Tag Archives: Tyler Johnson

Down the Frozen River Podcast #67- Offseason Extensions

Haim, Wimbledon, baseball and everything but hockey. The Original Trio explore many facets of the extensions that have been signed by players over the last couple of weeks including Carey Price, Connor McDavid and Martin Jones, as well as breakdown the Arizona Coyotes hiring of Rick Tocchet as head coach.

2017 NHL Expansion Draft: Protected Lists

30 of the NHL’s 31 teams submitted their protected lists on Saturday by 5 p.m. ET. The protected lists were made public at 10:30 a.m. ET (originally scheduled for 10 a.m.) on Sunday. Additionally, the available lists of players to choose from were released.

The Vegas Golden Knights will now spend the next few days constructing their roster, with the full reveal set for Wednesday night during the NHL Awards Ceremony at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

To recap, here’s all of the protected players:

Anaheim Ducks

Forwards: Andrew Cogliano, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry, Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, Antoine Vermette

Defensemen: Kevin Bieksa, Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm

Goaltender: John Gibson

Arizona Coyotes

Forwards: Nick Cousins, Anthony Duclair, Jordan Martinook, Tobias Rieder

Defensemen: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Goligoski, Connor Murphy, Luke Schenn

Goaltender: Chad Johnson

Boston Bruins

Forwards: David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Riley Nash, David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner

Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller

Goaltender: Tuukka Rask

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards: Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons, Evander Kane, Johan Larsson, Ryan O’Reilly, Kyle Okposo

Defensemen: Nathan Beaulieu, Jake McCabe, Rasmus Ristolainen

Goaltender: Robin Lehner

Calgary Flames

Forwards: Mikael Backlund, Sam Bennett, Micheal Ferlund, Michael Frolik, Johnny Gaudreau, Curtis Lazar, Sean Monahan

Defensemen: T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton

Goaltender: Mike Smith

Carolina Hurricanes

Forwards: Phillip Di Giuseppe, Elias Lindholm, Brock McGinn, Victor Rask, Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal, Teuvo Teravainen

Defensemen: Trevor Carrick, Justin Faulk, Ryan Murphy

Goaltender: Scott Darling

Chicago Blackhawks

Forwards: Artem Anisimov, Ryan Hartman, Marian Hossa, Tomas Jurco, Patrick Kane, Richard Panik, Jonathan Toews

Defensemen: Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook

Goaltender: Corey Crawford

Colorado Avalanche

Forwards: Sven Andrighetto, Blake Comeau, Matt Duchene, Rocco Grimaldi, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Nieto

Defensemen: Tyson Barrie, Erik Johnson, Nikita Zadorov

Goaltender: Semyon Varlamov

Columbus Blue Jackets

Forwards: Cam Atkinson, Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Scott Hartnell, Boone Jenner, Brandon Saad, Alexander Wennberg

Defensemen: Seth Jones, Ryan Murray, David Savard

Goaltender: Sergei Bobrovsky

Dallas Stars

Forwards: Jamie Benn, Radek Faksa, Valeri Nichushkin, Brett Ritchie, Antoine Roussel, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza

Defensemen: Stephen Johns, John Klingberg, Esa Lindell

Goaltender: Ben Bishop

Detroit Red Wings

Forwards: Justin Abdelkader, Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha, Frans Nielsen, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Henrik Zetterberg

Defensemen: Danny DeKeyser, Mike Green, Nick Jensen

Goaltender: Jimmy Howard

Edmonton Oilers

Forwards: Leon Draisaitl, Jordan Eberle, Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu, Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Defensemen: Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Andrej Sekera

Goaltender: Cam Talbot

Florida Panthers

Forwards: Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck

Defensemen: Aaron Ekblad, Alex Petrovic, Mark Pysyk, Keith Yandle

Goaltender: James Reimer

Los Angeles Kings

Forwards: Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar, Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli

Defensemen: Drew Doughty, Derek Forbort, Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin

Goaltender: Jonathan Quick

Minnesota Wild

Forwards: Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu, Nino Niederreiter, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Jason Zucker

Defensemen: Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter

Goaltender: Devan Dubnyk

Montreal Canadiens

Forwards: Paul Byron, Phillip Danault, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty, Andrew Shaw

Defensemen: Jordie Benn, Jeff Petry, Shea Weber

Goaltender: Carey Price

Nashville Predators

Forwards: Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, Calle Jarnkrok, Ryan Johansen

Defensemen: Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, P.K. Subban

Goaltender: Pekka Rinne

New Jersey Devils

Forwards: Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac

Defensemen: Andy Greene, John Moore, Mirco Mueller, Damon Severson

Goaltender: Cory Schneider

New York Islanders

Forwards: Andrew Ladd, Anders Lee, John Tavares

Defensemen: Johnny Boychuk, Travis Hamonic, Nick Leddy, Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock

Goaltender: Thomas Greiss

New York Rangers

Forwards: Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Mika Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello

Defensemen: Nick Holden, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal

Goaltender: Henrik Lundqvist

Ottawa Senators

Forwards: Derick Brassard, Ryan Dzingel, Mike Hoffman, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Zack Smith, Mark Stone, Kyle Turris

Defensemen: Cody Ceci, Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf

Goaltender: Craig Anderson

Philadelphia Flyers

Forwards: Sean Couturier, Valtteri Filppula, Claude Giroux, Scott Laughton, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek

Defensemen: Shayne Gostisbehere, Radko Gudas, Brandon Manning

Goaltender: Anthony Stolarz

Pittsburgh Penguins

Forwards: Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin

Defensemen: Brian Dumoulin, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Justin Schultz

Goaltender: Matt Murray

San Jose Sharks

Forwards: Ryan Carpenter, Logan Couture, Jannik Hansen, Tomas Hertl, Melker Karlsson, Joe Pavelski, Chris Tierney

Defensemen: Justin Braun, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Goaltender: Martin Jones

St. Louis Blues

Forwards: Patrik Berglund, Ryan Reaves, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Sobotka, Paul Stastny, Alexander Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko

Defensemen: Jay Bouwmeester, Joel Edmundson, Alex Pietrangelo

Goaltender: Jake Allen

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards: Ryan Callahan, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Ondrej Palat, Steven Stamkos

Defensemen: Braydon Coburn, Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman

Goaltender: Andrei Vasilevskiy

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards: Tyler Bozak, Connor Brown, Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov, Josh Leivo, Matt Martin, James van Riemsdyk

Defensemen: Connor Carrick, Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly

Goaltender: Frederik Andersen

Vancouver Canucks

Forwards: Sven Baertschi, Loui Eriksson, Markus Granlund, Bo Horvat, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Brandon Sutter

Defensemen: Alexander Edler, Erik Gudbranson, Christopher Tanev

Goaltender: Jacob Markstrom

Washington Capitals

Forwards: Nicklas Backstrom, Andre Burakovsky, Lars Eller, Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson

Defensemen: John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov

Goaltender: Braden Holtby

Winnipeg Jets

Forwards: Joel Armia, Andrew Copp, Bryan Little, Adam Lowry, Mathieu Perreault, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler

Defensemen: Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba

Goaltender: Connor Hellebuyck

March 16 – Day 148 – Now the East is wild

It’s Thursday once again, my favorite day of the week. There’s a dozen games taking place tonight, starting with five (Philadelphia at New Jersey [TVAS], Winnipeg at the New York Islanders, Nashville at Washington [NHLN], Minnesota at Carolina and Florida at Columbus [TVAS]) at 7 p.m. Another pair of contests (Chicago at Ottawa [RDS] and Toronto at Tampa Bay) drop the puck half an hour later, followed by Boston at Edmonton at 9 p.m. The West Coast gets involved at 10 p.m. with two matches (Dallas at Vancouver and Detroit at Arizona), followed half an hour later by tonight’s co-nightcaps: Buffalo at Los Angeles and St. Louis at San JoseAll times eastern.

Short list:

  • Philadelphia at New Jersey: It’s the second rivalry game in as many nights for the Flyers.
  • Toronto at Tampa Bay: Not only is it the return of Brian Boyle to Amalie Arena, but it’s also an important game in the race for the Eastern Conference’s second wildcard.
  • St. Louis at San Jose: These teams combined to create a thrilling six-game series for the Campbell Bowl last postseason.

To put things simply, there’s a lot on the line in the TorontoTampa game that we just can’t miss.

 

 

 

 

 

Although Philadelphia‘s victory over the Penguins last night gave the Flyers a bit of playoff hope, it’s really a three-team race for the Eastern Conference’s second wild card going into the final 14-ish games of the season.

After last night’s action, the Isles have a one-point lead on 10th-place Toronto, and win the regulation+overtime victories tiebreaker against ninth-place Tampa Bay.

To keep math simple in regards to how tonight’s featured matchup effects the standings, know this: As long as the Islanders don’t beat Winnipeg tonight, the winner of this game will move into the second wild card in the Eastern Conference – at least for a day.

Even if all three clubs finish the night with 78 points (that happens if the Isles and Lightning both fall in overtime), Toronto takes over eighth-place with a game in-hand. In that situation, New York and Tampa Bay would remain in the order they’re in right now, but fall a step in the standings.

Clear as mud? Good.

With the most to gain this evening, the Maple Leafs enter tonight’s game with a 31-23-14 record, which is already the most wins they’ve had since their 38-36-8 season in 2013-’14 (man, the East was stacked that year too). The main reason Toronto is having to work so hard for a playoff spot is due to its lackluster defense, which has allowed 198 goals against in 68 games –  the seventh-worst rate in the NHL.

More often than not, 27-15-13 Frederik Andersen has been the man between the pipes for the Leafs, and he’s done a better job than his .916 season save percentage and 2.73 GAA indicate. Although those statistics rank only (t)13th and (t)29th in the league, respectively, among the 37 goalies with at least 28 appearances, he’s performed well under the circumstances.

Those circumstances being, of course, a defense that allows 32.7 shots against per game, the third-highest rate in the entire NHL and worst among playoff hopefuls.

If there’s anything to get excited about regarding Toronto‘s defensive corps, its that Nikita Zaitsev, one of the seven rookies on the roster that gets regular playing time, is the leading shot blocker on the team, having registered 117 already this season. Not only will the 25-year-old continue to develop, but more high-class free agents will be attracted to Toronto this offseason to better bolster the blueline.

That being said, the Leafs‘ defense repeatedly shows they’re potential when they’re forced into a shorthanded situation. By rejecting 82.9% of opposing power plays, Toronto ranks eighth-best in the league on the penalty kill. Much of that credit belongs to Roman Polak, who leads the team with 31 shorthanded blocks.

Given the fact that the Maple Leafs drafted potentially the next greatest player in hockey (or at least the next greatest forward), it’s no surprise that they’re really, really good on the power play. What is surprising, though, is that it’s not Auston Matthews heading that attack. Instead, it’s fellow rookie William Nylander, whose team-leading 22 power play points have sparked a 23.5% penalty-conversion rate, the second-best mark in the NHL. Nazem Kadri has been responsible for a bunch of those goals – 11, to be accurate, which is the most in Toronto.

With arguably the most to lose tonight, Tampa Bay plays host this evening with a 34-26-9 record. Just like with Toronto, there is one main reason Tampa finds itself on the outside of playoff picture looking in – but it’s on the opposite end of the ice (or the same end, depending on how you look at it). Winners of their last four, the Lightning‘s biggest worry is offense, as they have managed only 187 goals this season – the 13th-fewest in the league.

No matter how hard Nikita Kucherov tries, he just can’t seem to pull the Bolts along. He’s having a solid season with his team-leading 69 points and 31 goals (both totals already career highs with 13 games to go), but his team simply will not follow him.

The fact that Tyler Johnson is the second-best forward on the team is all the proof I need: behind Kucherov, his 44 points and 19 goals are most in Tampa Bay. Those totals do not even break into the top-50 in the NHL. Simply put, more than one player needs to provide offense for a club to find true success, and I don’t trust Johnson to truly step up to fill that secondary role.

Of course, I can rail against the Bolts‘ offense all I want, but it’s hard to argue with a power play that is successful on 22.4% of attempts (fourth-best in the league). Kucherov is at the head of that attack too with his 14 goals, but it’s actually Victor Hedman who leads the team in power play points with 27 to his credit.

For division rivals (we’re using that term loosely right now), it’s surprising this is only the third meeting of the season between these two clubs. With both teams beating the other once this season, the Bolts have a slight edge in the series due to forcing overtime in their 3-2 loss on December 29 – the last time they met the Leafs.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Tampa Bay‘s Peter Budaj (seven shutouts [second-most in the league] and a 2.15 GAA [fifth-best in the NHL] for 28 wins [tied for ninth-most in the league]), Hedman (45 assists [tied for fourth-most in the NHL]) and Kucherov (31 goals for 69 points [both tied for eighth-most in the league]) & Toronto‘s Jake Gardiner (+25 [leads the team]), Mitch Marner (37 assists [leads the team]) and Matt Martin (254 hits [leads the team]).

With a -128 line, Vegas seems reasonably confident that the Lightning will pull out a victory this evening with home ice. I don’t feel as confident in that pick, since I believe Toronto‘s offense is superior to Tampa‘s defense. It’ll be a good contest, but I like to Leafs to earn the victory.

Hockey Birthday

  • Roger Crozier (1942-1996) – The first two years of this goaltender’s 14-year career were phenomenal. Making his debut in Detroit in the 1963-’64 season, he won the 1965 Calder Trophy on a 2.42 GAA, followed a year later by hoisting the Conn Smythe with seven shutouts.
  • Duane Sutter (1960-) – Players selected 17th-overall are expected to produce. By winning four Stanley Cups in a row for the Islanders, this right wing did just that. He marked 45 points in those four Cup runs, including 20 goals.
  • Riley Cote (1982-) – This right wing appeared in four NHL seasons – all with the Flyers. An enforcer by trade, he now earns his paycheck as an assistant coach with Philadelaphia‘s AHL farm team.
  • Brandon Prust (1984-) – Calgary selected this left wing 70th-overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, but his longest tenured team is the Rangers. He is still playing hockey professionally, but with Nürnberg in the DEL.

Scoring a goal every 10 minutes is usually a good way to earn a victory. That’s what the Bruins did for the final two periods to beat Calgary 5-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day. That loss snaps Calgary‘s 10-game winning streak.

It was actually the Flames that opened the scoring, courtesy of an Alex Chiasson (Lance Bouma and Matt Stajan) wrist shot 9:23 into the game. Third Star of the Game David Pastrnak (Zdeno Chara) pulled Boston even 2:24 later with a wrister that proved to be the final tally of the opening frame.

6:04 after returning from the break, the score read 2-1 in favor of the visitors. First Star Brad Marchand continued his impressive season by scoring his 36th goal of the year, an unassisted backhanded shot. 70 seconds later, Dougie Hamilton scored an unassisted marker of his own, a wrister, to once again tie the score. Yet it proved to be Calgary‘s final goal of the night, meaning David Backes‘ (David Krejci) wrister with 8:57 remaining in the second period proved to be the winning-tally.

Matt Beleskey (Ryan Spooner and Drew Stafford) and Pastrnak (Marchand and Patrice Bergeron) provided two insurance goals in the third period to ensure Boston‘s victory.

Anton Khudobin earned the victory after saving 21-of-23 shots faced (91.3%), leaving the loss to Chad Johnson, who saved 27-of-31 (87.1%).

The back-and-forth between home and away teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series continues. After tonight’s victory by the club in white, the 75-53-22 road teams now have a one-point lead over the hosts in the series.

March 11 – Day 143 – Governor’s Cup

As we get closer to the conclusion of the regular season, every Saturday gets more intense.

Of course, Saturdays are some of the busiest days in the league schedule, and today is no different. 11 games will be played today, starting with Philadelphia at Boston (NHLN/SN360) at 1 p.m. The other afternoon matinee drops the puck three hours later with Nashville at San Jose (SN). With both of those contests out of the way, five matchups (Ottawa at Colorado [CITY/TVAS], Calgary at Winnipeg [SN], Columbus at Buffalo, Florida at Tampa Bay and Toronto at Carolina [CBC]) get started at the usual 7 p.m., followed an hour later by two more (New Jersey at Arizona and the New York Islanders at St. Louis [NHLN]). Today’s festivities start wrapping up at 10 p.m. with Pittsburgh at Vancouver (CBC/SN), and that sets up tonight’s 10:30 p.m. nightcap – Washington at Los AngelesAll times eastern.

Short list:

  • Nashville at San Jose: It’s a rematch of one of last season’s Western Semifinals, and it seems like the streaky Predators are on one of their down-swings.
  • Calgary at Winnipeg: Rivalry night in Manitoba should be jumping since the Jets are still in the playoff fight.
  • Florida at Tampa Bay: Speaking of playoff implications, the Governor’s Cup should be an exciting game too, hearkening back to the last season’s Sunshine State series.
  • Pittsburgh at Vancouver: Tom Sestito could have made his first return to Rogers Arena tonight after three seasons of service to the Canucks, but a boarding suspension will delay that until at least next season.

Neither may currently be qualifying for the postseason right now, but I expect the Governor’s Cup to provide one of the best games of the night. To Amalie Arena we go!

 

Things looked dire at one point this season, yet both the Sunshine State-based clubs have fought back within range of playoff contention. Even if Florida, the worse of these two clubs in the standings, trails the Islanders by six points for eighth in the Eastern Conference, things were far worse at one point this season.

At the midway point of their season, the Panthers had a 17-16-8 record. Since then, they’ve improved to 29-26-11  – good enough for sixth in the Atlantic Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference. It sounds bad, but Florida did break into a playoff spot for a day or two, yet was unable to maintain that spot due to its anemic offense – which is also the reason for its three-game losing skid.

