Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper made it clear this is not his side's first rodeo after an overpowering 7-3 road win against the Toronto Maple Leafs to open their first-round series on Tuesday.

The Lightning are coming off three consecutive Stanley Cup Finals appearances – including championships in 2020 and 2021 – and are trying to become the first team to reach four in a row since the New York Islanders' five from the 1979-80 season through 1983-84.

Against the Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay opening the scoring 78 seconds into the action through Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, before Anthony Cirelli and Nikita Kucherov added first-period goals to reach the intermission at 3-0.

Toronto clawed it back to 3-2 thanks to goals from Ryan O'Really and William Nylander, but that would be as close as they would get as the Lightning struck quickly with three goals of their own before the end of the second period to put the game away.

Brayden Point scored twice, Kucherov and Corey Perry collected a goal and two assists each, while Cirelli and Ross Colton also both scored and assisted in a stat-stuffing night for the Lightning.

Cooper said he knew his squad would be energised by the playoff atmosphere, even in a road environment.

"We've been there before," he said. "We've been down this road. 

"To be honest, you embrace these moments, and the atmosphere at the beginning of the game, the anthems and the crowd going nuts, it's a wonderful experience. It's not something you should shy away from, and we talked to the guys about that.

"I will never question the guys in that [locker] room, and as the coach, you always want the best, but deep down inside you know there’s a whole bunch of gamers in that room… we knew they would come out to play."

Goal scorer Colton said he was hoping the Lightning would be able to "flick the switch" now that the important games have arrived.

"I think we were excited for it," he said. "I think for a while there we weren't playing the way that we wanted to play. 

"We kept saying that we were going to flick the switch, and at some point we had to stop talking about it and start doing it. 

"So the playoffs, against the Leafs, in this building – it was obviously electric."

Perry agreed, adding: "We had a tough March, a tough end of the season, but it's about the playoffs, and that's what we were doing. We're trying to get our game into shape to come in here and play."

Game 2 will remain in Toronto, before the series heads to Tampa Bay for Games 3 and 4.

The Boston Bruins continued their historic season with a 3-1 Game 1 victory in the first-round series against the Florida Panthers at TD Garden on Monday.

Boston put together the greatest regular season record in NHL history at 65-12-5, beating the previous record held by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings (62-13-7) by three wins.

Kicking off their Eastern Conference playoff campaign, the Bruins jumped ahead in the first period through a David Pastrnak goal, before Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk added one each in the second period either side of Matthew Tkachuk's lone Panthers score.

While the Bruins came out with the win, they finished on the wrong end of the total shot count 32-29, also trailing slightly in hits (44-43).

Head coach Jim Montgomery said the score was not indicative of the general play, but at this time of year they will take whatever they can get.

"Results matter more than the process right now," he said. "When we look at our five-on-five game, we were not very happy with our process. 

"So we can get better there, but the result was really good, and I think the result comes from we had some players play really well, especially our goaltender. 

"The intensity of the playoffs, it surprised us a little bit, and I think we had a little bit of nerves."

Marchand is no stranger to playoff hockey, winning the Stanley Cup with the Bruins back in 2011, and he made it clear Boston are not happy with just the regular-season record.

"I don't think we've ever been satisfied with any game we've had this year," he said. "It's always good to start the first game with a win, but we haven't accomplished anything yet."

Tkachuk credited the Bruins with the way they improved the longer the game went on.

"There were parts of our game that were good, and I feel like [the Bruins] got a little bit better as it got on," he said. "Especially when you have a two-goal lead, it's easier to play. 

"You're playing safer, and they packed it in pretty good on us, but I'm confident in our team, in our game, and seeing a lot of things that I think we could hang with these guys."

Game 2 will also take place in Boston on Wednesday before the series heads to Florida.

The Pittsburgh Penguins saw their 16-season run of appearances in the playoffs end as the New York Islanders put a halt to the longest such streak in the NHL.

Losing 5-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday took the Penguins' fate out of their own hands, and the Islanders squeezed in as the last team to book a playoffs spot when they beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 a day later.

Coach Mike Sullivan's Penguins team have a 40-31-10 record for the season, and they will round off their campaign against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.

Beau Bennett spent four years on the Pittsburgh team and was a Stanley Cup winner with the Penguins in 2016, the second of three NHL championships the team won during their remarkable 16-year run.

With the team's fate sealed, Bennett wrote on Twitter: "I mean people will probably be negative but think about how sick that run was. Most orgs will be lucky to have that success in 50 years."

Superstar center Sidney Crosby continues to hit the heights, managing 33 goals and 58 assists in 81 games, while Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang have maintained their own high standards. Pittsburgh's 'Big Three' have famously featured throughout the 16-year run.

