Get your game notes: Rangers at Canadiens

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Montreal Canadiens hosting the New York Rangers at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• When the Rangers scored seven goals in Game 1, it marked the first time in NHL history that a road team scored seven or more goals in Game 1 of a conference final or NHL semifinal series, and the 11th time overall. (Nine of the previous 10 winning sides went on to win their series.) It also marked only the second time that a road team won Game 1 of a conference final or NHL semifinal by five or more goals. (In 1950, Toronto defeated Detroit 5-0 in Game 1, but later lost the series in seven games.)

• For the Canadiens, it was the worst-ever margin of defeat (five goals) in a non-elimination playoff game at home. (They lost 8-2 in Game 6 vs. CAR in 2002, and 6-1 in Game 5 vs. OTT in 2013.) In the 14 previous best-of-seven series in which they lost Game 1 at home, the Habs have won seven series and lost seven series. Against the Rangers, they are 1-1 (they lost in six games in the 1974 NHL Quarterfinals and won in five games in the 1979 Stanley Cup Final).

• The Rangers have lost their last 13 playoff games which they entered with a lead in the series, the longest such streak in NHL history. The last time the Rangers won a game when they led in the series was in Game 4 of their first-round series against Washington in 2009 (they led the series, 2-1, then won Game 4, 2-1); the Rangers went on to lose that series in seven games. In the five series since then when they have held a lead at any point in the series, their series record is 4-1. The last time the Rangers took both Games 1 and 2 on the road was also that 2009 matchup against Washington.

• The Rangers lead all teams with 16 first-period goals this postseason and seven wins (7-1 record) when leading after the first period. They are also tied with Chicago (8-0) for the most wins when scoring first (8-2). Rangers winger Martin St. Louis has scored the game’s first goal an NHL-high three times this postseason, including twice in the last three games (Game 6 vs. PIT, Game 1 vs. MTL).

• Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, who stopped 16 of 20 shots before leaving the game at the second intermission, is questionable (lower body) for Game 2. His backup, Peter Budaj, who allowed three power-play goals on eight shots in relief, has one career postseason start (the aforementioned 6-1 loss to OTT in 2013) and is winless in seven career postseason appearances (0-2, 5.10 GAA, .843 save%). However, he is unbeaten in two career regular-season starts for Montreal vs. the Rangers. This season, he shut them out on Oct. 28, 2013, stopping all 27 shots in a surprise start at MSG.

• In their last four games, the Rangers have outscored the Penguins (three games) and Canadiens (Game 1) by a combined 17-5. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has stopped 122 of the 127 shots he has faced during that span. After allowing 27 goals in their first 11 games of the postseason (2.45/game), the Rangers have now allowed 32 goals in 15 games (a playoff-low 2.13/game).

• Since Rangers winger Chris Kreider snapped his team’s 0-for-36 power-play drought in Game 5 vs. PIT, the Rangers are 6/18 (33.3%) with the man advantage. (Defenseman Ryan McDonagh has two of those goals.) In Game 1 vs. MTL, they went 3/7, scoring three PPG in a 3:08 span in the third period. It was the first time they scored three PPG in a playoff game since 2007 (Game 6 loss vs. BUF). Over the last six games, they have also gone 16/16 on the penalty kill.

• In Game 1, Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban led his team in ice time (26:00) and tied for the team lead in shots on goal (three) and blocked shots (four), but had zero points. Subban, who leads all defensemen this postseason in scoring (4-8—12) has no points in his last three games, and only one (a power-play goal late in Game 5 vs. BOS) in his last five games.

Kraft Hockeyville: Blues beat Penguins in tune-up for season-opener

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Much like Sunday night, the St. Louis Blues will visit the Pittsburgh Penguins for a game in Pennsylvania on Oct. 4. With that in mind, the more heated moments from tonight’s Kraft Hockeyville preseason match might be fresh on the minds of both teams when the games start to count.

In this case, the Blues carried the play from a variety of perspectives, including the final score of 4-1.

The Penguins got the first goal when Jake Guentzel finished a nice one-timer sequence set by Sidney Crosby and Conor Sheary, yet St. Louis was able to leverage its possession advantages to goals that beat Matt Murray up high.

The first one came from a familiar face in Vladimir Tarasenko, who aims for a Maurice Richard Trophy in 2017-18.

The game-winner was from 19-year-old Jordan Kyrou:

Paul Stastny then iced the game with a 3-1 empty-netter with a little less than 30 seconds remaining. Dmitrij Jaskin then made it 4-1 with a nice, patient score with Murray sprawling on the ice.

Carter Hutton deserves credit for a sharp win, but the final score didn’t do Murray’s alert evening justice, as the Blues fired 45 shots on him. This was probably the save of the contest:

While the Blues and Penguins wanted to be alert in this one, the stuff they might remember came down to rougher moments. Things started to escalate when Crosby mixed it up with Alex Pietrangelo.

As a preseason contest, some of this will likely be forgotten by veteran Penguins and Blues, but the people of Cranberry, Pa. and Belle Vernon, Pa. won’t soon forget the Kraft Hockeyville experience.

