On the night Alex Ovechkin was awarded a golden stick for his 500th NHL goal, it was another Russian Capitals skater who stole the show.
Elsewhere, a rookie paid immediate dividends, all’s well in Quenneville, and the Rangers boast a stat that will blow your mind.
Here are five things we learned in the NHL Thursday.
1. Fiala bubbles to surface
On Thursday night, Fiala scored his first NHL goal on his first shift of the game playing on Nashville’s top line with Ryan Johansen and James Neal. And just to make it extra memorable, it was a weird one.
The Predators have struggled to score and string wins together of late and the Fiala call-up was certainly a message to the underperforming club. But the team rallied in the third, scoring four in the game, before losing in OT.
Worth a watch.
2. Kuznetsov has a game, can retire happy
It should be no surprise by now to hear that Evgeny Kuznetsov of the Washington Capitals is tearing up the NHL this season, but he should certainly get a nomination for breakout player of the year.
The other Russian superstar to play for the Caps had a game Thursday night, scoring two and adding an assist in a 4-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks.
Kuznetsov can die (retire) happy now and said as much to Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy during the intermission.
3. Show me a great goalie and I’ll show you a great coach
Corey Crawford was spectacular against the Montreal Canadiens Thursday and he was the driving force in getting coach Joel Quenneville into second place all-time for wins behind the bench.
The Blackhawks goaltender made 39 saves in a 2-1 win, many of them of high quality.
Many of them in this highlight pack alone:
It turns out Crawford has a thing for playing this way in his home town.
Quenneville, who incidentally has a history with the Leafs organization, now sits alone in second place for wins as a head coach (783) ahead of Al Arbour (782) and behind Scotty Bowman (1244).
4. Rangers, who never blow 3rd-period leads, blow 3rd-period lead
You’d think most teams have decent records when they lead after two periods. You’d think good teams have great records when leading after two.
The New York Rangers are in another universe.
What? So how did the Islanders do it?
“It’s huge,” Nick Leddy told reporters after the win. “It’s a great measuring stick against a very good team. We have some things to work on, but I thought we played a very good game.”
It’s clear the Islanders had respect for a tough-to-beat Rangers club.
“It was a gut-check for our team,” coach Jack Capuano said. “We played extremely hard against a good team.”
Maybe respect is a strong word when incidents like this take place on the ice.
Seriously though. That’s a filthy stat.
5. Bruised and battered Blues
After a commanding start to the season, the St. Louis Blues have had their struggles of late. They’re 3-4-3 in their last 10 games and have lost several top players to injury.
Thursday, they looked the part, losing 4-1 in frustrating fashion. Brian Elliott was pulled after three goals and didn’t like it too much, they allowed three goals in the third period and Alex Steen got hurt twice in one play.
No wonder the Blues are rumoured to be in on Jonathan Drouin.
Ken Hithcock explains:
The coach said the team would take the following day off before playing the Canadiens at home on Saturday.
Speaking of bruised and battered, the oft-injured Jeff Skinner — who scored in the Hurricanes’ win over the Blues — is beginning to look like a feel-good story this year. The former seventh overall pick now has 17 goals this season after scoring just 18 in 77 games last year. His career-high is 33 which he accomplished in 2013-14.
The kid also scored for his dad who was on the Hurricanes’ father-son road trip.
Good on ’em.