Eric Fehr, Jason Chimera

Capitals hope Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr can step up in Mike Knuble’s likely absence

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When asked to choose a “difference maker” who would help the Washington Capitals win their series against the New York Rangers, I picked Mike Knuble. He doesn’t have the blazing skill of Alex Ovechkin, the pure passing ability of Nicklas Backstrom or the feast or famine routine of Alexander Semin.

Instead, Knuble distinguishes himself by his ability to score “dirty” goals, aka ones from the dangerous areas in front of an opposing goaltender. That’s a useful skill in the regular season – which explains why he has six straight seasons of 24 goals or more – but it becomes a vital ability in the playoffs.

Unfortunately, that willingness to go to those high-impact areas takes its toll, especially for a 38-year-old forward like Knuble. CSN Washington’s Ryan O’Halloran reports that he’s likely to miss tonight’s Game 4 matchup with an undisclosed injury, which puts two lesser known players under the spotlight.

Raby reports that speedy, low-finesse winger Jason Chimera will get many of Knuble’s top line minutes while right wing Eric Fehr will get back into the lineup. Chimera told reporters that he hopes to use his speed to create pressure on the forecheck, but won’t make the mistake of thinking that he can bring the same skill level to the ice as his probable linemates Ovechkin and Backstrom.

Chimera skated with Backstrom and Ovechkin for a stint in January.

“Just playing my game and finishing my checks is the biggest thing I can bring to them,” Chimera said. “Speed-wise, I can get there and forecheck and hopefully that will help them out. If I play my game, I think I can help them out quite a bit.”

Said Backstrom: “He’s played with us before and hopefully it can be easy for us. We’ve had a lot of different line combinations during the year so it shouldn’t be a problem.”

In many ways, Chimera is the opposite of Knuble. He plays limited time on the penalty kill (20 seconds per game to Knuble’s 1:45 so far in the playoffs) and cannot finish scoring chances particularly well, but his speed gives him one huge advantage over the underrated power forward.

We’ll see if Washington can win a tough Game 4 without one of its grittiest goal scorers. It should be a fun one tonight.

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.