Pavel Zacha

Mark Scheifele #55 of the Winnipeg Jets
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The Buzzer: Scheifele lights the lamp three times; Binnington earns second straight shutout

Three Stars

1) Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets

Scheifele picked up his third NHL hat trick in the Jets’ 5-1 win against the Ottawa Senators.  The overlooked centerman completed the milestone with 1:33 remaining in the third period. Nick Paul kicked off the scoring to give the Senators an early advantage, but the Jets stormed back with five unanswered. Scheifele scored his first two goals late in the first period to help Winnipeg gain control of the game. He collected a loose puck near the top of the crease and buried a wrister to even the game, 1:11 after the equalizer, Scheifele redirected Neal Pionk’s shot from the point to give the Jets a lead they would never relinquish. With the win, Winnipeg claimed the top wild card spot in the Western Conference for the time being.

2) Ben Chiarot, Montreal Canadiens

Chiarot recorded his second two-goal game of the season in the Canadiens’ 4-3 overtime victory against the Washington Capitals. The defenseman had two pretty goals, including the overtime winner when his blistering one-timer sped through the legs of Braden Holtby to help the Canadiens end a five-game losing streak. Early in the third period, Chiarot fired a wrist shot from the high slot to give the Canadiens a one-goal advantage. With two more years after this season remaining on his contract at an average annual value of $3.5 million, Chiarot is unlikely to be moved in the coming days even though the playoffs are a long shot for the Canadiens.

3) Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs and Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues

Andersen rebounded from a tough performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this week and posted his second shutout of the season in Toronto’s 4-0 victory. It was Andersen’s first win in four starts since returning from a neck injury that sidelined him for four games. Binnington has not been tested frequently in the past two games, but two consecutive shutouts is an accomplishment despite the limited save totals. Mackenzie Blackwood’s 36 saves and Antti Raanta‘s 45 stops also deserve recognition on a solid night from a few goaltenders in the NHL.

Highlights of the Night

The between-the-legs craze continued when Nick Foligno fooled Brian Elliott with this beauty.

Chiarot is not known for his offense but hammered this one-time feed from Max Domi.

It didn’t take long for Gabriel Vilardi to score his first NHL goal.

Raanta was nearly unbeatable, but Ryan O'Reilly finished a precise pass from Brayden Schenn to lead the Blues past the Coyotes.

Kevin Hayes‘ game-winning goal wasn’t anything special, but his celebration following was something to see.

Pavel Zacha threaded a perfect stretch pass and then Jesper Bratt mesmerized Martin Jones with a series of dekes.

Stats of the Night

Scores

Toronto Maple Leafs 4, Pittsburgh Penguins 0

New Jersey Devils 2, San Jose Sharks 1

Montreal Canadiens 4, Washington Capitals 3 (OT)

Philadelphia Flyers 4, Columbus Blue Jackets 3 (OT)

Winnipeg Jets 5, Ottawa Senators 1

St. Louis Blues 1, Arizona Coyotes 0

Vegas Golden Knights 5, Tampa Bay Lightning 3

Los Angeles Kings 5. Florida Panthers 4


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.

The Buzzer: Predators building momentum; Eichel nets milestone goal in loss

Matt Duchene #95 of the Nashville Predators
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Three Stars

1) Alex Iafallo, Los Angeles Kings

Iafallo scored the opening goal, the game-tying goal and eventually the game-winning goal as he recorded his first career hat trick in the Kings’ 3-2 overtime win against the Arizona Coyotes. Los Angeles outshot Arizona 16-3 in the third period but couldn’t tie the game until Iafallo connected at 17:06 of the final frame. Kings captain Anze Kopitar added two assists as the Kings snapped a five-game losing streak.

2) Matt Duchene, Nashville Predators

Duchene recorded a goal, an assist and the game-deciding tally in the shootout to help John Hynes and the Predators capture a 6-5 victory against the New Jersey Devils. The 29-year-old broke a six-game goal drought when his shot deflected off a Devils defender in the third period. Duchene also converted a slick forehand-backhand maneuver in the extra session as the Predators overcame a third-period deficit for the second straight game.

3) Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres

Eichel reached the 30-goal milestone for the first time in his NHL career with a short-side snipe in the Sabres’ 3-1 loss against the Montreal Canadiens Thursday. The Sabres captain is quietly putting together an impressive season but is correctly left out of the Hart Trophy conversation due to Buffalo’s position in the standings. Rasmus Dahlin and Eichel are excellent building blocks, but the remainder of the Sabres roster leaves a lot to be desired.

Highlights of the Night

Pavel Zacha mesmerized the crowd at the Prudential Center with this forehand-backhand-forehand deke early in the first period.

The six-game absence didn’t affect Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher as he recorded the go-ahead goal with a clever backhanded shot.

Roman Josi won’t receive credit for the assist but he showed off his terrific vision with this beautiful cross-ice pass. Filip Forsberg would eventually net his first goal of the game following the play.

