Nightly recap – Saturday, October 23rd

A busy night around the NHL and we’ll take you around faster than Doc Brown’s DeLorean can get you to the year 2015. Either guys were lighting it up with hat tricks, or shutting it down via shutout in goal. It was just one of those nights.

Washington 4 – Atlanta 3 (F/OT)

An up and down game for both teams saw the Caps come out on top in overtime. Alex Semin scored a natural hat trick for the Caps, meanwhile Tomas Fleischmann scored the game-winner in OT. Evander Kane did everything in his power to lead Atlanta scoring a pair of goals of his own.

NY Rangers 3 – Boston 2

Tuukka Rask got his first start in two weeks and… It looked like he hadn’t played in two weeks, something the Rangers were happy to take advantage of getting goals from Artem Anisimov, Alex Frolov, and Marc Staal. Henrik Lundqvist was stellar stopping 35 in the win. Zdeno Chara and Nathan Horton had the goals for Boston.

Montreal 3 – Ottawa 0

Andrei Kostitsyn carried the offense for the Habs netting two goals, meanwhile it wasn’t a bad night to be Carey Price as he lead the way for Montreal with a 19-save shutout.  Brian Elliott stopped 31 shots in the loss for Ottawa who continues to struggle.

Buffalo 6 – New Jersey 1

It was just a bad night for New Jersey who saw their horrible on-ice performance overshadowed by Ilya Kovalchuk being scratched from the lineup by head coach John MacLean. Meanwhile, the Sabres on a roll getting two goals from Thomas Vanek and goals each from Patrick Kaleta, Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, and Tyler Ennis. Devils starter Johan Hedberg was chased in the second period after giving up four goals on 13 shots.

Philadelphia 5 – Toronto 2

Another tough game for the Maple Leafs in what could be a breakout game for the Flyers. Five different scorers got on the board for Philly while the Leafs own inability to handle the puck kept them from getting things going. Mike Richards broke out of his goalless slump for Philly, meanwhile Clarke MacArthur scored his sixth goal of the year for Toronto.

Florida 4 – NY Islanders 3

The Islanders got everything they could ask for out of John Tavares as he had a hat trick, but the Panthers stayed strong despite his best efforts to foil them. Four different Panthers got on the board but it was Radek Dvorak who netted the game-winner late in the third.

Detroit 5 – Anaheim 4

A wild, back-and-forth game in Detroit saw the Wings come out on top thanks to Pavel Datsyuk’s late third period snipe with 12 seconds left to play to decide the game. Expect there to be some talk about another big hit from Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall who leveled Teemu Selanne early in the game with a hit being looked at as questionable. Selanne wasn’t hurt on the play and Kronwall wasn’t penalized, but Anaheim players aren’t happy with the play. Henrik Zetterberg had two goals for Detroit in the win.

St. Louis 1 – Pittsburgh 0 (F/OT)

Jaroslav Halak was the hero of the night for St. Louis pitching a 31-save shutout to beat the Penguins. Pittsburgh has had about their fill of Halak after it was Halak and the Canadiens who knocked them out of the playoffs in the second round in seven games. We’re sure they’re happy he’s taking up residence in the Western Conference now. Erik Johnson scored the game-winning goal 50 seconds into overtime to win it for the Blues. Brent Johnson did his part in goal for Pittsburgh stopping 23 in the loss.

Nashville 1 – Dallas 0

Cal O’Reilly scored 42 seconds into the game and that’s all the Predators would need to beat Dallas. Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, was outstanding stopping 30 shots in earning the shutout. Kari Lehtonen stopped 23 shots in the loss for Dallas.

Columbus 3 – Chicago 2

The Blue Jackets were able to overcome an early 2-0 Chicago lead to take out the Blackhawks. The Jackets saw the game turn when Troy Brouwer took a five-minute major for boarding late in the second period. The penalty came just seven seconds after Derick Brassard got Columbus on the board for the first time. Early in the third with the man advantage, R.J. Umberger tipped home a shot to tie the game at 2-2 and Columbus turned that momentum into victory when Antoine Vermette scored his first goal of the year. Steve Mason stopped 30 shots in the win while Corey Crawford stopped 37 in the loss.

Los Angeles 6 – Colorado 4

A wild and somewhat ugly game that saw Colorado’s Scott Hannan leave the game with a head injury in the second period, L.A.’s Wayne Simmonds get a game misconduct in the third for a butt-ending major penalty, and L.A.’s Brad Richardson netting a hat trick to lead the Kings to victory. Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk had two goals each for Colorado, meanwhile Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, and Alexei Ponikarovsky also scored for the Kings.

