Nazem Kadri scored a decisive hat-trick for the Colorado Avalanche against the St. Louis Blues in Game 4, having been determined to perform after alleging threats and racist abuse.

Avalanche center Kadri was involved in a collision with Jordan Binnington in Game 3, bringing a premature end to the Blues goaltender's series.

Former NHL player Akim Aliu revealed on Twitter on Sunday he had subsequently spoken to Kadri, who he said had "been subject to so many racist attacks and threats since last night that police had to be brought in".

The Avalanche confirmed they were aware of threats made towards their player – a Muslim of Lebanese descent – and were working with local law enforcement to investigate.

In the meantime, Kadri responded on the ice with three goals in Monday's 6-3 win to put the Avalanche 3-1 up and on the brink of the Western Conference Finals.

"I wanted to come out tonight and really put a mark on this game, especially after what happened," Kadri said. "I tried to do that as best as possible.

"Sometimes you've got to be patient, and you've got to wait. I was able to strike early in the second period and was able to get the mojo going."

He added of the incidents: "People need to be aware this stuff still happens, and it's hurtful."

Speaking ahead of Game 4, Blues coach Craig Berube – who had questioned Kadri's role in Binnington's injury, referencing his "reputation" in an apparent nod to previous postseason suspensions – said of the threats: "I've got no comment on that stuff."

St. Louis Blues coach Craig Berube sent a veiled shot at Nazem Kadri, after the Colorado Avalanche defeated his team 5-2 to take Game 3 in their playoff series.

Kadri bowled over Blues starting goaltender Jordan Binnington less than seven minutes into the first period, forcing him to leave the game with a lower-body injury.

Binnington, who made three saves in as many attempts to that point, was replaced by Ville Husso, who stopped 19 of 23 shots.

Berube did not overtly blame Kadri for the collision following the defeat, but made reference to his notoriously frenetic and aggressive style.

"Look at Kadri's reputation," Beurbe said post-game. "That's all I've got to say.

"There are a lot of calls you can question. That's hockey. I'm not going to sit here and talk about calls, that weren't called or called, it's just not worth it.

"I can be disappointed but talking about it is not going to change it."

The Western Conference's first seed took a 2-1 series lead on the back of a Artturi Lehkonen brace and 29 saves from Darcy Kuemper.

Kadri, Logan O'Connor and Gabriel Landeskog also scored for the Avalanche, who bounced back from a 4-1 loss on their home ice on Thursday.

The Florida Panthers twice came back from a one-goal deficit to defeat the Washington Capitals 3-2 in overtime, tying the series at 2-2.

Heading into the contest trailing 2-1, and playing on Washington's home ice, the Panthers were put on the back foot early after T.J. Oshie opened the scoring in the first period.

Carter Verhaeghe tied things up less than 10 minutes later, before Evgeny Kuznetsov put the Capitals back in front in the third period off an assist from legendary teammate Alex Ovechkin.

With just over two minutes to play, Sam Reinhart tied it at 2-2 to force an extra period, where Verhaeghe would slot the winner five minutes in to steal the game on the road.

Speaking to post-game media, two-goal hero Verhaeghe said the result adds to the belief of what this team – dubbed the 'Comeback Cats' – can accomplish.

"We wanted to come in and have our best game of the series, and I think we did a pretty good job," he said.

"It’s just kind of a building block. We know we have another level to get to, and we’re a great team, so I think it’s just building some confidence."

Fellow goal-scorer Reinhart added that the backs-to-the-wall nature of the battle was everything he enjoyed as a competitor.

"Those are the kind of situations you want to be in as a hockey player," he said. "It’s a game that can really go either way at the end of it – we stuck with it, and we’re happy with the result."

Washington's Ovechkin – a three-time Hart Memorial Trophy winner for league MVP – was clear about the next course of action, and not overreacting to a painful loss.

"At the end, it was bad bounces and it goes in," he said. "It is going to be a tough, long series, so move on. Forget about it, move on."

It was much smoother sailing for the Colorado Avalanche, beating the Nashville Predators 5-3 to sweep their series 4-0. J.T Compher and Cale Makar both collected a pair of assists each for the Avalanche.

The Pittsburgh Penguins received a vintage performance from future Hall-of-Famer Sydney Crosby as he slotted one goal and dished two assists in his side's 7-2 win against the New York Rangers, taking a 3-1 series lead in the process.

Lastly, the Calgary Flames won a crucial Game 4 on the road against the Dallas Stars 4-1 to tie their series at 2-2, despite Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger making 50 saves.

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was quick to back goaltender Louis Domingue, following their 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday.

The Rangers tied their playoff series up at 1-1 after Pittsburgh's 4-3 win in triple-overtime at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.

One of the key figures in that overtime win, Domingue was given a start by Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, but gave up key goals to Ryan Strome and Chris Keider via deflections.

Crosby backed his teammate following the loss, bringing saves he did make with Game 2 in the balance in perspective.

