Benning

Canucks ‘a team we can turn around in a hurry,’ says new GM Benning

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On Friday, new Canucks general manager Jim Benning conducted a Q&A with fans and ticketholders — essentially his first duty as GM — and made it clear he thinks the pieces are in place for a fast turnaround following last year’s disappointing campaign.

“I like the team, I like the core players,” Benning explained. “The Sedins are excellent people and great players, so I think this is a team we can turn around in a hurry.”

Benning, the 11th GM in franchise history, will have plenty to do to right the ship. The next 4-5 weeks promise to be a whirlwind as he has to prepare for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, figure out what the Canucks plan to do in free agency and work with president of hockey ops Trevor Linden in the search for a new head coach.

Benning essentially deferred to Linden on the topic of who would replace John Tortorella, and Linden replied by saying that process was still in its infancy.

“I’ll go through the same process [as hiring a GM] — building a profile of what type of vision and characteristics we want from our head coach, and then we’ll start the interview process,” Linden explained. “The great thing about having Jim on board as quickly as we have him is we can work together in that process.”

Head coach isn’t the only personnel decision Benning will have to address. There’s also the issue of Ryan Kesler, who has been a hot trade target since the March deadline.

Benning wasn’t offering many hints as to what his plans were for the former Selke winner, saying that he “loves the way Ryan Kesler plays” and that “if it was up to me, we would like try and keep him.”

But later, Benning addressed the core group of veteran players in Vancouver with no-trade clauses — which includes Kesler (according to The Province, he was willing to waive his no-trade clause for six teams: Anaheim, Colorado, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Chicago, and Pittsburgh) — and said those NMCs and NTCs wouldn’t keep him from trying to improve the club.

“We’re going to do what we feel is the best thing to do for the organization,” Benning explained. “I know we have a lot of no-trade contracts, but if we feel we can make the team better, we won’t be afraid of approaching players and asking them to waive a no-trade.”

Overall, Benning sounded like someone inheriting a team with pieces he felt he could work with, and ultimately fix. Vancouver missed the playoffs for the first time in five seasons last year, and the new GM said he can help return to the club to a successful level.

“It’s a passionate fan base — the team and the fans really want to win here,” Benning explained. “We want to build a team with the right types of players that has a chance to win every year.”

Game on: Penguins even series with rival Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins will head back home with a split of their second-round series with the rival Washington Capitals.

Former Capitals forward Eric Fehr came back to burn his hold team, as he scored with under five minutes remaining in regulation to help lift the Penguins over Washington with a 2-1 victory in an eventful Game 2 on Saturday. Evgeni Malkin threw the puck toward the net and Fehr was able to re-direct it by Braden Holtby.

Oh, this was an eventful game, indeed.

It started early in the first period with Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik catching Penguins blue liner Olli Maatta with a late and high hit that warranted — at least for now — only a minor penalty for interference. Maatta, clearly in distress following the hit, didn’t play another shift and saw only 31 seconds of ice time in total, as Pittsburgh was reduced to five defensemen for the remainder of the game.

It continued in the third period. Kris Letang was furious after getting called for a trip on Justin Williams, and even more ticked off when the Capitals tied the game on the ensuing power play.

For two periods, the Capitals couldn’t get much going. Only four of their players had registered a shot on goal through 40 minutes, while the Penguins held the edge in that department and held the lead.

Washington came out with more jump in the third period, testing rookie netminder Matt Murray with 14 shots in the final 20 minutes. But the Penguins got the late goal to break the deadlock.

Video: Penguins’ Letang was furious after Capitals tie up Game 2 with power play goal

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Kris Letang watched from the penalty box as the Washington Capitals tied up Game 2 with a power play goal in the third period. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman was called for tripping after he appeared to muscle Justin Williams off the puck as he entered the zone.

Letang let his disagreement with the call be known at the time, and was furious after the Capitals capitalized on a goal from Marcus Johansson.

The Capitals started the period down a goal and being outshot 28-10 by the Penguins, who need a win to even the series.

Also, it seems this is worth mentioning:

Video: Hagelin goes top shelf to give Penguins the lead in Game 2

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In their quest to even the series, the Pittsburgh Penguins had done a nice job through two periods of suffocating the Washington Capitals, while gaining the lead on a beautiful goal.

Carl Hagelin took advantage of a vast amount of space that opened up in front of the Washington net, finishing off a nice pass from Nick Bonino, burying his shot just under the cross bar on the glove side of Braden Holtby.

Through two periods, the Penguins were outshooting Washington 28-10. Only four Capitals players — Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen — had registered shots on goal.

Video: Orpik penalized after catching Maatta with late, high hit

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The Pittsburgh Penguins were without defenseman Olli Maatta for most of the first period of Game 2 after he was on the receiving end of a high, late hit from Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik.

The hit occurred early in the first period, well after Maatta had gotten rid of the puck on a rush into the Washington zone.

Maatta, who nearly fell over as he tried to stand back up, was in obvious distress as he went to the dressing room. Orpik was given a minor penalty for interference on the play.