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.

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.