Atlanta Thrashers v Ottawa Senators

Next up on the coaching hot seat… Ottawa’s Cory Clouston?

Things in Ottawa have been, to put it nicely, tough this season. With 37 points, they’re tied for third with Buffalo in the Northeast Division. They’re eight points out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference and this comes after a season where they finished fifth overall in the East and lost to Pittsburgh in the opening round of the playoffs.  The Senators may have played a bit over their heads last year in spite of key injuries to Pascal Leclaire, Milan Michalek, and Jason Spezza.

This season, the script is virtually the same as those same three players are hurt again and this time, Brian Elliott and Mike Fisher aren’t picking up the slack. For coach Cory Clouston that’s become a serious problem as the Sens have fallen into the non-playoff team pack and the heat is on for Clouston to push the right buttons once again to get Ottawa back to the playoff hunt. Sens GM Bryan Murray, however, isn’t giving Clouston any votes of confidence as the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch shares.

After reading the riot act to the players before practice, Murray said in a scrum with reporters he couldn’t confirm Clouston is going to coach this club until the end of the season.

Clouston is in the final year of his contract and it would appear he’s facing a couple of must-wins Friday against the Blackhawks in Chicago and Saturday at home versus the Tampa Bay Lighting.

“I’m not going to answer a question like that because I don’t know,” said Murray. “We go to Chicago. We come home and play Tampa. We go on the road the following week. I can’t answer that honestly. I’ve talked to the staff about that. We’re all in a position where we have to do a better job.”

The Senators have a lot of problems, most of which center around staying healthy. The Sens had to know they couldn’t rely on Pascal Leclaire to stay healthy at all as he’s never been able to stay healthy ever in his career. Injuries to Spezza and Michalek are gut-punches for a team that’s not exactly deep with skilled forwards. Free agent acquisition Sergei Gonchar has been a severe disappointment and making some people think back on his years in Boston.

In other words, Bryan Murray had better be careful about who he’s pointing the finger at in Canada’s capital city because the mess in Ottawa isn’t just Clouston’s to clean up. The team Murray has helped put together wildly overachieved last year and it set the bar a bit too high for Clouston this season. Assuming that Brian Elliott or Leclaire would be able to replicate the success they had last year or that Mike Fisher’s one year offensive explosion would repeat itself was a huge gamble and it’s one that could cost both the coach and GM their job if things don’t turn around.

Video: Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have spoken out against a late, high hit that Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik threw on Olli Maatta early in the first period of an eventful Game 2 on Saturday.

Maatta left and didn’t return. He played only 31 seconds, and the Penguins were reduced to five defensemen for a large portion of the game. Orpik was given a minor penalty on the play, but the league’s Department of Player Safety may see it differently.

The hit occurred well after Maatta had gotten rid of the puck. He struggled on his way to the dressing room for further evaluation.

Based on multiple reports, Orpik wasn’t made available to the media following the game, which went to the Penguins as they earned the split on the road.

But the Penguins have taken issue with the hit.

“I thought it was a late hit,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, as per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

Game on: Penguins even series with rival Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins will head back home with a split of their second-round series with the rival Washington Capitals.

Former Capitals forward Eric Fehr came back to burn his hold team, as he scored with under five minutes remaining in regulation to help lift the Penguins over Washington with a 2-1 victory in an eventful Game 2 on Saturday. Evgeni Malkin threw the puck toward the net and Fehr was able to re-direct it by Braden Holtby.

Oh, this was an eventful game, indeed.

It started early in the first period with Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik catching Penguins blue liner Olli Maatta with a late and high hit that warranted — at least for now — only a minor penalty for interference. Maatta, clearly in distress following the hit, didn’t play another shift and saw only 31 seconds of ice time in total, as Pittsburgh was reduced to five defensemen for the remainder of the game.

It continued in the third period. Kris Letang was furious after getting called for a trip on Justin Williams, and even more ticked off when the Capitals tied the game on the ensuing power play.

For two periods, the Capitals couldn’t get much going. Only four of their players had registered a shot on goal through 40 minutes, while the Penguins held the edge in that department and held the lead.

Washington came out with more jump in the third period, testing rookie netminder Matt Murray with 14 shots in the final 20 minutes. But the Penguins got the late goal to break the deadlock.

Video: Penguins’ Letang was furious after Capitals tie up Game 2 with power play goal

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Kris Letang watched from the penalty box as the Washington Capitals tied up Game 2 with a power play goal in the third period. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman was called for tripping after he appeared to muscle Justin Williams off the puck as he entered the zone.

Letang let his disagreement with the call be known at the time, and was furious after the Capitals capitalized on a goal from Marcus Johansson.

The Capitals started the period down a goal and being outshot 28-10 by the Penguins, who need a win to even the series.

Also, it seems this is worth mentioning:

Video: Hagelin goes top shelf to give Penguins the lead in Game 2

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In their quest to even the series, the Pittsburgh Penguins had done a nice job through two periods of suffocating the Washington Capitals, while gaining the lead on a beautiful goal.

Carl Hagelin took advantage of a vast amount of space that opened up in front of the Washington net, finishing off a nice pass from Nick Bonino, burying his shot just under the cross bar on the glove side of Braden Holtby.

Through two periods, the Penguins were outshooting Washington 28-10. Only four Capitals players — Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen — had registered shots on goal.