NHL Game Day: Ovechkin continues Gretzky Goal Chase against Avs; MacKinnon to play; and previewing all 11 games

Alex Ovechkin will aim to continue his torrid start to the season on Tuesday night when the Washington Capitals host the Colorado Avalanche. That’s just one of 11 games on the NHL schedule today.

Ovechkin, who will play in his 1,200th career NHL game on Tuesday, collected two goals and two assists in the Capitals’ season-opening, 5-1 win over the New York Rangers. The three-time Hart Trophy recipient also scored a goal three nights later in Washington’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Ovechkin, 36, has 733 goals in his career to reside eight shy of matching Hall of Famer Brett Hull for fourth place in NHL history.

NHL Game Day: Capitals vs Avalanche

While Ovechkin’s high-octane offense has paid dividends throughout his career, the Capitals appear content with the early returns from goaltender Vitek Vanecek.

Vanecek burst on the scene by posting a 21-10-4 record in 37 appearances (36 starts) with Washington in 2020-21. The 25-year-old was selected in the 2021 Expansion Draft by the Seattle Kraken, only to be traded back to the Capitals this past summer for a second-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.

Nathan MacKinnon
Jun 2, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) looks on during the third period against the Vegas Golden Knights in game two of the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Avalanche star forward Nathan MacKinnon is out of NHL COVID protocol and will make his season debut on Tuesday against the host Washington Capitals.

“Tested positive for COVID, I didn’t believe them at first,” MacKinnon said on Tuesday. “Didn’t feel anything. I was working out the whole time at home, doing all I can to stay in shape. It’s just unfortunate. You know, I didn’t infect anybody in my family. Nobody got sick. No teammates got sick. So that’s lucky I guess. Yeah, I didn’t feel anything.”

Without MacKinnon, the Avalanche recorded a 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday and a 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues three nights later. Veteran defenseman Jack Johnson did not play in Saturday’s game because of COVID protocols.

Oilers vs Ducks: McDavid hot

The Edmonton Oilers have won their first two games of the season, and star center Connor McDavid already has a hat trick.

The Oilers will be up against an Anaheim team that rallied for a 3-2 overtime win against the host Calgary Flames on Monday night, the Ducks’ second victory in three games.

The Ducks trailed 2-1 entering the third period, but Rickard Rakell scored with 7:05 left in regulation to tie the score, and Jamie Drysdale won it with 1:34 left in overtime.

The Ducks were 1-21-2 when trailing after two periods last season.

The comeback win in the opener of the four-game road trip was especially welcome after the Ducks gave up the go-ahead goal with 7.2 seconds left in the third period of a 2-1 loss to the visiting Minnesota Wild on Friday night.

Kraken vs Devils: Kraken look to rebound

The first road trip in franchise history will conclude Tuesday when Seattle visits the New Jersey Devils in Newark, N.J.

The Kraken absorbed a multi-goal defeat for the first time Monday, falling 6-1 to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Devils have been off since Friday, when Jack Hughes scored twice, including the game-winner 57 seconds into overtime, in a 4-3, season-opening victory over the visiting Chicago Blackhawks.

Devils head coach Lindy Ruff, who began his coaching career as an assistant with the expansion Florida Panthers in 1993, was expecting a feisty effort from the Kraken well before Monday’s lopsided outcome.

“I think when you end up on an expansion team, you have a lot of players that carry a little bit of a chip and to prove that ‘I should have been protected,'” Ruff said Monday afternoon. “I think you end up with a group of extremely hard-working players. I was part of the Panthers expansion franchise. That group ended up in a Stanley Cup Final (in the franchise’s third season). We’ve seen what Vegas has done.”

Predators vs Kings: Arvidsson returns

Viktor Arvidsson, acquired by the Kings in an offseason trade for two draft picks, will return to the Music City on Tuesday night when the Kings play the Predators.

Arvidsson, who has a goal and an assist through two games on the Kings’ No. 1 line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, said he speaks with some of his former teammates about “every other day.”

Will it be easier to get his return over with sooner rather than later?

“I haven’t thought about it that way,” he said. “I’ll go in there and be the player I am and show who I am and not think about it too much. For sure, it’s going to be pretty special.”

The Predators have lost their first two games, including dropping their opener 4-3 to the expansion Seattle Kraken.

They suffered another one-goal home defeat Saturday, 3-2 to the Carolina Hurricanes despite a goal and an assist from Ryan Johansen. Filip Forsberg also scored for the Predators, and Juuse Saros made 29 saves.

Blackhawks vs Islanders: Both teams looking for a win

nhl game day blackhawks
Oct 13, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) defends his net in the third period against the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, a three-game skid to open the season has frustrated the Chicago Blackhawks, but the struggles certainly aren’t the kind to derail the club as Chicago welcomes the New York Islanders for its home opener Tuesday night.

Still, considering that the Islanders have lost their first two games, urgency figures to be higher than usual for the third Tuesday in October.

“Once you lose a couple and now it’s three in a row, it’s all of a sudden like you want to get to the next game and try to make sure you get a win the next game,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said.

New York is in the midst of a season-opening stretch of 13 straight road games before its scheduled home opener against Calgary at the new UBS Arena in Elmont, N.Y., on Nov. 20.

