Adam Henrique

The Devils are playing firewagon hockey lately

5-2, 6-1, 4-2, 4-3, 7-4 and 5-4.

Those are the scores of New Jersey’s six games since the Olympic break — four wins, two losses and an average of 7.8 goals per game.

While it’s hardly the halcyon, high-scoring games of the 80s, it is a pretty noteworthy development given, 1) last year, teams combined for an average of 5.3 goals per game, and 2) New Jersey has long been known as one of the NHL’s most defensive teams.

According to Adam Henrique — the NHL’s reigning third star of the week — the uptick in goals is a direct result from a change in philosophy, strategy and approach.

“We kind of talked coming off the break about ways we can get more offense,” Henrique explained, per the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

“We have to keep scoring goals. We have to keep playing this way.”

The six games are obviously a small sample size, but do suggest a change is in the works. New Jersey scored just eight goals in its six games heading into the Olympic break and, according to the Star-Ledger, averaged just 2.29 goals per game over the first 59 games of the year.

What’s interesting is that the increased scoring hasn’t come from a huge increase in shots. New Jersey is certainly directing more pucks on goal lately — remember, this is a team that only mustered eleven in a December loss to Detroit — but it’s not like a barrage of pucks. The Devils failed to crack 30 shots in three of the six games, though they did put up 35 against the Jackets and Isles.

So where is the offense coming from? Quite simply, the exchange of scoring chances. Unlike past Devils teams, this current incarnation seems to be open to the idea of, uh, playing open.

Not that they want to make a habit of it. Cory Schneider was lit up for seven goals on a modest 33 shots against the Red Wings last week, and didn’t really let in a bad one. Detroit just had a bunch of good scoring chances — something the Devils say needs to stop.

“We’re scoring, but we’re giving up too much through the neutral zone. That’s usually our bread and butter,” Ryane Clowe explained. “We’re giving teams too much room to make plays over the blue line, going lateral and pulling up the lane.

“Sometimes we’re over-committing. We’re probably a little bit hungry to get in there and get an opportunity. Sometimes you have to take your licks and back out.”

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

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The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

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The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

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Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.