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After two-game losing streak, Washington makes moves

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While back-to-back losses in Edmonton and Vancouver aren’t cause for full-scale panic, the Washington Capitals made some rather small-yet-curious moves prior to tonight’s game against Anaheim:

John Erskine will draw in and make his season debut after undergoing shoulder surgery. The rugged defenseman will be a welcome addition to a team that allowed a season-high seven goals to the Canucks on Saturday.

“We’ve been waiting awhile to get him back,” Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau told the Washington Post. “Hopefully there’s not too much rust on him; I’m sure there’s gonna be some but hopefully it’s not too much.”

— To make room for Erskine, Sean Collins was returned to Hershey of the AHL. Collins pretty much sealed his fate against Vancouver by going minus-2 in just over nine minutes of ice time.

Rookie F Cody Eakin was called up from Hershey and should make his NHL debut against the Ducks after Jeff Halpern skated with the healthy scratches this morning. Halpern only played 11:59 against Vancouver and was bad in the faceoff circle (1-for-5, 16.7 percent), though Boudreau was quick to explain this isn’t him sending a message.

“I don’t like using the word ‘messages’. It’s just we’ve got 13 forwards right now and wanted to take a look at Cody and it’s the way it worked out,” Boudreau told the Washington Examiner. “Every report we’ve gotten is that [Eakin] has played really, really well down in Hershey. He’s a guy that we really wanted to take a look at. So we thought Hershey only had one game this week and this was a good opportunity for us to take a look at him.”

— Sounds like Mike Knuble’s demotion to the fourth line will extend to tonight’s affair. Knuble has made it clear he’s not happy with the move, probably because his production has been pretty solid thus far. The 39-year-old winger has 2G-4A-6PTS in nine games and is a plus-2, but will be playing alongside a couple of greenhorns in Eakin, 20, and Mathieu Perreault, 24.

These are all small moves, sure, but their timing is the thing. Washington lost two straight after winning seven to start the year and you get the feeling that pissed a few people off. The Caps (Boudreau especially) appear to be all business this year, something Knuble explained to Chuck Gormley of CSN Washington:

“We knew coming in it would be a more competitive season. Maybe seasons before you could rest on your laurels, but that’s not good enough. That’s the way this coach works.”

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for today

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After the Eastern Conference Game 2s played out on Saturday, we’re getting the Western Conference set today. You can watch the action via NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Here’s a quick overview of where specifically you can watch the contests:

St. Louis at Dallas (3:00 p.m. ET)

If you want to watch the game on television, NBC is the channel to do that. If you want to stream the game with the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Nashville at San Jose (8:00 p.m. ET)

The game will be televised on NBCSN. You can also stream the contest by clicking here.

Here’s some relevant pregame reading material:

With Eaves injured, Nichushkin will play for Stars in Game 2

Hitchcock, Blues know they need to slow down the Stars … but can they?

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

Video: Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have spoken out against a late, high hit that Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik threw on Olli Maatta early in the first period of an eventful Game 2 on Saturday.

Maatta left and didn’t return. He played only 31 seconds, and the Penguins were reduced to five defensemen for a large portion of the game. Orpik was given a minor penalty on the play, but the league’s Department of Player Safety may see it differently.

The hit occurred well after Maatta had gotten rid of the puck. He struggled on his way to the dressing room for further evaluation.

Based on multiple reports, Orpik wasn’t made available to the media following the game, which went to the Penguins as they earned the split on the road.

But the Penguins have taken issue with the hit.

“I thought it was a late hit,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, as per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

Game on: Penguins even series with rival Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins will head back home with a split of their second-round series with the rival Washington Capitals.

Former Capitals forward Eric Fehr came back to burn his hold team, as he scored with under five minutes remaining in regulation to help lift the Penguins over Washington with a 2-1 victory in an eventful Game 2 on Saturday. Evgeni Malkin threw the puck toward the net and Fehr was able to re-direct it by Braden Holtby.

Oh, this was an eventful game, indeed.

It started early in the first period with Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik catching Penguins blue liner Olli Maatta with a late and high hit that warranted — at least for now — only a minor penalty for interference. Maatta, clearly in distress following the hit, didn’t play another shift and saw only 31 seconds of ice time in total, as Pittsburgh was reduced to five defensemen for the remainder of the game.

It continued in the third period. Kris Letang was furious after getting called for a trip on Justin Williams, and even more ticked off when the Capitals tied the game on the ensuing power play.

For two periods, the Capitals couldn’t get much going. Only four of their players had registered a shot on goal through 40 minutes, while the Penguins held the edge in that department and held the lead.

Washington came out with more jump in the third period, testing rookie netminder Matt Murray with 14 shots in the final 20 minutes. But the Penguins got the late goal to break the deadlock.

Video: Penguins’ Letang was furious after Capitals tie up Game 2 with power play goal

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Kris Letang watched from the penalty box as the Washington Capitals tied up Game 2 with a power play goal in the third period. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman was called for tripping after he appeared to muscle Justin Williams off the puck as he entered the zone.

Letang let his disagreement with the call be known at the time, and was furious after the Capitals capitalized on a goal from Marcus Johansson.

The Capitals started the period down a goal and being outshot 28-10 by the Penguins, who need a win to even the series.

Also, it seems this is worth mentioning: