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NHL Morning Skate – Feb. 11, 2024

* The NHL’s leading goal scorers in Auston Matthews and Sam Reinhart each added to their totals on a 13-game Saturday, but it was the Panthers forward who tallied yet another power-play goal and helped head coach Paul Maurice capture his 850th career win.

* The Kings, Blues, Predators and Flames are four teams right in the mix for the two Wild Card spots in the Western Conference and each club collected two crucial points in the standings thanks to standout performances from their stars.

Alex Ovechkin can add to his historic goal and point totals on Super Bowl Sunday when the Capitals host the League-leading Canucks on Sportsnet before the San Francisco 49ers square off against the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL’s finale.



BARKOV, REINHART HELP PANTHERS GAIN GROUND ON BRUINS. . .
Aleksander Barkov (1-2—3) factored on three of Florida’s four goals, including Sam Reinhart’s League-leading 22nd power-play tally, to help the Panthers (33-15-4, 70 points) shut out the Avalanche and inch closer to first place in the Atlantic Division following a Bruins (32-11-9, 73 points) regulation loss. The victory also helped Paul Maurice become the fifth head coach in NHL history to earn 850 career wins.



* With three points, Barkov boosted his 2023-24 totals to 12-39—51 (46 GP) and matched Olli Jokinen (9 from 2002-03 to 2011-12) for the second-most consecutive 50-point seasons by a Finnish-born player behind Jari Kurri (10 from 1980-81 to 1989-90). It also marked the Panthers captain’s 50th career three-point game, moving him past Jonathan Huberdeau for the most in franchise history.

. . .  WHILE OTHER ATLANTIC PLAYOFF RACES HEAT UP WITH LIGHTNING, RED WINGS WINS
The tightly-contested Atlantic Division experienced another shuffle Saturday, with the Lightning (28-20-5, 61 points) claiming third place from the Maple Leafs (26-16-8, 60 points) – who fell to the Senators and now sit in the first Wild Card position – and the Red Wings (27-18-6, 60 points) moving into a tie with Toronto in terms of standing points.

* Brandon Hagel (1-2—3) scored in his fourth consecutive road game and Nikita Kucherov (0-2—2) extended his point streak to seven games, bolstering his League lead in points in the process, as the Lightning held on to defeat the Blue Jackets. Hagel’s four-game road goal streak is the NHL’s second longest active run behind Sam Reinhart’s nine-game stretch. 

* Jake Walman capitalized on a penalty shot in overtime – the first player in Red Wings history to do so – and Patrick Kane collected an assist while skating in his 1,200th game to help Detroit defeat Vancouver. Walman became the fourth defenseman in NHL history to score a penalty-shot goal in overtime, joining Ben Hutton (Nov. 17, 2016 w/ VAN), Andy Greene (Nov. 11, 2016 w/ NJD) and Frantisek Kaberle (Jan. 13, 2006 w/ CAR).


* Detroit, in search of its first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2015-16, has occupied a postseason position in the Eastern Conference every day since games played through Jan. 14. The Red Wings last won a playoff game on April 17, 2016 (Game 3 of 2016 R1 vs. TBL) and owned the third-longest streak of consecutive playoff appearances in NHL history.
 


FOUR TEAMS PICK UP WINS AMIDST WESTERN CONFERENCE WILD CARD RACE
The Kings, Blues, Predators and Flames each picked up wins to strengthen their respective positions in a jam-packed Western Conference Wild Card race that features five teams separated by just six points.

Quinton Byfield (2-1—3) shone offensively and David Rittich turned aside all 26 shots he faced to help the Kings (24-15-10, 58 points) maintain their two-point cushion on the Blues as the first seed in the Western Conference Wild Card standings. In the process, Jim Hiller became the sixth Kings head coach to record a win in his NHL coaching debut and joined Andy Murray (2-0 at NSH on Oct. 2,1999) as just the second to do so by means of a shutout.

Jake Neighbours (2-0—2) recorded his third career multi-goal game and became the third active player with as many for the Blues before age 22, joining David Perron (5) and Robby Fabbri (3). St. Louis (27-21-2, 56 points) improved to 6-1-0 in its past seven games and maintained its position in the second Wild Card spot.

* After Nick Schmaltz gave the Coyotes a 4-2 lead, Tommy Novak (1-1—2) and Filip Forsberg (1-1—2) erased the deficit to set the stage for Ryan McDonagh in overtime, who lifted the Predators (27-23-2, 56 points) to their first multi-goal, third-period comeback victory since Nov. 5, 2022 and moved his club into a tie with the Blues in terms of standing points. With his helper, Forsberg joined Roman Josi (479), David Legwand (356) and Martin Erat (318) as the fourth player to record 300 assists with the Predators.

