Based on Saturday night’s Hockey Night in Canada lineup, 2016 is off to a pretty solid start.
The Red Wings edged the Sabres despite rookie Jack Eichel’s second career multi-goal effort; new dad Andrei Vasilevskiy earned top-star honours in the Lightning’s shootout win over the Wild; Karri Ramo and the Flames held off Jarome Iginla and the Avalanche in a convincing road win to start 2016 and Blake Wheeler registered his 400th career point as the Jets dominated the Sharks to end a six-game road skid.
Here are five more things we learned in the NHL on Saturday night:
Oilers (finally) capture Coyotes while Eberle captures milestone
It’s been quite a while since the Edmonton Oilers have managed to defeat the Arizona Coyotes — and even longer since the Oilers have been able to do so at home.
Lucky for fans at Rexall Place, that changed Saturday afternoon with a 4-3 shootout victory. It was their first time defeating the Coyotes since February 2013.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored the game-winning goal, but it was Jordan Eberle’s two-goal effort that really stood out in Saturday’s Pacific Division matchup. Eberle’s second tally of the night not only tied the game with six minutes to go, it also marked the 25-year-old winger’s 300th career point.
Eberle is just the third player from the 2008 NHL Draft to reach 300 points (Steven Stamkos and Eric Karlsson are the other two). He currently ranks 17th in all-time career points for Edmonton, and is the 17th player to reach the 300-point milestone for the franchise.
The Coyotes’ streak against Edmonton wasn’t totally broken, of course — the regulation tie earns them a single point in the standings (putting them one notch ahead of the Vancouver Canucks for second place in the Pacific) and extends their point streak against the Oilers to a franchise-record 20 games.
Also, in case you need a blooper fix:
Leafs responding — and getting noticed
Prior to Saturday’s game between the St. Louis Blues and Toronto Maple Leafs, Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock made some observations about Mike Babcock’s Maple Leafs.
“They wear blue and white, but they all play like they’re wearing red and white,” Hitchcock told Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. “It looks the same to me. The same way they exit (the zone), the same way they enter, the same way they check…
“They just make it hard on you and that’s what good teams do.”
The Leafs made it hard on the Blues Saturday night with an impressive 4-1 win — the second time they’ve done so this season after beating them by the same score on Dec. 5 in St. Louis.
The Blues scored the first goal, but only held the lead for five seconds after James van Riemsdyk responded with a lightning-fast goal off the faceoff:
According to Sportsnet Stats, the Blues have scored at least five goals in each of their last four road games against the Leafs.
Jonathan Bernier was all confidence as he stopped 39 shots to backstop the blue-and-white victory. Bernier’s play has still been a bit of a rollercoaster since his AHL stint, but his five victories this season have come against some impressive opponents, including the Kings, Penguins, and now the Blues.
The Leafs’ poor October might still be overshadowing the team’s recent success, but all signs point to them making tangible progress.
Are the Panthers the real deal?
Florida may be a small hockey market, but they’ve been making some big waves lately.
After enjoying their most successful December on record, the Panthers started the new year by handing multi-year extensions to general manager Dale Tallon and head coach Gerard Gallant, and rumblings of them signing Aleksander Barkov to a long-term contract are getting louder.
The Panthers, having now won 14 of their past 17 games, have been flirting with first place in the Atlantic Division all week, and they landed there once again Saturday night after winning their franchise-best eighth straight win with a 3-0 victory over the New York Rangers.
While the NHL is definitely taking notice of the red-hot team from the Sunshine state, so are the fans:
So, are the Panthers the real deal? Their goaltender sure is. Roberto Luongo, who stopped all 39 shots he faced against the Rangers, moved into 11th place on the all-time NHL shutout list (he’s now tied with Harry Lumley & Lorne Chabot) with his 71st career shutout (his third this season).
With success comes fun. Right, @KevinSpacey?
Penguins looked like the Penguins again
New year, new Penguins. Or, old Penguins, rather.
Sidney Crosby scored twice. Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang had three assists each. Marc-Andre Fleury was fantastic. And suddenly, all feels right with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Penguins’ 5-2 crushing of the New York Islanders exhibited a club that might finally be clicking as everyone expected at the start of the season. (Heck, even Phil Kessel scored.)
After a career-worst start to his season, Crosby now has five goals in five games — something he hasn’t done since October 2013. Malkin has seven points in his last three games after posting another three-point effort on New Year’s Eve.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury looked like he hadn’t missed a beat in his return from an eight-game absence due to a concussion, stopping 38 of 40 shots.
Maybe 2016 could be OK afterall.
Crazy crease in Columbus
The Columbus Blue Jackets’ crease featured a stranger-than-fiction series of events during overtime against the Washington Capitals.
Less than a minute into extra time, starting goaltender Curtis McElhinney appeared to catch an edge and fell hard onto his left leg. He looked to be in a lot of pain, and had to leave the game.
That’s when things get even stranger.
Backup netminder Anton Forsberg takes to the ice and, as he briefly warms up, does pretty much the exact same thing:
Luckily, Forsberg catches himself and isn’t injured on the small mishap. Not only that, but he also backstopped the Blue Jackets to a shootout victory (thanks to Ryan Johansen’s slick shot) against the high-powered Capitals — what a way to earn your first career NHL win.