Get your game notes: Habs at Rangers

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

• Tonight, the Eastern Conference final shifts to Madison Square Garden with the Rangers looking to take a 3- games-to-none lead over the Canadiens. Only one team in NHL history (1944-45 Red Wings) has ever won a best-of-7 NHL semifinal after dropping the first two games on home ice (16 others have gone on to lose the series, six of them in a sweep). In all, NHL teams have trailed 2-0 in a best-of-7 series a total of 322 times and have come back to win the series on 44 occasions (13.7%); teams have won 18 out of 81 series (22.2%) when losing the first two at home. In the 2014 playoffs, teams trailing 2-0 have come back to win three out of seven series (42.9%). The Rangers are 10-2 all-time in series when they win the first two games.

• The Rangers come into tonight having won their last five games by a combined score of 20-6. The five-game win streak is the team’s longest in the postseason since the Rangers won their first seven games of the 1994 playoffs (vs. NY Islanders and Washington) en route to the club’s first Stanley Cup championship in 54 years.

• Dating to the opening round of the 1996 playoffs, the Rangers have defeated the Canadiens in six straight playoff games, becoming only the fourth team to defeat Montreal in six straight in the postseason. The Canadiens have never lost seven straight playoff games to any team during their 105-year history.

• Since snapping an 0-for-36 stretch with a man-advantage in Game 5 vs. Pittsburgh (Chris Kreider), the Rangers’ power play has caught fire, going 7-for-21 over the past five games. However, New York has not scored a powerplay goal on home ice since Benoit Pouliot’s in Game 2 of the first round vs. Philadelphia, and is 0-for-21 since.

• New York has thrived on the penalty kill as well, killing off all 20 penalties over the last seven games, including a perfect 7-for-7 in the two games against Montreal. At 8.4 penalty minutes per game, the Rangers and Detroit have been the least-penalized teams in the 2014 playoffs. Montreal, meanwhile, has allowed at least one power-play goal in four of its last five games, going 13-for-20 (65.0%) on penalty kills during that span.

• Henrik Lundqvist, who will make his 84th consecutive playoff start for the Rangers tonight, has allowed six goals during his five-game win streak, for a 1.20 GAA and .964 save% during the stretch. Lundqvist’s victory in Game 2 was his league-leading 10th of the 2014 postseason – matching Lundqvist’s career high from 2012 – and 40th of his playoff career (40-43 record); with his next victory, Lundqvist would match Mike Richter (41-33) as the all-time winningest goaltender in Rangers playoff history.

• Montreal goaltender Dustin Tokarski will make his second career playoff start after allowing three goals on 30 shots on Monday, when he became the first goalie to make his playoff debut with a start in the conference final or Stanley Cup Final since the NHL expanded to four playoff rounds in 1975. Tokarski is the third Montreal goaltender to play in this series; each has allowed at least three goals in his lone appearance in the series (Carey Price 4 GA, Peter Budaj 3 GA in Game 1). The 1984 Jets (first round vs. Edmonton) are the only other team to have three goalies allow three-plus goals in a game over the first two games of a playoff series. (Elias Sports Bureau)

• Defenseman P.K. Subban leads the Canadiens with 12 points (4-8=12), but has yet to make the scoresheet in this series, in which he has a minus-3 rating, and has no points in his last four games overall. In Game 2, Subban attempted 18 shots: six were blocked by Rangers skaters, three missed the net and nine were stopped by Lundqvist, matching Subban’s career high for shots on goal in a game (reg. season or playoffs). Subban played 29:40 of Game 2, the second-highest total of his career in a 60-minute game (he played 30:33 on Jan. 18, a 5-3 loss at Toronto).

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