Benn ejected for boarding Ekman-Larsson (Video)

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Jamie Benn was ejected midway through the second period for boarding Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The Coyotes captain stayed down on the ice for an extended period of time before heading directly to the locker room.

Ekman-Larsson did return for the third period.

Due to a rule change this season, the referees had a chance to review the major penalty but confirmed the call and sent Benn off for the remainder of the game.

Ekman-Larsson and Benn had a slight history dating back to December when the Coyotes blueliner caught the Stars captain with a blindside hit.

The NHL Department of Player Safety will certainly take a look and Benn could miss more time in the near future.


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.

Road less traveled: Some NHL teams moving AHL squads closer

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DENVER — Jason Dickinson encountered quite a few bumps in the road on his route to the NHL. Good thing for his trusty truck.

Dickinson was up and down between the Dallas Stars and their American Hockey League affiliate, the Texas Stars, a total of 17 times during the 2017-18 season.

Sometimes, the forward would join the team from the road. And sometimes, he would make that 183.5-mile trek along the interstate in his truck.

That’s a rather easy call-up commute by league standards: From rink to rink, the average distance between NHL teams and their AHL partners is roughly 460 miles (740.3 kilometers).

Currently, there are a half-dozen NHL teams that have affiliates located more than 1,200 miles (1,931.2 kilometers) away.

The longest jaunt? From the Utica Comets in New York to the Vancouver Canucks, which is a 2,918-mile (4,696 kilometers) coast-to-coast expedition.

The shortest? A tie between the San Jose Sharks/San Jose Barracudas and the Winnipeg Jets/Manitoba Moose. That’s simply a short walk down the hallway thanks to shared arenas.

Over the past few seasons, a few teams have moved their minor league affiliates closer to base camp. The Colorado Avalanche relocated their farm team from San Antonio, Texas, to Loveland, Colorado, in 2018 and Ottawa a year earlier moved its from Binghamton, New York, to Belleville, Ontario.

The Vegas Golden Knights recently announced their purchase of an AHL franchise from Spurs Sports & Entertainment, operators of the San Antonio Rampage. The plan is to relocate the team from Texas to Henderson, Nevada, and begin play at the Orleans Arena next season.

It makes sense having players nearby for practical (emergency call-up) and logistical (easier for executives to catch games) purposes.

Avalanche assistant general manager Craig Billington lives in Denver but spends about 80% of his time working with the Eagles in Loveland, which is about 50 miles (80.5 kilometers) away.

”When you take into account the viewing and the communication that goes on, it really benefits from a geographical proximity,” Billington explained. ”Information travels quite quickly and enables us to feel connected – the coaching staff, all the players, the trainers, the benefit of doctors and the medical support.”

Eagles forward Jayson Megna is no stranger to making various NHL/AHL treks. He has taken that long flight from Utica to Vancouver while with the Canucks. He’s gone from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to the Pittsburgh Penguins (264 miles, 424.9 kilometers). He knows the trip from the Hartford Wolf Pack to the New York Rangers (115 miles, 185 kilometers).

The current commute, from Loveland to Denver, is more than manageable for a player who’s been added, recalled or returned on loan five times this season. Theoretically, he could be back at home in Fort Collins that night after a game.

”Super easy,” said the 30-year-old Megna, who has played in 121 NHL games. ”There’s not any issues with travel plans. You still feel good and prepared for a game.”

Not that players mind the travel – any sort of travel.

”I mean, when you get called up to the NHL you have a certain amount of adrenaline,” Megna said. ”Guys just make it happen.”

Take goaltender Calvin Pickard, for instance: He played in weekend games for the Grand Rapids Griffins last month, before getting a quick call to join the Detroit Red Wings to make a start.

”Just a quick drive,” Pickard said of the 157-mile (252.7 kilometer) commute. ”Just had to go grab my gear.”

Speaking of gear, that can be quite an ordeal for players who must take a flight to join their teams.

”The hockey bag is always the last one off the plane. Every time,” Dickinson said. ”You’re always the last one out.”

That’s why Dickinson preferred to make the drive from Cedar Park, Texas, to Dallas in his truck.

As an added bonus to driving, he had his own transportation while in town.

”It sucks when you’re stuck in your city and you have to beg guys to pick you up at the hotel,” said Dickinson, who has eight goals and 10 assists in 55 games for Dallas this season. ”It makes it easy to feel a part of the area. You don’t feel like you’re coming into a whole new city and trying to figure things out.”

The Buzzer: Draisaitl carries Oilers again; Rinne shines for Predators

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Three Stars

1. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers. If the Draisaitl MVP train wasn’t already rolling along, it certainly is now. He scored a goal, assisted on the overtime game-winner on Sunday, and had another three-point game for the Oilers as he opened up a 13-point lead in the NHL scoring race. He is now on a 132-point pace for the season and is showing that he can absolutely drive the Oilers offense without Connor McDavid next to him.

2. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators. The goaltending has not always been there for the Predators this season. It was there for them on Sunday afternoon in a 2-1 win over the St. Louis Blues. Rinne stopped 38 out of 39 shots for the Predators to help them climb to within a single point of a playoff spot in the Western Conference with still several games in hand. Improved play from Rinne down the stretch could be a season-changer for the Predators. Read more about the Predators’ win on Sunday right here.

