NEW YORK – Thursday night in the NHL saw a long list of games with a few of interest right from the start. The first was Pittsburgh blanking the Devils behind Marc-Andre Fleury’s 24th career shutout. Another was the Florida Panthers’ win over the Dallas Stars, 4-2, on the road.
While the pre-season can rarely be seen as a barometer of how a club will play in the regular season, the effort by the New York Rangers in the pre-season may have been a harbinger of the season to come. On Thursday night, the Rangers were as offensively inept as they were throughout the run-up to the season. A 4-1 loss was hung on the club by the Phoenix Coyotes. This may well be a long season on Broadway and a tense one for Alain Vigneault if he does not have early success behind the bench.
Boston 3, Tampa Bay 1
Pittsburgh 3, New Jersey 0
Washington 5, Calgary 4 (SO)
Los Angeles 3, Minnesota 2 (SO)
St. Louis 4, Nashville 2
Florida 4, Dallas 2
Phoenix 4, NY Rangers 1
San Jose 4, Vancouver 1
RARE START IN BOSTON
Chris Kelly scored a shorthanded, penalty-shot goal to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead en route to their defeat of the Lightning. Kelly’s goal marked only the second time in NHL history that a team’s first goal of the season was scored via a penalty shot. The first such instance was in 2006-07, when Toronto’s Mats Sundin scored versus Ottawa (the Maple Leafs lost that game, 4-1).
Besides Kelly and Sundin, only two other players in NHL history have recorded penalty-shot goals in their team’s first game of a season, though neither was the team’s first goal: Minnesota’s Bo Berglund in 1985-86 and Atlanta’s Evander Kane in 2010-11.
Patrice Bergeron added another shorthanded goal for the Bruins on Thursday to seal the team’s 3-1 victory, marking the first time since Oct. 3, 1991, the team has recorded two shorthanded goals in its season opener.
ALL ABOUT OVI
Trailing 4-1 in the second period, Alex Ovechkin scored twice, assisted on Nicklas Backstrom’s game-tying goal and then potted the clinching score in the shootout to complete Washington’s rally versus Calgary. Ovechkin now was 12-6—18 in nine career home openers and 8-7—15 in seven career games against the Flames.
Ovechkin recorded 11 shots on goal, marking his 37th career game with 10 or more shots – more than any other player. It also was his 14th regular-season game with at least two goals and 10 shots on goal. Since Ovechkin made his NHL debut in October 2005, the only other players with more than one such game are Dany Heatley, Jaromir Jagr, Rick Nash, James Neal and Eric Staal (two each).
Two of Ovechkin’s three goals this season have come via the power play; he led the NHL with 16 power-play goals last season. The Capitals improved to 5-for-9 (55.6%) with the man advantage through two games; they led the League with a 26.8% power-play conversion rate in 2012-13.
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all 27 shots he faced, highlighted by a late behind-the-back glove save, to record his 24th career shutout and second blank sheet in a season-opening game. The only other active goaltenders with two shutouts in season openers are Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo.
Fleury preserved his shutout by stopping Adam Henrique on a penalty shot with 3:59 remaining in regulation. He’s just the second goaltender in NHL history to register a shutout in his team’s first game of a season and face a penalty shot while doing so. Ken Dryden did that in Montreal’s 1975-76 season opener (a 9-0 win over Los Angeles), stopping a penalty shot by Bart Crashley.
The win marked the 250th victory of Fleury’s career, making him the 47th goaltender in NHL history – and ninth active – to reach that feat. His last seven shutouts have all been against teams from the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area: three versus the Islanders and two against both the Rangers and Devils.
Aleksander Barkov, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, scored the game-tying goal for the Panthers in their comeback victory over the Stars. At 18 years, 31 days (on Thursday), Barkov became the youngest goal-scorer in an NHL game since Jan. 8, 1944, when Ted “Teeder” Kennedy scored for the Maple Leafs at 18 years, 27 days.
