OTTAWA, CANADA - APRIL 22: Milan Michalek #9 of the Ottawa Senators attempts to get control of a rebound against Tomas Vokoun #92 of the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 22, 2013 at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Playoffs Tonight: Senators will challenge Penguins

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The first round ended last night and we’re going to jump straight into the next round. If you want to see the full schedule, here it is.

Additionally, both of tonight’s series openers will be available online.

Game 1: Pittsburgh Penguins host Ottawa Senators (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

With defenseman Erik Karlsson back due to his Wolverine-like healing abilities, the Senators made surprisingly quick work of the second seed Montreal Canadiens. Senators goaltender Craig Anderson also did more than his fair share, posting a 1.80 GAA and .950 save percentage in five games.

Who the Pittsburgh Penguins counter Anderson with remains to be seen. Tomas Vokoun was the better goaltender in the first round, but the Penguins declined to name their starter for Game 1. Either way, goaltending is one area where Ottawa seems to have the edge.

The main question is if Anderson and the Senators will be able to contain the Penguins’ explosive offense. Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla, Pascal Dupuis, Paul Martin, and Kris Letang all averaged at least a point per game for Pittsburgh in the first round. Pittsburgh has legitimate threats to score on every line, which will make defending against them all the more difficult.

This will also Karlsson’s first game against Pittsburgh since the incident with Matt Cooke that threatened to end his season. Karlsson downplayed the reunion via Twitter, but there’s certainly some recent hard feelings between these two teams.

Game 1: Los Angeles Kings host San Jose Sharks (10:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

The defending Stanley Cup champions have made it past the first round and now they’ll take on the team that swept the Vancouver Canucks in four games.

Everyone on the Sharks seemed to click at the same time during the first round and when that happens, San Jose is very tough to beat. However, this will be the Sharks’ first game in a week and you have to wonder if that time off has killed their momentum.

Additionally, the Kings are likely going to be a lot more physical with the Sharks than the Canucks were.

“They’re a hard team,” Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart said. “They’re going to play hard, and every line is going to throw some physicality at you. They’re going to make it tough, and they don’t give you any ice for free, you’re going to have to work for it.”

One guy to keep an eye on from the Kings side is Dustin Brown. He was an offensive leader when the Kings won the Stanley Cup, but so far he has just a goal and an assist in six postseason games.

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

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As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.