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Riding the Zamboni – Wednesday, January 5th

For a recap of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ dominant 8-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning, click here. There are also recaps of Russia’s shocking comeback against Canada and the U.S. team’s bronze medal win over Sweden in the World Junior Championships.

Now let’s take a look at the other five NHL games from Wednesday night.

NY Rangers 2, Carolina 1 (OT)

Henrik Lundqvist (31 out of 32 saves) and Mats Zuccarello – a man known to many as “Norwegian Hobbit Wizard” – stood tall to help the Rangers win a tough match against the Hurricanes. Zuccarello scored the game winning goal and also earned an assist in the game, giving seventh-ranked New York an extra point over ninth-place Carolina in the race for Eastern Conference playoff spots.

The scrappy Rangers seem like the type of team that could make a high seed sweat bullets, although they’re not so far out of contention that a mid-level (fourth, fifth or sixth) type seed is out of the question.

Atlanta 3, Florida 2

This game is shrouded a bit in controversy, as a possible Bryan McCabe goal wasn’t even reviewed by the Toronto war room. That being said, what really matters is the final score. Rich Peverley scored two goals for the Thrashers (one to give Atlanta a 2-1 lead, then the game winner) while Chris Higgins scored a goal and an assist for the Panthers. Ondrej Pavelec won his 15th game of the season while Tomas Vokoun was pulled in his first start after earning a shutout.

Dallas 4, Chicago 2

Corey Perry is probably the most universally disliked player in the Pacific Division, but Mike Ribeiro isn’t far behind. Yet much like Perry, the divisive Ribeiro can do more than irritate people. He demonstrated that tonight with a two goal performance.

Kari Lehtonen continues to be a huge factor for the Stars, stopping 35 out of 37 shots. Then again, getting a lucky bounce here or there never hurts either.

Vancouver 3, Calgary 1

The Flames put 44 shots on net, but Roberto Luongo stopped all but one of them to give the Canucks their seventh win in a row. Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa and Daniel Sedin scored for Vancouver while Tim Jackman scored a goal for Calgary to bring the game to 3-1 in the third period.

Nashville 4, Anaheim 1

Nashville’s three game winning streak is the second best in the Western Conference, which probably says more about the parity-filled West than it does about the Predators themselves.

The game was closer than it looked, though, as the Predators scored two empty net goals as the Ducks decided to go for broke. Pekka Rinne might have been the best player of the game, making 40 out of 41 saves.

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

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As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.