Carolina 4 – Phoenix 3 (F/OT)

The Hurricanes continue to play the role of road warriors, this time taking out the Coyotes in Glendale. Anton Babchuk’s tip-in goal in overtime gave the Hurricanes the victory. It wasn’t all easy though as the Hurricanes did lead 3-0 at one point. Kyle Turris lead the charge for Phoenix scoring twice and assisting on Scottie Upshall’s goal that made it 3-3. The game made it to overtime thanks to the big play of Phoenix’s Ilya Bryzgalov who saved 37 shots in the loss. Cam Ward was pretty good too stopping 36 shots in the win.

San Jose 6 – Edmonton 1

The Oilers thought they were off to a good start when Jordan Eberle scored shorthanded just 1:22 into the game, but things went downhill fast after that. Dany Heatley scored late in the first to tie it and the Sharks wore down Edmonton from that point on with Joe Pavelski leading the charge with a goal and two assists. Joe Thornton had three assists for San Jose as well.

WATCH LIVE: Penguins, Jets, Predators look to advance

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Game 5: Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins, 7 p.m. ET (Penguins lead 3-1)
NBCSN
Call: John Forslund, Pierre McGuire
Series preview
Stream here

Game 5: Minnesota Wild at Winnipeg Jets, 7:30 p.m. ET (Jets lead 3-1)
USA
Call: Dave Randorf, Louis Debrusk
Series preview
Stream here

Game 5: Colorado Avalanche at Nashville Predators, 9:30 p.m. ET (Predators lead 3-1)
NBCSN
Call: Kenny Albert, AJ Mleczko, Brian Boucher
Series preview
Stream

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Leafs ‘under the gun,’ especially Matthews and Kadri

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Nazem Kadri told reporters that he didn’t apologize to his teammates about the three-game suspension he received for a hit on Tommy Wingels, explaining that he was sticking up for Mitch Marner.

An apology might not be necessary, but the bottom line is that Toronto Maple Leafs fans likely expect a lot from Kadri – not to mention star center Auston Matthews – as this team tries to fight back from down 3-1 in their series against the Boston Bruins.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Letdowns

The Maple Leafs dropped two of three games with Kadri out of the lineup, prompting plenty of “What if?” questions, even if people merely wondered how different things would be if it was just a one-game suspension.

Regardless, when it came to last night’s 3-1 loss in Game 4, Mike Babcock didn’t mince words about Toronto failing to exploit the Bruins’ absence in the form of Patrice Bergeron.

“I’m assuming that he thought he was going to come tonight and dominate the game. That’s what I thought,” Babcock said of Matthews. “That didn’t happen …”

Auston not scoring often

Ultimately, Matthews has been limited to one point (the game-winner in Game 3) through the first four games of this series. That’s a disappointment for the NHL’s biggest jersey seller, especially since he showed nicely during his first playoff series, collecting five points during that memorable first-round bout with the Washington Capitals during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It’s easy to throw Matthews under the bus, and Babcock essentially admits that not enough was there last night.

Still, quite a bit of this comes down to bounces. Matthews has generated more than four shots on goal per game (17 overall) so far in this series, suffering with a Rick Nash-like 5.9 shooting percentage during this postseason. Such numbers tend to balance out over time; note that Matthews scored four goals in six games during that Capitals series on 16 SOG, good for a 25-percent shooting rate that would be unsustainable during an 82-game regular season.

There’s also at least some reason to wonder if Matthews is at least somewhat limited by the injury that cost him 10 games from Feb. 22 until his return to the lineup on March 22. As brilliant as he was (six goals, seven assists for 13 points in nine games), maybe he’s missing a few mph on his fastball against unforgiving competition like Zdeno Chara?

Either way, Matthews (and William Nylander) have struggled while the Bruins’ top-line forwards Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak find ways to feast upon the Maple Leafs’ mistakes.

Kadri has plenty to prove

Expectations will be high for Kadri, too, and his offensive numbers have been modest over a small sample size of playoff appearances.

So far, Kadri has generated two goals and six assists in 14 career playoff games, piling up 35 penalty minutes. At minimum, Toronto would like to see his finishing touch pay off a bit more in the postseason after the agitating center generated 32 goals in each of the past two regular seasons.

Much of that can be filed under “easier said than done,” particularly when Tuukka Rask is on his game.

Under the gun

That said, Babcock believes that players like Matthews and Kadri should “embrace and enjoy” the pressure.

” … No pressure means you have no chance. Go to the Olympic games, if you’ve got no chance for a medal there’s no pressure,” Babcock said during Friday’s press conference.

“Do you want to be that person or the person under the gun? I want to be under the gun. We want to build our program so big that we’re under the gun, we’re supposed to win. Like I said, I talked about those fans, we’ve got an unbelievable fan group. They expect us to be good. We want to be good. Let’s be good.”

