Another week of NHL action has passed, there was no shortage of highlights over the holiday weekend. The Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins squared off in the 2023 NHL Winter Classic with the home team pulling it out late.
Meanwhile, the Carolina Hurricanes kept their hot streak alive, and goaltenders across the league decided to be chaotic for no reason at all. Let's review some of the biggest moments from this past week around the NHL.
Goal of the weekend: Claude Giroux dazzles in Detroit
Even in the twilight of his career, Claude Giroux still has some magic up his sleeve. Giroux carries the puck into the offensive zone on a one-on-one and puts the puck between his legs to avoid the poke check from Jake Walman before catching Magnus Hellberg off guard with a backhand shot. Giroux got some help with the puck ricocheting off Hellberg's blocker and into the net.
As the Senators try to claw their way back into the Eastern Conference playoff race, Giroux is playing a big role for the team as a veteran leader. After signing with Ottawa as a free agent last offseason, Giroux already has 15 goals on the year after scoring 21 last season.
Robbery of the weekend: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen rejects Pastrnak
There are very few goaltenders who can slam the door on David Pastrnak these days, but Sabres goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen did just that in dramatic fashion. Late in the third period, with the Bruins up 3-2, Pastrnak picked the pocket of a Buffalo defender and walked in all alone on Luukkonen. He was looking to put the game away, but Luukkonen stuck out his pad and stole what looked like a sure goal.
Almost everyone in TD Garden thought Pastrnak had doubled the Bruins' lead, but somehow Luukkonen was able to keep the puck out of the net. If the Sabres get more goaltending like that, they will be in the playoff hunt this spring.
DeBrusk leads Bruins past Penguins in Winter Classic
The Boston Bruins have been a juggernaut at home throughout the 2022-23 season. While Fenway Park may not be the team's traditional home, the Bruins still managed to keep up their winning ways as they beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 in the 2023 Winter Classic on Monday.
The Bruins were able to erase a 1-0 third period deficit thanks a two-goal performance from winger Jake DeBrusk. It marked the 27th game-winning goal of DeBrusk's career, as he became just the second Bruins player (David Pastrnak had a hat trick at Lake Tahoe in 2021), to record multiple goals in an outdoor game.
DeBrusk's game-winner came with just 2:24 remaining in the third period. Bruins forward Taylor Hall drove the puck to the net and Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith, who replaced starter Tristan Jarry following a lower-body injury in the first period, made the initial save. However, DeBrusk pounced on the rebound in front and scored to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead late in the final period.
The Penguins had carried a 1-0 lead into the third period after Kasperi Kapanen scored at the 8:40 mark of the second frame.
Boston's victory brings its home record to 19-0-3 on the season. The Bruins continue to be one of the most dangerous teams across the NHL and showcased it on the big stage on Monday.
Hurricanes extend winning streak to 11 games
On Sunday, the Carolina Hurricanes won a back-and-forth affair against the New Jersey Devils, 5-4 in a shootout. That brought the Canes' winning streak to 11 games, and they are getting the job done in a variety of ways.
Against the Devils, Carolina didn't get impeccable goaltending, but New Jersey still manufactured enough offense to push the game to extra time. With the Hurricanes down 4-3 late in the third period, the red-hot Martin Necas buried a 4-on-3 power play goal to tie the game.
This may be Carolina's 11th straight win, but it has been rolling for even longer than that. The last time the Hurricanes lost in regulation was way back on Nov. 23 in a 4-0 loss to the Arizona Coyotes.
Ovechkin scores hat trick in rout of Canadiens
After passing Gordie Howe and for second on the NHL's all-time goals leaderboard, Alex Ovechkin did not take any time to exhale. In fact, Ovechkin seems to be chasing Wayne Gretzky with renewed vigor.
On Saturday night, the Washington Capitals vaporized the Montreal Canadiens, 9-2, and Ovechkin scored his second hat trick of the season. On his third goal of the game, Ovechkin powered his way around Johnathan Kovacevic and slipped the puck past Jake Allen.
Ovechkin now has 26 goals in 39 games, and he is on pace for 55 by the end of the season. It seems like Ovechkin has only gotten stronger with age. At this rate, he's on pace to post back-to-back 50-goal seasons at the ages of 36 and 37.
Goalie gaffes galore
I'm not sure what went on in the goaltenders' league-wide group chat last week, but they all had very chaotic energy over the weekend, and not in a good way. Let's start on New Year's Eve, when St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington played the puck directly to Ryan Hartman, who plays for the Minnesota Wild. Binnington gets credit for risking his health to get back in goal, but it was all for naught.
Next, let's take a look at Kaapo Kahkonen, who somehow broke his stick trying to rim the puck around the boards. The ensuing chaos resulted in Patrick Kane firing it by Kahkonen's blocker, which is precisely where his stick should have been.
Finally, we have the Devils' Mackenzie Blackwood racing out to swat a contested puck away from the Hurricanes' Sebastian Aho. Blackwood won the race, but he got roughly five percent of the puck on his clearing attempt. That was enough to serve as a pass to Aho, who scored the easiest goal of his career right after.
Normally, I push back when fans bemoan goaltenders trying to play the puck, but I have a hard time arguing against this collection of evidence.
Appointment viewing this week
Hurricanes at Rangers | Tuesday, Jan. 3: These teams have been a couple of the best in the Metro Division for the last month, and they'll go head-to-head on Tuesday night. Either the Rangers will score a huge divisional win or the Hurricanes will extend their winning streak to 12 games.
Kraken at Oilers | Tuesday, Jan. 3: Behind the Vegas Golden Knights, there is no clear contender in the Pacific Division, and the Kraken and Oilers are fighting for playoff spots. Looking back at the end of the season, these two points could prove to be enormous.
Lightning at Wild | Wednesday, Jan. 4: The Wild have quietly been chasing down the Stars and Jets in the Central Division for a while now, and they will get a major test with the Lightning coming to town this week. Even after three straight long postseason runs, Tampa Bay has not lost a step.
Rangers at Devils | Saturday, Jan. 7: The Devils have faltered of late, and that has given the Rangers the opportunity to close the gap on them in the Metro Division. This rivalry game is always big, but this one should have a little more juice.
Kings at Golden Knights | Saturday, Jan. 7: These are the top two teams in the Pacific Division, and it wouldn't be crazy to think that it could be a future second-round playoff matchup. This game should provide an intense atmosphere in the desert on Saturday night.