Tuukka

‘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.”

Video: Predators even series with Sharks after franchise-record triple OT thriller

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The marathon is over. The Nashville Predators are back in the series.

The Predators have evened their best-of-seven second-round series with the San Jose Sharks at two-games apiece after Mike Fisher finally broke the deadlock with 8:48 remaining in the third overtime of an instant classic in these 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Fisher buried a rebound in front of the San Jose net to give the Predators a massive 4-3 win on home ice.

The goal capped off a frenetic (and lengthy) overtime session that was nothing but utter chaos at times in the opening extra frame. By the end, Fisher was almost too exhausted to describe the winner. Can you blame him?

Twice, the Sharks, who could’ve put the Predators on the brink of elimination with a win, thought they had scored the winner. Joel Ward couldn’t quite bury a wrap-around attempt before just about every player on the ice, it seemed, converged in the Nashville crease — some working to put the puck in the net, others working to keep the puck out.

The puck, somehow, never crossed the line, though some members of the Sharks raised their arms in celebration as if they had the decisive goal.

Later in the first OT period, the Sharks again thought they had won the game, only to have a lengthy and controversial review determine Joe Pavelski “…made incidental contact with Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne before the puck crossed the goal line, preventing Rinne from doing his job in the crease,” according to the league.

Adding to it all, the Predators were unsuccessful on two OT power plays. That opened the door for the Sharks, who were awarded power plays on two Shea Weber penalties in overtime but also couldn’t capitalize.

The Predators were less than five minutes away from losing this game in regulation, and going down 3-1 in the series, before James Neal tied it with 4:21 remaining.

‘We earned it,’ says Spezza after Stars regroup to even series with Blues

St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen (34) looks on as Dallas Stars forward Jason Spezza, second from right, is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 12, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
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The Dallas Stars faced the possibility of going home facing elimination. That was the scenario Thursday, as the Stars battled the St. Louis Blues in Game 4.

The previous game didn’t go well at all for the Stars. They were thumped 6-1, as things turned nasty between the two teams, and, most importantly, they fell behind in the series. There were serious questions surrounding their goalie duo that includes Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi. And Tyler Seguin was ruled out for Game 4.

Yes, things weren’t working in favor of the Stars.

But after a poor start in the opening period Thursday, the Stars fought back with Cody Eakin playing the unlikely overtime hero in a crucial Game 4 win. And Lehtonen was able to settle in after allowing that Vladimir Tarasenko goal in the opening period, stopping 24 of 26 shots.

“You really do have to stay level,” Jason Spezza told the Dallas Morning News.

“It’s the best two-of-three now, it’s momentum swings. We survived some breakaways, and the last two periods we played right and we earned it.”

Video: Game 4 overtime between Sharks and Predators has been utter chaos

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Overtime between the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks in Game 4 has been, simply put, crazy.

Take, for instance, this goal-mouth scramble around the Predators crease in which Joel Ward couldn’t convert on the wrap-around and the sequence turned into a full-on scrum as players for both teams fought desperately to either score or somehow keep the puck out of the net. Somehow, the puck stays out.

The Predators need a win to even the series. The Sharks can put the Predators on the brink of elimination with a win.

Oh, and the controversial video review as the Sharks thought they had the winner, as Joe Pavelski swept the puck into the net after a collision with Pekka Rinne.

Here’s an explanation from the NHL Situation Room:

At 7:34 of overtime in the Sharks/Predators game, the Situation Room initiated a review under the terms of a Coach’s Challenge to review the “Interference on the Goalkeeper” decision that resulted in a “no goal” call.

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with NHL Hockey Operations staff, the Referee confirmed that San Jose’s Joe Pavelski made incidental contact with Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne before the puck crossed the goal line, preventing Rinne from doing his job in the crease.

Therefore the original call stands – no goal San Jose Sharks.

Cody Eakin plays unlikely hero as Stars even series with Blues thanks to OT win

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Needing a win to even the series with the St. Louis Blues, the Dallas Stars didn’t get off to the greatest start Thursday.

On a rather embarrassing play in the first period of a crucial Game 4, the Stars were caught on the television feed clearly with six skaters on the ice, but still surrendered a breakaway goal on a stretch pass to a wide open Vladimir Tarasenko — 1-0 Blues. Again, not a great start for the Stars.

Sometimes in hockey, it’s apparently not always about how you start but how you finish. The Stars gained strength during the second period on goals from Radek Faksa and Patrick Sharp just 1:09 apart. Early in overtime, Cody Eakin scored his first goal of these playoffs to give the Stars a 3-2 win.

This series is now tied heading back to Dallas for Game 5. For the Blues, it’s a missed opportunity to put the high-flying Stars on the brink of elimination.

Eakin snapped a 17-game scoring drought that stretched into late-March of the regular season by going top shelf, short side of Blues goalie Brian Elliott just 2:58 into the extra period.

Jamie Benn and Patrick Sharp each had two-point nights for Dallas, assisting on the game winning goal.