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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    WATCH LIVE: Game 1 for Penguins – Capitals, Rangers – Senators

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    It’s really happening.

    For all the griping about having the Penguins and Capitals meet in the second round (again), it’s easy to forget the bright side: upsets didn’t dislodge this juicy matchup from taking place.

    The West’s duo of Game 1 matchups kicked into gear last night, and now the East provides that battle between Sidney Crosby‘s squad and Alex Ovechkin‘s loaded team. Don’t sleep on Rangers – Senators, either, though; there should be plenty of intrigue in seeing superhuman Swedes Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson try to one-up each other.

    Here’s what you need to know to follow the action:

    New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators

    Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

    Network: CNBC (Stream online here)

    Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals

    Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

    Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

    Sutter won’t retire from coaching, willing to join a rebuild

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    Given he turns 59 this summer, has won a pair of Stanley Cups and coached over 1,000 NHL games, Darryl Sutter probably could’ve called it a career after getting fired by the Kings earlier this month, and done so comfortably.

    But that’s not happening.

    In speaking with TSN’s Gary Lawless, Sutter said he has no plans to retire from coaching. What’s more — and, perhaps more interesting — is that Sutter said he wouldn’t limit his next job solely to a contending team.

    Currently, there are just two vacant coaching gigs in Buffalo and Florida. We wrote about the Panthers’ search earlier today (more on that here). The situation in Buffalo is more complex, as the Sabres need to hire a new general manager and coach. Logic suggests the GM will be hired first, then spearhead the new bench boss hire.

    In that regard, Buffalo is pretty intriguing.

    Though the Kings have yet to be contacted for an interview request, ex-GM Dean Lombardi has been tied to the Sabres gig. And Lombardi, of course, is forever tied to Sutter — he was the one that hired Sutter after a five-year coaching exodus to join the Kings, and the pair went on to achieve great success together.

    That five-year coaching exodus does need to be mentioned, though.

    History suggests that Sutter isn’t joking when he says he’ll be picky about the situation and won’t rush to find the right fit. After being dismissed in Calgary in 2006, he returned to work on the family farm in Viking, Alberta and seemed fairly content doing so.

    That said, hockey always seems to draw him back.

    “The game has given us everything,” Sutter told Lawless. “We still have lots to give.”

    Coyotes fire assistant coach Newell Brown

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    The Arizona Coyotes have parted ways with some personnel.

    Assistant coach Newell Brown has been fired, along with Doug Soetaert, who was the general manager of their AHL affiliate in Tuscon.

    Pro scouts David MacLean and Jim Roque won’t be back either. Their contracts will not be renewed.

    “I’d like to thank Newell, Doug, David and Jim for their contributions to the club,” said GM John Chayka. “They are all good people but we believe these changes are necessary in order to improve our organization. We wish them the best in the future.”

    A longtime NHL assistant coach, Brown is perhaps the most prominent of the four men. He joined the Coyotes in the summer of 2013 and received high praise for his work with their power play.

    But Arizona’s power play slipped to 26th this past season, converting at a rate of just 16.2 percent.

    As for Soetaert, he was only named GM of the Roadrunners last summer. The former NHL goalie had previously been a scout.

    Plenty of seats available for tonight’s game in Ottawa

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    The Ottawa Senators say they’re still expecting a full house, but Ticketmaster’s website shows plenty of available seats for tonight’s second-round opener with the New York Rangers.

    From the Ottawa Citizen:

    Many of the available tickets for Thursday’s game were in the corners of the upper bowl, seats that carry a $96 price tag.

    The Senators sold out all three games in the opening round of the playoffs against Boston. Game 1 drew a crowd of 18,702, while 18,629 showed up for Game 2 and 19,209 were in the seats for Game 5.

    Attendance has been an issue in Ottawa — or, more specifically, suburban Kanata — all season, to the point owner Eugene Melnyk expressed great frustration with the lack of sellouts at Canadian Tire Centre.

    Poor attendance also led to friction behind the scenes. At least, it sure sounded that way in the lawsuit that was filed against the team by its former chief marketing officer.

    Poor attendance is why the Sens are trying to get a new downtown arena built. They believe that a more central location is the key to bigger crowds.

    But regardless of the arena’s location, it won’t be a good look if there are empty seats tonight. This is the playoffs, and the Senators are one of eight remaining teams in the hunt for the Stanley Cup. The building should be full.

    Related: Melnyk thinks Sens can make deep playoff run