Nashville Predators v Vancouver Canucks - Game One

Coach Vigneault feeling the heat in Vancouver

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The Vancouver Canucks may have snapped a four-game losing streak last night in Columbus, but a 2-1 shootout win over the Blue Jackets wasn’t enough to stop the presses on a column by The Province’s Tony Gallagher suggesting head coach Alain Vigneault should be fired if the team doesn’t start playing up to its abilities.

No matter how you slice it, trying to absolve the coaching staff entirely in this collapse becomes an exercise in personal public relations for Alain Vigneault and his staff.

There are simply too many good hockey players playing too poorly to put all the blame on the skaters.

Two or three guys may be stroking it or not putting forth the effort they should during this time of swoon, but really, are we to believe they all start almost every game as though they’ve just arrived at the beach on a sunny afternoon?

Granted, this is far from the first time Gallagher has unloaded on the coach (see here and here). If it were up to the longtime columnist (who, by the way, was instrumental in the hiring of current general manager Mike Gillis) Vigneault probably wouldn’t have received a two-year contract extension after the Canucks fell to the Kings in the first round of last year’s playoffs.

And to be fair to Vigneault, the absence of former Selke Trophy-winning center Ryan Kesler from all but seven of the Canucks’ 25 games hasn’t helped. Another key player, defenseman Kevin Bieksa, is currently out with a groin injury.

But despite what Vigneault said Monday — “We’re at the midpoint of the season and, in my opinion, we’re exactly where I thought we would be” — the Canucks have been underachieving. The two-time defending Presidents’ Trophy winners have a goal-differential of zero; their once-dangerous power play hasn’t scored in nine games; and their penalty killing hasn’t been much better.

In fact, almost every Canucks team statistic screams mediocrity, if not worse.

source:

And that, it has to be noted, has been done while playing in the Northwest Division, which does not boast a single team with a positive goal differential.

Is it all on the coach? It never is.

But some of it is.

Oshie’s hat trick lets Caps just barely squeak by Penguins in OT

Oshie OT goal
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What a start.

This series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals might be headlined by Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, but as many have said in the lead-up to tonight’s opener, there is so much more to this second round matchup than that. Washington’s 4-3 overtime victory in Game 1 tonight could be offered up as Exhibit A.

This game had everything except big offensive showings from Crosby and Ovechkin. They had their moments, but in the end combined for just one assist.

What we got instead was a hat trick by T.J. Oshie that was completed with a game-winning goal that made it past the line by such a narrow margin that it warranted a video review:

This game also featured a sequence of three goals in 90 seconds and yet also some great saves by goaltenders Braden Holtby and Matt Murray. At the other end of the spectrum, there was a controversial hit by Tom Wilson that might lead to a suspension.

There was even some odd stuff. Like how Jay Beagle got a stick stuck in his equipment.

Twice:

If this game sets the tone for the rest of the series, then we should be in for a closely contested, highlight filled affair.

NOTES:

Nick Bonino had a goal and an assist for the Penguins. Evgeni Malkin and Ben Lovejoy accounted for the Penguins’ other markers.

— Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky scored the game’s opening goal. It was his first marker of the 2016 playoffs.

— Washington outshot Pittsburgh 15-9 in the first period, but Pittsburgh ended up with a 45-35 edge.

— This is the first time in the 2016 playoffs that Braden Holtby has allowed more than two goals. He surrendered just five goals in six games to Philadelphia.

— Matt Murray suffered his first career postseason loss after winning three straight contests against the New York Rangers.

Video: Wilson delivers late, knee-on-knee hit to Sheary

Wilson hit
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Tom Wilson has already found himself in a controversy for delivering a late, knee-on-knee hit to Penguins forward Conor Sheary in the third period of Game 1 Thursday night.

You can see that incident below:

Wilson spent two minutes in the sin bin earlier in the contest for crosschecking Evgeni Malkin, but there was no penalty on this play.

Fortunately Conor Sheary was able to stay in the game. The question now is if Wilson’s actions will lead to him being suspended prior to Game 2.

This isn’t Wilson’s first brush with controversy. He delivered a big hit to Brayden Schenn in 2013, but Wilson wasn’t suspended for that incident. Lubomir Visnovsky’s final campaign was cut short due to a check by Wilson that angered the New York Islanders. More recently, Nikita Zadorov was concussed by a crushing blow from the Capitals forward.

In 231 career regular season games, Wilson has 50 points and 486 penalty minutes.

Related: Wilson says ‘I’ve never been a dirty hitter’ after teams voice complaints

Video: Penguins, Caps combine for three goals in 90 seconds

Oshie goal
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For the first 30 minutes of Game 1 between Pittsburgh and Washington it looked like goaltenders Matt Murray and Braden Holtby might outshine these star-studded offenses. Then the floodgates opened up, if only for a moment.

Washington already had a 1-0 lead going into the second frame courtesy of Andre Burakovsky‘s first marker of the 2016 playoffs, but Ben Lovejoy and Evgeni Malkin scored back-to-back goals within the span of 57 seconds midway through the second period to tilt the scale in Pittsburgh’s favor. That lead didn’t last for long though as Capitals forward T.J. Oshie got a breakaway opportunity and took full advantage of it.

In total, there were three goals scored in the span of just 90 seconds and you can see all of them below:

After that sequence, the 2-2 tie held for the remainder of the frame. However, Oshie was able to reassert Washington’s edge just 3:23 minutes into the third period.

Video: Beagle gets stick stuck in visor

Beagle
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Through 40 minutes of action in Game 1 of the second round series between Pittsburgh and Washington and we’ve already seen some big moments, along with a pretty unusual one.

Beagle ended up with a stick lodged into his visor towards the end of the second frame. He tried to get it out himself, but ended up having to go to the bench for assistance. You can see that below: