NHL Rink Wrap: Evgeny Kuznetsov hat trick; 900 wins for Barry Trotz
Top player in the NHL on Friday
Evgeny Kuznetsov Washington Capitals
The Washington Capitals and Vancouver Canucks played a wild game on Friday night that saw the Capitals jump out to a 2-0 lead, give up three goals in five minutes to open the third period, tie the game late in the third period, and then win on a Lars Eller overtime goal. Kuznetsov had a hat trick in all of that, including the game-tying goal in the third period. HIs second goal of the game looked like it could have been number 767 for Alex Ovechkin, but Kuznetsov was able to get a piece of it for the goal. This has been a big bounce back season for Kuznetsov who is now averaging more than a point per game with 57 total points (19 goals, 38 assists) in 56 games.
Highlights from around the NHL on Friday
Kuznetsov’s hat trick.
Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski ties the game late in the third period to help send the game against the Minnesota Wild to overtime, where the Blue Jackets win in a shootout.
Mark Friedman scores the game-winning goal early in the third period for the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Three takeaways from the NHL on Friday
Barry Trotz milestone
The New York Islanders were 5-2 winners over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night, giving head coach Barry Trotz his 900th regular season win, making him the third different coach in NHL history to reach that milestone. Trotz won 557 games with the Nashville Predators, 205 with the Washington Capitals, and is now at 138 wins with the Islanders.
Golden Knights lose again
The Vegas Golden Knights might officially be in trouble. They were 5-2 losers against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night, giving them their second loss in 24 hours after also losing to the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night. They are now in ninth place in the Western Conference by points percentage and barely ahead of the Vancouver Canucks in 10th place. Injuries have been a major problem this season, especially lately with Max Pacioretty missing time (he exited Friday’s game early), Mark Stone being out for the foreseeable future, and starting goalie Robin Lehner also being sidelined. That is two of their best forwards and their starting goalie. It is worth wondering if head coach Peter DeBoer is on the hot seat at the moment.
Wild also struggling
The Minnesota Wild’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets snapped their recent two-game winning streak and also extended their recent slump that has seen them go just 6-9-1 in their past 16 games. That stretch has seen them go from one of the best records in the Western Conference (and the NHL) to just two points ahead of the Nashville Predators for the third place spot in the Central Division. Nashville could tie them on Saturday with a win against the St. Louis Blues.
Saturday’s big story
Significant day in the Western Conference playoff race as the Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars, Anaheim Ducks, and Edmonton Oilers are all in action. Those four teams are competing for the two Wild Card spots in the conference and enter the day separated by seven points. The Ducks are the team facing the longest odds, trailing the Stars (currently in the second Wild Card spot) by four points while the Stars still have four games in hand. A Stars win against the New York Rangers and a Ducks loss to the New Jersey Devils would probably be enough to really put the Ducks out of it in that race.
Friday’s NHL Scores
Pittsburgh Penguins 5, Vegas Golden Knights 2
Columbus Blue Jackets 3, Minnesota Wild 2 (SO)
New York Islanders 5, Winnipeg Jets 2
Washington Capitals 4, Vancouver Canucks 3 (OT)