John Tavares

NHL on NBCSN: Inconsistent Islanders face steady Bruins

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NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the New York Islanders host the Boston Bruins at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum at 7:30 p.m. ET.

No team has won fewer games at home than the New York Islanders (2-7-0) and to make matters worse for them, they’ll be facing one of the best road teams in the NHL tonight (7-1-1).

Almost everyone on the Boston Bruins seems to be living up to expectations so far this season and consequently they’re one of the deepest teams in the league, led by a superb young goaltender in 25-year-old Tuukka Rask.

Goals are hard to come by against the Bruins, which is one of the reasons that no team has beaten them this year when Boston has scored first or has the lead after 20 minutes.

That’s particularly problematic for the Islanders, given how inconsistent they’ve been lately. Their recent play has frustrated head coach Jack Capuano.

“If guys want to play individualistic, go play golf or tennis,” Capuano suggested after the Islanders suffered a 4-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday, according to New York Newsday.

One beacon of light for the Islanders win or lose has been 22-year-old forward John Tavares. He’s tied for first in the NHL with 13 goals this season and has found the back of the net nine times in his last 10 games.

However, even Tavares’ sparkling play has turned into a point of controversy at time for the Islanders. Starting goaltender Evgeni Nabokov recently suggested that his team has become over-reliant on the young superstar.

“It’s a matter of, do we want to play as a team, go hard every shift, or do we wait around for Johnny Tavares to score a goal and then say, ‘OK, now I’m going to play today, too’?” Nabokov asked in a New York Newsday report.

So will the Islanders come out of the gate strong and will the rest of the team give Tavares the support that he needs? Even if they do, will that be enough to stop the superb Boston Bruins?

Probable goaltenders: NYI – Nabokov (8-6-1, 2.91 GAA, .903 SV%) | BOS – Rask (9-1-2, 1.97 GAA, .925 SV%)

Top scorers: NYI – Tavares (13-12-25, 19 GP) | BOS – David Krejci (4-9-13, 15 GP)

Notable Injuries:
New York – Forwards: Jesse Joensuu (hernia) Defensemen: Brian Strait (ankle), Matt Carkner (lower body)
Boston – Forwards: Marc Savard (concussion)

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.

Islanders believe Boyle should be suspended for hit before OT goal

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Thomas Hickey is involved in a controversial hit, yet the greater debate may revolve around the one he received rather than the one he delivered.

In the second period, the New York Islanders defenseman connected for a thunderous hit on Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin, which sidelined Drouin for a chunk of Game 3.

Many believe that hit was legal:

The Islanders are upset about the Brian Boyle hit on Hickey in overtime, which came moments before Boyle scored the game-winning goal. You can see the full sequence here, with the hit happening around the 50-second mark:

Islanders head coach Jack Capuano believes that it was a suspension-worthy hit.

You’re not going to believe this, but the Lightning disagree.

Boyle clearly didn’t receive a penalty on that sequence, yet one would imagine that the league will at least take a look at that hit.

Lightning take dramatic OT win vs. Islanders, go up 2-1 in series

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Brian Boyle was part of the fight before Game 3 even started … and then he ended it in overtime.

In a Tampa Bay Lightning win in which they just kept rolling with the New York Islanders’ punches, it only seems fitting that Boyle battled to land a big hit and then score the clinching goal for a 5-4 overtime victory.

This gives the Lightning a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4.

Also fitting? Boyle landed a big hit on Thomas Hickey, the guy who sidelined Jonathan Drouin for a chunk of this contest.

That sequence prompted a brief goal review, but it ultimately stood:

(Was that Boyle hit on Hickey dirty, by the way?)

Drama was in the air from the beginning, yet Drouin really stole the show when he came back from what some believe was a concussion to assist on Nikita Kucherov‘s last-minute goal, which sent the game to overtime.

In some ways, this win feels like a microcosm of the Lightning’s season. They keep getting hit in the mouth with injuries and near-injuries, yet they just won’t stay down.

The Islanders saw three leads disappear in this contest, but one would think that they won’t roll over, either.