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NHL Rink Wrap: Rangers beat Penguins again; Matthews scores 56th goal

NHL Scores

DALLAS, TX - APRIL 7: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs is congratulated on a game-winning overtime goal against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center on April 7, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images

Top player in the NHL on Thursday

Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers

The New York Rangers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins for the third consecutive time on Thursday night by a 3-0 margin. Shesterkin stopped all 30 Penguins shots he faced to record the shutout and help the Rangers take another step toward home ice advantage in the first round. The Rangers are very likely to play the Penguins in that series but they are also quickly gaining on the Carolina Hurricanes for the first place spot in the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins were without several players in Thursday’s game, including team captain Sidney Crosby who was a late scratch. This is Shesterkin’s fourth shutout of the season and was a big performance for him as he has struggled a bit over the past couple of weeks. He remains the top goalie in the league this season, the Vezina Trophy front-runner and a leading MVP candidate.

Highlights from around the NHL on Thursday

Auston Matthews scores his 56th goal of the season to set a new Toronto Maple Leafs record.

Connor McDavid sets a career high with his 42nd goal.

Bo Horvat scores two goals in 38 seconds for the Vancouver Canucks.

Three takeaways from the NHL on Thursday

Oliver Ekman-Larsson back in Arizona

Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland made their first returns to Arizona on Thursday night as visiting players after the duo was traded to Vancouver just before the start of the season. They combined for three assists (one for Ekman-Larsson and two for Garland) in the Canucks’ 5-1 win. They were supposed to be long-term building blocks in Arizona at one time, but were instead major trade chips in a massive rebuild for the Coyotes. It remains to be seen what their future is in Vancouver, though, as the team has major salary cap issues this offseason. Garland was a popular name in trade speculation ahead of this year’s NHL Trade Deadline.

What is next for Sharks?

The news that Doug Wilson is stepping down in San Jose means that the Sharks will have new leadership and a new vision at the top, and it will be interesting to see what direction that goes in. The Sharks clearly believe they are still able to compete for a playoff spot after re-signing Tomas Hertl to a long-term contract extension before the trade deadline, but they still have a lot of holes to fill with a long of major contracts for older players. It is not going to be an easy situation for a new general manager to fix quickly.

Hurricanes clinch playoff spot

The Carolina Hurricanes rallied to overcome a 3-1 deficit against the Buffalo Sabres to get a 5-3 win and clinch their fourth consecutive playoff spot. Sebastian Aho and Jordan Staal both scored two goals in the win. Carolina still has a narrow two-point lead over the Rangers for the first place spot in the Metropolitan Division.

Friday’s big story

The Tampa Bay Lightning host the Boston Bruins in a big Atlantic Division matchup. Boston is one of the hottest teams in the league right now but has not really shown it can consistently beat the top teams in the league. This is a good test for them against the reigning back-to-back Stanley Cup champions. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has dropped seven of its past eight games against current playoff teams and could use a win to try and stay in the top-three of the Atlantic Division. In the Western Conference there is a great matchup between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues in a potential First Round series. The Wild have been one of the hottest teams in the league with a 9-1-1 record in their past 11 games, while the Blues are 5-0-1 in their past six games.

Thursday’s NHL Scores

Nashville Predators 3, Ottawa Senators 2
Montreal Canadiens 7, New Jersey Devils 4
New York Rangers 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 0
Philadelphia Flyers 4, Columbus Blue Jackets 1
Carolina Hurricanes 5, Buffalo Sabres 3
Seattle Kraken 2, Chicago Blackhawks 0
Toronto Maple Leafs 4, Dallas Stars 3 (OT)
Vancouver Canucks 5, Arizona Coyotes 1
Edmonton Oilers 3, Los Angeles Kings 2
Calgary Flames 4, San Jose Sharks 2