Kadri, Matthews, and the Maple Leafs will get their chance to “be good” enough to keep this series alive in Game 5 on Saturday. You can tune in on NBC, with puck drop scheduled for 8 p.m. ET. Click here for the livestream link.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Penguins won’t have Hornqvist; Flyers lineup murky for Game 5

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If the Pittsburgh Penguins are going to eliminate the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 5 tonight, they’ll do so without Patric Hornqvist.

The Swedish winger already missed Game 4 with an upper-body injury, and the team ruled him out for Game 5. Hornqvist had been playing quite well lately, including generating a point-per-game (three in as many contests) during this series. He’s also been a pain in the neck, riling up his opponents while amassing 16 penalty minutes in Game 2.

It’s worth noting that Hornqvist scored the Penguins’ last series-clinching goal. He found the net late in Game 6 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, stunning the Nashville Predators as Pittsburgh repeated as champs.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Kessel gets boost with Hornqvist sidelined

The Penguins won Game 4 against the Flyers by a score of 5-0 after rearranging lines.

Hornqvist was lining up with Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin, while Phil Kessel climbed to that second-line spot in Game 4 after pairing with Derick Brassard. Brassard’s wingers changed to Conor Sheary and Bryan Rust, while Sidney Crosby anchors a line of Dominik Simon and Jake Guentzel.

Those configurations worked well, but a desperate Flyers team could provide a different look.

That’s especially true if Sean Couturier can return to the mix for Philly after missing Game 4 himself. The team considers the Selke finalist a game-time decision, while he was seen wearing a knee brace during this morning’s optional skate.

Shuffling with Couturier hurt

The Flyers fiddled around with some interesting combinations with Couturier in doubt. Nolan Patrick centered Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux during much of Wednesday’s loss, while Left Wing Lock indicates that Valtteri Filppula could replace Patrick between Voracek and Giroux if Couturier is out.

Couturier playing or sitting is pivotal, as he’s been carrying a huge workload for Philly. That was especially true in Games 2 (27:15 minutes of ice time) and Game 3 (26:18), when Couturier logged big minutes. He also benefited the Flyers from a balance standpoint, as they were able to place Giroux and Voracek on different lines at even-strength with Couturier available.

That’s not the only big question mark for the Flyers (and perhaps for the Penguins’ hopes of prepping for the Flyers). Head coach Dave Hakstol didn’t name the starting goalie for Game 5, generating speculation that Michal Neuvirth may step in for Brian Elliott.

For all we know, the Flyers are aware of their starting goalie situation, along with Couturier’s status, but we might need to wait to actually find out. Then again, when you consider Patrice Bergeron‘s late scratch for the Bruins in Game 4 of their series, it could indeed be a coin flip for Couturier, too.

***

Game 5 airs on NBCSN tonight, with puck drop set for 7 p.m. ET. Click here for the livestream link.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Capitals lose Burakovsky for rest of Blue Jackets series

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Capitals coach Barry Trotz shared bad news with reporters (including the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan): Andre Burakovsky will miss at least the remainder of the series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Burakovsky required “minor surgery” for an upper-body injury suffered thanks to a Boone Jenner hit during Game 2 of the first-round series. (Game 4 took place last night, with the Capitals tying things up 2-2.)

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

NBC Sports Washington shared footage of Jenner’s hit on Burakovsky in GIF form:

On the bright side, the Capitals aren’t ruling out the possibility of Burakovsky returning during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, at least if they can advance beyond this first-round series against Columbus. Khurshudyan noted that Trotz said Burakovsky will be out at least through April 25, but the full window of recovery seems hazy.

This marks another daunting setback for Burakovsky, a 23-year-old who hasn’t had much injury luck lately. He only played in 56 games this season and 64 in 2016-17, totaling 25 points each time. It’s a bummer to see him not be able to take the next step after scoring 17 goals and 38 points in 2015-16, particularly since Burakovsky consistently churns out strong possession stats.

Trotz spoke of Burakovsky’s bad luck shortly after Game 2:

“For [Burakovsky], it’s frustrating,” Trotz said, via NBC Sports Washington’s Tarik El-Bashir. “Our mentality is the next guy up. Next guy up will be Jakub Vrana. I feel bad for Andre because everything for a young player is about getting confidence and building on that. So, every time he’s played very, very well he’s had some injuries. This is a setback but he’ll come back strong.”

Burakovsky had been lining up with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie during the Blue Jackets series. In his absence, Jakub Vrana and Chandler Stephenson have been getting looks with Backstrom and Oshie. With Oshie also banged up right now, it certainly stings to realize that Burakovsky won’t be back for what’s been a difficult series, even though the Capitals deserve credit for hogging the biscuit lately despite being without one of their best puck-hoarders.

Game 5 shifts back to Washington on NBC/NBCSN on Saturday. Puck drop is slated for 3 p.m. ET. Here is the livestream link.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.