Playoffs Tonight: Rangers look to bounce back vs Capitals

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We have some critical games for you today. Three of these teams could end up just one game away from elimination before this night is done.

Please remember that in addition to the channels listed below, you can watch the Capitals-Rangers, Red Wings-Ducks, and Blues-Kings games online.

Game 3: Toronto Maple Leafs host Boston Bruins (7:00 p.m. ET)
Series tied at 1-1

For the first time since 2004, an NHL playoff hockey game will be played at the Air Canada Centre.

The Boston Bruins have an edge in experience, but the Toronto Maple Leafs made a statement in their 4-2 win on Saturday. The Leafs are capable of rising to the occasion in the playoffs, especially goaltender James Reimer, who stopped 39 shots.

This hasn’t been the most physical of the series, but there have been some controversial hits. Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference is eligible to return after serving a one-game suspension for his hit on Mikhail Grabovski. Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf will also be available after the decision was made not to punish him for his hit on Paille.

Game 3: New York Rangers host Washington Capitals (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Capitals lead series 2-0

After Game 1, Rangers coach John Tortorella said his team couldn’t afford to take as many penalties as they were and in Game 2 he talked about their “stagnant” power play.

The Capitals have dominated the special teams battle through two games, but it’s hard to put too much emphasis on that when the Rangers have scored just one goal overall. The Rangers quite simply need to figure out goaltender Braden Holtby and the Capitals’ defense soon, or they will be eliminated.

With that in mind, Rangers forward Rick Nash will be an interesting player to watch tonight. He has no points despite 11 shots on goal in this series and, at the age of 28, the superstar is still looking for his first playoff win.

Game 4: Detroit Red Wings host Anaheim Ducks (8:00 p.m. ET, CNBC)
Ducks lead series 2-1

The Ducks put the pressure on the Red Wings with their commanding 4-0 victory in Game 2.

“We feel we can be better,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said in a Detroit News report. “The whole thing with (playoff) series is about mental toughness, they’re battles of will.”

The Red Wings have lost a number of key veterans over the last couple of years and that might have taken its toll on them in that regard.

One player to watch is Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg. He played a huge role in Detroit’s final push for a playoff spot, but has just one assist in three playoff games.

Game 4: Los Angeles Kings host St. Louis Blues (10:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Blues lead series 2-1

The defending Stanley Cup champion Kings put themselves back in this series with a 1-0 victory on Saturday.

These have been goaltending and defensive battles, with the two teams combining for just seven goals over three games. All of the contests in this series have been decided by just one goal.

“I don’t think either team has had much momentum in this series,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter told LA Kings Insider. He added, “The players are confident on both teams, so you just kind of go shift-to-shift.”

It’s worth noting that in this defensive series, the Kings top goal scorer and points leaders, Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar respectively, have combined for just one point — an assist — through three playoff games.

Holtby ‘wasn’t as sharp as he can be,’ says Trotz

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Presidents’ Trophy winners once again in the regular season, the Capitals once again face an uphill climb if they are to advance beyond the rival Penguins and the second round of the playoffs.

What began with a strong first period for the Capitals in Game 2, albeit without a reward on the score board, faded into a frustrating 6-2 rout, as the Penguins took a commanding 2-0 series lead as it shifts back to Pittsburgh for a pivotal Game 3 on Monday.

Braden Holtby was pulled after the second period. He gave up three goals on 14 shots, while his opponent at the other end, Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant with 34 saves.

“He’ll tell you that he can be better. He’s a straight up guy and he will be. I was just trying to change the mojo,” said Capitals coach Barry Trotz of his decision to sit Holtby.

“I thought some of the goals, he wasn’t as sharp as he can be for us. He’s a game-changer for us. So when he didn’t change the game, I just looked to change the mojo a little bit there. That’s all. Braden’s our backbone. He has been all year. We’ve got to find some goals for him, too. We can’t just put it on Braden Holtby.”

Now in a deep but not insurmountable hole against the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Capitals reportedly held a players’ only meeting following this latest defeat.

After failing to open the scoring in an otherwise dominant first period, Washington surrendered three goals in the second, as the Penguins broke it wide open with their transition game, led by two great plays from Sidney Crosby.

“We can’t get frustrated. I think that would be our biggest mistake is to get frustrated right now,” said T.J. Oshie, before expanding on the meeting between the players.

“It was things that people need to say and things that some people need to hear. We were very together with what we said. I don’t need to go into details. Sometimes in our game … you need to hear from your teammates more than your coach. And tonight was one of those nights.

“It was the players in here and what was said is what needed to be said.”

We’ll find out Monday if what was said actually has any impact on the ice.

Penguins rout Capitals to take commanding series lead

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The Washington Capitals are in trouble. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Again.

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.

‘I wasn’t good enough,’ says Lundqvist after double OT loss to Senators

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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.”

Capitals’ Holtby begins third period on the bench, Grubauer takes over in net

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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.