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.

Gather your lucky charms, 2016 NHL Draft Lottery is tonight

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Honestly, it’s tough to blame people for making Edmonton Oilers jokes in regards to the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery.

Really it’s only human nature to drop one-liners about the perennial cellar-dweller that (seemingly) always lands the No. 1 pick.

Will it happen again this time around? We’ll find out soon enough, more precisely sometime around 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

As you can see, the Oilers do not have the best odds to land the top pick … but they’re close:

A reminder: this time around the lottery will determine the top three picks. The NHL discusses that tweak and other changes here:

For the first time, the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery will assign the top three slots in the first round of the NHL Draft – a change from prior years, when the Draft Lottery was used to determine the winner of the first overall selection exclusively.

Want the full lowdown on the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery? PHT has you covered here.

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

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The Stanley Cup playoffs continue with two games on Saturday. You can catch tonight’s games via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

NY Islanders at Tampa Bay (3:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 2 will be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Pittsburgh at Washington (8:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 2 will also be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Some reading to get you pumped up:

– The Penguins are keeping chatty Marc-Andre Fleury from speaking to the media (reportedly).

Tom Wilson received a fine, not a suspension, for that knee-to-knee hit.

T.J. Oshie was the difference-maker for Washington in Game 1.

– Don’t expect Steven Stamkos to face red-hot John Tavares anytime soon (or at all, maybe).

Read about the Isles’ Game 1 win.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.