It was put to Bennett that the Penguins could have gone on achieving, given their top players continued to perform.

He replied: "True but 16 years of consistency, having 3 of the best players the whole time, interchanging everyone else including coaches and management. Sometimes we take greatness for granted."

Bennett said there had been "definitely some suspect moves", with general manager Ron Hextall's rush of trades before the deadline having come in for scrutiny.

Bringing in the likes of Nick Bonino, Dmitry Kulikov and Mikael Granlund, while moving others out of the franchise, has not had the desired effect.

After those trades, Hextall said: "I think that we made our team better. I think there are a lot of teams capable of winning the Stanley Cup, and we're one."

Not this season.

As Bennett sees it, Pittsburgh's elimination now spares them hurt later along the line.

"Let's be real here," he added, "how far are they getting if they get in? All good things come to an end."

The Boston Bruins have "much bigger goals" in the Stanley Cup playoffs than a record-breaking NHL regular season.

Boston set a new high for single-season wins with their 63rd against the Philadelphia Flyers over the weekend, and they made yet more history with win 64 on Tuesday.

A 5-2 defeat of the Washington Capitals took the Bruins to 133 points for the season, clear of the Montreal Canadiens' 1976-77 benchmark of 132.

But postseason success is the primary goal for the Bruins. Since winning their sixth Stanley Cup in 2011, this is their third Presidents' Trophy.

That Canadiens team, widely considered the greatest of all time, followed up their regular season by winning the title.

Winger Brad Marchand said: "We have a very special group. It's incredible how we've come together this year.

"We've done a phenomenal job all year of staying in the moment.

"We're proud of the group, but this is a regular-season record. That's not what we're playing for. We have our sights set on much bigger goals.

"I think it [the record] is something we'll look at down the road when we're daydreaming about what we got to do and what we've accomplished."

Boston coach Jim Montgomery was a little more open to discussing the team's latest achievement, recalling the quality of the 1977 Canadiens.

"I think of all the Hall of Famers on those teams and then Scotty Bowman behind the bench and going to the old Montreal Forum," he said.

"Think about how great those teams were and how we've surpassed that total. It's significant because those were dominant, dominant hockey teams."

The Boston Bruins saw no better preparation for the Stanley Cup playoffs than chasing NHL regular-season records under pressure.

That was the message from Bruins coach Jim Montgomery after Boston set a single-season NHL record with their 63rd win following a 5-3 triumph over the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Bruins moved past the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings and 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning (both 62 wins) and have two games to lay down another benchmark.

Boston are just one point behind the all-time single-season record of 132 held by the Montreal Canadiens (in 1976-77), who they visit on Thursday after hosting the Washington Capitals two days prior.

Montgomery had previously said his group are "aware" and "grasp" their record-breaking exploits, and acknowledged his team are using the regular season to prepare for the playoffs, which start on April 17.

"Being able to stay focused and learn how to win when chasing records is the closest thing you can do when you're having a season like us to prepare for the playoffs," Montgomery said.

David Pastrnak scored a hat-trick against the Flyers to take his tally for the season to 60, only Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid has more with 64.

Bruins forward Pastrnak echoed Montgomery's sentiment as Boston aim to etch their name further in history.

"It's been a lot of fun, I'm not going to lie," Pastrnak said of the season. "It's been enjoyable, especially the group we have here.

"We obviously knew the stakes, and it's definitely special to hit it in a game like this. Made history today in the biggest league in hockey."

The Bruins set NHL records for the fastest team to 50 wins (64 games) and 100 points (61 games), while they have already secured home advantage in the playoffs after clinching the Presidents' Trophy.

Their latest record may come with some slight contention, given the Red Wings' 62 wins came without shoot-outs replacing tied games, whereas Boston have won four games via that deciding method this term.

Nevertheless, Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman says the 62-win mark stood for so long for a reason and revelled in breaking it.

"It's hard to win in this league and there's a reason why this record is at 62 because not many teams can get there, so it's a special honour," Swayman said.

"These guys in this room are more than deserving."

Montgomery added: "Anytime you're talking about putting your team's name in the history books of the most wins ever in a regular season, it's special."

The Seattle Kraken revelled in their "leap" into the Stanley Cup playoffs after clinching a wild card berth on Thursday.

Seattle are in just their second season in the NHL, having fallen 37 points short of the postseason with the second-worst record in the Western Conference in their expansion year.

However, the Kraken's 4-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes – the only team to finish below them in 2021-22 – made sure they will not miss out this time.

