WIthin minutes, there was the first goal of the NHL Return to Play, big hits (that may have led to injuries), and an unlikely fight.

Carolina ultimately ended up winning Game 1 by a score of 3-2.

Slavin scores first goal of NHL Return, Fast gets hit hard

It took little time for Rangers – Hurricanes Game 1 to heat up. You can see the big moments of physicality in the video above this post’s headline.

So far, the biggest sequence happened about a minute in. First, Brady Skjei absolutely leveled former teammate Jesper Fast with a hard hit.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Fast would eventually leave the ice with a possible injury. But, before he could depart, Jaccob Slavin scored the first goal of the NHL Return to Play. Would the Hurricanes have scored that goal if the Rangers didn’t have an injured player on the ice?

The Rangers announced that Fast is not expected to return to Game 1.

Another big hit in Rangers – Hurricanes Game 1, and a Williams – Strome fight

Skjei’s hit on Fast clearly set a tone. Not only were there a parade of penalties, but Marc Staal also landed a big check on Martin Necas.

It’s possible that the Necas hit on Staal inspired Justin Williams to fight with Ryan Strome. You could argue that maybe Williams shouldn’t be dropping the gloves, but the fight was an unlikely sight either way:

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.

The Buzzer: Voracek leads Flyers to fifth straight win; Wild remain in wild-card race

Kevin Hayes #13, Jakub Voracek #93, and Scott Laughton #21 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrate
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Three Stars

1) Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers

Voracek dished out four helpers in the Flyers’ 5-2 win against the New York Rangers Friday. Philadelphia picked up their NHL-leading 23rd home victory and improved its current winning streak to five games in addition. Voracek had several pretty passes throughout the evening to set up his teammates. In the opening period, he fed Sean Couturier while Rangers defenseman Brendan Smith broke his stick and was unable to break up the pass. Late in the second period and early in the third, Voracek helped Claude Giroux score twice to seal the victory in favor of Philadelphia. All of a sudden, the Flyers only trail the Washington Capitals by three points for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.

2) Alex Stalock, Minnesota Wild

The odds were stacked against them, but the Wild are not giving up on their pursuit of a spot in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Stalock made 24 saves and picked up his fourth shutout of the season as Minnesota blanked the Columbus Blue Jackets, 5-0. Stalock has quietly put together an impressive season with an 18-9-4 record, 2.60 goals against average and a .910 save percentage. Only two points separate the Wild from the top wild card spot in the west.

3) Tyson Jost, Colorado Avalanche

With Mikko Rantanen sidelined, the Avalanche need more offensive production from everyone in the lineup. Jost stepped up with two goals as Colorado defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 and extended its winning streak to five games. The first-round pick from the 2016 NHL Draft opened the scoring 6:34 into the first period when his shot whizzed past Anton Forsberg. Jost took a bouncing puck away from Jake Gardiner prior to the goal. He gave the Avalanche a two-goal lead when he tucked a shot past Forsberg halfway through the middle frame. Colorado has two games in hand on the division-leading St. Louis Blues and only trail by three points. Home-ice advantage in the Western Conference will be awarded to the eventual winner of the Central Division.

Other notable performances from Friday

  • Pavel Francouz made 45 saves and would be in the Calder Trophy conversation if not for the outstanding play of defensemen Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes.
  • Teuvo Teravainen scored twice in the Hurricanes’ 3-2 loss and Sebastian Aho extended his point streak to 14 games.
  • Zach Parise and Kevin Fiala each recorded a goal and an assist as the Minnesota Wild won their third straight game.
  • Jason Zucker recorded two goals but the Penguins fell in regulation for the fifth consecutive game.

Highlights of the Night

Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog delivered a pretty cross-ice pass to set up Samuel Girard for the third-period go-ahead goal.

Artemi Panarin extended his point streak to 12 games with this jaw-dropping stretch pass to set up Jesper Fast.

Golden Knights forward Nicolas Roy converted this slick deke to even the score at 1-1.

Giroux pushed the Flyers lead to two goals with this one-timer that clanked off the crossbar before finding the back of the net.

Stats of the Night

https://twitter.com/PR_NHL/status/1233588561666039809

Scores

Philadelphia Flyers 5, New York Rangers 2

Minnesota Wild 5, Columbus Blue Jackets 0

Colorado Avalanche 3, Carolina Hurricanes 2

Vegas Golden Knights 4, Buffalo Sabres 2

Anaheim Ducks 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 2


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.