"The fourth was a bad bounce, a couple of tips there," Crosby said. "I thought he [Domingue] was solid. I thought he made some big saves, especially when there was a one or two-goal difference, that kept us in it."

The two-time Hart Memorial Trophy winner believes the Penguins simply need to start better and put three periods of hockey together to progress past the Rangers.

"It's the playoffs," Crosby said. "There are going to be swings of momentum but I thought that in both games, as they've gone on, we've probably gotten better. We just have to find a way to come out of the gates a bit better.

"You don't want to get down two, we've done that a couple of times now. It's not something we want to make a habit of.

"We get that late one and we had some really good chances early in the third and didn't convert, and they got a bounce. That's what it came down to."

In other NHL playoff results on Thursday, a Cale Makar goal gave the Colorado Avalanche a 2-1 overtime win over the Nashville Predators, moving to 2-0 in their series.

Meanwhile, the Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers tied up respective series with the Calgary Flames and Washington Capitals.

Evgeni Malkin says the Pittsburgh Penguins "deserved to win" after he scored the decisive goal 5:58 into the third overtime of their 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers in the NHL playoffs on Tuesday.

The Penguins take a 1-0 lead in their Stanley Cup playoff opening-round series, where goalies Igor Shesterkin and Louis Domingue were outstanding for both sides.

Penguins back-up goalie Domingue came in for Casey DeSmith who exited due to cramping. Domingue starred with 14 saves in the second overtime and three more in the third.

"We know we can win every game if we play right," Malkin told reporters. "We play smart. We play hard. I think we deserved to win tonight."

The Rangers had led 2-0 after Andrew Copp doubled their lead in the second lead after Adam Fox's power-play goal in the first period.

The Penguins leveled it up after goals from Jake Guentzel in the second period, before Chris Kreider restored the Rangers' lead. Malkin found Bryan Rust to square the game up again, before it headed for overtime. Malkin came up with the decisive deflection.

The epic was the longest-ever NHL game played at Madison Square Garden.

On Domingue, Malkin added: "For me, I know Louis is unbelievable. He is big and he is fast. I wasn’t worried. It is hard to score on him in practice."

Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson was injured as his side won 4-2 over the Florida Panthers in Game 1 of their series. Wilson had scored before going off with a lower-body injury.

Colorado Avalanche piled on five first-period goals as they routed the Nashville Predators 7-2 in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

Elias Lindholm's first-period goal proved the difference as the Calgary Flames got past the Dallas Stars 1-0.

Jared Bednar believes Taylor Hall's hit on Nathan MacKinnon is the type of challenge the NHL is looking to phase out.

The Colorado Avalanche had to play most of Wednesday's meeting with the Boston Bruins without five-time All-Star MacKinnon after Hall connected with his shoulder in the first period.

Hall's shot to the upper body resulted in MacKinnon's own stick snapping up into his face, causing bleeding from his nose as the Avs star lay on the ice.

MacKinnon left the ice and did not return, while Hall was given a five-minute major that was reduced to two minutes after a review.

Colorado went on to win 4-3 in overtime and sit top of the Central Division in the Western Conference with 30 victories this season, the highest total in the league.

Though coach Bednar thought the right decision had been made in regard to Hall's penalty, he claimed it is the type of dangerous hit that the league is hoping to force out of the game.

"I believe they probably made the right call with the two [minutes],'' Bednar told reporters.

"But it's the type of hit, whether it's really solid or just a glancing blow, it's the kind of hit the league is trying to get rid of.''

Bednar also confirmed that MacKinnon had come around after the blow and would be assessed ahead further on Thursday, with the Avalanche in action again on Friday against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Avalanche, who led through Kurtis MacDermid early on, were down 3-1 in the third period before Samuel Girard pulled one back. Gabriel Landeskog tied the game with 36.5 seconds remaining before Cale Makar sealed the comeback win in overtime. 

"Not fun seeing one of your best friends and obviously your top player on the ice bleeding like that,'' added Landeskog.

"We didn't want to give up. We wanted to keep going. We got the big two points, keeping this thing going at home.''

The Avs have now won 17 games straight at home, just six behind the league record set by the 2011-12 Detroit Red Wings.

"That's our biggest win of the year," Bednar said.

Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar says there were signs of fatigue among his players despite extending their hot streak with a 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.

The Avalanche have won five straight and are 10-0-1 from their past 11 games to sit atop the Western Conference's Central Division.

Mikko Rantanen, Kiefer Sherwood, Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Devon Toews all scored for Colorado while Darcy Kuemper made 40 saves to them to back-to-back wins.

Anze Kopitar scored a power-play goal for the Kings in the second period to make it 2-1, but third period goals from Aube-Kubel and Toews – an empty-netter with 1:35 remaining – sealed the win.

“We were not good through two periods, even just the simplest of tasks, plays, breakouts, regroups,” Bednar told reporters. “We were not moving the puck efficiently. We were beating it up.  To me, that’s a sign of fatigue.

“To finish the game the way we did with the stretch that we’ve been on, we’ll take the two points. It is what it is. We needed our goaltender tonight again, just like last night in Anaheim. We got the job done.

