A few thoughts as we await Alex Ovechkin's return from Russia — and offer our best to his ailing grandfather.
Worth the wait — Steven Stamkos waited eight games for his first NHL goal. A few more minutes wasn't going to matter.
The No. 1 pick in the NHL Entry Draft last June finally got his first NHL point, an assist, in Tampa Bay's 3-2 win at Toronto on Tuesday. Two nights later, he deflected Vincent Lecavalier's shot into the net 9:51 into the Lightning's game at Buffalo for his first NHL goal — though he had to wait until the end of the first period to get credit for it.
During the first intermission, the officials took the goal away from Lecavalier and credited it to Stamkos.
"I knew it hit my stick right from the beginning, and Vinny knew that too, so it was just a matter of them correcting it," Stamkos said. "I had some butterflies when they announced Vinny as the goal scorer, but he told the ref that I tipped it in. It was obviously a great feeling when they corrected it."
Lecavalier even made sure the 18-year-old center got the correct puck to commemorate the occasion.
''I went over right away and told them,'' Lecavalier said. ''It's a relief getting your first goal. He played an unbelievable game tonight."
With the pressure of getting goal No. 1 gone, Stamkos added another goal and an assist in Tampa Bay's 5-2 win over the Sabres. The second goal came 15 minutes into the second period on a slap shot from the top of the right circle that beat goaltender Ryan Miller.
"Everybody loves the kid and they know what he had been going through," Lightning coach Barry Melrose said of Stamkos. "They really rallied around the guy."
Silent Sid — Sidney Crosby
knows he left the Penguins' 4-1 loss to Phoenix in the third period with an injury. What he doesn't know is how he got hurt.
"Honestly, I don't even know what happened," said Crosby, who sat and watched the third period. "I have to look at the tape. I haven't seen anything yet."
What happened to Crosby is unclear. Television replays showed Crosby skate to the Penguins bench, sit down with a grimace and try to collect himself.
Per team policy, the Penguins did not disclose details of Crosby's injury. Neither did Crosby.
"I had some discomfort," he said. "I decided that in the third period, it didn't seem like I could do much."
With or without Crosby, the Penguins aren't doing much offensively. They had only 11 shots on goal in a 2-1 loss at San Jose on Tuesday, then managed just two shots in the opening period against the Coyotes.
They did get 18 shots and a goal by Miroslav Satan in the second period, but couldn't get anything else past Ilya Bryzgalov.
Crosby blamed the Penguins' struggling offense "more urgency and (the Penguins') attitude for wanting the puck."
"I don't think it has anything to do with the system," Crosby said. "I think it has more to do with urgency. It takes more than a system to do that."
Having Crosby back in the lineup for Saturday's game at St. Louis would also help.
Fastest start — Every team wants to get off to a good start. The New York Rangers are off to a historic one.
The Rangers' 3-2 win over Atlanta gave the Blueshirts a 10-2-1 record, the most wins and best mark after 13 games since the franchise entered the NHL in 1926.
"Our biggest goal was to get off to a good start," captain Chris Drury said. "We had a rough start last year and then had to battle all year to kind of shake that bad start. This just shows the commitment and focus that the guys have put in. This is the start we wanted to get off to."
But some people are never satisfied — people like Rangers coach Tom Renney, for instance.
"We can't mistake what we're doing here for being great," Renney said. "We've had moments of greatness in every game, but it's about sustaining that."
The Rangers made some major changes after being eliminated in the second round of the playoffs last spring. Most notably, they didn't re-sign Jaromir Jagr (now in Russia). Among the newcomers was Nikolai Zherdev, who came in a trade with Columbus.
So far, so good. Zherdev scored the second goal and set up Dan Girardi's game-winner, giving him 12 points in 13 games.
"It's a new team, a new system for me, so every game I try to be better and better," said Zherdev, who has seven points in the last four games. "I feel really comfortable here."
The Rangers think Zherdev can be something special.
"He's one of the most talented players I have seen," goalie Henrik Lundqvist said of the 23 year-old. "He's a top player in this league right now, and he can score that goal when you don't think it’s possible."
Ready, aim, shoot — Jeff Carter's strategy is simple. The Philadelphia Flyers forward puts the puck on the net every chance he gets.
Carter had two more goals, including the game-winner in overtime, as the Flyers outlasted the New York Islanders.
"I'm just shooting every chance I get," Carter said after he scored on a one-timer from the front of the left circle on a power play with 24 seconds left in OT.
''Every time I get a good look at the net, I'm putting it on there,'' said the fourth-year center who has scored 6 goals and 9 points during a six-game scoring streak.
Carter said he usually gets off to slow starts, but coach John Stevens said he's not surprised that Carter got off quickly.
"He's bigger, stronger, faster, more fit, and more confident," Stevens said. "He's matured into a good pro."
Carter signed a long-term contract with the Flyers during the summer, and veteran forward Mike Knuble says he's really stepped up his game.
"Every team would love to have a guy like him right now," Knuble said. "You talk about the goals he's scored, but it's been a full-time effort. The guy kills penalties and stuff like that. He shoots the puck so well, he can be a force when he gets going. He plays in every situation."
