NHL Playoff Buzzer: Habs sweep Jets; Islanders push Bruins to brink

  • The Canadian government granted NHL travel exemption for Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Read more)
  • After the Jets lucked their way into Game 4 OT, the Canadiens completed the sweep.
  • Despite a hail of shots from the Bruins, the Islanders won Game 5, putting Boston on the brink.
  • To put things mildly, Bruce Cassidy was not happy about the officiating in Bruins – Islanders Game 5.

Game 4: Canadiens 3, Jets 2 [OT] (Habs sweep Jets)

Simply put, the Jets didn’t exactly go out swinging to try to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Canadiens. With their season on the line, Winnipeg managed a tepid 16 shots on goal. Yes, the Jets lost Mark Scheifele to a suspension, but plenty of teams have to zig and zag due to injuries and other issues. Instead, the Jets sagged, and the Canadiens made no mistake finishing off that sweep.

Game 5: Islanders 5, Bruins 4 (NYI leads series 3-2) — series livestream

Again, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy was not happy about the penalties that largely went the Islanders’ way in Game 5. Whether you think his gripes are justified (or partially? Not at all?) or not, special teams made a big difference. The Islanders did just enough to win Game 5, pushing the Bruins to the brink of elimination. It was a heck of a back-and-forth affair, though, so check out those jam-packed highlights:

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 Second Round schedule, TV info]

Three Stars for NHL playoff action on Monday

1. Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders

It might seem odd that the top star for Monday’s NHL playoff action allowed four goals.

If you tuned into the Islanders’ 5-4 Game 5 win over the Bruins, you’d likely agree that Varlamov (and the Isles’ power play) ended up making a big difference. The Bruins dominated at even-strength and overall, firing 44 shots on goal and generating 11 high-danger chances. Varlamov rarely faltered in making 40 saves.

(Maybe you’d ding Varlamov a bit for the third period. Again, though, Boston easily could’ve run away with that game. Varlamov was especially crucial in Game 5.)

While Cassidy indicated that Tuukka Rask wasn’t 100 percent for the Bruins in Game 5, Varlamov was splendid. If this pattern holds, goaltending could be an advantage for the Islanders as they aim to close out the Bruins.

2. Tyler Toffoli, Montreal Canadiens

For all the Canadiens who’ve raised their games during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Toffoli’s really just carried over from his splendid debut Habs season. Off a brilliant pass from Cole Caufield, Toffoli scored the overtime-winner to complete the Canadiens sweep in Game 4. Toffoli also grabbed an assist, fired three SOG, generated a +1 rating, and even won a couple faceoffs.

3. David Pastrnak and top Bruins or Connor Hellebuyck for the Jets?

Here’s an under-the-radar theme for Monday in the NHL: strong losing efforts.

Do you prefer David Pastrnak (2G, 1A) and other top Bruins skaters? Both Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy (3A) were all over the place, pairing their three-point nights with five SOG apiece. Brad Marchand scored a beautiful goal, produced an assist, and seemingly could have scored more.

Or, do you prefer Connor Hellebuyck trying to bail out his befuddled Jets teammates? Hellebuyck stopped 39 out of 42 shots, while Logan Stanley scored both of Winnipeg’s goals in a losing effort.


Stat of the night: Canadiens haven’t had to come back much lately

Amusingly, the Canadiens team that was down 3-1 to the Maple Leafs haven’t had to “come back” from much lately. Consider how long it’s been since the Canadiens trailed in a playoff game:


Game 5: Lightning at Hurricanes, 6:30 p.m. ET (TB leads 3-1) – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 5:
Avalanche at Golden Knights, 9 p.m. ET (Series 2-2) – NBCSN (livestream)

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.

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.

NHL Playoff Buzzer: Canadiens crush Jets; Golden Knights blast Avs

  • The Canadian government granted NHL travel exemption for Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Read more)
  • David Krejci received a $5K fine for slashing Mathew Barzal.
  • The Canadiens put the Jets on the verge of a sweep by running away with Game 3.
  • That wasn’t the only 5-1 game in the NHL on Sunday. The Golden Knights did it too, absolutely dismantling the Avalanche in Game 4.

Game 3: Canadiens 5, Jets 1 (MTL leads series 3-0) — series livestream

Thanks to a Corey Perry goal less than five minutes into Game 3, the Canadiens took a 1-0 lead over the Jets. While that didn’t serve as the game-winner, it rarely felt like Winnipeg had much of a chance. Really, Montreal dominated the second period even more. Can the Jets avoid a sweep vs. the Canadiens? At this point, it’s tempting to ask if Winnipeg will even make Montreal break much of a sweat.

Game 4: Golden Knights 5, Avalanche 1 (Series tied 2-2) — series livestream

Well, wow. The Avalanche actually took an early 1-0 lead in Game 4, and then the Golden Knights never looked back. Jonathan Marchessault ended up being the biggest star of that contest, and of Sunday in the NHL. But this was a total team effort. The Avalanche looked lost against an overwhelming Golden Knights attack, with Nathan MacKinnon & Co. getting little traction in Game 4. The Avs face some real adversity as the series shifts to Colorado for Game 5 on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 Second Round schedule, TV info]

Three Stars for NHL playoff action on Sunday

1. Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights

No doubt, Marchessault gains the headlines for Sunday in the NHL. For the first time in his impressive career, Marchessault collected a playoff hat trick.

As is his style, Marchessault peppered the net to get that hat trick. He ended up firing seven shots on goal in Game 4. With this hat trick, Marchessault has four goals in his last two playoff games after being limited to a single tally through his first nine playoff games of this run.

Don’t forget William Karlsson in this equation, though.

“Wild Bill” generated three assists in Game 4, gaining a helper on all three of Marchessault’s hat trick of goals. At their best, the Golden Knights feel like they have “two first lines.” Marchessault and Karlsson created that feeling on Sunday in the NHL.

2. Joel Armia, Montreal Canadiens

Like the Golden Knights over the Avalanche in their Game 4, the Canadiens enjoyed a total team effort in smothering the Jets in Game 3.

Joel Armia played a big role in that win, though. Armia scored two goals (one a shorthanded tally, the other a nice empty-netter) while adding an assist in Game 3.

If Armia can carry over from Game 3, they’d be even more thrilled than they already are. Armia ended a four-game scoring drought with this three-point night. He was productive early vs. the Maple Leafs, generating four points (2G, 2A) through the first five games of that series. With how tight the Habs are playing defensively, Armia could be a very nice asset.

3. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

Look, it must be said that the Canadiens are playing great defensive hockey.

Think back to how lost the Maple Leafs looked in trying to create offense, especially late in that stunning series. The Jets might be even more clueless about how to break through against the Habs, and it showed as the Canadiens put on a clinic in Game 3.

But, no doubt about it, Carey Price’s sharp play is crucial. It’s a symbiotic relationship, as perhaps Jets scorers feel like they need to hold onto that puck for an extra moment (or make one pass too many?) to beat Price.

Price and the Canadiens have now won six playoff games in a row. He’s only allowed one goal in his last two contests, making 26 of 27 saves in Game 3. With a sparkling .938 save percentage during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, “Playoff Carey Price” sure feels like a genuine thing.


Marchessault hat trick

Check out Marchessault’s hat trick in the clip below:

Stat of the night: Canadiens defensive dominance continues in Game 3

Could things be a little different if the Canadiens fail to get a 1-0 lead?


Game 5: Bruins at Islanders, 6:30 p.m. ET (Series tied 2-2) – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 4:
Jets at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (MTL leads 3-0) – NHL Network (livestream)

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.

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.

NHL Playoff Buzzer: Blues, Capitals eliminated, more double OT on Sunday

  • For the second time in a row, the Predators and Hurricanes didn’t just need OT; they needed double OT to highlight the NHL playoff action on Sunday.
  • The Avalanche did enough to win Game 4, finishing a sweep of the Blues in the process.
  • Credit the Capitals for serious efforts, but the Bruins eliminated them in Game 5.
  • Somehow, the Oilers squandered a 4-1 lead (and breakthroughs from Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl), and the Jets went up 3-0 in the series.
  • Get ready for five more NHL playoff games on Monday, with three teams facing elimination. That includes the Oilers, who don’t have much time to get over that shocking loss to the Jets.

Game 4: Predators 4, Hurricanes 3 [Double OT] (Series tied 2-2)

Games 3 and 4 were different for the Predators and Hurricanes, but there were key similarities, too. Obviously, each contest required double overtime. Both teams also asked a lot of their goalies, with Juuse Saros shining brightest. Oh, and the Predators won both games at home (in double OT), and all of a sudden a First Round series that looked all-Hurricanes is now tied 2-2.

