Canucks survive with 4-1 win behind Bieksa's big night

Bieksa.jpgChicago Blackhawks 1, Vancouver Canucks 4

Blackhawks lead series 3-2

The Vancouver Canucks did a lot of talking leading up to Game 5, and some wondered if this was a team on the brink of falling apart. Their goaltender wasn’t focused, Shane O’Brien was the most outspoken player on the team and the coach routinely shot down anything the players had to say publicly.

You have to hand it to them though; they pulled it together to play one heck of a complete game to secure a big 4-1 victory to hold off elimination for at least one more game. While the Canucks will certainly need more from the Sedins if they hope to pull off a comeback in this series, there’s no overlooking the tremendous job that Christian Erhoff and Kevin Bieksa did tonight in leading their team to a win.

The Canucks entered the series already shorthanded on defense, and towards the end of the first period lost Sami Salo when he was hit with a puck. Erhoff and Bieksa instantly became the most important players on the ice for the Cancucks, and the two combined for three goals and four points. Bieksa led his team in ice time and had two goals and an assist himself, a great sign for the Canucks as it looks like Salo might be out for a significant amount of time.

Aside from the solid play of the defense, the key to the win was the newfound discipline of the Canucks. Looking like a completely different team than what we saw in games 3 and 4, the Canucks were in control emotionally for most of the game and never gave the Blackhawks a chance to get their agitating act going. Roberto Luongo did have a bit of a loose-lipped moment at the end of the 2nd period, but for the first time all series finally looked comfortable in net.

This was helped by a Chicago Blackhawks team that seemed ill prepared for taking on a good hockey team that had it’s back against the wall. Gone were the aggressive and confident Blackhawks that rattled off three straight wins; this was a team that just sleepwalked through the first 53 minutes of the game. If it weren’t for some timely Antti Niemi saves we’d have had another Game 1 debacle on our hands.

As for Salo, we’re still waiting on word as to the severity of his injury. At first, it seemed as though he was hit in the wrist or the abdomen. After watching the video replay, it could be much worse; it seems he could have been hit in the…ahem.. groin area with the puck. We’ll update when we know more.

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    Just for Men: Sidney Crosby

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    People love star athletes because they can do amazing things. Even so, people also often love to see the occasional moment of weakness.

    Aside from the occasional injury hiccup, Sidney Crosby‘s been as advertised after being a super-hyped No. 1 overall pick. He has that “Golden Goal,” two Olympic gold medals, a Stanley Cup ring and plenty of individual accolades.

    … Yet he can’t really grow much of a beard.

    Granted, his facial hair is thicker now that he’s “Sid the star nearing 30” rather than “Sid the Kid,” but no one will confuse him for Brent Burns and his living-in-a-cabin-in-the-woods beard.

    For some, especially Crosby-haters, it’s fodder for mockery.

    For the rest of us, it’s merely comforting to see that people like Crosby are human and actually have a few flaws.

    Game 5 will be ‘the most important game of our lives,’ says Caps’ Beagle

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    Not many people expected the Capitals-Penguins series to be over in five games, but there’s a chance that could happen before the end of the week. After their 3-2 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, the Capitals are one loss away from being bounced from the 2016 playoffs.

    The Capitals failed to take advantage of the fact that Kris Letang was suspended for Game 4 because of his hit on Marcus Johansson in Game 3. Letang is now set to return for Game 5 which makes Washington’s task even more difficult.

    “We didn’t take advantage of it,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said, per NHL.com. “One thing I said to the guys coming into this, and we talked it about it yesterday, was when Kris got his suspension, is that they’re going to rally. Their whole team, their forwards are going to come back. They talked about they didn’t play their best game (in Game 3) and now they have Letang out and everybody had to step up on their side, and I thought they did.”

    If you look back at the regular season, the Capitals were head and shoulders above the rest of the Eastern Conference and the league for a good portion of the season. Washington finished 11 points ahead of second place Dallas in the league standings and it looked like they had the team that would finally take them over the hump.

    Although things look gloomy, it’s important to realize that the series is far from over. Many NHLers would tell you that the fourth win is always the hardest to come by in a best-of-seven series, and by no means is anyone expecting the Capitals to wave the white flag.

    “Whenever you lose a game, it’s obviously an opportunity missed, but it had nothing to do with them missing some of their players,” said Caps forward Jay Beagle, per NHL.com. “We’re looking forward. Our back’s against the wall and the most important game of our lives is coming up.”

    Game 5 goes Saturday night in Washington.

    PHT Morning Skate: Shane Doan takes a (friendly) shot at the Miracle on Ice

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    PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

    Shane Doan took a friendly jab at the the movie “Miracle” and the Miracle on Ice. (BarDown)

    –The best of the worst Upper Deck hockey cards from 2015-16. (Puck Junk)

    –Here’s a list of the top 50 players in WHL history. (WHL)

    –Watch the highlights of last night’s game between the Penguins and Capitals. (Top)

    –A sad story about how Chris Phillips feels helpless as his hometown of Fort McMurray burns. (CBC)

    –“You want to get back into things right away (but) I think these last four or five months have been good for me.” Former Penguins coach Mike Johnston is ready to coach again. (Local XPress)

    –Blues forward Jori Lehtera is in a pretty random commercial:

    Penguins push Capitals to brink of elimination with OT win

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins ended a long run of playoff overtime struggles on Wednesday … and are now one win away from ending the Washington Capitals’ season.

    Many expected the Penguins to crater on defense without Kris Letang (they were 2-8-1 in the regular season without him). While there were shaky moments, Pittsburgh emphasized its speed and other strengths in taking a 3-2 overtime thriller against Washington.

    With that, the Penguins’ series lead grows to 3-1.

    It was a thrilling, sometimes nasty contest, from Sidney Crosby shaking off an Alex Ovechkin slash, to Evgeni Malkin delivering a hit some thought was over the line and plenty of typical playoff skirmishes.

    Ultimately, Matt Murray played another strong game and Patric Hornqvist scored the overtime-winner to put the Capitals in a tough spot.

    The Penguins lost their previous eight playoff overtime games, so maybe it was just a matter of time before such a game went their way?

    Then again, the history between the two teams is a little different:

    If the Capitals want to advance beyond the second round for the first time in the Ovechkin era, they’ll need to accomplish quite the feat against arguably the hottest team in the NHL.