3. Patric Hornqvist, Pittsburgh Penguins. He thought he had a hat trick in the Penguins’ 5-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings, but his first goal was later awarded to Sam Lafferty. So he has to settle for a two-goal, three-point, plus-three day for the Penguins. He has not always looked his sharpest this season — he still brings the energy and physical play — but he is still on close to a 30-goal pace this season. With Sunday’s win the Penguins are now just one point behind the Washington Capitals for first place in the Metropolitan Division with still one game in hand. Read more about the Penguins’ win here.

Other notable performances from Sunday

  • Charlie McAvoy could not find the back of the net for the first few months of the season, and now he has three goals over his past few games. He opened the scoring in the Bruins’ 3-1 win over the Rangers on Sunday. Read more about the Bruins’ win right here.
  • On a day where the Devils traded away two key veterans (read about that here and here) Mackenzie Blackwood shined in net, turning aside 52 out of 55 shots in a 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Highlights of the Day

The Anaheim Ducks are playing spoiler roll right now and handed the Vancouver Canucks a tough 5-1 loss on Sunday. It was highlighted by this play by Ryan Getzlaf to set up Derek Grant.

Turris scores the winner with just under three minutes to play in regulation.

Artem Anisimov helps the Ottawa Senators pull off the upset win over the Dallas Stars with an overtime goal.

Celebration of the day

Jack Eichel tells the Toronto fans in Buffalo to take a seat. The Sabres scored three goals in 1:31 (including one from Eichel) to get a 5-2 win over the Maple Leafs. Kyle Okposo also scored a goal during that stretch to record his 500th career NHL point.

Factoids

  • Connor Hellebucyk stopped 31 shots to help the Winnipeg Jets get a huge win over the Chicago Blackhawks. It is his 25th win of the season, putting him in second place in the NHL. [NHL PR]
  • Rasmus Dahlin now has the second most points in NHL history for a defenseman before their 20th birthday. [Sabres PR]
  • Trevor van Riemsdyk‘s goal just 12 seconds into Saturday’s game is the third fastest goal to start a game in Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes franchise history. [NHL PR]

Scores

Pittsburgh Penguins 5, Detroit Red Wings 1
Boston Bruins 3, New York Rangers 1
Edmonton Oilers 4, Carolina Hurricanes 3 (OT)
Anaheim Ducks 5, Vancouver Canucks 1
Nashville Predators 2, St. Louis Blues 1
Ottawa Senators 4, Dallas Stars 3 (OT)
New Jersey Devils 4, Columbus Blue Jackets 3 (SO)
Buffalo Sabres 5, Toronto Maple Leafs 2
Winnipeg Jets 3, Chicago Blackhawks 2

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: Saturday of surprises, including a Martin Jones shutout

Martin Jones shutout The Buzzer 3 stars highlights
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Three Stars

1. Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks

Saturday ended up being an oasis in the desert for struggling California goalies. Both Jones and Jonathan Quick earned their first wins of 2020.

Jones managed his win most impressively, pitching a 39-save shutout, his first goose egg of the season. Minnesota fired quantity over quality at Jones, but it was quite the volume nonetheless. This marks quite the turnaround, as Jones allowed 13 goals over his last three appearances.

Despite this performance, Martin Jones sits under 90 percent on the season with an .894 save percentage. Yes, the Sharks defense can be porous, but Jones’ freefall remains a huge disappointment for a franchise that carried lofty aspirations.

2. Tyler Toffoli, Los Angeles Kings

Consider this a dual prize for Toffoli and Quick, who helped the Kings steal the Stadium Series skirmish from Colorado.

Toffoli scored all three of the Kings’ goals, including the late game-winner and an empty-netter. The latter tally pushed Toffoli to the first hat trick in an outdoor game. Toffoli already ranked as one of the bigger trade target fish in a shallow pond, but a hot streak could puff him up, and he now has four goals in his last two contests.

Quick faced the busier evening overall, though, and was almost perfect. He made 32 out of 33 saves, only allowing a goal when he made the wrong choice to grab his stick during a scrambly sequence for L.A.

3. Kyle Turris, Nashville Predators

If people can resist thinking of Turris as a $6M player — or at least maybe contain it to the occasional reference — they might be heartened by his OK play. It’s easier after outputs like Saturday when Turris scored a goal and two assists as Nashville gutted out a win against St. Louis. Turris has more goals (8 to 7) and points (27 to 23) than last season. It’s easy to forget that he was limited to 55 games played in 2018-19, but either way, it’s reasonable to see that he exceeded those totals in 50 games this season.

Still, there’s novelty to choosing Turris over, say, Patrick Kane (who also scored a goal and two assists). Other honorable mentions include Semyon Varlamov (42 saves, but in a 1-0 loss) and Antti Raanta (36 of 37 saves, kept Alex Ovechkin snakebitten).

Speaking of Ovechkin, his next shot at 700 goals comes on Monday. NBCSN will carry that game against the Golden Knights, with coverage beginning at 6 p.m. ET.

