Hitchcock’s boys can’t be beat, Blues win again

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If you predicted that a Panthers/Blues game would pair two of the hottest teams in the league at any point this season, you could have won some serious money in Las Vegas. But coming into Thursday night’s game, the Florida Panthers were riding a four game winning streak, while the Blues were unbeaten in four straight games since Ken Hitchcock took over ten days ago. The new-look Panthers proved they were no match for the new-look Blues as St. Louis dominated en route to a 4-1 victory.

The Blues are now 4-0-1 under their new head coach. The only blemish since Hitchcock took over was a shootout loss to the Maple Leafs a week ago after giving up a pair of first period goals. In an amazing stat, the Blues haven’t given up any 2nd or 3rd period goals since Hitchcock took over five games ago. St. Louis goaltenders have pitched two shutouts and have only give up four total goals in five games. Any team that can keep the puck out of the net that well is going to be successful.

And people said the NHL game had passed Hitchcock by.

The loss for the Panthers snaps their impressive four game winning streak. The game in St. Louis was their fifth game in five cities and it showed. Despite bombing the Stars earlier in the week 6-0, the Panthers looked like a team that was ready to head home. ““We didn’t have a lot of energy tonight,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “We looked sloppy and we looked slow when we’re not engaged in the game.”

Part of the effort can be attributed to a tough patch of the schedule, but the Blues came out and earned the victory. Now the Panthers can look forward to their four-game homestand that starts this weekend against the Penguins. They’ll hope to rediscover their winning ways against a team that was dominated tonight in Tampa Bay.

It’s unbelievable what Hitchcock has done with the team in such a short time. Their defense makes them look like an elite team and their power play (which was the worst in the league), looks like its improved from “embarrassing” to “adequate.” Hitch’s boys will look to continue their hot start against another surprising team: the Minnesota Wild.

Can they win their fourth straight?

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.