Sean Couturier

After shutting down Malkin, Flyers’ Couturier now stifling Kovalchuk

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In the Flyers’ opening playoff round against Pittsburgh, rookie center Sean Couturier drew the assignment of shutting down Evgeni Malkin, the NHL’s leading scorer.

The end result? Malkin was held scoreless in two of the six games and seemed aggravated throughout, taking a series of dumb retaliatory penalties (including this one on Couturier.)

So there was little surprise that, in Game 1 of the Devils series, Couturier drew another big-time assignment in Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey’s leading scorer. The 19-year-old silenced Kovalchuk (who went without a shot on goal) and later explained the difference in assignments to Wayne Fish of PhillyBurbs.com.

“It’s different guys, different styles a little bit,” Couturier said. “Kovalchuk is more of a shooter and Malkin controls the puck and likes to make plays.

“I try to play the same on every game, work hard on them, play hard on them, play whistle to whistle, play good defense and when we get a chance to play offense, create something.”

If the opening contest was any indication, Kovalchuk and linemates Zach Parise and Travis Zajac will be seeing plenty more of the Couturier-Max Talbot-Eric Wellwood trio. The line was fantastic in its customary shutdown role, drawing praise from Flyers forward Daniel Briere, who scored the winner in overtime.

“It’s pretty amazing, we’re talking about somebody who is 19-years-old that way,” Briere said of Couturier. “His line was amazing again last night. When he was matched up against Kovalchuk or [Patrik] Elias. . .to be realistic, we know we’re not going to keep a guy in check every single game.

“You try your best and take advantage when you keep him off the scoreboard.”

Last week, we wrote about rookies shining in their playoff debuts but (admittedly) didn’t do Couturier enough justice. His stat line is incredible — he leads all playoff rooks in goals, shots, takeaways and faceoff percentage; he’s also second in points, fourth in shorthanded ice time and fifth in hits.

All that while shadowing Malkin and Kovalchuk? Pretty impressive stuff.

Report: Sens protesting Kings goal after clock issue

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 10:  Trevor Lewis #22 of the Los Angeles Kings scores a goal on Mike Condon #1 of the Ottawa Senators to take a 3-2 lead as Marc Methot #3 and Anze Kopitar #11 react during the second period at Staples Center on December 10, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There was more than one controversial moment during Saturday’s game between the L.A. Kings and Ottawa Senators.

Sens defenseman Mark Borowiecki was given a major penalty for slamming Tyler Toffoli from behind into the boards, causing the Kings forward to undergo the league’s concussion protocol before he eventually returned to the game.

Later in the evening, there was a report from Darren Dreger of TSN that the Senators are protesting the Kings’ third goal of the game, which came with two seconds left in the second period. It was a pivotal moment in the game, as L.A. took a two-goal lead into the third period, before eventually winning 4-1.

Senators coach Guy Boucher didn’t place blame on a clock issue, but instead he put the onus on his team to not get scored on in that situation late in the period.

From LA Kings Insider:

“I’ll be honest with you, at that point for us we’ve just got to shut it down. We keep it at 1, it wasn’t about getting a goal there it was about getting off the ice. We had done the job in the second period, we had looked very good, we had the momentum, we needed to get into the third period with a one-goal lead. We’ve done it so many times this year coming back so I was confident we could come back, so no. I’m not looking at clocks, I’m not looking at penalties, I’m looking at ourselves just doing better.

The Kings now begin a stretch of nine games away from home. They play seven of those games before the holiday break, before resuming the trip on Dec. 28 versus the Canucks. The trip ends the following night in Edmonton.

Video: Unlikely combatants Kucherov and Daley drop the gloves

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Emotions were running high at times during the first period between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, in a rematch of the 2016 Eastern Conference Final.

Unlikely combatants Nikita Kucherov and Trevor Daley dropped the gloves for a spirited scrap early in the first period, after the two got tangled up in front of the Pittsburgh goal.

It’s been an ugly (or disastrous) start for the Avalanche in Montreal

Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar, top, and his team react during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago, Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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Welcome back, Gabriel Landeskog!

Congratulations on game No. 1,500, Jarome Iginla!

Those are sentiments you probably won’t be hearing from the Colorado Avalanche later on Saturday evening. Yes, they did get their captain back in the lineup from injury. Yes, Iginla was playing in the milestone 1,500th game of his NHL career — certainly an impressive feat in a day when the game is getting younger and getting quicker.

But then, the puck dropped and it all went down the drain for the Avalanche in the opening period. Actually, the opening 10 minutes. Facing the Montreal Canadiens, the Avs found themselves down 5-0 by the 8:41 mark. Of the first period.

Right?

Brian Flynn started the onslaught. Paul Byron got the Habs’ fifth goal.

Shots were at one point 13-2 for Montreal. Perhaps most concerning? This disastrous showing follows Matt Duchene calling out his team for a recent loss and, previous to that, coach Jared Bednar ripping the team for a lack of intensity.

Calvin Pickard got the start in net for Colorado, but he was pulled after giving up three goals on 10 shots. Semyon Varlamov entered the game and quickly allowed two goals on the first three shots he faced.

Hey, remember in November when the Habs lost 10-0 to the Columbus Blue Jackets? Well, Montreal was halfway to double digits on Saturday, and the first period wasn’t even at the halfway mark.

As of the completion of this post, Montreal was up 6-0. With 5:30 remaining in the first period.

Video: Borowiecki slams Toffoli from behind into the boards

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Tyler Toffoli reportedly went through the concussion protocol for a portion of Saturday’s game against the Senators, after Ottawa defenseman Mark Borowiecki slammed the L.A. Kings forward from behind into the boards.

The incident occurred less than three minutes into the game.

Borowiecki was given a major penalty for boarding. He received another major, this time for fighting, later in the period after him and Matt Greene dropped the gloves. Now the question becomes: Will Borowiecki face supplemental discipline?

Toffoli missed the remainder of the first period, but returned for the second.

The Kings went on to win by a final score of 4-1.