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NHL Morning Skate – March 11, 2024

Sebastian Aho factored on three of seven Hurricanes goals to help Carolina move within two points of the top spot in the Metropolitan Division while Mathew Barzal picked up multiple assists to help the Islanders grab a playoff spot for the first time in nearly two months.

Matt Boldy scored the game-winning goal for the Wild, who benefited from an unconventional play in overtime to gain ground in the Western Conference Wild Card race.

Connor McDavid and Connor Bedard posted three points apiece Sunday while Colin Blackwell scored his first career hat trick to bump AstraZeneca’s donation to the Hockey Fights Cancer Fund of the V Foundation to $455,000.

* Three teams in the running for the Presidents’ Trophy are in action Monday, including the Bruins (38-13-15, 91 points) who can claim first place in the League standings from the idle Panthers (44-17-4, 92 points).


HURRICANES GAIN GROUND ON RANGERS, ISLANDERS GRAB PLAYOFF SPOT
Sunday saw the Metropolitan Division playoff race tighten, with the Hurricanes (39-19-6, 84 points) moving within two points of the Rangers (41-18-4, 86 points) for the top spot while the Islanders (29-20-14, 72 points) moved within two points of the Flyers (33-24-8, 74 points) who hold third.
 

Sebastian Aho (1-2—3) factored on three of the Hurricanes’ seven goals – their most in a game since Nov. 10, 2022 – and recorded his sixth 25-goal season in the process as Carolina defeated Calgary at PNC Arena. Aho tied Eric Staal and Kevin Dineen for the second-most 25-goal campaigns in Hurricanes/Whalers history behind only Ron Francis (7).



Mathew Barzal (0-2—2) and Brock Nelson (1-1—2) both posted a multi-point performance as the Islanders, who leapfrogged the Red Wings (33-25-6, 72 points) for the final Wild Card position, extended their win streak to six games and slid into a playoff spot for the first time since Jan. 13. New York (63 GP) has at least one contest in hand on Philadelphia (65 GP), Tampa Bay (65 GP) and Detroit (64 GP) after Sunday’s action.

* Barzal recorded his 61st career multi-assist game and tied Patrick Flatley for the eighth most in Islanders history. Meanwhile, Nelson notched his 113th multi-point game and tied Flatley for the 10th most in franchise history.

BOLDY SCORES OVERTIME WINNER AS WILD PULL OFF BOLD PLAY
The Wild pulled off a rarely-seen play Sunday against the Predators, pulling goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with 1:30 remaining in overtime to send out Matt Boldy as an extra attacker – a move that resulted in Boldy potting the winning goal just 20 seconds later to help Minnesota defeat one of the clubs it’s chasing in pursuit of a playoff spot. The Wild (31-27-7, 69 points) now sit six points back of the Golden Knights (34-23-7, 75 points) for the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference and gained a point on the Predators (37-25-4, 78 points), who occupy the first.
 
* The Wild became the first team to score an overtime winner with an extra attacker that was not on the ice due to a delayed penalty since Oct. 28, 2017, when the Kings pulled their goaltender for an offensive zone faceoff with less than a second on the clock.  


McDAVID, BEDARD BOTH POST THREE-POINT GAMES SUNDAY

A pair of players in the hunt for individual awards put up three points apiece as Connor McDavid (1-2—3) and Connor Bedard (2-1—3) helped the Oilers and Blackhawks skate to wins Sunday.

* After being held off the score sheet in a losing effort Saturday, McDavid netted the eventual game-winning goal just 68 seconds into the contest as Calvin Pickard (41 saves) and Stuart Skinner (1:16 TOI) paired up for the second shared shutout in Oilers history. McDavid’s goal at the 68-second mark came in front of hockey legend Jaromir Jagr, who remains in Pittsburgh after having his No. 68 retired by the club three weeks ago.

* McDavid ranks fourth among active players in career multi-point periods (163) despite being the only player among the top five on that list with fewer than 1,100 total games played (Sunday was his 630th NHL game).


* Bedard recorded his third career three-point game and surpassed Patrick Kane (2) for the most in Blackhawks history by an 18-year-old. The NHL’s leader in rookie scoring also became just the fourth active skater with as many three-point performances as an 18-year-old, joining Sidney Crosby (11), Patrik Laine (5) and Jeff Skinner (5).

* Bedard, who recorded all three of his points in the middle frame, posted his second three-point period of the season (also 2-1—3 in P1 on Nov. 9, 2023).

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PRESIDENTS’ TROPHY, WILD CARDS RACES FRONT AND CENTER MONDAY
Three teams in the running for the Presidents’ Trophy are in action Monday, as Boston (38-13-15, 91 points), the NY Rangers (41-18-4, 86 points) and Winnipeg (40-18-5, 85 points) all host clubs aiming to inch closer to the playoff bracket. Monday’s finale, meanwhile, will pit the Islanders (29-20-14, 72 points) against the Kings (32-20-11, 75 points) as New York aims to continue its surge up the standings. Los Angeles needs at least one point to maintain its position as the No. 3 seed in the Pacific Division.


Each game on Monday features a team that will be part of at least one of the upcoming national games of the week, with storylines to follow noted below:

Wednesday, March 13: Kings at Blues (7:30 p.m. ET on TNT, Max, TVAS)
* St. Louis will play 10 of its 18 remaining games against Western Conference clubs that either currently hold a playoff spot (1 each vs. LAK, COL, VGK, EDM, NSH & DAL) or are part of the quartet separated by two points trying to get into the bracket (2x vs. MIN and 1 each vs. CGY & SEA). Los Angeles has 11 such contests remaining (2x vs. VAN, MIN & CGY; 1 each vs. STL, SEA, WPG, EDM & DAL), with Drew Doughty and the Kings looking to maintain their position as the No. 3 seed in the Pacific Division.

Wednesday, March 13: Capitals at Oilers (10 p.m. ET on TNT, Max, truTV, SN1, SNW, TVAS)
Connor McDavid (7-13—20 in 12 GP) and Alex Ovechkin (5-6—11 in 12 GP) will go head-to-head for the 13th time (EDM: 5-6-1; WSH: 7-3-2), with Ovechkin (18-30—48 in 59 GP) currently on the cusp of his 19th straight 20-goal season and McDavid hitting the ice Wednesday looking to keep his 25-game home point streak alive. In addition to eyeing a 19th career 20-goal season (all consecutive), Ovechkin also enters the week needing one point to surpass Mark Recchi for sole possession of 14th place in NHL history.

Saturday, March 16: Rangers at Penguins (3 p.m. ET on ABC, ESPN+, SN1, TVAS)
Artemi Panarin enters a four-game week for the Rangers needing three assists for 500 in his NHL career (497 in 653 GP). Among those to debut since the first NHL Draft was held in 1963-64, only a dozen undrafted players have recorded 500+ NHL assists – the only one to do so in the past 20 years is Martin St. Louis (Dec. 31, 2011). Panarin is likely to become the fifth-fastest among that cohort to hit the mark.

Saturday, March 16: Avalanche at Oilers (10 p.m. ET on CBC, SNE, SNO, SNW, TVAS2)

* If he extends his home point streak Wednesday, Connor McDavid will have his next chance to keep it going Saturday when Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche come to town. With their concurrent home point streaks, McDavid (25 GP) and MacKinnon (32 GP) are both chasing records held by Wayne Gretzky as they battle for the 2023-24 Art Ross Trophy. This will be the first meeting of the season between the Avalanche and Oilers – with two more to follow in the final 14 days of the season (also April 5 & April 18).

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