NHL Recap April 7, 2024 – EASTERN CONFERENCE’S FINAL WILD CARD SPOT CHANGES HANDS ONCE AGAIN

Patrick Kane netted the game winner and Lucas Raymond (1-1—2) posted a multi-point performance to help the Detroit Red Wings (38-31-8, 84 points) skate to victory in a pivotal contest against the Sabres (37-36-5, 79 points) and grab the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. Kane’s goal stood as his seventh game-winning tally of the season, tied with Tomas Tatar (7 in 2014-15) for the most by a Red Wings player in a single campaign over the last 10 years (since 2013-14).

  • There have been 17 unique potential First Round matchups in the NHL over the past five days (9 in East, 8 in West), including the League-leading Rangers being lined up against the Red Wings, Penguins, Flyers, Islanders and Capitals in that span.

CONFERENCE-LEADING RANGERS, STARS EARN WINS; HURRICANES KEEP PACE
The League-leading Rangers (53-21-4, 110 points) and Western Conference-leading Stars (49-20-9, 107 points) secured high-scoring wins, while the Hurricanes (49-22-7, 105 points) blanked the Blue Jackets to keep pace:

  • Artemi Panarin (1-3—4) factored on four of five Rangers goals to help the club match the franchise record for wins in a single season (also 53 in 2014-15), and did so via their NHL-leading 27th comeback victory of the year. Panarin, who tied the second-most three-assist games in a single season franchise history (6), also notched four points in a game for the fourth time this season and now sits one outing shy of matching the most in a single season in franchise history (Mark Messier: 5 GP in 1995-96 & Rod Gilbert: 5 in 1974-75).
  • Wyatt Johnston (1-2—3), Jamie Benn (1-2—3) and Thomas Harley (0-3—3) had three points apiece as the Stars defeated the Avalanche and opened a five-point lead on them in the Central Division standings. Dallas can earn its 11th division title in franchise history and first since 2015-16, when the Stars concluded the campaign atop the Central Division and Western Conference.
  • Frederik Andersen turned aside all 23 shots he faced to register his second shutout in three appearances and backstop the Hurricanes to victory in the final home game of the 2023-24 regular season. Andersen has posted an 8-1-0 record since returning to the Carolina lineup on March 7 – tied for the most wins among all goaltenders in that span. In fact, his goals-against average (1.22) and save percentage (.954) lead all netminders in that stretch (min. 5 GP).

PREDATORS AND WILD SHINE

The Predators (45-29-4, 94 points) and Wild (37-31-9, 83 points) each produced notable performances Sunday, highlighted by the likes of Filip Forsberg, Kirill Kaprizov and Jesper Wallstedt.

  • Forsberg (0-2—2) assisted on both game-tying goals in regulation to reach the 600-point mark in his career (282-318—600 in 694 GP) and joined Roman Josi (179-500—679 in 905 GP) as the second player in franchise history to reach the milestone. Nashville, which climbed back into the first Wild Card position in the Western Conference and moved two points ahead of idle Vegas (42-26-8, 92 points), had its plans to clinch a 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs berth thwarted when St. Louis hung on to defeat Anaheim.
  • Kaprizov (2-1—3) reached the 40-goal mark for the third time in his career and matched his franchise record for most three-point games in a single season (also 10 in 2021-22), while 21-year-old rookie Wallstedt turned aside all 24 shots he faced to register his first career shutout. Wallstedt became the fifth different rookie goaltender in Wild history to post a shutout and first since Kaapo Kahkonen (31 saves on March 16, 2021). Among rookie goaltenders to debut with the franchise, Wallstedt is the second to record his first career shutout in two appearances or fewer (also Josh Harding: 2 GP in 2005-06).

DUCKS CONCLUDE O’REE SKILLS WEEKEND WITH BACK-AND-FORTH AFFAIR

The Ducks hosted 25 boys and girls from across the U.S. and Canada for the annual Willie O’Ree Skills Weekend. The kids, ages 12 to 15 years old, had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet Willie O’Ree, the NHL’s first Black player, attend the team’s contest April 5 against the Kraken as well as an opportunity to meet current Ducks players Troy Terry and John Gibson.

  • The boys and girls, who concluded the weekend by watching the Los Angeles Angels play the Boston Red Sox, also got on the ice with fellow ‘Hockey Is For Everyone’ youth hockey players and NHL Player Inclusion Coalition members JT Brown and Blake Bolden. For nearly 30 years, the Willie O’Ree Skills Weekend has brought youth hockey players together to learn on- and off-ice lessons designed to build confidence and teach life skills.

PENGUINS, GOLDEN KNIGHTS CONTINUE TO CHASE PLAYOFF POSITIONS
The Penguins (36-30-11, 83 points) and Golden Knights (42-26-8, 92 points) take to the road against the Maple Leafs (44-23-9, 97 points) and Canucks (47-22-8, 102 points), respectively, as the pair of clubs continue to chase down top-eight positions within the Eastern and Western Conferences.