The Panthers have scored only 162 goals in 66 games, which ties for the sixth-worst scoring rate in the NHL. Vincent Trocheck has tried to pull his club along with his team-leading 47 points, but to no avail. That’s part of the reason his 22 goals leads the squad: nobody else on the team has had much success burying the puck. Only three skaters have more than 14 goals, an alarming number for a team that considered itself a buyer at the trade deadline.

The Panthers‘ offensive inefficiencies are no more apparent than when they’re on the power play. Successful on only 17% of attempts, Florida is the sixth-worst in the league with the man-advantage. When Florida does manage to convert an opponent’s penalty into a goal, Jon Marchessault is usually involved in the play. Normally a third-liner, he gets promoted to the first power play unit where he’s been involved in 16 scores to lead the team. Similar to Trocheck, Marchessault does a lot of his own work, as he also leads the squad in power play goals with seven.

Where the Panthers fail on the power play, they more than make up for it on the penalty kill. Led by Mark Pysyk‘s 17 shorthanded shot blocks, Florida properly defends 86.6% of their penalties – the best mark in the league.

Florida‘s comeback has been good, but Tampa‘s has been better. After their 41st game, the Lightning had a 19-18-4 record. Nowadays, they’re 31-26-9, which is good enough for fifth in the Atlantic and 10th in the East.

The similarities continue when we analyze the weakness of Tampa Bay‘s team: it’s their offense. The Bolts have managed only 179 goals so far this season, the 13th-fewest in the NHL. That’s what happens when both Ryan Callahan and Steven Stamkos – who combined for 46 goals and 92 points a season ago – have been sidelined for almost the entire year.

Nikita Kucherov has tried to take responsibility of the team during Stamkos’ absence, and he’s done a good job of it. He leads the side with 30 goals and 66 points, but has struggled to find a consistent dance partner. The injured Tyler Johnson has the second-most goals on the squad, but his total of 19 tallies is indicative of what the rest of the offense behind him provides.

No matter how good the Panthers are at defending against the extra attacker, they’d be wise not to push their luck with Tampa‘s power play. Headlined by Victor Hedman‘s 26 power play points, the Bolts have scored on 22.3% of their man-advantages – the fourth-best rate in the NHL. Per the usual, Kucherov has been the one scoring most the goals: he’s buried 13 power play markers.

Although they trail in the standings, the Panthers actually have the lead in the race for the 2016-’17 Governor’s Cup, as they have a 2-0-1 record against Tampa Bay. These clubs last met on January 26 and played to a 2-1 overtime game decided by Florida‘s Marchessault.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Florida‘s Michael Matheson (91 blocks [leads the team]), Trocheck (22 goals for 47 points [both lead the team]) and Keith Yandle (30 assists [leads the team]) & Tampa Bay‘s Peter Budaj (seven shutouts [second-most in the NHL] and a 2.16 GAA [fifth-best in the league] for 27 wins [ninth-most in the NHL]), Hedman (44 assists [tied for fourth-most in the league]) and Kucherov (30 goals [tied for seventh-most in the NHL] for 66 points [10th-most in the league]).

I don’t know about you, but everything’s coming up Tampa Bay for me. While not exactly a model offense, it is better than Florida‘s, and the addition of Budaj has been fantastic in bolstering their defensive team. I think  the Bolts win by at least two goals.

Hockey Birthday

  • Martin Rucinsky (1971-) – Although selected 20th-overall by Edmonton in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, this left wing played most of his career in Montréal. A journeyman that wore eight crests with seven organizations (he moved with the Nordiques to Colorado), he earned one All-Star appearance over his 16 seasons.
  • Paul Bissonnette (1985-) – A fourth-round pick by Pittsburgh in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, this left wing played all but 15 of his 202 career games with the Coyotes. Currently playing for Los Angeles‘ AHL team, he hasn’t made an NHL appearance since the 2013-’14 season.
  • Marc-Andre Gragnani (1987-) – This defenseman was selected 87th-overall by Buffalo in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he’s spent most of his career. Currently playing in the KHL, his best NHL season was in 2011-’12 when he notched 15 points between the Sabres and Canucks.

They may have needed a shootout to get it done, but the Penguins earned a 3-2 victory in Edmonton in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Both of Pittsburgh‘s goals were struck in the first period. Nick Bonino (Scott Wilson and Justin Schultz) takes credit for the first, a wrist shot 5:42 into the game. Evgeni Malkin doubled the Pens‘ differential to two by burying his shot 2:35 before the end of the period.

The Oilers‘ comeback began 4:55 into the second period when David Desharnais (Zack Kassian and Kris Russell) scored his fifth goal of the season, a wrister. That was the only tally of the frame, leaving the score at 2-1 going into the second intermission.

Edmonton finally pulled even with 7:15 remaining in regulation, and it’s partially Chad Ruhwedel‘s fault. He committed a hooking penalty to end up in the sin bin, setting up First Star of the Game Connor McDavid (Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl) for a power play snap shot to force a scoreless three-on-three overtime period.

That left us with only one way to determine a winner: the shootout.

  1. As the home team, Edmonton‘s Draisaitl took the first shot. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t find the back of Second Star Marc-Andre Fleury‘s net.
  2. Of course, his effort was a little better than Malkin’s. The Penguins didn’t even test Third Star Cam Talbot as his shot bounced off the post.
  3. Mark Letestu was next up for the Oil, but his attempt found the same fate as his teammates.
  4. Sidney Crosby was the first to score in the shootout, beating Talbot. That forced a miss-and-lose situation for Edmonton.
  5. He may only be an NHL sophomore, but McDavid doesn’t shy away from pressure. He found the back of Fleury’s net to prolong the shootout.
  6. The shootout turned out to last only one more shot, as Phil Kessel provided the game-winner.

Fleury earned the victory after saving 40-of-42 shots faced (95.2%), leaving the shootout loss to Talbot, who saved 28-of-30 (93.3%).

Pittsburgh‘s victory is yet another for the 73-50-22 road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series. Due to that, visitors in the series now have a three-point lead on the hosts.

2017 NHL Trade Deadline Preview: Pacific Division

Unknown1. San Jose Sharks– 36-18-7 (79 points, 61 GP)

The San Jose Sharks are exactly where they want to be this time around at the trade deadline. Wednesday is sure to be a busy day around the league, but don’t expect to hear much out of San Jose– not just because of the lack of salary cap space, but rather, because the Sharks don’t have to all that much, if anything at all.

San Jose has a plethora of pending free agents to re-sign this summer and much more to worry about potentially losing to the incoming Vegas Golden Knights at the expansion draft in June. So yeah, feel things out if you must, but the Sharks really shouldn’t try to mix things up.

Potential assets to trade: D Justin Braun, D David Schlemko

Potential assets to acquire: F Radim Vrbata (ARI), F Thomas Vanek (DET), F Ryan Strome (NYI), F Scottie Upshall (STL), F Brian Boyle (TB)

Unknown-12. Anaheim Ducks– 32-21-10 (74 points, 63 GP)

Barring the team’s looming salary cap maze, the Anaheim Ducks aren’t in that bad of a position heading into this season’s trade deadline. They’re quietly going about the year as one of the league’s best teams and competing stride for stride with San Jose and Edmonton for dominance in the Pacific Division.

Anaheim clearly doesn’t need to sell and it would appear as though they don’t have that much to move– with the exception of draft picks– in order to bring anything substantial in for the long run. The Ducks should look to add without subtracting and continue to add another depth rental player, like they did the other day in a trade with the Dallas Stars for veteran forward, Patrick Eaves.

Potential assets to trade: F Jared Boll, F Ryan Garbutt, D Shea Theodore

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 Yannick Weber (NSH), F Scottie Upshall (STL)

Unknown-53. Edmonton Oilers– 33-22-8 (74 points, 63 GP)

Edmonton Oilers general manager, Peter Chiarelli, has certainly turned the team around in his short time in the northern most organization in the NHL. Yes, it helps that Connor McDavid is an Oiler, however Edmonton is seeing some depth in their roster and that’s something that hasn’t been seen since their 2006 Stanley Cup Final run. Granted, I’m not saying they’ll go that far this year.

A quick glance at their roster reveals that the Oilers have room to grow and develop, in addition to deal. Yes, even as one of the top teams in the Pacific Division, I believe Edmonton will move at least one “major” piece.

Similar in nature to the Taylor Hall trade in the offseason that brought in Adam Larsson on defense, the Oilers are bound to make a big splash at this year’s trade deadline that just might put them over the edge of a fringe playoff team (in terms of predicted success) to a contender that has a chance of at least making the second round.

