Thursday, July 18, 2024

NHL Rewind: Alexis Lafreniere’s hat trick helps Rangers stay atop the East standings

Another week in the NHL has come and gone. The playoff race is really beginning to heat up, but don’t fret as we’ve got you covered with the weekly NHL Rewind.

On Saturday, the New York Rangers continued to stay atop the Eastern Conference after defeating the Arizona Coyotes. Forward Alexis Lafreniere tallied his first career hat trick and five-point performance in an 8-5 victory.

In addition, the Vegas Golden Knights continued to excel late in the regular season with a narrow 2-1 win against the Minnesota Wild in a game where the Wild made a crucial mistake.

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest stories and highlights from the last week around the NHL.

Goal of the week: Dakota Joshua nets a between-the-legs beauty

Vancouver Canucks forward Dakota Joshua had quite an impressive performance in a 2-0 win against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday. 

Joshua registered two goals in the win, but one was quite sensational. Midway through the second period, teammate Pius Suter dumped the puck down low to Joshua in front of the net, and Joshua ended up scoring a between-the-legs goal in close in one of the craziest plays you’ll ever see.

It marks a hot stretch for Joshua as he’s tallied five points (three goals & two assists) in his last three games.

Robbery of the week: Ilya Samsonov leaves Sabres scratching their heads

Goaltender Ilya Samsonov was a dominant force in net when the Toronto Maple Leafs faced off against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday. 

In the third period, Samsonov made a few key saves, including one that was truly mind-boggling. The Maple Leafs goaltender had Sabres forward Jeff Skinner coming in all alone after Skinner got out of the penalty box, but Samsonov was able to turn Skinner’s attempt aside. Following Skinner’s initial shot, Sabres forward Dylan Cozens had a wide-open rebound attempt, but Samsonov made a ridiculous glove save to keep the Sabres off of the scoreboard.

Samsonov ended up stopping all 34 shots that he faced in a 3-0 Maple Leafs victory.

Alexis Lafreniere leads Rangers past Coyotes

The New York Rangers continue to stay atop the Eastern Conference following an 8-5 win against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday. One of the biggest reasons for the success in that contest was the play of Rangers forward Alexis Lafreniere.

Lafreniere registered his first-career hat trick along with his first-career five-point performance when he tallied three goals and two assists against Arizona.

Lafreniere’s five-point performance also allowed him to top the 50-point mark for the first time in his professional career. His previous career-high came during the 2022-23 season when Lafreniere tallied 39 points (16 goals & 23 assists) in 81 games.

Lafreniere clinched the hat trick with an empty-net goal with just 14 seconds remaining in the third period of Saturday’s contest.

The Rangers and Coyotes were tied at 3-3 in the third period before Chris Kreider, Zac Jones, and Barclay Goodrow scored three unanswered goals to give New York a commanding 6-3 advantage. The Coyotes did cut the deficit to 6-5 with under six minutes to go in regulation, but Artemi Panarin and Lafreniere tallied empty-net goals to ice the game.

The Rangers currently lead the Eastern Conference with 104 points and have won five of their last six games. In addition, the Rangers are 20-5-1 since the beginning of February and are playing some of their best hockey as of late.

Late game blunder costs Wild

Minnesota Wild head coach John Hynes made a gutsy decision when facing the Vegas Golden Knights in overtime on Saturday.

The Wild had taken a 1-0 lead late in the second period when winger Kirill Kaprizov scored. Late in the third period, the Golden Knights were able to tie the game at the 13:43 mark of the frame when forward Chandler Stephenson dropped a pass off for teammate Michael Amadio. Amadio was able to snap a shot past Wild goaltender Filip Gustavsson to tie the game.

The two teams then went to overtime in a game where both teams were desperate to secure two points at this stage of the regular season. However, the Wild chose to pull Gustavsson in favor of an extra skater when they had the puck in the offensive zone.

After a Mats Zuccarello shot was stopped by Logan Thompson, Golden Knights star forward Jonathan Marchessault was able to secure the puck, and rip a shot into the empty net for the game-winning goal.

The Wild find themselves out of the Western Conference Wild Card race, and thought they’d try to obtain an advantage with the extra skater. Obviously, if Minnesota scored the game-winner on that possession, it would’ve been classified an impressive gamble. However, considering that Vegas ended up victorious, it is quite considerable when they could’ve potentially won in a shootout if the game got to that point.

Avalanche defeat Predators in high-scoring affair

The Colorado Avalanche have showcased themselves as arguably the most dangerous offensive team that the NHL has to offer. They certainly showed why when they defeated the Nashville Predators 7-4 on Saturday evening.

The Predators were able to jump all over goaltender Alexandar Georgiev as they scored four goals in the opening 20:57 of the game. Predators forward Gustav Nyquist scored his 22nd goal of the year to make it a 4-2 game early in the second period, but then it was like a light bulb went off for the Avalanche.

Colorado rallied to score five unanswered goals and came away with a 7-4 win against the Predators.

The Avalanche really took advantage of a pair of power-play opportunities as forward Artturi Lehkonen and defenseman Cale Makar each found the back of the net. Those goals tied up the contest, and trade deadline acquisition Yakov Trenin added a goal late in the second period to give the Avalanche their first lead of the game at 5-4.

Trenin was able to deposit the loose puck into the net to score the goal against his former team. 

Following Trenin’s tally, Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon put a bow on this contest. First, MacKinnon scored at the 3:38 mark of the final period to extend the lead to 6-4. If that wasn’t impressive enough, MacKinnon added an empty-net goal to bring his grand total to 47 goals on the season.

The Avalanche now have officially clinched a playoff spot, and are only three points behind the Dallas Stars for the top spot in the Central Division. 

Appointment viewing this week

Bruins at Predators | Tuesday, April 2: The Bruins have had their fair share of ups and downs lately, but need to stay focused coming down the home stretch of the regular season. Meanwhile, the Predators are attempting to secure the top Wild Card spot in the West, and have been one of the hotter teams across the league in recent weeks. This is a game that neither team can overlook.

Canucks at Golden Knights | Tuesday, April 2: Vegas has been victorious in five of its last six games, and has climbed into the No. 3 spot in the Pacific Division race. While Vancouver still holds a sizable lead for the top spot, this certainly could be a playoff preview.

Oilers at Stars | Wednesday, April 3: The Stars are on fire as of late, and have leaped into the top spot in the Central Division race. Still, the Avalanche are within striking distance, so they’ll need to keep their foot on the gas. As for the Oilers, the Golden Knights are attempting to give them a run for their money for the No. 2 spot, which makes this game very important.

Panthers at Bruins | Saturday, April 6: This could be one of the more important matchups down the stretch. The Bruins are clinging to a two-point lead over the Panthers, but both teams will want to secure home-ice advantage in the opening round at the very least. This one could feel like a playoff atmosphere.

Stars at Avalanche | Sunday, April 7: With so few points separating these two Central Division foes, this is a matchup that could be a potential deciding factor in which team takes the crown. This is a big chance for the Avalanche to keep the pressure on the Stars as they attempt to win the division for the fourth consecutive campaign.

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