Game 4: Avalanche 5, Blues 2 (COL wins series 4-0)

On one hand, the Blues put forth a respectable effort vs. the Avalanche in Game 4, much like Game 3. At the same time, it seemed apparent that Colorado could “turn it off” when needed, while St. Louis just didn’t have that extra juice to get over the hump. Maybe there’s some solace in Vladimir Tarasenko creating some offense, but the Blues probably aren’t focused on small victories after getting eliminated in this Avalanche sweep.

Game 5: Bruins 3, Capitals 1 (BOS wins series 4-1)

For most, if not all, of the Bruins – Capitals series, Boston’s stars were able to shine brighter than Washington’s standouts. Beyond Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie, key Capitals just couldn’t get things going. While the instinct would be to totally bury those top Capitals after they were eliminated, give credit to the Bruins’ best, and maybe Tuukka Rask most of all. Rask was fantastic all series long, and now the Bruins get a nice break after eliminating the Capitals in Game 5.

Game 3: Jets 5, Oilers 4 [OT] (WIN leads series 3-0)

The 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs are already brimming with surprises, but this was a true stunner. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl finally enjoyed strong playoff performances, generating three points apiece. The Oilers built what seemed like a commanding 4-1 lead in Game 3, and it was in the third period vs. the Jets. That all fell apart, and the Jets won in overtime, leaving the Oilers a loss away from a sweep. Again … stunning.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 First Round schedule, TV info]

Three Stars for NHL playoff action on Sunday

1. Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators

Yes, Saros allowed three goals in double OT playoff action on Sunday. But three goals allowed sounds a lot better when you realize that Saros almost played two playoff games worth of hockey in that double OT thriller.

Overall, Saros generated 58 saves, setting a new Predators playoff record. (Managing 58 saves in a playoff game is fairly rare in NHL history, at least when you’ve played less than 100 minutes.)

During the regular season, Saros was sensational while dragging the Predators to the playoffs. He’s now putting up slightly better numbers (.929 save percentage in playoffs; .927 in regular season season) in the postseason, which is saying a lot.

The Predators deserve credit for gutsy efforts in squeezing a 2-0 Hurricanes lead down to a 2-2 series tie. But Saros kept them in the first two games, and then played an enormous role in winning those last two.

2. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

For all the deserved praise Saros receives, he’s not a no-brainer choice over Rask for the top star of Sunday’s NHL playoff action. (A day that was quite fine for Finns, by the way.)

As far as being close-to-perfect, Rask gets the edge. He only allowed one Capitals goal, stopping 40 shots as the Bruins eliminated Washington. Rask really must have drained a lot of the Capitals’ will in the second period, in particular, stopping all 20 Washington shots on goal.

After the Bruins eliminated the Capitals, Rask’s save percentage stands at .941 for the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Between his work in the regular season and postseason throughout his career, Rask likely deserves more love, including from Bruins fans and media.

Maybe this run will be the one where Rask is finally not taken for granted?

(Consider Patrice Bergeron among the honorable mentions for Sunday’s NHL playoff performers. He scored two big goals for the Bruins. Other two-goal scorers made bigger impacts, though …)

3. Nikolaj Ehlers, Winnipeg Jets

One or both of Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid should have been in this spot. Honestly, maybe they should still be in the mix, as their three-point outputs remain impressive.

But the Oilers squandered the 4-1 lead Draisaitl and McDavid helped build, and Ehlers helped Winnipeg win a stunner. Ehlers scored the Jets’ first goal in Game 3, and then found the net for the overtime game-winner. Quite a way to return to from an injury, and it only makes it more uncomfortable for the Oilers that they couldn’t win either of the games Ehlers couldn’t participate in.

If you prefer, there are plenty of other choices for the three stars for Sunday in the NHL’s 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Consider two-goal games alone. Luke Kunin collected two goals of his own, including the double-OT-winner for the Predators. Both Brock McGinn and Vladimir Tarasenko collected two goals apiece in defeat.

Ehlers makes the Jets much more dangerous, and that’s bad news for an Oilers team in big trouble, and on the verge of a sweep.


Monday’s NHL playoff games

Game 5: Islanders at Penguins (Series tied 2-2), 7 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 3: Maple Leafs at Canadiens (Series tied 1-1), 7 p.m. ET – NHL Network (livestream)
Game 5: Lightning at Panthers (TB leads 3-1), 8 p.m. ET – CNBC (livestream)
Game 4: Oilers at Jets (WPG leads 3-0), 9:45 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 5: Wild at Golden Knights (VGK leads 3-1), 10:30 p.m. ET – CNBC (livestream)

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.

