On a day when Evander Kane, a fourth-overall pick, was the talk of the hockey world, it was a group of first-overall picks that made noise on the ice.
Nathan MacKinnon picked up his first career fighting major, Chris Phillips set a franchise record, Alex Ovechkin continued his torrid pace, Steven Stamkos had two points and Vincent Lecavalier had a nice assist. Hey, John Tavares, Joe Thornton and Aaron Ekblad, where were you guys? Just kidding. And all this happened just one night after Rick Nash scored a beauty on a breakaway and Marc-Andre Fleury got a shutout. It’s almost like first-overall picks turn out to be good hockey players or something.
Here are five things we learned Thursday in the NHL:
We love whenever the Avalanche and Red Wings get feisty
It took just 44 seconds for hockey fans to be reminded the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings have a history of chuckin’ the knucks with each other. A few of the wildest brawls in NHL history have featured these two franchises and we got a small taste Thursday of what this rivalry used to be like. Neither team is known for fisticuffs nowadays, especially the Red Wings, who have the fewest fighting majors in the league – in fact, 10 players have more fights this season than the entire Red Wings roster. So it came as a bit of a surprise when Nathan MacKinnon decided to drop the gloves for the first time in his NHL career. The 19-year-old didn’t like how he was taken into the boards by 30-year-old Jonathan Ericsson and the youngster ended up landing a few good ones against his much bigger opponent.
Chris Phillips personifies NHL longevity and loyalty
Suiting up for 1,179 regular season NHL games is no easy task – only 118 men in the league’s history have done it. To do so for one team is simply remarkable. That’s what Chris Phillips has accomplished. The Ottawa Senators stalwart blueliner surpassed Daniel Alfredsson for most games played in a Sens jersey. The first-overall pick from the 1996 draft has put together quite the career and the stay-at-home defenceman was honoured prior to the Senators’ 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals.
Matt Martin is a hockey player’s hockey player
In case you were wondering, Matt Martin of the New York Islanders is one tough hombre. Martin ate a clean right hand from Philadelphia Flyers' grinder Ryan White in a first-period fight that broke his nose. As Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek put it during the first intermission, it looked like Martin ran a 100m dash in a 90m gymnasium. While a broken nose like that would mean game over for many players, Martin is a different breed. He returned in the second period sporting a fishbowl and finished the game. Grit and durability like this has resulted in hockey minds like Don Cherry calling Martin’s line – Casey Cizikas played 13 hard minutes and Cal Clutterbuck potted the shootout winner – the best fourth line in all of hockey.
Ovi will make you pay
Alex Ovechkin was on the receiving end of a hit from behind from Clarke MaCarthur in the first period and he didn’t like it. So, how does he respond? By making the Senators pay for it on the score sheet of course. Ovechkin notched his 32nd goal of the year to tie Rick Nash for the league lead. Since the start of the calendar year, the Great 8 has been unstoppable. In 16 games so far in 2015, Ovechkin has 15 goals and 20 points.
Marleau becomes youngest to hit the 1,300-game mark
Chris Phillips was honoured in Ottawa, but not to be outdone Patrick Marleau became the 11th player in NHL history to play in 1,300 NHL games with one franchise. At 35 years and 143 days old, Marleau is the youngest player in NHL history to reach the milestone, getting there 104 days quicker than Scott Stevens, who previously held the record. Although his production has slowed down compared to previous seasons, his 36 points in 52 games heading into Thursday's action shows he is still getting it done despite all the miles on his body.
Photo of the Night
Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn looking like a boss as he sports a solid shiner after taking a stick to the face.