Canucks embarrass Sharks 7-3 to take 2-0 series lead

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The game may have started out evenly between Vancouver and San Jose in Game 2, but it ended with the Sharks getting outworked again and ending up in a 2-0 hole in the series. It was an all-around dominating effort from the Vancouver Canucks in Game 2 that saw them beat San Jose 7-3.

Once again the game would start out evenly as the teams traded goals in the first period, one that would wind up with the game being tied at 2-2 after the first. Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau would score for San Jose to begin and end the period, but between those tallies, Vancouver would get goals from Daniel Sedin and Raffi Torres. For Sedin, it would be the first of two goals on the night.

In Game 1 of this series, San Jose wore down in the third period but tonight, the slow legs came out halfway into the second period and it would be Kevin Bieksa who got the Canucks ahead scoring a beautiful breakaway goal.

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Bieksa wouldn’t see his night go quietly the rest of the way as late in the second period and the Sharks obviously starting to sag a bit in their efforts, Patrick Marleau would grab Bieksa and drop the gloves in a rare display of pugilism by Marleau and a fight Bieksa would happily accept. Bieksa would finish up the night with a Gordie Howe hat trick after his goal, fight, and assist on Chris Higgins’ power play goal in the third.

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Just moments after that fight would end, however, Sharks physical forward Ben Eager would make his first negative contribution of the game when he would smoke Daniel Sedin from behind on a hit he was fortunate to only get a two-minute minor for boarding on. While Sedin wasn’t hurt on the play the officials didn’t toss Eager from the game for the terrible hit. As the game went on to the third period, the Sharks might’ve wished they had.

In the third, Vancouver would rattle off four straight goals including two power play goals, one thanks to another Eager penalty for tripping Mason Raymond as Eager kicked Raymond’s feet out from under him from behind. Vancouver finished the game going 3-7 on the power play and after their four goal third period binge held a 7-2 lead highlighted by the Canucks’ work cycling the puck leading to a goal from defenseman Aaron Rome.

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Eager’s night wasn’t totally over though as the hulking forward would manage to score a late goal off a nice feed from Joe Pavelski. What Eager did after the goal, however, proved to be yet another reason why he’s more trouble than he’s worth to have in the Sharks lineup as he celebrated with arms raised in the air as if a champion of the world as his goal made it 7-3 with 2:33 left to play in the game.

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Tallying up Eager’s night: one goal, five minor penalties, one ten-minute misconduct, 20 penalty minutes, and one major detriment to his own team. Even Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo (28 saves) told Versus’ Darren Pang after the game that in spite of Eager running him over to score late, he’s OK with him being out there because it means he’ll take penalties.

For San Jose the penalties were a major problem. You can’t give up power play chances to the Canucks all game long especially when you end up looking lost in your defensive end of the ice while the Sedins are working their puck magic all through the zone. Eager was bad with his antics, but for the whole of the game San Jose just didn’t compete the right way. What started off hopeful in the first period turned in the second and wound up ultimately being a beat down in the third. The Sharks have a lot of things to get figured out when they head home for Game 3 on Friday night.

Vancouver, on the other hand, looked like a team destined to make the Stanley Cup finals save for one glaring exception: Their penalty kill. San Jose converted on both of their power play opportunities in the first period and it gave them the openings they needed to put fear into Vancouver. The Canucks will have to tighten that part of their game up. To their credit, they didn’t take any penalties tonight while the Sharks went out of their way to try and goad them into further nonsense. As the game got further out of hand, San Jose kept trying and the Canucks kept refusing – a smart, savvy move by Vancouver to not give them the satisfaction.

It’s not over for San Jose by any means, but their list of things to get fixed in Game 3 at home grew a lot longer tonight. The Sedins have too much room to work, the Sharks defense isn’t nearly physical enough to keep them nervous, and the Sharks aren’t getting top performances from most anyone. Logan Couture, Joe Thornton, and Patrick Marleau were the only ever-present guys tonight and with the amount of talent there they need the others to play better and quickly.

Dave Strader and Brian Engblom from Versus recap Game 2:

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Here are all the highlights from tonight’s action:

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PHT Morning Skate: Should the Flyers be worried about Claude Giroux?

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–Penguins defenseman Kris Letang had his day with the Stanley Cup, and he decided to bring it to a children’s hospital in the Montreal area. Even though he missed the playoffs with an injury, the hospital visit put things in perspective for him. (Canadian Press)

Jordan Eberle may not be a member of the Edmonton Oilers anymore, but that didn’t stop him from having a good time at his wedding with some of his old teammates. Country music star Brett Kissel also made an appearance during Eberle’s big night. (Sportsnet)

–Flyers center Claude Giroux has seen his production decrease over the last three seasons, and CSN Philly is wondering if it’s time to worry about the captain. Some of the CSN Philly writers are a little more optimistic about his odds of bouncing back than others. (CSN Philly)

–The Montreal Canadiens want fans to stop using printed tickets, so they’ve decided to charge season-ticket holders a $150 plus taxes fee to have a ticket booklet sent to them. Obviously, some fans aren’t thrilled about the additional charge for “hard” tickets. “They don’t think about this stuff. And if you read the letter, you’ll see that they just jammed it at the bottom of the letter with this nice little surprise. (Montreal Gazette)

–CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty looks at which available free agents would be the best fit for the Boston Bruins. Haggerty believes that taking a chance on Eric Gelinas could be worth the risk, but he also feels like a reunion with Jarome Iginla or Jaromir Jagr could make some sense. (CSN New England)

–The Chicago Blackhawks held a press conference on Saturday, but there was a catch. Only children were allowed to ask questions to players like Patrick Kane, Connor Murphy and Nick Schmaltz. Questions ranged from “How do you feel with the other team on the ice?” to “What is the best prank you did on a player?” Cute stuff. (Chicago Tribune)

Fleury celebrates Stanley Cup day as a Penguin, but admits he’s ready to move on

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Marc-Andre Fleury celebrated his day with the Stanley Cup on Saturday.

His time in Pittsburgh has already come to an official end, having been selected by Vegas in the expansion draft. He’s already said ‘thank-you’ to the fans of Pittsburgh, but the events of this weekend, in his mind it seems, close the chapter for good on this stage of his career.

“I think this was my last day as a Penguin, I would say,” Fleury told NHL.com.

“I have members of my family who had their Penguins hats who told me this was the last time those will come out. So I think after today, I can turn the page and get ready for Vegas.”

The former first overall pick captured three Stanley Cup rings with the Penguins. While he wasn’t the No. 1 goalie last year — or in the 2017 final, either — he played a significant role in Pittsburgh’s success through the first half of this year’s playoff before Matt Murray returned from injury.

He earned praise for how he handled the situation toward the end in Pittsburgh. After the final, reports surfaced he had agreed to waive his no-movement clause, which left him exposed in the expansion draft.

At age 32, he still has two more years left on his current contract, with an annual cap hit of $5.75 million. He’ll no doubt garner plenty of attention this upcoming season as the experienced starter on the Golden Knights’ roster.

But Saturday was for Fleury to enjoy one last championship won with the Penguins.

Hall urges Hischier to ‘develop at his own pace’

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The New Jersey Devils won the lottery and selected Nico Hischier first overall. With that comes even greater expectations on the player heading into their first training camp.

We’re less than two months away from the opening of training camps across the league.

But on a team that has worked this summer to bolster its offense, the addition of the 18-year-old Hischier could have an immediate impact in that department in October. Certainly, fans in New Jersey will hope so.

Taylor Hall knows all about the pressures of being taken first overall.

The Oilers selected him at that spot in 2010, but dealt him to New Jersey last summer, removing a very talented forward from their roster in order to gain something back defensively.

Devils coach John Hynes has already tried to lessen the burden on Hischier. Hall, it appears, has taken a similar approach.

“He’s just got to relax and develop at his own pace,” Hall told the Toronto Sun. “That’s not always the easiest thing to do with all the expectations people put on you for going No. 1, but I’ll help him any way I can.”

The Metropolitan Division featured four 100-plus point teams last season. New Jersey wasn’t one of them. Where the Devils need to make the most improvement in order to break back into the postseason conversation is with their offensive attack,finishing 28th in the league in total goals for last season.

Hischier should help — if not exactly next season then beyond 2017-18. The Devils also acquired Marcus Johansson from Washington and the signing of Brian Boyle should help solidify depth up the middle.

“It’s exciting times for us, bringing in the likes of Nico, Brian Boyle and Marcus Johansson,” said Hall. “We’re certainly trending in the right direction.”

Habs may lean more on Montoya to keep Price refreshed

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The Montreal Canadiens committed money (a lot of money) and term to Carey Price with his contract extension at the beginning of this month.

He is the backbone for this team, for its success.

He’s also about to turn 30 years old next month, with 509 career games in the NHL, entering the league in 2007-08. For as great as he has been, the Habs may place added responsibilities on the shoulders of their back-up, a title currently held by Al Montoya.

In an interview with the Habs’ website, the club’s goaltending coach Stephane Waite said that, in his mind, the days of starting goalies playing 65 to 70 games are done. It’s too tall an order in today’s NHL.

Price has, on three occasions, breached the figures in that approximation during his career. He approached the lower end of that with 62 starts in 2016-17. Montoya, meanwhile, had 18 starts and 19 games, posting a 8-6-4 record (20 points for Montreal in the standings) and a .912 save percentage.

He was the victim of one awful game, allowing 10 goals to Columbus on Nov. 4. But seriously, the entire Habs team was awful that night, essentially leaving their No. 2 goalie out to dry in an embarrassing effort from everyone.

Beyond that, Montoya was able to put together some nice starts, including shutouts against Pittsburgh and Edmonton, two teams well-equipped with dangerous offensive talent.

“We’re not afraid to put Al in goal against any team in the league,” said Waite.

“We don’t look at who he’ll be playing, we just look at the schedule that we make at the beginning of the season. Our priority is to give Carey the right days off at the right times.”

The Habs signed Montoya to a two-year extension in January. That’s a vote of confidence in their back-up.

Maintaining that confidence with a good season would certainly help the Habs accomplish the objective of keeping Price rested and refreshed.