New York Rangers v Pittsburgh Penguins

Game of the Week: Matt Cooke’s ugly hit changes game, Rangers win 5-2 after wild third period


When it comes to suspension debates, we usually discuss shades of gray rather than black-and-white matters. Yet when it comes to Matt Cooke’s elbow on Ryan McDonagh, it shouldn’t be a matter of whether or not the repeat offender should be suspended. The question should instead be: “For how long?”

Eddie Olczyk said that Cooke might receive an eight-game suspension, while many are wondering if it could be in the double digits. Want isn’t up to much debate is the idea that Mario Lemieux might look a little silly if he doesn’t supplement the league’s decision with an in-house punishment as well.

This was a tightly fought, but mostly in-control 1-1 game before Cooke’s unnecessary elbow on McDonagh. After that, the game spiraled into a sloppy, hateful mess that resulted in a huge win for the New York Rangers. The Pittsburgh Penguins controlled most of the play, but the resulting power plays from an undisciplined play by Cooke and a high stick by Matt Niskanen ultimately doomed them.

NY Rangers 5, Pittsburgh 2

Cooke received a five-minute elbowing major and a 10-minute game misconduct for the hit, putting his team in a terrible position during the third period. At first, it looked like the Rangers were going to let that opportunity slip through their fingers though, as Chris Kunitz scored an impressive shorthanded goal to give Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead.

The Rangers couldn’t really make much of a difference on that lengthy single man advantage, but a reckless Niskanen double minor for high-sticking gave New York a 5-on-3 power play. Marian Gaborik and Ryan Callahan scored power-play goals nine seconds apart to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead thanks to those mistakes, with things only going downhill for Pittsburgh from that point.

McDonagh earned a measure of revenge for the Cooke elbow by setting up a Derek Stepan goal after getting the puck right as he left the penalty box to make it 4-2. Brandon Dubinsky ended up making it 5-2 with an empty net goal, representing a wild flurry that included four unanswered goals.

Both Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan scored a goal and two assists while Henrik Lundqvist stopped 38 out of 40 shots to earn a significant win for the Rangers. This marks Lundqvist’s 31st win of the 2010-11 season. Marc-Andre Fleury allowed four goals on 26 shots in this game, but few will blame Fleury when Cooke is the obvious goat.

How this game affects the Rangers and Penguins:

The Rangers didn’t play their best all-around game this afternoon, but they earned an important two points to strengthen their hold on seventh place. With 82 points in 73 games played, they have a slim lead over the eighth-place Buffalo Sabres (78 points in 71 GP) and a healthy six point margin in front of the ninth-place Carolina Hurricanes (76 points in 72 GP).

This will be a tough loss for the Penguins to accept, as they remain in fourth place with 90 points in 72 games played. They only hold a one-point lead over the fifth place Tampa Bay Lightning, with both teams having 10 games left this season.

The Rangers ultimately passed a tough test today, even if they didn’t do it with flying colors. The NHL faces a big test in their own right, as they have a chance to send a message with their decision regarding Cooke. The league hasn’t exactly been on the honor roll when it comes to those choices in the past, but we’ll let you know what ends up happening (if anything).

Five team stats you may find interesting

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Plus-10: The New York Rangers’ goal-differential in the first period. That’s the highest in the league. Just throwing it out there, but surely part of the reason the Rangers have been outshot in so many games is that they’ve been so good at taking early leads. Everyone knows it’s human nature to play more conservatively with a lead. At five-on-five when the score is tied, the Rangers have a plus-23 shot differential, per When they’re leading by any score — and they’ve been in that situation a lot this season — it’s an NHL-worst minus-70.

Minus-22: The Anaheim Ducks’ goal differential in the second period. No team has a worse goal differential in any period. What’s more, the Ducks actually have a positive differential in the first (+5) and third (+3) frames. It’s hard to say why the second has been such a problem for this team. That’s Bruce Boudreau’s problem to figure out. (For now, at least.)

Plus-18: The Montreal Canadiens’ goal differential in the third. No team has a better goal differential in any period. Now, the Habs have also been pretty good in the first (+5) and second (+10). Which is to say, they’ve led a lot of games after 40 minutes. That they’ve kept scoring in the third supports their reputation as one of the best counter-attacking teams in the NHL. When you’re forced to take chances against Montreal, it can turn ugly real quick.

Plus-5: Calgary’s goal differential in three-on-three overtime. Five wins, no losses. That’s our way of saying the Flames have only won three games in regulation.

20: The most games any team has led at some point in the contest, per Can you guess the two teams that have done it? ………… OK, time’s up. The first is Dallas. The Stars have won 17 games, so yeah, it makes sense they’ve led in quite a few of their games. The second team, though, is Boston. The Bruins have only won 12 games, which means they’ve blown a whole lot of leads. This must drive Claude Julien nuts.

