NHL Notes: Vegas Golden Knights hire Gerard Gallant as first head coach

NHL Notes: Vegas Golden Knights hire Gerard Gallant as first head coach

LAS VEGAS -- The Vegas Golden Knights have hired Gerard Gallant as the first coach of the NHL expansion team.

General manager George McPhee announced the move Thursday.

Gallant helped revive the Florida Panthers, leading them to a first-place finish in the Atlantic Division last season and becoming a coach-of-the-year finalist. He was let go last November after just 22 games as the team stumbled to a slow start.

Gallant was a standout left wing as a player, primarily for the Detroit Red Wings -- scoring at least 34 goals in four straight seasons from 1986 through 1990 and finishing his NHL career with 211 goals in 615 games. He later was a head coach in Columbus and an assistant in Montreal, among other stops.

The franchise will get its first 30 players through the expansion draft in June. The Golden Knights begin play next season (see full story).

Stars bring back Hitchcock as head coach 
DALLAS -- Ken Hitchcock is back as coach of the Dallas Stars, more than 15 years after being fired by the team he took to its only Stanley Cup championship.

Hitchcock was re-introduced in Dallas on Thursday, less than a week after the Stars ended their season without making the playoffs.

Lindy Ruff's four-year contract expired at the end of the season and wasn't extended.

When Dallas fired Hitchcock in January 2002, he had won 277 of his 503 games over parts of seven seasons in his first NHL head-coaching job. He led the Stars to five straight division titles, with consecutive Western Conference championships in 1999 and 2000. They won the Stanley Cup in 1999 and went again in 2000, the only times Hitchcock or the Stars have played in the Stanley Cup Final.

The 65-year-old Hitchcock had since coached the Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets and St. Louis. The Blues abruptly fired Hitchcock on Feb. 1, cutting short what was already going to be his last season with the Blues (see full story).

Fleury to remain in net for Penguins in Game 2
PITTSBURGH -- Marc-Andre Fleury will remain in net for the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 2 of their playoff series against Columbus while Matt Murray deals with a lower-body injury.

Murray was scheduled to start Game 1 but left after suffering a lower-body injury in warm-ups. Fleury came on and made 31 saves as the Penguins cruised to a 3-1 victory to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan offered no public update of Murray's status on Thursday, saying only there's no timetable for Murray's return.

Murray helped Pittsburgh to the franchise's fourth Stanley Cup as a rookie last spring and had taken over the No. 1 spot from Fleury this season.

Fleury's appearance on Friday will be his 102nd in the playoffs, a franchise record for a goaltender.

Ducks help Flyers out by downing Devils

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Ducks help Flyers out by downing Devils

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Brandon Montour scored a power-play goal, helping lift the Anaheim Ducks into third place in the Pacific Division with a 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils on Sunday night.

Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell each had a goal and an assist, and Jakob Silfverberg also scored for the Ducks, who lead Los Angeles by two points in the division. Anaheim won its third straight game and is 6-1-0 in its last seven at home.

John Gibson made 15 saves, improving to 9-2-0 in his last 11 starts.

Kyle Palmieri had a power-play goal and Patrick Maroon also scored for the Devils, who had won the first three games of their six-game road trip. Keith Kinkaid made 32 saves, ending a four-start winning streak.

New Jersey holds the second wild-card in the Eastern Conference, five points ahead of Florida (see full recap).

Karlsson's hat trick helps Vegas beat Flames
LAS VEGAS -- William Karlsson scored a natural hat trick to lead the Vegas Golden Knights to a 4-0 victory over the Calgary Flames on Sunday.

Colin Miller also scored as Vegas snapped a four-game home losing streak and improved to 25-9-2 at T Mobile Arena.

Marc-Andre Fleury, who made his 20th start in 21 games, made 42 saves. In getting his 48th career shutout and fourth of the season, Fleury moved into a tie with Chris Osgood for 12th all-time amongst goaltenders at 401.

Vegas improved to 3-0-0 against Calgary while outscoring the Flames 15-5. The teams meet once more, in the regular-season finale at Calgary on April 7 (see full recap).

Laine scores twice, matches Ovechkin for NHL goal lead
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Patrik Laine scored twice to extend his point streak to 15 games and tie Alex Ovechkin for the NHL goal lead, and the Winnipeg Jets beat the Dallas Stars 4-3 on Sunday night to match the franchise wins record at 43.

The second-year sniper has 43 goals, matching the total from Ovechkin, the Washington star and Laine's boyhood favorite. Laine's point streak is the longest active run in the NHL and adds to his league record for the longest point streak by a teenager. The streak includes 18 goals and eight assists.

Ben Chiarot also scored and Blake Wheeler added an empty-netter for Winnipeg.

Mattias Janmark and Jamie Benn each scored for Dallas (see full recap).

Oskar Lindblom quiets Flyers’ chirps in weekend of firsts

Oskar Lindblom quiets Flyers’ chirps in weekend of firsts

If there was an NHL handbook on how to score goals in the most competitive hockey league in the world, you would have thought Oskar Lindblom would have read it forward and backward, on the charter to the Flyers' next road game and at night before bedtime.

From effort to playing at both ends of the ice, Lindblom had done everything to score a goal, except actually score one.

Prior to Saturday’s game against Carolina, Lindblom had played his first 12 games without registering a single point and it was starting to become a source of playful dissing and mockery in the Flyers' locker room.

“Teammates keep him loose,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I think Alex Lyon was giving him the gears. I think Alex should have had an assist last night (in Carolina). I don’t know if he was credited with one or not, but I think Alex was chirping (Oskar) about having more points per game than he did, and that’s what guys do.”

However, the official scoresheet from the 4-2 win in Carolina had Lindblom credited with his first NHL assist and Lyon still looking for one. Prior to that, the zeroes next to Lindblom’s game were starting to add up and Hakstol sensed the 21-year-old rookie was taking notice.  

“I don’t remember the game last week, but he had a great opportunity off a rebound at net front,” Hakstol said. “That was the first time I saw a little bit of frustration creep in where he let it show. Oskar is a good offensive player. He wants to help by doing his part offensively, but I think what he just continued to concentrate on is just playing good hockey.”

Sunday that first goal finally arrived in the form of a snapshot that beat Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer up high. It gave the Flyers a lead they never relinquished in a 6-3 win over Washington.

“I don’t want to think about it anymore,” Lindblom said. “Got the first one today and it was a huge one in the game so it was good.”

And with that, the Swede slipped on the Ric Flair victory robe for the first time, handed down from the Finnish Valtteri Filppula, who was presented the feather-laced garment the night before in Carolina. 

Prior to that, the only thing Lindblom had received was encouragement and support from his teammates who knew his time would eventually come. With an easy-going smile and a personality to match, Lindblom’s fellow Flyers couldn’t help but root for him. 

“We’re all happy for him," Travis Konecny said. “It’s been paying off for him. He deserves it. He works hard at both ends of the ice. I’m personally happy for him.

“He’s got that offensive skill that’s far and few between that a lot of guys don’t have. He just has a knack around the net, he’s always around the puck. We all knew it was coming sooner or later.”

Apparently, everyone seemed to know and especially Jake Voracek, who’s been assisting in every way possible.

“He talks to me a lot,” Lindblom said. “He tried to calm me down a little bit. It’s good for me.”