Justin Holl stayed hot for the Maple Leafs, Erik Karlsson hit a big milestone and Filip Forsberg provides an instant spark for the Preds.
And the Vegas Golden Knights are the best.
Here are five things we learned in the NHL.
Justin Holl, scoring machine
Scoring your first NHL goal in your first NHL game is one thing. Scoring your second goal in your second game? That’s harder, especially for a defenceman.
But Justin Holl did just that, proving Wednesday’s performance wasn’t a fluke by scoring against Henrik Lundqvist of all goalies.
Holl became the first Maple Leaf since Daniel Marois (a forward) in 1988 to score a goal in each of their first two games. What makes it even more impressive is that he’s not a goal scorer, with only four goals in 39 AHL games this season.
Holl, 26, has had a long path to the NHL. Originally a second-round pick by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, he became a free agent after a four-year career at the University of Minnesota and one year with the ECHL’s Indy Fuel. In 2015 he joined the Toronto Marlies and a year later he signed with the big club.
As Sportsnet’s Luke Fox wrote here, the Maple Leafs expect top-defenceman Morgan Rielly back this weekend, which would force Holl back to the minors. But based on his play so far, we’d be willing to bet he won’t be down there for long.
Vegas Golden Knights: Best expansion team ever
It was inevitable, but still incredible.
The Vegas Golden Knights secured the title as best expansion team ever with their 34th win of the season Thursday. No other expansion team has won more than 33, and Vegas did it in only 50 games.
The Knights are now 34-12-4 this season, good for 72 points. With the win, they extended their lead in the Western Conference over the Winnipeg Jets, who they beat in overtime Thursday. And they only trail the Tampa Bay Lightning by one point for first place in the entire league.
At this point the Knights are almost a lock to make the playoffs. And soon it won’t be unreasonable to ask, can they actually win the Cup?
Joel Armia latest Jet to hit double digits
The Winnipeg Jets are in the middle of their best season since moving from Atlanta and one of the reasons why has been their depth in scoring.
As proof of that, look no further than Joel Armia, who became the eighth Jet to reach 10 goals this season when he opened the scoring against the Golden Knights Thursday.
Armia joins Patrik Laine (23), Nikolaj Ehlers (19), Kyle Connor (17), Mark Scheifele (15), Mathieu Perrault (15), Blake Wheeler (14) and Bryan Little (11) in the double-digit goal club. It also ties Armia’s career high for goals, which he hit last year.
That depth of scoring has helped the Jets keep winning even after Scheifele went down with a shoulder injury at the end of December. The Jets entered Thursday’s game with a 9-2-2 record since Scheifele’s injury while averaging more than three goals a game.
Milestone night for Karlsson
Erik Karlsson played in his 600th career game Thursday night and he capped it off in a way only he can, by scoring the overtime game winner.
The goal was Karlsson’s fifth OT winner in his career, tying him with Kyle Turris for second in team history behind Mike Fisher’s seven.
It’s hard to believe Karlsson has ONLY played 600 games, probably because he’s so involved in every single one.
For his career, he has 122 goals and 490 points with another six goals and 37 points in 48 playoff games. At age 27, Karlsson is just hitting his prime. Expect many more milestones to come from him before his career is over.
Welcome back Fil
Getting your leading goal scorer back from injury is usually a good thing and that didn’t change when Filip Forsberg returned to the Predators lineup on Thursday.
Forsberg scored a power-play goal in the first period, one of three goals for the Preds in the opening frame. He added an assist on the team’s fifth goal, plus had an assist on a goal that was waived off for goaltender interference.
Forsberg missed 11 games with a hand injury and P.K. Subban took over the team’s scoring lead during his absence. But the goal was Forsberg’s 16th of the season, which is tied with Craig Smith for the team lead. His return to the lineup also gives Nashville a fully healthy group, which has been rare this season.
With a healthy Forsberg and Mike Fisher coming back, the Predators look like the team to beat in the West. It should be another fun spring in Smashville.