Tag Archives: Matt Cullen

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Finals – May 21

 

Ottawa Senators at Pittsburgh Penguins – Game 5

With Pittsburgh’s seven-goal shutout victory over the Senators at PPG Paints Arena Sunday, it has pulled within one victory of hoisting the Prince of Wales Trophy for the second-straight year and advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals.

This game was over by the first intermission. Olli Maatta (Second Star of the Game Bryan Rust), Sidney Crosby (Trevor Daley and Evgeni Malkin), Rust (Nick Bonino and First Star Carter Rowney) and Scott Wilson (Rowney and Bonino) all joined to set the score at 4-0 in a span of 10:03, chasing Craig Anderson – celebrating his 36th birthday – to the Senators’ bench.

Through the first four games of the Eastern Finals, Pittsburgh had averaged only 29.5 shots-per-game. Based on their explosive 15-shot first period, the Penguins were on pace for 45 before the end of Game 5. Though they didn’t quite reach that mark (they ended the night with a measly 33 shots on goal), it was more than enough to eliminate the Senators’ hope for a victory.

After taking a 1:28 shift between Rust and Wilson’s tallies, Mike Condon assumed the Senators’ net for the remaining two periods. On only his third shot faced in the period and fifth of the day, Matt Cullen (Mark Streit and Rowney) extended Pittsburgh’s lead to 5-0 at the 1:54 mark of the middle frame.

To close out the Pens’ tab, Phil Kessel (Crosby and Malkin) and Daley (Kessel and Malkin) both buried power play goals before the midway point of the third period to set the score at the 7-0 final.

Of note, the Penguins’ third line was electric. Together, Bonino, Rowney and Rust combined for one goal and six assists for seven points, including playing a part in all four even-strength tallies.

Conversely, almost nothing went right for the Sens in this contest. They managed only 25 shots on goal all game – all of which, of course, were saved by Third Star Matthew Murray. They failed to convert any of their four power play opportunities, due in large part to being out-blocked 19-12 (specifically Ian Cole and his game-high five rejections). They also struggled to maintain possession, losing the giveaway battle five to four.

If they can take anything from this contest, it’s that they’ve figured out the face-off dot. They won 60% of puck drops, including Kyle Turris beating his opponent – typically Crosby – 76% of the time.

While this is the worst playoff loss in the Senators’ modern history (of which their first playoff appearance was in 1997), it is not the Penguins’ strongest playoff victory. Though it ties the home record set in 1993, Pittsburgh did manage an 8-0 road victory in Bloomington, Minn. against the North Stars to hoist its first Stanley Cup in 1991.

The Penguins will have their first opportunity to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals this Tuesday at 8 p.m. Eastern time when the puck drops for Game 6 at the Canadian Tire Centre. Those in the United States should check NBCSN for coverage, while Canadian residents will be serviced by both CBC and TVAS.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Finals– May 17

Pittsburgh Penguins at Ottawa Senators– Game 3

The Ottawa Senators cruised to a 5-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Final on Wednesday night. Mike Hoffman, Marc Methot, Derick Brassard, Zack Smith and Kyle Turris each had a goal in the Senators’ win. Ottawa takes the 2-1 series lead into Game 4 on Friday.

Craig Anderson made 25 saves on 26 shots against for a .962 save percentage in the win, while Marc-Andre Fleury made 5 saves on 9 shots faced in 12:52 of playing time for a .556 SV% before being replaced by Matthew Murray in the loss. Murray made 19 saves on 20 shots faced for the Penguins, amassing a .950 SV% in 46:57 time on ice.

Hoffman (5) kicked off a string of four unanswered goals in the 1st period just 48 seconds into the game for Ottawa. Alexandre Burrows sent a pass to Turris who fired a shot that caromed to Hoffman’s stick before Hoffman sniped a shot past Fleury to put the Sens up 1-0. Turris (4) and Burrows (5) were credited with the assists on the goal.

Although Hoffman’s goal came not even a minute into the game, Peter Regin’s franchise record for the fastest goal to start a playoff game in Senators’ history (18 seconds into Game 2 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals) went untouched.

Fleury took a shot off the mask before Methot found the puck in front of the goal for his 2nd goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at 10:34 of the 1st period. Methot’s goal gave Ottawa a 2-0 lead and kicked off a string of three goals in a span of 2:18 for the Senators. Bobby Ryan (7) and Brassard (7) were credited with the primary and secondary assists on Methot’s goal.

Brassard (4) took advantage of the fact that the Penguins couldn’t get the puck out of their own zone, resulting in a scoring chance Ryan, who fired a shot that was blocked by a Pittsburgh forward. Clarke MacArthur found the loose puck and slide it across the slot to the awaiting Brassard on the doorstep of the goal. Brassard easily made it 3-0 Ottawa, while MacArthur (5) and Ryan (8) celebrated the helpers on the goal at 12:28 of the 1st.

Almost 30 seconds later, Smith (1) notched his first of the postseason on a wraparound goal that forced Pittsburgh’s head coach, Mike Sullivan, to make a change in goal. Methot (2) and Erik Karlsson (12) had the assists on the goal that chased Fleury just 12:52 into the game. Murray took over for the Penguins in net, trailing 4-0.

Upon the completion of three goals in 2:18, the Senators had set a franchise record for the fastest three goals scored in a playoff game (Methot, Brassard and Smith in 2:18 of the 1st period). Martin Havlat, Radek Bonk and Shane Hnidy had previously held the record (three goals in a 4:00 span) in a 5-0 shutout over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on May 2, 2002.

After one period, Ottawa led 4-0 on the scoreboard and had dominated just about everything else, including a 74%-26% advantage in face-off wins over the Penguins.

Turris (4) added a goal of his own on a give-and-go rush with Hoffman with 1:42 remaining in the 2nd period. With a quick deke through the Penguins’ defense, Turris slid the puck past a desperate Murray. Hoffman (4) and Fredrik Claesson (2) were credited with the assists on Turris’s goal which made it a 5-0 game for the Senators.

Penalties amassed in the 2nd period, but none more than at the very end of the period, where Smith racked up a goaltender interference minor, Jean-Gabriel Pageau picked up a roughing call and Evgeni Malkin notched a roughing minor of his own. Despite it all, the Penguins would begin the 3rd period with a normal 5-on-4 power play.

In addition to the number of penalties adding up, yet another injury occurred in the series as Burrows left the game with a lower body injury sustained in the 2nd period and did not return. Patric Hornqvist, Bryan Rust and Justin Schultz were all kept out of the lineup for Game 3 as announced hours before puck drop due to injuries from the previous game.

The Senators were successful on the penalty kill to begin the 3rd period and were quickly thrust onto the power play when Matt Cullen was sent to the box for slashing at 2:19 of the 3rd. Ottawa was unable to convert on the man advantage and instead committed an infraction of their own moments later when Hoffman was called for tripping.

While on the power play, Pittsburgh’s Phil Kessel fired a shot towards Anderson that was redirected by Sidney Crosby and snuck through Anderson’s five-hole. Crosby (5) had ended Anderson’s shutout bid with a Penguins power play goal that was assisted by the red-hot (like a hot dog– okay, jokes aside, he’s been fantastic) Kessel (9) and Mark Streit (1).

Ottawa’s lead was now 5-1 with over 15 minutes left in regulation.

For the second game in a row, Malkin picked up a 10-minute misconduct in the closing minutes of the game after a scrum broke out with 1:56 to go in regulation. Mark Stone amassed two roughing minors, while Scott Wilson also received a minor penalty for roughing. Ryan served one of Stone’s roughing penalties as the Senators finished the game shorthanded.

With the 5-1 victory in Game 3, Ottawa now leads the series 2-1 heading into Game 4 on home ice on Friday. Puck drop at Canadian Tire Centre is scheduled for a little after 8 p.m. ET and the game will be televised nationally on NBCSN in the United States and on CBC, as well as TVA Sports, across Canada.

