Happy Hockey Day in America! Be sure to check out PHT throughout the day as we bring you features and previews of all the events, including a nine-hour NHL block of programming across NBC and NBC Sports Network.
When the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks meet Sunday afternoon at the United Center (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC), they’ll be doing so fresh off blowout victories — the Blackhawks routed the Blue Jackets 6-1 on Saturday while the Blues ripped the Wild, 4-0.
As such, the stage is set for a heated Central Division affair.
While St. Louis (79 points) has a healthy lead over Chicago (69), the Blackhawks come in with the upper hand having beaten the Blues last time out — a 5-2 win at the Scottrade Center, one of only three regulation losses the Blues have suffered at home this year. There’s also the not-so-tiny fact Chicago has rebounded from a season-high nine-game winless streak with back-to-back victories over the Rangers and Blue Jackets by a combined 10-3 score.
“We worked hard, stayed patient and we knew the chances were going to come,” ‘Hawks captain Jonathan Toews told CSN Chicago. “Consistently over 60 minutes we got those chances and those goals.”
As for the Blues, they put together a comprehensive effort in a shutout win over Minnesota, holding the Wild to just 13 shots while getting goals from unlikely sources (including Ryan Reaves and Barret Jackman, who hadn’t scored in 150 straight games.) The win was the Blues’ sixth in seven games, meaning they’ve now gained points in a franchise-record 21 straight home games.
— This game will mark St. Louis’ first national television appearance since Jan. 13, 2007.
— Toews had a goal and two assists against CBJ on Saturday. He now sits tied for fifth in league goalscoring (29) and tied for ninth in points (57).
— Jackman wasn’t the only Blue to break a long scoring slump on Saturday. Reaves scored for the first time since Jan. 13, 2011.
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.”
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.
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:
In their quest to even the series, the Pittsburgh Penguins had done a nice job through two periods of suffocating the Washington Capitals, while gaining the lead on a beautiful goal.
Carl Hagelin took advantage of a vast amount of space that opened up in front of the Washington net, finishing off a nice pass from Nick Bonino, burying his shot just under the cross bar on the glove side of Braden Holtby.
Through two periods, the Penguins were outshooting Washington 28-10. Only four Capitals players — Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen — had registered shots on goal.