NHL Top 10 Power Rankings for Week 15
10. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning has been in great form. Andrei Vasilevskiy had to be excellent in Montreal to get his side two NHL points Thursday. He stopped thirty-eight attempts on net. All the scoring took place in the first eight and a half minutes. Steven Stamkos’s fifteenth goal beat Carey Price forty-two seconds in. After Jeff Petry lifted the crowd back into it, Nikita Kucherov found the mute button with his wrister. It was Tampa’s fifth consecutive NHL win.
The next game in Ottawa Saturday required more scoring from the visitors. After a scoreless first period, Chris Tierney beat Curtis McElhinney less than a minute in on a Tampa Bay power play. It did not rattle the Lightning as Carter Verhaeghe and Kevin Shattenkirk found the net sixty-five seconds apart. Still, they needed to find another gear because the Senators made Kucherov pay for his tripping infraction which led to the nineteenth goal by Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Mark Borowiecki gave Ottawa the lead in the closing seconds of period two. Twenty-three-year-old Brayden Point got his side back on equal footing with 11:23 left. Tyler Johnson put his name in lights as he deflected the puck in the net with ninety seconds remaining, then Alex Killeen sealed the win by hitting the yawning cage soon after.
The Lightning started out faster Sunday against a good Carolina side. Kucherov gained his thirtieth assist and Mitchell Stephens picked up his second goal. Tampa doubled their advantage on Stamkos’ wrist shot. Point added another tally in the middle frame. Vasilevskiy held it together in goal and the road team came away with a 3-1 result.
The Lightning used a six-goal second period from six different scorers in a 9-2 rout of the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday. Point had three assists. Carter Verhaeghe earned his hat trick by scoring at even strength, shorthanded, and on the man-advantage.
Tuesday, Arizona comes into Amalie Arena Thursday before Tampa travel to Philadelphia and New Jersey. The Kings will be on Florida Tuesday.
9. Dallas Stars
The NHL Winter Classic proved to be a first-class experience for most of the patrons at the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day. Dallas had a slow start as a Corey Perry elbow and game misconduct combined with a Blake Comeau delay of game penalty gave Nashville a two-man advantage. The Predators punished them on Matt Duchene and Dante Fabbro scores less than two minutes apart. A Roman Jodi cross-check on Joe Pavelski gave the home team a jolt. 2:08 later, Blake Comeau cut the Nashville lead in half seconds after both sides went back to five skaters aside. The adage of scoring late in a period creating momentum applied in this game.
Before the second twenty minutes concluded, Colin Blackwell hit the puck over the glass which created another Stars power play which had carry-over time for the third period. Mattias Janmark was credited with a deflected goal to tie the game at two. Ryan Johansen’s hook on Miro Heiskanen put Dallas back on the five on four. Alexander Radulov broke the deadlock on a slap shot with less than fifteen minutes left. Ninety-five seconds later, thirty-three-year-old defenseman Andrej Sekera made it four goals without reply and the Stars were 4-2 victors on Wednesday.
Dallas was on the back foot in their next game versus Detroit through Dylan Larkin’s tenth. Roope Hintz got his side even on a short-handed goal 11:13 into the opening frame. Center Radek Faksa put the Stars ahead to stay on the power play. Pavelski scored unassisted past the halfway point of regulation. Sekera removed any lingering doubt with an empty-netter.
Dallas will be shown to the nation on Wednesday late in Los Angeles. Anaheim awaits them the following night. Visits to San Jose and Colorado conclude the road trip.
8. Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs have provided lots of entertainment this season with some high scoring games and they had a couple of them this past week. They went into Winnipeg Thursday with two goals from William Nylander, one to open the scoring and the ninth to conclude the contest. He also assisted Travis Dermott which put Toronto up to stay which at the time made it 3-2.
Against Edmonton, Toronto dug themselves too deep a deficit. Both teams provided a lot of entertainment as Connor McDavid scored a spectacular goal past the midway stages of the third period. Earlier in the game, Jason Spezza got the Leafs on the board to get wishing 3-1. Frederik Gauthier and Engvall helped to make it a one-goal deficit after forty.
Both Frederik Andersen and Hutchinson conceded three and the Toronto defense will try to right the ship against the Jets, Panthers, and Devils, who lie ahead.
