Backstrom's hat trick lifts Capitals in OT, 6-5

Ovi6.jpgIt took just 31 seconds, but the Washington Capitals completed one
incredible comeback after Nicklas Backstrom’s goal in overtime tied the
series 1-1. It was the first playoff hat trick of Backstrom’s young
career, and it was a howitzer of a shot over Halak’s shoulder. Halak has
slowly been losing his confidence in net, and Backstrom let loose with
the perfect shot to beat the Habs goaltender after he had allowed the
game-tying goal just minutes before the end of regulation.

The Capitals were fueled by the emotional and aggressive play by
Alex Ovechkin in the third period, who finished with a goal and three
assists. It was certainly the performance the Capitals needed from their
captain, who had all but disappeared in the first five periods of the
series.

Things certainly started to immediately unravel for the Canadiens in the third period, when they abandoned the disciplined and controlled defensive game that had been so successful for them. Scott Gomez showed some tenacity and toughness during a scrum after a pileup in the Habs net, but sitting for five minutes for fighting while his team struggled on the power play is not exactly what the Habs needed.

So where does the win take the series? It’s obvious that
after so much frustration for so long against the Canadiens, the
Capitals finally have their confidence back. It’s a scary proposition
for the Habs, who were 90 seconds from taking a 2-0 series lead back to
Montreal, yet now the momentum is suddenly swinging in the other
direction.

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    One of the two? Sens will interview Boudreau on Friday

    Bruce Boudreau
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    Ottawa’s search for a new head coach is moving along quickly.

    Just one day after owner Eugene Melnyk said the Sens would be down to a two-person shortlist by Friday, the Ottawa Sun reported that Bruce Boudreau would interview for the bench boss gig tomorrow.

    Tomorrow… which is Friday.

    Boudreau’s the latest in a long line of coaching prospects brought in GM Pierre Dorion. Others include Mike Yeo, Marc Crawford, Guy Boucher, Randy Carlyle and Kevin Dineen.

    Boudreau, fired by the Ducks last week, is in hot demand. Bleacher Report’s Adrian Dater reported Calgary has already made an offer, and it’s believed the Minnesota Wild have also reached out, though GM Chuck Fletcher remains unclear what he plans to do with interim bench boss John Torchetti.

    As for the Senators, there could be one more coach in the running to crack said shortlist:

    Bob Hartley.

    Dismissed by Calgary earlier this week, Hartley is seen as a good fit for the Sens gig. He speaks French, which is a bonus for a bi-lingual city like Ottawa, and has ties to player development coach Shean Donovan (Hartley coached Donovan in both Colorado and Atlanta)

    Hartley’s also liked by former GM and current special advisor Bryan Murray, who nearly hired Hartley back in 2008 — but instead opted for Craig Hartsburg.

    From the Globe:

    [Murray] narrowed his search to Hartsburg, former Colorado Avalanche Stanley Cup championship coach Bob Hartley and highly regarded junior coach Peter DeBoer of the Kitchener Rangers. DeBoer beat Hartsburg in the OHL Western Conference final this season, 4-1. They emerged as the two finalists for the job.

    Both met earlier this week with Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, who said he wanted to become familiar with both as well as “have a couple of beers and pizza.” The final decision was up to Murray, and Hartsburg became the man.

    “I was impressed with all of them,” Murray said. “[Hartley’s]presentation was excellent and I can see why he’s had success.

    Other candidates believed to be in the running for the Ottawa job are Kings assistant John Stevens, and Blues assistant Brad Shaw.

    If the Stars don’t get some better goaltending, their GM will have some explaining to do

    Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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    Kari Lehtonen was reportedly the first Stars goalie off the ice this morning, meaning he’s your likely starter tonight in St. Louis.

    The decision by coach Lindy Ruff to go back to Lehtonen is no surprise after Antti Niemi started Game 3 and didn’t even last half of it. This is the way the Stars have rolled all season — back and forth between their two veteran netminders.

    Yesterday, Ruff reiterated his frustration at having to constantly explain the two-goalie system.

