Tonight's games: They can't all be gems

Not to be ungrateful, NHL, because you are giving fans 8 games tonight but … wow. There isn’t one game that jumps out at me as a barn burner. Really, I hate to say it, but the barn is frozen. Anyway, let’s take a look at tonight’s weak sauce slate of games.

Usually, I’ll choose the best game(s) of the night but … yuck. Let’s just go in order.

Toronto Maple Leafs (19-32-12, 50 pts) at Ottawa Senators (36-25-4, 76 pts) 7:00 PM ET

So Toronto is now the worst team in the Eastern Conference since the Hurricanes decided to start playing hockey again for whatever reason. Really, with Edmonton winning a game for once, things are looking really good for the draft lottery hopes of the … oh, right the Bruins have those picks. Oops.

New York Rangers (29-27-8, 66 pts) at Washington Capitals (43-13-8, 94 pts) 7:00 PM ET

I’m guessing it would be better for Marian Gaborik just to sit this one out; the Caps are an absolutely ridiculous 24-3-3 at home this season.

Carolina Hurricanes (26-30-7, 59 pts) at Florida Panthers (25-28-10, 60 pts) 7:00 PM ET

Look at you, Carolina! Now you can be at the Panthers’ level of being just bad enough to barely miss the playoffs.

Rest of the games after the jump

Atlanta Thrashers  (28-24-10, 66 pts) at Tampa Bay Lightning  (26-26-11, 63 pts) 7:30 PM ET

The Thrashers are, at this moment, the 8th seed in the East. I imagine the Lightning aren’t terribly thrilled with their 5 game losing streak right now, but at least they don’t have to pretend to watch Saw III anymore.

Anaheim Ducks (30-26-7, 67 pts) at Phoenix Coyotes (38-22-5, 81 pts) 8:00 PM ET

If the Coyotes want to make their feel-good story last more than one round of the playoffs, they’re going to need to hold onto the fourth seed. Twenty-three out of the team’s 38 wins have come in what you’d think would be a slightly depressing home arena.

St. Louis Blues (30-25-9, 69 pts) at Colorado Avalanche (36-22-6, 78 pts) 9:00 PM ET

The Blues are just strange because they’re much better on the road (18 wins) than at home (12 wins, more losses). After Craig “Ice Girls fan” Anderson was left off of Team USA, I think that the goofy but talented goalie deserves a playoff run as a consolation prize.

Montreal Canadiens (30-29-6, 66 pts) at Los Angeles Kings (38-21-4, 80 pts) 10:00 PM ET

Is it reasonable to say that the Pacific division is still the toughest division in the NHL? The Sharks are obviously dangerous, the Kings and Coyotes look like legit playoff teams and even though the Ducks/Stars seem a bit hapless they have the talent to upset anyone. The Kings could probably contend for a division title if they were in the Northwest.

Columbus Blue Jackets  (25-28-11, 61 pts) at San Jose Sharks (41-14-9, 91 pts) 10:30 PM ET

Obviously, the playoff seeding will probably change a lot in the next 18 or so games, but if I were San Jose (or any team) I’d much rather take my chances against the Nashville Predators than the Detroit Red Wings. As for Columbus, how’s that reactionary coach firing treating you?

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    Video: Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins have spoken out against a late, high hit that Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik threw on Olli Maatta early in the first period of an eventful Game 2 on Saturday.

    Maatta left and didn’t return. He played only 31 seconds, and the Penguins were reduced to five defensemen for a large portion of the game. Orpik was given a minor penalty on the play, but the league’s Department of Player Safety may see it differently.

    The hit occurred well after Maatta had gotten rid of the puck. He struggled on his way to the dressing room for further evaluation.

    Based on multiple reports, Orpik wasn’t made available to the media following the game, which went to the Penguins as they earned the split on the road.

    But the Penguins have taken issue with the hit.

    “I thought it was a late hit,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, as per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

    Game on: Penguins even series with rival Capitals

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins will head back home with a split of their second-round series with the rival Washington Capitals.

    Former Capitals forward Eric Fehr came back to burn his hold team, as he scored with under five minutes remaining in regulation to help lift the Penguins over Washington with a 2-1 victory in an eventful Game 2 on Saturday. Evgeni Malkin threw the puck toward the net and Fehr was able to re-direct it by Braden Holtby.

    Oh, this was an eventful game, indeed.

    It started early in the first period with Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik catching Penguins blue liner Olli Maatta with a late and high hit that warranted — at least for now — only a minor penalty for interference. Maatta, clearly in distress following the hit, didn’t play another shift and saw only 31 seconds of ice time in total, as Pittsburgh was reduced to five defensemen for the remainder of the game.

    It continued in the third period. Kris Letang was furious after getting called for a trip on Justin Williams, and even more ticked off when the Capitals tied the game on the ensuing power play.

    For two periods, the Capitals couldn’t get much going. Only four of their players had registered a shot on goal through 40 minutes, while the Penguins held the edge in that department and held the lead.

    Washington came out with more jump in the third period, testing rookie netminder Matt Murray with 14 shots in the final 20 minutes. But the Penguins got the late goal to break the deadlock.

    Video: Penguins’ Letang was furious after Capitals tie up Game 2 with power play goal

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    Kris Letang watched from the penalty box as the Washington Capitals tied up Game 2 with a power play goal in the third period. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman was called for tripping after he appeared to muscle Justin Williams off the puck as he entered the zone.

    Letang let his disagreement with the call be known at the time, and was furious after the Capitals capitalized on a goal from Marcus Johansson.

    The Capitals started the period down a goal and being outshot 28-10 by the Penguins, who need a win to even the series.

    Also, it seems this is worth mentioning:

    Video: Hagelin goes top shelf to give Penguins the lead in Game 2

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    In their quest to even the series, the Pittsburgh Penguins had done a nice job through two periods of suffocating the Washington Capitals, while gaining the lead on a beautiful goal.

    Carl Hagelin took advantage of a vast amount of space that opened up in front of the Washington net, finishing off a nice pass from Nick Bonino, burying his shot just under the cross bar on the glove side of Braden Holtby.

    Through two periods, the Penguins were outshooting Washington 28-10. Only four Capitals players — Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen — had registered shots on goal.