Jakub Voracek #93 of the Philadelphia Flyers takes a shot as Michael Del Zotto #4 of the New York Rangers defends on March 5, 2013 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.The New York Rangers defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2.
(March 4, 2013 - Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America)

NHL on NBCSN: Flyers, Rangers battle in ‘huge’ game

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NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the Philadelphia Flyers host the New York Rangers at the Wells Fargo Center at 7:30 p.m. ET.

After back-to-back losses, the Philadelphia Flyers have slipped to 13th place in the Eastern Conference and are five points behind their opponents, the eighth place Rangers.

At this point, it’s hard to look at the Flyers’ playoff chances as anything other than slim, but if they are to start a comeback, it needs to happen now.

“This week coming up is huge for us,” Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen said in a CSN Philly report. “And it starts tomorrow with the Rangers in the eighth spot. That is a huge game.”

The Rangers need every point they can get too. Their hold on the eighth seed is a thin one and after two straight defeats, they need to turn things around quickly or it will be lost. As it is, the ninth place Carolina Hurricanes are just one point behind despite the fact that the Rangers have a game on them.

For the Rangers, offense has been a big problem all season long. They are the second worst team in the NHL with an average of 2.26 goals scored per game.

That’s a massive step backwards from how they did offensively in 2011-12 when they won the Eastern Conference and the decline came in spite of the fact that they went out and got Rick Nash in the off-season.

The Rangers are close to getting back forward Mats Zuccarello to help in that regard, but he won’t be available for this contest.

Despite the Rangers’ struggles, Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov will still be a key factor in this game. He turned aside 33 of 35 shots in Pittsburgh’s 2-1 overtime win against Philadelphia on Sunday.

“Bryz was unbelievable. … If he plays like that, we’re going to be hard to beat,” Timonen said.

Conversely, if he struggles against the Rangers, the Philadelphia Flyers will likely find themselves seven points out of eighth place with just 16 contests to go.

Probable goaltenders: PHI – Bryzgalov (13-13-2, 2.75 GAA, .900 SV%) | NYR – Henrik Lundqvist (13-12-2, 2.21 GAA, .921 SV%)

Top scorers: PHI – Jakub Voracek (13-19-32, 31 GP) | NYR – Nash (10-15-25, 27 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Philadelphia – Forwards: Daniel Briere (concussion), Jody Shelley (hip) Defensemen: Nicklas Grossmann (upper body), Chris Pronger (concussion), Marc-Andre Bourdon (concussion)
New York – Forwards: J.T. Miller (wrist) Defensemen: Marc Staal (eye), Michael Sauer (concussion)

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

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The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

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The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

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Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.