In the existing format, only the Vegas Golden Knights have made the playoffs quicker, doing so in their first year in the league and reaching the Stanley Cup Finals.

That was one of two Finals runs in the Golden Knights' first three seasons, but they had only 43 wins in their second season – a mark the Kraken passed on Thursday.

Indeed, Seattle's 44 wins are the most by any second-year team in NHL history, further evidence of their rapid progress.

"You look at the leap that we've made and it's special," said winger Jordan Eberle. "We've got a special group in here."

Kraken coach Dave Hakstol added: "The group in here earned it. They earned it from day one and all the way through tonight, finishing off the two points tonight that solidifies it for us.

"That speaks to everybody about the character and the work ethic in the dressing room."

The Boston Bruins clinched the Presidents' Trophy on Thursday but quickly turned their focus towards the postseason, with coach Jim Montgomery "looking forward to that grind".

The Bruins have been the NHL's outstanding team this season and moved to 121 points – out of the reach of any rival – with a 2-1 overtime win against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Their 58th win of the campaign set a new team record, but Montgomery is keen to ensure this is not the extent of their achievements.

After a victory that he acknowledged was "not the standard we've seen all year", he said: "We're not at our game, and there's fatigue that comes in. It's not easy, but we're finding ways to win.

"It's been a magical season so far, and we know the hardest part is ahead of us, and we're looking forward to that grind."

Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron was slightly more interested in revelling in their Presidents' Trophy success, the fourth in team history.

"Of course you're proud," he said. "A lot of games and a lot of hard work.

"I'm proud of the way we've done it, sticking to our process and growing as a team."

The Bruins have seven games left in the regular season and need five more wins to set a new NHL record for wins in a single season.

The Vegas Golden Knights remained one of the hottest teams in the NHL with Saturday's 4-3 overtime win on the road, despite dealing with a string of injuries.

Vegas' victory over the Edmonton Oilers was their eighth win in nine, pulling them clear atop the Pacific Division in the process.

The close-fought battle saw the Oilers equalise on three separate occasions after falling behind to goals from Jack Eichel, Pavel Dorofeyev and Jonathan Marchessault, before Nicholas Roy put home the winner 2:26 into overtime.

Vegas were missing goaltender Logan Thompson and veteran winger Reilly Smith through recent injuries, adding to a longer list of unavailable players, but they figured out how to keep getting it done, becoming the first team in NHL history to win four games in a row with four different goaltenders.

Head coach Bruce Cassidy pointed to his team's "next man up" mentality, calling it a "good road win", while veteran defenseman Brayden McNabb added it was even better to get it done against a close division rival.

"It's a big win, a big road trip. They were sneaking up on us [in the standings]," he said, with the Oilers having won their previous five games.

"It felt a little bit like a playoff game, for sure. They're a great team, they've got a lot of dangerous skill, for sure, but for the most part we played pretty well and buried some chances.

"We've had injuries throughout the year, but guys are prepared and ready to step in. We've got great depth and great goaltending, and it showed tonight."

The result leaves Vegas on 98 points for the season, also leading the Western Conference ahead of the Los Angeles Kings (94), the Minnesota Wild (93), the Dallas Stars (92) and the Oilers (91) with nine games remaining.

Boston Bruins coach Jim Montgomery hailed his side for rising to the challenge of a tough schedule to beat the Montreal Canadiens.

A 4-2 win at TD Garden marked a fifth consecutive victory for the Bruins and saw the team hit the 55-win mark, their second-highest all-time total behind only the 57 wins secured by the 1970-71 side.

The Bruins' fine run has highlighted their resilience, having endured a two-game skid prior to their current streak, with no side in the NHL currently having a longer win streak.

Having already secured their playoff berth, the Bruins are looking to maintain their momentum heading into the postseason and Montgomery was delighted by the result, though admitting his team were not at their best.

"Happy that we got the two points. It's a tough league to win in," he told reporters after Thursday's win. "I know we've won a lot this year, but it really is.

"With the schedule as challenging as it is right now – we're playing four games a week, and it's four in six nights consecutively for five weeks – we're not going to have the most energy we usually do have.

"I don't think we skated very well tonight, but it's understandable at times. You've got to give credit to those guys. We find a way to win hockey games.

"It's not an easy league to win in, and we find ways to do it. That's the positive side of things."

David Pastrnak was again on form for the Bruins, hitting his 49th goal of the season to represent his best campaign and tie him with Ken Hodge for eighth-highest scorer all-time for the Bruins with 289.

The 26-year-old was not focused on his display, however, and simply enjoyed the rivalry clash against the Canadiens.

"This is the kind of game where the only thing you think about is getting the win," Pastrnak said.

"These games against Montreal never get old. It doesn't really matter where in the standings each team is. It brings so much history.JI

"It's a big win. When Montreal and the Bruins play, both teams are gonna play hard."

The Carolina Hurricanes secured their first back-to-back 100-point seasons in franchise history on Tuesday as they scored three in the third period to defeat the New York Rangers 3-2 on the road.

With the victory, the Hurricanes improved their record to 46-15-8 – trailing only the 54-11-5 Boston Bruins for the league's top mark – and 69 games is the fewest needed to reach 100 points in franchise history.

Adding to their historic night, Carolina set another franchise record with their 10th third-period comeback of the season.

Despite the action-packed finish, it was a defensive grind through two periods as an early goal from New York's Tyler Motte was the only score heading into the last.

Jalen Chatfield equalised nine minutes into the third period, but Kaapo Kakko put the Rangers back in front 2-1 just 31 seconds later.

The hectic scoring sequence was not over, as Stefan Noesen made it 2-2 only 18 seconds after the restart, setting up Teuvo Teravainen for the Hurricanes' winner with 2:33 remaining.

Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind'Amour said he was inspired by the way his team refused to drop their heads after going down.

"I thought it was a great effort, right from the start," he told reporters. "We didn't come off of it. We had a game plan and the guys knew what we needed to do. 

"They've got a high-offense team, so we were trying to limit their chances. Everybody – all 20 guys – contributed in this win. 

"Even though it wasn't looking good for most of the game, we were down, then we tied it up and they got another right away, I just loved the way we [shook it off], next shift. 

"It was great to tie it up and then get the late one. We got what we deserved tonight, for sure."

Offseason acquisition Brent Burns also got in on the history-making fun, adding to his franchise record for points by a defenseman (53) with the game-winning assist, and he pointed to Brind'Amour's system as the catalyst for his terrific year.

"The system has been great," he said. "We play with a deep team and we just roll. It's been a lot of fun. 

"I've said it before, but it's a great group, and a special group. It's been a lot of fun to try and come in and find a place."

Chatfield pointed to how previous comebacks have given the Hurricanes "more confidence" when faced with difficult situations, and they trust what they are doing as a unit.

"We know what we've got in this locker room, and we know how we want to play every night," he said.

"To be able to match up against these guys, another great team, [is great]. We lost the first two to them, so to be able to get this one feels nice. We just have to keep going from there."

Evander Kane underlined his value to the Edmonton Oilers with a hat-trick in their 6-4 win over the Seattle Kraken but he was more pre-occupied with what the victory meant to their playoffs hopes.

The Western Conference playoff chase is tight, with the Oilers edging ahead of the Kraken into third in the Pacific Division with Saturday's victory where they scored twice in every period in Seattle.

Edmonton are 39-23-8 on the back of three straight wins, just ahead of the Kraken (38-24-7) in the final automatic playoff spot from the Pacific Division. The Las Vegas Golden Knights (42-21-6) and Los Angeles Kings (40-20-9) lead the division.

Kane's hat-trick came from only three shots, marking his second three-goal performance of the season and fifth in his past 49 appearances.

"It's nice to help contribute to an important win," Kane said. "Big points with the division so tight.

"This is probably the tightest I've seen it with respect to the entire conference, both divisions, where you can literally be in first place in the Western Conference, or you could be in a Wild Card spot within a matter of a week. It's still tight.

"There are still very important games down the stretch left to be played, and I think it's a great opportunity for our group to enjoy that type of challenge and get you ready for the post-season."

"I've been in and out of the line-up with injuries all year, so just trying to get into some rhythm heading into the playoffs, and tonight definitely helps that."

Kane has only played in 29 of the Oilers' 70 games this campaign due to injuries, with coach Jay Woodcroft delighted to see him back at close to his best.

"Happy for him," Woodcroft said. "He's a warrior. He plays through injuries. He's just getting up and running again just because of his injuries and whatnot.

"It's kind of been a start-and-stop season for him, but he's been all around the puck in any game that he's played and for three to go in for him tonight, I was happy for him."

Kane's return to form and fitness has aided star man Connor McDavid, who had a goal and two assists, bringing up 134 points for the season.

"That's part of my job is to be productive for this group," Kane said. "Obviously we have two of the best players in the world, but they can't carry a team and win a championship. You need everyone pulling their weight.

"I've been in and out of the line-up with injuries all year, so just trying to get into some rhythm heading into the playoffs, and tonight definitely helps that."

McDavid's 134 points are the seventh-most points by a player in the past 30 years, while his performance was his 20th three-point game of the season.

Zach Hyman also added a goal and an assist, recording his first 30-goal season. He is the fourth Oilers player to reach that mark this season, the first time the franchise has achieved that since 1989-90.

Dallas Stars coach Peter DeBoer was thrilled with his team's efforts after Monday's 5-2 victory saw them sweep their two-game road series against the Seattle Kraken.

It took less than six minutes for the Stars to jump ahead by two, with Evgenii Dadonov's early opener followed shortly after by Jamie Benn's power-play goal.

The power-play unit consisting of Benn, Joe Pavelski and Jason Robertson were dynamic, as Pavelski and Robertson assisted Benn's goal, before Benn turned provider for Pavelski early in the second period, and Benn nabbed another assist when he set up Robertson for the third power-play goal of the night to seal things.

Stars center Wyatt Johnson – who assisted the opener and scored his side's fourth goal – highlighted the impact of getting such incredible production from their power-plays.

"It's huge," he said. "Especially when you're on the road – just getting like three goals on the power play, it's always, always a big help."

Coach DeBoer called it "an important four points" as the Stars hold onto a three-point buffer atop the Central division, and sit one point behind the Vegas Golden Knights in the race for the top seed in the Western Conference.

"You look at the standings and we're in a fight for first in the division, first in the conference," he said. "[Seattle are] in a battle for playoff positioning. 

"They've been playing great all year, so this was a real test for us coming in here for two games and I thought our group really responded."

On the other side, the Kraken blew a golden opportunity to establish themselves as one of the West's top sides, getting leapfrogged by Dallas, the Minnesota Wild and the Los Angeles Kings during their current three-game losing streak.

"Bottom line, we didn't get job done," Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. "At the end of the day that's what matters.

"We've been a group that's been able to turn the page and go back to the next job at hand. This group has to be able to do that again."

Vegas Golden Knights center Jonathan Marchessault hailed goaltender Jonathan Quick after recording his first shutout for his new side in Saturday's 4-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.

Quick only joined VGK earlier this month via trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets, making 33 saves in the win where they scored in every period from Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Paul Cotter and Brett Howden goals.

The veteran goaltender is 3-0-0 since joining the Golden Knights, playing his part as the Hurricanes were shut out for the first time since November 23.

"Quick was unbelievable tonight," Marchessault told reporters. "We're able to get him the shutout. That's something the team should be really proud to do for him.

"It's easy to get a guy like that going in your locker room. He's such a good veteran. He's been around for a long time and we're lucky to have him."

The win was 40-20-6 Vegas' fifth from their past six games, while it snapped the Hurricanes' four-game winning streak, leaving them 43-13-8.

Marchessault added: "I thought we were pretty good. They had a strong first period but I thought we kept a lot of their chances to the outside. Definitely a lot of positives today."

The result sees VGK improve their record to 40-20-6 to remain top of the Pacific Division, clinching their second win in the third game of their five-game road trip.

The Golden Knights won 4-3 in overtime at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday, having lost 2-1 to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, with games against the St Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers to come.

"That's a pretty tough road trip," Marchessault said. "To get two wins out of those three teams is really good for our group.

"We've got a few guys down so we need guys to step up which is what we're doing now.

"We've got to be ready to go back out there tomorrow and do the same thing."

The Colorado Avalanche failed another test against an NHL playoff contender, losing 5-2 to the Los Angeles Kings to leave head coach Jared Bednar frustrated.

The Kings recorded their fifth straight win, improving their record to 38-20-8 to sit second in the Pacific Division.

But the Avs are third in the Central Division with a 35-21-6 record, having lost four of their past five games, all against sides in the playoffs contention.

"There's another level of determination and passion that we can play with, if we want to win against the good teams," Bednar told reporters.

"It's deflating, because you feel like you're right there and you know they're a difficult team to score against."

Adrian Kempe opened the scoring in the first period and Gabriel Vilardi doubled their advantage at 17:10.

Evan Rodrigues halved the deficit, deflecting in Samuel Girard's point shot at 14:59 of the second period. But Kempe restored the Kings' two-goal lead early in the third.

Nathan MacKinnon made it 3-2 with a snap shot at 4:24 on the power play, only for Phillip Danault to score twice to seal victory for the Kings, the latter into an empty net.

Avs defenseman Cale Makar reiterated Bednar's sentiment, with Colorado's postseason hopes getting tight.

"We should have approached this like a playoff game tonight," Makar said. "Felt like we knew the type of team they are.

"We know that they're so systematically sound that it tends to frustrate teams when they sit back and don't allow you to get in their zone."

Page 16 of 16
© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.