Some final stats from Game 3:

SOG 29-26 OTT, FO% 65-35 OTT, Blocked Shots 17-12 OTT, Hits 34-29 OTT, Giveaways 12-9 OTT, PP 0/4 OTT, 1/3 PIT

Finally, I’m just going to leave this here.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Second Round – May 3

For the first and second rounds of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writer is Connor Keith.

 

Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins – Game 4

With a 3-2 victory over the Capitals at PPG Paints Arena Wednesday, Pittsburgh has pulled within a win of advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals for the fifth time in the last decade.

After the events of Game 3, two things could have happened in this contest. The Penguins could have taken to the ice with intentions of revenge for Matt Niskanen unintentionally downing Sidney Crosby with at least the fourth concussion of his career, or they could let the scoreboard do the talking.

Since Mike Sullivan and his club still have intentions of hoisting the Stanley Cup for a second straight season, cooler heads prevailed and they decided on the latter option.

Of course, missing Crosby and Conor Sheary – both first-liners – will put a damper on the offense no matter how brilliant Jake Guentzel and Evgeni Malkin perform. That’s where First Star of the Game Marc-Andre Fleury comes in.

Just like he’s done for most of his appearances this postseason, the veteran goaltender posted another exemplary 60 minutes. Though the Capitals fired 38 shots at him, he saved all but two for a solid .947 save percentage.

As far as scoring is concerned, almost all the action – save Second Star Patric Hornqvist‘s (Olli Maatta and Matt Cullen) marker 4:39 into the game – occurred in the second period when the Capitals scored three goals.

Wait, three?

Officially recorded as Guentzel’s eighth goal of the playoffs, Dmitry Orlov started Washington’s scoring with his right skate at the 3:51 mark. It looks like he intended to catch the puck with his skate then collect with his stick, but the second half of his plan never came to fruition. Because of that, Guentzel’s shot deflected into Braden Holtby‘s net to set the score at 2-0.

But the Caps didn’t waste any time getting that goal back. First up was Third Star Evgeny Kuznetsov (Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson), who buried his wrist shot from the at the 7:21 mark to pull Washington back within a goal. Nate Schmidt (T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk) followed that marker up 72 seconds later to level the game at two-all with his first-ever postseason marker.

After Washington had tied the game at two-all, the Penguins defense clamped down. In the remaining 31:27 of play, they allowed only 17 shots to reach Fleury’s net. That effort was led in large part by Ian Cole, who blocked three Capitals shots in addition to his team-leading six hits by the end of the game.

With that in mind, it’s only fitting then that the game-winning goal belongs to one of Pittsburgh’s blueliners. Buried with 8:36 remaining in the second period, Justin Schultz (Malkin and Guentzel) banged home a power play slap shot over Holtby’s stick shoulder for the final tally of the contest.

The Capitals certainly had their chances to score at least one more goal in the third period to force overtime. They had all the momentum in the final frame and maintained possession in their offensive zone most of the time, but were done in by a questionable penalty with 1:52 remaining in regulation.

On initial look, it seemed like Oshie’s stick caught Nick Bonino in the face when they made contact in the far corner behind Fleury’s net. The penalty for that is, of course, a seat in the penalty box for hi-sticking.

But a replay later, the truth came out: the stick only caught Bonino’s shoulder – the eighth-year center sold/embellished/flopped (pick your favorite) to force the Caps to the penalty kill, effectively neutralizing any chance of an equalizer.

Of course, that’s only part of the story.

Guentzel actually suffered a hi-stick from Andre Burakovsky late in the third period that went uncalled, even though the officials knew he was bleeding.

And of course, this was all played out a year after this same narrative was played out by the exact same players. That time, Oshie was crossing Matt Murray’s crease and Bonino hit him in the chest in Game 5. Though a stick came nowhere near his face, Oshie threw his head back in faux pain to draw a penalty and force off elimination for one more game.

In either case, Penguins fans see the Oshie penalty as a makeup call.

Pittsburgh’s first opportunity to advance to the Conference Finals is scheduled for Saturday at 7:15 p.m. Eastern time at the Verizon Center. American viewers can look for Game 5 on NBC, while Canadians will be serviced by CBC, SN and TVAS.

 

Anaheim Ducks at Edmonton Oilers – Game 4

After trailing 2-0 – in more ways than one – the Ducks beat Edmonton 4-3 in overtime at Rogers Place to make their Western Conference Semifinals matchup a best-of-three series.

Third Star of the Game Drake Caggiula (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Patrick Maroon) did so well to tie the game with 102 seconds remaining in regulation. The rookie’s first postseason goal was struck only seconds after Cam Talbot was pulled for the extra attacker.

It was a typical grind-it-out style tally we’ve come to expect in the playoffs. He took advantage of John Gibson being unable to contain Nugent-Hopkins’ initial shot from the far face-off circle and collected the rebound to bury the puck over the netminder’s glove shoulder.

And only 2:27 of action later, it was all for naught.

Following intermission, the Ducks exploded onto the ice. Beyond Ryan Kesler losing the face-off to open overtime, Anaheim did not let the Oilers do anything else. 35 seconds into the fourth period, Adam Larsson tried to fire a puck at Gibson, but his shot was stopped by First Star Ryan Getzlaf.

Getzlaf maintained possession following the block and began Anaheim’s attack into the offensive zone by passing to a streaking Second Star Jakob Silfverberg. Silfverberg couldn’t take control of the puck and lost possession to Oscar Klefbom, who passed to Larsson.

Once again, Getzaf had other plans than letting the Oilers dump the puck into the neutral zone or start a counterattack. He intercepted Larsson’s pass and dished across the face-off circles to a waiting Silfverberg, who absolutely ripped a wrist shot past Talbot to end the game and level the series at two-all after losing both games at the Honda Center.

Making the Ducks’ victory all the more impressive is the fact that Edmonton effectively dominated the first period. Milan Lucic had the Oil riled up as they were hitting in the first period like it was going out of style. In total, Edmonton threw 37 hits before Silfverberg’s game-ending marker, led by both Zack Kassian and Lucic’s five blows apiece.

Lucic (Leon Draisaitl and Mark Letestu) was eventually rewarded for his physical play by scoring a power play goal with 4:22 remaining in the first period. Similar to Caggiula’s tally to force overtime, it was a hard-nosed goal struck from Gibson’s crease after he didn’t collect Draisaitl’s initial shot.

Only 2:05 after that, Connor McDavid (Draisaitl and Maroon) caught Gibson sprawled on the ice following a botched diving save to set the score at 2-0, the same score that read going into the first intermission.

Then Getzlaf happened.

The Ducks’ captain was involved in all four goals on the evening, starting with his first of two tallies only 97 seconds after the start of the second frame. After receiving a pass from Brandon Montour from the far point,  he rang home a wrister to pull Anaheim within a goal.

Unfortunately for him, that goal was slightly controversial. Talbot was not caught off-guard for this tally, but was instead fighting to see around Corey Perry.

Screens are perfectly legal in hockey, and a very effective way to produce goals. Perry rushed towards the crease from the far boards to act as one, but bounced off Larsson in the process. That slight change of direction changed his course from screening Talbot to making contact with Talbot.

The nudge was enough to force Talbot off his spot and the netminder immediately threw his hands up in frustration. That led Todd McLellan to quickly challenge the play. Though the officials deliberated for a few minutes, they ultimately decided to count the goal even though contact with the goaltender is clearly made.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think it should have counted. But then again, I don’t wear black-and-white stripes to hockey games.

The Ducks’ relentless, 21-shot attack in the second period continued 3:56 later when Rickard Rakell (Getzlaf and Perry) did his best tic-tac-goal off Getzlaf’s pass from the far post of Talbot’s net. Getzlaf passed across the crease to Rakell, who was waiting in the slot, and the right wing beat Talbot to the near post with his fast hands.

Getzlaf completed the surge on an unassisted slap shot  with 5:35 remaining in the frame for his seventh goal of the playoffs. Of all the goals the Oilers defense allowed in this contest, this is the one they want back the most.

After Talbot had saved Rakell’s initial wrist shot from the slot, Nugent-Hopkins had the puck on his stick near the far corner of the crease. Instead of quickly dumping the puck to allow his team to fight another day, he remained motionless and looked for a pass to start a counterattack. Getzlaf took advantage and attacked the puck through Nugent-Hopkins’ stick to bury it five-hole.

