Monday's NHL: Biden avoids politics in honoring Lightning, DeBrincat ties career high

Stephen Whyno
Associated Press

Washington – Joe Biden avoided politics Monday while honoring the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning for winning the Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons.

In a rare sports break amid his administration’s response to Russia’s war in Ukraine, the president cracked jokes about captain Steven Stamkos and referenced first lady Jill Biden’s attendance at a vaccination effort at the Lightning’s home arena last year. Biden made little mention of other players while talking about the team winning one championship in an empty building in a quarantined bubble and another in a packed house at home in Tampa.

President Joe Biden poses for a photo after speaking during an event to celebrate the Tampa Bay Lightning's 2020 and 2021 Stanley Cup championships at the White House, Monday, April 25, 2022, in Washington.

Russian players Andrei Vasilevskiy, Nikita Kucherov and Mikhail Sergachev attended the White House and shared photos on social media. There were no noticeable absences and a handful of players from the Lightning’s 2020 championship team who had departed or retired made appearances.

Just for this occasion, the team made a third trip to the nation’s capital in eight months after already visiting the Washington Capitals twice this season. The Lightning flew Sunday night after playing at the Florida Panthers and were set to return home before facing the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday in one of their final games of the regular season before the playoffs begin next week.

Despite the Lightning winning the Stanley Cup three times – in 2004, 2020 and 2021 – it was the organization’s first time visiting a sitting president at the White House. The 2004-05 NHL lockout prevented that year’s team from going, and the pandemic delayed this opportunity until nine months after the second of these back-to-back championships.

Stamkos, who is Canadian, said it was “a long time coming.” He deferred to American Ryan McDonagh, a Minnesota native, to speak on behalf of the team at the ceremony.

Monday's game

► (At) Chicago 3, Philadelphia 1: The Chicago Blackhawks wanted to give their fans something to cheer about at the end of a long season.

Farmington Hills native Alex DeBrincat delivered.

DeBrincat scored his 41st goal in the third period and Kevin Lankinen made 33 saves, helping the Blackhawks beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1 on Monday night in a matchup of disappointing teams.

“The guys, they battled, they worked,” interim coach Derek King said. “Lanks played well. We did some good things.”

Jonathan Toews had a goal and an assist as Chicago (27-42-11) won for just the fifth time in its last 20 games. Erik Gustafsson also scored against one of his former teams, and Dominik Kubalik picked up an assist in his 200th NHL game.

King talked to his team at the morning skate about making the most of its last three games, including two at home. The Blackhawks improved to 13-21-6 at the United Center this season.

“Finish right at home. Get the fans out of their seats,” King said.

Philadelphia lost for the 12th time in its last 16 games. Kevin Hayes scored for the Flyers (25-44-11), and Felix Sandstrom made 30 stops in his fourth NHL start.

“We weren’t good enough with the puck tonight versus a team that transitions really well,” interim Flyers coach Mike Yeo said. “They came in off the rush and it gave them a lot of opportunities.”

Chicago was clinging to a 2-1 lead when DeBrincat converted a one-timer off a cross-ice pass from Patrick Kane at 7:45.

DeBrincat matched his career high for goals, set during the 2018-19 season. It was Kane’s 66th assist, equaling his career best from 2018-19.

Blackhawks defenseman Jake McCabe was sent off for tripping with 1:23 left, and Philadelphia’s Bobby Brink shot the puck off the inside of the right post. It nearly went off Lankinen and in, but defenseman Riley Stillman swept it off the line.

The Flyers went 0 for 4 on the power play, continuing their season-long special teams issues, and the Blackhawks went 0 for 5 with the man advantage.

“We want to end the season strong here, end on a good note, and I think we played a really solid game tonight,” Lankinen said. “So that was fun.”