Johan Larsson

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The Buzzer: Rough night for rougher teams

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Three Stars

1. Assorted Buffalo Sabres

Look, when you beat a team 7-1, you’re probably going to have at least a few standouts, and your top Sabres star probably boils down to taste.

Johan Larsson is a good player to start with. His three assists happened during Buffalo’s five-goal opening period, one that really made the Devils’ dire situation extra-glaringly-clear. Jack Eichel did what he does, which is score a lot, extending his point streak to 10 games with one goal and two assists.

To be fair to the Devils, they at least tried to make the score more respectable. They fired 45 shots on goal, including 39 during the second and third period, to try to get in the game. Linus Ullmark wasn’t interested in helping New Jersey save face, however, as he stopped all but one of those 45 SOG.

2. Jake Allen, St. Louis Blues

Could we be seeing a mini-renaissance for a goalie who’s been left in the dust by Jordan Binnington?

Allen was arguably the first star of Monday night, making 38 saves for his first shutout of 2019-20, including 17 in the third period to cement that goose egg.

While it’s a small sample size, Allen has been heating up after two rocky appearances in October. Allen generated a strong .934 save percentage during five appearances in November, and began December with this shutout. Again, it’s not exactly a lengthy run of elite puck-stopping, yet if Allen can maintain a decent level of play, the Blues can at least keep Binnington reasonably rested as they try to defend that first-ever Stanley Cup title.

Semyon Varlamov is a decent option as another goalie as he made 30 out of 31 stops as the Islanders got back on the winning track against the very-much-not-winning Red Wings.

3. Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim Ducks

It’s unclear if Lindholm will find the game that made him an under-the-radar elite defensive presence from 2015-16 to 2017-18, only to drop off significantly in 2018-19. But he at least enjoyed a nice game on Monday.

Lindholm collected three assists against the Kings, ending a seven-game pointless streak. The last time he collected a point? Why, that was … another three-assist night, in that case against the Avalanche on Oct. 26. Lindholm now has 12 points (all assists) in 20 games in 2019-20.

Stephenson is Vegas-bound

The Washington Capitals traded Chandler Stephenson to the Vegas Golden Knights (and George McPhee) for a fifth-round pick in 2021.

Tough to say that Stephenson is a huge loss, judging by both his modest scoring numbers, workmanlike other stats, and his RAPM chart at Evolving Hockey. But he might at least give Vegas a decent option to soak up penalty kill minutes and other unglamorous roles.

Highlight of the Night

Kings forward Nikolai Prokhorkin sliced through the Ducks defense like a hot fork knife through butter.

Lowlight

Ouch, Louis Domingue.

Factoids

  • Jake Allen joins Brian Elliott (25) and Jaroslav Halak (20) as the only three Blues goalies with 20 career shutouts, according to NHL PR. Binnington is at six in his regular season career, in case you were wondering.
  • NHL PR points out that Jack Eichel (four assists on March 21, 2018) is the only Sabres player with more assists in a single period than the three Larsson collected in the opening frame on Monday.
  • The Devils have lost their last two games by a combined score of 11-1. The Sabres scored three goals before New Jersey even registered its first shot on goal in Monday’s 7-1 drubbing.
  • The Red Wings have now lost 10 games in a row, and have allowed the most goals in the league with 118. No one else has reached 100 goals allowed yet this season (Montreal’s second-worst with 95).
  • As rough as the Rangers’ underlying numbers have been, they were putting together some decent stretches. Monday’s 4-1 loss to the Golden Knights ended a five-game point streak where the Rangers went 4-0-1.

Scores

BUF 7 – NJD 1
VGK 4 – NYR 1
NYI 4 – DET 1
STL 4 – CHI 0
ANA 4 – LAK 2

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: Malkin continues torrid pace

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Players of the Night:

Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins: Malkin scored two more goals on Friday, bringing his total over the past three games to seven. That’s a lot. Malkin is now four back of Alex Ovechkin, who also scored twice on Friday.

Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings: This seems to be a trend when yours truly writes The Buzzer. Mrazek was great again on Friday, stopping 36-of-37. His past six starts have been remarkably good. Two shutouts and in five of those six outings, his save percentage was no less than .944.

Highlights of the Night:

The goal was good. The call was better.

Phil the Thrill:

Aho with the one-handed mid-air tap in.

Factoids of the Night:

MISC:

Scores:

Penguins 7, Capitals 4

Red Wings 4, Hurricanes 1

Sharks 3, Blue Jackets 1

Wild 5, Golden Knights 2


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

Caps nab shaggy shootout win vs. Sabres

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If you handed out style points, the Washington Capitals wouldn’t have loaded up on a ton tonight. They earned two standings points, however, which is what really matters.

It wasn’t easy, but Washington topped the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 via a shootout victory. In the process, the Capitals expanded their lead over the Boston Bruins for the East’s top wild card spot to four points and really pulled away from the bubble pack.

Again, the Capitals had to hold their breath (while the Bruins and others crossed their fingers) for much of the contest.

Buffalo got off to a 1-0 lead by taking advantage of a power play initiated by some rough stuff from Alex Ovechkin. The Sabres also finished the first period with a 2-1 edge.

Washington chipped away in the second period, eventually tying things up thanks to a Mike Green goal. Evgeny Kuznetsov’s power-play snipe gave the Capitals their first lead of the contest:

The Sabres didn’t go quietly, however, as Johan Larsson locked things up at 3-3. Despite plenty of chances for both sides – including a bucket of shots by Ovechkin all night – an eventual overtime period went without a goal.

Braden Holtby ultimately held on for a shootout win, giving him two crucial wins in as many appearances. He would probably agree that it wasn’t easy, though:

Sometimes successful teams just need to grind out wins, and this seems like a solid example of that for Washington.

Buffalo, meanwhile, remains last overall in the NHL (although Edmonton was glad to see the gap between them close from four to three points).

Sabres’ Nolan scoffs at notion his players have nothing to play for

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The Buffalo Sabres’ current winless skid hit five games with a shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Wednesday night.

Buffalo is now 3-17-3 in their last 23 road games and concluded its most recent road trip with just one of a possible 10 points (0-4-1).

The Sabres (19-42-6) have a have a three-point cushion on the Edmonton Oilers (18-38-11) for the last spot in the league.

Despite the aforementioned numbers, Sabres’ head coach Ted Nolan scoffed at the notion his club has nothing to play for with 15 games remaining on the 2014-15 schedule.

“I beg to differ, these guys have a lot to play for,” Nolan said following the Sabres’ 4-3 shootout loss. “These guys are playing for their livelihoods and they’re playing to get a job in the National Hockey League and sustain that.

“There’s all kinds of kids playing junior hockey and in Europe and all over North America trying to steal these jobs on you, so if you don’t stay on top of your game, you won’t keep them very long.”

Nolan has been particularly happy with the way his veterans have responded to the situation this season.

The line of Tyler Ennis and Matt Moulson and Johan Larsson accounted for three goals and nine points Wednesday.

“That’s why I have a lot of respect for Tyler Ennis and Matty Moulson and [Brian] Gionta,” said Nolan. “They have kids from the American Hockey League coming up here and they’re not complaining. They’re playing as hard as they can and those young kids are benefitting from it.”

Buffalo returns to action Saturday night when they play host to the New York Rangers.

Sabres send Larsson to AHL

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The Buffalo Sabres announced Friday morning that they’ve assigned forward Johan Larsson to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League.

Larsson was injured during the first period of the Sabres’ 3-2 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs during preseason action on Sept. 29 and has been recovering from an upper body injury ever since.

Larsson, Minnesota’s second-round pick in 2010 (56th overall), split last season between the Americans and the Sabres.

In 28 games with Buffalo last season, Larsson had four assists and 19 penalty minutes.

The 22-year-old, who was acquired by the Sabres in the Jason Pominville trade in April 2013, had 15 goals and 41 points in 51 games in 2013-14.