Around the rink – Friday, January 21st

It’s a quiet Friday night in the league with just four games to fill your hockey needs. Perhaps some inter-Canadian brawling will be your thing today. Either that or you can get psyched up to see if Steve Stamkos has another monster game, this time against their cross-state rivals from South Beach. Failing all that, there’s always the Stars to see if they can keep their eight-game road win streak alive. All times are Eastern.

7:30 p.m.

Tampa Bay @ Florida

You could say that Steve Stamkos is on a bit of a roll lately. In his last four games he’s got six goals and two assists and has back-to-back two-goal games. After cooling off for a bit from his blazing hot start to the year, Stamkos is heating up once again and is back in front of the goal scoring race. While 50 goals in 50 games won’t happen this year (unless something truly obscene happens the next two games) seeing Stamkos go cruising into the All-Star break with 40 or more goals would be remarkable. The Lightning are keeping everything close of late with two straight shootout wins. The Panthers will be looking to snap a two-game skid of their own with those losses coming in overtime and in the shootout.


NY Islanders @ Buffalo

The Sabres are hot and they’re just six points out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference now after ten-game stretch that saw them earn points in eight of those games, winning seven. Not bad at all and they’ve got Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek to thank for it. In that stretch, Vanek has five goals and nine assists to pace the Sabres offense. The Islanders are losers of five of their last six games and in danger of falling behind the Devils again in the East. On the upside, they got Kyle Okposo and Frans Neilsen back in the lineup last night helping turn a thin lineup into something a bit more robust.

Montreal @ Ottawa

How do the Habs get to warm up for Saku Koivu’s return to Quebec tomorrow night? By playing a Senators team that got thumped and beat up by the Flyers last night. Ottawa is mired in a miserable struggle and floundering in frustrating fashion for their fans. Montreal will be looking to make due without Mike Cammalleri and Max Pacioretty in the lineup. How the Habs offense does without them will prove interesting because Montreal isn’t exactly a consistent offensive juggernaut. That said, Montreal has won five of their last seven games while Ottawa stumbles in losers of 10 of their last 11 and on a current four-game losing streak. Yikes.

9:30 p.m.

Dallas @ Calgary

From the “you may not know” department: The Stars are on an eight-game road win streak. For how good the Stars have been this year, their tenacity on foreign ice is impressive and for the Flames that doesn’t bode well. Calgary has lost six of their last eight games and is on a two-game skid going into this one including their last game which was a 6-0 thumping at the hands of the Wild. Confidence isn’t exactly running high there.

Holtby ‘wasn’t as sharp as he can be,’ says Trotz

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Presidents’ Trophy winners once again in the regular season, the Capitals once again face an uphill climb if they are to advance beyond the rival Penguins and the second round of the playoffs.

What began with a strong first period for the Capitals in Game 2, albeit without a reward on the score board, faded into a frustrating 6-2 rout, as the Penguins took a commanding 2-0 series lead as it shifts back to Pittsburgh for a pivotal Game 3 on Monday.

Braden Holtby was pulled after the second period. He gave up three goals on 14 shots, while his opponent at the other end, Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant with 34 saves.

“He’ll tell you that he can be better. He’s a straight up guy and he will be. I was just trying to change the mojo,” said Capitals coach Barry Trotz of his decision to sit Holtby.

“I thought some of the goals, he wasn’t as sharp as he can be for us. He’s a game-changer for us. So when he didn’t change the game, I just looked to change the mojo a little bit there. That’s all. Braden’s our backbone. He has been all year. We’ve got to find some goals for him, too. We can’t just put it on Braden Holtby.”

Now in a deep but not insurmountable hole against the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Capitals reportedly held a players’ only meeting following this latest defeat.

After failing to open the scoring in an otherwise dominant first period, Washington surrendered three goals in the second, as the Penguins broke it wide open with their transition game, led by two great plays from Sidney Crosby.

“We can’t get frustrated. I think that would be our biggest mistake is to get frustrated right now,” said T.J. Oshie, before expanding on the meeting between the players.

“It was things that people need to say and things that some people need to hear. We were very together with what we said. I don’t need to go into details. Sometimes in our game … you need to hear from your teammates more than your coach. And tonight was one of those nights.

“It was the players in here and what was said is what needed to be said.”

We’ll find out Monday if what was said actually has any impact on the ice.

Penguins rout Capitals to take commanding series lead

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The Washington Capitals are in trouble. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Again.

Despite a dominant first period, at least in terms of shots on Marc-Andre Fleury and puck possession, the Capitals saw this game go sideways in a hurry during the second period, on the way to a 6-2 loss to the Penguins in Game 2.

Washington is now in quite a hole, trailing its nemesis 2-0 in this second-round series.

Last year, Matt Murray stymied the Capitals. Though it’s only been two games this year, Fleury has stepped up in the absence of the injured Murray and given the Penguins solid goaltending and frustrated a dangerous Capitals lineup.

After withstanding the storm of pressure from the Capitals in the first period, the Penguins broke this game open with a trio of second-period goals. It started with a shorthanded goal from Matt Cullen, and later continued with a beautiful goal from Phil Kessel and then Jake Guentzel‘s sixth goal of these playoffs.

That led Barry Trotz to take Braden Holtby out of the game, after he gave up three goals on 14 shots, putting in Phillip Grubauer to begin the third period. The Penguins continued the onslaught.

For the Penguins, there are some injury concerns to keep an eye on.

Patric Hornqvist left the game in the first period after blocking a shot around his foot or ankle. He didn’t return. Ron Hainsey had to go to the locker room late in the third period after taking an Alex Ovechkin shot up around the head.

Game 3 goes Monday in Pittsburgh.

‘I wasn’t good enough,’ says Lundqvist after double OT loss to Senators

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The task wasn’t impossible, but certainly daunting.

The Ottawa Senators needed five goals on Henrik Lundqvist just to send Game 2 into overtime.

The Rangers goalie had been spectacular for most of this post-season entering Saturday’s contest, but the Senators, led by a sensational four-goal performance from Jean-Gabriel Pageau, found a way to break through for a 6-5 double overtime win to take a 2-0 series lead against New York.

They did so on just 34 shots through almost 83 minutes against Lundqvist.

“I wasn’t good enough,” said Lundqvist, per the New York Daily News. “Coming up with the extra save there in the end, that’s my job. Even though it’s tough plays on deflections, I’ve got to find a way.”

On three occasions, the Rangers held a two-goal lead. That includes with under five minutes remaining in regulation. They even had a pair of shorthanded goals. But they couldn’t hang on, as Pageau scored twice in the final 3:19 of regulation to record his hat trick.

That set the stage for the eventual winner, as he beat Lundqvist over the left shoulder with a shot from his off-wing on a two-on-one rush.

With the Senators in control, the series returns to New York for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday.

“We played well enough to win this game, there’s no question about it,” said Lundqvist. “It’s really tough to lose this one. Clearly they’ve gotten the bounces here in the first two games.”

Capitals’ Holtby begins third period on the bench, Grubauer takes over in net

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Braden Holtby began the third period of Saturday’s Game 2 on the bench, giving way to Philipp Grubauer.

The Washington Capitals fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 after two periods, with Holtby allowing three goals on just 14 shots. It will be interesting to hear the reason for this decision from coach Barry Trotz following the game.

The Capitals had dominated on the shot clock, but gave up a pair of quick goals to fall further behind Pittsburgh in this game, while trailing in the series 1-0.

Phil Kessel — on a great play from Sidney Crosby — and Jake Guentzel scored 3:10 apart to give Pittsburgh a two-goal lead.