Potential assets to trade: F Jordan Eberle, F Matt Hendricks, F Mark Letestu, D Mark Fayne

Potential assets to acquire: D Justin Faulk (CAR), F Matt Duchene (COL), F Jarome Iginla (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), F Patrick Sharp (DAL), F Thomas Vanek (DET), F Ryan Strome (NYI), F Brandon Pirri (NYR), F Curtis Lazar (OTT), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), F Tyler Johnson (TB), F Ondrej Palat (TB)

Unknown-44. Calgary Flames — 33-26-4 (70 points, 63 GP)– currently hold the first Wild Card in the Western Conference

It wouldn’t hurt the Calgary Flames to add a missing component or two, except for the fact that the Flames have $0 in cap space. Seriously. Calgary is right up against the ceiling in salary and they don’t exactly have anything worth selling, considering how close the battle in the Pacific Division is, let alone the fight for a Wild Card spot in the entire Western Conference.

A year after trading Kris Russell (and making it look like a steal), the Flames acquired the rental defenseman– with a chance of becoming a more permanent blue liner in Calgary, depending on his audition for the role– Michael Stone from the Arizona Coyotes about a week ago.

Brian Burke has some interesting decisions to make, in regards to pending free agents, as well as what direction he might take the team on March 1st. Whether they will become serious playoff contenders or early playoff dropouts (or even make the playoffs at all) remains to be seen.

Potential assets to trade: F Brandon Bollig, F Lance Bouma, D Deryk Engelland

Potential assets to acquire: D Joe Morrow (BOS), F Jarome Iginla (COL), F Ryan Strome (NYI), D Dennis Seidenberg (NYI), F Curtis Lazar (OTT), F Scottie Upshall (STL)

Unknown-35. Los Angeles Kings– 30-27-4 (64 points, 61 GP)

Well… What I had originally planned to say is irrelevant now.

The Los Angeles Kings made quite a splash on Sunday, acquiring G Ben Bishop from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for G Peter Budaj, D Erik Cernak, a 2017 7th round draft pick and a conditional 2017 draft pick. Los Angeles also acquired a 2017 5th round pick in the deal.

While the Kings need a goal scorer, they opted to go boldly in the opposite direction, by bringing in a quality goaltender who will now compete for time with the recent return of Jonathan Quick. Perhaps they are pushing Quick to regain his competitiveness sooner rather than later at such a late point in the season? Perhaps they are testing Quick’s durability with an audition from Bishop in case Quick isn’t as healthy as we think.

Nobody knows but Los Angeles’s front office (we can assume/hope). Despite the move and lack of salary cap room, the Kings could still have another move up their sleeve on Wednesday.

Potential assets to trade: F Dustin Brown, F Dwight King, F Trevor Lewis, F Jordan Nolan, D Brayden McNabb

Potential assets to acquire: F Matt Duchene (COL), F Jarome Iginla (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), F Patrick Sharp (DAL), F Thomas Vanek (DET), F Ryan Strome (NYI), F Brian Boyle (TB)

Unknown6. Vancouver Canucks– 26-29-6 (58 points, 61 GP)

It is a well known fact that the Vancouver Canucks have been a dumpster fire at asset management for the last few years, so why not burn everything down at this point?

The Canucks will be selling on Wednesday, but how much they sell and what they will sell remains to be seen. Vancouver could play the role of a dark horse at this year’s trade deadline, not in the sense that they’ll add a rental player or two that will put them in the hunt, but rather in the sense that this might be their best chance to be tactically smart.

Bottom line, Vancouver, trade wisely. It’s time to recognize that you’re in a rebuild (injuries aside) and go full throttle. Make an attempt. Take a stab at it on March 1st, because you can’t get much worse than that team in burgundy and blue (that’s also in the Western Conference).

Potential assets to trade: F Alex Burrows, F Jannik Hansen, F Jayson Megna, D Alex Biega, D Philip Larsen, D Luca Sbisa, G Ryan Miller

Potential assets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), F Jimmy Hayes (BOS), D Joe Morrow (BOS), F Andrew Desjardins (CHI), F Matt Duchene (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), D Tyson Barrie (COL), G Kari Lehtonen (DAL), G Antti Niemi (DAL), F Thomas Vanek (DET), G Petr Mrazek (DET), F David Desharnais (MTL), F Tomas Plekanec (MTL), F Ryan Strome (NYI), G Jaroslav Halak (NYI), F Brandon Pirri (NYR), F Curtis Lazar (OTT), G Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), F Valtteri Filppula (TB), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)

Unknown-37. Arizona Coyotes– 22-32-7 (51 points, 61 GP)

The Arizona Coyotes will without a doubt be forced to sell at this year’s trade deadline and they have a plethora of rental players to move for future assets as part of their long rebuild. After making several moves that appeared to be part of a bold strategy at the 2016 draft, Coyotes general manager, John Chayka has yet to see successful results from the roster he reconstructed over the summer.

Additionally, this year certainly might be the end of an era for Arizona. No, not their nagging search for a longtime home in the desert, but rather the face of the franchise since their move from Winnipeg, Shane Doan, may be destined to be on the move to a Stanley Cup contender in a trade reminiscent of the one the Boston Bruins made in 2000 in order to give Ray Bourque a real chance to win the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche.

Potential assets to trade: F Shane Doan, F Anthony Duclair, F Josh Jooris, F Radim Vrbata, D Kevin Connauton, G Mike Smith

Potential assets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), F Jimmy Hayes (BOS), D Joe Morrow (BOS), F Andrew Desjardins (CHI), F Matt Duchene (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), D Tyson Barrie (COL), G Kari Lehtonen (DAL), G Antti Niemi (DAL), F Thomas Vanek (DET), G Peter Mrazek (DET), F David Desharnais (MTL), F Tomas Plekanec (MTL), F Ryan Strome (NYI), G Jaroslav Halak (NYI), F Brandon Pirri (NYR), F Curtis Lazar (OTT), G Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), F Valtteri Filppula (TB), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)

vegas_golden_knights_logo*Not participating- Vegas Golden Knights

Yes, the Vegas Golden Knights could have participated at their first NHL trade deadline prior to even taking the ice, however, Golden Knights owner Bill Foley indicated last week that the final installment on expansion fees would not get to league offices in New York City in time for the deadline. The team’s final payment is due April 5th.

Foley added that outstanding documents would be signed in time for the organization to send general manager, George McPhee, to the league’s annual general managers meetings in Boca Raton, Florida on March 6-8.

Had the paperwork been taken care of in time, Vegas would have been able to acquire draft picks or make trades tied to the expansion draft in June (usually surrounding an agreement not to select a certain player from a team, as historically shown).

According to Mike Cranston of NHL.com, Foley downplayed the importance of trading at the deadline, since the Golden Knights could not acquire players prior to March 1st.

Upon final payment, the organization will be able to sign free agent college players once their season ends (like the rest of the league can, regarding eligible college players), junior players over 20 years of age and free agents from Europe.

 

2017 NHL Trade Deadline Preview: Atlantic Division

Unknown-11. Montreal Canadiens– 30-16-8 (68 points- 54 GP)

The Montreal Canadiens are quietly dominating and that’s concerning for the rest of the league. Of course, dominating is a relative term, considering some of their counterparts in the Eastern Conference (namely the Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins who are ahead of Montreal in the East standings by 10 points, three points and three points respectively). The Habs have been in first place in the Atlantic Division for quite some time now, despite only holding an eight point lead over the 2nd place Ottawa Senators.

For all intents and purposes, the Canadiens don’t have to do that much by March 1st. They shouldn’t sit back, especially if the right deal presents itself, but they don’t have to go out and do extremely necessary shopping at the deadline. Their forwards are in their prime and their defense got a little younger with the addition of Nikita Nesterov from a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning. And obviously goaltending is not something to worry about, because hello, Carey Price exists.

If anything, Montreal could move someone expendable, like Tomas Plekanec, in advance of the looming expansion draft in June and at least try to get something in return now as opposed to nothing later. Maybe they’ll add a rental for depth.

Potential assets to trade: F Tomas Plekanec, F David Desharnais

Potential targets to acquire: F Shane Doan (ARI), F Martin Hanzal (ARI), F Radim Vrbata (ARI), F Patrick Sharp (DAL), F Tomas Jurco (DET), F Patrik Berglund (STL)

Unknown-62. Ottawa Senators– 27-17-6 (60 points, 50 GP)

In a similar sense, the Ottawa Senators are like the Montreal Canadiens in that nobody expected them to be where they are for this long into the season, given how normally injuries occur. Then again, no one really knows how long the Senators can pull off this divisional standing given 1) how tight standings are in the current divisional alignment and parity of the league and 2) they’re a young team.

If anything, the Sens need to add without subtracting. There’s just one problem. Look at their roster. Who would you trade to add something substantial? Putting chemistry aside, who would you choose? Ottawa seems set on their defense that’s built as though every defenseman is really just a rover in disguise (you know, the position that doesn’t exist anymore). By some miracle the Senators could bolster their goaltending, but the reality of any transactions resides in their forwards.

Potential assets to trade: F Curtis Lazar, F Jean-Gabriel Pageau, F Zack Smith, G Andrew Hammond, G Mike Condon

Potential targets to acquire: F Radim Vrbata (ARI), D Michael Stone (ARI), F Tomas Jurco (DET), F Thomas Vanek (DET), G Petr Mrazek (DET), F Ryan Strome (NYI), G Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT), F Patrik Berglund (STL), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), G Ben Bishop (TB), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)

Unknown3. Toronto Maple Leafs– 24-17-10 (58 points, 51 GP)

The Toronto Maple Leafs are a scary good team at times. Sure they’ve experienced growing pains here and there this season, but they’ve been biggest (and best) surprise of the season in terms of an organization that has really emerged as a solidified playoff contender. Head coach, Mike Babcock, provides a tremendous foundation of experience on the bench that he is somehow able to transfer into the playing styles of his players and their performances night after night.

Like every team on the cusp of the playoffs, the Maple Leafs need to add without subtracting. They could avoid making any moves and live with the results and still prosper from the experience gained in the long run, but the Leafs do have a few pieces to offer, should they look to float any trade ideas to other teams. Center, Nazem Kadri is 26, and has six years left on his current contract with a cap hit of $4.500 million.

Toronto has tried to move Kadri before, but remained committed to his on-the-edge playing style. Given the plethora of youths in Toronto, the Leafs could explore their package options including Kadri and more and/or just what it might take to land a solidified top-4 defenseman that won’t have to be exposed to the Vegas Golden Knights come June.

Potential assets to trade: F Nazem Kadri, D Matt Hunwick, D Martin Marincin, D Roman Polak, G Curtis McElhinney

Potential targets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), F Martin Hanzal (ARI), F Radim Vrbata (ARI), D Michael Stone (ARI), F Matt Duchene (COL), F Jarome Iginla (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), D Tyson Barrie (COL), F Tomas Jurco (DET), F Thomas Vanek (DET), F Ryan Strome (NYI), G Mike Condon (OTT), G Andrew Hammond (OTT), F Patrik Berglund (STL), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)

Unknown-74. Boston Bruins– 26-23-6 (58 points, 55 GP) – one point behind Philadelphia in the Wild Card hunt

According to some website somewhere on the Internet the Boston Bruins do/don’t have a chance at making the playoffs this season. The answer to the question “will they be buyers or sellers at this year’s trade deadline?” seems obvious. The Bruins will more than likely be buyers, but at what cost and for how much? The organization would be wise to invest in something, but one question remains– how committed are the Bruins to making the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Boston could benefit from a playoff run to give their young players some playoff atmosphere experience, but bouncing out in the first round and obtaining a mid-first round draft pick might be unwise if there’s a chance the Bruins could really benefit from another season of ho-hum hockey and no playoffs. Boston could bolster holes in their roster now (at the deadline) or later (at the draft or through free agency) and still be better off for the 2017-2018 season. The ball, as they say, is in general manager, Don Sweeney’s court.

As for potential trade targets, well, depending on what direction Sweeney intends to bring the team, the Bruins have plenty of options for rental players and/or potential long time stands in Boston.

Potential assets to trade: F Ryan Spooner, F Jimmy Hayes, D Kevan Miller, D Joe Morrow, G Anton Khudobin, G Malcolm Subban, draft picks

Potential targets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), F Martin Hanzal (ARI), F Radim Vrbata (ARI), D Michael Stone (ARI), F Jarome Iginla (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), F Matt Duchene (COL), D Tyson Barrie (COL), F Tomas Jurco (DET), F Thomas Vanek (DET), F Ryan Strome (NYI), F Curtis Lazar (OTT), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL)

Florida_Panthers_logo_20165. Florida Panthers– 23-19-10 (56 points, 52 GP)

Despite a dismal start to the season, the Florida Panthers are still technically in the hunt for the playoffs with a few games in hand on the team directly above them in the standings (the Boston Bruins, for those of you that might have skimmed over everything I just wrote a couple of paragraphs ago).

Aside from several key injuries, a coaching change and a rogue GM some changes that were made in the offseason that have, well, yet to pan out, the Panthers don’t appear to be major sellers at the deadline on the grounds that they’re looking to add and further develop their youth. Could they move a defenseman? Certainly. Should they move a forward for anyone? Probably not. Could they acquire something with a draft pick or two? Absolutely.

It’s hit or miss for Florida at this point. They’ve got some resting up to do and if they’re smart this offseason, they’ll be right back in the hunt next year.

Potential assets to trade: D Jakub Kindl, G Reto Berra

Potential targets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), F Martin Hanzal (ARI), F Matt Duchene (COL), D Tyson Barrie (COL), F Tomas Jurco (DET), F Ryan Strome (NYI)

Unknown6. Detroit Red Wings– 22-21-9 (53 points, 52 GP)

It doesn’t appear to be the year for the Detroit Red Wings, but still 25 consecutive years of making the playoffs is something to be proud of, Detroit fans. This is more than a transition year, for sure, for the Red Wings. Why? Take a look at the roster. Gone are the days of Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom and friends– actually those days have been gone for quite some time now. Henrik Zetterberg is leading Detroit’s forwards into the future, while the organization is left playing catch up on the blue line.

Their youngest defenseman is 23 while their oldest defenseman is 36. Additionally, three defensemen are 31 or older. While all of this plays out, there’s the looming question of who will be the Red Wings goaltender next season and beyond? Jimmy Howard, Petr Mrazek or Jared Coreau could be on the move or staying put, but then again the Vegas Golden Knights could have a say otherwise, regardless of the trade deadline on March 1st at the expansion draft in June.

If things are going to get worse before they get better, then maybe it’s time to think of some big moves too. Like dumping large contracts (in term or salary).

Potential assets to trade: F Darren Helm, F Steve Ott, F Tomas Jurco, F Thomas Vanek, D Mike Green, D Nick Jensen, D Brendan Smith, G Jimmy Howard (if he’s healthy in time), G Petr Mrazek

Potential targets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), D Michael Stone (ARI), D Kevan Miller (BOS), D Joe Morrow (BOS), F Matt Duchene (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), F Ryan Strome (NYI), G Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT), F Patrik Berglund (STL), G Ben Bishop (TB), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)

Unknown-27. Buffalo Sabres– 21-21-10 (52 points, 52 GP)

While their current standing in the Atlantic Division might seem disappointing, the Buffalo Sabres have made tremendous strides with their core group of skaters and could legitimately compete for a playoff spot next season in the highly competitive– though not always high quality– Atlantic Division. If they truly are about a year behind the Toronto Maple Leafs in this whole “rebuild” thing, then there’s a good chance they should seriously consider selling their expendables and buying in on a tank for Nolan Patrick.

Though it’s pretty hard to beat the Colorado Avalanche at this point. Looks like the luck of the lottery may be all yours, Colorado (and/or the Vegas Golden Knights, if you’re into conspiracy theories *ahem Colby*).

Buy low, sell high on the expendables, then work your magic in the offseason, Tim Murray.

Potential assets to trade: F Hudson Fasching, F Brian Gionta, D Taylor Fedun, D Cody Franson, D Dmitry Kulikov, G Jason Kasdorf, G Linus Ullmark, G Anders Nilsson

Potential targets to acquire: F Matt Duchene (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), D Tyson Barrie (COL), G Jimmy Howard (DET), G Petr Mrazek (DET), G Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)

Unknown-38. Tampa Bay Lightning– 23-24-6 (52 points, 53 GP)

Despite their injuries and current standing in the Atlantic Division, the Tampa Bay Lightning are actually in the best place they could be. One way or another, Tampa could lose a valuable young player to the Vegas Golden Knights in June. There is no better opportunity to sell some of the guys you fear you won’t be able to keep this offseason at a premium on March 1st. Are you listening, Steve Yzerman?

The Lightning did not expect to be where they are two years removed from a Stanley Cup Final run and one season after an Eastern Conference Finals loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion, Pittsburgh Penguins. But here they are. Two key players are still out of their lineup (Ryan Callahan and Steven Stamkos) and they could not be in a better spot to have a chance at saving their own future. Seriously, if they falter any more, they’ll line themselves up with a decent draft pick and they’ll move interchangeable parts like it’s nothing.

But there’s a catch and that’s the tremendous pressure that will be felt on the young guys left on the roster to perform (or else) next season.

Potential assets to trade: F Brian Boyle, F Erik Condra, F Gabriel Dumont, F Valtteri Filppula, F Tyler Johnson, F Ondrej Palat, D Braydon Coburn, D Jason Garrison, G Ben Bishop

Potential targets to acquire: F Cam Fowler (ANA), F Radim Vrbata (ARI), G Anders Nilsson (BUF), G Kari Lehtonen (DAL), G Antti Niemi (DAL), F Thomas Vanek (DET), G Mike Condon (OTT), G Andrew Hammond (OTT), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG), G Ondrej Pavelec (WPG)

The Duo of Johnson and Kucherov lead The Bolts to a Comeback Win, Now Lead Series 3-2.

