SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 18: Goalkeeper Antti Niemi #31, Joe Pavelski #8, Brad Stuart #7 and Justin Braun #61 of the San Jose Sharks defends the net against Jeff Carter #77 of the Los Angeles Kings in the second period in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on May 18, 2013 in San Jose, California. The Sharks won the game in overtime 2-1. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Playoffs Tonight: Kings look for ‘killer instinct’ against Sharks

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After losing defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski to retirement in back-to-back summers, the big question for the Detroit Red Wings entering this season was if their over two decade long playoff streak would come to an end.

That wasn’t an unfair question to ask and in fact they were barely able to squeeze into the playoffs. At the same time, Detroit has demonstrated once again that what makes them a truly special organization can’t be summed up in the presence of individual superstars.

The Red Wings are more than holding their own in the second round and are doing so with a blend of veterans and youngsters that are doing an admirable job taking the torch.

You can read more about Detroit’s win yesterday here, but let’s turn our attention to tonight’s actions.

Please keep in mind that both games can be watched online in addition to what’s listed below.

New York Rangers host Boston Bruins (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Boston leads series 2-0

The Rangers managed to overcome a 2-0 deficit against the Washington Capitals in the first round, but Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will need to lead the charge in order for them to do that again.

That might be a problem as Lundqvist’s left shoulder is an area of concern after he was stung by a Daniel Paille shot. He later said that the situation was “under control” and he’s expected to play, but it’s not clear if he’s truly 100%.

After allowing five goals on 32 shots in the latest Rangers loss, Lundqvist said that he needed to be better, but he would also need the guys in front of him to step up.

The Rangers have averaged just 2.22 goals per game in the playoffs. They have skilled forwards capable of stepping up, but they haven’t been reliable. Brad Richards in particular has been a disappointment and has logged 12:57 minutes or less in each of the Rangers’ last four games.

On top of that, New York still has a horrid 5.6% power-play success rate. With all that in mind, it seems unlikely that the Rangers will be able to keep up with the Bruins if Game 3 becomes a high-scoring contest.

San Jose Sharks host Los Angeles Kings (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Los Angeles leads 2-1

Sharks forward Logan Couture came back from an injury to score the overtime game-winner on Saturday and keep San Jose in this series, but as Sharks coach Todd McLellan said, “We haven’t accomplished anything.” Not yet at least.

“If our intensity or urgency drops because we’ve won a single game, I would be disappointed in our group,” McLellan told ESPN.

Meanwhile Kings captain Dustin Brown pointed out that over the last two years, the Kings have both been down in a series 2-0 only to come back and have taken a 2-0 lead in series before.

“We know what they’re thinking,” Brown said. He added, “It’s a matter of having the killer instinct.”

There’s a lot of very talented players on both of these squads and both have a nice blend of young stars and veteran leadership. Couture was the hero in Game 3, but there’s a long list of players capable of stepping up and making the difference tonight.

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.