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.

NHL Playoff Buzzer: Fleury shines on lopsided Saturday of action

  • This time, the Lightning were able to protect a multi-goal lead, and the Panthers are in trouble.
  • The Islanders looked dominant in tying their NHL playoff series with the Penguins.
  • The Maple Leafs managed without John Tavares, turning to another star to beat the Canadiens.
  • After Game 4, the Golden Knights have the Wild on the brink of elimination.
  • Get ready for four more NHL playoff games on Sunday.

Game 4: Lightning 6, Panthers 2 (TBL leads series 3-1)

No matter who the Panthers roll with in net, they really haven’t been able to slow the Lightning. Even in the one game the Panthers won, it was mostly about out-scoring the Lightning. In this case, maybe Tampa Bay learned some lessons from squandering a Game 3 lead, as there was really no mistake about it on one of Saturday’s one-sided NHL playoff games.

(Oh, and yes, there was some nastiness in Lightning – Panthers Game 4. We’ll need to wait and see if Nikita Kucherov and/or Mikhail Sergachev suffering lingering effects from late physicality.)

Game 4: Islanders 4, Penguins 1 (Series tied 2-2)

You know, the Islanders have been mixing their goalies in and out in a way not that unlike the Panthers. The difference is that the Isles have been giving their netminders quite a bit more help. Ilya Sorokin was sharp against the Penguins, and the Islanders dominated Game 4 to tie their series 2-2. This was the sort of loud, impressive performance Islanders fans were hoping for at Nassau Coliseum.

Game 2: Maple Leafs 5, Canadiens 1 (Series tied 1-1)

After the shock of seeing John Tavares suffering that scary injury in Game 1, the Maple Leafs bounced back to beat the Canadiens in Game 2. This was a pretty even contest for the first 20 minutes, and then Montreal started taking penalties, and Toronto made them pay. The series will now shift to Montreal with the Habs and Buds tied 1-1.

Game 4: Golden Knights 4, Wild 0 (VGK leads series 3-1)

The winning goalies made sure that Saturday’s NHL playoff games weren’t close. Andrei Vasilevskiy remains red hot, and Ilya Sorokin was sharp. But Marc-Andre Fleury has a claim for hottest goalie in the world right now — he’s even been brilliant in defeat. Between Fleury’s brilliance and some lethal transition work, the Golden Knights beat the Wild 4-0 in Game 4, taking a 3-1 series lead.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 First Round schedule, TV info]

Three Stars for NHL playoff action on Saturday

1. Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights

Seriously, Fleury was incredible for the Golden Knights vs. the Wild in Game 4.

The Wild carried significant chunks of the action in Game 4, generating a 35-18 shots on goal advantage over the Golden Knights. While some of that boils down to “score effects,” (13-4 SOG in the third period, when Vegas was up 3-0 then 4-0), that’s still a lot of pressure on “The Flower.”

Fleury was game for all of it, and now Minnesota is on the brink of elimination.

Yes, it’s still wild that the Golden Knights were this close to trading Fleury, and under ideal circumstances might have rolled with Robin Lehner. Goalies: they’re unpredictable. Come to think of it, you can say the same of NHL playoff hockey.

2. Take your pick: Nikita Kucherov or Alex Killorn, Tampa Bay Lightning

Both Killorn and Kucherov generated four points apiece as the Lightning rolled over the Panthers in Game 4.

In Killorn’s case, he scored two goals and two assists. Kucherov, meanwhile, generated a goal and three assists.

Kucherov continues to make it look easy to just jump from surgery rehab to the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. With four points in Game 4, Kucherov now has nine in four playoff contests (3G, 6A). He generated four points in just 14:31 TOI, as Kucherov left after a slash by Anthony Duclair. Again, Jon Cooper didn’t provide much insight about the availability of Kucherov or Sergachev going forward.

Looking at the score, you might be tempted to bury the Panthers’ effort vs. the Lightning in Game 4. They at least made Andrei Vasilevskiy earn his 39-save win. Through the first 40 minutes, the Panthers fired 34 SOG. Ultimately, the Panthers could only beat Vasilevskiy on the power play, and Tampa Bay won. Some might lean on Vasilevskiy as the Lightning’s top star on Saturday for those reasons.

3. Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

It’s safe to assume that Matthews ranked among the Maple Leafs shaken up by John Tavares’ injury. The effort was still there from Matthews in Game 1, though. Just look at the eight shots on goal.

When you’re firing away at that many chances, and you’re as talented as Matthews, you’ll probably break through at some point. For Matthews, Canadiens – Maple Leafs Game 2 represented that point — starting in the second period.

Matthews scored his first goal of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, a tally that would end up being the GWG. He added two more assists, giving him three points overall.

(Ilya Sorokin’s a fine choice as an honorable mention. He only allowed one goal by the Penguins, making 29 saves.)


Stat of Saturday in the NHL: Fleury moves up playoff shutout rankings

  • Marc-Andre Fleury’s 35-save shutout is the 16th playoff shutout of his NHL career. That ties Fleury with Curtis Joseph for third all-time. Martin Brodeur holds the record with 24 playoff shutouts, while Patrick Roy ranks second with 23.


Game 4: Hurricanes at Predators (CAR leads 2-1), 2:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 4: Avalanche at Blues (COL leads 3-0), 5 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 5: Bruins at Capitals (BOS leads 3-1), 7 p.m. ET – USA Network (livestream)
Game 3: Oilers at Jets (WPG leads 2-0), 7:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)

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.

NHL Playoff Buzzer: Goalies make difference in Game 2 action

  • The Penguins protected their Game 2 lead vs. the Islanders to tie the series 1-1.
  • In another nasty game, the Lightning beat the Panthers once again, taking a 2-0 series lead.
  • The Golden Knights looked like they were in trouble, but they won Game 2 vs. the Wild to tie the series 1-1.
  • There’s even more 2021 Stanley Cup Playoff action on Wednesday: four postseason games.

Game 2: Penguins 2, Islanders 1 (series tied 1-1)

Last time, Pittsburgh couldn’t make a 2-1 lead against the Islanders last through the third period. In Game 2, the Penguins locked down the Islanders to tie up the series. Semyon Varlamov shook off a bad 1-0 goal allowed to Bryan Rust; then the Penguins shook off a very bad Rust penalty late in the third. As tight-checking as this one was, there were plenty of hits and shots. It’s now a “best-of-five” series between the Islanders and Penguins.

Game 2: Lightning 3, Panthers 1 (TBL leads series 2-0)

On one hand, Florida’s frequently looked capable of hanging with Tampa Bay. On the other hand, the Lightning slowed down the often-frenzied Panthers attack more often in Game 2, and now the defending champs have a 2-0 series lead. That mixture of skill and hard feelings has made the first-ever Florida playoff series a blast, but Joel Quenneville needs to find answers or it will be short-but-citrusy-sweet.

Game 2: Golden Knights 3, Wild 1 (series tied 1-1)

The Wild dominated the first period of Game 2 against the Golden Knights, but couldn’t beat Marc-Andre Fleury. They ended up scoring their only goal of the contest in the second period, and that lead only lasted 18 seconds. Jonathan Marchessault tied it up, and Alex Tuch collected two goals to gain a huge win for Vegas.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 First Round schedule, TV info]

Three Stars for Game 2 action from Tuesday in the NHL

1. Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights

Really, you could make an argument for any of the three Game 2-winning goals in the NHL on Tuesday. Jarry actually ended up with slightly more saves, and if you want to count non-playoff games, Thatcher Demko was excellent in a contest that will be quickly forgotten.

But, really, it’s got to be Marc-Andre Fleury.

MAF ended up with 34 saves in driving the Golden Knights’ Game 2 win over the Wild. After only allowing a single goal but losing, it had to be satisfying to win here.

Kind of, well, wild that there was some thought to starting Robin Lehner, eh?

2. Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins

On a Tuesday of Game 2 NHL playoff action, there were some interesting goalie debates. Should the Panthers have gone with Chris Driedger instead of Sergei Bobrovsky, as they did? After winning, were the Islanders wise to shift from Ilya Sorokin to Semyon Varlamov?

Call it proactive or reactive, but the Islanders and Panthers both lost after making changes. The Penguins stuck with Tristan Jarry, and he delivered in a Game 2 where the Islanders didn’t prove him with much margin for error.

Beating up Jarry too much for Josh Bailey‘s beauty of backhander seems a little silly. Either way, that was the only goal he allowed, and the Penguins can probably chill about their goalie situation.

At least until their next loss.

3. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

By Natural Stat Trick’s count, the Panthers generated 13 high-danger chances at 5-on-5, while the Lightning generated five in Game 2. Four of the Lightning’s five high-danger chances happened in the first period.

For much of Game 2, the Lightning decided to lean on their defense — and very much Vasilevskiy — to protect their lead over the Panthers. It worked, as Vasilevskiy stopped 32 shots, only yielding a nice Mason Marchment one-timer goal.

If you’re sick of all of the Game 2 goalie talk regarding the three stars for Tuesday in the NHL, well … sorry? Ondrej Palat could be a solid alternate choice, though. He generated an assist and the game-winning goal.


Stats of the night for Tuesday in the NHL

  • Mason Marchment and Bryan Marchment continue the father connection.


Game 3: Capitals at Bruins (Series tied 1-1), 6:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 2: Predators at Hurricanes (CAR leads 1-0), 8 p.m. ET – CNBC (livestream)
Game 1: Jets at Oilers, 9 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 2: Blues at Avalanche (COL leads 1-0), 10:30 p.m. ET – CNBC (livestream)

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.

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: Presidents’ Trophy race down to Avs, Golden Knights (Wednesday in NHL)

3 Stars for the NHL on Wednesday

1. J.T. Compher, Colorado Avalanche

For the first time in his NHL career, J.T. Compher generated a hat trick.

By scoring three goals, Compher extended a modest streak: it’s his fourth consecutive season with 10+ goals. It’s not particularly resounding being that Compher, 26, has never reached 20 goals. (His career-high is 16 from 2018-19. To be fair, he’s regularly a 30+ point player, which is solid since he’s never played more than 69 games in any season.)

You have to think that the Avalanche would be absolutely delighted if Compher gained some confidence from this hat trick.

Coming into Wednesday’s NHL action, Compher averaged less than a shot on goal per game (44 SOG in 46 GP before this one). Maybe it’s fitting, then, that Compher collected his hat trick on his first three SOG of the night?

Either way, a very nice accomplishment. Compher was part of a big blowout that leaves the Avs in “control of their destiny” in their race with the Golden Knights for the Presidents’ Trophy (and also the West Division title).

Both the Avs and Golden Knights crushed their competition on Wednesday, leaving the situation pretty simple to determine which team will finish the regular season atop the NHL. If the Avalanche beat the Kings on Thursday, they’ll finish first. If the Avs lose to the Kings, then the Golden Knights win the Presidents’ Trophy instead.

2. Ville Husso, St. Louis Blues

All three West Division games included a shutout. While the Blues authored the least important of the night’s three shutouts, Ville Husso’s was the most impressive goose egg of the three. (Truly, we’re splitting hairs between the two other light-work Wednesday shutouts in the NHL.)

Husso grabbed his first shutout of the season by stopping all 31 Wild shots.

Now, the Blues don’t want to depend upon Husso during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. That said, if something happens with Jordan Binnington, it’s promising that Husso can gain some confidence. (Shutouts and renewed confidence: themes for Wednesday in the NHL?)

Before this shutout, Husso’s save percentage was a troubling .886. At least Husso’s arguably still learning the ropes at this level, as this was just his 17th career NHL game.

Ultimately, whoever wins the Presidents’ Trophy will face the Blues, while the West Division second seed takes on the Wild. Have the Blues heated up enough to seem like a comparable threat? Might depend upon who you ask.

(David Perron deserves a mention, as well, with a goal and two assists.)

3. Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights; Philipp Grubauer, Colorado Avalanche

OK, we’d be pushing the limits here if we tried to distinguish between nearly identical shutouts. Grubauer only needed to make 18 saves for his shutout, while Marc-Andre Fleury needed one more (19).

Granted, from a historical perspective, Marc-Andre Fleury’s shutout was more significant.

MAF now has 67 shutouts for his career. That breaks a tie with Patrick Roy, and now ties Roy Worters for 14th all-time. (Don’t feel too bad if you hadn’t heard of Worters, despite him being in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He passed away at age 57 back in 1957.)

Apparently Fleury will grab hardware for 2020-21, however the Vezina voting works out.

Highlight of the night for Wednesday in the NHL

Again, Husso enjoyed quite the night. Watch highlights of the Blues’ win vs. the Wild.

Celebrating Patrick Marleau‘s career

Very cool gesture that Gordie Howe’s family requested that Patrick Marleau was presented with that stick:

Wednesday’s NHL scores

Oilers 4, Canadiens 3 (OT)
Senators 4, Maple Leafs 3 (OT)
Golden Knights 6, Sharks 0
Blues 4, Wild 0
Avalanche 6, Kings 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.