Unknown-1

The Pittsburgh Penguins blew two leads; a 2-0 lead, and a 3-2 lead late in the game and lost a heartbreaker to the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in Overtime. This win puts the Lightning up 3-2 in the series and are now one win away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second year in a row.

The Pittsburgh Penguins looked to get back into the win column tonight at home. After dominating Games 2 and 3, the Pens were outworked in a Game 4 loss. Pittsburgh was welcomed to see that WWE Hall-of-Fame legend The Heartbreak Kid aka Shawn Micheals would be in attendance for tonight game. The Penguins 3rd line, better known as the HBK line, made up of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, and Phil Kessel has been on fire as of late. Shawn Michaels has inspired all Pittsburgh fans to now call this line the HBK line and the Pens invited him to come out to the game and he did! So Michaels hoped he could see the Pens pull out a win.

The Penguins turned to their 12-year vet, goaltender Marc-André Fleury for his first start since March 31st. Fleury has not played since the end of March because he was battling a concussion. The Penguins were going with newcomer Matt Murray in hopes that he could spark the team and go on a long run. They were right and Murray was the backbone of the team and led them all the way to Round 3, the Conference Finals. Sadly, after Murray’s last performance in the Game 4 loss, he was pulled at the start of the third period due to the fact that he let in 4 goals on 30 total shots for a measly .867 SV%. Murray has appeared in a total of 13 games in this year’s playoffs going 9-4-1 with a .923 SV% and a 2.33 GAA. Pittsburgh is making the right call going with Fleury for Game 5. This game is also Fleury’s 100th career playoff game.

Now on to the long list of injuries. As expected, Tampa goalie Ben Bishop, who has been out since his lower-body-injury in Game 1, is sidelined again for the 4th consecutive game. Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos, who also has not played since the end of March due to a blood clot, is still not able to suit up. The Penguins have scratched winger Conor Sheary who has not scored a goal since April 23rd. Beau Bennett has been given the nod to play tonight. This will be Bennett’s first game of the playoffs this year, and his first game since April 5th at Ottawa. On the other hand, Pens lockdown D-man Trevor Daley will miss the rest of the postseason, no matter how far Pittsburgh gets, due to a broken left ankle suffered in Game 4. Pittsburgh will welcome D-man Olli Maatta back into the lineup. Maatta has been dealing with a lingering injury suffered against the Capitals in Round 2 and some poor play that has held him in and out of the lineup. The Penguins will have to rely on the play of D-man Kris Letang more if they will want to shut down the strong forwards of the Lightning.

The game started out with both teams flying out of the gate and being very physical with each other. The two clubs combined for a total of 13 hits within the first nine minutes of the opening frame. So you could tell that both teams aren’t messing around and want an early edge over the other squad.

We would get the game’s first penalty with them being coincidental. Tampa defender Matt Carle and Pens center Evgeni Malkin both getting the gate for unsportsmanlike conduct at 9:11 of the first period. We would play 4 on 4 hockey for 1:25 until the Lightning would get the games first true penalty. Tampa center Tyler Johnson would get a two-minute call for hooking Pens captain Sidney Crosby. With this call the Pens would play 35 seconds of 4 on 3 man advantage, they were not able to score or apply pressure. The coincidental would expire and both teams would get their players back and they would play a regular 5 on 4 power play for 1:25. Pittsburgh only managed one shot and Tampa killed it off.

Pittsburgh would get on the board first, but would barely beat the buzzer. It all started with a great play by Pens winger Chris Kunitz who would get the puck on the left-hand boards by the blue line in his own zone. Kunitz would make a beautiful play to chip the puck past pinching Tampa defender Anton Stralman and up to a streaking teammate, Bryan Rust in the neutral zone. Rust would grab the pass and beat opposing defender Victor Hedman wide and go in on a mini breakaway. Rust was able to hold of the back checking of Hedman and get off a wimpy shot in close that was saved by a stretched out Andrei Vasilevskiy and his right pad. The rebound was sat right on top of the goalie crease for anyone to grab. Meanwhile behind the play, Pens defender Brian Dumoulin jumped up in the play when he realized that the time was running out in the period. Dumoulin beat Tampa grinder Brian Boyle to the net and shoveled home the rebound with .7 seconds left in the period to put the Pens on the board at 1-0. This goal was Dumoulin’s first goal in 103 games (he did not score in the regular season playing 79 games), his first ever playoff goal, and his second ever career goal in the NHL.

The second period would start with it being all Penguins, and as a result, the Pens would double their lead. Pittsburgh would bring the puck into the zone with Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby skating down to the right boards to the hash marks. Crosby would post up and spot Pens D-man Olli Maatta wide open in the middle of the ice at the point. Maatta would receive the pass and quickly fire a shot pass to winger Carl Hagelin who peeled open at the top of the goalie crease on the left side. Hagelin would direct the pass to fellow winger Patric Hornqvist on top of the crease to the right side. Hornqvist would then tap the puck into the wide open net to increase the Pens lead to 2-0. This was Hornqvist’s 7th goal of the playoffs.

Tampa would get their first power play of the game, and their first real chance to cut into Pittsburgh’s deficit. Pens D-man Kris Letang would get a two-minute trip to the box for slashing Tampa youngster Jonathan Drouin. Tampa’s power play has been struggling lately as they are just 2/8 in the series coming into Game 5. The Lightning would get their best chance of the game with the PP coming to an end. Defender Victor Hedman would get the puck at the point and come right down the middle of the ice. Hedman would fake a shot and dish it off to center Tyler Johnson at the side of the net. Johnson had the whole top of the net to shoot at. He one-timed the puck and was completely ROBBED by the stretched out toe of goalie Marc-André Fleury as he pushed from his left to his right to keep the score at 2-0 and kill the penalty.

Just about four minutes later the Pens would go back to their second manpower advantage of the game. Tampa winger Nikita Kucherov would get the gate for holding winger Bryan Rust. The Penguins would only get two shots on the net and could not capitalize.

Pittsburgh Penguins Logo

The Tampa Bay Lightning would then score just 13 seconds after they killed off the penalty at 13:15 of the middle period. Tampa defender Andrej Sustr would hold the puck in at the right side hash marks and play the puck around the back of the net. Winger Alex Killorn would grab the puck at the left side hash marks skate in a foot and absolutely let a laser of a wrist shot go that beat Fleury high short side over the blocker to get the Bolts on the board and trim the Pens lead to 2-1. Tampa would then tie the game up 1:10 seconds later at the 14:25 mark. Again Lightning D-man Andrej Sustr would carry the puck into the same spot on the right side but he ended up losing the puck. Luckily, grinder Vladislav Namesnikov would pick up the loose puck, carry on towards the net and find an open Nikita Kucherov on the left hash marks in the slot. Namesnikov hit Kucherov right in his wheelhouse and Kucherov let a gnarly one-t snap-shot go into the wide open net before Fleury could get there to tie the game up at 2-2. This was Kucherov’s 10th goal of the playoffs which now puts him in a tie for first in the league with Sharks captain Joe Pavelski.

Once again, the Pens would strike as the period would expire. Penguins defender Olli Maatta would carry the puck into the zone through the middle and dangle his way past the net and below the goal line on the right side. Maata would stop on a dime, turn around, and feed winger Evgeni Malkin in the slot. Malkin would grab the puck, fight off a falling Tampa defender, turn around, and fire a wrist shot on net. Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy would make the save on top of the crease but let the rebound fall right in front of him. Before Vasy could dive and fall on the puck, Pens winger Chris Kunitz would bat the puck out of mid-air just before Vasy could get it with his glove. The puck would go right under Vasy’s body, through his legs, and into the net. The goal came with 50 seconds remaining in the second period to gain the lead back and make it 3-2.

The Penguins are 46-0-0 (regular season and playoffs) when leading after two periods this season. They are the ONLY team to win every game when leading at this point. So if the Lightning want to be the first to beat them, they will have to jump out early in the final period and gain some momentum.

With just 2:36 gone in the final period Tampa would go back on the power play. Pens defender Olli Maatta would get a double minor for catching Lightning’s Slater Koekkoek up high with his stick. So Tampa would have a four minutes power play in hopes of tying the game. With around two minutes gone in the four-minute man advantage center, Tyler Johnson would get called for interference on Pens defender Kris Letang. This penalty on Johnson would nullify the rest of Tampa’s power play and they would play 1:53 of 4 on 4 hockey. The 4 on 4 hockey did not result in anything so once Maatta’s double minor expired, the Pens would get a brief 6 seconds of PP time but could not do anything.

