Vincent Lecavalier scores twice, Lightning stun Capitals in OT to take 2-0 series lead

1 Comment

Guy Boucher might struggle to convince his team that they’re the underdogs after tonight.

The Tampa Bay Lightning took a 2-0 series lead over the Washington Capitals on the strength of their red-hot veteran goalie Dwayne Roloson, a few lucky bounces and outstanding play by their two long-time stars Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.

Tampa Bay 3, Washington 2 (OT); Lightning lead series 2-0

For the first two periods, the Capitals out-shot the Lightning but Tampa Bay still managed to build leads. Despite a 11-6 shot margin in the first period, Lecavalier scored on a Lightning power play to give his team a 1-0 lead.

The Caps were most dominant in the second period, hammering 16 shots on Roloson and allowing only three shots on their own goalie Michal Neuvirth. Roloson continued his recent hot streak by only allowing a Brooks Laich rebound tally.

The Lightning woke up in the third period, out-shooting the Capitals 11-5 as a St. Louis pass bounced off Mike Green’s skate and into Washington’s net for a 2-1 Tampa lead. It really wasn’t a great night for Green. Along with that bad moment, Green took two penalties. One was bad luck (he received a penalty for roughing even though it was a clean hit) and one was bad decision-making (an ill-advised elbow on Steven Stamkos).

It wasn’t a great day for officials, either, as they seemingly nailed both teams with dubious penalties while also letting some rather egregious infractions go unnoticed. Jeremy Roenick provided an amusing rant on the subject.

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

Some felt that this the Capitals would wave a white flag, but that ignores the consistent stream of magic featured in the 2011 playoffs.

More highs and lows for the Caps

Alex Ovechkin answered the call, scoring his fourth goal of the playoffs with Washington’s net empty. Even if his team ends up on the wrong end of another series upset, Ovechkin has been a force once again in the playoffs.

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

It seemed like this team’s series of baggage-shedding moments would continue as the Capitals rode a surge of momentum in overtime, but it was ultimately not to be.

Scott Hannan and his teammates were caught on a bad change on that Lecavalier game winner. Randy Jones made a heads-up breakout pass to Teddy Purcell, who sent a nice pass to a wide open Lecavalier, who took the time to settle down the puck and put it over a sprawling Neuvirth.

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

To some, this was an unlucky break, but the Capitals dodged a bullet shortly before that when Green was caught deep in Tampa Bay’s zone but Steve Downie couldn’t finish a 2-on-1 chance. Washington dominated much of the game, but mistakes and bad bounces did them in once again.

The outlook for both teams

The Lightning are on an amazing run right now, winning five games in a row and five out of their six road games in the playoffs so far. Maybe it hasn’t always been pretty, but their big-name scorers came up big. Lecavalier was huge in Game 2, Stamkos scored a timely winner in Game 1 and St. Louis has been outstanding game-in and game-out.

Of course, they wouldn’t have gotten here without Roloson’s all-world, age-defying work in net. He leads all starting goalies with six wins and an outstanding 94.7 save percentage. Last season, Jaroslav Halak solved both the Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. Will Rolo duplicate those results?

Meanwhile, the Capitals will face one of their biggest tests yet. It seems like they are doing what they can to break through their playoff struggles, but if this team buckles now, then every critic will be emboldened. There might be some who think that Bruce Boudreau should bench Neuvirth for Semyon Varlamov, but the biggest worries revolve around what they’re going to do about the opposing goalie.

On the bright side, Washington came back to win a series after following behind 2-0 against the New York Rangers in 2009, so they at least now it isn’t over yet.

Pending free agents, Radulov and Zaitsev won’t play for Russia at Worlds

Getty
Leave a comment

Montreal’s Alexander Radulov and Toronto’s Nikita Zaitsev will not play for Russia at the upcoming World Championship, even though the Canadiens and Maple Leafs have been eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Both Radulov and Zaitsev are pending free agents, and it would be a risk to play ahead of contract negotiations.

Zaitsev just recovered from an upper-body injury, possibly a concussion. It may, in fact, have been the Leafs who refused to let him go.

Radulov, 30, can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Zaitsev, 25, will be of the restricted variety, assuming he doesn’t sign an extension first. 

Read more: Radulov denies he wants eight-year extension

They aren’t the only players skipping the Worlds due to their contract situations. Chicago’s Richard Panik and Vancouver’s Bo Horvat will not be taking the risk either.

Longtime Berenson assistant Pearson named new Michigan coach

Getty
Leave a comment

Michigan went the familiar route in replacing legendary head coach Red Berenson.