The Islanders have been outscored 11-4 in their first two games, with goalie Ilya Sorokin (5.09 goals-against average, .855 save percentage) seeing much of the action.

Canadiens vs Sharks: Habs scoring woes

The Canadiens have scored just once in each of their contests and are 0-for-11 on the power play entering Tuesday night’s game against the visiting San Jose Sharks.

Not exactly the way the Canadiens wanted to start a season after reaching the Stanley Cup Final.

The three-game skid, which includes a 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers in the Habs’ home opener Saturday, is their longest to open a season since they dropped five in a row in 1995-96.

“It’s not just one thing,” Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said. “First, we have to be more dynamic offensively, like we were in the third period (Saturday). Second, we have to have more of a presence in front of the net. There were times in the second period when one of our players had the puck, but he had to wait for a teammate to go to the net.”

Sabres vs Canucks: Buffalo undefeated

The Sabres, who finished last in the East Division last season with a 15-34-7 record, including an 18-game losing streak and just 37 points, opened this season with an impressive 5-1 victory over the 2021 Stanley Cup finalist Montreal Canadiens on Thursday and followed that with a 2-1 shootout win over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.

“We are harder to play against,” said forward Cody Eakin, who scored Buffalo’s lone goal in regulation. “We’re always playing with speed on the forecheck, the backcheck, and it kind of gets annoying to other teams.”

The Canucks started the season with a 3-2 shootout loss at Edmonton, followed that with a 5-4 shootout victory at Philadelphia on Friday, and then lost 3-1 at Detroit on Saturday.

The Canucks finished with a 41-21 edge in shots on goal in the loss to the Red Wings, including 23-6 in the third period. However, they couldn’t solve Thomas Greiss, who finished with 40 saves. Sam Gagner sealed the win with an empty-net goal with 58 seconds to go.

Wild vs Jets: Winnipeg looking for answers

Going into Tuesday night’s home opener against the Winnipeg Jets, the Wild have kicked off the campaign in perfect fashion, with a pair of road wins — 2-1 over the Anaheim Ducks and then 3-2 over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

“You want to see your group play hard for each other and with each other, for sure,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “But to get rewarded, to reinforce that we’re not only doing the right things systematically, but we’re doing the right things together.”

The Jets are on the other side of the spectrum.

After opening the season with a 4-1 road loss to the Anaheim Ducks, they fell 4-3 to the San Jose Sharks on Saturday. Even worse, the Jets blew a 2-0 lead on the Sharks by surrendering four straight goals en route to that disappointing defeat.

Stars vs Penguins: Pens still humming

Brian Boyle penguins
Oct 12, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Brian Boyle (11) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s only a week and a few games into the season, but the Pittsburgh Penguins and Dallas Stars, who will meet Tuesday night in the Steel City, already have established something of an identity.

The thing is, Pittsburgh is pleased with what it’s shown so far, with no regulation losses, while Dallas has one win and has struggled to score.

The Penguins are averaging five goals a game, and they are doing that without some key offensive players.

Cornerstone centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are coming off surgery, with Malkin out at least several more weeks; top-line winger Jake Guentzel missed the season opener after being in COVID-19 protocol; and fellow top-line winger Bryan Rust missed Saturday’s 5-2 win over Chicago in the Penguins’ home opener because of an upper-body injury and is out week to week.

Dallas, coming off a 3-2 loss Sunday at Ottawa, is averaging only two goals a game this season.

“We’ve got some guys trying to find their game,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. “We’ve got guys frustrated with their game. We’re just going to have to play our way through it. Our top guys have not found their game on a consistent basis.”

Panthers vs Lightning: Sunshine showdown

After a week of playing mostly unfamiliar foes, the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning will face a recognizable opponent on Tuesday night.

Each other.

The Sunshine State clubs will meet for the first time this season, in Tampa, in a rematch of last season’s first round of the playoffs.

Lat year, Florida went 5-2-1 against its upstate rival during the regular season, but the Lightning won when it mattered the most — beating the Panthers in their playoff series on the way to a second straight Stanley Cup title.

Florida opened this season with opposition at home that it did not face last season — the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders — with the Panthers triumphant twice, 5-4 in overtime and 5-1, respectively.

Tampa Bay has played three games — against Pittsburgh, the Detroit Red Wings and the Washington Capitals — with a bit of everything sprinkled in: a bad loss, a ferocious rally with and overtime win, and a defensive gem that also turned victorious in extra time.

Blue Jackets vs Red Wings: Jackets want to keep it going

The Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings tied for last place in the Central Division last season. Their head-to-head matchups were nearly a draw as well, with the Blue Jackets winning the season series 4-3-1.

They’ll play for the first time this season in Detroit on Tuesday night.

Columbus has won its first two games, thumping the Arizona Coyotes 8-2 and squeaking past the expansion Seattle Kraken 2-1 in overtime.

The Blue Jackets will be playing their first road game of the season.

Detroit defeated Vancouver 3-1 on Saturday as Thomas Greiss made 40 saves. The Red Wings bounced back from a season-opening collapse against two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay, as the Lightning scored three goals late in regulation and won in overtime 7-6.

–Field Level Media