With 3:52 left in the game, Tampa winger Ryan Callahan came down the left-hand side with the puck. Callahan skated to the dot and put a beauty of a wrist shot towards the net. The puck hit Fleury’s jersey near his arm, deflected off the post, and across the goal line but stayed out! Tampa was inches away from tying this contest up. Then just 36 seconds later, Tampa was able to get their tying goal. Winger Nikita Kucherov skating down the left side with the puck and dropped a nice backhand pass to fellow linemate Tyler Johnson at the left boards. Johnson put a shot on the net that was padded aside by Fleury. Regrettably, the puck fell to the boards behind the net where Kucherov was there to pick it up. Kucherov grabbed the puck and instantly wrapped around to the other side of the net and beat Fleury’s pad to the post and knotted this game up at 3-3 with 3:16 to go in the final frame. This was Kucherov’s second goal of the game (11th) which now puts him in sole position of first place for goals.

The third period ended with the score still the same at 3-3 and went into over time. The only reason why the Penguins never scored again so far in the game is because the stellar play of goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasy was amazing making a numerous amount of clutch saves. This is the second time in the series these two teams would play OT. Pittsburgh won Game 2 in OT. Tampa is 2-1 in OT games in the playoffs and Pittsburgh is 3-1.

As the overtime started, both teams were hoping to end this game early. That hope was fulfilled by one team, that team? The Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa’s first line was in on the attack in the offensive zone. Lightning winger Ondrej Palat, who was on the right side hash marks, passed the puck up to Nikita Kucherov in the middle at the blue line. Kucherov accepted the pass and immediately passed the puck over to D-man Jason Garrison who slide down to the dot of the left-hand circle. Garrison put a wrist shot on net that ended up deflecting off center Tyler Johnson’s backside and ricocheting into the net for the game-winner only 53 seconds into extra time.

Tampa Bay was led by their goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy who turned away 31 out of 34 shots for a nice .912 SV% while Pittsburgh’s Marc-André Fleury stopped 21 out of 25 shots for a terrible .840 SV% in his first game back. The Pens coach Mike Sullivan will have another big question on who to start for Game 6. Pittsburgh led in shots (34-25), faceoffs (37-31), hits (43-37), blocked shots (22-8), and giveaways (9-1) whereas Tampa Bay did not lead in any category. The teams were tied in penalty minutes (8-8) and both teams were 0/3 on the PP.

These two powerhouse squads will suit back up for Game 6 where Tampa will look to close out the series and advance to the Stanley Cup Final Tuesday night at 8 pm.

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.

The Celestial HBK line leads Pittsburgh to a Game 3 Win and a 2-1 Series Lead.

The Pittsburgh Penguins took care of the Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday night by a score of 4-2. The Penguins were led by their red-hot “HBK” line, made up of Phil Kessel, Carl Hagelin, and Nick Bonino, who combined for 5 points (2G, 3A)

The Tampa Bay Lightning looked to avenge their 3-2 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night. The Lightning looked to use their home ice advantage in their favor to go up in the series. Tampa was once again without Vezina nominated goaltender Ben Bishop for the second straight game. They turned to their 21-year-old goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy in hope for another solid performance from the youngster.

Pittsburgh Penguins Logo

Tonight’s contest started with both teams trading chances back and forth but no team could gain the full momentum. We would then finally get the game’s first prime scoring chance 9:02 into the opening frame. Pens superstar center Sidney Crosby found the puck in his feet behind Tampa’s net. Crosby was being pressured behind the net by the Lightning defender and dished a beautiful no-look between the legs backhand pass to fellow linemate Patric Hornqvist who received the puck to Vasilevskiy’s right and threw a quick snap shot on net. Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy was up to the task and denied Hornqvist chance with his blocker and kept the score tied at zero.

We would then get our games first man power advantage. Pittsburgh winger Patric Hornqvist would get a two-minute call for slashing Tampa vet Ryan Callahan at 17:42 of the first period. This would send Tampa to their first power play of the game. The Pens penalty killers were huge and did not allow a single shot and killed off the penalty. With 2 seconds remaining in the period the Penguins had a faceoff in the offensive zone. Tampa center Brian Boyle would try and beat Pens center Sidney Crosby and close out the period with no damage done. Well, Boyle won the faceoff with ease and pulled the puck back hoping that his fellow defender would grab the puck and waste the remaining time on the clock. Unfortunately, his D-man missed the puck and it went right to the Pittsburgh D-man Trevor Daley who was in deep looking for a shot. Daley flipped right to his backhand and tried lifting the puck over Vasilevskiy’s glove. Vasy was right there to shut down the opportunity with a strong glove save.

The first period would end with the score 0-0 with the Penguins basically dominating Tampa the first 10-15 minutes of the period. While the Lightning would get a little momentum towards the end of the period.

Pittsburgh would get their first power play chance just 3:57 into the second period. Tampa winger Ryan Callahan would get the trip to the sin bin for holding Pens winger Chris Kunitz. Pittsburgh would turn to their dormant PP in the hope of striking first. The Pens would get three excellent scoring chances that were all turned away thanks to stellar goaltending from Andrei Vasilevski. Tampa would also get a great scoring chance thanks to winger Ondrej Palat shorthanded. Palat would get the puck right in front of Pens goalie Matt Murray. Palat would grab Valtteri Filppula’s rebound from Murray and throw a little backhand on net after Murray was way out of position. The shot would have gone in but Pens defender Kris Letang was there to sweep the puck away and back into Murray for the whistle. After both teams had a flurry of chances to open the scoring but the score still sat at 0-0.

Tampa would get the best scoring chance of the game so far 9:49 into the middle period. Lightning grinder Brian Boyle would receive a pass on the left-hand dot from a teammate. Boyle quickly unleashed a nasty one-timer that beat Pens goalie Matt Murray low short side blocker but not the post, it hit iron and came right back out.

Pittsburgh would counter with their best chance of the game almost three minutes later. Pens center Nick Bonino in his own zone, spotted fellow winger Phil Kessel streaking down the right-hand side. Bonino fired a rocket of a pass to Kessel and sent him in all alone on a breakaway. Kessel got to the top of the right-hand circle and let a wrister go towards the net. Vasilevskiy made the save look easy and swallowed the shot right into his chest to keep the Pens from scoring again.

FINALLY after all these shots and chances from both squads we would get the games first goal with just 10 seconds remaining in period two thanks to the HBK line. The play started with Pens winger Phil Kessel making a great play and intercepting Tampa’s Jonathan Drouin’s pass high in the defensive zone. Kessel would then turn on the jets and beat Lightning defender Victor Hedman down the right-hand boards. Kessel would drive down the right side and throw a shot far side that was turned aside from Vasilevskiy right pad. Regrettably, Vasy kicked the puck into the slot and left a juicy rebound just sitting in the slot. Pittsburgh winger Carl Hagelin would beat coverage from lazy D-man Braydon Coburn, pounce on the loose puck, and put home the rebound to open the Pens scoring tab at 1-0.

The second period would end with the score being 1-0. Pittsburgh would again COMPLETLY control the second period. They threw 21 shots on net and only gave up 6, and yes this was ONLY in period two. Tampa’s only strong suit in the period was from their goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy, who kept them in the game with a number of solid saves. If Tampa looks to come back from their 1-0 deficit they will need to get more shots, and keep the pressure off of Vasy.

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Pittsburgh would then double their lead to 2-0. The dominate HBK line would apply more and more pressure and it eventually paid off again. Pens winger Nick Bonino would get the puck behind the net after a lengthy time of cycling down below the goal line. Bonino would dish the puck to fellow winger Phil Kessel on the low left-hand dot. Kessel would get the puck and quickly fire a laser top cheese and beat Vasy high glove side.

Just 14 seconds later Tampa would get one back and cut into the Pens lead. This time, it was Tampa’s red hot triplet line that got the goal. Lightning winger Ondrej Palat, who sat in his own defensive zone, saw fellow winger Nikita Kucherov at the far blue line. Palat wired a tape to tape pass to Kucherov who caught the pass and skated into the offensive zone. Kucherov left a backhand pass in the high slot to streaking center Tyler Johnson who grabbed the puck and skated in on a mini breakaway. Johnson fired the puck blocker side that beat goalie Matt Murray under the arm and made the score 2-1.

A little over three and a half minutes later Pens D-man Kris Letang and Tampa winger Ondrej Palat each got a two-minute roughing minor after the whistle. So we still played even strength hockey as those penalties offset. Just 48 seconds later Lightning defender Braydon Coburn took a terrible penalty by elbowing Pens winger Carl Hagelin who was entering the zone. This sent the Pens to their second power play of the game as they looked to restore their two-goal lead playing 4 on 3 hockey. Pittsburgh’s wish would pay off thanks to a stellar power play at the 10:50 mark of the final period. Pens star Sidney Crosby would dish the puck to center Evgeni Malkin high in the center of the slot and top of their umbrella on the PP. Malkin quickly threw the puck back Crosby’s way on top of the right-hand dot. Crosby fired a wicked one-timer that beat Vasilevsky high glove short side to increase their lead to 3-1.