It was Hayes, Sanheim time as Flyers overwhelm Rangers

Kevin Hayes and Travis Sanheim enjoyed quite the time as the Flyers beat the Rangers 5-1 on Monday.

The two teams entered the second intermission tied 1-1 thanks to Sanheim scoring with just two seconds left. With that, the Flyers extended their winning streak to four games, and they climbed to third in the Metro.

Philly rattled off four third-period goals to turn a goalie duel into a laugher.

Kevin Hayes heating up

Hayes generated 20 points through his first 36 games with the Flyers, which seems … fine. Fans obsessing over Hayes’ $7.14M cap hit are unlikely to be satisfied with a player whose career-high is 55 points.

Hayes looks better the deeper you delve into numbers, though. Although Hayes slipped a bit compared to his contract year, metrics like his HockeyViz heat map impress:

Hayes has been heating up lately, though, and it had to be satisfying to score two goals against his former team. By scoring twice, Hayes pushed his point streak to three games (3G, 2A) and also has seven points in his last five.

Each goal could land on highlight reels, with his first being the game-winner:

Sanheim time

Like Hayes, Sanheim would like to rekindle some of last season’s magic, as his 2019-20 has been a bit of a setback.

The promising defenseman found a way to be at the right place at the right time twice. His first goal screamed right time in a literal way, as he scored with less than two seconds left in the second period.

Sanheim also put himself in the right place at the right time for his second goal as the Flyers created havoc in front of Henrik Lundqvist. While neither Sanheim nor Hayes managed a hat trick, the fifth goal of the night was special, as Nicolas Aubé-Kubel notched his first NHL goal.

Again, the Rangers stuck with the Flyers for most of Monday. Perhaps Philly can point to this as the sort of game that can remind them of the considerable firepower they have on hand?

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.

Wednesday Night Hockey: Panarin continues to deliver for Rangers

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

A strong offensive season for Artemi Panarin in his first year on Broadway may go to waste if the Rangers don’t find a way to get themselves into the playoffs. But this year is a transition one for the franchise, as they incorporate new faces and plenty of youth in hopes of making big strides in the future.

Panarin’s done all he’s been ask to do through 18 games. He leads the Rangers with nine goals and 23 points and has continued to produce in the absence of Mika Zibanejad, who will miss his 10th straight game Wednesday against the Capitals but is expected to return to the lineup soon.

Helping Panarin deliver the bread has been Ryan Strome, who’s second on the team in scoring with six goals and 18 points. The duo have worked together so well that head coach David Quinn isn’t sure he’ll remove Strome from the top line once Zibanejad is healthy.

“Stromer’s a smart player, I think they complement each other well,” Quinn said. “[Panarin] enjoys playing with him. [Jesper] Fast has given that line a little bit of honesty, a little bit of a straight-line approach to the game where those two guys might be a little more East-West. I think the line in general has a good balance to it.”

When the Rangers went free agent shopping in the summer, they had already added to their blue line with the additions of Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox. General manager Jeff Gorton was looking for a difference-maker and Panarin fit that mold perfectly.

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

“I think the past couple years we’ve been looking for a guy to lean on a little bit,” said Fast, the third part of New York’s top line. “You have a guy who’s always like creating and always is a threat in the offensive zone every time he gets the puck. That’s what we’re getting from him right now.”

Entering Wednesday, Panarin is riding an 11-game point streak (5-12–17) and has gone pointless in only three games this season. He’s been an offensive dynamo for his entire career, hitting at least 74 points in each of his four NHL seasons. His talent makes those around him better, and that’s all the Rangers can ask as they look to develop a lineup that can turn into a consistent winner.

“He challenges you to be better based on how skilled he is,” Strome said. “You want to keep up to him and make plays. It’s been really fun, honestly.”

Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Brian Boucher will call Capitals-Rangers from Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y. Kathryn Tappen will host Wednesday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Keith Jones and Mike Milbury and NHL insider Bob McKenzie.

NHL on NBC analyst and 2019 NHL Hockey Fights Cancer ambassador Eddie Olczyk discusses his career and fight with colon cancer in an interview with Kathryn Tappen in a 30-minute special Wednesday at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN following Wednesday Night Hockey. Olczyk was named the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer ambassador earlier this month and November marks Hockey Fights Cancer Month throughout the league. You can watch it live here.

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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.