Wednesday, February 21, 2024
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NHL Rewind: Torey Krug powers Blues to big win with five assists, late empty-netter leads to brawl in Ottawa

Another week is in the books in the NHL, and quite a bit of action took place. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered with the weekly NHL Rewind to catch you up.

One of the biggest stories across the NHL saw defenseman Torey Krug tally a five-assist performance, helping the St. Louis Blues defeat the Montreal Canadiens 7-2 on Sunday. The Blues were victorious for the seventh time in their last eight games, maintaining their Wild Card playoff spot.

Meanwhile, the Ottawa Senators came away with a 5-3 upset win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. Late in the third period, the Senators scored an empty-net goal via a slap shot from center Ridly Greig in close, but Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly took exception and checked Greig following the goal. A postgame brawl ensued as a result.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the biggest stories and highlights from the week that was in the NHL.

Goal of the week: Sebastian Aho bats puck out of midair for insane game-winner

Pyotr Kochetkov and Vitek Vanecek put on a clinic Saturday as the two goaltenders combined to record 65 saves. As a result, the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils were forced to play an overtime period to decide a winner.

With just under 90 seconds remaining in the overtime period, the Hurricanes finally broke through. 

Hurricanes forward Martin Necas carried the puck into the Devils’ zone and Vanecek was able to stop the shot. However, the rebound went straight up in the air, and Aho was able to call game. Aho displayed terrific hand-eye coordination as he batted the puck out of the air and into the back of the net.

It was one of the more insane goals we’ve seen throughout the 2023-24 NHL season, and the flair for the dramatic certainly didn’t hurt.

Robbery of the week: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen slides across to stop Brandon Saad

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has been enjoying a breakout season thus far. The Buffalo Sabres goaltender continued his sensational campaign with one of the most impressive saves of the week.

Early in the second period, Blues defenseman Colton Parayko snapped a shot on net that Luukkonen turned aside. However, Blues winger Kevin Hayes was able to secure the rebound, and he set up one of his teammates on the doorstep for a prime scoring chance. Hayes slid the puck over to veteran forward Brandon Saad in front for a point-blank range shot, but Luukkonen slid across to deny Saad with a pad save.

Luukkonen and the Sabres may have fallen 3-1 in this particular contest, but this save was certainly one of the best of the week.

Torey Krug leads Blues past Canadiens with five-assist performance

The St. Louis Blues have had quite the stretch recently with seven wins across their last eight games. The team stayed in the win column over the weekend with a pair of wins, including a 7-2 triumph against the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday.

In Sunday’s convincing victory, veteran defenseman Torey Krug led the way with five assists. Krug’s five points were the most by a Blues player in franchise history.

Krug became just the second defenseman to register a five-assist game during the 2023-24 season, as he joined Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who had six assists in a 7-0 win against the New York Islanders in December 2023. It is the first time since the 2003-04 campaign in which multiple defensemen tallied five-assist games, as Sheldon Souray and Marek Zidlicky accomplished the feat.

While all five assists were of the secondary variety, it was still quite the performance for Krug.

The Blues tallied three goals in the opening 20 minutes to jump out to an early lead. At the 15:20 mark of the first period, Krug was able to corral the puck off of the face-off and dished it off to teammate Robert Thomas. Thomas put the puck on net, and star forward Jordan Kyrou deposited the rebound past goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen for the goal.

It was one of three power-play goals for the Blues on the afternoon, and Krug assisted on two of those man-advantage opportunities. 

The Blues continue to climb back into the playoff picture as they currently are the No. 2 Wild Card team in the Western Conference. 

Senators topple Maple Leafs, late game dust-up ensues

The Ottawa Senators returned from the All-Star break following a 10-day layoff, and they came away with an impressive 5-3 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. However, it wasn’t the final score that had the hockey world buzzing when it came to this contest.

In the final seconds of Saturday’s game, the Senators had a 4-3 lead and Ottawa forward Ridly Greig had an empty net in front of him. Greig uncorked a massive slap shot to put the game away, but Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly took exception to the statement goal.

Rielly skated over to Greig by the side boards and delivered a jarring cross-check to the head of Greig. As a result of Rielly’s hit, a brawl began to ensue between the two teams.

Senators center Shane Pinto registered a goal and a pair of assists to help lead the team to victory. Veteran forwards Claude Giroux, Vladimir Tarasenko and Josh Norris also scored goals for Ottawa.

Rielly received a major penalty for cross-checking and a game misconduct as a result of the vicious hit. 

“We obviously didn’t like the result on the empty-netter,” Toronto captain John Tavares said following the game. “So, we’re going to stick together and stand our ground when necessary.”

Rielly has an in-person hearing with the NHL scheduled for Tuesday in order for the league to help determine what type of suspension the Maple Leafs blue-liner will receive.

Panthers shut out Avalanche

The Florida Panthers took the NHL by storm last season when they surged all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. Now, it appears the Panthers are getting hot at the right time yet again.

On Saturday, the Panthers shut out the Colorado Avalanche 4-0 behind another stellar performance from star center Aleksander Barkov, who registered a goal and two assists.

In addition to Barkov’s big night, Panthers forward Sam Reinhart continued his impressive campaign with his league-leading 22nd power-play goal. 

With the Panthers already leading 1-0 thanks to a Carter Verhaeghe power-play tally, Reinhart was the beneficiary of some phenomenal puck movement by his teammates.

Barkov had possession of the puck behind the net, and he found star forward Matthew Tkachuk in the face-off circle. Tkachuk then slid the puck across to Reinhart in the slot, who scorched a one-timer past Avalanche netminder Alexandar Georgiev to give the Panthers a 2-0 advantage.

Reinhart’s 22 power-play goals are currently the seventh-most by an active player in a single season. Edmonton Oilers star Leon Draisaitl holds the record with 32 power-play goals during the 2022-23 season.

It marked the sixth win in seven games for the Panthers. Florida continues to climb in the Atlantic Division standings and only trails the Boston Bruins by three points for first place.

Appointment viewing this week

Avalanche at Lightning | Thursday, Feb. 15: The Avalanche have been on a massive slide lately as they’ve dropped four consecutive games following the All-Star break. Meanwhile, the Lightning were dealt a brutal blow last week when they lost defenseman Mikhail Sergachev for the rest of the season. This is a game both teams could desperately need in the win column.

Hurricanes at Coyotes | Friday, Feb. 16: The Hurricanes were extremely active over the summer, but have been up-and-down throughout the 2023-24 season. Now, Carolina seems to have hit its stride with five wins over its last six games. This is a road contest the Hurricanes will want to have.

Kings at Bruins | Saturday, Feb. 17: The Kings notched their first win under interim head coach Jim Hiller on Saturday in a 4-0 win victory against the Oilers. Los Angeles definitely will have its hands full when the team travels to Boston, but it’ll be interesting to see if offseason acquisition Pierre-Luc Dubois continues to elevate his level of play.

Flyers at Devils | Saturday, Feb. 17: The Stadium Series takes place this weekend with a pair of contests. The Flyers and Devils will do battle in a matchup of Metropolitan Division foes. The Devils find themselves outside of the playoff picture thus far, while the Flyers have been one of the bigger surprise teams. This should be a fun outdoor contest at MetLife Stadium.

Rangers at Islanders | Sunday, Feb. 18: The Stadium Series continues Sunday when the battle for supremacy in the New York City area takes place between the Rangers and Islanders. The Islanders have been playing much better under new head coach Patrick Roy, while the Rangers are thriving with Jonathan Quick in net. Hockey fans will come away as winners with a pair of rivalry matchups in the great outdoors.

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