7. Colorado Avalanche
Colorado put on a great show this past Thursday against Saint Louis, the titleholders. Nathan McKinnon opened up the scoring inside the final quarter-minute of the first. He later set up goals by Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar to put the Avalanche up 4-2 after two periods. Nazem Kadri, who scored the other goal added a second in the final stanza. J.T. Compher and Joonas Donskoi added more insurance for Philipp Grubauer, who made twenty-four saves in a 7-3 win.
Rantanen kept up his strong play with a hat trick in New Jersey as they were 5-2 winners Saturday.
Pavel Francouz went to toe to toe against Semyon Varlamov Monday against the Islanders, but the difference was Anders Lee’s goal at even strength almost seven minutes into the third period and the Avalanche had a goal taken off the board for offside in the second period.
Things looked good for a while at Madison Square Garden as Compher and MacKinnon gave them a two-goal lead, but Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad got the New York Rangers tied up. After Brady Skjei made it three goals without reply, Compher stepped up, finishing his way past Igor Shesterkin on a backhand to make the score three-all. Ryan Strome scored the game-winner and New York went on to win 5-3.
Colorado, second in the Central Division gets Pittsburgh and Dallas next in the Mile High City.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins then showed great fight, rallying twice down a goal in Montreal. The first was from Zach Aston-Reese just seconds after Artturi Lehkonen’s first of two goals. Bryan Rust matched the number on his sweater in terms of goals scored this season at seventeen, which squared the game at two. It set the stage for Brandon Tanev to be the star of the game, who is in his first year with the western Pennsylvania-based side. His goal in overtime earned Pittsburgh two NHL points Saturday.
The team came home for the second game of a back-to-back, and Chris Driedger repelled thirty-one attempts. Jared McCann was the only one to solve him, but it was not enough as Mike Hoffman had a goal and a helper in Florida’s 4-1 victory.
After the game, they play more out-of-conference games against the Avalanche, Coyotes, and Wild.
5. New York Islanders
New York could not hold onto a lead as Brock Nelson tickled the NHL twine for their only goal Thursday against New Jersey. P.K. Subban and Nico Hischier breached the Islanders’ net. Mackenzie Blackwood and Semyon Varlamov each peppered away twenty-nine shots on goal. The Devils came away with a 2-1 win.
New York was frustrated by the play of Michael Hutchinson as they were blanked 3-0 Saturday at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. Auston Matthews recorded two points in that fixture for the Maple Leafs.
The puck bounced their way Monday as a coaches challenge negated a Colorado goal, then Anders Lee made it to a dozen goals 6:54 into period three, and Varlamov made it stand. The Islanders’ defense blocked thirty-three shots in total.
New York avenged their recent loss to New Jersey. Casey Cizikas and Jordan Eberle had their respective tallies canceled out by Subban and Hischier. After Kyle Palmieri’s goal on the power play, the Islanders pegged back courtesy of Tom Kuhnhackl. It was just his third of the season which came with less than six minutes left in regulation. Anders Lee came up with the goods as he did roughly twenty-four hours prior, calling game with fifty-one seconds left in the extra five-minute session.
The Isles will try to ride that momentum at home against the Bruins Saturday, then play the Rangers and Red Wings in consecutive nights Monday and Tuesday.
4. Vegas Golden Knights
Vegas hosted Philadelphia last Thursday and the fans that attended got their money’s worth. Max Pacioretty scored a pair of goals, while Mark Stone reached twenty-five assists on one of those goals. Shea Theodore, Jon Merrill, and Cody Glass got on the NHL scoresheet. The Golden Knights needed every one of them as Sean Couturier did everything he could to keep the Flyers afloat. Marc-Andre Fleury was a little bit better than his counterpart Carter Hart in Vegas’ 5-4 victory.
The team had another close encounter against the Blues Saturday. After spotting them a 3-0 deficit, Ryan Reaves and Paul Stastny lit the lamp late in the second period to get back in the game. Nicolas Roy and Reilly Smith found the net almost seven minutes apart in the third to make it four unanswered goals. Chandler Stephenson’s penalty proved costly as David Perron tied the score on the Saint Louis five on four. Fortunately for him and his team, he atoned for his mistake on a backhanded shot sixty-three game-time minutes after it started on the three-on-three skills competition.
