New York Rangers v Montreal Canadiens - Game Five

Bourque’s hat trick helps Habs survive a wild Game 5

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As it turns out, this Montreal Canadiens – New York Rangers series is just too wild, wonderful and weird to end in five games.

The Canadiens rode Rene Bourque’s hat trick and some video game-level scoring, defense and goaltending to beat the Rangers 7-4 in Game 5. This series shifts to Madison Square Garden with the Rangers up 3-2.

Bourque now has eight goals in this postseason after scoring just nine in the regular season:

Normally a two-goal game from a returning Derek Stepan would be the story of the game, yet this was not an ordinary contest, even in an exciting postseason.

The Habs are now 3-0 in elimination games in the playoffs. The Rangers have won every elimination game they needed to gain, yet they haven’t made things easy for themselves. If they lose in Game 6, they’d face the unpleasant thought of a third seven-game series in the 2014 postseason.

Goaltending will be one of the top stories to watch in Game 6. Henrik Lundqvist was pulled midway through the second period only to see a Rangers surge that left Dustin Tokarski unsettled. Still, Tokarski made enough saves to hold onto the win … though it’s anyone’s guess if he’ll be in net on Thursday.

It was a game in which past storylines resurfaced. The Canadiens’ power play broke through with a 1-0 goal after taking advantage of yet another bonehead penalty by the Rangers:

There was plenty of discussion about embellishment in Game 4, which obviously registered with the officials. Remarkably, the Rangers gained a power play after Tomas Plekanec drew a rare embellishment penalty that didn’t also come with a matching minor for his opponents.

The Rangers managed to tie the game briefly thanks to that opportunity, but it wouldn’t last. Bourque’s 5-4 goal stood as the game-winner while the Habs added to their lead in a third period that turned violent.

The game concluded with some ugliness, especially with John Moore’s match penalty elbowing hit on Dale Weise, who may or may not be injured:

Lars Eller delivered a hit that might get some mild criticism in its own right. After that, Derek Dorsett ruffled more than a few feathers with his behavior late in the game, which might just spark the war of words between these two teams.

Again, this game really had just about everything. Even with all of those lowlights for the goalies, Tokarski managed to make a beauty of a save and some big stops that will likely get lost in the larger narrative of their struggles.

It’s anyone’s guess how Game 6 will play out at Madison Square Garden, but it will be tough to top tonight’s game. Then again, this has been one of the most remarkable series of a remarkable postseason, so it would be foolish to guarantee that we’ve already seen the best of the Eastern Conference finals.

Video: Reimer, Allen shut down dangerous one-timers

SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 09:  James Reimer #34 of the Florida Panthers makes a save during a game against the Los Angeles Kings at BB&T Center on February 9, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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In an ideal world, goalie equipment wouldn’t be such an issue. Teams would be able to “get goalies moving” with great passing and chances just about no one could stop.

Then again, there are also those saves that a select handful of humans can pull off. A big reason why there’s only been one goal between the Panthers and Blues tonight is the lateral movement shown by both James Reimer and Jake Allen.

First, watch as Reimer robs Jori Lehtera on what’s likely the save of the night:

Allen really hasn’t been that far behind Reimer, right down to making a similar stop:

Considering the two nearly identical one-timer goals scored by Arizona against Anaheim in finding seams for big passes through opposing defenses, tonight’s goalies might want to do some extra stretching during intermissions.

Dvorak, Coyotes put Ducks in early hole with slick goals (Video)

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 11:  Connor Murphy #5 (second from left) of the Arizona Coyotes celebrates with Alexander Burmistrov #91, Shane Doan #19 and Christian Dvorak #18 after Murphy scored the game winning goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on February 11, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Coyotes defeated the Penguins 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Arizona Coyotes’ happy thoughts are mostly centered on the future. Christian Dvorak possibly being more than a guy who put up nice junior numbers with Matthew Tkachuk and Mitch Marner could fuel some really nice thoughts.

He’s been red-hot in February, in particular, including a goal already tonight as the Coyotes raced off to an early 2-0 lead against the Anaheim Ducks.

Check out that smooth play for his 10th goal of 2016-17:

Again, he’s been on quite the roll lately.

February: nine points (and counting?) in nine games
Rest of the season: 13 points in 45 games

He only had one assist in 12 January contests, so this outburst is even more unexpected than the Coyotes racing off to this lead.

Interestingly, the Coyotes two goals looked awfully similar, at least in the finish:

Randy Carlyle’s mood? Probably not too chipper right now.

Brooks Laich wants another crack at NHL (with or without Leafs)

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 29:  Brooks Laich #23 of the Toronto Maple Leafs waits for a puck drop against the Tampa Bay Lightning during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on February 29, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  The Lightning defeated the Maple Leafs 2-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Brooks Laich wants another shot at playing in the NHL. As he told The Atlantic TO (sub required), if that means being traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs, then so be it.

“You don’t win a Stanley Cup playing in the American Hockey League,” Laich said. “If the Leafs don’t have a plan for me with them, I would like to pursue a Stanley Cup somewhere else.”

Interesting.

Laich’s biased take: he has plenty more to give at the highest level.

Hmm, that … seems a little crazy. Few players see their best days at age 33 and beyond.

But what about his work with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies? Maybe he’s killing it there.

Well, if he is, his contributions aren’t showing in the simple counting stats. In 22 games this season, Laich has one goal and six points. He isn’t even firing a shot on goal per game (just 17 in those 22 contests).

Now, Laich wouldn’t sell you on his scoring skills. Face-offs might not be much of a calling card, either.

So … it’s easier to understand why he’s struggling to get a foothold in his career. Laich isn’t much of a scorer, isn’t dominant on the draw and isn’t someone who’s shown a history of dramatically tilting the ice in his team’s favor.

Does that mean he can’t be a fourth-line center, or failing that, at least a depth forward? Laich could conceivably be helpful to some team, even if it’s difficult to imagine anyone giving up anything but a minor asset for him.

And, yes, it’s crazy to imagine him exceeding anything he did with the Washington Capitals.

Avalanche say ankle injury ends Nikita Zadorov’s season

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 14: Nikita Zadorov #16 of the Colorado Avalanche congratulates Matt Duchene #9 after his goal against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Pepsi Center on December 14, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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As if the Colorado Avalanche needed another miserable element to 2016-17: Nikita Zadorov suffered a season-ending injury during the same practice that Erik Johnson returned.

Zadorov injured his ankle after being tangled up with Mikko Rantanen during a Monday practice, according to the Denver Post.

Update: The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers reports that it’s a fractured ankle. Yikes.

Zadorov, 21, is a big defenseman with the pedigree that would inspire teams to imagine better things in the future (16th pick in 2013 by Buffalo). So far, that potential hasn’t really manifested itself in production, whether you judge a player by points, plus/minus or possession numbers.

He may be able to put it together at some point – again, he’s young – so perhaps he’ll remember this as a low point before he turns things around.

At the moment, it’s just another grim part of a bleak time for the Avs.