Ondrej Pavelec, Travis Zajac

Riding the Zamboni – March 11; Isles stun Bruins, Devils win again, Ducks roll

New Jersey 3 – Atlanta 2 (F/OT)

Another typically tight game and another win for the Devils. Travis Zajac scored twice including the game-winner in overtime while Ilya Kovalchuk added another goal to help the Devils stay hot. All three Devils goals came on the power play as the Thrashers PK could not get it done tonight. Martin Brodeur made 24 saves to get the win. Dustin Byfuglien scored his 20th goal of the year for Atlanta while Ondrej Pavelec stopped 27 shots in the loss. While the Devils win was good for them and keeps them eight back of the Rangers and Sabres for eighth in the East, giving up the loser point to Atlanta in overtime won’t help them in their hopes of vaulting up the standings.

NY Islanders 4 – Boston 2

The Bruins started off nicely building a 2-0 lead and seemed poised to cruise to victory. Matt Moulson’s goal with two seconds left in the second period to make it 2-1 changed all that as the Isles came storming out in the third with goals from Michael Grabner and Jack Hillen to take a 3-2 lead. P.A. Parenteau would be awarded a goal in the closing seconds as he was hauled down while breaking towards the empty net to provide the final tally of the game. Al Montoya was solid stopping 26 shots in the win. Nathan Horton scored his 20th for Boston while Zdeno Chara scored his 12th. Tim Thomas was obscenely busy in the loss stopping 38 shots.

Detroit 2 – Edmonton 1 (F/OT)

It appeared that the Oilers were set to head to a 1-0 win in Detroit on Ryan Jones’ goal as the seemingly disinterested Wings were going to fall by the wayside. As can happen sometimes in Detroit, the Wings rallied late as Nick Lidstrom’s shot bounced off Andrew Cogliano’s skate and past Devan Dubnyk to tie the game with 25 seconds left in regulation. In overtime, Pavel Datsyuk did what he does best, dangling and avoiding Liam Reddox and sniping a shot past Dubnyk to win it. Dubnyk stopped 42 shots in the loss for Edmonton while Jimmy Howard stopped 26 in the win for the Wings.

Washington 2 – Carolina 1

Ottawa 2 – Tampa Bay 1

A frustrating loss for the Lightning as former temporary member of the Lightning Curtis McElhinney stopped 34 shots to lead Ottawa to victory. Jason Spezza and Bobby Butler scored for the Senators as they continue to sink their efforts of landing the top pick in the draft with some outstanding and scrappy play of late. Martin St. Louis had Tampa’s lone goal while Dwayne Roloson stopped just 20 shots in the loss. Tampa Bay is now four points behind Washington in the race for the Southeast Division crown.

Anaheim 6 – Colorado 2

Ryan Getzlaf had a goal and two assists while Teemu Selanne and Luca Sbisa each had two assists to help the Ducks win their fifth game in their last six. Dan Ellis stopped 24 shots in the win. For Colorado, the loss is their 17th in their last 18 games. Colorado who at one point this year was leading the Northwest Division now sits 37 points behind front-running Vancouver thanks to their horrible play in 2011. The Avalanche’s attempts to squeeze their way into the #1 pick are improving by the day.

Los Angeles 4 – Columbus 2

While Jonathan Toews is getting plenty of headlines, L.A.’s Anze Kopitar is doing some work lately of his own and tonight he added to it scoring a hat trick for the Kings as they kept life miserable of late for the Jackets. Steve Mason had another rough night in goal as Mason stopped just 18 shots in the loss. Jonathan Bernier was the opposite of Mason in stopping 32 shots. Derick Brassard and Scottie Upshall scored for Columbus.

Dallas 4 – Minnesota 0

Is this the end of the road for the Wild? Kari Lehtonen managed to get his first shutout as a Dallas Star and had to stop just 14 shots to earn it. Jamie Benn scored a goal making it six straight games he’s had a goal in. He’s got 19 goals on the year now in what’s turning out to be a breakout season for him. For the Wild, it’s two straight games they’ve been shutout in now and they’ve only totaled 33 shots in those two games. With a road trip to San Jose and Vancouver up next for the Wild and sitting four points out of  a playoff spot in the tightly contested West, we think we can hear the Fat Lady warming up off stage for Minnesota.

Kucherov continues to be clutch for the Bolts this postseason

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 03:  Nikita Kucherov #86 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New York Islanders in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center on May 03, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Lightning defeated the Islanders 5-4 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) The bigger the playoff moment, the more Nikita Kucherov shines.

The young Russian has a knack for scoring when Tampa Bay needs it most, which is one of the reasons the Lightning are within one victory of reaching the Stanley Cup final for the second straight year.

Kucherov has found the back of the net a NHL-leading 11 times in 15 games this postseason, seven of them in situations in which he’s either tied the score or given his team a lead.

The 22-year-old’s latest addition to his impressive playoff resume he began compiling last year was a late goal Sunday to force overtime against Pittsburgh in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. He also notched an assist on Tyler Johnson‘s winner less than a minute into the extra period.

The 4-3 victory on the road gave Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 6 in Tuesday night at Amalie Arena.

“When you’re a rising star in this league, as he is … every team’s got one of those guys at some point,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “It just seems the bigger the moment, the bigger they rise to the occasion. He is proving that last year wasn’t a fluke. He’s just a gifted, skilled, determined player. He’s really a pleasure to coach.”

