Around the Rink – Saturday, November 6th

Here are previews of tonight’s hefty 12-game slate. As usual, all times are Eastern (ET).

7:00 pm

Chicago @ Atlanta

What’s the best way to give your sagging attendance a little lift? How about playing against the defending Stanley Cup champions, especially as they struggle so you might even earn a win? It should be an interesting reunion, too, as Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager and Andrew Ladd play against their former Blackhawk teammates.

St. Louis @ Boston

Two dominant defensive teams go head-to-head tonight, as Jaroslav Halak (or Ty Conklin?) and the Blues takes on Tim Thomas (or Tuukka Rask?) of the Bruins. Both teams are off to strong starts so far this season, so this could be a good barometer for each team.

Philadelphia @ NY Islanders

This is a contest between two Atlantic Division teams on divergent paths; the Flyers are on to of the division thanks to a five-game winning streak, while the Islanders are tumbling their way back to the cellar thanks to a six-game losing lull.

Ottawa @ Montreal

The Senators are getting their acts together after a tough start to the season, winning five of their last seven games. They were possibly the streakiest team in the league last season so this isn’t much of a surprise. The Canadiens have had their act together more or less all season, so they will provide a nice test for their division rivals.

Florida @ Carolina

The Hurricanes have to hope that their end of the home-and-home back-to-back series is more successful, as they lost 7-4 last night. Then again, Tomas Vokoun probably hopes for a different outcome – at least if he starts tonight – since Vokoun was pulled from Friday’s game.

Buffalo @ Toronto

This is one of those “well, someone has to win it” games. Toronto lost their last four games while Buffalo is on a five-gaming losing streak, with the Sabres being especially hopeless. Perhaps one of these two teams will use this contest to rebuild their momentum?

Minnesota @ Columbus

The Wild seem like they straightened things out, but one misleading fact is that they only played three of their 12 games on the road (1-1-1). The Blue Jackets are keeping pace in the highly competitive Central Division, with Mathieu Garon on quite the hot streak.

9:00 pm

Pittsburgh @ Phoenix

It seemed like the Penguins righted the ship with a four-game winning streak, only now they are 1-4-1 in their last six games. The Coyotes haven’t been very good lately either, going 2-3-2 in their last seven.

Dallas @ Colorado

The Stars finished their six-game homestand dominating their last three, including a thrashing of the Coyotes on Friday. While the Stars have been pretty hot, the Avalanche are growing a little cold, going 2-3-1 in their last six games.

10:00 pm

Nashville @ Los Angeles

It’s a match between two responsible defensive teams on different paths. The Predators have lost their last three while the Kings are on a three-game winning streak. Should be a gone one.

Detroit @ Vancouver

Two Western Conference division leaders – and genuine contenders – go up against each other in this one. The Canucks have won five in a row while the Red Wings are on a three-game winning streak, including a 3-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers last night.

Tampa Bay @ San Jose

The Sharks haven’t scored a goal in their last two games and things aren’t going to get any easier, as captain and leading scorer Joe Thornton will face a two-game suspension. The Lightning have been strong so far this season, but the Capitals have the Southeast Division lead. Will this game involve a not-particularly-emotional reunion between Sharks goalie Antero Niittymaki and his former team?

Backstrom provides OT winner as Capitals take 3-2 series lead

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The Washington Capitals are on the verge of the second round.

Yes, the Capitals, who began the series with back-to-back losses in Game 1 and 2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, are now on the brink of eliminating Ohio’s team after Nicklas Backstrom‘s deft deflection in overtime gave the Capitals their third straight win and a 3-2 series lead.

It was the fourth time in the series both clubs played to a tie in regulation. After Columbus won the first two in OT, Washington replied with a win in double-overtime in Game 3 before Backstrom ended Game 5 at the 11:53 mark of the first frame of free hockey.

Backstrom scored his first goal of the series to open the scoring for the Caps and assisted for the sixth time in the series on the go-ahead goal in the second period before Oliver Bjorkstrand tied it in third.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Braden Holtby had to be sharp, especially in the third period as, inexplicably, the Caps were outshot 16-1. At home. Holtby made 40 saves when it was all said and done.

Two-hundred feet away, Sergei Bobrovsky was up to the task, making some silly stops including a big one on Alex Ovechkin earlier in overtime and a bigger one in regulation time off the same man’s stick.

Game 6 of this series is slated for Monday in Columbus, with a start time still to be determined.

In his post-game comments, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said, twice, that his team will be back in the capital for Game 7.

The promise has been made.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Kucherov, Vasilevskiy shine as Lightning eliminate Devils in 5

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One’s up for the Hart as the NHL’s best player while the other is up for the Vezina as the league’s top goaltender. Both combined their talents to eliminate the New Jersey Devils with a 2-1 win in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Saturday.

Nikita Kucherov was once again on point for the Tampa Bay Lightning in Saturday’s matinee. Leading 1-0 in the third period, Kucherov scored a clutch goal — his fifth of the series — to put the Lightning from just inside the blue line to put the Bolts up two with seven minutes and change remaining.

It proved vital, Kucherov’s goal, as the Devils attempted a late comeback with Kyle Palmieri scored with three minutes remaining after Devils pulled Cory Schneider for the extra attacker 30 seconds earlier.

Andrei Vasilevskiy stood tall in the final 180 seconds, stopping 26-of-27 to help usher the Lightning into the second round.

Tampa, the Atlantic Division winners in the regular season, will face the winner of the series between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, who play later on Saturday in Game 5. The Bruins lead the series 3-1.

Kucherov was as immense for the Lightning as he was oppressive for the Devils, adding five assists to bring his series total to 10 points. His usual scoring touch was supplemented by his play in the physical department, including this bone-crushing hit on New Jersey defenseman Sami Vatanen.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

For the Devils, it was hard-fought series from a young team still trying to find its way in the playoffs.

The Devils abandoned goalie Keith Kinkaid after dropping the first two games. Cory Schneider, who hadn’t won a game in 2018 before Game 3, came in and provided the spark in goal, one that seemed to get the Devils going at the other end of the rink as well as they rolled to a 5-3 win.

But that well ran dry in Game 4 as the Devils produced just one goal in a 3-1 loss. Game 5 was much the same, production-wise, with the Devils only managing one goal.

Fellow Hart Trophy candidate Taylor Hall provided two goals and six points in the series after a 93-point regular season. Rookie Nico Hischier managed just a goal after scoring 20 in his rookie campaign.

For Vasilevskiy, after looking far more human in the second half of the season, finding his mojo again can only be mean bad things for future playoff opponents.

The young Russian finished with a .941 save percentage in the series.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Blue Jackets’ Matt Calvert scores unusual breakaway goal

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We’ve all see some breakaways go horribly, horribly wrong in the past.

Patrik Stefan reigns supreme here. Devin Setoguchi didn’t fare too well on this one. And then there was this gaffe by Dennis Wideman once upon a time.

But sometimes one screws up, only to rebound quickly and turn a near-blunder into a nice-ish goal.

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert did that today, in what’s already being called the best/worst breakaway attempt of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

As you can see in the video above, Calvert gets a nice clean breakaway. As he attempts to first a wrist shot, he whiffs on the attempt but manages to corral the puck back, doing the whole spin-o-rama thing, and deposit the puck past Braden Holtby for his second goal of the game.

Sometimes it just all works out.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Lightning, Bruins try to move on to Round 2

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Game 5: New Jersey Devils at Tampa Bay Lightning, 3 p.m. ET (Lightning lead series 3-1)
NBC/NBCSN*
Call: Gord Miller, Joe Micheletti
Series preview
Stream

Game 5: Columbus Blue Jackets at Washington Capitals, 3 p.m. ET (Series tied 2-2)
NBC/NBCSN*
Call: Chris Cuthbert, Ray Ferraro
Series preview
Stream

Game 5: Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins, 8 p.m. ET (Bruins lead series 3-1)
NBC
Call: Mike Emrick, Mike Milbury, Pierre McGuire
Series preview
Stream

*Regionalized coverage – Florida markets and WNBC in New York metro area will air NJ-TB on NBC and CBJ-WSH on NBCSN; all other markets will receive CBJ-WSH on NBC and NJ-TB on NBCSN

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]