“I’m pretty proud of our group, especially after the way they played in the third period after what was a pretty rough night for two periods.”

Colorado Avalanche Jacob MacDonald was alert and responsive after being taken off the ice on a stretcher following a hit from Ryan Lomberg in their win over the Florida Panthers on Sunday.

MacDonald was sent crashing to the ice by Lomberg in the second period, prompting an immediate stoppage in play and a fight between Lomberg and MacDonald's furious team-mate Nicolas Aube-Kubel.

A statement from the Avalanche shortly after said MacDonald had full movement following the second incident in less than a week that has seen an NHL player taken off on a stretcher.

Jujhar Khaira was also carried off in the Chicago Blackhawks' loss to the New York Rangers after a hit from Jacob Trouba.

"Scary moment, but apparently he's seen our trainers and everything's good," Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. "I think [the hit] might have been clean, yeah. I only got the one angle on it. They kept showing it over and over, and it looks clean from there.

"Physicality's part of the game. I don't like seeing guys go down, especially when they can't get up, but I don't think you can take it out of the game." 

Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson added: "Just tough to see from probably either team. It's a fast game out there, you move upwards of 20 mph. It's physical and things move fast.

"It's an unfortunate play, super scary for Jacob. It's tough, you just never want to see that and hopefully he's OK. 

"That's the stuff that makes you sick to your stomach when it happens to any team-mate or opponent.

"Unfortunately those hits are still part of our game. ... What is that now, two in a week that you've seen guys stretchered off? That's not good for our game."

Like everything else over the past year, the hockey world has been turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic. The 2019-20 season was completed with teams playing in bubble locations in Toronto and Edmonton and the 2020 campaign will open without fans as part of a condensed 56-game season, among a slew of other changes. 

With the previous season extending several months past the normal ending date, the league had little choice but to delay the start of 2021 and to find a way to make a shortened season work. The new plan is for the regular season to end on May 8, with the Stanley Cup awarded no later than July 9. 

Of course, nothing is set in stone anymore and the NBA and NFL have had to deal with countless COVID-19 issues, so the NHL expects similar problems to arise with the pandemic experiencing another surge. The league knows it may have to adapt and games will very likely need to be rescheduled. 

The NHL has already dealt with this, as the start of the season for the Dallas Stars had to be pushed back to January 19 after six players and two staffers tested positive for coronavirus. While the completion of last season in the bubble locations was virtually flawless, teams are playing in home arenas this season, increasing the chances of players becoming infected. 

To combat this, teams will be allowed to carry taxi squads of four to six extra players who will practice and be prepared to step in when needed. 

While there is less hockey to enjoy, there are some tweaks to the upcoming season that fans will enjoy. 

The four divisions have been realigned and they include an all-Canada division of seven teams, made necessary by border restrictions. The other three divisions are mostly based on geography, but St Louis and Minnesota were shuffled into a division with the three California teams, Vegas, Arizona and Colorado. 

The Chicago-Detroit rivalry gets renewed with the Red Wings moving into the Central Division, and Tampa Bay and Dallas – last season's Stanley Cup Final participants – are now together in the Central.  

There should be no shortage of intensity this season with teams scheduled to play mostly back-to-back sets solely against teams in their own division. So, the Flyers and Penguins will meet eight times, as will the Islanders and Rangers and Kings and Ducks. The teams in the all-Canada division will face each other nine or 10 times.  

The first two playoff rounds will be played within the division, meaning the bad blood that started in the regular season could grow even deeper. The division winners will then advance to the semifinals but seeding will be based on points rather than geography.  

The new setup raises the possibility of a Stanley Cup Final between traditional East teams like the Capitals and Penguins or Canadian rivals Montreal and Toronto.   

To recoup some of the money lost by having no fans or limited fans at the start of the season in some cities, the NHL is allowing teams to include a sponsor name on their helmets and each division will also include the name of a corporate sponsor. 

The condensed season was preceded by an abbreviated training camp without exhibition games and there is concern that the start of the season will be marred by sloppy play. This could be especially true for the seven teams that have not played a game since March after they did not qualify for the expanded playoffs.  

As in any offseason, several big-name players changed teams. It will be jarring to see 43-year-old Zdeno Chara in a Capitals uniform and Joe Thornton playing for the Maple Leafs after 14 seasons in San Jose. Henrik Lundqvist would have looked strange as a member of the Capitals following an 887-game run with the Rangers, but he decided not to play this season due to a heart condition. 

Injuries will also keep some marquee players off the ice for a while. Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov – the 2018-19 scoring leader – will miss the entire regular season due to hip surgery and the Stars could be without top forward Tyler Sequin (hip) and goaltender Ben Bishop (knee) until at least March.  

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is out indefinitely with an unknown illness and there is no word on whether the 12-time 20-goal scorer will play this season. 

While this season is full of unknowns and will be like no other before it, the potential is there for it to be one of the most exciting in recent memory.

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