NHL Review April 28, 2021

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NHL Review April 28, 2021

HUBERDEAU, BARKOV PROPEL PANTHERS TO POSTSEASON

Jonathan Huberdeau (2-3—5) factored on five of his team’s seven goals and Aleksander Barkov (2-1—3) recorded a three-point game as the Panthers defeated the Predators to clinch a playoff berth. Florida will make consecutive postseason appearances for the second time in club history (also 1996 and 1997).

Huberdeau (2-3—5) became the first Panthers player to record multiple games with five or more points, both of which have come against Nashville (also Feb. 4, 2021). He also registered his 15th career three-assist game, extending his lead for the most by any player in franchise history.

Barkov scored his 49th career power-play goal and surpassed Stephen Weiss (48) for sole possession of third on the franchise’s all-time list. A native of Tampere, Finland, Barkov will aim to become the first Finnish-born captain in NHL history to lead his team to a Stanley Cup. Nicklas Lidstrom (Vasteras, Sweden; 2008 w/ DET), Zdeno Chara (Trencin, Slovakia; 2011 w/ BOS) and Alex Ovechkin (Moscow, Russia; 2018 w/ WSH) are the only non-North American players to captain a Cup winner.

When the Panthers made their run to the 1996 Stanley Cup Final, they accomplished many feats that were later achieved by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018. Florida became the first NHL franchise to win each of its first three playoff series; the fifth to reach the Stanley Cup Final in its first playoff appearance; and the eighth to reach the Final within its first three seasons.

LIGHTNING CLINCH POSTSEASON BERTH, WILL DEFEND STANLEY CUP

Brayden Point (1-2—3) posted his second consecutive game with three points as the Lightning won to clinch a playoff spot for the fourth consecutive season. Tampa Bay can now become the ninth different franchise to repeat as Stanley Cup champions and first since the Penguins in 2016 and 2017.

This is the second time the Lightning have made four consecutive postseason appearances, equaling a run achieved from 2003 to 2007 during which they also won the Stanley Cup. Among franchises to join the NHL in the 1990s or later, Tampa Bay was the first to both win a Stanley Cup (ahead of ANA) and to win it more than once.

Tampa Bay concluded its eight-game season series against Chicago with a 7-0-1 record. Yanni Gourde opened the scoring to boost his point totals against Chicago to 6-4—10 in eight games and became the fourth Lightning player to record 10 or more points versus the Blackhawks in 2020-21.

CAPITALS, BRUINS EARN CRUCIAL WINS IN MASSMUTUAL EAST STANDINGS

The Capitals (32-13-4, 68 points) earned a win to leapfrog the Penguins (32-15-3, 67 points) for first in the MassMutual East Division, while the Bruins (28-14-6, 62 points) moved within one point of the third-place Islanders (29-15-5, 63 points).

With fans in the stands at Capital One Arena for the first time this season, Vitek Vanecek (18 saves) recorded his second career shutout (also March 15) to help the Capitals sweep their three-game set with the Islanders – opening up a five-point cushion on New York in the MassMutual East Division standings. Leading into their first of three consecutive meetings on April 22, the two clubs were tied atop the group with 62 points and identical 29-13-4 records.

Brad Marchand scored the game-winning goal as the Bruins concluded their eight-game season series against the Penguins with a 5-3-0 record (PIT: 3-4-1). Marchand (26-32—58 in 46 GP) has doubled his goal total since the turn of the calendar, scoring 13 times in April (16 GP) – the highest total of any NHL player over that span. He became the fifth different Bruins skater in the last 45 years to score as many in a single calendar month and first since Jarome Iginla in 2013-14.

TOP FOUR IN SCOTIA NORTH TAKE TO THE ICE TONIGHT

The top four teams in the Scotia North Division will be in action tonight in what could be potential First Round matchups in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The top-seeded Maple Leafs (30-13-5, 65 points) will clash with the fourth-ranked Montreal Canadiens (21-17-9, 51 points), while the second-place Oilers (28-16-2, 58 points) meet the third-seeded Jets (27-18,3 57 points) for the second time in as many games.

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal, which have held the No. 1 and No. 4 seeds in the Scotia North Division each day since Feb. 19, last met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs 42 years ago (1979 Quarterfinals). The Maple Leafs hold a 4-2-0 edge against the Canadiens this season (MTL: 2-3-1).

Connor McDavid’s third consecutive game with three-plus points on April 26 helped the Oilers grab a hold of the second seed for the first time since April 9. The Oilers captain can become the fifth player in the last 20 years to collect at least three points in four consecutive contests. Tyler Bertuzzi (4 GP in 2018-19 w/ DET), Keith Tkachuk (4 GP in 2005-06 w/ STL), Patrick Marleau (4 GP in 2005-06 w/ SJS) and Peter Forsberg (4 GP in 2000-01 w/ COL) all achieved the feat.

STREAKING TEAMS, BATTLE FOR FOURTH KEY TO HONDA WEST

All eight teams in the Honda West Division will be in action tonight with the Golden Knights looking to extend the NHL’s longest active winning streak to 10 games, the Wild aiming for an eighth consecutive victory and four teams within six points of the last remaining playoff berth in the division.

The Golden Knights (34-11-2, 70 points) will look to extend a win streak to double digits for the first time in franchise history when they face the division’s second-place Avalanche (31-11-4, 66 points). Colorado is associated with an impressive streak of its own – Nathan MacKinnon (9-16—25 in 14 GP) can extend his point streak to 15 games, which would mark the longest by any player this season and longest by an Avalanche skater since Paul Stastny’s 20-game run in 2006-07.

The third-place Wild (31-13-3, 65 points) will look to win eight consecutive games for just the third time in franchise history when they face the Blues (21-19-6, 48 points), who hope to strengthen their grip on the fourth and final playoff seed in the division. These two teams will get familiar with each other to close out the season – they are scheduled to meet five more times in 2020-21 including three consecutive head-to-head matchups starting tonight.

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