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.

Capitals defeat Blue Jackets in clash of Metropolitan Division powers

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WASHINGTON (AP) T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington’s 35th shot of the game. Orlov’s goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead.

A showdown between two of the top three teams in the league jockeying for position atop the Metropolitan Division lacked a playoff feel. But the matchup of two likely Vezina Trophy finalists lived up to that billing as Bobrovsky and Holtby went back and forth with big saves.

Bobrovsky entered the night first in wins, goals-against average and save percentage with Holtby second, second and third in those categories. The 2013 Vezina winner could also be an MVP contender this season given his value to Columbus’ third playoff berth in franchise history.

“When he’s in his game it’s very hard to score on him,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had eight shots stopped by one of his Russian national teammates. “He likes the big moments, he likes pressure. His worth ethic is unbelievable. … In my opinion he’s one of the best goalies in the league right now.”

Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby clash

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The Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot for the bulk of Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it seems he’ll be out for quite a while longer, too.

Methot was injured on a Sidney Crosby slash across the hand in the first period. He didn’t return to the game and there was no penalty called on the Penguins captain.

Footage showed the gruesome aftermath of the slash — Methot’s finger on his left hand bloodied and injured as he skated back to the bench.

“His finger is shattered and he’s out for weeks,” said Senators head coach Guy Boucher, per the Ottawa Sun.

Methot immediately confronted Crosby after the slash, which occurred as the Sens blue liner went to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone late in the first period.

The Senators got revenge, scoring a 2-1 shootout victory to move within a point of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead. Crosby was also denied in the shootout.

NHL to make ‘special announcement’ in China next week

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The National Hockey League has announced it will make a “special announcement” at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China next Thursday.

In January, the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear the NHL has interest in playing games in China — likely starting out with pre-season games before potentially adding in some regular season contests in the future, as well.

Just after the league made its announcement on Thursday, the L.A. Kings tweeted out that they will participate in next week’s event, along with the Vancouver Canucks.

In January, hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Canucks and Kings were likely to play NHL pre-season games in China this upcoming September.

Last July, members of the Boston Bruins visited China, specifically Beijing and Shanghai, to host hockey clinics in those cities.

Beijing will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Flyers survive early Mason mistake to upset Wild

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Insert the ‘It’s not how you start but how you finish’ cliche right here.

The Philadelphia Flyers fell behind the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, as Zach Parise was the beneficiary of a Steve Mason mistake just 2:07 into the first period.

Mason couldn’t control the deflection into the zone, coughing up a rebound in front. Eric Staal forced a loose puck to Parise and he buried it to open the scoring.

Yeah, not ideal for the Flyers, who are still clinging to the slimmest of playoff hopes.

But they responded with three unanswered goals, including this beauty from Sean Couturier.

Philadelphia took over for a 3-1 victory, with Mason making 24 saves on 25 shots, as Minnesota’s struggles continue. The Wild still sit second in the Central Division but have only two wins in their last 10 games and were unable to secure a playoff spot Thursday.