Still alive: Rangers control play, send series back to MSG

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Plenty of people seemed to count the New York Rangers out in their second-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins and they certainly still have a long way to go to totally turn the tide. Still, the team showed their mettle in elimination games once again, handling the Penguins in Pittsburgh 5-1 to extend the series to Game 6.

The Penguins still have a 3-2 series lead, but they have to wonder if they’re going to face a tougher Rangers team here on out (or if that squad might run out of gas once more).

The difference between the Rangers in Game 5 vs. 4 was night-and-day. After only managing 15 shots on goal in a dispiriting Game 4 defeat, the Rangers bested that shot output in the first period alone.

The Blueshirts enjoyed a fantastic night from Derick Brassard. Brassard’s stat line was something to savor: two goals, one assist, a +2 rating, five shots on goal and even some gritty work (six hits, one trip to the penalty box).

He wasn’t the only Rangers skater to stand out, either, as Chris Kreider looked like a difference-maker (one goal, one assist, six hits) and Mats Zuccarello piled up three assists.

The under-sized Norwegian seemed to be just one of the Rangers to get under the skin of Penguins star Sidney Crosby, who seemed especially agitated at times tonight.

Mike Milbury believes that the Penguins might want to go back to spreading the wealth by separating Crosby from Malkin (who scored a beauty for Pittsburgh’s only goal).

Ryan McDonagh had a nice night on defense (one goal and one assist) while Henrik Lundqvist looked quite sharp himself in stopping 31 out of 32 shots.

(In case you’re wondering, Rick Nash didn’t score a goal but he did notch an assist.)

Marc-Andre Fleury probably allowed a goal or two that he’d like to have back, but he’s been outstanding for most (if not all) of the other games in this series. Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma might want to tell most of the Penguins – Fleury included – just to put this one out of their minds.

After winning the game, the Rangers embraced Martin St. Louis, who decided to play one night after his mother’s passing.

There was a lot of negativity surrounding the Rangers the last time they faced the Penguins in Madison Square Garden. If they can bring the kind of effort that they did not, the prevailing emotion might just be more tension for Pittsburgh.

Of course, seeing a thinner lead is likely to bring a far more concerted effort from the Penguins, too. We’ll see whether this series goes to seven games depending upon how things play out in Game 7 on Sunday.

Kariya and Selanne, one of NHL’s most dominant duos, enter Hall of Fame together

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Paul Kariya probably had to wait a couple of years longer than he should have to get his induction into the Hall of Fame, but it was at least fitting that the wait allowed him to enter alongside his long-time running mate, Teemu Selanne.

Both players were among the class of seven inducted into the Hall of Fame on Monday. They spent several years alongside one another in Anaheim (plus one year in Colorado) and were one of the most lethal offensive duos the NHL has ever seen.

The magic they were able to work on the ice together was simply incredible, and at times jaw-dropping.

For example…

Selanne said on Monday that he played some of his best years in the NHL alongside Kariya, while added that he would not be getting the call without his years alongside Selanne.

Their production together can not be understated.

Between the 1995-96 and 2000-01 seasons, the years they spent together in Anaheim, 35 percent of the Ducks goals were scored by one of those two players.

What is most incredible about that production is that Kariya only played in 395 out of 492 games due to injury, while Selanne only played in 382 after being acquired in a mid-season trade in 1995 and then traded during the 2001 season.

While Selanne had the ultimate combination of sustained dominance and longevity in his career to make him one of the NHL’s all-time leading goal scorers and point producers, Kariya’s career came to an unfortunate and premature end due to concussion issues. While his final stat line may not stack up among the NHL’s all-time greats, he was one of the league’s most dominant offensive players for more than a decade.

Kariya said on Monday that it took him a year after his retirement to feel normal again, but that he is now no longer having headaches.

He also mentioned that while the NHL seems to be heading in the right direction when it comes to player safety, but that targeted head shots have no place in the game and he would like to see them eliminated.

Yakupov becomes UFA after Blues don’t extend qualifying offer

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Nail Yakupov, the first overall draft pick only five years ago, has become an unrestricted free agent.

The 23-year-old winger was not extended a qualifying offer by the St. Louis Blues, thus providing him UFA status. He played 40 games for the Blues in 2016-17, battling a knee injury and scoring just three goals.

Yakupov wants to remain in the NHL, saying in May he has zero plans to return to Russia. It’s possible he could re-sign with the Blues at a lower salary than his qualifying offer would’ve been.

If not, there are 30 other teams he can speak with now.

Yakupov is currently in the conversation with Alexandre Daigle and Patrik Stefan in terms of biggest first overall busts in NHL history.

The Blues did extend qualifying offers to five players: defensemen Colton Parayko and Petteri Lindbohm, forwards Magnus Paajarvi and Oskar Sundqvist, and goalie Jordan Binnington.

‘Hawks sign Forsberg, who should be Crawford’s new backup

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Anton Forsberg, the former Columbus goalie Chicago acquired in the Brandon Saad-for-Artemi Panarin blockbuster, has signed a two-year extension with the ‘Hawks.

Forsberg, 24, came to North America in the ’13-14 campaign and has spent most of his time with Columbus’ AHL affiliate. He helped the club capture the Calder Cup in 2016, and that performance was part of the reason Chicago GM Stan Bowman went out and acquired him.

In the aftermath, Bowman said Forsberg would get the “first crack” at the No. 2 gig behind Corey Crawford. The ‘Hawks have been without a backup since sending Scott Darling to Carolina.

While Forsberg is the favorite for the gig, he’s not a lock. He only has 10 games of NHL experience — a pretty small sample size — and lost out on a similar opportunity with Columbus. Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo were battling to be Sergei Bobrovsky‘s understudy, with Korpisalo eventually winning out.

In other Chicago news, the club gave depth forward Tomas Jurco a one-year extension today. Jurco was acquired from Detroit at last year’s trade deadline and appeared in 13 games for the ‘Hawks, scoring one goal. He didn’t dress for the club’s first-round playoff sweep at the hands of Nashville.

No word yet on financials for either guy.

Wild extend d-man Olofsson — two years, $1.45 million

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Gustav Olofsson, the Minnesota defenseman taken in the second round of the ’13 draft, has signed a two-year, $1.45 million extension, per the Star-Tribune.

Olofsson was a restricted free agent, having just wrapped his entry-level contract. This new deal will pay him $725,000 per season and, importantly, it’s of the one-way variety.

The Star-Tribune reports Olofsson is expected to play in the Wild’s top-six defense next season, especially since GM Chuck Fletcher appears primed to trade one of Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella or Matt Dumba. Fletcher needs cap space to finalize new deals for RFA forwards Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund.

Speaking of contracts, the Wild opted against making a qualifying offer for d-man Christian Folin. This means he’ll be able to test free agency, though it’s reported Minnesota might try to re-negotiate with him as a UFA.