Hawks outsmart, outscore Canucks now lead series 3-1

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Given the amount of trash talk that went down before Game 4 between Chicago and Vancouver, you had the feeling that this game was going to be something more out of the Federal League in “Slap Shot” rather than the NHL. What it turned out to be was a shining example of being played for a pack of fools.

The Canucks were goaded into snapping back at the Blackhawks after they’ve made life very uncomfortable in the crease for Roberto Luongo and had some big targets to go after in the form of Dustin Byfuglien and rather than fight back with them on the ice, the Blackhawks took the lumps and helped themselves to four power play goals on the evening on the way to a 7-4 psychological dismantling of the Canucks to take a 3-1 series lead.

Two games in a row now the Blackhawks have gotten the Canucks to go out of their way to chase after them for what they view to be objectionable conduct on the ice, ahem, and the Hawks have been more than happy to let the Canucks run around like escaped asylum inmates. The score of the game explains itself. Vancouver added a goal in the third period to give the fans something a little extra to cheer about, but goals from Tomas Kopecky and an empty net goal from Dave Bolland salted the game away something fierce.

For the Canucks there are a lot of questions to ask now as they’ll head to Chicago for Game 5. Can they play smarter and with better discipline? Can their defense do something more than take brutal penalties? Can Roberto Luongo steal them a win for once in their playoff lives against Chicago?  What looked to be a promising playoff year for Vancouver is going up in flames.

Meanwhile the Chicago Blackhawks have turned their game up into another gear mostly due to captain Jonathan Toews. Toews finished the night with a hat trick and five points in all. I know we’re a little spoiled after Johan Franzen’s performance against San Jose, but Toews has carried the play of the Blackhawks this postseason and now leads the league in playoff scoring with 18 points. Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp have all been stellar in the playoffs for Chicago and if they stay on this kind of pace, they’ll be very difficult to contend with.

Game 5 of the series will be Sunday night in Chicago.

Video: Phil Kessel displays incredible hand-eye coordination on goal

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This has been a tough postseason for Phil Kessel haters.

The supposed “choker” is on a team that’s in the Eastern Conference Final, but Kessel obviously isn’t just in for the ride with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He scored his 18th point in 17 postseason games by scoring the 1-0 goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6.

(Watch that goal in the video above.)

It was a dramatic first period, with a Jonathan Drouin goal getting disallowed and Andrei Vasilevskiy making some huge saves on tough chances.

Can Pittsburgh protect this slim lead with 1-0 down one period? We’ll see, but either way, what a great postseason for Kessel.

Judge for yourself: Was Drouin’s would-be 1-0 goal offside?

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To start the seemingly pivotal stretch, Andrei Vasilevskiy made an outstanding save on Evgeni Malkin on what sure looked like a scary chance.

The play swiftly shifted from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s end to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ side of the ice, and it seemed like Jonathan Drouin scored a big 1-0 goal in Game 6.

As it turns out, the goal was disallowed thanks to an offside goal review.

Here are a few viewpoints on that moment in GIF form … you can get a fuller view via the video above.

The general feeling among those who don’t have a horse in the race is that it was the right call. (Lightning fans were, uh, not happy.)

Lightning coach believes Drouin ‘is going to be dominant in this league’

TAMPA, FL - APRIL 30:  Jonathan Drouin #27 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates his goal against the New York Islanders  during the first period in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 30, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images)
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At some point, it will probably be kind of boring to hear members of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization praise Jonathan Drouin.

At least if Drouin re-signs with the Bolts after quite the affirming postseason and his ascension amid injuries.

These days? It’s still sort of entertaining.

In the latest case, Jon Cooper was asked to compare the development paths for Nikita Kucherov vs. Drouin. After empathizing with the pressure Drouin carries as a high-end pick (vs. Kucherov’s ability to come in under the radar), Cooper had some very positive things to say about No. 27.

” … So many people think, well, you’re just going to step in the league at 18 and be dominant,” Cooper said. “I truly believe Jonathan is going to be dominant in this league, but it’s hard to do at 18. He had to work through it, and that’s it.”

Drouin, now at 21, has 12 points in 15 playoff games.

In other Lightning news, it sounds like the team will roll with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, an alignment that has been working well lately and also came through at times during the 2015 postseason.

The Penguins, meanwhile, replace Beau Bennett with Conor Sheary.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Tampa Bay Lightning – Game 6

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 22:  Tyler Johnson #9 of the Tampa Bay Lightning collides with Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 22, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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Tonight could be the final game of the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. You can catch Game 6 via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 6 is on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Bolts lead the series 3-2.

Here’s some relevant reading material to get you ready for tonight’s game:

Malkin guaranteed a Penguins win in Game 6

Lightning coach doesn’t seem flustered by Malkin’s guarantee

Kucherov continues to be clutch for the Bolts this postseason

Marc-Andre Fleury: ‘I should have been better’ in Game 5