Pittsburgh would tally again at 13:12 of the third period. This goal was a confusing one as the puck was bouncing all over the place. Vasy made a great save in close on a tough Penguins shot. The rebound sat in the slot and Tampa back checker Cedric Paquette would blindly backhand the puck out of the slot to, what he thought was, the right-hand corner out of harms way. Sadly, he passed the puck right to Penguins’ winger Chris Kunitz who grabbed the puck and beat a surprising Andrei Vasilevsky short side to stretch the score to 4-1.

The Lightning would take another penalty a minute later with another pointless call from Tampa defenseman Braydon Coburn who caught Pens winger Bryan Rust up high with his stick. Tampa was able to halt the bleeding and stop the scoring onslaught and kill off the penalty. Then with 1:44 left in the game Tampa was able to grab a consolation goal. Lightning defender Matt Carle passed the puck to winger Nikita Kucherov on the left side boards. Kucherov slid down the side and dished the puck to Ondrej Palat in the high slot who ripped another one-timer high glove side on Matt Murray to cut the score to 4-2.

With 19 seconds left in the game, a minor scrum ensued between the two teams. After everything got settled down three penalties were handed out, one to Pittsburgh and two to Tampa Bay. Pens D-man Trevor Daley got a two-minute roughing call and Tampa winger Alex Killorn getting a roughing call as well as a 10-minute misconduct.

The game ended with Pittsburgh winning comfortably 4-2. Pens goalie Matt Murray stopped 26 out of 28 shots for a .929 SV% while opposing goalie Andrei Vasilevsky stopped 44 out of an insane 48 shots for a .917 SV%. Pittsburgh led in shots (48-28), and faceoffs (34-30). While Tampa led in hits (30-16), blocked shots (13-12), giveaways (11-8), and penalty minutes (20-6). Pittsburgh went 1/3 on the PP while Tampa Bay went 0/3.

These two clubs will take a day off and play again on Friday night here in Tampa, Florida with puck drop at 8 pm. Tampa will hopefully get goalie Ben Bishop back in net from injury.

Lightning Win Game 1, Lead Eastern Conference Final 1-0

By: Nick Lanciani

Unknown-1The Tampa Bay Lightning were victorious on road ice in Game 1 of the 2016 Eastern Conference Final, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 at CONSOL Energy Center on Friday night.

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 25 saves on 26 shots faced for a .962 SV% in 46:55 TOI in the win, while Matt Murray made just 17 saves for the Penguins on 20 shots faced for a .850 SV% in the loss. Ben Bishop played just 12:25, made 9 saves on 9 shots against and left the game with an injury in the first period.

Ryan Callahan took a five-minute major penalty for boarding Penguins defenseman, Kris Letang, almost three minutes into the first period. Letang remained down on the ice briefly, before being helped up by the Penguins training staff and skating off on his own power and walking to the locker room. He would return later in the first period.

Ben Bishop went down with a lower body injury a little over twelve minutes into the first period after trying to handle the puck in the trapezoid. Bishop skated to reach the puck, mishandled it and quickly tried to get back into position in the crease. He awkwardly extended his left leg and fell backward as the puck skipped by and the refs blew the whistle for the Lightning athletic training staff to tend to his injury. Bishop suffered a similar lower body injury in last year’s Stanley Cup Final.

Bishop was stretchered off the ice and transported to a local hospital for further evaluation. Anredi Vasilevskiy replaced Bishop in goal and Kristers Gudlevskis soon worked his way to the Tampa bench in the second period to serve as the Lightning’s backup in case Vasilevskiy went down.

Alex Killorn kicked off the scoring for the Lightning when he sent a backhand past Matt Murray on a breakaway for the 1-0 lead. Killorn’s goal was his 4th of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and was assisted by Victor Hedman (6) at 18:46 of the first period.

Tyler Johnson was injured on a hit along the boards late in the first period and appeared to have suffered a lower body injury, if not at least a leg or knee injury. He returned to Tampa’s bench in the second period.

After twenty minutes of play the Bolts led 1-0 on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh led in shots on goal (10-6) and faceoff wins (9-7) after the first period and Tampa led in hits (16-14) and blocked shots (6-4), while both teams recorded two giveaways and three takeaways each. The Lightning had yet to see the man advantage after one and the Penguins were 0/1 on the power play through twenty minutes of play.

Pittsburgh Penguins LogoEvgeni Malkin hooked Victor Hedman just 1:46 into the second period and was sent to the penalty box for a minor infraction, giving Tampa their first power play opportunity of the night. The Lightning went right to work on the man advantage and peppered Murray with a couple of decent chances.

Valtteri Filppula found Ondrej Palat as he was crashing the net on a rebound. Palat backhanded the puck while he was falling past an out of position Murray for his 3rd goal of the postseason. Filppula (4) and Jason Garrison (5) picked up the assists on the power play goal that was scored at 2:33 of the second period.

With a 2-0 lead the Lightning set into a rhythm.

Nikita Nesterov gave Pittsburgh a power play after hooking Conor Sheary at 7:50 of the second period. The Penguins were unable to convert on the man advantage. Likewise the Bolts were unable to convert on their man advantage three minutes later when Matt Cullen tripped Hedman.

At 18:25 of the second period, Jonathan Drouin potted his 2nd goal of the playoffs on a one timer from Palat as the Lightning entered the offensive zone on a 3-on-1 rush. Palat (3) and Filppula (5) notched the assists on Drouin’s goal that made it 3-0 Tampa Bay.

A mere 24 seconds later, Hedman tripped Sheary and set the Penguins up with another power play. This time, Patric Hornqvist fired a shot past Vasilevskiy and Pittsburgh scored six seconds into the power play, thus ending the shutout bid for Vasilevskiy and cutting the Lightning’s lead to two. The goal read as Hornqvist’s 6th of the postseason, assisted by Sidney Crosby (8) and Phil Kessel (8) at 19:05 of the 2nd.

Tampa Bay still went into the second intermission with a 3-1 lead on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh continued to lead in shots on goal (19-15) and faceoff wins (26-10), while the Lightning led in hits (28-24) and blocked shots (15-9). Both teams had three giveaways and three takeaways each. The Bolts were 1/2 on the power play and the Pens were 1/3 on the man advantage after forty minutes of play.

With the exception of shots on goal and lots of saves, not much happened in the third period. There was no more scoring in the game and only a couple more penalties distributed.

Ondrej Palat drilled Brian Dumoulin into the boards face first 15:14 into the third period and received a two-minute minor penalty for boarding, as Dumoulin took some time to gather himself and be helped off the ice by his teammates, Nick Bonino and Kris Letang. Penguins fans were not pleased and it was the fourth time in the night that a player required extra time to recover from a potential injury on a play in the game.

With less than three minutes to go, Penguins head coach, Mike Sullivan, called for Murray to vacate the goal in exchange for an extra attacker in a last ditch effort for Pittsburgh to try to tie the game and at least force overtime, if not score three goals to win it before the end of regulation.

But the extra skater was to no avail as the Penguins iced the puck a couple of times, forcing Matt Murray back into the goal, and the Lightning held off the Pittsburgh offense.

Hornqvist took one last penalty as time expired for cross checking Matt Carle at 20:00 of the third.

The Penguins finished the night leading in shots on goal (35-20), faceoff wins (35-23) and giveaways (9-4). The Lightning had not only won the game 3-1, but had also ended the night with an advantage in hits (40-31), takeaways (6-4) and blocked shots (20-10). Tampa finished the night 1/2 on the power play and Pittsburgh finished the night 1/4.

This is the Penguins first visit back to the Eastern Conference Final since 2013 when they were swept by the Boston Bruins. The Lightning are making their second appearance in a row in the Eastern Conference Final, having defeated the New York Rangers last year in the 2015 Eastern Conference Final en route to an unsuccessful Stanley Cup Final run against the Chicago Blackhawks.

In other news and notes…

Heading into Game 1 the Tampa Bay Lightning had not lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the regular season in all three occasions. The Lightning had scored at least four or more goals in each of their wins against Pittsburgh, with their most recent victory having been a 4-2 win at CONSOL Energy Center on February 20th.

Game 1 marked the fourth time in the past 35 years in which both goalies were 21 years old or younger, as noted by Elias Sports. A 20-year-old, Tom Barrasso, of the Buffalo Sabres faced a 21-year-old, Mario Gosselin, of the Québec Nordiques in the 1985 Division Semifinals, while Bill Ranford of the Boston Bruins and Patrick Roy of the Montréal Canadiens squared off as 19 and 20 year olds and then 20 and 21 year olds, respectively in the 1986 and the 1987 Division Semifinals prior to last night’s 21-year-old matchup of Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Sidney Crosby’s assist was his 83rd career playoff assist and moved him past Jaromir Jagr (82 assists) for sole possession of the second most playoff assists in Penguins franchise history.

Tampa Bay now has a 1-0 series lead heading into Game 2 on Monday night in Pittsburgh. Puck drop is scheduled for 8:00 PM ET and the game will be televised on NBCSN in the United States and CBC and TVA Sports in Canada.