The 2020-21 NHL season (finally) started on Wednesday night. This will be a unique year with teams set to play 56 games against only divisional opponents in revamped divisions.
The start of the NHL season also unveiled the league’s COVID Protocol Related Absences list, which includes factors like “an initial positive test which remains unconfirmed until confirmatory testing is completed pursuant to the Positive Test Protocol; mandated isolation for symptomatic individuals pursuant to the Positive Test Protocol; required quarantine as a high-risk close contact in accordance with the Positive Test Protocol; isolation based on a confirmed positive test result and/or; quarantine for travel or other reasons as outlined in the COVID-19 Protocol.” 22 players were list on Wednesday, but it didn’t include members of the Dallas Stars. Dallas had a COVID-19 outbreak during training camp, which has delayed the start of their season. The NHL will release the names of those players who won’t be available prior to the Stars' first game.
PITTSBURGH 3 PHILADELPHIA 6
The Flyers opened the year with a 6-3 victory over their Pennsylvania rivals in East Division action. Joel Farabee led the way with one goal and three assists in the contest.
Farabee had the secondary assist on two power-play goals during the first period. Philadelphia newcomer Erik Gustafsson had the primary helper on both of those goals, which were scored by James van Riemsdyk and Nolan Patrick. For Patrick, it was his first game since April 2, 2019 because of a migraine disorder.
Those goals came after Mark Jankowski opened the scoring for the Penguins to kick off the 2020-21 season. Sidney Crosby got a power-play marker to even the score at 2-2 early in the second stanza, but a late goal by Farabee gave the Flyers the advantage going into the third.
Brandon Tanev scored for Pittsburgh just over three minutes into the third frame, but the Flyers took control afterward with three unanswered goals.
Hayes, Tanev and Jankowski added one assist apiece for multi-point performances on Wednesday.
MONTREAL 4 TORONTO 5 (OT)
The Leafs rallied from 3-1 and 4-3 deficits to defeat the Canadiens in the first game of the all-Canadian North Division. Both teams scored twice on the man advantage and played a wild overtime period.
Nick Suzuki opened the scoring on the power play and off-season addition Josh Anderson scored two times in his Montreal debut. Anderson only scored one goal in 26 appearances with Columbus last season after he had 27 markers over 82 contests in 2018-19.
Jonathan Drouin collected three helpers in the contest. The only goal he didn’t have a hand in was Tomas Tatar’s second-period power-play tally. Alexander Romanov got his first NHL point with an assist on that one.
William Nylander and John Tavares were the offensive catalysts for Toronto with three points each. Nylander had two goals and one assist, while Tavares had one goal and two helpers. Nylander and Tavares potted power-play goals in the second period.
Auston Matthews, who assisted on Rielly’s winner, tied Anderson with a game-high seven shots on goal.
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CHICAGO 1 TAMPA BAY 5
Tampa Bay raised their Stanley Cup banner on Wednesday night prior to the team’s Central Division contest against Chicago. The Lightning then surged out to a 3-0 lead in the first period thanks to goals by Ondrej Palat (power play), Mathieu Joseph and Anthony Cirelli.
Cirelli and Killorn, who contributed two assists, recorded multi-point performances in the opening frame. Brayden Point also had one goal and one assist in the contest.
Steven Stamkos accounted for one goal and two assists. He didn’t appear to be hindered in any way from the injury issue he had during the postseason.
Victor Hedman finished the match with two assists, three shots and four blocks.
Dylan Strome spoiled Andrei Vasilevskiy’s shutout bid at the 16:36 mark of the third period when a lucky bounce went his way. Vasilevskiy stopped 22 shots in the win. Malcolm Subban made 28 saves in the defeat.
VANCOUVER 5 EDMONTON 3
Vancouver and Edmonton hooked up in the second game of the night of the North Division.
Bo Horvat opened the scoring in the first period, as he carried over his hot play from the postseason.
Kailer Yamamoto evened the score in the second period, but the first career NHL goal of Nils Hoglander gave the Canucks a 2-1 lead going into the third period. Horvat picked up an assist on that goal and Tanner Pearson had a helper on each of Vancouver’s first two markers.
Edmonton was 0-for-4 on the power play and Vancouver failed to score on two opportunities.
Connor McDavid was held off the scoresheet on his 24th birthday, but he was credited with five shots on goal.
The Oilers will host the Canucks again on Thursday night.
ST. LOUIS 4 COLORADO 1
The Blues and Avalanche were the lone matchup in the West Division on opening night.
The game started well for Colorado when Andre Burakovsky scored a power-play goal less than five minutes into the contest.
However, the Blues went into the first intermission with a 2-1 lead thanks to goals from Oskar Sundqvist and Jordan Kyrou. St. Louis had a 17-5 shot advantage.
The Avalanche outshot St. Louis by a 15-6 margin in the second stanza, but couldn’t beat Jordan Binnington, who finished the match with 26 saves.
Kyle Clifford got his first goal with the Blues in the third period and Sundqvist rounded out the scoring with his second marker of the season. Sundqvist also filled the stat sheet with four shots, three hits and four blocks.
Robert Thomas, who is back playing center, picked up two assists in the match.
Philipp Grubauer blocked 28 shots in the loss.
Mike Hoffman was a late surprise scratch for the Blues because his work visa still needed approval.