‘Hawks rattle Rask with ‘way more traffic’ in Game 4

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Chicago’s gameplan to beat Tuukka Rask on Wednesday night was a simple one:

Don’t let him find the puck.

That what ‘Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville said following his club’s 6-5 overtime victory in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, explaining that Chicago did a tremendous job of getting bodies in front of Rask, keeping him from seeing shots.

“I thought we had way more traffic than the last game,” Quenneville said. “If [Rask] sees the puck, he’s going to be almost impossible to beat.

“We wanted to make sure we got there, made it hard on him to find it and try to get in on the second and third opportunities.”

Chicago fired 47 shots on Rask all told, and a number of them came with traffic in front, or within 10 feet.

Jonathan Toews scored on a tip-in of a Michal Rozsival shot, Patrick Kane buried a rebound off a Bryan Bickell chance, Patrick Sharp banged home the team’s first PPG of the series and the longest-distance tally — Brent Seabrook’s OT-winner — came on a shot that went through several bodies before finding the back of the net.

“Nice ending, with the traffic at the net and with Seabs having the nice shot,” Quenneville said. “Kinda like their goal [Boychuk tally] that tied us up.”

Wednesday’s result will be a huge confidence boost for the ‘Hawks, and not just because they evened the series at two.

Hanging six goals on Rask is something no team has accomplished this postseason — he hasn’t allowed more than four in a single game. In fact, you have to go all the way back to Jan. 31 for the last time he got lit up in this fashion, a 7-4 loss to Buffalo in which he surrendered six before the Sabres scored on an empty net.

On a larger scale, Chicago should be pleased it beat the guy that was starting to get into its collective head.

The Boston goalie had a shutout streak of nearly 130 minutes in this series — snapped when Michal Handzus opened the scoring at 6:48 of the opening period — and, through the first three games, boasted a .960 save percentage and 1.22 GAA.

Quenneville had previously lambasted his team for making it “rather easy” on Rask, especially in Game 3, and there were concerns Chicago was going to run into the same fate as Pittsburgh, who could only muster two goals against Rask over the entire Eastern Conference finals.

That wasn’t an issue in Game 4.

In fact, Quenneville seemed pleased that his club found its offense, and confident the ‘Hawks could keep it going for the remainder of the series.

“We did a lot of good things tonight,” Quenneville said.  “We’ll look at the positives and move forward.”

Crosby: Penguins ‘probably deserved better’ vs. Senators in Game 6

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If you didn’t know that the Stanley Cup Playoffs can be awfully cruel, then the last week or so of action should make it pretty clear.

The Nashville Predators lost top center Ryan Johansen to a scary ailment few would have seen coming. The Anaheim Ducks fell in both games to the Johansen-less Predators, even after dominating significant chunks of Game 6. At least one Ducks player wondered if the better team won.

Much like in life, “fair” and “deserve” only matter so much. Sports have a scoreboard to serve as the ultimate deciding factor.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have similar thoughts after falling 2-1 to the Ottawa Senators tonight, extending the Eastern Conference Final to a decisive Game 7. You can nitpick questionable penalties and missed chances, but really, how negative can you be after Craig Anderson puts forth a blazing 45-save performance (with no overtime)?

Mike Sullivan and others echoed such thoughts.

” … Obviously, we’re disappointed in the result, but I don’t think we can get discouraged by that,” Sullivan said. “I think we’ve got to take the positives from it, and we’ve got to build on it, and we’ve got to become a more determined team for Game 7.

That’s not the sort of take that’s going to make the Senators angry in Game 7. The tone of the Senators’ discussions was likely very different after they lost Game 5 by a 7-0 score, yet maybe there was similar self belief.

Anderson puzzles Penguins as Senators force Game 7

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Who could blame fans for chanting “Andy” tonight?

The Ottawa Senators said they would choose to fight in Game 6, and Craig Anderson truly battled in this one, refusing to allow this unlikely run to an end on Tuesday. They wouldn’t roll over, even after a 7-0 humiliation in Game 5.

The underrated goalie continued his memorable (and emotional) 2016-17 season with a brilliant performance, making 45 saves to help Ottawa manage a gutsy 2-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

With that, hockey fans get a true treat: the Eastern Conference will go to a Game 7 on Thursday.

The Senators opted for a “bend but don’t break” strategy for much of the contest, possibly to Guy Boucher’s preference. Even so, the Penguins managed to grind their way to a 1-0 win thanks to another hard-work goal from Evgeni Malkin.

Mistakes would come back to haunt the Penguins, however, as Bobby Ryan broke Ottawa’s lengthy power-play drought to tie things up on a 5-on-3.

With their season in question thanks to a 1-1 tie in the third period, Mike Hoffman sent a booming shot by Matt Murray, and that ended up being all the Senators needed to tie the series 3-3.

Anderson was the standout, but Erik Karlsson was a hero in the way his detractors might not expect.

You can watch Game 7 on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday. The game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports App.

Report: Avalanche get permission to speak with Leafs assistant GM Dubas

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Could one of the most hapless possession teams of this more analytics-leaning era nab arguably the most promising analytics-leaning executive in the NHL?

It’s a reasonable question, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that the Colorado Avalanche asked for and received permission to speak to Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas.

Current GM Joe Sakic recently got a vote of confidence and also cleaned out some of the coaching staff around Jared Bednar, so this is certainly a time of change for the Avalanche.

It will be interesting to see what kind of role Dubas would receive if he did join the fold in Colorado. Would he still be considered an assistant GM, only with more sway with what would likely be a smaller group of decision-makers? Could we see Sakic move up and give Dubas the full GM title (or eventually transition that role to the young upstart)? Might there be some other factor that would qualify as a more “outside the box” idea?

One thing seems clear: the Avalanche might want to be decisive, as demand could be significant for Dubas if he’s even somewhat on the market.

This could be interesting, especially if you’re a nerd for team-building storylines.

Video: Senators score twice to take 2-1 lead in Game 6

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The Ottawa Senators have defied odds during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and they’ve done so with what’s often been an ice-cold power play.

They finally struck gold on the man advantage on Tuesday, and at a key moment. The Pittsburgh Penguins were dominating much of the game and pressing for an even bigger edge after Evgeni Malkin made it 1-0.

Maybe the Penguins got overzealous, or maybe officials … finally started making some calls. Either way, the Senators ended up with a 5-on-3 advantage for almost a minute-and-a-half. With that opportunity, Bobby Ryan scored a huge goal for Ottawa on a shot that was both oddly and perfectly placed.

Moments later, Kyle Turris narrowly missed a golden opportunity, so the contest remained tied 1-1.

Despite a late push by the Penguins to finish the second, Game 6 will enter the third period with a 1-1 score.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE COVERAGE FOR GAME 6

Update: Mike Hoffman‘s booming shot gave the Senators a 2-1 lead in the third. We’ll see if Pittsburgh can tie it up.