Usually, when you talk about a team playing the role of “spoiler,” the discussion revolves around squads who are dangerous despite their status in the cellar. The Chicago Blackhawks seem primed to represented a different breed of spoiler: an elite team ruining it for bubble opponents.
After beating the Detroit Red Wings on Friday and the St. Louis Blues on Sunday, the Blackhawks rained on the Dallas Stars’ feel-good parade with a 5-2 win on Monday. That ended an unexpected five-win run for the upstart Stars (and extended Chicago’s streak to six straight victories in the process).
That loss lowered the Stars’ odds of finding their way into the playoffs by a little more than 10 percent, according to Sports Club Stats. Dallas also saw out-of-left-field sensation Alex Chiasson’s night end early with an upper-body injury, so it was a tough night overall for the scrappy club.
While that win has the unintended effect of making life easier for their division rival in Detroit, the Blackhawks now need just one point to clinch the top seed in the West.
If that happens, then Chicago will only have the Presidents’ Trophy and the sheer joy of spoiling to keep them entertained.
Then again, winning can be enough motivation on its own, as Andrew Shaw told Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.
“The feeling of winning is unbelievable,” Shaw said. “No one wants to lose.”
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The Washington Capitals are in trouble. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Despite a dominant first period, at least in terms of shots on Marc-Andre Fleury and puck possession, the Capitals saw this game go sideways in a hurry during the second period, on the way to a 6-2 loss to the Penguins in Game 2.
Washington is now in quite a hole, trailing its nemesis 2-0 in this second-round series.
Last year, Matt Murray stymied the Capitals. Though it’s only been two games this year, Fleury has stepped up in the absence of the injured Murray and given the Penguins solid goaltending and frustrated a dangerous Capitals lineup.
After withstanding the storm of pressure from the Capitals in the first period, the Penguins broke this game open with a trio of second-period goals. It started with a shorthanded goal from Matt Cullen, and later continued with a beautiful goal from Phil Kessel and then Jake Guentzel‘s sixth goal of these playoffs.
That led Barry Trotz to take Braden Holtby out of the game, after he gave up three goals on 14 shots, putting in Phillip Grubauer to begin the third period. The Penguins continued the onslaught.
For the Penguins, there are some injury concerns to keep an eye on.
Patric Hornqvist left the game in the first period after blocking a shot around his foot or ankle. He didn’t return. Ron Hainsey had to go to the locker room late in the third period after taking an Alex Ovechkin shot up around the head.
Game 3 goes Monday in Pittsburgh.
The task wasn’t impossible, but certainly daunting.
The Ottawa Senators needed five goals on Henrik Lundqvist just to send Game 2 into overtime.
The Rangers goalie had been spectacular for most of this post-season entering Saturday’s contest, but the Senators, led by a sensational four-goal performance from Jean-Gabriel Pageau, found a way to break through for a 6-5 double overtime win to take a 2-0 series lead against New York.
They did so on just 34 shots through almost 83 minutes against Lundqvist.
“I wasn’t good enough,” said Lundqvist, per the New York Daily News. “Coming up with the extra save there in the end, that’s my job. Even though it’s tough plays on deflections, I’ve got to find a way.”
On three occasions, the Rangers held a two-goal lead. That includes with under five minutes remaining in regulation. They even had a pair of shorthanded goals. But they couldn’t hang on, as Pageau scored twice in the final 3:19 of regulation to record his hat trick.
That set the stage for the eventual winner, as he beat Lundqvist over the left shoulder with a shot from his off-wing on a two-on-one rush.
With the Senators in control, the series returns to New York for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday.
“We played well enough to win this game, there’s no question about it,” said Lundqvist. “It’s really tough to lose this one. Clearly they’ve gotten the bounces here in the first two games.”
Braden Holtby began the third period of Saturday’s Game 2 on the bench, giving way to Philipp Grubauer.
The Washington Capitals fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 after two periods, with Holtby allowing three goals on just 14 shots. It will be interesting to hear the reason for this decision from coach Barry Trotz following the game.
The Capitals had dominated on the shot clock, but gave up a pair of quick goals to fall further behind Pittsburgh in this game, while trailing in the series 1-0.
Phil Kessel — on a great play from Sidney Crosby — and Jake Guentzel scored 3:10 apart to give Pittsburgh a two-goal lead.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have had to shuffle their forward combinations in the second period, after Patric Hornqvist was hurt blocking a shot in the first period of Game 2 versus the Capitals.
The Penguins forward was in obvious pain after taking a shot right around the ankle, which is a concerning development for Pittsburgh.
Per reports, he didn’t re-join the Penguins at the bench when the second period began.
Hornqvist can be a frustrating player to go up against, and he’s productive, too, with two goals and five points in six playoff games prior to Saturday.