Vegas fell behind by three to the Penguins as they did against the Blues, but Pacioretty and Stastny were able to make a game of it Tuesday night.
The Golden Knights get back on the saddle to host the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, the Columbus Blue Jackets two nights later before a flight to Buffalo Tuesday evening.
3. Boston Bruins
Thursday, the Bruins met Columbus for a rematch of their second-round series in last year’s NHL playoffs. The good news was that David Pastrnak continues to soar. He reached thirty goals, and his teammate Patrice Bergeron assisted for the nineteenth time. The goal stood up for almost eleven minutes, but Sonny Milano got the better of Tuukka Rask. The game went past sixty, and Pierre-Luc Dubois ended the game on a snapshot.
The Bruins also scored first in their next game only to lose yet again. Likewise, Boston’s goal came from Pastrnak which came on the power play. Marchand picked up his fortieth assist, but Edmonton’s stars turned up as the game moved along. Connor McDavid beat Jaroslav Halak, and Leon Draisaitl knocked in goal number twenty-four and assist number forty-one in the Oilers’ 4-1 result in Massachusetts.
The Bruins were able to take out some frustration at the expense of the Nashville Predators Tuesday night. Once again, David Pastrnak opened the scoring seal, this time it was not in vain. He got help from Danton Heinen, Bergeron, Chris Wagner, David Krejci, and Charlie Coyle. Minus Krejci’s tally, they all were able to get the puck past the paraphernalia of Pekka Rinne.
Next up for Boston will be the Jets, which is listed as a free game on the league’s official app. That contest takes place Thursday at 7 Eastern Time. They will then be away from home and looking to avenge an earlier defeat to the New York Islanders Saturday night. The Flyers and Blue Jackets follow.
2. Saint Louis Blues
The Blues fell behind by three in Denver before Robert Thomas and Alex Pietrangelo got the Blues within 3-2. A Colorado power-play goal by Cale Maker right before the second intermission snuffed out their comeback hopes, and the Avalanche pulled away 7-3 on Thursday.
In Vegas, Saint Louis jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead on wrist attempts by Pietrangelo and Jaden Schwartz. Oskar Sundqvist lit the lamp on the backhand. Four Golden Knights scored in the span of 15:40 against Jake Allen and the Blues were desperate to get back in the game. They got a break when Chandler Stephenson held Alexander Steen at 12:08 of the third. Forty-two seconds later, David Perron’s slap shot tied the game at four. Though Saint Louis grabbed a point, they did not get the second as Stephenson scored the winner and past the midway point of the extra session Saturday.
Saint Louis did what was needed against a struggling Sharks team. Tyler Bozak and Ivan Barbashev gave the home team some cushion David Perron gave the Blues their third and it held up as the game-winning goal in their 3-2 NHL victory.
The Saint Louis home-stand continues with games against Buffalo, New York Rangers, and Anaheim in the coming days. Though they were on the wrong side of some tough games this past week, they should be fine.
1. Washington Capitals
They had an interesting week. Lars Eller and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist against the Carolina Hurricanes Friday. Still, they had to hang on in Raleigh after leading 4-1 because Washington could not stay out of the box.
Then Sunday, they had a memorable encounter against the Sharks. Evander Kane recorded a hat trick for San Jose. Nic Dowd and Jakub Vrana got on the NHL scoresheet to keep the Caps close, but with Logan Couture’s empty-net goal with one minute, it looked like Washington was going to come up short. Vrana collected his second tally of the game thirteen seconds later, then T.J. Oshie leveled the score thirty-two ticks following Jakob’s goal. The comeback was completed on Eller’s tenth of the campaign.
Ilya Samsonov has nothing to worry about despite being scored against by Artem Anisimov. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin twice found the net. Radko Gudas and Eller also lit the lamp and Washington cruised to a 6-1 blowout win.
The Caps have a quick turnaround as they will be featured nationally in Philadelphia. Saturday, they return home against New Jersey, then forty-eight hours later take on the Hurricanes.
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Works cited: NHL app, NBC/NBCSN/Center Ice telecasts, NHL YouTube Channel