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Nashville hosts Anaheim in first of two huge home matches this week

It’s way too early to say that the Nashville Predators will make or break their season (and their opponents’ seasons) in the next two games, but each one of those contests sport a “steel cage match in Wrestlemania” feel.

While winning both games in regulation won’t guarantee the Predators a playoff berth, earning success against the Anaheim Ducks tonight and the Dallas Stars on Saturday would absolutely go a long way in helping them get the job done. In a matter of three days, Nashville could earn a nice cushion or be in some serious trouble in the Western Conference playoff race.

Tonight’s game is a should-win for the Predators because the Ducks are coming off a dramatic and emotional win against the Stars in Dallas last night. Neither one of those teams are just going to roll over for Nashville, but with home ice advantage on their side, the Predators would deeply regret letting these opportunities slip through their fingers.

After all, the Predators might hold a lead over the Ducks and Stars, but they have some disadvantages going for them as well. Let’s take a look at the West bubble, via NBC’s standings.


So the Predators have the most points (88), but one less game remaining than the Ducks and Stars. The Ducks lead the pack with wins (41) so they likely would earn a tie-breaker if things trend the same way.

Again, it’s incorrect to boil this race down to those two games, even for the Predators. They will enjoy a very friendly closing schedule, with six of their last eight at home.

Still, there aren’t many contests left and this might be their best chance to “control their destiny” by actually playing against the two clubs most likely to foil their plans. It should be intriguing to watch and we’ll keep you up to date on how it all plays out.

Oshie’s hat trick lets Caps just barely squeak by Penguins in OT

Oshie OT goal
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What a start.

This series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals might be headlined by Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, but as many have said in the lead-up to tonight’s opener, there is so much more to this second round matchup than that. Washington’s 4-3 overtime victory in Game 1 tonight could be offered up as Exhibit A.

This game had everything except big offensive showings from Crosby and Ovechkin. They had their moments, but in the end combined for just one assist.

What we got instead was a hat trick by T.J. Oshie that was completed with a game-winning goal that made it past the line by such a narrow margin that it warranted a video review:

This game also featured a sequence of three goals in 90 seconds and yet also some great saves by goaltenders Braden Holtby and Matt Murray. At the other end of the spectrum, there was a controversial hit by Tom Wilson that might lead to a suspension.

There was even some odd stuff. Like how Jay Beagle got a stick stuck in his equipment.

Twice:

If this game sets the tone for the rest of the series, then we should be in for a closely contested, highlight filled affair.

Video: Wilson delivers late, knee-on-knee hit to Sheary

Wilson hit
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Tom Wilson has already found himself in a controversy for delivering a late, knee-on-knee hit to Penguins forward Conor Sheary in the third period of Game 1 Thursday night.

You can see that incident below:

Wilson spent two minutes in the sin bin earlier in the contest for crosschecking Evgeni Malkin, but there was no penalty on this play.

Fortunately Conor Sheary was able to stay in the game. The question now is if Wilson’s actions will lead to him being suspended prior to Game 2.

This isn’t Wilson’s first brush with controversy. He delivered a big hit to Brayden Schenn in 2013, but Wilson wasn’t suspended for that incident. Lubomir Visnovsky’s final campaign was cut short due to a check by Wilson that angered the New York Islanders. More recently, Nikita Zadorov was concussed by a crushing blow from the Capitals forward.

In 231 career regular season games, Wilson has 50 points and 486 penalty minutes.

Related: Wilson says ‘I’ve never been a dirty hitter’ after teams voice complaints

Video: Penguins, Caps combine for three goals in 90 seconds

Oshie goal
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For the first 30 minutes of Game 1 between Pittsburgh and Washington it looked like goaltenders Matt Murray and Braden Holtby might outshine these star-studded offenses. Then the floodgates opened up, if only for a moment.

Washington already had a 1-0 lead going into the second frame courtesy of Andre Burakovsky‘s first marker of the 2016 playoffs, but Ben Lovejoy and Evgeni Malkin scored back-to-back goals within the span of 57 seconds midway through the second period to tilt the scale in Pittsburgh’s favor. That lead didn’t last for long though as Capitals forward T.J. Oshie got a breakaway opportunity and took full advantage of it.

In total, there were three goals scored in the span of just 90 seconds and you can see all of them below:

After that sequence, the 2-2 tie held for the remainder of the frame. However, Oshie was able to reassert Washington’s edge just 3:23 minutes into the third period.

Video: Beagle gets stick stuck in visor

Beagle
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Through 40 minutes of action in Game 1 of the second round series between Pittsburgh and Washington and we’ve already seen some big moments, along with a pretty unusual one.

Beagle ended up with a stick lodged into his visor towards the end of the second frame. He tried to get it out himself, but ended up having to go to the bench for assistance. You can see that below: