Duncan Keith, Patrick Marleau

NHL on NBCSN: ‘Hawks host Sharks in Western battle

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Chicago Blackhawks host the San Jose Sharks at the United Center at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

You can’t ask for much more out of a Sunday night game than what Chicago and San Jose will bring tonight.

The Blackhawks have earned points in nine straight games going 6-0-3 over that stretch. Patrick Sharp has been the focus of their success of late as he tries to get Hockey Canada’s attention for a spot on their Olympic team. Sharp has two hat tricks in five games and has climbed to second in the NHL in goals with 25, trailing only Alex Ovechkin.

Don’t suppose he’d fit in nicely with Jonathan Toews in Sochi, would he?

With Sharp second in the league in goals and Patrick Kane second in points (behind Sidney Crosby), the Blackhawks’ offense is one to be feared. They’re tops in the league in goals and have four players with more than 40 points (Sharp, Kane, Toews, and Duncan Keith). When you mix in Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad and their 15 goals apiece, it’s a daunting task to slow them down.

If there’s a team that can hang with them offensively, it’s the Sharks.

San Jose is fourth in goals scored and they have one of the premiere playmakers in the game in Joe Thornton. His 42 assists are tops in the NHL and he comes into tonight’s game on a seven-game point streak in which he’s got no goals and 11 assists during.

Guys like Patrick Marleau (19 goals), Joe Pavelski (18 goals), and Logan Couture (14 goals) have been reaping the benefits of Thornton’s passing to lead the Sharks. You can throw rookie Tomas Hertl and his 15 goals into the mix as well, but he’s out with an injured knee.

All these prolific offenses do is put the onus on Chicago’s Corey Crawford and San Jose’s Antti Niemi to be at their best to try and slow things down. Crawford is still angling for a spot on Team Canada and Niemi will likely be on Team Finland for the Olympics, but you couldn’t ask for a better way to audition than to slow down each team’s high-powered offense.

Video: Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have spoken out against a late, high hit that Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik threw on Olli Maatta early in the first period of an eventful Game 2 on Saturday.

Maatta left and didn’t return. He played only 31 seconds, and the Penguins were reduced to five defensemen for a large portion of the game. Orpik was given a minor penalty on the play, but the league’s Department of Player Safety may see it differently.

The hit occurred well after Maatta had gotten rid of the puck. He struggled on his way to the dressing room for further evaluation.

Based on multiple reports, Orpik wasn’t made available to the media following the game, which went to the Penguins as they earned the split on the road.

But the Penguins have taken issue with the hit.

“I thought it was a late hit,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, as per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

Game on: Penguins even series with rival Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins will head back home with a split of their second-round series with the rival Washington Capitals.

Former Capitals forward Eric Fehr came back to burn his hold team, as he scored with under five minutes remaining in regulation to help lift the Penguins over Washington with a 2-1 victory in an eventful Game 2 on Saturday. Evgeni Malkin threw the puck toward the net and Fehr was able to re-direct it by Braden Holtby.

Oh, this was an eventful game, indeed.

It started early in the first period with Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik catching Penguins blue liner Olli Maatta with a late and high hit that warranted — at least for now — only a minor penalty for interference. Maatta, clearly in distress following the hit, didn’t play another shift and saw only 31 seconds of ice time in total, as Pittsburgh was reduced to five defensemen for the remainder of the game.

It continued in the third period. Kris Letang was furious after getting called for a trip on Justin Williams, and even more ticked off when the Capitals tied the game on the ensuing power play.

For two periods, the Capitals couldn’t get much going. Only four of their players had registered a shot on goal through 40 minutes, while the Penguins held the edge in that department and held the lead.

Washington came out with more jump in the third period, testing rookie netminder Matt Murray with 14 shots in the final 20 minutes. But the Penguins got the late goal to break the deadlock.

Video: Penguins’ Letang was furious after Capitals tie up Game 2 with power play goal

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Kris Letang watched from the penalty box as the Washington Capitals tied up Game 2 with a power play goal in the third period. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman was called for tripping after he appeared to muscle Justin Williams off the puck as he entered the zone.

Letang let his disagreement with the call be known at the time, and was furious after the Capitals capitalized on a goal from Marcus Johansson.

The Capitals started the period down a goal and being outshot 28-10 by the Penguins, who need a win to even the series.

Also, it seems this is worth mentioning:

Video: Hagelin goes top shelf to give Penguins the lead in Game 2

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In their quest to even the series, the Pittsburgh Penguins had done a nice job through two periods of suffocating the Washington Capitals, while gaining the lead on a beautiful goal.

Carl Hagelin took advantage of a vast amount of space that opened up in front of the Washington net, finishing off a nice pass from Nick Bonino, burying his shot just under the cross bar on the glove side of Braden Holtby.

Through two periods, the Penguins were outshooting Washington 28-10. Only four Capitals players — Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen — had registered shots on goal.