NHL Recap February 7 2020
MATTHEWS REACHES 40-GOAL MARK IN OVERTIME WIN
Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (1-3—4) scored his 40th goal of 2019-20 (40-28—68 in 55 GP) to move into a tie with Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (40-17—57 in 53 GP) for first place in the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy race and match his single-season career high set as a rookie in 2016-17 (40-29—69 in 82 GP). He became the fifth player in franchise history to record multiple 40-goal seasons, joining Darryl Sittler (4x), Lanny McDonald (3x), Rick Vaive (3x) and Mats Sundin (2x).
Matthews became the fourth Toronto player to reach the 40-goal mark in 55 games or fewer, joining Frank Mahovlich in 1960-61 (40-18—58 in 48 GP), Vaive in 1983-84 (40-24—64 in 49 GP) and Dave Andreychuk in 1993-94 (40-30—70 in 51 GP).
Matthews, who matched a season high with four points (also Nov. 10, 2019: 0-4—4 at CHI), is on pace to establish a franchise record for most goals in a single campaign. The current benchmark is 54, a mark set by Vaive in 1981-82 (54-35—89 in 77 GP).
John Tavares (2-1—3) tallied his second goal of the game with 6.2 seconds remaining in overtime as the Maple Leafs improved 29-19-7 (65 points) and reclaimed third place in the Atlantic Division standings.
MERZLIKINS RECORDS ANOTHER SHUTOUT, EXTENDS WIN STREAK
Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins (16 saves) improved to 8-0-0 in his last eight appearances dating to Jan. 11 (1.00 GAA, .967 SV%, 5 SO) – the longest win streak by a rookie goaltender in franchise history and lengthiest by any rookie netminder this season, eclipsing the mark set by Washington’s Ilya Samsonov from Dec. 27, 2019 – Jan. 31, 2020 (7-0-0; 1.57 GAA, .947 SV%, 1 SO).
Only nine different rookie goaltenders in NHL history have recorded a win in more than eight consecutive appearances within a regular season, including Jordan Binnington – a catalyst for the Blues’ historic turnaround last season – from Jan. 23 – Feb. 19, 2019 (1.32 GAA, .947 SV%, 3 SO).
Merzlikins became the sixth NHL goaltender to record five shutouts in a span of eight appearances since 1929-30 when forward passing was permitted inside all three zones – a feat last achieved by Phoenix’s Brian Boucher when he blanked five straight opponents from Dec. 31, 2003 – Jan. 9, 2004.
Aside from Merzlikins and Boston’s Frank Brimsek noted above, only two other rookie goaltenders in NHL history have recorded five shutouts in a span of eight appearances within a regular season: Boston’s Tiny Thompson (1928-29) and Detroit’s Dolly Dolson (1928-29).
Merzlikins also became the fifth rookie goaltender since 1929-30 to record a shutout in consecutive appearances multiple times within a regular season, joining Brimsek (3x in 1938-39), Chicago’s Tony Esposito (3x in 1969-70), Detroit’s Terry Sawchuk (2x in 1950-51) and Montreal’s Jacques Plante (2x in 1953-54).
Columbus (30-16-9, 69 points) improved to 9-0-1 in its last 10 games – their second double-digit point streak of the season (also 8-0-4 from Dec. 9, 2019 – Jan. 2, 2020) – and moved back into third place in the Metropolitan Division standings.
NOTE: The NHL standard for a “win streak” is consecutive appearances with a victory.
WILD EARN MULTI-GOAL COMEBACK WIN AS PARISE SKATES 1,000TH GAME
Minnesota overcame a 2-0 deficit and Joel Eriksson Ek (2-0—2) scored the game-winning goal with 25.8 seconds remaining in regulation as the Wild (26-22-6, 58 points) rallied past the Stars and earned their third straight win. Minnesota moved within two points of idle Calgary (27-22-6, 60 points), which occupies the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference standings.
Zach Parise, a native of Minneapolis, Minn., skated in the 1,000th regular-season game of his NHL career and became the second Minnesota-born player to reach the milestone with the Wild – joining Matt Cullen (Virginia, Minn.) on Jan. 10, 2012. Ironically, Parise’s opponent Friday was previously known as the Minnesota North Stars (1967-68 – 1992-93) – where his father, J.P., played for parts of nine seasons (1967-68 – 1974-75; 1978-79).
Parise became the 12th first-round pick from the 2003 NHL Draft to reach the 1,000-game milestone. That eclipses the 1979 draft class (11) for the most first-round picks to skate 1,000 or more regular-season games; of note, 1979 was the first year in which the minimum age of players subject to the NHL Draft was lowered from 20 to 18, resulting in three years’ worth of players eligible to be selected.
PREVIEW OF TODAY’S ACTION – YELLOWKNIFE SET TO HOST 20TH HOCKEY DAY IN CANADA
All seven Canadian teams will be in action spread across a 12-hour national broadcast that celebrates Canada’s love for hockey when Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada’s 20th anniversary broadcasts live from Yellowknife, N.W.T.
There were eight games played on the inaugural Hockey Day in Canada, which was hosted Feb. 19, 2000 in Toronto. All six Canadian teams at the time took the ice in all-Canadian matchups: Felix Potvin made 34 saves in a 3-1 victory to guide Vancouver past Ottawa in a 4 p.m. ET game at Corel Centre Sergei Zholtok scored the winning goal to rally Montreal to a 2-1 win against Toronto in primetime at Molson Centre; Marc Savard tallied his second goal of the game in overtime – with assists to Jarome Iginla and Phil Housley – as Calgary survived a late tying goal by Edmonton for a 3-2 triumph in the final game of the day.
Prior to the first Hockey Day in Canada, it had been nearly five years since the last time there were three all-Canadian matchups on the same date (April 8, 1995). Saturday will mark the 32nd day in NHL history to feature three all-Canadian matchups (there have never been more), with 22 coming since the inaugural Hockey Day (inclusive) – all on Saturdays.
A total of 396 Canadian-born players have appeared in at least one game this season, making up 42.4% of the entire NHL.
OVI CAN HIT ILLUSTRIOUS 700-GOAL MILESTONE WITH ANOTHER MULTI-GOAL GAME
Alex Ovechkin (698-570—1,268 in 1,137 GP), who has scored multiple times in five of Washington’s last seven games in his unrelenting pursuit of 700 career regular-season goals, can hit the illustrious milestone with another multi-goal effort when the Capitals (36-13-5, 77 points) host the Flyers (29-18-7, 65 points).
In addition to becoming the eighth player in League history to reach the 700-goal milestone, Ovechkin can also join another elite NHL list of skaters to score multiple markers six-plus times over a span of eight team games within a regular season – which has been achieved by just Washinton’s Dennis Maruk (1981-82), Edmonton’s Jari Kurri (1985-86), Pittsburgh’s Mario Lemieux (1988-89) and Buffalo’s Alexander Mogilny (1992-93) in the League’s modern era (since 1943-44).