Jaroslav Halak, Montreal shocks Washington in Game 7

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halak2.jpgThis is one of those games (and series) where you look for someone to blame. Was it as simple as “The Capitals couldn’t solve Jaroslav Halak?” Maybe you point to their “lack of experience” or question their intestinal fortitude? To be honest, I’m still wrapping my head around the fact that the world-beating Washington Capitals are first round losers to what was supposed to be a lowly Montreal Canadiens team.

Montreal Canadiens 2, Washington Capitals 1

Canadiens win the series 4-3

No doubt about it, Halak was the No. 1 factor. The Slovakian-born goalie stands to make himself bushels of bucks as a restricted free agent, standing on his head once again. There was quite a bit made of Alex Ovechkin’s comments about Halak’s “hand shaking” during Game 2 of the series, but the Capitals were ultimately the ones shaking their heads as he turned away shot after shot. Just soak in these totals from his last three games: three wins, 131 saves and only three goals allowed. Forgive hockey fans around the globe for spouting phrases marinated in hyperbole, because those are genuinely legendary numbers under extreme pressure.

Regardless of Halak’s genius, the Capitals must be disappointed in their performance. As much as they peppered Halak with shots, they didn’t do enough to score “the playoff way.” That way is by getting dirty: scoring off rebounds, deflections and ugly screens. Most playoff goals won’t get you on Sportscenter, but they might make you a winner.

This sets up a bizarre scenario in which all but one “underdog” won in the East. The new top seed – defending champion Pittsburgh – failed to win their division this season. They’ll host the Canadiens while the sixth-ranked Boston Bruins have home ice against the Philadelphia Flyers. So much for all of our “race to lose to the top seeds” jokes.

What’s next in Washington? That ought to be an interesting situation to watch, for sure. Some people were calling for coach Bruce Boudreau’s head, but that is difficult for me to imagine. I wrote that the Capitals are actually in a great salary cap situation going into the summer, so if they want to revamp their roster they certainly have the room to do so. Right now, though, these players, coaches and executives probably just want to bury their heads in the sand.

Is it hasty to wonder if there’s a President’s Trophy curse after the top seed stumbled in the first round in two straight years?

Canucks have reportedly been told they’re out of the running for NCAA free agent Caggiula

TAMPA, FLORIDA - APRIL 09:  Drake Caggiula #9 of the North Dakota Fighting Hawks celebrates his goal in the third period against the Quinnipiac Bobcats during the championship game of the 2016 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championships at Amalie Arena on April 9, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.The North Dakota Fighting Hawks defeated the Quinnipiac Bobcats 5-1 to win the national title.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Less than a week after falling two places to fifth in the NHL draft lottery, the Vancouver Canucks have reportedly received more bad news: NCAA free agent forward Drake Caggiula will not be signing in Vancouver.

That’s according to reports from TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman on Friday. Not only are the Canucks supposedly out of the running, but so, too, are the Ottawa Senators, according to Friedman.

Where could Caggiula be signing?

It was believed earlier in the day that the Canucks could be front-runners for Caggiula, who played at North Dakota with Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick Brock Boeser and recent college signing Troy Stecher.

Video: Bad blood continues as Islanders get after Bishop and the Lightning

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The ill will between the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning has continued early in Game 4 on Friday.

It started with a scuffle in front of the Tampa Bay net after Islanders forward Steve Bernier fell over Ben Bishop, appearing to push downward with his stick as the Lightning goalie covered the puck.

Anxious few seconds there for the Lightning, as Bishop, appearing to favor the back of his head, was slow to get back to his skates. He has remained in the game.

The Islanders, needing a win to even the series, broke through for the game’s opening goal. Kyle Okposo ripped a shot from the slot that beat Bishop on the glove side late in the ensuing power play following the aforementioned heated gathering.

Related: WATCH LIVE: Lightning and Islanders — Game 4

WATCH LIVE: Lightning at Islanders – Game 4

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 03: Thomas Greiss #1 of the New York Islanders makes the save against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center on May 03, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Lightning defeated the Islanders 5-4 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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There is only one game on the playoff schedule tonight, but it’s a crucial Game 4 between the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. The Islanders are looking to even the series at two games apiece before it shifts back to Tampa Bay for Game 5.

You can catch Game 4 between the Lightning and Islanders on NBCSN (7 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Isles need ‘a short memory,’ can’t get hung up on Game 3 disappointment

Andreychuk confident that Stamkos will re-sign in Tampa Bay

No hearings scheduled for Boyle on Hickey hit, or Hickey on Drouin hit

 

Oilers apologize to former player who is, in fact, ‘alive and well’

EDMONTON, AB - APRIL 6:  Longtime Oilers dressing room attendant Joey Moss, along with former Oilers Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky, watch as a banner is lowered from the rafters during the closing ceremonies at Rexall Place following the game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks on April 6, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The game was the final game the Oilers played at Rexall Place before moving to Rogers Place next season. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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In an emotional farewell ceremony to Edmonton’s Rexall Place last month, organizers somehow overlooked one rather significant detail about a former WHA player.

We will let the Oilers explain:

Oilers Entertainment Group would like to issue a formal apology to former Edmonton Oiler (WHA) Roger Cote and his family. In a special segment during the Farewell Rexall Place Night on April 6, 2016, the organization honoured members of the Oilers Alumni who have unfortunately passed on. In an extreme oversight and error, we included Mr. Cote in that portion of the program. Roger is alive and well, living in Garson, Ontario. For this action and any confusion or pain it caused Mr. Cote and his family and friends, we sincerely apologize.

In addition to recognizing the error and issuing an apology, the Oilers added that they will be hosting Cote and his son at a game at Rogers Place next season.

Cote played two seasons for Edmonton during the WHA days.

The ceremony following the final game at Rexall Place involved more than 150 Oilers alumni members, staff and special guests, as well as current members of the organization, according to the Oilers.