NHL Review April 23, 2021
MacKINNON PROPELS AVALANCHE TO BERTH IN 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
Nathan MacKinnon had a game-high 0-3—3 to extend the League’s longest active point streak to 12 contests (7-14—21) and help the Avalanche (31-9-4, 66 points) become the second team to clinch a berth in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 4-2 win over the St. Louis Blues.
Colorado will return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a fourth consecutive year, the longest streak for the franchise since making 11 straight trips from 1995 to 2006. The only other time the club reached the playoffs in four or more consecutive years was a seven-season run from 1981 to 1987 as the Nordiques.
MacKinnon, who currently ranks fourth in points per game this season (1.40 P/GP), is averaging 1.35 points per game throughout his playoff career (20-34—54 in 40 GP), the fourth-highest total among players to appear in at least 15 postseason games. MacKinnon had a point in 14 consecutive games during the 2020 postseason.
VRANA SCORES FOUR GOALS IN FOURTH GAME WITH RED WINGS
New Red Wings forward Jakub Vrana (4-0—4) became the second Detroit player to score a hat trick within his first four games with the franchise, joining Jud McAtee on Nov. 2, 1944. Vrana was also the first Red Wings player to score four goals in a game since Anthony Mantha, who he was traded for on April 12.
HURRICANES, CAPITALS, MAPLE LEAFS PAD LEAD ATOP RESPECTIVE DIVISION
The Hurricanes (31-10-5, 67 points), Capitals (30-13-4, 64 points) and Toronto Maple Leafs (29-13-5, 63 points) earned wins on Thursday to pad division leads:
Sebastian Aho scored a pair of shorthanded goals as Discover Central Division-leading Carolina moved two points ahead of Florida (30-13-5, 65 points), improving to 6-0-1 against them through seven contests in their eight-game season series which concludes tomorrow night. Aho became the sixth Hurricanes/Whalers player to score two shorthanded goals in a single game – the NHL record is three, set by Theo Fleury over 30 years ago.
Ilya Samsonov made 26 saves through 65 minutes and denied two shootout attempts as the MassMutual East Division-leading Capitals moved one point ahead of the Islanders (29-13-5, 63 points) and also maintained their one-point edge over the Penguins (30-14-3, 63 points), who moved into second place. Washington earned its 16th road win of the season (16-7-2, 34 points), tied for the most in the NHL (w/ WPG).
Auston Matthews (1-2—3) tallied 27 seconds after the opening face-off to record his League-leading 34th goal of the season and help Scotia North Division-leading Toronto snap a five-game slide (0-3-2) while simultaneously opening a six-point lead over second-place Winnipeg (27-16-3, 57 points). Matthews has scored five goals on reigning Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck this season (5-3—8 in 6 GP).
Maple Leafs’ Thornton Fined for Interference
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joe Thornton has been fined $3,017.24, the maximum allowable under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, for interference against Winnipeg Jets forward Mathieu Perreault during NHL Game No. 726 in Winnipeg on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The incident occurred at 7:26 of the third period. Thornton was assessed a minor penalty for interference. The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
CROSBY, MARCHAND HELP PENGUINS, BRUINS KEEP PACE IN EAST
Second-place Pittsburgh (30-14-3, 63 points) and fourth-ranked Boston (27-12-6, 60 points) also earned wins to keep pace with MassMutual East Division-leading Washington (30-13-4, 64 points):
Sidney Crosby (1-1—2) opened the scoring 41 seconds into the first period to help the Penguins, who have scored 12 goals through the first two contests of their three-game set with the Devils (also 7-6 W on April 20), remain one point back of the Capitals. Crosby has now scored in the opening minute of a game 13 times in his career, tied with Mark Messier for the most such goals in NHL history.
Brad Marchand (1-1—2) opened the scoring for a second straight game as the Bruins defeated the Sabres again and extended their win streak to a season-high six contests. Marchand has scored nearly half of his team-leading 25 goals this season in the month of April (12-9—21 in 13 GP), after posting 13 through 30 games from January to March (13-23—36).
LUUKKONEN SET TO MAKE NHL DEBUT DURING FRIDAY’S FIVE-GAME SLATE
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen will make his NHL debut tonight when the Sabres and Bruins conclude their three-game set at KeyBank Center. Luukkonen, who backstopped Finland to a gold medal at the 2019 World Junior Championship and received the Red Tilson Trophy as OHL MVP just months later, is 7-5-2 in 14 appearances with the AHL’s Rochester Americans this season (3.60 GAA, .888 SV%).