The Hockey Was Good Last Night
10:44 AM EST on January 29, 2021
I had so much fun watching the vast array of hockey games on tap last night that it was impossible for me to narrow myself down to just one thing. So I'm cheating and trying to write about as many as I can. Here's your rapid-fire roundup of everything cool and good about the NHL on Thursday.
Alexis Lafrenière Broke Through In The Best Way Possible
The No. 1 overall pick had been muzzled through his first six career games for the last-place Rangers, and through three periods in his seventh, he remained without a single point to his name. But that all changed in the extra session against Buffalo with a neutral-zone turnover and a Rangers 2-on-1.
With the scored tied at two halfway through OT, head coach David Quinn took a risk and iced a very inexperienced trio, led by the hungry Lafrenière. It was Jack Eichel, of all people, who made the crucial mistake with a backhand flip that didn't find its target, allowing Colin Blackwell to start the counterattack and pass the puck to a wide open 19-year-old in the most dangerous part of the ice. Lafrenière buried it, of course, and he earned a great quote from his coach afterwards.
“Obviously, everybody talks about his world-class talent, but this guy’s a ballsy kid,” Quinn said. “He really is. I don’t care if he’s the first pick or the 271st pick. He’s a ballsy kid. He’s a kid you want to be around."
The Hurricanes Scored An Awesome OT Winner Against The Defending Champs
The Canes (who were down a bunch of key players) and the Lightning played a tense, scoreless regulation highlighted by dominant performances in net by both Andrei Vasilevskiy and Petr Mrázek. That means there's another overtime winner worth highlighting. This one isn't so significant for the guy who scored—no offense to Martin Necas—but it's the kind of goal that takes your breath away.
The play is a basic give-and-go between Necas and Jordan Staal, but Staal's pass and Necas's finish make it so much more. The way Staal gets the puck off the ice, where it somehow manages to avoid the nosy stick of Victor Hedman, can only really be comprehended in super slo-mo. And then Necas finishing it on the bounce, while the less impressive of the two ingredients, was an especially emphatic and still quite difficult way for the Canes to grab two points.
Washington Already Loves Zdeno Chara
I don't think I've ever seen a second-period, early-season goal celebrated to this degree, but that's the kind of power Zdeno Chara has. The towering redwood and new arrival on defense in Washington picked up his first goal as a Cap in the midst of a 6-3 win over the Islanders, and his teammates could not stop hooting and hollering about it on the bench.
The goal itself is nothing special—just a big slap shot on an exhausted defense that can't skate quickly enough to stop it. But it was the perfect way to end a perfect second period for the Capitals. D.C. went down by three goals early, but after the first intermission they mounted an epic offensive assault that netted them five unanswered in less than ten minutes. Immediately after that last one, the 43-year-old Big Z got mobbed by all his skater boys. For the record, the next-oldest Capital who played last night (T.J. Oshie) is nine years younger.
“When a guy like that comes to give you a bear hug, you give it back to him," Conor Sheary said afterwards.
Alexandre Texier Did Some Dark Magic In His Shootout
Absolutely disgusting. In the shootout between the Blue Jackets and the Panthers, CBJ top scorer Alexandre Texier earned his team the win with a psychologically devastating dressing-down of Chris Driedger in goal.
It starts in an unassuming enough way, with Texier just shuffling the puck on his stick as he closes the distance between him and his adversary. But once in tight, he reveals the nasty surprise—a soft little one-handed slide through the five-hole. It's very rude and very satisfying to watch, if you happen to be a sociopath.
The Red Wings Got It To Within One Goal In The Third Period
In the true highlight of the night, the scrappy, determined Detroit Red Wings did not let a 4-1 deficit against the Dallas Stars get them down and refused to allow their foes' odd black-and-neon jerseys to freak them out. In the game's final period, Detroit scored two goals in five minutes to make things competitive again, with the first one coming on the power play from Tyler Bertuzzi and the other one arriving unexpectedly off the elbow of a Stars player after Danny Dekeyser shot the puck from a long way out.
Wow! What a play! What a team.