In this edition of “NHL Talk,” these are the top hockey stories with quotes from players, coaches, managers, and more. Check Tom Pepper’s profile every day for a new edition of the “NHL Talk” column.
Panthers Tie Franchise Record With 12th-Straight Win
The Florida Panthers tied a franchise record set in 2015-16 with their 12th consecutive win after defeating the Detroit Red Wings 5-2 on Thursday. The victory also clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference, guaranteeing the Panthers have home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs within the conference. Florida has a two-point lead on the Colorado Avalanche for first place in the NHL.
“It means a lot,” Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar said. “We put a lot of hard work into the season and locking up the division is a big accomplishment for us. But there’s obviously the bigger picture here, and we’ll enjoy that, locking up division and getting the home-ice advantage for the playoffs here. But other than that, we’re just trying to build our game and have fun while we’re doing it.”
Sabres’ Power Scores First NHL Goal in Fifth Game
Buffalo Sabres rookie defenseman Owen Power scored his first NHL goal in a 5-2 win at the New Jersey Devils on Thursday. He gave the Sabres a 4-2 lead at 8:33 of the third period, scoring from the bottom of the left circle following a pass from Jeff Skinner. Power has two points (one goal, one assist) in five games since he joined the Sabres.
“It’s great,” Sabres forward Kyle Okposo said. “He’s such a talent, and you could tell that he wanted it. The last few games, he’s up in the play all the time, he’s always around the net and making great plays, so it was just a matter of time before he was going to get it. Great place to do it.”
Penguins’ DeSmith Makes Career-High 52 Saves in Shutout Win
Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith made a career-high 52 saves in a 4-0 win at the Boston Bruins on Thursday. It marked his third shutout of the season and the ninth of his NHL career. His 52 saves surpassed his previous career-high of 48 saves recorded in a 5-3 win against the Bruins on Dec. 14, 2018.
“I felt like I’m up to the task,” DeSmith said. “Obviously, a 52-save shutout always builds the confidence a little bit. Coming into this game, I felt like I was prepared. I’ve been working for this moment for a long time.”
Lightning’s Stamkos Becomes All-Time Leader in Franchise Points
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos became the all-time franchise leader in points with three points (one goal, two assists) in an 8-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday. He has 956 points (473 goals, 483 assists) in 917 games with the Lightning, passing Martin St. Louis, who tallied 953 points (365-588) in 972 games with the team from 2000 to 2015. Stamkos set the record when he gave the Lightning a 3-0 lead at 12:38 of the second period, assisted by Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman.
“It’s funny how things work out,” Stamkos said. “To do it at home against the team I grew up idolizing. Having ‘Kuch’ and ‘Heddy’ assist on a one-time shot. My parents were here, my wife was here … I don’t really think of myself as an emotional guy, but that really hit me. It was just amazing experience for me to have.”
Flames’ Tkachuk Reaches 40 Goals and 100 Points on the Season
Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk scored his 40th goal and 100th point of the season in a 4-2 win against the Dallas Stars on Thursday. He is the first Flames player to reach the 40-goal mark since Jarome Iginla scored 43 in 2010-11. Calgary clinched first place in the Pacific Division with Tkachuk’s help, securing home-ice advantage against all divisional playoff opponents.
“We realize that home ice is very important, and to get as many games at home, and to get the majority of the games in a series in your own building, that’s huge for us,” Tkachuk said. “To clinch the division, that’s great, but we’re not stopping there. We have bigger goals for our team.”
Blues Set Franchise Record With 14-Game Point Streak
The St. Louis Blues set a franchise record with points in 14 consecutive games, following a 3-1 win at the San Jose Sharks on Thursday. The Blues are on fire of late, with a 12-0-2 record in their last 14 games, surging into a tie with the Minnesota Wild for second place in the Central Division. St. Louis will look to continue their dominant late-season run before taking on the Wild in Round 1 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, with home-ice advantage still on the line.
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“Our guys have played really well,” Blues head coach Craig Berube said. “I think they’re dialed in, winning games in different types of ways. It was a tighter one tonight, but we came through and closed it out at the end.”
Tom Pepper is an NHL columnist at The Hockey Writers. He lives in Toronto and is a diehard fan of the St. Louis Blues.