  • Pittsburgh’s largest deficit outside the playoff bracket this season was 10 points, through games played March 4 when the Penguins had a record of 27-24-8, 62 points (59 GP) – the Flyers (3rd in Metropolitan), Red Wings (Wild Card 1) and Lightning (Wild Card 2) all sat at 72 points and three other teams were between the Penguins and the bracket. Furthermore, the Penguins faced a standings deficit of at least nine points for nearly one-third of the month of March (10 of 31 days), including as recently as March 27 when they had 11 games left on their schedule.
  • The largest deficit a team has overcome in their final 11 games of a season to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs is seven points, achieved by the 1977-78 Colorado Rockies (trailed VAN by 7 points for 2nd in Smythe Division, overtook them in final 11 GP) and 1958-59 Maple Leafs (trailed NYR by 7 points for 4th in NHL through various dates in final 11 GP, including overcoming a 7-point deficit in their final 5 contests to overtake NYR). Under the Wild Card format (since 2013-14), two teams have overcome a deficit of five or more points within their final 11 games to qualify: the 2018-19 Avalanche (6 points in final 11 GP) and 2013-14 Stars (5 points in final 10 GP).

WEEK AHEAD FEATURES MORE NOTEWORTHY TELECASTS

More notable stats to look forward to through this week’s national telecasts include:

Tuesday, April 9: Capitals at Red Wings (7 p.m. ET on ESPN)

  • Entering Sunday, there are seven head-to-head games remaining between two teams involved in the Eastern Conference playoff race, with Detroit and Washington each involved in three of those contests:

Sunday, April 7: Buffalo at Detroit (1 p.m. ET on TNT, Max, SN1)
Tuesday, April 9: Washington at Detroit (7 p.m. ET on ESPN)
Thursday, April 11: Washington at Buffalo (7 p.m. ET)
Thursday, April 11: Detroit at Pittsburgh (7 p.m. ET on SNP, SNW, SNE)
Monday, April 15: NY Islanders at New Jersey (7 p.m. ET)
Tuesday, April 16: Washington at Philadelphia (7 p.m. ET on SNP, SNW)
Wednesday, April 17: Pittsburgh at NY Islanders (7 p.m. ET) – last day of season in Eastern Conference

Wednesday, April 10: Golden Knights at Oilers (8:30 p.m. ET on TNT, Max, TVAS, SN1)

  • The Oilers and Golden Knights could meet in the 2024 First Round, which would mark their second head-to-head postseason series in as many years after Vegas vanquished Edmonton in the 2023 Second Round. The Oilers can become the first team to get eliminated by the eventual Cup champions and then oust that club during the following playoffs since the 2018 Capitals, who defeated the Penguins in the Second Round after falling to them the previous year. The 2018 Capitals are also the last club to win the Cup after being eliminated by the eventual champions in consecutive years (a feat Edmonton will try to accomplish in 2024).
  • Connor McDavid will enter this game with 99 assists, one shy of becoming the fourth player in NHL history to post a 100-assist season. The only players to do so are Wayne Gretzky (11x; last: 1990-91), Mario Lemieux (1988-89) and Bobby Orr (1970-71).

Saturday, April 13: Red Wings at Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET on CBC, SNO, SNW, SNP)

  • Auston Matthews enters the week needing one goal to match Alex Ovechkin (65 in 2007-08) for the highest single-season total among active players and six to become the ninth 70-goal scorer in NHL history. Matthews enters a four-game week with an active four-game goal streak and 10-game point streak.
  • William Nylander needs four points to join Matthews in the 100-point club in 2023-24. It would be the first time in Toronto’s 106-season history that the franchise has multiple 100-point players in the same campaign.

Saturday, April 13: Canucks at Oilers (10 p.m. ET on CBC, SN, CITY, TVAS2)

  • Pending results this week, this game could be a showdown for first place in the Pacific Division. The Oilers host the Golden Knights (Wednesday) and Coyotes (Friday) before welcoming the Canucks, who will face the same two opponents before heading to Edmonton (Monday vs. VGK, Wednesday vs. ARI).
  • The Canucks are looking to clinch first place in their division for the 11th time in franchise history and first since 2012-13, when they concluded the 48-game season with the No. 1 seed in the Northwest Division. That marked the last of their five straight division titles starting in 2008-09, with the run highlighted by two Presidents’ Trophy wins and a trip to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
  • The Oilers have not finished first in their division since the Wayne Gretzky-led club topped the Smythe Division in 1986-87 en route to the club’s third Stanley Cup. That was the last of six straight division titles for Edmonton, the only ones in club history.

Saturday, April 13: ABC/ESPN+ Tripleheader (NYI-NYR, 12:30 ET; SEA-DAL, 3 ET; BOS-PIT, 8 ET)

  • Each game of this tripleheader involves a team that is currently among the top three in the NHL standings – the Rangers (110 points) pace a list of seven clubs separated by eight points in the battle for the Presidents’ Trophy, with the Stars (107 points) and Bruins (107 points) ranking second and third, respectively.

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