    “I’m just trying to stay consistent with what we have done all year,” Ruff told reporters. “I know that’s hard for you guys to buy into, because this two-goalie thing is new to you guys and you’d rather just ask me about one goalie, but we’ve had two goalies that have played really well that have got us to where we are.”

    Ruff’s frustration is understandable, but then, so are the constant questions from reporters. Because if the Stars don’t get some better goaltending soon, they’ll be out of the playoffs and GM Jim Nill will be left to justify the $10.4 million in cap space he’s got tied up in Lehtonen and Niemi through 2017-18.

    No other team has that much cap space allocated to a pair of goalies.

    Now, was it all Niemi’s fault that the Stars lost Game 3? Of course it wasn’t. The Blues were the better team.

    But the fact remains, Lehtonen and Niemi have combined to give Dallas an .892 save percentage in the playoffs, and that’s not even close to good enough.

    Nill said going into the season that the Stars had “two No. 1 goalies.”

    Right now, they don’t even have one.

    If they did, he’d be playing all the time, and the coach wouldn’t have to explain a thing.

    Miller wants to get another contract in Detroit

    DETROIT, MI - FEBRUARY 24:  Drew Miller #20 of the Detroit Red Wings looks on the Dallas Stars on February 24, 2011 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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    When healthy, Drew Miller is an effective checking forward and solid penalty killer.

    When healthy, that is.

    Miller struggled through a nightmarish campaign in ’15-16, missing extensive time with a broken jaw and torn ACL. The result? Just 28 games played, and only two points scored.

    Set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, the 32-year-old Miller wants to re-up in Detroit, get healthy, and return to form next season.

    “Right now, for me it’s just getting myself healthy and giving myself an opportunity to get another contract,” Miller said, per MLive. “Everything is on the right path. The knee is feeling a lot better every time.”

    Scooped off waivers from Tampa Bay seven years ago, Miller has really flourished during his time with the Red Wings and, not unlike a fine wine, got better with age.

    He didn’t miss a single game from 2013-15, appearing in 82 contests each season while racking up 15 and 13 points, respectively. Miller was also one of the Red Wings’ best shot-blocking forwards and a staple of the penalty kill.

    There are some questions about his future in Detroit, however.

    The knee has to be a concern. Miller said the ligament had been partially torn for the better part of a decade but, since it didn’t bother him that much, he never had it addressed. Yet there has to be pause from GM Ken Holland about investing in a guy, on the wrong side of 30, coming off major surgery.

    There’s also the potential for Detroit to continue with its youth movement up front. Young guys like Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha, Martin Frk and Evgeny Svechnikov could be pushing for full-time NHL gigs next year, which could make Miller expendable.

    Of course, the whole thing could simply come down to dollars. Miller’s last contract was a three-year, $4.05 million deal that paid $1.35M annually, and it’s hard to say if he’d score a similar payday if he sticks in Detroit.

    Testing free agent waters could ultimately be the play.

    The ‘style of play’ difference that Treliving cited ‘was news’ to Hartley

    Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley gives instructions during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Saturday, March 5, 2016. The Flames won 4-2. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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    When Bob Hartley was fired as head coach of the Calgary Flames, GM Brad Treliving left the impression that there was a difference between the “style of play” that Hartley coached and the style that Treliving wanted.

    Yesterday, on a conference call with reporters, Hartley called that “news to me.”

    “I felt that Brad and I always talked,” Hartley said, per the Calgary Sun, “and I always thought that we were on the same page.”

    Now, for the record, Treliving did not say that he and Hartley were constantly butting heads, or that their working relationship had gone completely off the rails. In fact, the GM made a point to say, “I don’t want to characterize this as I’m standing in one end of the corner and Bob’s at the other end, and one’s talking chess and the other’s talking checkers.”

    But that’s sort of how it came off — that Hartley had his philosophy, Treliving had his philosophy, and the two were incompatible.

    Hence, the coach’s surprise.

    “Brad Treliving was a great help to the coaching staff, was very supportive of us, so at no point was there a difference of opinion and everything,” said Hartley.

    “So yesterday that was news to me.”

    Related: Travis Green thinks he’s ready to coach in the NHL