NHL Rink Wrap: Streaks (good and bad) continue for Islanders, Stars, Wild

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Top players from Thursday in the NHL

Jonathan Huberdeau, Panthers

No big deal, Jonathan Huberdeau just collected one goal and five assists for the Panthers in their comeback against the Sabres.

To put things mildly, Huberdeau is on a red-hot run. He collected three assists in his last game, so that gives him an absurd eight points in two contests (1G, 7A). This leaves him creeping up the leading scorers’ list with 28 points in 23 games.

While Huberdeau stood out the most in the Panthers’ comeback, others figured into the scoring. Aaron Ekblad enjoyed a strong night, scoring two goals and one assist. In his first game against the Sabres, Sam Reinhart wasn’t far behind Huberdeau, generating a goal and three assists.

Keep scrolling for more on those “Comeback Cats.”

Jeremy Swayman, Bruins

Overall, the Bruins’ goaltending has been up-and-down this season. It only keeps the door open wider for a hopeful Tuukka Rask return. Maybe some of the friction comes from the contract the Bruins gave Linus Ullmark vs. Swayman generally showing more promise?

Either way, Swayman gets the slight nod over Anton Forsberg for the goalie of the night for Thursday in the NHL. Swayman pitched a 42-save shutout for the Bruins, while Forsberg stopped 47 shots to steal the Sens a win against the Hurricanes.

Highlights from four NHL games on Thursday

Some real “NHL 22” video game goal energy to this one.

Honestly, Kirill Kaprizov also scored the sort of goal that would make your friend throw a controller in a video game.

Not exactly how you’d draw it up, but a pretty setup from Timo Meier to Erik Karlsson. The Sharks won, extending the Islanders’ losing streak to nine games. (More on that soon.)

Is a single frame enough to count as a highlight? Or is it just art?

Andrew Mangiapane now has 16 goals on the season. Fifteen of them have come on the road:

Thursday’s NHL takeaways

Islanders’ losing streak slips to nine games (and a single standings point)

In the parity-heavy NHL, a nine-game losing streak can be misleading. What if that team lost a bunch of those games in overtime or shootouts? Sure, it still would be bad, but there are bad slumps, and then there are disastrous one.

You probably already could’ve called the Islanders’ losing streak a disastrous one. During Thursday’s NHL action, the Islanders lost their ninth game in a row. The sad distinction: this time, they finally earned a standings point. The Sharks won, but they beat the Islanders in overtime (see the highlights section if you missed it).

For some time, people doubted the Islanders’ ability to walk the tightrope of low-scoring games. Eventually, they did so so often — and expertly — that most of us shrugged our shoulders, and welcomed our defensively adept overlords.

[See where the Islanders figure into PHT’s Power Rankings]

Injuries, a COVID outbreak, and a challenging schedule featuring a 13-game season-opening road trip conspired to leave the Islanders in this hole. Increasingly, it’s difficult to tell if the Isles can dig out of it.

On paper, the Islanders arguably should have snapped their losing streak against the Sharks. At minimum, they should’ve performed better.

Instead, the Islanders were lucky to escape with a point. The Sharks doubled the Islanders in even-strength high-danger chances (14-7), and comfortably won the SOG battle (35-25). Mathew Barzal opened the scoring 1:04 into the game, but the first goal didn’t make enough of a difference.

Just 18 games into their season, the Islanders still have time to prove that they can recover from this losing streak. If doubters truly powered previous successes … well, they should be back by now.

Stars, Wild keep their winning streaks going

Other NHL streaks continued on Thursday — they were just good ones.

If you want a deeper dive on the Wild before they extended their winning streak to five games, click here. (While their offense may cool down, the Wild bumped their numbers up in extending their winning streak.)

The Stars are that much hotter than the Wild, pushing their own winning streak to six games after squeezing by the Blue Jackets. Unfortunately for Roope Hintz, he couldn’t keep his own point streak going in the Stars’ win. (His red-hot run included a hat trick in his last game.) Hintz’s frequent linemates came up big, though.

Jason Robertson scored two goals, while Joe Pavelski collected two assists.

It says a lot about the ups and downs of the Stars’ season that they’re merely a +2 in goal differential. They’ll accept that, being that their record is now 12-7-2, and coach Rick Bowness seemingly found some answers. (Of course, it’s easier to find answers when Robertson is healthy, completing that underrated top line.)

Leads: they’re not very safe against the Panthers

Apparently the Florida Panthers’ comebacks already received the hashtag treatment (#ComebackCats). In the cases where that’s still a thing, at least.

Anyway, the Sabres continued to be one of the NHL’s feistier-than-expected teams on Thursday, building a 3-0 lead against the Panthers in the first period. Buffalo also answered Florida’s first goal of the night to make it 4-1. Spoiler: those leads didn’t hold up.

By the end of the second, the Panthers narrowed the Sabres’ lead to just 4-3. Then Florida rolled over Buffalo in the third to win 7-4. As you saw with the star of the night for Thursday in the NHL, Jonathan Huberdeau was prominently involved in that rally.

Simply put, the Panthers’ attacking style is difficult to contain. Maybe there’s an inkling of discomfort about occasionally sloppy wins. Overall, though, these comebacks could do the Panthers well. Where other teams might phone it in while trailing, the Panthers can recall coming back from the dead.

Maybe they’re the Zombie Cats, instead?

Friday’s big story

Clash between better than expected Pacific Division foes: Ducks vs. Flames

Whether you picked the Flames to be in the playoff mix or not, few expected them to be in a stronger quarter-mark position than teams like the Golden Knights or Avalanche. Unless you work(ed) for Anaheim, you likely weren’t picturing the Ducks getting off to such a strong start, either.

By underlying numbers, and factoring games played vs. standings points, the Flames have a better shot at the division crown. The Ducks are mainly eyeing a playoff spot.

Both teams likely believe they still have much to prove, so why not keep that going at the others’ expense?

Thursday’s NHL scores

Avalanche 4, Canadiens 1
Lightning 4, Blues 2
Panthers 7, Sabres 4
Blackhawks 4, Capitals 3 (SO)
Senators 3, Hurricanes 2
Sharks 2, Islanders 1 (OT)
Bruins 2, Predators 0
Wild 5, Devils 2
Stars 3, Blue Jackets 2
Flames 3, Kings 2

More hockey news

Minnesota Wild’s offense is scoring like never before Pass or Fail: Lightning, Predators jerseys for 2022 Stadium Series Flames’ Mangiapane goes from uncertain future to Olympic contention

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL Rink Wrap: Streaks (good and bad) continue for Islanders, Stars, Wild originally appeared on NBCSports.com