Nash_Rick

Rick Nash is feeling the heat in Columbus

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Columbus forward Rick Nash told NHL.com today he’s feeling the pressure of captaining the NHL’s worst team.

“When you win, everyone looks at leadership and thinks they have great leadership,” Nash said. “When you lose, leadership always gets questioned. I understand that’s what comes along with being a captain. This is definitely the toughest times I’ve faced being a captain.”

Not to pile on Nash or discredit his feelings, but the majority of his captaincy has been a tough time. Since inheriting the “C” from Adam Foote in Mar. 2008, the Nash-led BJs have gone 114-122-38.

To be brutally honest, I’m not even sure this current run of poor play is the worst he’s dealt with. Nash was around for the “three wins in 24 games” stretch that started in late Nov. 2009 and went into Jan. 2010, after all. That basically cost Ken Hitchcock his job.

So, the point?

Columbus’ problems really aren’t about Nash. It probably sucks being the captain of a horrible team, but much of the horribleness is out of his control. He should sit back, relax, maybe order a lime rickey.

Columbus has many issues, but Nash isn’t a pressing one (I guess you could make the case he’s a small issue, what with his minus-12 rating.)

Goaltending, though — now that’s a problem.

Tonight the Blue Jackets will face the red-hot Bruins at TD Garden with Curtis Sanford between the pipes. The B’s have won six straight, scoring 34 goals. Sanford, meanwhile, has played exactly 18:02 this season (stopping all three shots he faced!), missing extensive time with a groin injury.

To recap: Columbus goaltending this year has featured…

— Steve Mason, who is 3-12-1 with a 3.63 GAA and .875 save percentage.

— Allen York, a rookie sixth-round pick out of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

— Curtis Sanford, whose last NHL start was in Jan. 2009.

Also of note for tonight: Center Derick Brassard will draw back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the past two games. Brassard will play on the fourth line between Derek MacKenzie and Jared Boll, exactly where you want the sixth overall pick at the 2006 NHL Entry Draft to be playing.

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

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The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

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The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

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Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.