WATCH LIVE: Kraft Hockeyville featuring Penguins vs. Blues

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The Pittsburgh Penguins are set to host the St. Louis Blues to celebrate the latest edition of Kraft Hockeyville USA, with the game beginning at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Find out more about Kraft Hockeyville winner Belle Vernon, Pa. in the video above this post’s headline (and also in this post). The game itself is taking place at UPMC Lemieux Sports complex in Cranberry, Pa.

NHL.com captures some of the spectacle, as about 2,000 fans showed up and players signed autographs during what sounded like a very fun event.

Speaking of very fun, all signs point to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin being among those players suiting up for the game itself.

Predators marvel at Fiala’s ‘beautiful’ work in preseason win

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Confession: It was difficult to shake the memory of Kevin Fiala‘s frightening injury from the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. If you need a reminder of the scary moment that ended what seemed like a breakthrough run, the video can be seen above this headline.

Another confession: personally, there’s been some concern about how well Fiala can bounce back, at least early on. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the young forward is his blazing speed; what if that’s been taken away from him?

Now, scoring two goals in the Nashville Predators’ 5-3 preseason win against the Columbus Blue Jackets doesn’t mean Fiala will avoid missing a beat in 2017-18.

Forgive Predators fans for getting excited, anyway, especially with goals like these.

Wow.

Filip Forsberg got borderline-romantic about what Fiala did on Sunday, and again, can you really blame him?

Again, the true tests for both Fiala and the Predators begin in October. Still, it’s better to look impressive at this time of the year instead of to go in slow (or injured, as the unlucky St. Louis Blues seem to be doing).

Gaudreau, other NHL players approve of crackdown on slashing

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When slash after slash broke one of Johnny Gaudreau‘s fingers, he called it part of the game.

The Calgary Flames winger known as “Johnny Hockey” is one of the NHL’s most marketable players, so broken bones should be a problem.

Slashing has become such a regular element in NHL games that it necessitated 791 minor penalties last season with countless more going uncalled. Gaudreau’s broken finger and Marc Methot‘s lacerated pinkie brought enough attention to the issue that the league is taking a stronger stand on flagrant slashing this year to cut down on injuries and obstruction.

“I think it’s tough for the refs to make those calls in games: You don’t really know how bad a slash is,” said Gaudreau, who sat out two and a half weeks after surgery to repair a fractured finger on his left hand. “But if they can harp down or look at it a little more closely, I think it might cause a little less injuries. Guys won’t be missing substantial time. I think it’d be huge.”

It was impossible to ignore slashing when Sidney Crosby sliced Methot’s finger open during a game in March, forcing the defenseman to miss three weeks. No penalty was called, and Crosby didn’t receive any supplemental discipline.

After members of the league’s competition committee recommended a closer look at slashing, officials have been instructed that it’s OK to call it more this season. NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkom said the rise in slashing over the past decade came about after the stricter enforcement of hooking and holding following the 2004-05 lockout with players finding new tactics to slow the game down.

“Players started slashing in between the hands and on the hands, and the whacking became hacking became something that became the norm in the game,” Walkom said. “It’s time to have a stronger enforcement to let the players know what they can and can’t do. If you’re going to be whacking a player’s hands six, eight feet from the puck, there’s a good chance that you’re going to be penalized if it’s seen by the officials on the ice.”

So many slashing penalties were called in the first few preseason games that it was somewhat comical. Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere understands slashing but said he doesn’t know if it should be a penalty when no one knows why the whistle was blown.

Walkom sent a note reminding referees that the intent was to focus on slashes around the hands, not every time a player’s stick hits an opponent in the heavily-padded pants. Slashing at players’ hands will not only be an area of emphasis on the ice but also from the league office where new vice president of player safety George Parros is watching closely.

The former enforcer said slashes delivered with greater force or directed at players’ fingers will be met with fines and/or suspensions.

“We’re going to try and change player behavior,” Parros said. “We’re certainly trying to get rid of a pattern of a certain type of slash. If that’s like a harder slash on the fingertips as opposed to maybe in the elbow pad or something, that might be something we look at. And if it’s a pattern of a certain type of location slash or if it’s a pattern of a player, we’re going to look to eliminate both of those.”

Reducing unnecessary injuries is just one piece of this tighter enforcement. As with the crackdown on the hooking, holding and interference that mucked games up in the late 1990s and early 2000s, fewer slashes should open the ice up for offensive players at even-strength and potentially lead to more power plays.

“In some ways it’s going to put even bigger premium on getting body position and not being stuck in a position where you have to reach for a guy,” Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner said. “Usually that’s a positive sign for getting more opportunities to produce.”

St. Louis Blues coach Mike Yeo said he already noticed players slashing less often a few games into the preseason. That’s one of the intended consequences of calling certain types of slashes more.

“The players are the smartest people in the game relative to the game and they will adjust because nobody wants to sit in the penalty box,” Walkom said. “A lot of it’s reflex and habit, but the players will break old habits with a consistent enforcement.”

Old habits die hard, but it’s easier than healing broken bones.

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno

For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey