Panthers Pounce for 13th Straight Victory

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Don’t look now but the Florida Panthers are playing scalding-hot hockey with the playoffs just over a week distant. Lucky No. 13 on Saturday for Florida, with the Panthers taking a 3-2 overtime win against Toronto for their 13th straight victory. Florida has used this streak to put some distance between itself and the rest of the Atlantic. Their point differential of 104 is a laughably-bloated number compared with the rest of the division. Next up would be Toronto with a differential of just 55 points. Only three other teams in the NHL – Colorado, St. Louis and Calgary – even have a point differential higher than 70 for the season.

We aren’t at the point that we would call Florida a definitive favorite for the Stanley Cup and it’s always possible to peak a little too early. But this is the most balanced team in the NHL, one which has shown the ability to both grind out low-scoring wins and wild shootouts. Should the Panthers win out in the regular season (they have games remaining against Tampa Bay, Boston, Ottawa and Montreal) they will roll into the postseason on a monster 17-game winning streak.

Buffalo Sabres 5 New York Islanders 3

Ilya Sorokin had a tough day at the office, giving up five goals on 35 shots. The game was tied at 1-1 after one period, but Buffalo would go on to score three goals in the second period to take a big step toward the win. This was Sorokin’s worst start since he let in five goals against the Flames in mid-February.

Dustin Tokarski let in a first-period goal and two more in the third period, but the latter two goals only served to tighten up the scoreboard – Buffalo did not trail after Rasmus Dahlin’s goal two-plus minutes into the second period. Tokarski has been playing average, mostly forgettable hockey for a while, now, having given up at least three goals in six straight starts.

Noah Dobson assisted on Matthew Barzal’s first period goal and went on to post a goal of his own against Dustin Tokarski in the third period. Dobson has posted back-to-back two-point efforts to give him 12 goals and 47 points in 76 games played.

Victor Olofsson dished out two assists for the Sabres.

Tage Thompson posted a goal and an assist. He has recorded 37 goals and 67 points in 76 games during what has been a breakout 2021-22 season.

Pittsburgh Penguins 7 Detroit Red Wings 2

Thomas Greiss was given a fresh shot of life when Detroit scored goals late in the first period (Jakub Vrana) and early in the second period (Michael Rasmussen) to come back from down 2-0, but the Penguins struck back with three goals of their own to close out the second period. Greiss was understandably pulled for Alex Nedeljkovic to start the third period, not that it particularly mattered to the end result. Greiss has now given up at least four goals in two of his last three starts.

Casey DeSmith – as if it needed to be said – played much better on the whole, especially as the game wore on. He has now given up two or fewer goals in four of his last five trips to the crease.

As touched on above, Jakub Vrana and Michael Rasmussen scored the two Detroit goals in Saturday’s loss.

Kris Letang put in three points (one goal, two assists) to lead the Penguins in the win. Overall this season, Letang has scored nine goals and 67 points in 75 games. Those 67 points are tied for the best mark in Letang’s career, matching what he posted during the 2015-16 campaign. Pittsburgh has three games remaining in the regular season, so Letang will at least have a shot at a new personal best before month’s end.

Evgeni Malkin scored a pair of goals to give the veteran forward 19 in 38 games this season.

Carolina Hurricanes 3 New Jersey Devils 2 (OT)

The Devils were leading 2-0 with under five minutes remaining in regulation, but Jon Gillies managed to foul up the endgame, surrendering goals to Brady Skjei and Nino Niederreiter to erase the late advantage. Seth Jarvis would complete his late collapse with an OT winner. Gilles has given up 11 goals over his last three starts.

In what was his first career start at the NHL level, Pyotr Kochetkov stopped 17-of-19 shot attempts while benefiting from Carolina’s late offensive fireworks. Kochetkov was a second-round selection in the 2019 draft.

With Saturday’s OT winner in the books, Seth Jarvis is up to 17 goals and 38 points in 66 games this season.

Boston Bruins 3 New York Rangers 1

Rare is the day when Igor Shesterkin (32-of-35 saves) gets out-dueled by another netminder, but this was the case on Saturday, when Linus Ullmark (30-of-31 saves) bested the likely Vezina Trophy winner. Boston never trailed in the 3-1 win.

Mika Zibanejad scored his 29th goal of the season. His 80 points for the campaign are a career-best mark.

David Pastrnak, Taylor Hall and Trent Frederic all scored goals for Boston. Pastrnak also had an assist in the win, to lead the team with two points.

Florida Panthers 3 Toronto Maple Leafs 2 (OT)

Jack Campbell continued his wobbly second half to the season, this time coughing up a 2-0 first-period advantage before going on to lose in OT on a Brandon Montour goal. Campbell had surrendered two goals in each of his last two starts before junking it all by degrees on Saturday.

On the flip side, Sergei Bobrovsky was fantastic after a rocky first period, holding the Maple Leafs scoreless from initial intermission onward. Bobrovsky has now given up two or fewer goals in five consecutive starts as the Panthers continue to charge toward a potential deep postseason run.

Mitch Marner and Justin Holl accounted for Toronto’s two goals on Saturday. Both of those goals came in the first period, before Toronto’s offense died out like a star running low on fuel.

Montour reached double-digit goals for the first time in his eight-year career in the NHL.

Ottawa Senators 6 Montreal Canadiens 4

Carey Price was ripped apart for six goals, including four consecutive at one point in the second period. He has been gouged for six goals in each of his last two starts, now, as he continues to reacclimate to NHL play after undergoing offseason knee surgery. This was just Price’s fourth start of the 2021-22 campaign.

Anton Forsberg made 44 saves (on 48 shot attempts) in Saturday’s 6-4 win. He certainly could have come in with a cleaner performance – this was the second time in his last three starts giving up four or more goals – but when you face 48 attempts on-goal, you only deserve a minimal amount of guff.

Rem Pitlick accounted for two of the four goals to score against Forsberg on the evening.

Mark Kastelic matched Pitlick’s two goals on the evening. He’ll no-doubt remember those goals for a while – they were the 23-year-old forward’s first goals at the NHL level.

Tampa Bay Lightning 6 Nashville Predators 4

Juuse Saros was liquidated for six goals in one of his worst performances of the season. He has flagged in allowing at least four goals in three of his last five starts, but on the whole this season, Saros has played a very consistent crease.

Brian Elliott made a sharp 19-of-21 saves on Saturday.

Roman Josi and Alexandre Carrier scored goals for Nashville in the loss.

Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov each posted three points on the evening, each on a goal and pair of assists. Stamkos is now five points shy of tying the career-best 98 points he tallied during the 2018-19 season.

Dallas Stars 3 Seattle Kraken 2

Chris Driedger was yet another goaltender on Saturday who failed to hold an early lead, in his case, surrendering three second-period goals to drop a 2-0 lead. Driedger has given up three or more goals in three of his last four starts as the Kraken near a wrap on their inaugural season of existence.

Jake Oettinger kept the Kraken off the scoreboard over the final two periods of the win, removing the sting from that initial 2-0 deficit. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.

Yanni Gourde scored his 20th goal of the season in the loss. He has put in goals in three straight games for the looking-toward-the-offseason Kraken.

Roope Hintz scored twice on Driedger to open the second period, erasing that 2-0 deficit in the process. Hintz has boosted his statistical profile with two-goal games in two of his last four contests.

San Jose Sharks 4 Chicago Blackhawks 1

Kevin Lankinen made 15-of-19 stops in what was a drag of a game by the Blackhawks all the way around. Lankinen has looked like he has been playing out the string for a while, now. Ditto this Chicago team as a whole.

Kaapo Kahkonen made this a drama-free one for San Jose, only allowing a goal (the only one he allowed) after the Sharks had already worked out to a 3-0 second-period lead. He finished up having made 27-of-28 saves. That makes four consecutive starts in which the former Wild netminder has limited the opposition to two or fewer goals.

Tyler Johnson, normally a solid contributor, scored just his third goal in 23 games this season. Neck surgery, plus a trip through the concussion protocol, having greatly limited Johnson’s availability for the campaign.

Timo Meier had gone three straight games without a goal before striking oil on Saturday.

Calgary Flames 6 Vancouver Canucks 3

Thatcher Demko just couldn’t keep Calgary down, stopping 25-of-30 shots on the evening. The game was tied at 2-2 briefly in the third period before the Flames turned up the heat on offense. Demko has now been racked for five goals in each of his last two starts.

Dan Vladar gave up two goals into the third period to drop a 2-0 advantage, but Calgary would ultimately outscore Vancouver 4-2 in that third period to come away with the end win. Vladar had allowed two or fewer goals in six consecutive appearances prior to stumbling by degrees on Saturday.

J.T. Miller logged three assists in the loss, giving him 69 assists and 99 total points in 78 games. He has scored 10 points over his last five games, due in large part to a five-point outburst – all on assists – against the Coyotes earlier this month.

On the winning side, Chris Tanev also posted three assists. Unlike the prolific Miller, Tanev has just 25 dishes in 79 games played this season.

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St. Louis Blues 5 Arizona Coyotes 4 (OT)

Making just his fourth appearance of the season (and just the 13th appearance of his NHL career), Harri Sateri was slammed for five goals on 33 attempts. He has given up at least five goals in a ghastly three of his four appearances for the campaign.

Jordan Binnington was not much better – 16-of-20 saves – and lacked the excuse of inexperience. Binnington had given up more than three goals just once in his last four starts prior to taking a GAA hit on Saturday. He should have had an easy win, as the Blues held a 4-1 edge heading into the third period.

Anton Stralman – who entered the contest with just 18 points in 70 games – notched a pair of assists in the OT loss.

Justin Faulk was a man possessed on Saturday, scoring three points on a pair of goals and an assist. Most critical of those goals, Faulk’s overtime winner against Harri Sateri 30 seconds into the extra period. This was his second two-goal showing of the season, with both of those performances coming over his last eight games.

Los Angeles Kings 4 Anaheim Ducks 2

Anthony Stolarz took the loss after giving up three goals on 39 shots. The pivotal goal against, which snapped a 2-2 third-period tie, came off the stick of Alexander Edler six-plus minutes into the final period of regulation. Since shutting out the Coyotes earlier this month, Stolarz has now surrendered at least three goals in each of his last four starts.

Jonathan Quick stopped 19-of-21 shot attempts in the win. This was the fifth time in his last six starts holding the opposition to two or fewer goals.

Trevor Zegras scored a second-period goal against Stolarz to give him 58 points in 72 games this season – that sets a new team record for most points in a season by a rookie.