VokounFleury

Columnist: Pens must start Vokoun in Game 5

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After another shaky performance on Tuesday — allowing six goals on 24 shots — Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is once again under fire for suspect postseason play.

And one area columnist thinks it’s time for a change.

Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is calling for a switch in goal for Thursday’s Game 5, saying that Tomas Vokoun must be the starter.

Here’s more, from the Trib:

Look, I’m a Fleury backer. Have been for the longest time. Even in the context of this series, until this game, I’ve felt the Penguins’ problems were far more rooted in their stupidity and sloppiness.

But 14 goals on 102 shots over the past three games?

And — sit down for this — 40 goals in his past 10 playoff games?

If Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma already haven’t made up their minds on Vokoun for Game 5, they’d better be on the path to doing so.

This, remember, is precisely why Shero wisely invested a two-year, $4 million contract in Vokoun. Yes, it was to reduce the regular-season workload that many blamed for Fleury’s Philly flop last spring. But it also was for playoff insurance, to have a Plan B.

Fleury was despondent after the Isles lit him up in Game 4, spending several minutes with his head in his hands before fielding reporters’ questions in the dressing room.

“I’m not happy, that’s for sure,” Fleury said. “It’s frustrating.”

Kovacevic also noted that Pens head coach Dan Bylsma — who usually strays from talking about lineup choices — gave a full answer when discussing the possibility of switching out Fleury for Vokoun.

“Certainly, Tomas Vokoun is a guy that can step in and play and has had success and won hockey games against this team, was successful this year,” Bylsma said.

“We’re going to come out for Game 5 with a refocus.”

It should be noted that, despite this, Bylsma refused to say who his starter would be on Thursday.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”

Report: Coyotes shut down Vitale (concussion) for the season

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Joe Vitale will not play again this season.

The Arizona Coyotes have shut Vitale down for the remainder of the 2015-16 campaign due to “concussion-related issues,” according to a report from Sarah McLellan of azcentral sports on Wednesday.

Vitale, a 30-year-old veteran center, appeared in only one game for the Coyotes this season. That was back on Oct. 17, when he suffered a concussion and broken orbital bone in a fight with Kevan Miller of the Boston Bruins.