With hosts in this series having yet to successfully defend home ice, these remaining three games will be must-see TV.

Speaking of, the pivotal Game 5 is set for Friday at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time at the Honda Center. Residents of the United States will find the contest on NBCSN, while Canadians should tune to either SN or TVAS.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Second Round – April 29

For the first and second rounds of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writer is Connor Keith.

 

 

 

 

 

New York Rangers at Ottawa Senators – Game 2

With four goals from First Star of the Game Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Ottawa won 6-5 in a wild double-overtime contest to take a two-game lead in its Eastern Conference Semifinals series against the Rangers.

Many a young boy in Ottawa dreams of playing for the Senators when he grows up. Not many get that opportunity. Even fewer get to play with the Sens in the playoffs.

Pageau joined that select list in 2013, but he’s created a list all his own by playing arguably the best game of his professional career to lead his hometown team to a come-from-behind victory.

His day started early, but then again, so did the Rangers. Only 4:16 after puck drop, Michael Grabner (Jesper Fast) scored a shorthanded snap shot to give the Blueshirts an early lead. Pageau seemed to take exception to that, so he leveled the game at one-all with 6:01 remaining in the frame.

Then came New York’s big period. With the exception of Marc Methot‘s (Mike Hoffman and Ben Harpur) snapper with six minutes remaining in the frame, the Rangers dominated the second period by scoring three goals in 5:12. First up was Chris Kreider (Mika Zibanejad and Ryan McDonagh), who scored a wrist shot at the 10:39 mark. 2:31 later, Derek Stepan (Rick Nash) buried a shorthanded wrister on Craig Anderson. Finally, with 4:09 remaining in the frame, Third Star Brady Skjei (McDonagh and Zibanejad) banged home a wrister to set the score at 4-2 going into the second intermission.

Things were looking grim for the home fans, but Guy Boucher had just the right things to say to his club. That intermission pep talk led to Mark Stone (Second Star Dion Phaneuf and Fredrik Claesson) scoring a snapper just 88 seconds into the frame to pull Ottawa within a goal, but Skjei (Brendan Smith) was quick to reclaim a two-tally lead for the Rangers, burying a snapper of his own 3:42 later.

Skjei’s marker set the score at 5-3, the same differential that read when Pageau took control of the contest. The Senators’ comeback didn’t resume until 3:19 remained in regulation. That’s when the Ottawan scored his second goal (Zack Smith and Phaneuf) of the game on a deflected Smith shot.

62 seconds separated the Rangers from heading back to Manhattan with home-ice advantage, but once again Pageau had other ideas. With the sixth attacker, Kyle Turris took Erik Karlsson‘s pass from the near point to slam home a slap shot from Alex Ovechkin-land toward Henrik Lundqvist‘s net. The netminder probably would have been able to make the save if not for Pageau, who redirected the shot in mid-air to squeeze it between the far post and Lundqvist’s body.

Pageau has only registered one hat trick in his career before Saturday’s effort. It was on May 5, 2013 in Game 3 of the Senators’ Eastern Conference quarterfinals series with Montréal, only his third-ever playoff appearance.

But he’s never scored four goals in a game. Not in the postseason. Not in the regular season.

At least not until Saturday.

The brightest star on the ice decided enough overtime was enough after 22:54 of extra hockey. It was a breakaway goal that started in Anderson’s end. Alexandre Burrows beat Nick Holden to a loose puck at the far end of the goal line and cleared it into the neutral zone. Starting from the blue line, Pageau took chase and claimed possession near center ice along the far boards. Using Tommy Wingels – who entered the offensive zone with him – as a decoy, Pageau made Lundqvist commit to one or the other before cocking his snapper. Once he saw the netminder cash in on saving an attempt from Wingels, he fired his shot over Lundqvist’s glove to pull Ottawa within two victories of the Eastern Finals.

An extra day off has been included between Games 2 and 3, so Madison Square Garden will not come alive until 7 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, May 2. American hockey fans can watch that game on NBCSN, while Canadians will be serviced by CBC and TVAS.

 

Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals – Game 2

The Penguins’ offense showed no mercy in their 6-2 beat-down against Washington at the Verizon Center.

Though there were a firestorm of goals, none of them were struck in the first period. For Pittsburgh, it was Second Star of the Game Marc-Andre Fleury keeping the Capitals off the board, saving all 16 shots he faced in the opening 20 minutes. Meanwhile, it was an extremely physical attack from the Caps’ skaters that kept the Pens off-balance. Both John Carlson and T.J. Oshie were a big part of that effort, as they both ended the game with five hits apiece (Oshie threw two of his blows in the opening frame).

Nothing seems to get an offense humming quite like a shorthanded goal. That’s exactly what happened for the Penguins, as Matt Cullen capitalized on his steal at the blue line to score an unassisted wrist shot on Braden Holtby only 75 seconds into the second period. Though Matt Niskanen (Ovechkin and Third Star Nicklas Backstrom) did cash in on Jake Guentzel‘s hooking penalty to level the game, Pittsburgh’s offense was certainly cooking.

That became brutally apparent when First Star Phil Kessel (Sidney Crosby and Guentzel) and Guentzel (Crosby) scored within 3:10 of each other in the second half of the period. Kessel’s goal was a beautiful wrister to beat Holtby top shelf from the far face-off dot, but Guentzel’s was a low wrister that should have been an easy glove save for the reigning Vezina Trophy winner.

Due in part to Guentzel’s marker, Holtby was pulled for the third period in favor of Philipp Grubauer, the Capitals’ backup goaltender with only one previous game of NHL playoff action. Pair his lack of experience with Kevin Shattenkirk sending the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty, and it’s no wonder Kessel (Justin Schultz and Evgeni Malkin) was able to score a power play wrister only 2:19 into the final frame to set the score at 4-1.

Once again Washington had a response to the Pens’ first goal of the period – a wrister courtesy of Backstrom (Ovechkin and Oshie) – but the Capitals couldn’t close the gap any further. 107 seconds after Backstrom’s tally, Malkin (Ian Cole and Kessel) tipped-in his goal that all but ended any chance of a Washington comeback.

Guentzel (Matt Cullen and Olli Maatta) tacked on an empty netter with 43 seconds remaining in the game for his seventh of the postseason.

You could’ve heard a pin drop in the Verizon Center after Malkin’s goal. It fell quiet as fans watched a team destined for greatness begin to lose its edge in the second round of the playoffs.

The Capitals will face an uphill battle if they want to qualify for the Eastern Finals for the first time since 1998. Pittsburgh needs only two more victories to close the series, and it will have three home game opportunities to do just that.

The series will resume at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Penn. with Game 3 on Monday, May 1 at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time. Residents of the United States can watch that game on NBCSN, while Canadians will be able to choose between CBC or TVAS.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round– April 18

For at least the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writer – unless noted otherwise – is Nick Lanciani.

Unknown-1 New York Rangers Logo

Montreal Canadiens at New York Rangers— Game 4

For the first time in the last seven home playoff games, the New York Rangers won at Madison Square Garden. Tuesday night’s victory was a 2-1 triumphant win over the visiting Montreal Canadiens and tied the series with the Habs, 2-2. Rick Nash recorded just his second career game winning goal in his 69th Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance.

Henrik Lundqvist had 23 saves on 24 shots against for a .958 save percentage in the win for New York, while Carey Price made 30 saves on 32 shots against for a .938 SV% in the loss for the Canadiens.

After struggling to score until it was too late in Game 3, New York struck first in Game 4 on home ice. Jesper Fast (1) notched his first of the 2017 postseason on an unassisted goal at 11:39 of the 1st period to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.

Almost seven minutes later, Canadiens forward, Torrey Mitchell (1) fired one past a sprawling Henrik Lundqvist as Montreal caught New York on a poorly executed line change. Shea Weber (2) and Alexander Radulov (4) were credited with the primary and secondary assists on the goal that tied the game, 1-1 at 18:37 of the 1st period.

