Get your game notes: Wild at Avalanche

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Tonight on CNBC, it’s the Colorado Avalanche hosting the Minnesota Wild starting at 9:30 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• First-year head coach Patrick Roy led the Avalanche to their first postseason berth since the 2009-10 season, when they lost in the first round to the eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks. They will be meeting the Wild in the playoffs for the third time (each club won once in the Western Conference Quarterfinals – Minnesota in 2003, Colorado in 2008). The 19-year NHL career of Roy – the all-time postseason leader in wins (151) and losses (94) – ended with a Game 7 OT loss to the Wild in 2003.

• The Avalanche jumped from 29th in the NHL standings (39 pts., .406 points %) in 2012-13 to third overall (112 pts., .683) in 2013-14, becoming the first club since the league expanded to 21 teams in 1979 to go from the bottom three to top three in a single season. The Avs matched a franchise record with 52 wins, established in 2000-01, when they won their second of two Stanley Cups (1995-96).

• Avs goaltender Semyon Varlamov set a franchise single-season record with an NHL-high 41 victories, surpassing coach Patrick Roy’s previous high of 40 set in 2000-01. Varlamov went from leading the league in losses (21 in 2012-13) to leading the league in wins in one season. Tonight, he will be making his Colorado postseason debut. He posted a 10-9 record with Washington in 2008-09 and 2009-10.

• This season, Minnesota center Mikko Koivu became the franchise career leader in points (451). Over his nine-year NHL career, the Wild captain has 19 goals and 43 points vs. Colorado (regular season and postseason), both personal highs vs. any team. In the 2008 Western Conference series vs. the Avs, he scored a goal in each of the first four games. Since then, however, he has gone without a point in his last seven playoff games (two vs. Colorado, both losses, and five last season vs. Chicago.)

• Avalanche winger Nathan MacKinnon, who led all NHL rookies in goals (24, tied with Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson), assists (39) and points (63), is the prohibitive favorite to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s top rookie when awards are handed out at the Stanley Cup Final. The last time the team of the eventual Rookie of the Year won a round in that year’s playoffs was in the 1999-2000 season when Scott Gomez won the individual award and his New Jersey Devils won the Stanley Cup.

• Five different Wild goaltenders picked up wins this season: Josh Harding (18), Darcy Kuemper (12), Ilya Bryzgalov (7), Niklas Backstrom (5) and John Curry (1). The last time a playoff-bound team had five goalies with at least one win during the regular season was the 2008-09 Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus was swept in four games in the first round by the eventual champion Detroit. Elias Sports Bureau

• The Wild’s season leader in goals (30) and points (60), Jason Pominville became only the third player in franchise history to reach the 30-goal mark, joining Marian Gaborik (five times) and Brian Rolston (three). The Wild were 15-8-4 when Pominville scored a goal this season, but only 6-6-0 on the road.

• Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson, the first overall pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, will be making his NHL postseason debut tonight. Johnson, who had 39 points (nine goals, 30 assists) in his sixth season, entered the playoffs with 409 regular-season games under his belt, the second-most among all players appearing in their first playoff games this season (Blake Comeau, Columbus – 423 games).

 

Ovechkin shrugs off Caps’ Game 1 loss in very Ovechkin way

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You know, it happens. Maybe not always in those exact words.

The Washington Capitals carried the play during portions of their 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and even down 1-0 in the series, just about every player seemed happy with their overall game.

(Granted, Braden Holtby picked apart two of the three goals he allowed, and so on.)

Still, Alex Ovechkin shrugged off the disappointment in a way that wasn’t quite Rated R, but probably ranks in the PG-13 range:

The penalty element is interesting, though.

When asked after the loss about the lack of power plays, Matt Niskanen merely offered a “no comment.”

The Penguins experienced some sprawling moments, yet they avoided taking a penalty each time. Often, when a team carries long sequences of play, they’ll go on the PP (especially with home-ice advantage) … but not the Capitals in Game 1.

via Natural Stat Trick

It’s a situation to watch as the Capitals hope to even the series against the Penguins with Game 2 coming on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. (You can watch online, via the NBC Sports App and follow the livestream here).

Holtby takes blame for two big goals in Caps’ loss to Pens

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It’s just about a consensus that the Washington Capitals believed that they generally played a strong game despite falling 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Braden Holtby‘s teammates likely wouldn’t agree with his assessment that the Game 1 loss is on his shoulders, but the perennial Vezina candidate took the blame for Sidney Crosby‘s first goal of the night and Nick Bonino‘s game-winner.

Noting that the Penguins are a dangerous rush team – making them a different threat than the Toronto Maple Leafs – Holtby believes that he should have had his glove in position to stop the 1-0 goal. He said he’s capable of making such a stop and “will next time.” Check out Crosby’s two goals below, with Holtby having a beef with the first one:

It’s really difficult to place too much blame on Holtby for giving up Nick Bonino’s game-winner, as it seemed like a great rush play that few goalies would be able to stop.

Judge for yourself in the highlights:

The Penguins were ultimately able to take a 1-0 series lead, but the Capitals seem capable of shrugging off questions about frustrations, even with naysayers starting to gain confidence in claiming that there will be more than the same.

If Washington’s going to get over this big hurdle, Holtby is likely to be a big part in doing so.

Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

(Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).

Karlsson makes difference for Senators vs. Lundqvist, Rangers

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Swedish superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson were both stupendous in Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

Still, it was Karlsson’s game-winning goal (from a seemingly impossible angle) against Lundqvist that made the difference as the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 on Thursday. With that, the Senators are up 1-0 in the series.

That Karlsson goal really deserves a special look.

Whether you blame that 2-1 tally on Lundqvist or not, the Rangers would be foolish to do anything but praise their red-hot franchise goalie. He stopped all 21 Senators shots in the first period and ultimately made 41 out of 43 stops in defeat.

Craig Anderson was strong in his own right, mind you, stopping 34 out of 35 shots (including all 28 at even-strength) to help Ottawa take that tight contest.

Anderson’s strong play highlights the fact that Rangers – Senators doesn’t merely come down to Lundqvist vs. Karlsson … but even so, both Swedish superstars really did stand out in this one.

Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.