Lemieux on shortened season: “The games were all like playoff games”

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The last time the NHL had a lockout-shortened season was in 1994-95, when the league and players’ union brokered a new CBA in time to complete a 48-game regular season.

Ex-Devils forward Claude Lemieux — one of the stars of that year — remembers it well.

“The games were all like playoff games,” he told the Denver Post. “You knew you couldn’t fall off the wagon much, so it was definitely more intense for the players and the fans.”

Lemieux’s take is interesting given what he did in the playoffs.

After an average regular season — he finished seventh on the team in scoring with 19 points in 45 games — Lemieux caught fire in the postseason, scoring 13 goals in 20 games en route to winning the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe.

The reason people are talking ’94-95 lately is because of what NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said following last Thursday’s failed negotiations in New York — if the 2012-13 season is to have any integrity at all, it’ll need to have a minimum of 48 games.

Here’s more on that, from the Post’s Adrian Dater:

The NHL’s 1994-95 lockout was over Jan. 11, 1995, and nine days later the season began. That year, the NHL extended the end of the regular season from its intended mid-to-late April finish to May 3, so teams didn’t have to play as many games on back-to-back nights as the NBA did.

It’s possible that could happen again.

Lemieux said the shortened season wasn’t as physically demanding as most figured, and it served as an excellent tuneup for the postseason (especially for him, it seemed.)

“I don’t remember it being very taxing on the body, any more than if it had been a full season,” Lemieux said. “We condensed things by maybe a couple weeks shorter than they would have been, but it wasn’t bad.”

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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.

Ovechkin vs. Crosby shifts into high gear, Carlson clobbers Malkin

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You have to love when sports deliver on – if not exceed – the hype.

The second period of Game 1 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals has been brilliant and nasty, possibly more than many hockey fans dreamed.

It began with the Penguins getting the big edge; Sidney Crosby scored two goals in the span of 52 seconds and Braden Holtby needed to make some tough stops to keep it at 2-0.

MORE: Video of Crosby’s hot start

That put a damper on the great crowd at the Verizon Center for a bit, but the Capitals ended up responding.

Part of that was a physical response, with Dmitry Orlov delivering a big hit on Tom Kuhnhackl and John Carlson absolutely leveling Evgeni Malkin. The narrative got almost too obvious moments later, as Alex Ovechkin fired a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 2-1.

Fleury made a tough stop or two of his own once it was 2-1, so while the pace is picking up, the two goalies seem like they’re alert to the challenge as well.

There was plenty of nastiness with 18.9 seconds remaining in the second, setting the stage for what could be a thrilling third period … and maybe more?

Buckle up.

Video: Crosby scores two goals in 52 seconds vs. Capitals

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Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins came roaring out of the gate to start the second period after a 0-0 opening frame against the Washington Capitals in Game 1.

Crosby scored two goals in just 52 seconds to give the Penguins a sudden 2-0 lead. One feels some pity for any fans who didn’t get to their seats just to start the frame … though in the likely event that they are Capitals fans, they might have been spared.

To Braden Holtby‘s credit, he made a couple tough saves moments later to keep it 2-0. It’s been a hectic first few minutes of the second after that relatively mundane first 20 minutes, so hang on tight.

Check out video above; you can also watch the pair of goals in the GIF combo below:

Penguins’ Guentzel makes ‘kick save’ to stop Capitals

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It doesn’t get much better than a player making the type of save you’d only expect from a goalie. OK, how about this: when it happens amid the high stakes of the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel had already been distinguishing himself with a red-hot scoring start to the postseason, but he made a big difference in a way that won’t show up in the box score (aside from maybe as a blocked shot) for Game 1 against the Washington Capitals.

In one of the few golden opportunities in a notably tight first period, Guentzel made a “kick save” to keep it 0-0. He also managed to avoid giving the Capitals a penalty shot in the process, so this was quite the effort from the impressive rookie.

Video will be added soon. Here’s the moment in GIF form first: