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NHL Morning Skate for Saturday, March 31, 2018: Vegas pulling away in Pacific Division; Toronto eclipses 100-point mark; Tampa Bay gains back 1st place in Eastern Conference

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FRIDAY’S RESULTS

Home Team in Caps
Toronto 5, NY ISLANDERS 4

Tampa Bay 7, NY RANGERS 3

Carolina 4, WASHINGTON 1

COLORADO 5, Chicago 0

ANAHEIM 2, Los Angeles 1 (OT)

VEGAS 4, St. Louis 3 (OT)

 

GOLDEN KNIGHTS PAD LEAD IN PACIFIC DIVISION

Jonathan Marchessault (2-0—2) scored 22 seconds into overtime as the Pacific Division-leading Golden Knights (49-22-7, 105 points) improved to 4-1-2 in their last seven games.

 

* Vegas moved seven points ahead of second-place San Jose (44-24-10, 98 points) in its push to capture the Pacific Division title. Per Elias, the Golden Knights are attempting to become the first modern-era expansion team from any of the four North American professional sports leagues to start from scratch and finish first in its division (excluding mergers and all-expansion divisions).

 

* The Golden Knights rank fourth overall in the NHL standings behind Nashville (50-16-11, 111 points), Tampa Bay (52-22-4, 108 points) and Boston (48-17-11, 107 points). Excluding 1917-18 and 1919-20, when only four teams comprised the NHL, only four clubs have finished among the top-five in the League at the end of their inaugural season – all during the 1920s. The four clubs to do so: the 1924-25 Montreal Maroons (5th of 6), 1925-26 Pittsburgh Pirates (3rd of 7), 1925-26 New York Americans (5th of 7) and 1926-27 New York Rangers (3rd of 10).

 

William Karlsson (1-2—3) scored his 41st goal of the season to move into a tie with Connor McDavid in the tightly-contested Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy race, where only four goals separate the League’s top five scorers.

MAPLE LEAFS ECLIPSE 100-POINT MARK
Auston Matthews (1-1—2) scored the go-ahead goal with 3:58 remaining in regulation to power the Maple Leafs (47-24-7, 101 points) to an 8-2-0 record in their last 10 games. Toronto, which clinched a berth in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday and is third in the Atlantic Division,eclipsed the 100-point mark in a season for the second time in franchise history and first since 2003-04 (45-24-13, 103 points).

Frederik Andersen (29 saves) earned his 37th win of 2017-18 to equal the single-season franchise record for most by a goaltender, a mark set by Ed Belfour in 2002-03 and matched by Andrew Raycroft in 2006-07.

 

Mitch Marner (1-1—2) extended his point streak to 11 games (5-11—16), the longest active run in the NHL and tied for the second-longest by aMaple Leafs player in the last 20 years (since 1997-98). Marner has collected 22-47—69 in 2017-18; his 47 assists are the most by a Toronto player since Mats Sundin (49) and Tomas Kaberle (47) in 2006-07.

 

James van Riemsdyk (1-0—1) has scored 10 goals since March 1 (10-3—13). He became the first Maple Leafs player to score at least 10 goals in a calendar month since Phil Kessel in April 2013 (10).

 

LIGHTNING SCORE SEVEN TO RECLAIM FIRST IN EASTERN CONFERENCE

The Lightning (52-22-4, 108 points) scored at least seven goals in a game for the fifth time this season to reclaim first place in the Eastern Conference standings. Tampa Bay matched its single-season franchise record for points, a mark set in 2014-15 (50-24-8, 108 points).

 

* The Lightning lead the NHL with 282 goals for this season (including shootout-deciding goals), 16 more than the Maple Leafs (266). Tampa Bay has concluded a season leading the League outright in goals on one prior occasion – 2014-15 (262).

 

* There have been 64 instances of a team scoring at least seven goals in a game in 2017-18 (including shootout-deciding goals), the most since the 2005-06 campaign (65).

 

POINT REACHES 30-GOAL MARK; STAMKOS CAN FOLLOW SUIT

Brayden Point (2-0—2) reached the 30-goal mark for the first time in his NHL career and became the second Lightning player to hit the milestone this season, joining Nikita Kucherov (38).

 

Steven Stamkos (27) can join Kucherov and Point in the 30-goal club with three tallies over Tampa Bay’s remaining four games in 2017-18. The Lightning would then feature three 30-goal scorers in a season for the second time in franchise history (2005-06: Vincent LecavalierMartin St. Louis and Freddy Modin).

 

* To date, the Maple Leafs (James van RiemsdykNazem Kadri and Auston Matthews) are the only club to feature three 30-goal scorers in 2017-18.

 

VARLAMOV, BERNIER COMBINE TO BLANK BLACKHAWKS

Semyon Varlamov (53:31 TOI) and Jonathan Bernier (6:25 TOI) combined for the first tandem shutout in franchise history to help the Avalanche(42-28-8, 92 points) defeat the Blackhawks.

 

* The Avalanche improved to 27-11-2 (56 points) at Pepsi Center in 2017-18, one shy of their single-season franchise record for most home wins set in 2000-01 (28-6-7, 63 points). Colorado has one home game remaining this season – April 7 against St. Louis (43-28-6, 92 points), who the Avalanche are chasing for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.

DUCKS SECURE KEY WIN OVER INTRASTATE RIVAL

Rickard Rakell scored with 19 seconds remaining in overtime as the Ducks (40-25-13, 93 points) defeated the Kings and improved to 6-1-1 in their last eight games. Anaheim moved into the first Wild Card spot in the Western Conference and climbed within a point of Los Angeles (43-28-8, 94 points) for third place in the Pacific Division.

 

* At least one of Los Angeles or Anaheim is guaranteed a playoff spot by virtue of a top-three finish in the Pacific Division, with the Kings already clinching the ROW tiebreaker between the two clubs (LAK: 41, ANA: 36).

 

QUICK CLICKS

 

· Devils have sights set high in chase for playoff positioning (via Dan Rosen)

· Panthers face hectic schedule during final playoff push (via Nick Cotsonika)

· Maple Leafs embracing first back-to-back playoff berths since 2004 (via Mike Zeisberger)

· Emergency goalie has ‘ton of fun’ playing for Blackhawks (via Tracey Myers)

· Lightning trio ‘never imagined’ playing against Rangers

 

SNEAK PEEK AT SATURDAY’S ACTION

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LOTS TO BE DECIDED AS REGULAR SEASON REACHES FINAL LAP

With just nine days remaining and 1,204 of 1,271 games completed (95%), there is still much to be decided as the regular season heads into its penultimate weekend on Saturday with a 12-game slate.

 

* Just seven of 16 postseason berths have been clinched to date, with nine playoff spots still waiting to be claimed. Additionally, all 16 specific seeds and all eight first-round matchups have yet to be decided.

 

* Waiting to be finalized also in the final nine days of the regular season are all four division titles, both Conference titles and the race for the Presidents’ Trophy.

 

* In total, 12 teams either currently in a playoff position or within three points of one will be in action on Saturday:

 

* Six in the Eastern Conference (BOS, TOR, PIT, CBJ, NJD, FLA).

* Six in the Western Conference (NSH, WPG, VGK, SJS, MIN, STL).

 

PRESS RELEASE WRITTEN BY NHL PUBLIC RELATIONS; COURTESY NHLmedia.com