Steven Stamkos

BREAKING: Lightning could use a win tonight

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This headline format, originally conceived by Jason “The Cooler” Brough, has been a total jinx this season — the StarsWild, Flyers and Canucks all lost after writing — so apologies in advance to you Bolts fans out there.

But hey, call it like you see it. Tampa Bay really needs a win tonight against the Panthers.

The Lightning have lost five straight, three since ex-captain Martin St. Louis was dealt to the Rangers at the deadline, and head into tonight with 75 points, holding the first of two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference.

The Bolts are sitting in that wild card position because of their 2-6-2 record over their last 10 games, which triggered a noticeable drop in the standings. Prior to the Olympic break, Tampa Bay sat second in the Atlantic and just seven points back of Boston for top spot. Today? They’re 16 back of the Bruins and have been surpassed by both Toronto and Montreal in the division.

Reason for the slide are aplenty.

St. Louis is gone and the guy he was traded for, Ryan Callahan, is trying to adjust to a new team. Adjustments have also affected Steve Stamkos’ return to the lineup — out since Nov. 11 with a broken leg, Stamkos made his return on Mar. 6 and has gone scoreless in three games, despite playing at least 21 minutes in each.

“For me, a lot of it is still a mental thing going into certain situations, certain areas on the ice where before the injury I’m already thinking of my next play before the puck comes,’’ Stamkos explained, per the Tampa Tribune.

“Now you are thinking of what you have to do to brace yourself for contact and then make the play. Whether that’s half a second or a second, that’s a big difference in this league. So, I’m trying to get over that.”

There is positive news on the horizon, though. Hard-hitting defenseman Radko Gudas will draw back in tonight against Florida after missing the last four games with a leg injury, while veteran blueliner Sami Salo has declared himself fit after getting hurt and playing just three minutes against Phoenix on Monday.

If there’s one other good thing, it’s tonight’s opponent. Tampa Bay is 3-0-0 against the Panthers this season, outscoring ’em 16-6.

PHT Morning Skate: Adam Henrique wants to make NHL 17 great again

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Martin Jones is a calming presence in the Sharks’ net. (Sports Illustrated)

–The Rangers should go after Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. (The Hockey News)

–Some people have pretty wild hockey tattoos. (BarDown)

–Watch the highlights of last night’s game between the Penguins and Capitals. (Top)

–A great piece on how Bruce Boudreau impacted the Ducks and Capitals. (Sportsnet)

–It should be an interesting off-season for the Anaheim Ducks. (Daily Breeze)

Adam Henrique is a funny guy. He took to Twitter to try and get himself on the cover of NHL 17:

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.