Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St Louis, Simon Gagne, Steven Stamkos

Five thoughts: Ducks and Lightning fight back, Caps confidence, Canucks red flags

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Today’s five thoughts take us around the action during last night’s playoff action and we’ve got kudos to give out to a pair of teams that knotted up their series while we praise one team that’s up 2-0 in their series while we get concerned over the other one.

1. Got a funny feeling we’re in it for the long haul with Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. What a response in Game 2 by the Lightning as they jumped out 3-0 on Pittsburgh after one period and didn’t let go the rest of the way en route to a 5-1 win. They got production from all lines and got a huge game out of Simon Gagne (three assists). After such an effortless Game 1, Game 2 proved to be just the tonic they needed. Now we’ll see how Pittsburgh counterpunches on the road in Games 3 and 4. Pittsburgh’s been a tremendous road team this year (24-11-6) but Tampa’s record at home is equally impressive (25-11-5).

2. Not to get all smug on you here, but I’m feeling good about picking the Caps to make the Stanley Cup final. While many were rightfully pointing out how sluggish the Rangers defense looked in last night’s 2-0 loss, let’s give credit to the Capitals defense for helping make them look bad. The Rangers outshot Washington 22-18 last night but the Capitals blocked 21 other shots. The Caps are getting in the way of anything New York tries to do offensively and it’s working perfectly so far.

3. The Canucks got the test they didn’t get in Game 1 and they responded decently. A 4-3 win that saw Chicago never really go away and made the game uncomfortable was a good test for them to see just how they could handle a pesky team that gives them fits and doesn’t back down. Each time Chicago got close, Vancouver was able to fend them off with a goal or buckling down defensively. The Canucks the last two seasons in the playoffs lose that game so it was a great win for them in that respect.

4. There’s concerns for me about this Canucks team though. Chicago, despite all their bogeyman qualities for Vancouver, is a team they should be handling with relative ease. In Game 1 they had puck luck on their side as Blackhawks shots were hitting posts and preserving the shutout. In Game 2 they bunkered down in the waning minutes of the game and Chicago took it to them without coming up with the tying goal. Good on Vancouver for winning these games, but if nothing else Chicago is providing us with a couple of red flags for the Canucks.

5. Anaheim certainly found a way to respond to Nashville after being humbled in Game 1. The Ducks top line took it to the Predators and played the way they’re more than capable of doing. They need that brand of effort each game to win though. We’ll see how they’re able to handle a potential Bobby Ryan suspension as he very stupidly attempted to stomp on Jonathon Blum’s foot in the third period. One concern for me with the Ducks though is their defense. It’s much too passive. I realize this isn’t the 2007 team that thumped everyone along the way to the Stanley Cup, but this Ducks defense has to be more physical.

Gather your lucky charms, 2016 NHL Draft Lottery is tonight

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Honestly, it’s tough to blame people for making Edmonton Oilers jokes in regards to the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery.

Really it’s only human nature to drop one-liners about the perennial cellar-dweller that (seemingly) always lands the No. 1 pick.

Will it happen again this time around? We’ll find out soon enough, more precisely sometime around 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

As you can see, the Oilers do not have the best odds to land the top pick … but they’re close:

A reminder: this time around the lottery will determine the top three picks. The NHL discusses that tweak and other changes here:

For the first time, the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery will assign the top three slots in the first round of the NHL Draft – a change from prior years, when the Draft Lottery was used to determine the winner of the first overall selection exclusively.

Want the full lowdown on the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery? PHT has you covered here.

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

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The Stanley Cup playoffs continue with two games on Saturday. You can catch tonight’s games via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

NY Islanders at Tampa Bay (3:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 2 will be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Pittsburgh at Washington (8:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 2 will also be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Some reading to get you pumped up:

– The Penguins are keeping chatty Marc-Andre Fleury from speaking to the media (reportedly).

Tom Wilson received a fine, not a suspension, for that knee-to-knee hit.

T.J. Oshie was the difference-maker for Washington in Game 1.

– Don’t expect Steven Stamkos to face red-hot John Tavares anytime soon (or at all, maybe).

Read about the Isles’ Game 1 win.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.