Series at a glance: NY Rangers-Ottawa playoff preview

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Schedule

All times are Eastern.

* – if necessary

Thursday April 12 in New York @ 7 p.m. (NHL Network, CBC)
Saturday April 14 in New York @ 7 p.m. (NBC Sports Network, CBC)
Monday April 16 in Ottawa @ 7:30 p.m. (CNBC, CBC)
Wednesday April 18 in Ottawa @ 7:30 p.m. (CNBC, CBC)
*Saturday April 21 in New York @ 7 p.m. (NBC Sports Network, CBC)
*Monday April 23 in Ottawa @ TBD (TBD)
*Thursday April 26 in New York @ TBD (TBD)

Three storylines to follow

1. Is Henrik Lundqvist going to be his Vezina-caliber self? For years, Lundqvist carried an inferior team to playoff berths and then wore down once the postseason rolled around. There’s a much better team in front of him and he’s as well-rested as he’s ever been in April, but his late-season injury and shaky tune-up game against Washington could be cause for concern.

2. Ottawa’s kiddie corps. Jared Cowen, Erik Karlsson, Kyle Turris, Nick Foligno, Colin Greening and Erik Condra are all 25 or younger and have almost no playoff experience to speak of (Foligno leads all, with 10 games.) How will they stack up against a well-coached, experienced and hard-nosed No. 1 seed?

3. Strength vs. strength: The Rangers are better than they’ve been in a long time on offense, but their identity still revolves around stout defense, all-world goaltending and relentless effort. Could an explosive Ottawa offense create just enough havoc to throw a balanced Rangers team … out of balance?

Records

NY Rangers: 51-24-7, 109 points (1st in Atlantic; 1st in Eastern Conference) | Ottawa: 41-31-10, 92 points (2nd in Northeast; 8th in Eastern Conference)

Leading scorers

NY Rangers: Marian Gaborik (41G-35A-76PTS) | Ottawa: Jason Spezza (34G-50A-84PTS)

Starting goalies

NY Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist (39-18-5, 1.97 GAA) | Ottawa: Craig Anderson (33-22-6, 2.83 GAA)

Head-to-head

Ottawa won series 3-1
Oct. 29: Ottawa 5, at NY Rangers 4, SO
Nov. 9: NY Rangers 3, at Ottawa 2
Jan. 12: Ottawa 3, at NY Rangers 0
March 8: At Ottawa 4, NY Rangers 1

Last 10 games

NY Rangers: 6-4-0 | Ottawa: 4-6-0

Playoff history

First meeting

2011 playoffs

NY Rangers: Lost to Washington 4-1 (Eastern Conference quarterfinals) | Ottawa: Did not qualify

Stanley Cups

NY Rangers: 4 (1928, 1933, 1940, 1994) | Ottawa: None

Injuries

NY Rangers: Mats Zuccarello (wrist), Steve Eminger (ankle) and Michael Sauer (concussion). (Maybe Lundqvist’s arm, too?)

Ottawa: Chris Neil (upper body) and Peter Regin (shoulder).

The Buzzer: Malkin paces Penguins, Vegas keeps on winning

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Player of the night: Evgeni Malkin

Evgeni Malkin helped get things started for the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, and then he finished the game off with the overtime winner to send the New York Rangers to a fourth consecutive loss.

Malkin scored once, added three assists and even dropped the gloves in a 5-4 overtime victory, as the Penguins came back with a late — and crafty — third period goal from Sidney Crosby.

Talk about the Penguins being opportunistic on the winner. Off a defensive zone faceoff win for the Rangers, Ryan McDonagh made a terrible giveaway right beside his own net, giving the puck to Phil Kessel, who slipped it over to Malkin for the quick one-timer.

Highlight of the night:

There were a few candidates for this tonight. Phil Kessel once again showed off that tremendous wrist shot. Thomas Vanek decided to blast a slap shot on a breakaway, going post and in against the Senators. Nikita Kucherov had a perfect shot against Cory Schneider after previously setting up teammate Vladislav Namestnikov for a pretty goal versus the Devils. Yes, there were a few options.

But, we’ll go back to Winnipeg for this one. Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson not only protects the puck from Jacob Trouba on the breakaway, but then dekes out Steve Mason with the move to the forehand.

Factoid of the night:

The Vegas Golden Knights won again, giving them a 5-1 record to begin their inaugural season. That puts them in elite company.

Scores:

New Jersey 5, Tampa Bay 4 (SO)

San Jose 5, Montreal 2

Pittsburgh 5, New York 4 (OT)

Philadelphia 5, Florida 1

Toronto 2, Washington 0

Vancouver 3, Ottawa 0

Nashville 4, Colorado 1

Columbus 5, Winnipeg 2

Dallas 3, Arizona 1

Vegas 5, Buffalo 4 (OT)

Carolina 5, Edmonton 3

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Sharks send Habs to their fifth straight loss

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Make that five straight losses for the Montreal Canadiens.

Jonathan Drouin had a goal and an assist on Shea Weber‘s power play blast, giving the Habs center a two-point night. That’s one of the few bright spots, as Montreal lost by a score of 5-2 to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.

This was a battle of two teams struggling to start the new season, with each sitting on only one victory. For the Habs, that victory was back on Oct. 5 in their season opener against Buffalo.

Since then, however . . .

And it isn’t about to get any easier for the Habs. This was the start of a stretch that includes three games in four nights against the bruising California teams — the Sharks tonight, the Kings tomorrow, and the Ducks on Friday. It could still get worse before it gets better.

For the Sharks, who were led Tuesday by Logan Couture‘s four-point performance and Joe Pavelski‘s first goal of the season, they end their five-game home stand on a positive note after losing three of the previous four games.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Wayne Simmonds leaves Flyers game for ‘precautionary reasons’ with lower-body issue

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The Philadelphia Flyers earned a 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, thanks to a four-goal outburst in the second period.

And Philly forward Wayne Simmonds earned a decision over Micheal Haley in a quick fight during that middle frame, too.

While the Flyers got the win, the news wasn’t all good with respect to Simmonds, however, as he was removed from the game for precautionary reasons because of a lower-body issue, the team announced.

Beyond that, the Flyers said they will know more about his status by either tomorrow or Thursday. That puts a bit of a damper on the win.

Not only is the 29-year-old Simmonds one of the toughest players in the league, unafraid to drop the gloves or throw big hits from time to time, but he’s an important part of Philadelphia’s offensive attack, as well. A productive member of the power play, he’s flirted with the 30-goal mark on three occasions while in Philly and reached that mark in each of the past two seasons.

And he’s done that on a contract that includes an annual cap hit of just under $4 million.

Simmonds was also off to a strong start in 2017-18 with five goals and seven points in six games.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Rangers’ losing streak continues with OT defeat vs. Penguins

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The New York Rangers needed a win.

Their slow start is among the surprises early this season, as the Rangers have now lost four in a row with only one win to their record through seven games so far. They’ve had trouble scoring. Mistakes at inopportune moments have been costly.

Facing the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, the Rangers had a brutal start and a brutal finish in a 5-4 overtime loss to their Metropolitan Division foes.

Phil Kessel scored just 43 seconds into the game, utilizing that dangerous wrist shot off the rush to beat Henrik Lundqvist top corner. By the end of one period, it was 2-0 Pittsburgh.

Despite a second-period comeback, with three goals in under three minutes, and taking the lead in the third period, the Rangers couldn’t hang on and the Penguins won in overtime.

Sidney Crosby scored a crafty tying goal with only 56 seconds remaining in regulation, waiting for the Rangers defender to touch the puck negating what would’ve likely been called a hand pass on Pittsburgh before firing a no-look backhander toward the net from behind the red line. The puck deflected in off Lundqvist, helping send this one to overtime.

Evgeni Malkin capped off a four-point night with the overtime winner.

“Right now it’s a little bit challenging as far as putting a whole game together for us,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault following the game. “But this group is very accountable … and I’m very confident that if we keep doing a lot of the things we’re doing right now, we’re going to be on the right track.”

A trio of Rangers recorded their first goals of the season. That included David Desharnais, Michael Grabner and Pavel Buchnevich, although the latter played less than 10 minutes on Tuesday, despite nearly four minutes in power play time, and of course the goal.

The Rangers host the New York Islanders on Thursday. Another loss, and one has to wonder how hot the seat may be getting under Vigneault.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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