Nash (2) continued to show his impressive hands in the series with his backhand-through-the-five-hole goal that would become the eventual game winning goal at 4:28 of the 2nd period. Ryan McDonagh (2) recorded the sole assist on Nash’s goal.

With the win, the series now effectively becomes a best-of-three games scenario. Game 5 is scheduled for Thursday night at Bell Centre in Montreal. Puck drop will be a little after 7 p.m. ET and the game can be viewed on USA in the United States, as well as CBC and TVA Sports in Canada.

pittsburgh_penguins_logoColumbus Blue Jackets Logo

Pittsburgh Penguins at Columbus Blue Jackets— Game 4

By: Connor Keith

With a 5-4 victory over the Penguins, Columbus avoided elimination from its Eastern Conference Quarterfinal and pulled the series to a two-game, 3-1 deficit.

Many coaches – regardless of sport – prescribe to some variation of the theory that winning the game is all about winning a majority of the smaller time increments. Be it three quarters in football or two periods in hockey, the mentality seems to make sense (of course, don’t tell that to Monday’s four blown two-goal leads).

With that strategy in mind, it would seem that Columbus earned its first victory of the postseason in the first period, as the Blue Jackets owned a 2-0 lead over the visiting Penguins going into the first intermission. With 8:14 remaining in the frame, it was Jack Johnson (David Savard) drawing first blood by burying a snap shot from the top of the near face-off circle by way of bouncing the puck off Sidney Crosby’s right skate. That right skate would prove to be important in quite a few plays in this game, but more on that later.

Josh Anderson (First Star of the Game William Karlsson and Kyle Quincey) took credit for the other goal, a snapper buried with 64 seconds remaining before the first scheduled game break. He raced up the near side of the offensive zone right to Marc-Andre Fleury’s doorstop to squeeze the puck five-hole.

Though Pittsburgh won the second period, it was not before Second Star Markus Nutivaara (Third Star Boone Jenner and Brandon Saad) was able to give the Jackets a three-goal shutout lead. 4:45 into the contet, Fleury blocked the rookie’s first shot of the game, followed two seconds later by Jenner collecting the rebound and firing a shot of his own from the top of the far face-off circle. That too was saved by the experienced netminder, but Fleury couldn’t stop the next one: a Nutivaara snapper shot from far corner of the crease.

Only 1:55 later, the postseason’s best offense finally got on the board thanks to a Patric Hornqvist power play snapper. Officially, the assists belong to Justin Schultz and Phil Kessel, though I think the scorebook should be altered to read Crosby and Schultz. The Penguins went to work quickly after Quincey was sent to the sin bin for interfering with Evgeni Malkin at the 5:29 mark. Schultz fired a slap shot from the blue line towards the far post, but his attempt found a different metal object. That’s right, Crosby’s right skate once again came into play, as the shot banked off his foot and towards Bobrovsky’s crease. The puck lost a lot of speed off the deflection, which gave Hornqvist the opportunity reach out and bang it home.

Over his 14 years in the NHL, there have been a few things missing from Ron Hainsey’s career. One of those was accomplished in Game 1, as he made his first appearance in the postseason. Another box was checked with 3:36 remaining in the second period when he registered his first goal (Kessel and Malkin) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After receiving a Kessel pass in the near corner, he pulled Pittsburgh within a one-goal deficit by burying a snapper five-hole from the near face-off circle.

It seems Karlsson took offense to the Pens winning the second period because he came out of the dressing room after the intermission at the top of his game. First, he won the opening face-off of the third period, followed 11 seconds later by a wicked snap shot Fleury barely managed to save. Karlsson tried to put another shot on net 25 seconds into the game, but that one was blocked by Ian Cole into the glass.

The third time was the charm, though his stick wasn’t the last thing to touch the scoring shot. Karlsson collected the puck sent behind Fleury’s crease from Cole’s block and began a wrap-around fade-away goal towards the far post. In the extremely short time between the center’s backhanded shot leaving his stick and entering the crease, it looks like Crosby’s right skate barely touches the puck to alter its course enough beat Fleury’s right pad.

The Jackets had one more goal in them too, courtesy of a Jenner (Saad and Nutivaara) tip-in that proved to be the game-winner. Saad did much of the work, firing an initial snap shot from the near slot right at Fleury’s chest that the goalie was not able to catch. The rebound came right back to his stick, which the left wing tried to poke towards the far post. He succeeded in doing just that, but three Penguins skaters were in the crease to try to help their off-balance netminder. That’s why Jenner completed the play. His stick was the first to touch the puck, and he made sure it was also the last.

Pittsburgh was able to hold serve throughout the third frame, but I watch enough tennis to know that holding serve is not enough to win when trailing. 103 seconds after Karlsson scored his backhander, Tom Kuhnhackl (Matt Cullen and Cole) scored a snap shot and Jake Guentzel (Kessel and Malkin) was able to convert a shorthanded snapper of his own with the extra attacker with 28 seconds remaining in regulation, but it was too little too late to prevent a Game 5.

In essence, the Jackets did everything right to continue their season, due in part to playing with house money. Alexander Wennberg dominated at the dot by winning two-thirds of his face-offs. Nick Foligno led the team to 27 hits with his five blows. Quincey registered four of Columbus’ 19 shot blocks. But maybe the most impressive stat is the fact that the Jackets only gave the puck away twice to a team trailing for almost the entire game.

The Jackets had little to lose Tuesday night, but they’ll face a far tougher test in Game 5 when the series transitions back to PPG Paints Arena where the Penguins will have all intentions of advancing to the Eastern Semifinals. That contest will drop the puck at 7 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday and may be viewed on NHL Network stateside or SN and TVAS2 if in Canada.

Unknown-5 Unknown

Edmonton Oilers at San Jose Sharks— Game 4

If you’re an Oilers fan, avert your eyes from looking at the score for a moment and I’ll give you a quick recap. Edmonton lost.

If you’re a Sharks fan, well then the rest of this is for you…

Six San Jose Sharks players recorded multiple points in Tuesday night’s 7-0 shutout victory over the visiting Edmonton Oilers at SAP Center. Joe Pavelski (2-1=3 totals), Patrick Marleau (1-1=2), Logan Couture (0-2=2), Joel Ward (0-2=2), Brent Burns (0-3=3) and David Schlemko (1-1=2) all had two or more points en route to the win in Game 4.

Martin Jones amassed 23 saves in the shutout win, which— coincidentally— was the same number of saves Edmonton goaltender, Cam Talbot, had in his shutout victory in Game 3. In fact, Game 4 marked the third shutout in a row in the series.

Talbot made 19 saves on 24 shots against for a .792 save percentage in 32:52 time on ice before being replaced by Laurent Brossoit. Brossoit went on to stop six out of the eight shots on net he faced in the remaining 27:08 of regulation.

Pavelski (1) kicked off scoring 15 seconds into the game with his first of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs on a redirected shot from Justin Braun. Braun (1) and Marleau (1) were credited with the assists on the goal that made it 1-0 Sharks.

Couture (1) added his first of the postseason at 11:02 of the 1st period with the first of four power play goals on the night for San Jose. Pavelski (2) and Burns (1) had the assists on Couture’s goal.

Marleau (1) opened up 2nd period scoring with a wrist shot that beat Talbot’s glove side 2:02 into the period on another power play for the Sharks. Burns (2) had the only assist on the goal and his second of three assists on the night.

Marcus Sorensen (1) found the twine and made it 4-0 in favor of San Jose almost halfway into the 2nd frame of the game. The goal was Sorensen’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal and the helpers went to Schlemko (1) and Ward (1) at 9:46 of the 2nd period.

Oilers head coach, Todd McLellan, did not pull Talbot in favor of Brossoit until he absolutely had to, which was apparent after Couture (2) scored his second goal of the night 12:52 into the 2nd. Jannik Hansen (1) and Ward (2) collected the assists on the goal that had made it a 5-0 game. Edmonton had let their starting netminder down.

With Brossoit in goal it only took a little less than four minutes before Pavelski (2) hit the back of the net on a rush to the goal for the third power play goal of the night. Burns (3) and Joe Thornton (1) were given the assists on Pavelski’s second goal of the night.

