Chicago wins a drama-filled Game 6 in overtime to force a Game 7 against Vancouver

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In a game that started off oozing with drama as Canucks coach Alain Vigneault would start Cory Schneider in goal over regular starter Roberto Luongo, it would only end up making sense that it would somehow still boil down to Luongo. While the Canucks may have wanted to have Luongo avoid dealing with the insane atmosphere in Chicago and go with the guy that’s not mentally rattled, it would be Luongo who gave up the game-winner in overtime as the Blackhawks won it 4-3 to force a Game 7 on Tuesday.

Schneider played well in goal despite a pair of his own miscues that led to goals from Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland, but in the third period with Vancouver holding a 3-2 lead, Michal Frolik would be taken down on a breakaway giving him a penalty shot and a chance to tie it. Frolik would attack and score on Schneider as Schneider kicked his leg out to try and make the stop and in the process injured himself. In came Luongo and the Canucks stepped up their pressure as Luongo only had to face one shot in the third period while the Canucks peppered the Chicago net trying to end the game. They wouldn’t have it though and the game moved to overtime.

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In overtime, the Blackhawks were able to blitz the Vancouver zone and with 4:30 left in the overtime period, rookie Ben Smith would put home a rebound off a sprawling Luongo and into the net to send the United Center crowd into a frenzy as the Hawks stormed back from being down 3-0 in the series to force a Game 7.

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For Chicago, they’re playing flat out better than Vancouver right now and the Canucks look rattled. Badly. Chicago is getting sustained pressure from all of their lines and with Dave Bolland back in the lineup and producing in a big way, they’ve been able to roll over all of the Canucks lines. Even with Jonathan Toews struggling points-wise, the Blackhawks aren’t missing a beat and they’re playing motivated and often spiteful hockey. We’ve said it before that they’re dangerous and now the Canucks look scared.

Vancouver looks terrified to do anything. The physicality isn’t equaling up to what Chicago is doing, the passing is off, the skill is gone as Chicago is forcing Vancouver to be uncomfortable, and most of all Vancouver is playing as if they don’t want to lose. Someone in that Canucks locker room has to hold the other players accountable and whether it’s captain Henrik Sedin or assistants like Ryan Kesler, the fear of whatever higher being they believe in must be put into them. The Canucks have to play desperate and angry. After all, if you kept getting made to look like a fool by the same “bully” year in and year out, some day you snap out of it and lash out and get back at them.

Right now Vancouver is playing the part of the kid on the playground that’s content with getting wedgies every day and having their lunch money stolen. The scared attitude, the lack of support for one another, the lack of sensible fire they have to want to win is startling. If the Canucks don’t want to become the ultimate joke in playoff history, they’ll take each of the last three losses personally and play like they mean it regardless of who is in goal and play the way the top seeded team in the playoffs should play.

Otherwise, Chicago rolls on and seals a date in the second round and becomes one of the most terrifying teams to play in the Western Conference playoffs. With Detroit and Nashville already booked for dates in the second round, that’s the scariest part of all this. After all, no one wants a piece of an angry and motivated team that knows how to get things done. Perhaps that’s why Chicago has absolutely no fear going against Vancouver.

Here are all the highlights from tonight’s Game 6.

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Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.