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If you look at sports from a purely narrative standpoint, the goal that eliminated the Tampa Bay Lightning fit into the story perfectly.
Capping off a season full of adversity and tough breaks for the Bolts, the Montreal Canadiens received a highly questionable power play with a little more than two minutes left, and Max Pacioretty scored the deciding goal that clinched a first-round sweep.
Though luck haunted the Lightning during a season full of nightmarish breaks, but it all became too much in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs. Games 3 and 4 really spotlighted this series of tough times, as there was almost a “What will happen next?” feel — from a goal being disallowed and Steven Stamkos getting banged up in Game 3, to a gut-punch loss in Game 4.
With no Ben Bishop in the entire series and a struggling Anders Lindback pulled in the second period of tonight’s affair, Kristers Gudlevskis played masterfully and the Lightning showed resilience in storming back from a 3-1 deficit to tie it up in the third period. Officials decided not to call Rene Bourque for what many believed was a clear goalie interference call, setting the stage for Cedric Paquette’s third-period penalty and that game-clincher.
That said, it’s unfair to rob the Canadiens credit for sweeping the Lightning. They generally and sometimes glaringly out-played the Bolts for large portions of this series. The bottom line is that Montreal performed at a higher level through significant chunks of this sweep and deserved it (maybe in four games).
Still, the Lightning probably wrestle with gnawing “What if?” questions about their goalies, officiating and injuries.
The bottom line is that they’ll have a long offseason for soul-searching, as they are the first playoff team to be eliminated in 2014. On the bright side, it seems that there are also bright sides to look on:
Update: The Minnesota Wild made it official. Still no word yet on a replacement.
It looks like the Minnesota Wild have no love left for Mike Yeo on Valentine’s Day weekend.
Apparently an eighth consecutive loss (falling to the Boston Bruins) was the final straw, as Yeo has been fired, according to Chad Graff of the Pioneer Press and Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Yeo confirmed as much via text (pauses for comment about this being a strange time for us all) to Russo:
The Wild haven’t made an official announcement yet. The writing certainly seemed to be on the wall with Graff reporting that there were especially long meetings between Minnesota management and Yeo after today’s loss to Boston.
Yeo mentioned that he wouldn’t quit following the game.
One big question remains: is GM Chuck Fletcher safe to work the trade deadline or will there be sweeping changes for the struggling Wild?
Also: who coaches them going forward? Will an assistant be bumped up to interim head coach or will the franchise go to someone looking for a gig? Perhaps this option …
Who knows, really. PHT will keep you up to date either way.
/paging Jacques Lemaire …
The Carolina Hurricanes probably can save a few ice buckets tonight, as the New York Islanders will be without winger Cal Clutterbuck.
The Isles announced that Clutterbuck won’t play on Saturday because of an illness. Their next game is against the Detroit Red Wings on Monday, and then they don’t suit up again until Thursday, so Clutterbuck’s sickness may not be too much of a nuisance.
According to Yahoo’s numbers, the amusingly named forward has delivered 55 hits in 14 career games against the Canes (not to mention a solid five points).
Matt Martin‘s among the most frequent hitters in the league, too, so it’s not like the Hurricanes will leave tonight’s game totally unscathed.
Here are the Islanders’ tweaked forward lines:
If the Minnesota Wild want to make a coaching change, it sounds like Mike Yeo won’t make it easy for them by stepping down.
“I’m not freaking quitting here,” Yeo said to reporters including the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo.
It also sounds like Yeo realizes that Minnesota’s morbid losing streak – now at a worrisome eight games – may very well cost him his job.
The scene sounded pretty somber after today’s loss to the Boston Bruins, and not in your usual way.
Firing Yeo would be a big step for the Wild, even more than usual, as he began his coaching stint in 2011. GM Chuck Fletcher was hired in 2009, so the two have been attached at the hip since then.
(And they got to know each other well in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization.)
Will one or both be gone, possibly in the near future? Even Yeo admits big changes can happen.
Wild players, meanwhile, just seem beaten down … and maybe ambivalent about Yeo?
Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse for the Wild, they hit a new low.
Minnesota dropped an eighth straight decision in Saturday’s matinee against the Boston Bruins.
The Wild got behind the eight ball early.
Brad Marchand opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal at the 6:18 mark of the first period.
Thomas Vanek ended a 10-game goal drought to tie the game at one in the second period.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, the Bruins answered with goals by David Krejci, Loui Eriksson and Zdeno Chara.
Minnesota drops to 0-4 since GM Cliff Fletcher announced that coach Mike Yeo and his staff were safe.
Even the captain acknowledged that today’s effort wasn’t good enough:
The numbers aren’t pretty:
If they were to lose next Sunday’s Stadium Series game against Chicago, they would establish a new franchise record with their ninth straight loss on ice.
As bad as the Wild have been, they’re still in the thick of the playoff race.
Minnesota is three points behind Nashville for the final Wild Card spot in the West.