The Lightning have started to avenge last year’s playoff heartbreak, the Maple Leafs finally showed up on time and a bright future awaits the Sabres.
Here are three things we learned in the NHL on Wednesday.
There’s no stopping Tampa Bay
Amazing goals: check; elite goalie performance: check; physicality: check; overtime: check.
The Lightning’s 5-4 win over the Capitals in Washington had a little bit of everything and gave hockey fans a taste of what’s to come in the playoffs.
A bitter taste if you’re a Caps fan, but alas.
The Lightning played as if they were avenging last year’s soul-crushing seven-game loss in the conference finals.
Andrei Vasilevskiy was particularly locked in, finishing the game with 54 saves and passing Ben Bishop’s record for most stops by a Tampa Bay goalie in a regular-season game — one he had already matched last December.
With Wednesday’s victory, Lightning coach Jon Cooper also became the 49th coach in NHL history to reach the 300-win plateau and the club broke a franchise record for most road wins in a single season on a night that was nothing short of spectacular.
Earning the President’s Trophy in mid-March was no excuse for this Lightning team to coast.
The Leafs are best when they’re on time
The Toronto Maple Leafs might have allowed the opening goal, but no one can say they didn’t show up on time.
Toronto had 19 shots in the opening period and found its rhythm after 20 to snap a two-game losing skid with a 4-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres, sweeping the Buffalo franchise for the first time in history.
“We just want to feel better about ourselves and build our game as we head to the finish line of the regular season and working towards the playoffs,” centreman John Tavares told Sportsnet’s Shawn McKenzie after the win. “We know we’ve got a very quality hockey club and we have high standards, and when we’re not meeting those standards obviously we want to change that.”
Wednesday’s win was certainly a step in the right direction.
Toronto’s top-six forwards finished the game with eight combined points and goalie Garret Sparks had with 22 saves in 24 shots on goal.
Auston Matthews joined some old-school Leafs legends, recording his 200th career point in just 204 games played — a mark that trails only Charlie Conacher and Syl Apps.
Tavares and Mitch Marner also continued to make history, becoming the first Leafs duo to each record 80 points in a season since Dave Andreychuk and Doug Gilmour in 1993-94.
Dahlin is an elite 18-year-old
The Sabres, on the other hand, are 13 points away from a wild-card spot, and have a bright future to focus on.
Rookie defenceman Rasmus Dahlin got his 39th point of the season with an assist in the loss to the Leafs, and currently holds the record for second-most points by an 18-year-old blue-liner.
Dahlin passed Bobby Orr and now only trails a very familiar face for the record.
Hall of Famer and now-Sabres head coach Phil Housley finished second for the Calder when he achieved the feat back in 1982-83. Dahlin is still very much alive in the race.
The 21-year-old now has three points in five games played this season with Buffalo.