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NHL Rink Wrap: Hats off to Sam Bennett, Ducks slumping, and Avalanche extend home streak

NHL Scores

SUNRISE, FL - JANUARY 14: Sam Bennett #9 of the Florida Panthers shoots and scores his third goal of the game for a hat-trick against Goaltender Anton Khudobin #35 of the Dallas Stars at the FLA Live Arena on January 14, 2022 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images

Top player in the NHL on Friday

Sam Bennett, Florida Panthers

When the Florida Panthers are at their best they are a complete and total buzzsaw. They were at their best on Friday night in a dominating 7-1 win against the Dallas Stars that was highlighted by huge performances from some of their top players. Anthony Duclair had another big game, Jonathan Huberdeau continued his great season, and Sam Bennett recorded a hat trick. That three-goal effort from Bennett earns him top star honors on Friday as he continues to be a great addition to the Panthers’ lineup. General manager Bill Zito has hit all of the right buttons over the past two years in building this team around Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov, and the trade deadline acquisition (and contract extension) of Bennett has been one of his better moves. Bennett now has 20 goals in his first 38 regular season games with the team dating back to the end of the 2020-21 season. That averages out to a 44-goal pace over 82 games.

Highlights from around the NHL on Friday

A lot of teams allowed Anthony Duclair to get away from them way too soon. Here he is scoring his 15th goal of the season for the Panthers on Friday night.

Here is Eric Staal scoring a goal for the Iowa Wild in his American Hockey League tryout. That is his first AHL goal since the 2004-05 season.

At the NHL level for the Wild Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello teamed up for this beauty of a one-timer goal.

Nazem Kadri (who has a great All-Star game argument) wins it for the Colorado Avalanche in a shootout with this beauty of a goal against the Arizona Coyotes.

Three takeaways from the NHL on Friday

The Panthers found another dominant line

The trio of Jonathan Huberdeau, Anthony Duclair, and Sam Bennett is just ripping things apart for the Florida Panthers right now. That trio was dominant during the Panthers’ 7-1 win against Dallas on Friday night, owning a 5-0 goals advantage during 5-on-5 play with Bennett recording his aforementioned hat trick. For the season that trio has played more than 74 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey this season and outscored opponents by a 10-1 margin. Huberdeau has been one of the league’s best players for years now (read more about him here) while Duclair and Bennett have been great additions over the past two years.

Any concern for the Ducks?

The Anaheim Ducks have been one of the bigger surprise teams in the league so far this season, but they have been trending in the wrong direction over the past couple of weeks. Things did not show any sign of reversing on Friday night in a 7-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild. With that loss the Ducks have now lost seven out of their past nine games and are now down to fourth place in the Pacific Division by points percentage, and just narrowly ahead of the Edmonton Oilers. They banked a lot of points early in the season to give themselves some cushion, but that cushion is starting to disappear. They do have some key players out right now due to COVID protocols, including starting goalie John Gibson and breakout star Troy Terry, but even without those absences they are definitely starting to cool down a little as a team.

Avalanche extend home winning streak

It has been more than two months since the Colorado Avalanche lost a game on home ice. They extended their home winning streak to 13 games on Friday night with a 4-3 shootout win against the Arizona Coyotes. After the starting the year with a 4-5-1 record the Avalanche have gone 19-3-2 in the 24 games since to climb to the top of the Western Conference standings.

Saturday’s big story

There is an awesome matchup in St. Louis where the Blues are looking to extend their home point streak to 14 consecutive games (13-0-1 during this stretch) when they host a Toronto Maple Leafs team that has been one of the league’s best so far this season. While the Blues look to continue running their home point streak, Auston Matthews looks to extend his road goal scoring streak having scored a goal in each of the Maple Leafs’ past nine road games.

Friday’s NHL Scores

Florida Panthers 7, Dallas Stars 1
Minnesota Wild 7, Anaheim Ducks 3
Colorado Avalanche 4, Arizona Coyotes 3 (SO)
Edmonton Oilers vs. Vegas Golden Knights (Postponed)