Strange officiating overshadows Sharks’ shootout win vs. Kings

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The San Jose Sharks edged the Los Angeles Kings 6-5 via the shootout in a game that began strangely and only grew more bizarre. Sure, it was at times an utterly fantastic contest, yet it will be marred in many eyes because of some odd calls – or lack of calls – by an officiating crew blasted by the likes of mega-agent Alan Walsh.

The night’s most controversial moment came when Ryane Clowe clearly touched the puck from the bench during a late Los Angeles Kings rush. Here are a couple shots I managed to capture from NHL Game Center Live:

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Here is a shot from afar:

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Jon Wold does a fantastic job of capturing it frame-by-frame here. NHL.com added video of the incident, so enjoy it with the Kings’ announcers reactions as an added bonus:

CSNBayArea.com’s Kevin Kurz caught up with Clowe after the game, but he essentially took Dave Chapelle’s advice and plead the fifth. Drew Doughty wasn’t so shy with his assessment of the incident, as he told Rich Hammond:

“It’s like running on a football field and hitting someone during play,” Doughty said. “I don’t see why it’s any different than that.”

(Note: I’d say it’s more like running on a football field and knocking down an attempted pass – no one got hurt, after all.)

Even Kings team governor Tim Leiweke spoke out about it, as Hammond also captures.

“It’s a shame that a guy can cheat and get away with it in a game this important.”

Well, wow. It’s difficult to say what received more criticism: yet another fantastic bit of hate settled by a skills competition or that missed call (which would have been a two-minute minor penalty, for all the hoopla).

Actually, that’s not true; the missed call pretty much ruled the day. The Royal Half probably captured the mood the best with his reaction:

“Congrats to Ryan Clowe on winning the San Jose Sharks 6th Man Award!”

Hopefully NHL officials round into playoff form by April 11 or there will be many long – and angrier – nights on Twitter. Speaking of which, The Fourth Period’s Dennis Bernstein floated an interesting question: should Clowe actually be suspended for his action? Chew on that in the comments as we take a look at how that lost point could affect the West and Pacific:

The impact

Now that the West’s top eight has been settled, it’s all about playoff positioning. Here’s where everyone whose spot is still considerably subject to change stands now. (Note: I’ll save you deep analysis right now so your head doesn’t explode.)

“3” Los Angeles: 94 points, 34 regulation/OT wins, one game left
4. Nashville: 102 points, 42 reg/OT, one game
5. Detroit: 101 points, 39 reg/OT, one game
6. Chicago: 99 points, 38 reg/OT, one game
7. San Jose: 94 points, 33 reg/OT, one game
8. Phoenix: 93 points, 34 reg/OT, TWO games

As you can see, there’s a lot of potential for change. Any of the Kings, Sharks and Coyotes could swap spots. Phoenix can now “control its destiny” with those two remaining games while the Blackhawks could take the fifth spot with a regulation win against the Red Wings on Saturday.

There are a lot of moving parts, but at least you can snuggle with this bit of simplicity: those eight teams represent the playoff picture, as muddy as it is. Then again, that’s the only real bummer from a busy Thursday; postseason arrangements rather than berths are only on the line going forward.

Ovechkin shrugs off Caps’ Game 1 loss in very Ovechkin way

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You know, it happens. Maybe not always in those exact words.

The Washington Capitals carried the play during portions of their 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and even down 1-0 in the series, just about every player seemed happy with their overall game.

(Granted, Braden Holtby picked apart two of the three goals he allowed, and so on.)

Still, Alex Ovechkin shrugged off the disappointment in a way that wasn’t quite Rated R, but probably ranks in the PG-13 range:

The penalty element is interesting, though.

When asked after the loss about the lack of power plays, Matt Niskanen merely offered a “no comment.”

The Penguins experienced some sprawling moments, yet they avoided taking a penalty each time. Often, when a team carries long sequences of play, they’ll go on the PP (especially with home-ice advantage) … but not the Capitals in Game 1.

via Natural Stat Trick

It’s a situation to watch as the Capitals hope to even the series against the Penguins with Game 2 coming on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. (You can watch online, via the NBC Sports App and follow the livestream here).

Holtby takes blame for two big goals in Caps’ loss to Pens

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It’s just about a consensus that the Washington Capitals believed that they generally played a strong game despite falling 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Braden Holtby‘s teammates likely wouldn’t agree with his assessment that the Game 1 loss is on his shoulders, but the perennial Vezina candidate took the blame for Sidney Crosby‘s first goal of the night and Nick Bonino‘s game-winner.

Noting that the Penguins are a dangerous rush team – making them a different threat than the Toronto Maple Leafs – Holtby believes that he should have had his glove in position to stop the 1-0 goal. He said he’s capable of making such a stop and “will next time.” Check out Crosby’s two goals below, with Holtby having a beef with the first one:

It’s really difficult to place too much blame on Holtby for giving up Nick Bonino’s game-winner, as it seemed like a great rush play that few goalies would be able to stop.

Judge for yourself in the highlights:

The Penguins were ultimately able to take a 1-0 series lead, but the Capitals seem capable of shrugging off questions about frustrations, even with naysayers starting to gain confidence in claiming that there will be more than the same.

If Washington’s going to get over this big hurdle, Holtby is likely to be a big part in doing so.

Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

(Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).

Karlsson makes difference for Senators vs. Lundqvist, Rangers

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Swedish superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson were both stupendous in Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

Still, it was Karlsson’s game-winning goal (from a seemingly impossible angle) against Lundqvist that made the difference as the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 on Thursday. With that, the Senators are up 1-0 in the series.

That Karlsson goal really deserves a special look.

Whether you blame that 2-1 tally on Lundqvist or not, the Rangers would be foolish to do anything but praise their red-hot franchise goalie. He stopped all 21 Senators shots in the first period and ultimately made 41 out of 43 stops in defeat.

Craig Anderson was strong in his own right, mind you, stopping 34 out of 35 shots (including all 28 at even-strength) to help Ottawa take that tight contest.

Anderson’s strong play highlights the fact that Rangers – Senators doesn’t merely come down to Lundqvist vs. Karlsson … but even so, both Swedish superstars really did stand out in this one.

Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.