Mel Person, who spent 23 years as Berenson’s assistant before taking the head gig at Michigan Tech, has been named the ninth head coach in UM Hockey history, the school announced on Monday.

“I am thrilled to select Mel to lead our hockey program and for him to return home to U-M following tremendous success in leading the Michigan Tech program,” said director of athletics Warde Manuel. “I’ve known Mel for years and experienced his leadership ability when I was the sport administrator for hockey and he was an assistant under Red (Berenson).

“Mel’s qualifications are well known throughout the hockey community and reach far beyond his ability to coach. Simply put, I couldn’t have selected a finer person to lead our ice hockey program into the future.”

Pearson, 58, took Michigan Tech to a pair of NCAA Tournaments during his six years on the job. Several players advanced to the NHL on his watch including Chicago’s Tanner Kero, Edmonton’s Jujhar Khaira and New Jersey’s Blake Pietila.

Two weeks ago, Berenson stepped down from his post at Michigan after 33 years on the job. Together, he and Pearson captured two national championships together.

Backstrom believes Caps are ‘underdogs’ against Pens

8 Comments

The Washington Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy by seven points over the Pittsburgh Penguins this season, but someone forgot to tell Nicklas Backstrom.

Heading into their second-round matchup against Pittsburgh, Backstrom believes the Capitals are the underdogs in the series, per beat reporter Isabelle Khurshudyan.

Well Nicklas, that’s one way to look at it.

Backstrom is clearly trying to take some of the pressure off of his team’s shoulders, but maybe he’s onto something.

As you may remember, a similar situation arose last year. The Capitals had more points than any other team in 2015-16, but that didn’t stop them from being eliminated by these same Penguins in the second round. Eventually, Pittsburgh went on to hoist the Stanley Cup.

This time, the Capitals won’t have to worry about star defenseman Kris Letang, as he’s out with an upper-body injury. Pittsburgh was able to overcome the Letang injury (Matt Murray too) in round one against Columbus, but Washington is a different animal.

Even without Letang, getting by Pittsburgh won’t be easy, especially when stars like Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Sidney Crosby are rolling.

Malkin finished the first round with two goals and an incredible 11 points in five games, while Kessel and Crosby had eight and seven points respectively against Columbus.

Things were a little more difficult offensively for Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, as they posted six, three and three points in six games against the Leafs.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who has the most points and it doesn’t matter who the underdog is in the series either. All that counts is advancing through to the next round.

PHT Morning Skate: Are Thornton and Marleau done in San Jose?

Leave a comment

–After reaching the Stanley Cup Final last year, the San Jose Sharks lasted just one round in 2017. With both Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1st, could their time in San Jose be over? We know that Logan Couture wants both players to come back, but would that be the right decision? Allowing them to leave could thrust young players into roles they’re not ready for, but keeping them around and icing a similar team could lead to another first-round exit. (Mercury News)

–The Philadelphia Flyers took a step back this season, as they failed to make the playoffs, but at least the future appears to be bright. They’ve managed to stockpile quality prospects and their farm team finished with the second best record in the AHL. (Philly.com)

–Former NHLer Brandon Prust spent a couple of months hanging around the Leafs earlier this season, but he never ended up getting a contract so he went off to Germany. Prust said the experience was great, but he was a little frustrated that Toronto decided to acquire players like Eric Fehr and Brian Boyle instead of giving him a shot. “I feel I belonged there and I could have helped that team; but what are you going to do? That’s hockey. I felt they really needed a guy like me; and I know I could have helped them. Then they go and make trades for players similar to me. It’s tough.” (Yahoo)

–Justin Bieber made an appearance at the ACC last night. He was wearing a custom Leafs jersey, and he seemed to be pretty into it. Unfortunately for Biebs, his team couldn’t extend the series to seven games. (BarDown)

–The Toronto Maple Leafs pushed the Washington Capitals as much as they could, but they just ran out of steam in Game 6. Check out the highlights from the Caps’ 2-1 OT win by clicking the video at the top of the page.

Braden Holtby, Sergei Bobrovsky and Carey Price were named finalists for the Vezina Trophy. The Hockey News makes a case for each of the three goaltenders, but Bobrovsky’s gotta be considered the favorite.  Jared Clinton writes: “It’s not just Bobrovsky’s base numbers that are impressive, either. His underlying numbers makes his case further. The only goaltending with 1,000-plus minutes at 5-on-5 to post a better SP than Bobrovsky’s .939 mark was Craig Anderson.” (The Hockey News)

–It sounds like Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski is pretty confident that Auston Matthews is going to walk away with the Calder Trophy this year: