Mike Knuble, Niklas Hjalmarsson

Riding the Zamboni – Friday, March 18th

NY Rangers 6, Montreal 3

The Rangers posted a 5 spot in the first period against the Habs, chased Carey Price, and earned their third straight win. The five goals from five different goal scorers in the opening frame was the best start in 11 years as the Blueshirts were able to put the game on cruise control after the opening stanza. Unfortunately, Benoit Pouliot collided with Henrik Lundqvist with only about 3 minutes remaining. Lundqvist stayed in the game but had a sore neck that started to stiffen up as the game concluded. The victory is nice—but New York will need Lundqvist at 100% if they want to do anything more than simply make the playoffs.

Washington 3, New Jersey 0

The good news for the Devils was they controlled the game in their retro jerseys on throwback night in Newark. The bad news is they were unable to get any pucks past Michal Neuvirth and lost for the second time in as many nights. A few months ago, a performance like this would be a sign of better things to come for a struggling team. But nowadays, the Devils are desperate to earn every single point they can. On a night when they failed to earn a point, it doesn’t really matter how well they played.

For the Capitals, the win was their 10th in 11 games. Neuvirth balanced his play between good, great, and spectacular throughout the night. Mike Knuble provided all the scoring the Caps would need as he potted a pair to pull the Capitals into a tie for the Eastern Conference lead. Now if Neuvirth could just erase those three games in hand the Flyers own, then he’d really be amazing.

Carolina 3, NY Islanders 2 (OT)

This just in: Cam Ward is a pretty good goaltender. Ward earned the #1 star of the game; but he just as easily could have won the #2 and #3 stars as well. He made just enough saves – 33 in fact – giving the Canes a chance to win with only about a minute left in overtime. Joni Pitkanen picked up his second point of the night on the game winner that pushed Carolina into a tie for the 8th and final playoff spot in the East.

For the Islanders, it was a tough loss to handle as they threw everything but the kitchen sink at Ward. Michael Grabner had a goal, an assist, and 9 total shots on goal in the game. But alas, it wasn’t enough.

Phoenix 3, Vancouver 1

All good things eventually come to an end—and for the Vancouver Canucks, it was their 7-game winning streak that came to an end on Friday night. Even though they didn’t have the same fire they’ve had over the last two weeks as they were clinching a playoff spot, they still managed to put 47 shots on goal. Moreover, it took a 5-minute major penalty halfway through the 3rd period for the Coyotes to finally break through (twice) as they rode two power play goals and an empty netter to the win. They game was much more important for the Coyotes as the win pushed them to 4th place in the Western Conference. Their fifth straight win also pulled them within a single point of the Pacific Division leading San Jose Sharks. On the other hand, the Canucks clinched a playoff spot in their last game.

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.