Predators defenseman Seth Jones, who turned 19 on Thursday, became just the second teenager in the expansion era (since 1967-68) to celebrate his birthday by making his NHL debut. He joined Stephen Weiss, who marked his 19th birthday with a goal in his NHL/Panthers debut on April 3, 2002.
Capitals defenseman Connor Carrick scored his first NHL goal, becoming the fifth player in franchise history – and first since Alex Ovechkin on Oct. 5, 2005 – to record his first NHL goal in the team’s home opener.
Tomas Hertl and Matthew Nieto became the first two Sharks players born after the franchise’s first game (Oct. 4, 1991) to suit up for a regular-season contest with the team. Hertl collected an assist for his first NHL point, while Nieto logged 9:43 of ice-time and recorded two penalty minutes.
Sean Monahan, selected by the Flames with the sixth overall pick in June, picked up an assist in his NHL debut, nine days prior to his 19th birthday.
CHANGING OF THE GUARD
Cory Schneider made his debut for the Devils, ending Martin Brodeur’s NHL record of 18 consecutive season-opening starts. The last time someone other than Brodeur started a season opener for the Devils was on Oct. 6, 1993, when current goaltending coach Chris Terreri picked up a 2-1 victory over the Lightning.
Karri Ramo became the first netminder other than Miikka Kiprusoff to start a season opener for the Flames since Oct. 9, 2003, when Roman Turek lost a 4-1 affair against the Canucks.
Radim Vrbata, who scored three goals for the Coyotes in their season finale last year, recorded his fifth career hat trick in the team’s opening-night victory over the Rangers. Vrbata is the fourth player in Coyotes/Jets franchise history to register a hat trick in the team’s first game of a season, but the first to do so since the club relocated to Phoenix in 1996. The Winnipeg players to do so were Scott Arniel (1983-84), Teemu Selanne (1993-94) and Igor Korolev (1995-96).
The Wild lost a home opener for the first time in franchise history. The team had been 11-0-1 in home openers entering Thursday, including 11 consecutive victories and a tie the franchise’s first regular-season game on Oct. 11, 2000 . . . The Coyotes improved to 6-0-0 in their last six season openers that have come at home . . . Pittsburgh’s Craig Adams skated in his 800th NHL game and celebrated the occasion by scoring his 50th career goal. Adams made his NHL debut on Oct. 24, 2000, as a member of the Hurricanes . . . David Backes and Alexander Steen each scored power-play goals for the Blues; the team has now registered at least one power-play goal in seven consecutive season openers . . . Jeff Carter scored the game-tying goal for the Kings; he has now scored in four consecutive games versus Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom and has seven goals in 12 career games against the Finn . . . Thursday marked the first time since Oct. 13, 1992, the Penguins played a regular-season game on the same day the Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB) played a postseason game.
SNEAK PEEK AT FRIDAY’S ACTION
All Times Eastern
Ottawa @ Buffalo, 7:00 p.m., SNET-E, TVA, MSG-B
NY Islanders @ New Jersey, 7:00 p.m., MSG Plus, MSG
Detroit @ Carolina, 7:00 p.m., FS-D, FS-CR
Calgary @ Columbus, 7:00 p.m., SNET-W, FS-O
Los Angeles @ Winnipeg, 8:00 p.m., FS-W, TSN-Jets
Nashville @ Colorado, 9:00 p.m., RDS2, FS-TN, ALT
TOP PICKS MEET
Two of the top picks from the 2013 NHL Draft – Nathan MacKinnon (No. 1 overall, Colorado) and Seth Jones (No. 4 overall, Nashville) – meet for the first time in their NHL careers when the Predators visit the Avalanche. The two last faced each other in the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup, where MacKinnon and the Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) defeated Jones and the Portland Winterhawks (WHL) to capture the Canadian Hockey League title. MacKinnon recorded 3-2—5 in the championship game to earn the tournament’s most valuable player honors; he carried that success to his NHL debut on Wednesday, when he posted two assists in Colorado’s 6-1 victory over Anaheim.
* Research from the Elias Sports Bureau was used in compilation of these notes.