After a four goal outburst in the 2nd period, the Sharks took a 6-0 lead into the 2nd intermission.

But they wouldn’t let off the gas pedal in the 3rd period.

Almost seven minutes into the final frame of regulation, Schlemko (1) registered his first goal of the postseason on another San Jose power play. Tomas Hertl (2) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (3) assisted on the Sharks’s fourth power play goal of the night at 6:45 of the 3rd period.

The final horn sounded after 60 minutes of play and the Sharks had beaten the Oilers 7-0 and the series was tied 2-2.

In a now best-of-three battle, Game 5 is scheduled for Thursday night in Edmonton and can be viewed across the United States on NBCSN and on Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada. Puck drop is set for a little after 10:30 p.m. ET.

Of note, San Jose set or tied four postseason franchise records in Game 4’s victory.

The San Jose Sharks won by a touchdown (plus a PAT) and Jerry Rice was in the building. Coincidence? I think not.

2017 NHL Trade Deadline Preview: Metropolitan Division

Washington Capitals Logo1. Washington Capitals– 39-12-7 (85 points, 58 GP)

Don’t let the sluggish return from their bye week fool you, the Washington Capitals are the league’s best team, as is customary in the regular season. The competition for this year’s President’s Trophy remains fierce between the Minnesota Wild, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington, but the Capitals will more than likely pull away with yet another President’s Trophy, unless they want to let the Wild take it this year and deal with the President’s Trophy curse in the playoffs.

Washington is tight on the salary cap as they approach the trade deadline, though it would be unwise to unload salary at this point, with plenty of pending free agents to re-sign, as well as the expansion draft in June. If anything, the Capitals could make a move to acquire some depth or replenish some draft picks, should they decide it’s time to do a little restocking of prospects in Hershey.

Potential assets to trade: F Daniel Winnik, D Brooks Orpik

Potential assets to acquire: F Radim Vrbata (ARI), D Joe Morrow (BOS), D Taylor Fedun (BUF), F Jarome Iginla (COL), D Johnny Oduya (DAL), F Thomas Vanek (DET), D Nick Jensen (DET), D Adam Pardy (NSH), D Yannick Weber (NSH), F Patrik Berglund (STL), F Scottie Upshall (STL), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL)

pittsburgh_penguins_logo2. Pittsburgh Penguins– 36-14-8 (80 points, 58 GP)

The defending Stanley Cup champions are right where they want to be this time of year. The Pittsburgh Penguins are well on their way to returning to the playoffs comfortably with much of the roster from last season still intact. Of course, there’s always the pressing question of when will they trade Marc-Andre Fleury?

With the Vegas Golden Knights joining the league and the expansion draft coming up in June, the Penguins are bound to lose an exceptional player. It could be one of their goaltenders– Matt Murray, since Fleury would have to automatically be protected– or Pittsburgh could save their future in goal by moving Fleury ahead of time. Plenty of teams are in the market for a solidified starting goaltender.

Other than that, the Pens won’t be active on March 1st. They’ll be buying some depth in the form of a rental player or two, but they won’t be moving much to attain someone they’ll likely pass on come July 1st (unless they’re replacing Chris Kunitz and/or Matt Cullen– both of whom are pending unrestricted free agents).

Potential assets to trade: F Eric Fehr, D Cameron Gaunce, D Steve Oleksy, G Marc-Andre Fleury

Potential assets to acquire: F Shane Doan (ARI), F Martin Hanzal (ARI), F Radim Vrbata (ARI), G Anders Nilsson (BUF), F Jarome Iginla (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), D Johnny Oduya (DAL), F Thomas Vanek (DET), G Jaroslav Halak (NYI), F Patrik Berglund (STL), F Scottie Upshall (STL), G Carter Hutton (STL), F Brian Boyle (TB), G Ryan Miller (VAN), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)

Columbus Blue Jackets Logo3. Columbus Blue Jackets– 37-16-5 (79 points, 58 GP)

The Columbus Blue Jackets are next to impossible to figure out. They went on an insane 16-game winning streak earlier this season and followed it up with a bit of a decline as of late, but it appears as though head coach, John Tortorella, has righted the ship again.

Taking a look at the Blue Jackets roster, there’s a lot of youth and not that much that you’d want to give up (unless a deal that was too good to pass up presented itself, a la the Brandon Saad trade with the Chicago Blackhawks after Chicago’s 2015 Stanley Cup championship). Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen would certainly love to add to his roster without subtracting, if he can. It seems like it would never happen, but the Blue Jackets are buyers on March 1st.

Potential assets to trade: F Matt Calvert, umm, draft picks, I guess…

Potential assets to acquire: F Martin Hanzal (ARI), F Radim Vrbata (ARI), D Michael Stone (ARI), F Matt Duchene (COL), F Jarome Iginla (COL), F Patrick Eaves (DAL), F Patrick Sharp (DAL), D Dennis Seidenberg (NYI), G Jaroslav Halak (NYI), F Patrik Berglund (STL)

New York Rangers Logo4. New York Rangers– 38-19-1 (77 points, 58 GP)- currently the first Wild Card in the Eastern Conference 

The New York Rangers are in a bit of a predicament thanks to the current qualifying format for the Stanley Cup Playoffs (someone should probably fix that– and it’s an easy fix, just go back to the 1-8 seeding).

But for all of the nonsense that is the playoff format, the Rangers really don’t have that much to worry about at the end of the day. They should try to add if they can, but they’re neither huge buyers nor are they sellers on March 1st and well, given how past years have gone, that still doesn’t do too much to help Henrik Lundqvist, but it’s a sensible strategy this season.

While New York’s defense is aging, there really aren’t that many solid options they could utilize in a top-4 position. Although, adding a depth defenseman usually isn’t a bad idea in the long run (to the Stanley Cup Final, that is). The Rangers should be really active in the offseason, if we’re being honest.

Potential assets to trade: F Tanner Glass, D Steven Kampfer, D Kevin Klein

Potential assets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), F Radim Vrbata (ARI), D Kevan Miller (BOS), D Joe Morrow (BOS), D Michael Stone (ARI), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL)

New York Islanders Logo5. New York Islanders– 27-21-10 (64 points, 58 GP)

Something’s in the water in New York, and I’m not just talking about the usual suspect– the Hudson River. No, I’m talking about whatever it is assistant GM– turned interim head coach– Doug Weight has been feeding his players.

The New York Islanders have been on the rise since they looked dead in the water. They’re bound to make some marginal moves on March 1st, but nothing like whatever move they might end up having to make because of the looming pressure of being kicked out of Barclays Center/ wanting out on their own/ the eventual “mutual agreement” that will probably come by 2019.

If they can add without subtracting too much, the Islanders will be looking for as much as they can get to offset some of the awful contracts they signed in the offseason (most notably the Andrew Ladd deal).

Potential assets to trade: F Josh Bailey, F Ryan Strome, D Thomas Hickey, D Dennis Seidenberg, G Jaroslav Halak

Potential assets to acquire: F Radim Vrbata (ARI), F Ryan Spooner (BOS), D Joe Morrow (BOS), F Andrew Desjardins (CHI), F Matt Duchene (COL), F Jiri Hudler (DAL), D Johnny Oduya (DAL), F Thomas Vanek (DET), D Jonas Brodin (MIN), F Curtis Lazar (OTT), F Patrik Berglund (STL), F Scottie Upshall (STL), F Brian Boyle (TB), F Valtteri Filppula (TB), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)

Philadelphia Flyers Logo6. Philadelphia Flyers– 28-24-7 (63 points, 59 GP)

With the way things work in the new NHL, nobody’s really out of the playoff picture, except for the Colorado Avalanche. The Philadelphia Flyers have a plethora of youth and could be the team that just might be on the verge of making a serious run in another year or two. Until then, they’re a little cap strapped.

But this season it’s a mixed bag at the trade deadline for the Flyers.

They should use the chance to dump some bad contracts on the blue line and do a little retooling with their group of forwards. They have a team that’s built for the future, but they’re lacking the right glue guys currently. Besides, it might do them good to finally commit to a goaltender.

Potential assets to trade: F Boyd Gordon, F Matt Read, F Jordan Weal, D T.J. Brennan, D Andrew MacDonald, D Nick Schultz, D Mark Streit, G Steve Mason

Potential assets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), F Martin Hanzal (ARI), F Radim Vrbata (ARI), D Michael Stone (ARI), G Jaroslav Halak (NYI), F Curtis Lazar (OTT), G Andrew Hammond (OTT), F Patrik Berglund (STL), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), F Ondrej Palat (TB), G Ben Bishop (TB), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)

New Jersey Devils Logo7. New Jersey Devils– 25-24-10 (60 points, 59 GP)

After acquiring Taylor Hall in the offseason from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Adam Larsson, the New Jersey Devils have found themselves on the outside looking in, despite perhaps making a steal of a trade from the 2016 offseason. Of course, one player does not make up an entire team.

New Jersey took on the contract of Marc Savard’s to help get them to the cap floor and that’ll be coming off the books on July 1st, unless they look to trade his contract to a team that’s selling and selling everything (like the Colorado Avalanche, for example). The Devils are by no means out of the playoff hunt and are likely to be dark horses at the trade deadline this year as buyers who are willing to part with some components in order to land bigger components.

General manager, Ray Shero, is destined to replenish New Jersey’s talent pool a lot sooner rather than later, at least compared to how the previous GM ran the team.

Potential assets to trade: F Jacob Josefson, D Ben Lovejoy, D John Moore, G Keith Kinkaid

Potential assets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), F Radim Vrbata (ARI), D Joe Morrow (BOS), F Matt Duchene (COL), F Jarome Iginla (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), F Tomas Jurco (DET), F Tomas Plekanec (MTL), G Jaroslav Halak (NYI), F Patrik Berglund (STL), F Scottie Upshall (STL), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG), G Ondrej Pavelec (WPG)

Carolina Hurricanes Logo8. Carolina Hurricanes– 24-23-8 (56 points, 55 GP)

After playing a game of money puck, the Carolina Hurricanes find themselves in dead last in the Metropolitan Division so far this season, despite being nine points out of a wild card spot in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Now, there’s nothing wrong with taking the money puck approach, provided you have the right mix of players and, well, aren’t trying to do so in the most dominant division in the league. Oh, wait.

The Hurricanes are a young team that should be getting better with time, only time will tell. Things haven’t looked so good since the 2009 Eastern Conference Final and especially with the decline in attendance, maybe we’re better off talking about potential cities to relocate to instead of potential transactions to be made by March 1st?

Potential assets to trade: F Jay McClement, F Andrej Nestrasil, F Jeff Skinner, F Viktor Stalberg, F Lee Stempniak, F Derek Ryan, D Justin Faulk

Potential assets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), D Shea Theodore (ANA), F Matt Duchene (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), F Ryan Strome (NYI), F Brandon Pirri (NYR), F Curtis Lazar (OTT), F Patrik Berglund (STL), F Scottie Upshall (STL)

October 20 – Day Nine – Rematch, Vol. I

Get ready for a wild ride tonight, because there’s going to be a lot of hockey action tonight. Pucks start dropping at 7 p.m. eastern (New Jersey at Boston, Anaheim at Philadelphia and San Jose at Pittsburgh), followed half an hour later by another trio of games (Arizona at Montréal [RDS/SN360], Colorado at Tampa Bay and Washington at Florida). Toronto visits Minnesota at 8 p.m., followed 30 minutes later by Los Angeles at Dallas. 9 p.m. marks the beginning of two games (Carolina at Calgary and St. Louis at Edmonton) followed by this evening’s nightcap an hour later: Buffalo at Vancouver (SN360). All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Anaheim at Philadelphia: With the Flyers‘ first home game of the season, it’s the first time they’re sporting their new threads honoring their 50th anniversary.
  • San Jose at Pittsburgh: You know, it’s just a Stanley Cup rematch. No big deal (or, as the kids put it, NBD).
  • St. Louis at Edmonton – Traded only five days before the season, Nail Yakupov returns to Edmonton, where he spent his first four seasons.

Let’s get real. There’s only two Stanley Cup rematches a year. This being the first one, we have to give it our attention. Sorry Philly and Yakupov.

UnknowntIMcw8ylThe San Jose Sharks enter the night with a 3-1-0 record, with their lone loss occurring three days ago in Madison Square Garden, falling 7-4 to the Rangers.

Other than that lone blemish, the Sharks have picked up right where they left off a few months ago. San Jose has scored exactly as many goals as they’ve given up (12), but excluding the score-fest in New York, the Sharks are +3, which would tie them for the third best mark in the league. Defenseman Brent Burns has led the Sharks‘ scoring, notching three goals and five assists for eight points.

Their opposition also only has only one regulation loss on their record, due in part to playing goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury two times in as many days and three times in four days. That’s far from the only reason though. They failed to find the back of the net once against Montréal Tuesday 4-0.

Similar to San Jose, if you exclude their lone debacle of the season, the Penguins would have a +1 goal differential on the season. Matt Cullen, Evgeni Malkin and Conor Sheary have all scored one goal and two assists for three points on the young season, but Sheary is currently questionable after sustaining a bruise around his eye in Montréal.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s contest include Pittsburgh‘s Fleury (two wins [tied for seventh-most in the league] on a .914 save percentage [ninth-best in the NHL]) and San Jose‘s Burns (eight points [leads the NHL] on five assists [tied for the league-lead] and three goals [tied for sixth-most in the NHL]), Martin Jones (two wins [tied for third-most in the league]), Joe Pavelski (four assists [tied for seventh-best in the NHL]) and Joe Thornton (five assists [tied for the league-lead]).

Bets look to be off with most books in Vegas, which should only prove the expected quality of this game. The only reason I give the Penguins the edge in this contest is due to them having home ice. Then again, seeing that banner might give San Jose just the motivation they need. We’ll have to watch and see.

Hockey Birthday

  • Mikhail Shtalenkov (1965-) – The Russian goaltender spent seven seasons in the NHL, most of which were spent with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.  He had a career save percentage of 89.8%.
  • Colin Wilson (1989-) – This marks Wilson’s eighth professional season, all of which spent with the Nashville Predators. Last season, the center scored his 200th NHL point on March 24 against the Canucks.

Yesterday’s Game of the Day was our second 5-4 overtime thriller of the season. Go figure that one included Auston Matthews and the Maple Leafs too, and just like last time, it was the home squad – the Winnipeg Jets in this case- that rose to the occasion in sudden death.

Mike Babcock and the Leafs will be kicking themselves after this one. They scored both goals in the first frame, starting with Connor Carrick‘s (James van Riemsdyk and Mitchell Marner) 6:46 after dropping the puck. Third Star of the Game Nazem Kadri (Morgan Rielly and Milan Michalek) takes credit for the second tally with 3:48 remaining in the frame.

Three more goals were scored in the second period, and two belonged to Toronto. William Nylander‘s (Matthews and Nikita Zaitsev) wrister found the back of Michael Hutchinson‘s net 6:47 after resuming play, followed eight seconds later by a goal from Kadri (Nylander and Leo Komarov) to set the score at 4-0. Tyler Myers (Second Star Mark Scheifele and Shawn Matthias) scored the Jets’ first goal with 6:56 remaining in the frame before the squads returned to their dressing rooms.

As good as the Maple Leafs‘ first period was, Winnipeg’s third was better. Only a minute after returning to the ice, First Star Patrik Laine (Dustin Byfuglien and Scheifele) pulled the score to 4-2 with a wrister. Scheifele (Josh Morrissey and Drew Stafford) followed that 5:05 later with his third score of the season to pull the Jets within one.  55 seconds before what could have been the final horn, Laine (Nikolaj Ehlers) struck again with a snap shot to force three-on-three overtime.

Overtime lasted only 2:40 before Laine (Byfuglien) completed the first hat trick of his career with a wrister past Frederik Andersen to secure the victory.