Highlights of the Night

Tyler Seguin won it for Dallas in overtime with a mind-melter:

Brad Marchand just going to keep doing this, isn’t he?

Factoids

  • The Flames are becoming masters of bad starts. They’ve allowed a goal on the first shot they faced nine times this season, the most of any team in the NHL. (Sportsnet Stats)
  • Fear the Fin’s Sheng Peng points out that Martin Jones has been a menace to Minnesota. Jones generated three of his four shutouts from the past to seasons against the Wild.
  • Marc-Andre Fleury became the 18th goalie to reach 60 career shutouts. (Sportsnet Stats)
  • Auston Matthews reached 42 goals and 71 points on Saturday. Matthews became the first Leaf to score 70+ points by 59 games played since Mats Sundin, who got there in 57 back in 1996-97. (NHL PR)
  • The Lightning set a new franchise record with their longest home winning streak at 11 games and counting. (NHL PR)

Scores

BOS 4 – DET 1
NSH 4 – STL 3
TBL 5 – PHI 3
EDM 4 – FLA 1
SJS 2 – MIN 0
DAL 4 – MTL 3 (OT)
TOR 4 – OTT 2
LAK 3 – COL 1
CHI 8 – CGY 4
ARI 3 – WSH 1
VGK 1 – NYI 0

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: Lightning win ninth straight; Smith’s hat trick powers Predators

Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 and Brayden Point #21 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate
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Three Stars

1) Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

Vasilevskiy extended his point streak to 20 games after a 29-save performance in the Lightning’s 3-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers. The Russian goaltender improved to 18-0-2 during the impressive streak. The Bolts have erased a slow start thanks to a 10-game winning streak at home and a 21-2-1 record in their past 24 games. The Boston Bruins currently have a one-point advantage in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference standings on the surging Bolts.

2) Zach Sanford, St. Louis Blues

A four-goal performance wasn’t enough to help the Blues escape Las Vegas with two points, but was a career night for the forward, nevertheless. Sanford scored in a variety of ways around the net and added a wicked wrist shot to cap off his excellent performance. Sanford gave the Blues a one-goal lead with 8:15 remaining in the final period, but the Golden Knights found a way to tie the game and notch the overtime winner. It was St. Louis’ first game since Jay Bouwmeester’s medical incident on Tuesday.

3) Craig Smith, Nashville Predators

Smith’s first career hat trick helped Nashville snap a two-game losing streak. Juuse Saros made 31 saves and collected his second shutout of the season in the Predators’ 5-0 win against the New York Islanders. Smith buried a sharp-angled shot to open the scoring 35 seconds into the game. He later wired two wrist shots from the slot to complete the hat trick. The 30-year-old has five goals in the previous three games.

3A) Mikael Backlund, Calgary Flames

In a 6-0 rout against the Anaheim Ducks, Backlund scored twice as the Flames picked up their third win in the previous five games. The Swedish centerman benefitted from Michael Stone’s spinning pass midway through the opening period to give the Flames a 2-0 lead. Fast forward to late in the second period, Ducks forward Rickard Rakell floated a backhand pass from the point that Backlund easily intercepted. Backlund raced up ice and converted a neat deke to his backhand to help the Flames run away with this one.

Other notable performances

  • James van Riemsdyk recorded a goal and an assist in the Flyers’ 6-2 win against the Panthers.
  • Artemi Panarin had a goal, an assist and shootout tally as the Rangers collected their third straight win.
  • Wayne Simmonds scored twice as part of a four-goal third period in the Devils’ 4-1 win against the Red Wings.
  • Tyler Seguin ended a 17-game goal drought in the Stars’ 3-2 win against the Maple Leafs.
  • Jack Eichel had a goal, an assist and a beautiful set up for Victor Olofsson for the overtime winner.

Highlights of the Night

Jack Eichel raced past a defender in overtime, then stopped on a dime and set up Victor Olofsson for the overtime winner.

Auston Matthews fired a laser past Ben Bishop to tie David Pastrnak for the NHL scoring lead at 41 goals.

Smith picked Nick Leddy‘s pocket, then found an opening from a sharp angle 35 seconds into the game.

Vladislav Gavrikov found Nathan Gerbe trailing the play when the Blue Jackets took a one-goal lead in final minute of opening period.

Panarin showed great patience with this impressive deke, but should it have counted?

Stats of the Night

Scores

Buffalo Sabres 4, Columbus Blue Jackets 3 (OT)

Dallas Stars 3, Toronto Maple Leafs 2

Tampa Bay Lightning 3, Edmonton Oilers 1

Philadelphia Flyers 6, Florida Panthers 2

New Jersey Devils 4, Detroit Red Wings 1

Ottawa Senators 3, Arizona Coyotes 2

New York Rangers 4, Minnesota Wild 3 (SO)

Nashville Predators 5, New York Islanders 0

Washington Capitals 3, Colorado Avalanche 2

Vegas Golden Knights 6, St. Louis Blues 5 (OT)

Calgary Flames 6, Anaheim Ducks 0


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.