The NHL season is under way, and boy has it been fun so far.
The NHL began its 101st season on Wednesday, October 4, and it started off with a bang.
The visiting Toronto Maple Leafs clobbered the Winnipeg Jets 7-2, bolstered by two goals from veteran forward Patrick Marleau, who joined Toronto after having spent the last 19 years with the San Jose Sharks. Marleau’s former team lost 5-3 to the visiting Philadelphia Flyers, who were aided largely by forward Wayne Simmond’s hat trick.
In Edmonton, forward Connor McDavid had another hat trick, scoring the Oilers’ goals in a shutout against cross-provincial rivals, the Calgary Flames. Amidst all this action, the Pittsburgh Penguins raised their 2017 Stanley Cup Championship banner to the rafters of PPG Paints Arena before losing 5-4 in overtime to the St. Louis Blues.
(Photo by Keith Srakocic, AP Photo)
Those four games kicked off the season, but the excitement didn’t end there. The Penguins traveled to Chicago on Thursday, October 5, where they were decimated by the Blackhawks in a 10-1 game. Brandon Saad scored a hat trick for the home team there, and forward Patrick Kane tied a career high with four points.
In Ottawa, the visiting Washington Capitals won in a shootout thanks to forward Alex Ovechkin’s hat trick, scored in just seven minutes. Evgeny Kuznetsov had assists on all of Ovechkin’s goals, and they both scored in the shootout to propel the Capitals over the Senators. These four hat tricks (McDavid, Simmonds, Saad, Ovechkin) tied a league record for three-goal nights during the season’s team debuts from the NHL’s first year of existence, back in 1917.
2017-18 is the second season in NHL history to feature four hat tricks in season-opening games (Hyland, Malone, Noble, Denneny in 1917-18). pic.twitter.com/ty7IQNDOVH— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) October 6, 2017
October 6th featured another onslaught of scoring, as the Columbus Blue Jackets shut out the New York Islanders 5-0, capped off by the very first career NHL goals of both 2014 first-round pick, winger Sonny Milano, and 2016 3rd overall pick, center Pierre-Luc Dubois. In Tampa Bay, Ondrej Palat potted two goals, including an empty-netter, in a 5-3 defeat of their interstate rivals, the Florida Panthers.
The most important game of the night, though, and possibly the most important until mid-June, was a 2-1 affair in Texas. The Dallas Stars struck late in the second period thanks to a nifty power play goal by Tyler Seguin and nursed that one-goal lead until midway through the final period, when James Neal launched a shot that deflected off a Dallas defenseman and got past netminder Kari Lehtonen.
That goal was significant because it was the first regular-season tally in the entire history of Neal’s new team, the Vegas Golden Knights. Neal would score again with mere minutes left in the final period to give the franchise its very first victory.
The next night was the season opener for the three teams that hadn’t yet played: the Vancouver Canucks, New Jersey Devils and Carolina Hurricanes. In total, thirty teams suited up to play hockey that Saturday, with only the Boston Bruins earning a day off. The Canucks, Devils and Hurricanes all opened the season with victories.
Furthermore, the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs scored five and eight goals, respectively, to push their goal total to fifteen apiece in just two games. This was the first time since 1917 the Maple Leafs had started off the season with two games with seven or more goals.
Alex Ovechkin scored another hat trick and added a fourth goal in a 6-1 massacre of the Montreal Canadiens. In the process, he became the first player since 1917 to score two hat tricks in the first two games of the season. Capitals forward Nathan Walker also became the first Australian to play in the NHL, and he scored his first career goal as well.
In other historic news, the Golden Knights staged another comeback against the Arizona Coyotes. Neal scored the game winner in a 2-1 overtime affair, and Vegas became the first expansion team in fifty years to start the season with two victories.
The season so far has been historic and action-packed, and it’s only been less than a week! Even though every team has gotten in some action, the competition is still fierce. This early in the season, all 31 teams are looking to start out strong. The Stanley Cup is anyone’s for the taking.
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