Alex Kovalev, James Neal, Jordan Staal

Pittsburgh snaps four game losing streak, tops Toronto in wild 6-5 shootout

It had the feel of a playoff game and with a struggling Penguins team going into Toronto to take on a Maple Leafs team that’s been on fire, it makes sense that they’d throw the game plan and goaltending out the window. The Penguins took the Leafs down in a shootout 6-5 and it would be Alex Kovalev dialing back the clock and leading the charge for Pittsburgh scoring once in regulation and then deciding the game in the shootout with his goal on James Reimer there.

For Pittsburgh, it was a win they so desperately needed to turn things around. Making matters a bit easier for them was the return of forward Mark Letestu. Letestu made his presence felt scoring a goal in the second period and assisted on Mike Rupp’s goal in the third that tied the game at 5-5. Toronto got some offensive help from the Leafs biggest fan of Twitter Joffrey Lupul who had two goals. He had a third goal called off early in the game as it was ruled he kicked it in. Dion Phaneuf also had a goal and an assist.

Goalies James Reimer and Marc-Andre Fleury came into this game playing some outstanding hockey and being the main reason why their teams have held strong in the last month. Tonight wouldn’t be so hot for either as Reimer made 35 saves while Fleury stopped 26 shots in the win. Fleury didn’t allow a goal in the shootout while Reimer’s only slip up came when Kovalev scored on his attempt, the only goal in the shootout.

For Toronto, the loss is a bit painful as they could’ve made up ground on Carolina and Buffalo in the race for the playoffs as both teams lost tonight.  Buffalo was able to earn a point in the standings by going to a shootout with Detroit. As it stands, the Leafs are five points behind Carolina for eighth in the East. The Penguins, meanwhile, were able to get off the schneid in an emphatic way breaking out and scoring five goals. The Pens have been offensively starved of late and getting them to break out tonight could help them snap out of it.

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.