Hutchinson earns the victory after saving 36-of-40 (90%), while Andersen takes the overtime loss, saving 29-of-34 (85.3%).

With that victory, Winnipeg improves the home team’s record to 7-3-1 in the DtFR Game of the Day series, leading the roadies by four points.

October 18 – Day Seven – Condon can’t escape the Canadiens

In yesterday’s Battle of the Undefeateds, it was the Colorado Avalanche that took the overtime victory in Pittsburgh.

If you like offense, these opening 20 minutes were for you. Four goals were scored, but the opening period ended tied at 2-2. Phil Kessel (Kris Letang and Nick Bonino) opened the scoring 8:57 after the opening puck drop with a power play goal, followed 36 seconds later by Third Star of the Game Matt Cullen‘s (Chris Kunitz and Conor Sheary) first tally of the season. Pittsburgh‘s 2-0 lead lasted until 3:33 remained on the clock before ex-Penguin Jarome Iginla (Second Star Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie) pulled the Avs within one with a power play tally. Patrick Wiercioch (Rene Bourque and Fedor Tyutin) completed the comeback 1:23 later with a slap shot from the point.

After a scoreless second period, Pittsburgh reclaimed the lead 9:12 after beginning with a Trevor Daley (Cullen and Justin Schultz) power play slap shot, but it lasted only 4:16 before First Star Gabriel Landeskog (Mikhail Grigorenko and Erik Johnson) took advantage of a man-advantage of his own to force overtime.

Twenty-two seconds after returning to the ice after the completion of regulation, Landeskog (MacKinnon and Johnson) capped his two-point night with his second goal, giving the Avalanche the 3-2 overtime victory.

Calvin Pickard earns the victory after saving 28-of-31 (90.3%), while Marc-Andre Fleury takes the overtime loss after saving 27-of-31 (87.1%).

Although the Pens fell, the home teams still hold a one-point advantage over the roadies in the DtFR Game of the Day series with a 5-3-1 record.

On your way home from work, make sure to buy some batteries, because you’re going to need them for your remote tonight with a dozen games taking place. Three get started at the usual starting time of 7 p.m. (Anaheim at New Jersey, San Jose at the New York Islanders and Colorado at Washington), with another trio dropping the puck 30 minutes later (Pittsburgh at Montréal [SN360/TVAS], Arizona at Ottawa [RDS] and Florida at Tampa Bay). 8 p.m. brings with it two contests (Dallas at Nashville and Los Angeles at Minnesota) and Philadelphia at Chicago trails half an hour later on NBCSN. Another pair of games finds their starts at 9 p.m. (Buffalo at Calgary and Carolina at Edmonton) and St. Louis at Vancouver, this evening’s nightcap, gets going an hour later. All times eastern.

I’m torn between two games tomorrow, both involving the return of a player to his home stadium of a season ago. Although Jon Marchessault‘s return involves a rivalry, I’m more intrigued by Mike Condon presumably starting in the Bell Centre for the Penguins.  To the City of Saints we go!

pittsburgh_penguins_logoUnknown-1Montréal never intended for this contest to mean anything. Condon was supposed to remain in the Canadiens‘ system by clearing waivers after final roster cuts. He was supposed to be an IceCap.

It’s not like the Penguins had their eye on him either. That is to say, at least not until September 19, when Matt Murray broke his hand at the World Cup of Hockey. When they saw Condon was placed on waivers, they gobbled him up with a one-year, one-way contract as a better backup goaltending option than Filip Gustavsson, Tristan Jarry or Sean Maguire.

But that’s all in the past. With Fleury playing his third game in five days last night against the Avalanche, Condon is almost assured to be thrust back into the Montréal spotlight – one of the brightest in hockey – albeit wearing different colors.

Last season with the Habs, Condon went 21-25-6 – not bad for a rookie with a team with little morale playing in front of him. His .903 save percentage ranked 64th in the NHL for a 2.71 GAA. He has one career NHL shutout to his credit – his game in Tampa Bay on March 31.

His return to Montréal should be an interesting one. When Carey Price went down last season, he looked to be more than capable of manning the crease. It took him nine games – over a month of action – before he lost a game in regulation! But he eventually regressed to the rookie mean, having losing skids of nine, four (one in overtime) and five games. Perhaps he was thrust into the spotlight too quickly (although that was never the original plan in Montréal) and will improve as a backup over the next season or more, but his initial audition left much to be desired. For his sake, I hope Habs fans don’t give him too hard a time this evening.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Montréal‘s Nathan Beaulieu (+5 [sixth-best in the NHL]) and Al Montoya (.942 save percentage [tied for sixth-best in the league] for a 1.92 GAA [seventh-best in the NHL] and one win [tied for eighth in the league]) & Pittsburgh‘s Cullen (three points, two of which are helpers [both tied for team-lead]), Kessel (two goals [leads the team]), Evgeni Malkin (three points, two of which are assists [both tied for team-lead]) and Sheary (three points, two of which are helpers [both tied for team-lead]).

Montoya’s lone win of the season was in Buffalo against a team missing two of their top-four goalscorers from a season ago. Furthering that point, he gave up four goals in Ottawa two days later. I expect the Penguins‘ offense to be too much for the Canadiens to handle, regardless of their scoring success against Condon.

Hockey Birthday

  • Mike Antonovich (1951-) – Center Antonovich played only 87 games over four seasons in the NHL, most of which was with New Jersey. Instead, he predominantly spent his time in the now-defunct WHA, playing 486 games in that league.
  • Kjell Samuelsson (1958-) – Over 14 seasons, Samuelsson laced up the skates 813 times. The defenseman played almost 730 games for a Pennsylvanian team, but a majority of those (545, to be exact) were for Philadelphia.

October 17 – Day Six – Someone must lose

Up until last night, the Edmonton Oilers had been a fun, high-flying offense. Then Buffalo gave them a taste of their own medicine, beating them 6-2 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

2:37 after taking the ice for the first time this season, Kyle Okposo (Sam Reinhart and First Star of the Game Ryan O’Reilly) scored the first goal of the game, followed 4:37 later by O’Reilly (Okposo and Rasmus Ristolainen) doubling the Sabres‘ lead. The first period ended tied though, as Benoit Pouliot (Zack Kassian and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) and Milan Lucic (Third Star Leon Draisaitl and Jordan Eberle) scored 100 seconds apart before the first intermission.

Buffalo continued their trend of scoring twice a period in both the second and third frames. O’Reilly (Ristolainen and Cody Franson) takes credit for the winner, with Marcus Foligno (A), Second Star Brian Gionta (2G), Johan Larsson (A), Jake McCabe (A), Matt Moulson (G), O’Reilly (A) and Ristolainen (A) all participating in the three insurance tallies.

Robin Lehner earns the victory after saving 31-of-33 (93.9%) shots faced, while Cam Talbot takes the loss after saving 17-of-23 (73.9%). He was replaced with 10:04 to go by Jonas Gustavsson, who saved the lone shot he faced for no decision.

Although the road team won this time, the home squads still own a 5-3-0 record and a two-point lead over the roadies in the DtFR Game of the Day series.

We’ve got four games to choose from this evening, starting with two at 7 p.m. (San Jose at the New York Rangers [NHLN] and Colorado at Pittsburgh [SN1]). Ottawa visits Detroit half an hour later (RDSI), and the night starts to find its end at 8 p.m. with Boston at Winnipeg (TVAS). All times eastern.

I must admit, none of the games are extremely enticing. Ottawa at Detroit is the only contest between teams of the same conference, but the Red Wings would probably prefer we didn’t watch them right now. Although it is early in the season, Colorado at Pittsburgh is the lone game between undefeated teams, so we’ll head to the Steel City.

Unknown-1pittsburgh_penguins_logo

 

The Avalanche come to PPG Paints Arena owning an incredible 1-0-0 record. Their lone game so far this season was a 6-5 barn-burner against the Dallas Stars at the Pepsi Center. Tyson Barrie‘s then-unassisted insurance goal with 6:03 remaining in the game ended up being the game-winner Saturday night. Francois Beauchemin (2A), Joe Colborne (3G), Blake Comeau (A), Mikhail Grigorenko (A), Erik Johnson (A), Gabriel Landeskog (A), Nathan MacKinnon (G/A), Carl Soderberg (G), Patrick Wiercioch (A) and Nikita Zadorov (A) all participated in the scoring explosion.

In addition to their opening thriller against the Washington Capitals, the Penguins have also bested the Anaheim Ducks without leaving the comforts of home. Phil Kessel (Patric Hornqvist) takes credit for the game-winner 2:02 before the halfway point of the contest. Ian Cole (G), Matt Cullen (A), Trevor Daley (A), Chris Kunitz (A), Evgeni Malkin (A) and Conor Sheary (G) all earned the honor of being listed on the score sheet.

Some players to keep an eye on include Colorado‘s Colborne (three goals [tied for third-most in the league]) and Pittsburgh‘s Marc-Andre Fleury (two wins [tied for the league-lead] and a .948 save percentage [fifth-best in the NHL]).

Last season, Pittsburgh won both games against the Avalanche by a combined 8-5 score. It was the first time either team had swept the other since 2012, which capped a four-game winning streak by the Penguins over Colorado over the span of three seasons.

The Pens opened in Vegas favored at -155, and bettors have continued to bet against the visitors. Although the Avs outscored one of the most potent offenses from the comforts of home, I have a hard time believing they can duplicate that success against a Pittsburgh team with a better defense and goaltender. I pick the Pens to win by at least two goals.

Hockey Birthday

  • Francis Bouillon (1975-) – Bouillon played 776 games over 14 seasons in the NHL, 581 of which were with the Montréal Canadiens. Though only 5′ 8″,  Bouillon was always in the thick of things and helped the Habs  reach the playoffs six times during his tenure.

Lightning hold on for 4-3 win in Game 4, Series Tied 2-2

By: Nick Lanciani

Unknown-1The Tampa Bay Lightning had just enough in them by the third period to hold off a charging comeback from the Pittsburgh Penguins to win 4-3 in Game 4 of the 2016 Eastern Conference Final on home ice at Amalie Arena on Friday night.

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 35 saves on 38 shots faced for a .921 SV% en route to the victory, while Matt Murray made just 26 saves on 30 shots against before being replaced after the second period in the loss.

Murray’s replacement, Marc-Andre Fleury, made seven saves on seven shots faced in the third period.

Ryan Callahan kicked off the scoring with the second fastest playoff goal in franchise history for the Lightning, just 27 seconds into the first period on redirect. Victor Hedman fired a slap shot from the point that Callahan tipped past Murray for the goal, which was just his 2nd of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Hedman (8) and J.T. Brown (2) notched the primary and secondary assists.

Adam Hall had the fastest playoff goal for Tampa, 13 seconds into Game 2 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Final in Boston.

Carl Hagelin gave the Bolts their first power play of the night when he was sent to the penalty box for tripping Lightning forward, Alex Killorn, at 1:10 of the first period. Tampa was unable to convert on the power play.

The Lightning also failed to take advantage of another man advantage when the Penguins were penalized for too many men on the ice at 7:59 of the first period. Phil Kessel served the bench minor for Pittsburgh.

Andrej Sustr found the back of the net on a breakout for Tampa at 14:28 of the first period and gave the Bolts a 2-0 lead with his first goal of the playoffs. Nikita Kucherov (6) and Alex Killorn (7) picked up the primary and secondary assists on Sustr’s goal.

With two minutes left in the first period, Chris Kunitz and J.T. Brown got into a little bit of a shoving match that set the tone for the rest of the game. Both players received roughing minors and were sent to the locker room early to cool off before the first intermission commenced.

After twenty minutes, Tampa was leading 2-0.

Pittsburgh Penguins LogoThe second period began with a Pittsburgh power play just a little over two minutes into it. Kucherov was called for boarding on a hit that shook up Ian Cole for a minute or two, before he regained himself and continued to play the rest of the night.

The Penguins were unable to convert on the man advantage and failed again to do so when Jonathan Drouin was sent to the box for holding almost four minutes later.

At 11:38 of the 2nd period the whistle had blown on a delayed call against the Penguins, except Kris Letang continued to shoot the puck up the boards and into a passing by Drouin. Several Lightning players, including Drouin, were sure to let Letang know they did not appreciate the extracurricular effort.

As a result, Matt Cullen was sent to the box with the original infraction of holding and his friends Brian Boyle and Letang each took a trip to their respective boxes with him (Boyle for roughing, Letang for roughing and cross checking). Because Letang took two penalties at once, the Penguins were shorthanded for four minutes and the Lightning went to work on a lengthy power play opportunity.

Vasilevskiy had just denied a shorthanded breakaway with a huge save to keep it a 2-0 game, when the Bolts found a way to get going to the other side of the ice and start generating rebounds. Drouin found a rebound in the low slot, off of Murray, and sent it to the back of the twine to give Tampa a 3-0 lead with a power play goal. Drouin’s goal was his 4th of the postseason and 3rd of the series.

Ondrej Palat (5) and Hedman (9) were credited with the assists on the goal.

In a largely undisciplined second period, the Lightning again took another penalty when Alex Killorn tripped Evgeni Malkin with less than five minutes remaining in the period. Pittsburgh was unable to generate any successful offense on the ensuing power play.

Tyler Johnson added another goal for Tampa with what would become the game-winning tip-in goal at 17:48 of the 2nd period. An errant shot by Kucherov caught enough of Johnson to deflect past Murray to give the Lightning a 4-0 lead. Johnson’s goal was his 6th of the playoffs and was assisted by Kucherov (7) and Killorn (8).

With forty minutes in the books the Lightning were ahead 4-0 on the scoreboard and led in shots on goal (30-22), faceoff wins (23-22) and blocked shots (6-5). The Penguins led in hits (18-17) and giveaways (8-7) in what was a tight possession battle that had yet to translate on the scoresheet. Pittsburgh was 0/3 on the power play entering the second intermission and Tampa was 1/3.

Penguins head coach, Mike Sullivan, made the executive decision to replace Murray with the veteran— though back from an injury and yet to have seen much action in the playoffs— Marc-Andre Fleury after Murray allowed four goals through forty minutes of play.

Phil Kessel kick started the comeback attempt for the Pens with his 8th goal of the playoffs 1:18 into the 3rd period. Nick Bonino (11) and Brian Dumoulin (6) tallied the assists.

Evgeni Malkin scored his 4th goal of the postseason (his 1st of the series) just past the eleven minute mark at 11:13 of the third period to cut Tampa’s lead in half. Ian Cole picked up his 2nd assist of the playoffs on Malkin’s goal that made it a 4-2 game with plenty of time remaining.

Thirteen seconds after Malkin scored, the Lightning committed their last infraction as Killorn was guilty of tripping up Letang. The Penguins were once again, on the power play for the fourth time of the night and found a way to convert in its closing seconds.

Chris Kunitz notched his 3rd goal of the postseason on a pass from Justin Schultz at 13:08 of the third and brought Pittsburgh to within one. Schultz (2) and Conor Sheary (4) assisted on Kunitz’s goal. What had been a 4-0 lead for Tampa was now a nerve-wracking 4-3 battle.

With over a minute and a half remaining in the game, Sullivan motioned to Fleury to vacate his net and head for the bench in exchange for an extra attacker.

Facing desperation, Vasilevskiy stood tall in his net and picked up his first career playoff win that was not in a relief appearance for the Lightning. Tampa Bay had held off the momentum swinging Penguins in a raucous third period and tied the series 2-2.

What looked like it would be a blowout turned out to be a close 4-3 victory for Tampa and a hard fought battle for Pittsburgh. After sixty minutes, the Penguins finished the night leading in shots on goal (38-37), hits (29-27), faceoff wins (33-31) and giveaways (10-7), while the Lightning clung on to an advantage in takeaways (4-2) and in blocked shots (14-6). Both teams wrapped up the night 1/4 on the power play.

Game 5 is scheduled for Sunday night at 8:00 PM ET at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh. It can be seen on NBCSN for viewers in the United States and on CBC and TVA Sports in Canada.