Krys Barch, Francis Bouillon, Pekka Rinne

Around the Rink – Saturday, February 26th

Let’s take a look at Saturday’s eight game schedule. As always, the start times are according to Eastern Standard Time (ET).

2:00 pm

Nashville @ Dallas

The Stars have been falling apart (five losses in a row before their win against the Red Wings and only two wins in their last 11 games) while the Predators are struggling as well with three straight losses. Who will win this important games between two hard-luck clubs?

4:00 pm

Colorado @ Los Angeles

After that epic 10-game road trip, the Kings start a five-game homestand today. They better do well during it too, because Los Angeles will then play four straight away games and then five more home games in a row. They need to remain resilient and keep piling up points, so beating the Avalanche is at a premium.

7:00 pm

Pittsburgh @ Toronto

To the surprise of few, goals have been hard to come by for the banged up and rapidly renovating Penguins. Alexei Kovalev and James Neal try to get acquainted in a hostile environment tonight, as the Maple Leafs hope to improve their chances during an improbable run to playoff contention.

Carolina @ Montreal

The Canadiens need to start gaining points if they want any hope of catching up to the Bruins in the Northeast, while the Hurricanes must cope without Eric Staal for at least tonight’s game.

Washington @ NY Islanders

The Capitals will probably come out angry tonight after getting humiliated by the Rangers last night, but the Islanders haven’t been pushovers lately. Washington needs to win games like these if they want to build up some more respect, although it’s likely they will do so without Mike Green after the controversial Derek Stepan hit from Friday.

Philadelphia @ Ottawa

The Senators are starting to look like a party story after Halloween. Sure, there’s some merchandise left, but the big sale already happened. The Flyers might want to peruse the remaining stock for all we know, though.

Detroit @ Buffalo

The Sabres are doing their best to keep pace (and hopefully pass) the Hurricanes. With Staal out they have a great chance … unfortunately, they have to try to earn points against the Red Wings.

10:00 pm

Boston @ Vancouver

Could this be a Stanley Cup finals preview? It’s not out of the question, as the Northeast-leading Bruins visit the league-leading Canucks in Vancouver tonight. These teams don’t see each other often, so it should be interesting to see how this one works out.

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

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The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

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The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

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Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.