MacKenzie Weegar (3-0—3) became the seventh defenseman in Flames history to score a hat trick, overtook sole possession of the League lead in goals among blueliners (15-17—32 in 52 GP) and boosted AstraZeneca’s contribution to the Hockey Fights Cancer fund to $340,000 this season. Calgary (25-22-5, 55 points) earned its fourth straight victory – tied with NY Rangers for the longest active winning streak in the NHL – and remained within one point of St. Louis for the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.


OVECHKIN PASSES GRETZKY IN #NHLSTATS: LIVE UPDATES DURING BUSY SATURDAY

The latest edition of #NHLStats: Live Updates featured a plethora of notes from Saturday’s slate, including an empty-net tally from Alex Ovechkin (834-686—1,520 in 1,394 GP) – who passed Wayne Gretzky (56) for the most in NHL history, moved within 60 of The Great One’s all-time goal record (894) and helped the Capitals (23-20-7, 53 points) keep pace in the Eastern Conference playoff race.




* Seattle tied the game twice but Sean Couturier broke a third-period tie with his first goal since Jan. 6 as the Flyers (28-19-6, 62 points) captured their third straight win and have two games remaining before taking to MetLife Stadium on Feb. 17 for the 2024 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series. Couturier (2-2—4 in 4 GP) is no stranger to playing outside and will travel to the League’s 41st all-time outdoor game with the opportunity to become the first player in NHL history to score in three consecutive outdoor appearances (2019 SS & 2021 LT).


* Sebastian Aho scored the only goal of the contest with 1:20 remaining in overtime and Pyotr Kochetkov turned aside all 34 shots he faced to help the Hurricanes (30-16-5, 65 points) move within four points of the Rangers (33-16-3, 69 points) for top spot in the Metropolitan Division; Carolina holds a game in hand. Kochetkov, who already owns the most career shutouts by a rookie goaltender in franchise history (6), joined Alex Nedeljkovic (7), Martin Jones (7) and John Gibson (6) as the fourth active goaltender to register as many as a rookie.


QUICK CLICKS

Ken Hitchcock maintains strong bond with Andy Reid, pulling for Chiefs coach in Super Bowl

Jack Drury’s dad, former Whalers forward, reads Hurricanes starting lineup on throwback night
Flyers Cup architect, hockey lifer Norman Poile remembered on 100th birthday
NHL Buzz: Antti Raanta out at least two weeks for Hurricanes
Nikita Zadorov suspended two games for actions in Canucks game

PAIR OF MATINEES PRECEDE SUPER BOWL INCLUDING CANUCKS-CAPS ON SPORTSNET
There will be two NHL games before the San Francisco 49ers square off against the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII, with the Blues battling the Canadiens and League-leading Canucks clashing with the Capitals on Sportsnet. Montreal (21-13-3, 45 points) and Washington (17-14-2, 36 points) own the most and second-most wins, respectively, on Super Bowl Sunday in NHL history, while St. Louis is 5-1-2 (12 points) and Vancouver is 2-6-2 (4 points).


Today’s edition of #NHLStats: Live Updates explores if some of the top storylines surrounding the NFL’s finale have ever happened in the NHL and also features other Super Bowl Sunday-centric team and player notes for the four clubs in action. Some highlights include:

Alex Ovechkin (Feb. 1, 2009 & Feb. 7, 2010) has scored two of the 20 hat tricks on Super Bowl Sunday in League history and is one of two NHL players with more than one on the same day as the NFL’s finale (also Phil EspositoJan. 11, 1970Jan. 14, 1973 & Jan. 9, 1977). Geoff Courtnall (Jan. 28, 1990) is the only other Capitals player with a Super Bowl Sunday hat trick, while Michael Ryder (Feb. 5, 2006) accounts for the only one by a Canadiens skater.


Patrick Mahomes can earn his third Super Bowl win in his seventh season (also LIV & LVII). The last NHL players to win the Stanley Cup three times within their first seven seasons were Red Wings teammates Tomas Holmstrom (1997 DET1998 DET & 2002 DET) and Mathieu Dandenault (1997 DET1998 DET & 2002 DET) – Dandenault spent his final four campaigns with the Canadiens from 2005-06 to 2008-09.

Brock Purdy was selected with the 262nd and final pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, making him that year’s Mr. Irrelevant.Patric Hornqvist (No. 230 in 20052016 PIT & 2017 PIT) is the only player in League history who won at least one Stanley Cup after being selected with the final pick in an NHL Draft.

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