NHL Review April 30, 2021
PENGUINS EDGE CAPITALS IN OT AS BOTH CLINCH PLAYOFF SPOTS
A Rangers regulation loss to the Islanders at Madison Square Garden set the stage for both the Penguins and Capitals to clinch a berth in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Capital One Arena. Tom Wilson tied the game with 14.3 seconds remaining in regulation to help Washington (32-13-5, 69 points) salvage a point in a back-and-forth affair, while Jake Guentzel scored 2:11 into overtime to guide Pittsburgh (33-15-3, 69 points) to its fifth win in six contests.
The Penguins are the ninth different franchise in NHL history to make 15 or more consecutive postseason appearances – the Red Wings and Canadiens each had two runs of at least that length. Overall, this is the 11th time a club has made 15 or more consecutive trips to the postseason and the longest such run since Detroit made the last of its 25 straight appearances in 2016.
Guentzel (2017) stands as one of six players on the Penguins’ roster to win the Stanley Cup with the franchise. The others: Sidney Crosby (2009, 2016 & 2017), Kris Letang (2009, 2016 & 2017), Evgeni Malkin (2009, 2016 & 2017), Brian Dumoulin (2016 & 2017) and Bryan Rust (2016 & 2017). Jeff Carter (2012 & 2014 w/ LAK), also a Stanley Cup champion, will look to become the ninth player to play for the Flyers (461 GP from 2005-06 to 2010-11) and later win a Stanley Cup with the cross-state rival Penguins.
Washington has reached the postseason for the 13th time in 14 seasons (since 2007-08), one of two clubs to do so in 2020-21 (also PIT).
The Capitals’ run of seven consecutive postseason appearances is the second-longest stretch in franchise history (14 straight trips from 1983 to 1996). It is also the second-longest active run in the NHL behind the Penguins (15; 2007–2021) and ahead of the Predators (6; 2015–2020) – Nashville can match Washington this season.
HURRICANES, PANTHERS CONTINUE BATTLE ATOP NHL STANDINGS
The Hurricanes (33-10-7, 73 points) and Panthers (33-14-5, 71 points) each won closely-contested affairs on Thursday. They sit first and third, respectively, in the NHL’s overall standings.
Sebastian Aho (0-2—2) extended his point streak to six games (3-8—11 in 6 GP since April 20) as the Hurricanes moved past the Golden Knights (35-11-2, 72 points) for first place in the NHL standings and continued their chase for the franchise’s first-ever Presidents’ Trophy. Carolina’s 33 wins are its second most through 50 games of a season, behind its Stanley Cup-winning campaign in 2005-06 (35).
Spencer Knight made 24 saves and Sam Bennett (5-6—11 in 8 GP w/ FLA) scored the winner in overtime as the Panthers earned their 16th road win of the season, tied with the Hurricanes for the most among all clubs in the Discover Central Division. Knight (20 years, 10 days) became the second-youngest goaltender in NHL history to win each of his first three career appearances, behind Boston’s Bill Ranford in 1985-86 (19 years, 110 days).
VASILEVSKIY, VARLAMOV POST SHUTOUTS IN THEIR TEAMS’ VICTORIES
Andrei Vasilevskiy (20 saves) and Semyon Varlamov (25 saves) each posted shutout performances to backstop the Lightning (34-14-2, 70 points) and Islanders (30-15-5, 65 points) to two crucial points in their respective playoff races.
Vasilevskiy, who has led the NHL in victories in each of the previous three seasons, became the first goaltender to reach the 30-win mark in 2020-21 and helped Tampa Bay keep pace with Carolina and Florida in the Discover Central Division. The 2018-19 Vezina Trophy winner became the seventh goaltender in League history to earn his 30th victory prior to his 40th game of a season.
Varlamov earned his NHL-leading sixth shutout of the season to help the Islanders maintain their third-place positioning in the MassMutual East Division. Thursday marked the third time the Islanders have shut out the Rangers in 2020-21 (also Jan. 14 and Feb. 8), with Varlamov tending the crease in each of those contests. The last netminder to post three or more shutouts against one opponent in a single season was Braden Holtby in 2014-15 with the Capitals (3x vs. BOS).
MATTHEWS SCORES SECOND GAME WINNER IN AS MANY DAYS
Auston Matthews scored his 11th game-winning goal of the season and his second in as many days as the Scotia North Division-leading Toronto Maple Leafs (32-13-5, 69 points) won their fourth straight game. Toronto owns a nine-point edge over second-place Edmonton (29-17-2, 60 points).
Matthews became the sixth Maple Leafs player in the last 30 years to score the game-winning goal on consecutive days, joining Connor Brown (Oct. 17-18, 2017), Pavel Kubina (March 11-12, 2008), Steve Thomas (April 7-8, 2000), Freddy Modin, (Dec. 30-31, 1998) and Peter Zezel (Feb. 16-17, 1991).
Matthews, who reached the 60-point mark for the fifth straight campaign, scored his 36th goal of the season and is averaging 0.78 goals per game.
FOURTH-PLACE BLUES, BRUINS MAINTAIN POSITIONS WITH FIVE-GOAL OUTINGS
The Blues (23-19-6, 52 points) and Bruins (29-14-6, 64 points) each earned pivotal wins on Thursday to maintain fourth place in the Honda West and MassMutual East Division, respectively.
*After Kirill Kaprizov tied the game with 52 seconds remaining in regulation and helped the Wild erase a multi-goal deficit in the third period, Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly (2-0—2) scored the overtime winner to help St. Louis earn its fourth straight win and open up a five-point cushion on idle Arizona (21-24-5, 47 points) for fourth in the Honda West Division.
O’Reilly posted his third multi-point outing in four contests and boosted his career totals with St. Louis to 62-123—185. His 62 goals and five overtime goals since joining the club in 2018-19 are tied with David Perron for the most among all Blues players over that span.
David Pastrnak opened the scoring and Brad Marchand (1-1—2) recorded his fourth shorthanded goal of the season as the Bruins kept pace with the Islanders (30-15-5, 65 points) – who hold a one-point advantage – in the MassMutual East standings. Pastrnak scored his 23rd game-opening goal since 2019-20, 11 more than the next closest players (Nikolaj Ehlers, Auston Matthews & Travis Konecny all w/ 12).
VEGAS EYES SECOND STRAIGHT 12-WIN MONTH
The Golden Knights (35-11-2, 72 points) will put their 10-game win streak on the line when they travel to Arizona to face off against the Coyotes (21-24-5, 47 points). Vegas, which went 12-5-0 in March, holds an 11-2-1 mark since April 1 and can become the first team in League history to earn 12 wins in consecutive months.