Lundqvist, Rangers complete comeback, knock Penguins out in Game 7

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On four occasions during this postseason, the New York Rangers saw their season at risk of ending with one loss. They answered the call all four times, including in Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, advancing to the conference finals with a 2-1 win.

To put it mildly, many will merely focus on the Penguins watching a 3-1 series lead slip away. You’ll see plenty of that fallout on PHT tonight.

Still, it’s easy to dismiss the triumphs of a team like the Rangers considering the juicier story like the Penguins “choking.” Make no mistake about it, though, the Blueshirts have been fantastic with their backs against the wall in these playoffs; NBCSN flashed the telling stat that the Rangers hadn’t trailed against the Penguins since Game 4 of this series.

Plenty of players stepped up for the Rangers, but Henrik Lundqvist really cemented his legacy as a guy who somehow finds another level in the biggest games (even if his team hasn’t made it to the Stanley Cup Final yet in his otherwise distinguished career). After all, the Penguins managed a 36-20 shot disparity in this do-or-die game.

The stupendous Swede limited opponents to one goal in each of his opponents’ four opportunities to eliminate the Rangers during these playoffs. Check out his work in greater detail:

vs. Pittsburgh:

Game 5: 36 out of 37 saves
Game 6: 31 out of 32 saves
Game 7: 35 out of 36 saves

vs. Philadelphia:

Game 7: 26 out of 27 saves

Lundqvist and the Rangers have won five Game 7 contests in a row.

While a visit from Mario Lemieux seemed to set Marc-Andre Fleury on the right path – despite a setback and a shaky bit of puckhandling here and there – it seems like it might have come too late for Sidney Crosby. The NHL’s far-and-away leading scorer failed to score a single point in three elimination opportunities against the Rangers.

Evgeni Malkin grabbed an assist on Tuesday and had a strong series, yet the two didn’t dominate enough collectively for the liking of many, prompting the posting of stats like these:

It’s easy to boil it all down to Crosby, Malkin and Fleury “not getting it done.” Plenty of people will.

That ignores great efforts by Lundqvist and turnarounds including the Rangers winning the special teams battle. After all the hand-wringing about New York’s man advantage struggles, the Rangers scored three power-play goals in this series while the Penguins only managed one.

Brad Richards’ PP goal stood as the winner:

Brian Boyle stood tall during many moments of Game 7, making some big plays and scoring the all-important first goal of this contest. The team who scored first won every contest in this series.

Whatever way you’d like to spin it, the Rangers are moving on to round three while the Penguins face another summer of questions, including what’s next for head coach Dan Bylsma:

As the Penguins ponder what’s next, the Rangers’ focus is simpler: they’ll await their next opponent as the Boston Bruins host the Montreal Canadiens in a Game 7 of their own on Wednesday.

Video: Ovechkin joins elite company with this goal vs. Coyotes

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Barring a miraculous barrage of goals in the final stretch of games, Alex Ovechkin very likely won’t hit the 50-mark this season.

Now 31 years old, there has been talk that this could be the beginning of the decline for Ovechkin.

But on Saturday, he scored the 30th goal of his season, letting that famous Ovechkin shot rip from his favorite spot on the power play.

For Ovechkin, that’s 12 straight seasons with at least 30 goals scored. He has been consistently prolific since joining the league in 2005-06. He’s an elite player, as everyone has known for years, and he once again joined elite company with this latest goal.

Per the Capitals, Ovechkin joins Mike Gartner and Wayne Gretzky — he was good — as the only three players in NHL history to score at least 30 goals in each of their first 12 seasons in the league.

Sharp to undergo hip surgery, expected recovery is 4-5 months

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Patrick Sharp‘s difficult season is now over.

The Dallas Stars announced on Saturday that the 35-year-old forward will undergo hip surgery on Tuesday. The recovery time, according to the club, is between four and five months.

Sharp is in the final year of a five-year contract with a $5.9 million cap hit, per CapFriendly

“We are going to get the surgery done and let him heal. He’s going to train and let’s take a look at him,” said Stars GM Jim Nill, per NHL.com. “We’ve had conversations. If he comes back, he wants it to be Dallas. He thinks he’s a Dallas Star.”

Not only has Sharp dealt with injuries on the ice, but he is dealing with a personal matter off it.

