Toronto 3, Carolina 1
The Carolina Hurricanes could not have picked a worse time for a slump if they tried. After losing at home to the Leafs, the Canes are now 1-4-1 in their last six games while they try to lock down the East’s final playoff spot. The biggest problem over the recent stretch is that they can’t score—and Wednesday night was no different. It’s important to give credit where credit is due: James Reimer gave his team a chance to win by stopping 36 of 37 shots. The Leafs were only able to muster 19 shots in the game (by contrast, the Canes had 15 in the 3rd period alone), but were still able to get three pucks past Cam Ward. Leafs’ captain Dion Phaneuf netted two power play goals to pull Toronto to within 4 points of the final playoff spot.
Detroit 3, Washington 2
Detroit snapped the Caps 9-game winning streak in the battle of 2nd place teams. Henrik Zetterberg scored two goals to give him 20 on the season—the second goal was the eventual game winner halfway through the third period. Brian Rafalski returned from an 8-game absence to assist on all three Red Wings goals. For the Caps, it was the first loss in 10 games and the Thursday Morning Quarterbacks will be questioning Bruce Boudreau’s decision to start Michal Neuvirth. Rookie Braden Holtby had been unbelievable in his last five games and, unfortunately for the Caps, Neuvirth gave up a soft goal that didn’t help his cause. Not even a vintage Ovechkin snipe could pull Washington back.
Vancouver 4, Colorado 2
On one side there was a team that had won 6 straight games, is competing for the President’s Trophy, and was looking to become the first team to clinch a playoff spot. On the other side, there was a team that had only won a single game in their last 19. Unfortunately for the Avalanche, they can change that awful statistic to “one win in their last 20 games (1-17-2).” Surprisingly, Colorado was able to jump out early to a 2-0 lead before the Canucks kicked it into gear. When the dust settled, Vancouver had scored 4 unanswered goals and Brian Elliott was left still looking for his first victory in an Avalanche uniform (0-5-1).
Anaheim 2, St. Louis 1
Jason Blake scored both Anaheim goals and Ray Emery stopped 30 of 31 shots in his first start in a Ducks jersey as the Ducks beat the Blues in what people in Orange County were calling a “must-win.” The win helped the Ducks climb into 8th place with 81 points on the season—not to mention they still hold two games in hand on the 9th place Calgary Flames. The Blues fell further as they are sitting in 13th place in the Western Conference (ahead of only Colorado and Edmonton). The season started with so much hope for St. Louis, but it looks like the time has officially come that they start looking forward to next season.
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.
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.
Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.
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.
The Brooks Orpik hit on Olli Maatta isn’t the only factor in lineup changes for Game 3 between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Maybe the most interesting change starts on the Penguins’ bench … where they likely hope that tweak will stay for at least one night.
Marc-Andre Fleury is apparently healthy enough to suit up for the Penguins, although it appears as though Matt Murray will start:
That’s a clear sign that “The Flower” is healthy enough to play, as Murray would be an injury or a coach’s pull away from giving up the net to Fleury. (One would assume.)
Murray has been fantastic for the most part since taking over for Jeff Zatkoff during this postseason, yet you know how the playoffs can be; people may clamor for Fleury after a loss even if it’s not really Murray’s fault.
Circling back to that Orpik hit, the dominoes seem to fall this way:
Penguins: Derrick Pouliot replaces injured Maatta.
Capitals: Dmitry Orlov in for suspended Orpik.
PHT will make note if there are any swerves.