Here are four things we learned in the NHL on Thursday.
Hellebuyck off to a quite a start
Steve Mason was brought into Winnipeg to provide stability in net but it turns out the answer to the Jets’ woes was already on the team. Hellebuyck, not Mason, has seized the starting role in the ‘Peg and although he didn’t win on Thursday, he put in another solid performance.
Hellebuyck made 34 saves as the Jets took the defending champs to overtime before a Phil Kessel goal (the 300th of his career) secured the second point for the Penguins.
Kessel’s goal had a tint of revenge on it after Hellebuyck robbed the sniper with a wicked glove save earlier in the game.
Hellebuyck now has a 4-0-1 record with a 2.25 goals-against average and .931 save percentage this season.
After the game, Hellebuyck told the assembled media that his teammates deserved a lot of the credit.
“I thought the team played really good in front of me, they played really hard,” he said.
I’m sure those same teammates would return the compliment to their goaltender.
The Jets will get a second crack at the Penguins on Sunday night. Based on his play Thursday, you can bet Hellebuyck will be back between the pipes for Winnipeg.
Joe Thornton moves into top 20 all time in scoring
Thornton is one of the greatest players of this generation (although oddly not one of the 100 greatest of all time) and on Thursday he moved into a very exclusive club.
With his second period goal, Thornton registered his 1,398th point which put him in a tie with Jari Kurri for 20th in NHL history.
Thornton, now 38 and in his 21st season, has over 1,000 assists. He also did it against the Boston Bruins, the team that drafted him first overall in 1997 and famously traded him to the Sharks in 2005.
Thornton’s coming off a 50-point campaign and if he plays at a similar pace he should pass Bryan Trottier (1,425) for 16th all time by the end of the season. If he plays another season, Thornton could potentially move up to 14th all time by passing Stan Mikita (1,467).
If Thornton’s spectacular career didn’t already warrant an induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, he’s certainly earned it now. Mark Recchi will enter in early November, leaving Thornton and Jaromir Jagr as the only players in the top 20 not in yet.
Rick Nash joins 1,000-game club
With the game in New York, the hometown fans were out in full force to support Nash on his special day.
Nash, 33, won the “Rocket” Richard Trophy with 41 goals as a 19-year-old and has been a steady goal-scorer most of his career. But after setting a career high with 42 goals in 2014-15, he has seen his numbers fall dramatically since then. So far this season, he only has one goal and doesn’t have an assist in 11 games. On Thursday he had no points and two shots on goal.
Nash is on the final year of an eight-year, $62.4-million contract and his future in New York is unclear. Earlier this month, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reported that the two sides are interested in a reunion but haven’t had any serious talks about an extension.
Whatever the future holds for Nash, getting to 1,000 career games is still an impressive accomplishment.
Kings make Quick work of Canadiens
Jonathan Quick played in his 500th career game on Thursday and he was in vintage form, making 40 saves to shut out the Montreal Canadiens.
It was the 46th shutout of his career and second of the season.
Last season Quick was limited to only 17 games after going down with a groin injury in last season’s opener. The Kings went 31-30-3 without him and ultimately missed the playoffs. Now with Quick back on top of his game, the Kings have opened the season 8-1-1 and currently lead the Western Conference with 17 points.
If Quick can stay healthy all season, the Kings will be tough to beat and a virtual lock to return to the playoffs.