He's exactly the type of player the undermanned Islanders could use. Coach Scott Gordon's team outplayed the Flyers for most of the night but had to settle for one point.
"I told our guys that tonight was just like a tie," Gordon said after the Isles' fifth loss in a row. "The secondary point would have just been a bonus. It is more about the 60-minute body of work that we put together. Tonight, our guys played a good hockey game."
Perfect day for Alfie — We should all have days like Daniel Alfredsson did on Thursday.
Ottawa's captain started the day by signing a four-year contract that will keep him a Senator for life. His teammates gave him a "signing bonus" by scoring twice in the third period to rally Ottawa to a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers.
"It makes a big difference," Alfredsson said of the comeback win. "I'm really going to enjoy dinner tonight, I can tell you that, coming back the way we did."
Alfredsson, who turns 36 in December, is entering his 10th season as the Senators' captain. He's the franchise's all-time leader in games played (861), goals (334), assists (522) and points (856). He is also Ottawa's career leader in games played (101), goals (43), assists (37) and points (80) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and is the only Senators player to win an individual season award — he won the Calder Trophy in 1996.
Owner Eugene Melnyk said he wanted to make sure Alfredsson would be a "Senator for life."
"It's something I promised our organization and our fans when we signed him (to his current contract) in 2005," said Melnyk. "I recently repeated that's what we wanted to get done, so that Daniel finishes his career in Ottawa."
Alfredsson also said he would also consider a position within the organization after his playing days are done.
"I'll probably be around the team in some capacity," he said.
A special effort — Minnesota came into its game with Montreal with the NHL's best mix of special teams — third on the power play, first in killing penalties. But it was the Canadiens' special teams that excelled in their 2-1 win at the Xcel Energy Center.
The Habs spent the night filling the penalty box, giving Minnesota 10 power plays, including a trio of 5-on-3 advantages (though one lasted just nine seconds).
"That's probably the best PK game we've played all year so far," goalie Carey Price said after stopping 28 shots. "It's going to be pretty hard to top that."
Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau, who killed a penalty or two during his career as one of the NHL's top defensive forwards, said simply: "It was awesome."
"That's probably the best PK game we've played all year so far. It's going to be pretty hard to top that." -- Carey Price
The crowd of 18,568 wasn't as impressed — they actually booed their team as the Wild tied a team record by going 0-for-10.
"You always have to give some credit to the other team," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. "The few good chances we had, [Price] stopped them. It's not an excuse when you do have two 5-on-3s."
The Wild, which didn't give up a power-play goal in its first seven games, allowed one for the second night in a row when Andrei Markov scored the game-winner early in the second period during its own 5-on-3.
Minnesota has lost in regulation twice in two nights after starting 6-0-1. The Wild lost 4-2 in Dallas on Wednesday.
"In Dallas we had a couple bad bounces to start the game, and this time we had trouble finishing," forward James Sheppard said. "Our game was there, we just have to learn to capitalize."
Second time's the charm — Nashville rookie Pekka Rinne's first start was a disaster; he allowed three goals before being hooked less than 15 minutes into the game.
His second start was a lot better: The 25-year-old made 27 saves as Nashville beat Edmonton 3-1 for its ninth consecutive win over the Oilers.
Despite the way the rookie's first start went, Preds coach Barry Trotz said he had no problem putting him in against the Oilers.
"I wasn’t concerned," he said. "I think last time he was trying so hard. You could see how nervous he was. Sometimes you just have to let them get through that first game and relax. He played very well tonight and made a huge save early in the game. We turned the puck over in our zone and Eric Cole went in on a breakaway real early. He made the save there and I think that gave him a lot of confidence."
The only shot to beat Rinne was a second-period blast by Sheldon Souray that hit his glove and went into the net.
"It was a big game for me personally," Rinne said. "The guys did a great job of blocking shots from me when I couldn't see the puck. It was good to get a win."
Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish is wondering what happened to the team start started the season with four wins in a row. The Oilers have now lost four straight to drop to .500.
"Rinne played well, but I have seen it enough to know that we have to be more productive," MacTavish said. "A constant for us has been missed shots. We are not producing offensively. It's that simple."
Good tip — The Carolina Hurricanes don't count on Tuomo Ruutu for offense. Not that he can't chip in with a goal when needed.
Thursday's game against St. Louis was one of those times of need. Ruutu got his stick on Eric Staal's shot and deflected it through Chris Mason's pads for a third-period power-play goal that gave the 'Canes a 1-0 victory at St. Louis in the finale of a six-game road trip.
"I just tried to get my stick in the way, and it hit it," Ruutu said of his second goal of the season.
The Hurricanes were on their seventh power play when Ruutu scored with 9:41 left in regulation.
"Last time I checked, they're all pretty well-paid. They like playing here in St. Louis. They don't have issues with the coach. Just play hard. We're going to win or lose based on how our top five or six guys play." -- Andy Muaary on his players
"We talked about [one goal winning it]," said Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. "It's hanging 0-0 going into the third. It's sitting there, and it might be one of those goals that hits something, or goes off of something, or a bad bounce. It was a clean shot that went in, but it wasn't your picture-perfect play."
It was, however, an excellent defensive effort by the Hurricanes — one that left Blues coach Andy Murray unhappy with his team, which has been blanked twice in its last three games.
"I'm disappointed as some of our leading players are," Murray said. "Last time I checked, they're all pretty well-paid. They like playing here in St. Louis. They don't have issues with the coach. Just play hard. We're going to win or lose based on how our top five or six guys play."
Chipper about Kipper — Miikka Kiprusoff's slow start mirrored that of his team. So has his hot streak.
Kiprusoff completed a month in which he played every minute of every game for Calgary by making 13 of his 29 saves in the third period in the Flames' 3-2 win over Boston.
"Kipper was huge again tonight, making some huge stops, not only throughout the game, but in the last minute, a couple right in tight," said defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who provided most of the offense with two goals. "When you have a guy like that behind you, our job is to let him see the puck and he's doing a great job stopping it."
Kiprusoff and the Flames have won five in a row after a 1-3-1 start. After allowing four or more goals in each of his first four games, Kiprusoff has allowed just seven goals during the winning streak.
"I've played 10 games with him now," forward Mike Cammalleri said, "and I'm starting to already get used to it. It's kind of fun knowing that if you make a mistake, he's going to bail you out."
Rocky Mountain high — The Pepsi Center in Denver is about the last place you'd expect the Columbus Blue Jackets to end a three-game losing streak. The Jackets lost their first 10 visits and 13 of their first 14 since entering the NHL in 2000.
"I knew I could win here, but I also knew it would take a good performance. I'm a different guy leaving the building tonight. The first one is always the hardest."
-- Fredrik Norrena
But they made it look easy on Thursday, beating the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 behind a 30-save performance by backup goaltender Fredrik Norrena.
"We've played a lot better than our record," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "This is now four solid games in a row that we've played. The big difference was we got the save at the right time and we got goal scoring from different people."
Before Thursday, Columbus' only victory in Colorado was a 3-0 win on Dec. 5, 2006, with Norrena in net.
"I knew I could win here, but I also knew it would take a good performance," said Norrena, who got his first win since March 26 against Chicago. "I'm a different guy leaving the building tonight. The first one is always the hardest."
Norrena made a couple of big saves, including one on Marek Svatos in the second period.
"It was a 1-0 game at that point and if they tie it they're probably going to come really hard at us," Norrena said. "We scored that second goal, and that was really important."
First things first — Roberto Luongo's priorities are simple. Wins come first. Shutouts are a bonus.
Luongo got both by stopping 28 shots in the Vancouver Canucks' 4-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. It was his 40th career shutout, but what meant the most to him was getting the two points.
"It's just a little added bonus if you get a shutout. But that's more show-and-tell. I don't really care about that stuff, honestly," Luongo said. "The only goal is to win and be in the playoffs. That's what I play for."
Luongo is one of 27 Canuck goaltenders who've had at least one shutout since the franchise entered the NHL in 1970. But he's the first to get one in Los Angeles, either at the Forum or the Staples Center.
He said he got a lot of help in this one.
"I didn't get much action in the first 10 minutes because we had a lot of power plays," Luongo said. "But then I was able to see a few shots and the guys were doing a good job in front of me, clearing rebounds and breaking up a couple of backdoor plays in the last few seconds."
WHAT FANS ARE SAYING
"I think the Wings had a bit of a let down in this game..."
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"Our team keeps taking too many stupid penalties..."
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"New and improved Sharks? Dampen our spirits? Pfffft...."
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Mirror image — Todd McLellan, an assistant on Detroit's Cup-winning team last spring, brought a lot of ideas from the Red Wings when he took over as San Jose Sharks coach during the summer. In his first meeting with his old club, his new team did a better job executing them.
"I thought we got 'Winged' tonight," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said after a 4-2 loss in his first game against his former assistant. "I thought they did everything exactly like we try to do. They just did it better tonight. We're going to look forward to playing them again. I think he's done a real good job. He's got a real good team over there."
That's an understatement. At 9-2-0, the Sharks are off to the best start in franchise history. They also became the first team this season to outshoot the Wings — and the 33-27 margin was actually 27-13 after two periods.
McLellan's players said they wanted to get the win for him. However, he downplayed the significance of beating his former team.
"Everybody is making this about me," he said. "It's not about me, it's about the players. It's nice to know that they wanted to play hard for the coaching staff. People come to watch them play, they don't come to watch us coach."
Another full house at the Shark Tank watched San Jose pull off a rare daily double by beating both Stanley Cup finalists in consecutive games. The Sharks held Pittsburgh to 11 shots in a 2-1 win on Tuesday.
"We were really looking forward to this week," said forward Ryan Clowe, who capped a three-goal spurt in a 3:25 span of the second period with a power-play goal. "After coming off that road trip we were prepared and knew what we had ahead of us. We have the respect around the league as a good team. We're showing this year that we're ready to take the next step."
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report
Contact John Kreiser at firstname.lastname@example.org