From the Dallas Morning News:

But in battling through two concussions, hip pain, and his dad’s fight with leukemia, Sharp has shown significant fortitude. The Dallas chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association nominated Sharp Saturday as its candidate for the Bill Masterton Trophy, given each season to a player who displays the attributes of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

“It shows what kind of person he is and what kind of hockey player and leader he is,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “I think that’s why he’s a winner at every level he’s played at. I think that’s why he’s a great leader for this team and a great guy for a lot of these young guys to look up to.”

Sharp was first sidelined with a concussion in October. He was then placed on injured reserve with another concussion in December.

He has been held to just 48 games, with eight goals — his lowest total since the lockout-shortened season — and 18 points.

‘That was embarrassing,’ says Boudreau after Wild lose to Canucks

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The Wild continue to struggle and fans on Saturday expressed their frustration.

Think about this: The visiting Canucks are terrible at scoring goals, ranked 29th in the league in that category. Yet they managed to score four goals in the second period against the Wild. So bad was Minnesota’s performance to that point that there was a Bronx cheer directed at goalie Darcy Kuemper after he made a save on a harmless shot and fans later booed the Wild off the ice into the intermission.

It’s bad when the Canucks, 27th in the overall standings, embarrass an opposing team.

The Wild failed once again to clinch a playoff spot after a 4-2 loss. That score flattered the home team, which got late goals from Ryan Suter and Eric Staal. Too little, too late. Afterward, coach Bruce Boudreau lit into his team.

“That was embarrassing. I’m embarrassed,” Boudreau told reporters. “To me, if I was the fans, I’d be booing even more because they pay good money for this.”

As far as the playoffs are concerned, the Wild are in, even if they haven’t yet officially secured a spot. Sports Club Stats is giving them a 100 per cent chance of qualifying for the post-season.

But prior to this month, Minnesota looked like a team that could do some serious damage in the playoffs. That’s not to suggest they are suddenly incapable of going on any prolonged run but they very clearly have some issues that need to be addressed over the next few of weeks.

“Yeah, it wasn’t good enough,” Jason Zucker told the Pioneer Press.

“We are leaving guys open. We aren’t winning battles. We are hanging our goalies out to dry. … I don’t think we’re prepared enough to start some periods and they score and we’re not being resilient enough to come back.”

Meanwhile, for the Canucks, this game should provide at least a glimmer of optimism for their fans. Less than 24 hours after his college season ended with a double overtime loss to Boston University, Brock Boeser signed an entry-level deal and made his NHL debut versus the Wild.

What a debut it was.

Boeser, a first-round pick of the Canucks in 2015, scored the winning goal and was tied for the team-lead in shots on goal with four alongside Reid Boucher, who also scored twice.

The unfortunate news? Jack Skille left the game with an ankle injury and didn’t return. The outlook doesn’t look good, as Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins said afterward, “I wouldn’t expect to see Skille in the line-up for a while.”

Only eight games remain in Vancouver’s season.

Another shutout for Bobrovsky as he steals one for Blue Jackets

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Sergei Bobrovsky continued to make his case for the Vezina Trophy on Saturday afternoon when he stopped all 36 shots he faced in a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

The win helped the Blue Jackets avoid what would have been their first three-game losing streak of the season.

In a game where his team was outshot by a 36-21 margin and managed just a single goal (an Alexander Wennberg tally in the second period), it would not be unfair to say that he probably stole a couple of points for his team as the Blue Jackets continue to compete with the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins for the top spot in both the Eastern Conference and the entire NHL.

Bobrovsky being the difference in a game is nothing new for the Blue Jackets lately because he has been a brick wall in their net for much of the season. But for as good as his performance has been overall, it is over the past few weeks where he has really started to establish himself as a Vezina Trophy front runner.

With his win on Saturday the Blue Jackets are now 9-0-2 in his past 11 starts.

Bobrovsky remains the NHL’s leader in pretty much every major goaltending category, collecting his 40th win (first in the NHL), raising his overall save percentage to .934 (also first in the NHL), his even-strength save percentage to .940 (also first in the NHL), and recording his seventh shutout (tied for second, just one behind Braden Holtby).

He has four shutouts in the month of March alone.

There are a lot of factors you can point to for the Blue Jackets’ massive turnaround this season, but none of them have been bigger at this point than the play of Bobrovsky.

He has already won the Vezina Trophy once in his career, and he is putting together a pretty convincing argument to win it again this season.