Kucherov had 10 goals in 26 playoff games a year ago, including a pair of overtime winners that helped the Lightning to the Stanley Cup final, where they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games. One more victory and Tampa Bay will become the first team to make consecutive trips to the championship round since the Penguins and Detroit Red Wings did it in 2008 and 2009.

“He keeps climbing the ladder, and he keeps getting better. But what has really been remarkable for me this year in watching him is the timeliness of his game. He’s not scoring one goal in a 6-1 loss or the sixth goal in a 6-1 win,” Cooper said Monday.

“He’s getting the game-tier, game-winner; sets up the biggest of the biggest goals, and that says a little bit about the type of player you are,” the coach added. “When you need him, he’s the one ultimately, more often than not, that’s there for you. I think that’s the one thing that’s remarkable about him.”

Pittsburgh has gone from a 2-1 series lead to facing elimination for the first time this postseason after losing consecutively for the first time since January.

Coach Mike Sullivan said he won’t make a decision on a starting goaltender for Game 6 until Tuesday morning. Marc-Andre Fleury made his first start in nearly two months in Game 5, and was unable to protect leads of 2-0 and 3-2.

Rookie Matt Murray started the first four games of this series and is 9-4 with a 2.33 goals-against-average and .923 save percentage.

“I thought Marc made some big saves for us, especially early in the game,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said, adding it was difficult to gauge how much the long layoff impacted Fleury’s performance.

“It’s a tough circumstance. We believe in the guys we have. We think we have quality people, but it’s an imperfect situation,” Sullivan said before the team flew south to Florida on Monday. “All things considered, we’re trying to make the best decisions we can.”

The Penguins are confident than can rebound Tuesday night and take the series back home for a seventh game.

“I believe in my team. I believe in myself, and we can come back to Pittsburgh for sure,” Penguins star Evgeni Malkin said.

“Every game you shake off, win or lose,” Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz said.

“This group has done a terrific job all year of just staying in the moment and not dwelling on the past, not getting ahead of itself, and just trying to focus on that one game in hand,” Sullivan said, “and that’s what we’re going to have to do.”

Tampa Bay plans to approach it the same way.

The Lightning beat the New York Rangers on the road to take a 3-2 lead in last year’s conference finals. They returned home and were trounced 7-3 in Game 6.

“You can’t sit here and dictate or guarantee what the result’s going to be, but our mindset going into the game has got to be a heck of a lot different,” Cooper said. “And our group is well aware of that.”

 

PHT Morning Skate: Nobody is better at predicting the Stanley Cup playoffs than actor Will Arnett

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–Will Arnett knows a thing or two about making good Stanley Cup predictions. (Top)

–Some concept jerseys for the Las Vegas Aces. (BarDown)

–Sharks center Joe Thornton really is a nice guy. (ESPN)

–Watch the highlights from last night’s game between the Sharks and Blues:

–The IIHF’s updated world rankings. (IIHF.com)

Marc-Edouard Vlasic has done a good job against Vladimir Tarasenko.

–Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine put together some solid performances at the worlds. (NHL.com)

Datsyuk ‘wants to make sure the Wings have options,’ says his agent

TAMPA, FL - APRIL 21:  Pavel Datsyuk #13 of the Detroit Red Wings checks his stick before a face-off against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 21, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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Pavel Datsyuk‘s future with the Detroit Red Wings and in the National Hockey League has been up in the air for a while now, as he’s linked to rumors of a return to Russia and the KHL.

His agent, Dan Milstein, recently explained to the Detroit Free Press that Datsyuk’s future should become clear in mid-June after meeting with Red Wings general manager Ken Holland.

As per General Fanager, Datsyuk has one more year left on his current deal, which comes with a cap hit of $7.5 million.

From the Detroit Free Press:

“He would like to leave, but at the same time, he wants to make sure the Wings have options,” Milstein said. “He wants to help the team any way he can with the salary cap issue.”

Wings general manager Ken Holland has said there are no loopholes. Because Datsyuk signed his last contract after he turned 35, his $7.5 million salary cap hit remains in tact even if Datsyuk departs. The Wings’ only option is to trade his contract to a team such as Arizona or Carolina that could use the hefty cap hit in order to be above the salary cap minimum.

At the age of 37, his career in the league started in 2001-02, and has spanned 953 regular season games in which he’s accrued 918 points.

He’s had a highly decorated career, with two Stanley Cup championships with the Red Wings, three Selke and four Lady Byng trophies.

Allen or Elliott? Another goalie decision looms for Hitchcock

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues tends goal against Nick Spaling #16 of the San Jose Sharks during the third period in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The St. Louis Blues need to win Game 6 on Wednesday, or their season is over. Who they decide to turn to in net is likely to be a talking point — heated debate, maybe? — leading up to that contest.

Do they go back to Jake Allen for a third consecutive start, despite the fact he allowed four goals on 25 shots in Monday’s Game 5 loss to the San Jose Sharks? Or, will head coach Ken Hitchcock turn once again to Brian Elliott, who started every single game from the series opener of the first round versus Chicago to Game 3 of the Western Conference Final.

Hitchcock at least felt that going with Allen over Elliott in Game 4 provided the necessary spark for his team, as the Blues evened the series.

But on Monday, the Sharks, on the strength of two Joe Pavelski goals, eventually overpowered the Blues for the win, moving San Jose one victory away from the Stanley Cup Final.

“I thought he was fine. I don’t know, those are decisions we make in a day or so. But I thought he was fine today. He stopped some point-blank shots, especially early, three times early,” Hitchcock told reporters.

“I don’t know. That’s stuff we’ll talk about tomorrow.”