Chicago Blackhawks v Minnesota Wild - Game Four

PHT Morning Skate: Rangers seek Game 7, Wild-‘Hawks in crucial Game 5

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With a pair of games on Sunday night, there’s a chance we see someone sent home for the summer.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are in New York City to face the Rangers in Game 6 and they’re hoping to do what they couldn’t in Game 5: Close out the series. To do that they’ll need a much better effort, but the Rangers are feeling good after getting the power play monkey off their back on Friday.

In Chicago, the Blackhawks are hoping to again defend home ice. After dropping both games at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, they’re hoping a return to United Center sees a return to better play. The Wild are hoping they found the key to beating the ‘Hawks in Games 3 and 4.

Game 6: New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins [Pittsburgh leads series 3-2] (7:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

The Rangers are feeling good after exploding for five goals in Game 5, two on the power play. Their play all playoffs long has been so bad with the man-advantage that beating Marc-Andre Fleury twice could be the kind of thing that snaps the Rangers out of the fog they’ve been in during the playoffs.

Oddly enough, the Penguins don’t need answers for Rick Nash or Martin St. Louis, but they have to find a way to keep Derick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot in check.

The Rangers’ third line was a menace for Pittsburgh again in Game 5 and they’ve had great opportunities all series. That puts the pressure on the Pens’ depth defenders as well as the third and fourth line. Guys like Rob Scuderi and Robert Bortuzzo could have their hands full with other assignments.

Pittsburgh will need more than Evgeni Malkin to show up in Game 6. Malkin’s great play in the Game 5 loss got lost in the shuffle. He’s been excellent in this round.

Expect Game 6 to be an emotional one for St. Louis once again as his family will be in attendance on this Mother’s Day. Keep a tissue handy.

Game 5: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota Wild [Series tied 2-2] (9:00 p.m. ET — CNBC)

The Blackhawks may not have expected to be in a tied series in Game 5, but now they know they’re in a battle. The Wild’s strong play in Games 3 and 4 showed that they weren’t going to roll over for the defending champions.

One thing that has to get better for both teams is the goaltending. It hasn’t been a dire issue for Chicago or Minnesota, but after the defensive battle the two sides put into Game 3, seeing things go sideways in Game 4 for both Ilya Bryzgalov and Corey Crawford was a jarring site.

Expect to see Chicago’s star players have better games on home ice. Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Kane were all big in wins in Games 1 and 2. For the Wild, they’re hoping they’ve got things headed in the right direction for Zach Parise and Jason Pominville who were big factors in the past two games.

The double-secret difference maker in Game 5 for Minnesota may have been Matt Cooke. His return to action following his seven-game suspension saw him create defensive issues for the ‘Hawks best players. The Wild won’t always get to have the same match-ups on the road, but it’s clear his return was a positive for the Wild.

‘Like a 1988 Smythe Division game’ – Caps, Pens react to wild 8-7 game

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: Dmitry Orlov #9 of the Washington Capitals collides into Brian Dumoulin #8 of the Pittsburgh Penguins after scoring a goal during the second period at Verizon Center on November 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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It’s no surprise that Justin Williams, a player who earned the clutch nickname of “Mr. Game 7,” provided the money quote for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ wild 8-7 overtime win against the Washington Capitals.

“It snowballed too quickly for us,” Williams said, according to Caps’ website Dump n Chase. “All around, it was like a 1988 Smythe Division game out there, not something we want to do.”

Penguins-turned-Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen also echoed one of the points from the game’s recap, stating that the contest had “four of five turning points.”

You could probably spend hours pouring through all the oddball stats that sprouted up from this game.

While Williams and Niskanen provided some of the better quotes, most of the players were reduced to using the same word that, frankly, most of us were rolling out.

(Aside from those of us who were spouting expletives at perceived missed calls, particularly on the losing end.)

In admitting that he couldn’t explain the second period, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan probably described the entire game most accurately:

Either way, it was a lot of fun. Let’s do this in the playoffs, too, shall we?

/scans online for a budget defibrillator.

Video evidence that Mike Smith isn’t tanking

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The Arizona Coyotes are really bad, but you could argue that Mike Smith is why the Colorado Avalanche owns the NHL’s worst record instead.

