Alex Ovechkin

Weekend preview: Caps go back-to-back, ‘Hawks-Blues on NBC

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A quick look ahead at some of the narratives at play this weekend…

Big 48 hours for Washington

The Capitals, who head into Friday’s action four points back of Columbus for the East’s final wild card playoff spot, have a huge two-game road set beginning tonight in New Jersey, wrapping tomorrow on Long Island.

Tonight’s game (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN; watch online here) is crucial for both teams. The Devils are also alive in the playoff chase — five points back of the Jackets — and given how tightly Washington and New Jersey have played each other this year, Friday’s affair is up for grabs. The Devils won the first two meetings, 2-1 at Prudential and 5-4 at Verizon, but the Caps won the most recent contest 3-0 on the strength of Braden Holtby’s 25-save shutout.

There’s also a good subplot at play here, as Caps head coach Adam Oates spent time as an assistant in New Jersey under Peter DeBoer. The pair took the Devils to the Stanley Cup final in 2012.

“They’re a tough team to play against, so I expect it to be a grinding, low-scoring game,” Oates said, per NHL.com. “They’re penalty kill is tops in the league and they’re a very stingy team. You need patience and awareness out there.”

The Caps should expect a grind on Saturday against the Isles as well. The last time the two met, New York scored a 1-0 win in a stifling game that saw the teams go a combined 0-for-11 on the power play.

Related: PHT Extra: On the one-dimensional Alex Ovechkin, and what Oates should do

Chicago and St. Louis renew rivalry… again

One of the league’s fiercest grudge matches will go for the fifth and final time this season when the ‘Hawks host the Blues at the United Center this Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; watch online here).

St. Louis holds a 3-1 edge through the first four games, though the edge isn’t as significant as numbers suggest. Two victories came via the shootout and, in a statement game the last time out, Chicago whipped St. Louis 4-0 at the Madhouse on Madison.

The big test for Chicago on Sunday will be how the team plays without Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The dynamic duo has been shut down for the remainder of the regular season to rest their respective injuries, but the ‘Hawks did pass their first test without Toews and Kane in the lineup on Thursday, scoring a 3-2 shootout win over Minnesota.

That said, the Blues represent a bigger challenge than the Wild. St. Louis heads into this weekend tied atop the NHL with Boston on points (111) and, last night, beat Buffalo 2-1 — with that victory, the Blues set a single-season franchise record for wins, with 52.

Brooks Orpik suspended three games for hit on Olli Maatta

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Brooks Orpik has been suspended for three games for his hit on Olli Maatta (top). The Caps defenseman will be forced to miss Games 3, 4 and 5 of the best-of-seven series against the Penguins.

Orpik delivered a late, high hit to Maatta in Game 2. The Penguins defenseman was wobbly getting off the ice and he was unable to return to the game.

Here’s how the Department of Players Safety saw the play:

“Orpik steps up to pressure Bonino, who quickly moves the puck to Maatta. Orpik peels off Bonino to pressure Maatta, who releases a shot from the top of the circle. The two continue on their path toward the goal line, as the puck is kicked into the slot. A full second after Maatta releases the puck, Orpik delivers a high, forceful hit making significant head contact. This is interference.”

To watch the NHL’s Department of Player Safety’s full explanation, click the video below.

This is the third time Orpik’s been suspended in his NHL career.

WATCH LIVE: Game 2 of Predators-Sharks

San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones (31) deflects a shot from Nashville Predators' Viktor Arvidsson (38) during the second period of Game 1 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinal series Friday, April 29, 2016, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Associated Press
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The Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks will face-off in Game 2 on Sunday night. You can catch the game on NBCSN (8:00 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports Live Extra app.

The Sharks used a five-goal third period to squash the Predators in the opening game of the best-of-seven series. Game 2 at the Sharks Tank should be a whole lot of fun.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here’s some reading material to get you ready for the game:

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

Are there similarities between the ’14 Sharks and ’16 Ducks?

Backes scores OT goal on his birthday, Blues even up series with Stars

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The St. Louis Blues won’t be thrilled with the way they played in the third period, but in the end, they did just enough to come away with a 4-3 overtime win over the Dallas Stars in Game 2. The Blues’ win means that the series will head to St. Louis tied 1-1.

The Stars opened the scoring in the first period, but the Blues responded by scoring three unanswered goals (Patrik Berglund, Joel Edmundson, Troy Brouwer) on five shots. Stars coach Lindy Ruff had seen enough from starter Kari Lehtonen at that point. He yanked Lehtonen in favor of Antti Niemi at the start of the second period.

Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the second period, but things got crazy in the third.

With his team still trailing 3-1, Mattias Janmark split Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko before scoring a great goal.

Moments after Janmark’s goal, Brian Elliott took a Jason Spezza blast off the mask. Elliott was shaken up on the play (he even lost one of his contact lenses), but he did stay in the game.

Stars captain Jamie Benn (surprise, surprise) leveled the score by burying a goal by Brian Elliott with under three minutes in regulation.

Like they did during their first round series against Chicago, the Blues took some time to regroup before finding a way to get the job done.

The Blues’ power play went back to work after Antoine Roussel took his third penalty of the game. That’s when the birthday boy, David Backes, came through.

That’s a nice way to celebrate your 32nd birthday.

Game 3 goes Tuesday night in St. Louis.

 

Jamie Benn’s late goal sends Game 2 to overtime

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This definitely wasn’t the way the St. Louis Blues drew it up.

The Blues entered the third period of Game 2 with a 3-1 lead. Unfortunately for them, they weren’t able to shut the game down on the road.

St. Louis jumped ahead 3-1 after 20 minutes before Dallas decided to pull Kari Lehtonen in favor of Antti Niemi. The move didn’t provide any results in the middle frame, but something certainly sparked the Stars in the third period.

Mattias Janmark cut the deficit to 3-2 with this beauty (notice how he split Colton Parayko and Alex Pietrangelo).

With less than three minutes remaining in regulation, Stars captain Jamie Benn tied it up (top).

It’s safe to say this wasn’t a memorable third period for the Blues.