It’s another night loaded with action as NBCSN will have two games oozing over with playoff implications, especially concerning what’s going on in the Western Conference. Getting a double dose to help prep for the playoffs is never a bad things.
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)
While the Lightning are virtually out of the playoffs (nine points back of Washington with eight games to play), the Flyers have all the reason in the world to keep winning themselves. The Flyers sit fifth in the East and while they’ve already locked down their spot in the postseason, they still have a shot at landing home ice in the first round. With the Penguins in fourth one point back of the Rangers, should the Flyers keep winning, perhaps they can catch up to whoever loses out on the Atlantic Division battle.
Working in their favor is Claude Giroux who, in spite of the attention both Evgeni Malkin and Steve Stamkos are getting for scoring tons of goals and generally being incredible, is right there in the points race with both of them. Giroux’s consistent play along with Ilya Bryzgalov looking like a superstar in goal the last couple weeks have helped Philly into the postseason. So long as the Flyers can keep Stamkos at bay tonight, they can continue their pursuit of the Pens and Rangers.
Vancouver Canucks vs. Los Angeles Kings (10:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN)
For Vancouver, their spot in the postseason is secure having clinched the Northwest Division on Saturday and while they’ll shift their attention to chasing the Blues for first in the conference, the Kings have a lot more at stake themselves.
Los Angeles sits in eighth place in the West but, as always, in a precarious position. While they’re one point back of Dallas for the top spot in the Pacific and the third seed as well as Phoenix for seventh. They’re also one point ahead of San Jose and Colorado who are in hot pursuit of them to make the playoffs. Any slip-ups from now until the end of the season could be disastrous.
The key to staying on top of things for the Kings is Jonathan Quick. Quick has been the team’s MVP this season but having to deal with a Canucks attack that will be without Daniel Sedin, thanks to a discourteous elbow to the head from Duncan Keith, won’t be easy. L.A. will need to counter what Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler bring to the table by hoping to see Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown continue their red hot play and get a little extra from Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. That’s not asking too much now is it?
If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.
The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.
(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)
Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.
A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.
First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.
Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.
Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.
In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.
This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.
It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.
(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)
There are a few things we do know already.
For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.
Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.
In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.
There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.
Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.
As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.
Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.
Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.
Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:
Things could get ugly in Game 3:
One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:
Also, lateness of the check:
The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.
The Brooks Orpik hit on Olli Maatta isn’t the only factor in lineup changes for Game 3 between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Maybe the most interesting change starts on the Penguins’ bench … where they likely hope that tweak will stay for at least one night.
Marc-Andre Fleury is apparently healthy enough to suit up for the Penguins, although it appears as though Matt Murray will start:
That’s a clear sign that “The Flower” is healthy enough to play, as Murray would be an injury or a coach’s pull away from giving up the net to Fleury. (One would assume.)
Murray has been fantastic for the most part since taking over for Jeff Zatkoff during this postseason, yet you know how the playoffs can be; people may clamor for Fleury after a loss even if it’s not really Murray’s fault.
Circling back to that Orpik hit, the dominoes seem to fall this way:
Penguins: Derrick Pouliot replaces injured Maatta.
Capitals: Dmitry Orlov in for suspended Orpik.
PHT will make note if there are any swerves.