He came into tonight’s eventual 3-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers with a sparkling .918 save percentage, and while he couldn’t save the Coyotes, he did rob of Jordan Eberle on what seemed like a sure goal.

Watch that great save in the video above, and maybe wonder if Smith didn’t get the memo about the whole “tanking” thing.

Penguins out-gun Capitals in absurd, controversial 8-7 OT thriller

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Leave it to number 87 to win an 8-7 hockey game.

Evgeni Malkin grabbed a hat trick during that patently absurd second period, yet it was Sidney Crosby who helped to create the overtime game-winner (credited to Conor Sheary) as the Pittsburgh Penguins edged the Washington Capitals on Monday night.

No doubt about it, there was some controversy, including on that clinching goal. And not just because the tally survived the review process:

MORE: Watch the full overtime here. Check this post out for additional information on that zany second period.

Regardless, the Penguins’ three-game losing streak ends (as does Washington’s nine-game winning run). The Caps at least got a standings point out of the deal, which seems pretty fair when you consider the fact that they scored a touchdown and extra point’s worth of goals in this one.

(Yes, there were NFL jokes on Twitter.)

Malkin’s hat trick goal and Crosby’s fourth point both demanded official reviews, but both also stood. Capitals fans are probably upset with this game, especially since you could make a legitimate argument that T.J. Oshie should’ve drawn … you, know, at least one penalty:

Instead, you could argue that Patric Hornqvist‘s hit on Oshie ended up being a turning point of the game in Pittsburgh’s favor, although you could also argue that even M. Night Shyamalan couldn’t keep up with all of the twists.

Roberto Luongo captured the mood of the three goalies involved (Braden Holtby got the hook after allowing five goals over a zany 8:09 span) and likely the coaches, too:

To recap, Malkin had that hat trick, Crosby scored a goal and three assists and Sheary generated a three-point night (two goals, one assist). Trevor Daley generated three assists while Justin Schultz did it one better with four.

Oshie collected a goal and two assists, Lars Eller generated two big goals and Alex Ovechkin chipped in two helpers of his own.

The goalie stats, were, well … (see that Luongo tweet).

***

Overall, it was a messy, unpredictable, staggering and sometimes controversial game.

Normally, one might say that this is just what you’d expect from a Capitals – Penguins contest. Can anyone really argue they expected this explosion, though?

Do yourself a favor and watch the highlights, as there were so many exciting moments and goals that it’s difficult to summarize them all in one recap. Heck, if you just watch the highlights of the night for Crosby and Malkin, you’re likely to be highly entertained.

If we’re treated to another contest between these teams in 2016-17, it will be in the playoffs. Plenty of hockey fans would love to see that, at least if their hearts can take it.

Just about everything happened in second period of Capitals – Penguins

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Update: The game only slightly slowed down after the second period, as the Penguins ultimately edged the Capitals 8-7 in overtime. Read all about it here.

This post goes into greater detail about the second period, which is worthwhile … because it was a brain-full.

***

Let’s just take a second to step back and rub our eyes in disbelief at this Washington Capitals – Pittsburgh Penguins game, particularly the just-passed second period.

Basically everything is happening.

Evgeni Malkin is now at 21 goals on the season as he generated a hat trick in the middle frame. That third goal will be highly – and understandably – contested thanks to possible goalie interference by Patric Hornqvist.

At his best, Hornqvist is in the thick of things, and that was certainly the case on Monday. Granted, this hit on T.J. Oshie was questionable:

Braden Holtby was chased from the Capitals net after the Penguins reeled off five goals in 8:09, which you can view here:

The Capitals brought a 2-0 lead into the second period and fattened it to 3-0. After that, the Penguins built a 5-3 lead with the flurry from above.

Brett Connolly made it 5-4 just 30 seconds after Malkin’s second goal, while Lars Eller tied it up at 5-5 about two minutes later.

That tie lasted … less than 30 seconds, as Malkin’s third tally made it 6-5 for the Penguins.

There’s a bunch of other stuff that happened, too, probably.

/catches breath

You can watch the rest of the game on NBCSN, online or via the NBC Sports App. Here’s the livestream link.