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The Buzzer: Vanecek shines in debut for Capitals; Avalanche rout Blues

NHL Scores

BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 15: Vitek Vanecek #41 of the Washington Capitals tends goal against the Buffalo Sabres during an NHL game on January 15, 2021 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images

Three Stars

1. Travis Konecny, Philadelphia Flyers. Konecny could not buy a goal in the playoffs, going 16 straight games without finding the back of the net. It was only a matter of time until his puck luck changed, and that happened in a big way on Friday night in a 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Konecny scored three goals (Gritty helped celebrate) in the Flyers’ win to help them jump out to a 2-0 start with a pair big wins over their cross-state rivals.

The Flyers have scored 11 goals in the two games, while starting goalie Carter Hart was sensational on Friday night. Hard to think of a better start to the 2020-21 season for the team.

2. Vitek Vanecek, Washington Capitals. The Capitals were not great on Friday but they did just enough to get a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres, mainly because Vanecek was outstanding in his NHL debut by stopping 30 of the 31 shots he faced.

This is significant for the Capitals because the goaltending spot is a big question for this season. They were anticipating having Henrik Lundqvist to share the net with Ilya Samsonov, but when it was revealed he needed heart surgery and would miss the season it left them with one of the most inexperienced goalie duos in the league.

Vanecek ended up getting that spot over Pheonix Copley and on Friday night it looked like the absolute right decision.

3. Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa Senators. The Senators scored four unanswered goals to take their season opener, 5-3, over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Tkachuk was the big star for the Senators in this one with three points, scoring a goal and adding two assists in the win.

The Senators underwent a ton of changes over the offseason as their massive rebuild continues. It is still a team that has a long way to go before it becomes a serious playoff contender again, but the roster looks much more like an NHL roster than the one they were using a year ago.

Tkachuk is one of the key building blocks and he was great on Friday.

Honorable mentions

Colorado’s power play. The Avalanche absolutely crushed the St. Louis Blues on Friday, 8-0, thanks in part to a completely dominant power play performance that saw them score six power play goals on seven opportunities. Nathan MacKinnon finished with three points, Gabriel Landeskog scored a pair of goals, and Devon Toews scored his first goal as a member of the Avalanche in the win. Nothing about this game was close as the Avalanche finished with a 38-21 advantage on the shot chart.

Lightning dominate again. The Chicago Blackhawks were no match for the defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning over these first two games. Steven Stamkos has been great and already has five points in his first two games, while the line of Blake Coleman, Yanni Gourde, and Barclay Goodrow continues to dominate after its great playoff performance. Even without Nikita Kucherov for the entire regular season this lineup is still loaded.

Highlights of the Night

Mikko Rantanen with a slick pass to help set up Gabriel Landeskog for his second goal of the game and 200th goal of his NHL career.

Zach Hyman with one of the few highlights of the night for the Toronto Maple Leafs as he bats this puck into the net out of mid-air.

Blooper of the Night

The Chicago Blackhawks did not have a great start to the season in Tampa Bay, and Collin Delia’s season debut started off with this.


Philadelphia Flyers 5, Pittsburgh Penguins 2
Washington Capitals 2, Buffalo Sabres 1
Ottawa Senators 5, Toronto Maple Leafs 3
Tampa Bay Lightning 5, Chicago Blackhawks 2
Colorado Avalanche 8, St. Louis Blues 0

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.