‘Great story’ Holloway, 27, to make NHL debut tonight

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It took a while, but Bud Holloway has finally made the big leagues.

Holloway — who’s real name is “George,” by the way — will make his long-awaited NHL debut tonight when his Habs take on the Devils in New Jersey.

The 27-year-old, taken by L.A. in the third round of the 2006 draft, has traveled a long and winding road to get where he is today.

The WHL Seattle product spent all of his time in the Kings organization at the minor league level, with both ECHL Ontario and AHL Manchester (he appeared in nearly 200 games with the Monarchs over a three-year span.)

Always a capable scorer, Holloway jumped the pond in 2011 and signed in Sweden.

There, he emerged as a star — in his first year, he set a record for most points in a SHL postseason (23 in 19 games) and, in his second, became just the second player in league history to score eclipse the 70-point plateau.

In ’14-15, Holloway signed in Switzerland and continued to be a productive scorer, with 37 points in 42 games for SC Bern.

This year he’s been on fire for the AHL IceCaps, scoring 20 points in 18 games.

“This is a great story,” Habs head coach Michel Therrien told “The guy has showed a lot of resilience through his career to come back after playing a few years in Europe, and he did really well for [St. John’s].

“For him to get an opportunity to play his first game in the NHL, those are great stories and he certainly deserves to finally get a shot in the NHL because he’s had success wherever he goes.”

Based on yesterday’s line rushes, it looks like Holloway will play on Montreal’s fourth line with Paul Byron and Brian Flynn.

Related: Habs recall former Swedish league scoring ace Holloway

WATCH LIVE: Rangers at Bruins in the ’15 Thanksgiving Showdown

Ryan McDonagh, Brad Marchand
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The Boston Bruins are hosting the New York Rangers in this year’s Thanksgiving Showdown on NBC — but if you’re unable to watch on TV, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

You can watch the game online via NBC Sports’ Live Extra. Coverage begins just prior to puck drop at 1 p.m. ET.

For the Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist will get the start in goal, looking for redemption after he got the hook in his last outing, a 5-1 drubbing against Montreal.

Boston will counter with Tuukka Rask, who stopped 39 of 42 shots in his last start — a win over Toronto on Monday.

While their starting goalie remains the same from the Habs loss, the Blueshirts will make chances elsewhere. On defense, Dylan McIlrath draws in for Dan Boyle while at forward, Emerson Etem with take Viktor Stalberg‘s spot.

For the Bruins, Kevan Miller — the defenseman that’s missed the last four games with an upper-body injury — could draw back into the lineup. Miller practiced this week and appears primed to skate in a pairing with Dennis Seidenberg.

Replacing Beauchemin with Bieksa hasn’t worked out so great for Anaheim


Are the Anaheim Ducks missing Francois Beauchemin more than they thought they might?

It’s a question we’ve been hearing more and more lately, as the Ducks’ goal-scoring woes of October have been replaced by defensive issues in November.

Anaheim is 3-4-2 in its last nine games. The Ducks have allowed 27 goals in regulation during that stretch — that’s three per game on average — plus two more in a pair of overtime losses.

In a related story, per the O.C. Register, here’s what coach Bruce Boudreau said the other day about offseason acquisition Kevin Bieksa:

“He’s a veteran guy that has to fight his way out of this. We count on him to not make mistakes. We will go as far as guys like him take us.”

Bieksa, 34, is minus-7 in his last four games combined. True, he’s forced to play a lot of hard minutes against good players. But then, that’s exactly what he was brought in to do. The Ducks even gave him a two-year, $8 million extension, locking him up through 2017-18.

Now consider what Boudreau said during last year’s playoff run, about the guy Bieksa was brought in to replace:

“He’s the voice. Everybody else is so young. [He] is the voice back there.”

And Beauchemin was more than just a talker. He led the Ducks in ice time. He had nine assists in 16 playoff games. Bottom line: he was a big part of a team that fell one win shy of making the Stanley Cup Final.

Beauchemin, of course, signed a three-year deal with Colorado on July 1, for a cap hit of $4.5 million. So far, he’s been as advertised for the Avs. The 35-year-old has two goals and 10 assists. He gets the most ice time on the team, an average of 23:33.

Looking back, Anaheim GM Bob Murray never did want to lose Beauchemin. The Ducks just weren’t prepared to offer what the Avs did.

“Beauch’ has been a pretty good warrior for us,” Murray said in June. “He has a one-time chance for free agency and maybe somebody will give him $5 million.… I couldn’t do that.”

One has to wonder now if Murray wishes he’d found a way.

The Ducks host the Blackhawks tonight on NBCSN.