PHT Morning Skate: Three teams face elimination in Game 6s

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Sunday’s Game 6 action wound up being suddenly dramatic with the Blues and Stars sent packing, the latter in stunning fashion. Tonight could wind up being similar with three Game 6s involving three teams on the brink of elimination.

While the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets seem to be more up against the wall, the Los Angeles Kings seem to be sitting prettier after convincing wins in the past two games. There may not be any panic with the Pittsburgh Penguins or Colorado Avalanche, but the San Jose Sharks might be feeling the heat. Having to try and settle down on the road might prove tricky.

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Game 6: Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins [Pittsburgh leads series 3-2] (7:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

The Penguins sure looked a bit more like the team we thought they’d be in winning Game 5. It wasn’t a blowout win, but their 3-1 victory saw them dominate the Blue Jackets in shots and scoring chances. Game 6 sets up to be a bit trickier at Nationwide Arena and perhaps the question is how Marc-Andre Fleury will handle being back at the scene of a tremendous letdown in Game 4.

Fleury will need to be sharp if how Sergei Bobrovsky’s play in Game 5 is any indication. Bobrovsky stopped 48 shots in the loss and looked every bit the guy who won the Vezina Trophy last season. While Bob has been able to keep Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby from scoring goals, it’ll be up to his team to figure out their own offensive attack in Game 6. If Columbus can’t figure that out, a handshake line may appear later tonight.

Game 6: Minnesota Wild vs. Colorado Avalanche [Colorado leads series 3-2] (9:00 p.m. ET — CNBC)

Minnesota’s Game 5 loss had to be an especially bitter pill to swallow. Giving up the lead late and then losing in overtime, albeit in controversial fashion, would stick in the craw of a lot of teams. Expect that to be the case for the Wild back home as they’ll use that as motivation to force a Game 7.

The Avs continue to get stellar play from Semyon Varlamov in goal and Nathan MacKinnon up front. MacKinnon is up to 10 points in this series and has been a full-blown menace to the Wild. Add in that there’s a chance Matt Duchene comes back, and suddenly Minnesota’s situation looks more dire.

After Zach Parise found the net in Game 5, it’s time for Jason Pominville and Mikko Koivu to do the same. Crazy to think after Ilya Bryzgalov’s rocky start in the series, Darcy Kuemper has been the rock they can lean on. They’ll need him to outduel Varlamov the rest of the way.

Game 6: Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks [San Jose leads series 3-2] (10:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

After being up 3-0 in the series, the Sharks suddenly don’t look quite like the powerhouse they were. The Kings have taken it to the Sharks in the past two games and suddenly this series has all the markings of one destine to go seven games and provide for either a massive sigh of relief in San Jose or an incredible collapse.

If the Sharks are to avoid the latter, it may be on Alex Stalock to steady things in Game 6. Starting San Jose’s backup goalie may be coach Todd McLellan’s one play to make to get his team to focus. Antti Niemi didn’t look very good in Game 5 and Stalock settled things down.

McLellan might have other problems if Marc-Edouard Vlasic is unable to play. The Sharks top defenseman left Game 5 and the Kings were able to take full advantage of his absence. Jeff Carter’s highlight reel power play goal was evidence enough of that.

With how the Kings are clicking and how Jonathan Quick has settled down after a terrible start to the series, it feels like a must-win game for both teams.

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.