Chicago Blackhawks v Anaheim Ducks

Race for the playoffs: Ducks-Hawks highlight tonight’s Western Conference shuffle

Western Conference

3. San Jose – 95 pts
4. Phoenix – 93 pts
5. Los Angeles – 90 pts
6. Nashville – 90 pts
7. Chicago – 88 pts
8. Anaheim – 87 pts
9. Dallas – 86 pts
10. Calgary – 85 pts

Colorado @ Los Angeles – 4 p.m. ET
L.A. is three points behind fourth place Phoenix and five back of San Jose for the division. Colorado is trying to make sure they stay one of the three worst teams in the league. The Kings are also locked into a battle with Nashville for the middle part of the pack and with Chicago lurking behind by two points the pressure is on the Kings to keep winning. Ideally, facing off  with the Avalanche gives them a bit of a break, but it’s also the brand of game that could be a trap. The Kings would like to avoid having to face off with Vancouver or Detroit in the first round. With no playoff spots guaranteed, however, keeping their spot in the middle of the playoff pack is optimal.

Dallas @ Nashville – 8 p.m. ET

Nashville is doing quite well to rebound from a bad stretch and vault themselves heavily into the mix to make a run at home ice in the first round of the playoffs. Just three behind Phoenix for the fourth seed, they’re even at 90 points with the Kings. Dallas, meanwhile, has fallen off inconsistently but still sit just one point out of eighth and two back of seventh place Chicago. Going through this playoff race can make fans ride the emotional roller coaster and the Stars are in a dip right now. Taking out Nashville would get them right back into the mix and give them some momentum starting off a five game road trip.

Anaheim @ Chicago – 8:30 p.m. ET

The Western Conference shuffle is pretty well surmised in this game in Chicago. The Blackhawks with 88 points in seventh, the Ducks with 87 points in eighth and everyone is still in danger of somehow finding a way to get booted down in the standings if they’re not careful. Chicago’s won three of their last four games and the Ducks are working Jonas Hiller back into action after missing the last few weeks with vertigo. Having him deal with the Chicago attack of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane might be asking a lot of him especially after the Ducks got spanked by Nashville on Thursday. What are fans of other Western playoff teams hoping for here? A decision in regulation regardless of who wins.

San Jose @ Phoenix – 9 p.m. ET

While Phoenix is sitting rather nicely in front of L.A. and Nashville, they can change their fortunes in a big way by beating the Sharks. The Sharks hold just a two point lead on the hot Coyotes who have won eight of their last ten and earned points in nine of those games. It doesn’t end here for either of these two teams as they’ll play each other on back-to-back nights to close out the season. For now, this sets up as a great warmup for the rest of the season and a big test to see just how real the Coyotes can be.

Calgary @ Edmonton – 10 p.m. ET

The Flames are dangerously close to being irrelevant in the West playoff race and they’ll need to win every game the rest of the way to just get a shot at doing it. With just six games left to play, Calgary’s room for error is slim as other teams ahead of them have eight or nine games left in their schedule. Having to deal with their provincial rivals from Edmonton won’t make life an easier on them.

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

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The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

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The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

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Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.