The last weekend of NHL action before the All-Star break was an entertaining one. The Hurricanes and Panthers managed to pull off some of the most improbable comebacks of the entire season.
In Edmonton, University of Alberta student Matt Berlin got to take the ice as an emergency backup goaltender for the Oilers, and he exited the game with a sterling save percentage.
Continue reading below for the biggest headlines and highlights from this past weekend in the NHL.
Goal of the weekend: Lee scores from his knees
The Islanders have been struggling to find offense lately, and they will take it wherever they can get it. In Friday night’s game against the Detroit Red Wings, Anders Lee provided some offense from the deck.
After forcing a turnover in the offensive zone, Brock Nelson was looking for a teammate in a dangerous scoring area when he saw Lee in the slot. As the pass was leaving Nelson’s stick, Lee got dropped by Red Wings defenseman Gustav Lindstrom. Somehow, Lee managed to stick with the play, and he redirected the puck past Magnus Hellberg while laying on the ice.
Robbery of the weekend: Gibson comes up big with the game on the (goal) line
NHL goaltenders deserve a lot of credit right now. They made this decision very difficult, as a number of superb saves took place over the weekend.
John Gibson was able to take the cake with a game-saving stop on the goal line against the Arizona Coyotes. With the Ducks and Coyotes tied at 1-1 in overtime, Arizona perfectly executed a 2-on-1, and it resulted in a gaping 6×4 cage for Jacob Chychrun. That’s when Gibson, who was sliding in the opposite direction, stuck out his glove and swiped the puck off the goal line.
Not long after Gibson stonewalled Chychrun, Trevor Zegras found the back of the net at the other end of the ice to deliver a 2-1 win for the Ducks.
Necas, Hurricanes snatch victory from Sharks
With 1:52 left in the third period of Friday night’s game between the San Jose Sharks and Carolina Hurricanes, Mario Ferraro fired the puck into an empty net to give San Jose a 4-2 lead. It looked like the Hurricanes were about to suffer a wildly disappointing loss, but — somehow — the game was only beginning.
Just 15 seconds later, Sebastian Aho took a perfect pass from Teuvo Teravainen and fired a shot past James Reimer to bring the Hurricanes within one.
Even with that goal, Carolina had a steep mountain to climb. Time was starting to wind down when Martin Necas scooped up a loose puck in front of the net and flung it over the shoulder of Reimer to tie the game with 12 seconds left.
Necas wasn’t finished there, though. Less than a minute into overtime, Martin Necas played the role of Martin Brody and sank the Sharks. Necas took a feed from Andrei Svechnikov on a 2-on-1 and deposited it in the back of the net to complete a stunning last-second rally.
Panthers pull off improbable comeback
Speaking of incredible comebacks, the Florida Panthers pulled off one of their own on Saturday night. With 49 seconds left in the third period, David Pastrnak scored to give the Boston Bruins a 3-2 lead. It appeared as though the Bruins were about to notch another thrilling win, and the Panthers were going to be dealt a gut-wrenching loss.
To their credit, the Panthers didn’t take any time to feel sorry for themselves. They got to work and turned up the heat for what little time was left in regulation, and it paid off. With just under three ticks remaining in the third period, Aleksander Barkov stuck with the play after a blocked shot and tied the score at 3-3.
Then only 17 seconds into the extra frame, Sam Reinhart fired a B.B. past Jeremy Swayman to win the game.
The Panthers have barely been staying afloat in the Eastern Conference playoff race, but maybe this win can spark the team to play up to the level everyone expected before the season began.
EBUG takes the ice in Edmonton
Just hours before Edmonton Oilers’ game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night, Matt Berlin was preparing for a psychology midterm at the University of Alberta. That’s when he got the call that Oilers backup goaltender Stuart Skinner was sick, and they needed him to serve as the emergency backup goalie.
Berlin rushed to get to Rogers Place in time for the game, and he suited up with the expectation that he would sport a ball cap on the bench for 60 minutes. Luckily for Berlin, the Oilers were playing the Chicago Blackhawks that night. By the end of the second period, Edmonton held a 5-1 lead. In the waning moments of the third period, the Oilers were up 7-3 when the players suggested that Berlin close things out in the crease. Head coach Jay Woodcroft — as well as starting goalie Jack Campbell — obliged.
Berlin entered the game with 2:26 remaining in the third, and he even made a save on Blackhawks defenseman Caleb Jones that elicited a loud round of applause from the fans. That was the only action Berlin saw, and his NHL save percentage now sits at 1.000.
Speaking with reporters after the game, Berlin said he was extremely grateful for the opportunity to play in an NHL game and thanked the Oilers for being so welcoming.
Golden Knights’ slide continues
The All-Star break couldn’t be coming at a better time for the Vegas Golden Knights. The team lost their fourth consecutive game on Saturday as they fell 2-1 in overtime at the hands of the New York Islanders.
Forward William Carrier scored the lone goal for Vegas in the second period to tie the game up at 1-1. However, Islanders star Mathew Barzal won it at the 4:28 mark of the overtime period to send the Golden Knights to their fourth consecutive defeat.
That came after the Golden Knights lost 4-1 against the New York Rangers on Friday evening. In both of the road contests, they faced backup netminders in Jaroslav Halak and Seymon Varlamov, but still came away with a pair of defeats.
Vegas has now lost seven of its last eight games and their offense has been incredibly stagnant. The Golden Knights have scored just 16 goals over that eight-game period and would be averaging just 1.25 goals-per-game if it wasn’t for a 6-2 win over the Washington Capitals back on Jan. 21. In four of those games, the Golden Knights have scored just one goal or fewer.
Appointment viewing this week
Kings at Hurricanes | Tuesday, Jan. 31: There’s only a few marquee games on the docket before the league breaks for All-Star weekend in South Florida, but this is certainly one of them. The Kings are fighting at the top of a crowded Pacific Division and have won three of their last four. This will be one of their tougher tests of the first half of the season against a Hurricanes team that still looks stellar despite losing Max Pacioretty for the year.
Bruins at Maple Leafs | Wednesday, Feb. 1: It seems insane that the Maple Leafs have already reached the 70-point mark, but are still 11 points out of first place in the Atlantic Division. That speaks to just how dominant the Bruins have been this season. The Bruins got the better of the Maple Leafs in a 4-3 win earlier this month, so revenge will be on the minds of Toronto in this one.
Hurricanes at Sabres | Wednesday, Feb. 1: The Hurricanes have established themselves as the second-best team in the East behind the Bruins. Carolina continues to utilize a balanced scoring attack and has received stellar goaltending throughout the first half. On the other hand, the Sabres are in search of the franchise’s first playoff appearance since the 2010-2011 campaign. That’s certainly an attainable goal considering that Buffalo averages a league-leading 3.76 goals-per-game on the season.