Injuries

  • Kyle Okposo exited Thursday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens after sustaining an upper-body injury early in the first period. Sabres coach Ralph Krueger told the media following the loss that Okposo did not suffer a concussion.
  • Oliver Ekman-Larsson suffered a lower-body injury midway through the second period after a knee-on-knee collision with the Kings’ Dustin Brown. Arizona’s captain finished his shift but then went to the dressing room and didn’t return.

Stats of the Night

Scores

Montreal Canadiens 3, Buffalo Sabres 1

Nashville Predators 6, New Jersey Devils 5 (SO)

Los Angeles Kings 3, Arizona Coyotes 2 (OT)


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.

Matt Duchene, Filip Forsberg rally Predators past Devils

Matt Duchene scored in regulation and the shootout-deciding goal in the Nashville Predators’ 6-5 win against the New Jersey Devils.

Filip Forsberg scored twice and lit the lamp in the opening round of the skills competition as the Predators erased a third-period deficit for the second straight game. Mattias Ekholm and Nick Bonino also scored. Pekka Rinne added 27 saves.

Despite two goals from Pavel Zacha and two points from Nikita Gusev, the Devils picked up their fourth loss in the previous five games.

Predators ready for playoff push?

If Nashville has its eyes on the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, now is the right time to climb up the standings. After an impressive win against the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals Wednesday, the Predators collected another important road victory and are currently two points out of the wild card with two games in hand on both the Vegas Golden Knights and Arizona Coyotes.

Even though the Devils are near the bottom of the NHL standings, the Predators should be proud of their effort which resulted in two points in the second leg of a back-to-back on the road.

“We are showing a lot of character right now,” Duchene said on the NBCSN telecast following the win. “We didn’t have any passengers tonight, everyone was going.”

If the Predators can string a couple of victories together, they can erase a disappointing first half in a hurry. Nashville will take on Vegas at Bridgestone Arena Saturday before embarking on a critical four-game road trip through Western Canada.

Can Zacha turn the corner?

Zacha became the first Devil since Mike Cammalleri to score a shorthanded goal and power-play tally in the same game per Devils’ statistician Craig Seiden. The 22-year-old forward showed off his silky hands when he converted a nifty deke to even the score at 1-1 early in the first period. He would later benefit from a deflection when he knotted the score again in the middle frame.

The Devils invested a lot of draft capital in Zacha when they selected him with the sixth overall pick of the 2015 draft. The Czech forward has been largely inconsistent throughout his brief NHL career and has failed to live up to his draft status thus far.

There is not a magic formula for player development in the NHL. Each individual improves his ability and adjusts to the demands of the sport at a different rate. Will Zacha’s performance Thursday be a building block toward his path to stardom? The Devils have a few of the right pieces with Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes and others, but Zacha’s maturation could be an X-factor in the Devils’ quest to turn things around.


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.

Devils GM doesn’t care if Zacha considers signing with KHL

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero says he is still attempting to sign center Pavel Zacha amid concerns the former first-round draft pick will play in the Kontinental Hockey League this season.

Peppering his comments with profanities, Shero told The Associated Press on Monday that he doesn’t care if Zacha signs with the KHL, a Russian-based pro league, with Brampton, an ECHL team, or anywhere else. Shero says the Devils still retain the restricted free agent’s rights after issuing him a qualifying offer this summer, and he hopes to get a deal completed with training camp opening this week.

Shero says he’s unaware if Zacha has signed with a KHL team, though he adds that possibility was raised by the player’s agent during a recent conversation.

Shero says playing in the KHL is ”not the advice I would give him,” and adds ”it’s a long way back to the NHL” if Zacha goes that route.

Zacha’s agent, Patrik Stefan, did not immediately respond to several messages from the AP seeking comment.

Shero called Zacha an ”important player” entering a key year in his development. He spoke while watching the Devils’ third and final game at the Sabres’ prospects tournament in Buffalo.

The 22-year-old Zacha is from the Czech Republic and had a career-best 13 goals in 61 games last season. Overall, he has 29 goals and 47 assists for 76 points in 201 career NHL games.

Devils won’t offer tryouts to Bernier, Gomez

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Scott Gomez was signed by the New Jersey Devils after participating in training camp on a tryout basis last year and it worked out well with him scoring seven goals and 34 points in 58 contests on a team that struggled offensively. History will not repeat itself.

Devils GM Ray Shero confirmed that Gomez, who remains unsigned, won’t receive a professional tryout offer. Steve Bernier, who tied his career-high with 32 points in 67 games last season, won’t be presented with an opportunity to make the team either.

“That’s not a direction I’m looking to go at this point. I think we made a decision back before the draft to let (Bernier) go to free agency and let him go in a different direction,” Shero told NJ Advance Media. “Obviously they haven’t signed anywhere yet, but I’m sure they are working on some things themselves.

“With Scott, as I’ve said before, it really wasn’t so much about him but more us going in a different direction.”

After finishing in the bottom-five of scoring for three consecutive seasons, Shero wants to focus on giving younger players an opportunity. He’s also moved the team’s rebuild forward by selecting Pavel Zacha with the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

Shero hasn’t ruled out the possibility of offering tryouts to other players, but it seems the march forward hasn’t left any room for Gomez or Bernier’s return.