Erik Cole meets the Montreal media

One of the most sought-after free agents this year made his triumphant first appearance in front of the local media on Thursday. Erik Cole seemingly said all of the right things as he met with the (sometimes) over-bearing Montreal media. He even said the right things in the right language. Never underestimate the importance of a few French words to make a good first impression in Quebec. While skating with some kids at a summer hockey camp, he told reporters: “I am proud to play for a team that has such passionate fans,” in a local language.

He certainly knows how to make a first impression.

He continued making friends as he spoke about his excitement to play in the Bell Centre 41 times every year. It was one of the major reasons he chose to sign his 4-year, $18 million contract with Montreal on the first day of free agency.

“Playing in that building…there was always something special about it, an aura that you sensed every time you played there. The arena, the city and the fans, there’s such an energy in Montreal. It’s nice to be here and nice to get this chance. It’s strange how things work out. I’m just thrilled.”

The excitement is certainly a two-way street. The Habs were excited to successfully land a top-end player who has proven over the course of his career to be a consistent point producer. He had 26 goals and 26 assists for the Carolina Hurricanes last season while playing a top-line role. Throughout his career he’s absolutely killed the Canadiens; when healthy, he’s a guy who’s good for 20+ goals and 50+ points. Besides, it wasn’t just the points that he put up—it was the timing of his points. He was fourth in the league with 9 game-winning goals last season.

There are certainly a few question marks around Erik Cole and his ability to withstand the pressures of a Canadian hockey market. In his only professional stint outside of Carolina, Cole struggled with only 27 points in 63 for the Edmonton Oilers in 2008-09. He was traded back to Carolina towards the end of the season and like a switch had been flipped, he picked up right where he left off the season before. Many people have openly questioned whether Cole folded under the constant pressure of the hockey media in Canada. He thinks it had more to do with a new city and less to do with the specific market he joined.

“I was a player adjusting to a new environment after being with one organization for a number of years, so it took some time to get comfortable and to figure things out and to be comfortable with the coach and what he was looking for out of me. The day I got traded, the conversation with (Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini) and (coach Craig MacTavish) was that, especially over the past couple of months, it certainly wasn’t about my play because I was playing really well. It was about managing assets and that’s what they felt they needed to do. To be perfectly honest, at the time I would have been more than happy to stay.”

We’ll find out pretty quickly if he’ll be able to withstand the pressures of the Montreal media. They may love him today for his great quotes and honesty, but honeymoon periods don’t usually last very long. If he gets off to a slow start, the critics will be questioning his contract faster than you can say “bleu blanc et rouge.”

On paper he’s exactly the type of players the Canadiens need up front. In a few months, we’ll see if he’s as good as advertised.

Penguins rout Capitals to take commanding series lead

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The Washington Capitals are in trouble. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Again.

Despite a dominant first period, at least in terms of shots on Marc-Andre Fleury and puck possession, the Capitals saw this game go sideways in a hurry during the second period, on the way to a 6-2 loss to the Penguins in Game 2.

Washington is now in quite a hole, trailing its nemesis 2-0 in this second-round series.

Last year, Matt Murray stymied the Capitals. Though it’s only been two games this year, Fleury has stepped up in the absence of the injured Murray and given the Penguins solid goaltending and frustrated a dangerous Capitals lineup.

After withstanding the storm of pressure from the Capitals in the first period, the Penguins broke this game open with a trio of second-period goals. It started with a shorthanded goal from Matt Cullen, and later continued with a beautiful goal from Phil Kessel and then Jake Guentzel‘s sixth goal of these playoffs.

That led Barry Trotz to take Braden Holtby out of the game, after he gave up three goals on 14 shots, putting in Phillip Grubauer to begin the third period. The Penguins continued the onslaught.

For the Penguins, there are some injury concerns to keep an eye on.

Patric Hornqvist left the game in the first period after blocking a shot around his foot or ankle. He didn’t return. Ron Hainsey had to go to the locker room late in the third period after taking an Alex Ovechkin shot up around the head.

Game 3 goes Monday in Pittsburgh.

‘I wasn’t good enough,’ says Lundqvist after double OT loss to Senators

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The task wasn’t impossible, but certainly daunting.

The Ottawa Senators needed five goals on Henrik Lundqvist just to send Game 2 into overtime.

The Rangers goalie had been spectacular for most of this post-season entering Saturday’s contest, but the Senators, led by a sensational four-goal performance from Jean-Gabriel Pageau, found a way to break through for a 6-5 double overtime win to take a 2-0 series lead against New York.

They did so on just 34 shots through almost 83 minutes against Lundqvist.

“I wasn’t good enough,” said Lundqvist, per the New York Daily News. “Coming up with the extra save there in the end, that’s my job. Even though it’s tough plays on deflections, I’ve got to find a way.”

On three occasions, the Rangers held a two-goal lead. That includes with under five minutes remaining in regulation. They even had a pair of shorthanded goals. But they couldn’t hang on, as Pageau scored twice in the final 3:19 of regulation to record his hat trick.

That set the stage for the eventual winner, as he beat Lundqvist over the left shoulder with a shot from his off-wing on a two-on-one rush.

With the Senators in control, the series returns to New York for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday.

“We played well enough to win this game, there’s no question about it,” said Lundqvist. “It’s really tough to lose this one. Clearly they’ve gotten the bounces here in the first two games.”

Capitals’ Holtby begins third period on the bench, Grubauer takes over in net

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Braden Holtby began the third period of Saturday’s Game 2 on the bench, giving way to Philipp Grubauer.

The Washington Capitals fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 after two periods, with Holtby allowing three goals on just 14 shots. It will be interesting to hear the reason for this decision from coach Barry Trotz following the game.

The Capitals had dominated on the shot clock, but gave up a pair of quick goals to fall further behind Pittsburgh in this game, while trailing in the series 1-0.

Phil Kessel — on a great play from Sidney Crosby — and Jake Guentzel scored 3:10 apart to give Pittsburgh a two-goal lead.

Penguins’ Hornqvist hurt after blocking shot vs. Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have had to shuffle their forward combinations in the second period, after Patric Hornqvist was hurt blocking a shot in the first period of Game 2 versus the Capitals.

The Penguins forward was in obvious pain after taking a shot right around the ankle, which is a concerning development for Pittsburgh.

Per reports, he didn’t re-join the Penguins at the bench when the second period began.

Hornqvist can be a frustrating player to go up against, and he’s productive, too, with two goals and five points in six playoff games prior to Saturday.