Sidney Crosby, Penguins fall short against Canadiens 5-2

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habsbeatpens.jpgThe Montreal Canadiens have become experts at “stealing” victories thanks to conservative defense, great goaltending and timely offense. Tonight, however, the Pittsburgh Penguins practically dropped victory in their laps.

Montreal Canadiens 5, Pittsburgh Penguins 2

Canadiens win series 4-3

Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury set the tone for the game … the only problem was that they set the wrong tone. Crosby took a foolish boarding penalty 10 seconds into the game and Fleury allowed a goal on that powerplay only 32 seconds in. Crosby ended up with a -2 rating in Game 7 while Fleury didn’t even make it past the second period after allowing 4 back-breaking goals.

Let’s not to take anything away from the Habs’ spirited performance, though. Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta were amazing in the series, scoring an astounding 11 goals between them in those seven games. Jaroslav Halak had yet another great elimination game performance, making some huge third period saves to maintain what was then a two-goal lead. Halak is now an outstanding 5-0 in do-or-die games this playoffs. While I think that the Penguins shot themselves in the foot multiple times in this game, the Habs showed killer instinct time and time again to make them pay for almost every mistake.

Montreal awaits the winner of the Flyers-Bruins series, which heads to a Game 7 of its own after Philadelphia defeated Boston 2-1 in Game 6. Whether it is the Bruins or the Flyers, the Habs may actually find themselves in an unfamiliar position: as the prohibitive favorites.

The Penguins closed out the Mellon Arena with an up-and-down game (or is it a down-slightly up-then down again game?). Pens fans should have mixed feelings about this season. The negative view is that the team had a golden opportunity for a stunning third consecutive Stanley Cup Finals run but couldn’t get past the underdog Canadiens or their own errors. That being said, you’d have to be a pretty spoiled fan to expect them to make it there year after year. The team has issues to address – the unrestricted free agent status of Sergei Gonchar is the first thing that comes to mind – but they also still have their young nucleus in place. Despite highs and lows Crosby, Fleury, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal will live to fight another day.

Does that mean they ended their season without regrets? No, there’s certainly reason to ask “What if?” but the bottom line is that they couldn’t crack the Canadiens code. Give the Habs credit, though; they earned this win.

Burns, Doughty, Karlsson named finalists for 2016 Norris Trophy

Ottawa Senators' Erik Karlsson poses with the James Norris Memorial Trophy after winning the award at the NHL Awards show Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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Brent Burns, Drew Doughty and Erik Karlsson have been named finalists for the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman, but the debate about who should win is likely to persist right through to June 22 and the annual NHL Awards.

Not only did Karlsson, last year’s Norris winner, lead all blue liners is points with 82, he led the league in assists with 66 and finished tied with Joe Thornton for fourth in the entire NHL in total points. Those lofty offensive totals could make the Ottawa Senators star the clear favorite to claim the award for a third time in his career.

From NHL.com:

Karlsson is the first NHL defenseman to score at least 82 in a season since Brian Leetch of the New York Rangers (85 points) and Ray Bourque of the Boston Bruins (82 points) in 1995-96.

Burns — is there an award for most outrageous beard? — is also coming off an impressive regular season, finishing just shy of the 30-goal mark with 27 and 75 points in 82 games for the Sharks. He’s also had a strong showing in the post-season, as well, with eight points in the opening round versus L.A.

Doughty’s offensive numbers don’t match up with the production from Karlsson or Burns, with 51 points in 82 games for the Kings. There were eight defensemen ahead of him in overall point production. But he’s often recognized for logging hefty amounts of ice time, averaging 28:01 in the regular season, on a Kings team that often dominates puck possession at even strength.

“If you’re going to win, I don’t care how good you are, you’re going to have to play the other side of the puck,” Kings GM Dean Lombardi recently said to the Associated Press.

“You’re going to have to make those little plays that aren’t going to show up on the highlights. (Doughty’s) defensive partners — the little things he’ll do just to get his partner time to make a play. He’s three steps ahead of everything, and because he is that, he makes it look easy.”

WATCH LIVE: St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars – Game 1

St. Louis Blues' Jay Bouwmeester (19) checks Dallas Stars' Valeri Nichushkin (43), of Russia, during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Bill Boyce)
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They were the top teams in the Western Conference during the regular season, with 109 and 107 points, respectively. And now, the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues clash with a second-round series in the playoffs. You can catch Game 1 between these Central Division foes on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET) or online using NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Stars expect Seguin to miss at least first two games of Blues series

Here are PHT’s second-round playoff predictions

 

Canucks sign free agent goalie and Mike Richter Award nominee Garteig

Quinnipiac goalie Michael Garteig (34) eyes a save on a shot by North Dakota during the first period of an NCAA Frozen Four championship college hockey game Saturday, April 9, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
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Nine days after getting prized prospect goalie Thatcher Demko under contract, the Vancouver Canucks have inked another college puck stopper.

The Canucks have signed college free agent goalie Michael Garteig to a one-year entry-level contract, the team announced Friday. Garteig recently completed his senior year with Quinnipiac University, which won the ECAC championship but lost the NCAA championship game to North Dakota earlier this month.

Garteig, 24, posted a 32-4-7 record with a .924 save percentage and a career best eight shutouts this season. He was also once again nominated for the 2016 Mike Richter Award.

Sabres extend Larsson: one year, $950,000

BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 22: Johan Larsson #22 of the Buffalo Sabres warms up before the game against the Detroit Red Wings on January 22, 2016 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/Getty Images)
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Sabres have re-signed forward Johan Larsson to a one-year contract.

Larsson was eligible to become a restricted free agent once his contract expired this summer. The Swedish-born player is coming off a season in which he set career bests with 10 goals, 17 points and 74 games. He also finished tied with rookie center Jack Eichel in scoring five game-winning goals.

Overall, he has 16 goals and 21 assists in 142 games for the Sabres.

Buffalo acquired Larsson in a trade that sent former Sabres captain Jason Pominville to Minnesota in April 2013. The Wild selected Larsson in the second round of the 2010 draft.

Contractual details, per the Buffalo News: