Martin St. Louis

PHT Morning Skate: Rangers battle to return to Stanley Cup Final

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It was less than a week ago that the Chicago Blackhawks had a 1-0 series lead in the Western Conference Final and were up 2-0 against Los Angeles late in the second period of Game 2. The Kings overcame that deficit with six unanswered goals and haven’t looked back since.

With a 5-2 victory last night, the Kings have a commanding 3-1 series lead for the first time in the playoffs.

We’ve seen them excel with their backs against the wall during their 2014 postseason run. The question now is if Chicago will be able to give them a taste of their own medicine or if the Kings will eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champions just one year after Chicago did the same thing to them.

While the Kings and Blackhawks get ready for a critical Game 5, the Rangers and Canadiens will play in a key contest of their own.

Game 5: Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers [Rangers lead series 3-1] (8:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

When Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price was eliminated from the series after just one game, it was fair to wonder if Montreal’s chances of advancing to the Stanley Cup Final were going with him. In desperation they turned to Dustin Tokarski, a 24-year-old with just 10 games worth of NHL experience, in the hopes that he could at least hold his own against a world-class netminder like New York’s Henrik Lundqvist.

Tokarski has risen to the challenge, but as it turns out, that alone might not be enough to save the Canadiens’ season.

Following the Rangers’ 7-2 blowout victory in Game 1, each game has been decided by two or fewer goals and the last two contests have gone to overtime. However, the fact that the Rangers have been winning by the skin of their teeth doesn’t make the situation any less dire for Montreal.

Martin St. Louis, the overtime hero in Game 4, has been superb and former Canadiens draft pick Ryan McDonagh has frustrated Montreal. Even Rick Nash has finally been clicking finally ended his goal scoring drought earlier in the series.

With the Rangers’ best looking sharp, the stage seems to be set for them to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1994. At the same time, they know how little it would take for everything they’ve built to fall apart.

“This is far from over,” Rangers forward Brad Richards said after Game 4. “I remember sitting in here down 3-1 against Pittsburgh. They will feel bad tonight, but tomorrow they will wake up in front of their home crowd and once that game starts, 3-1, you throw that out the window and it is back in the battle again.

“We have to realize the longer it goes the more life and more belief they get, so it’s going to be a very important start to the next game.”

We’ve seen so many remarkable comebacks already in the 2014 playoffs. Montreal would certainly like to give us another.

Rangers recall Jensen from AHL

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 04: Casey Cizikas #53 of the New York Islanders checsk Nicklas Jensen #39 of the New York Rangers during the first period at the Barclays Center on October 4, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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In the wake of injuries to Rick Nash (groin) and Matt Puempel (concussion), the New York Rangers have recalled winger Nicklas Jensen from AHL Hartford.

Jensen, 23, has yet to play a regular-season game for the Rangers since coming to the organization in a trade with Vancouver. The former first-round draft pick has eight goals and seven assists in 21 games for the Wolf Pack this season.

The Rangers’ next game is Thursday in Winnipeg. They’re expected to have Michael Grabner back by then, after he traveled to Austria for his grandmother’s funeral and missed last night’s loss to the Islanders.

     Read more: Jensen feeling good about his game

It remains to be seen if Jensen will be in the lineup tomorrow. But with Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich also out injured, this may be an opportunity for Jensen to show he can score in the NHL.

The 29th overall pick in 2011, Jensen played 24 games for the Canucks but managed just three goals and three assists before he was traded last season for Emerson Etem.

Head coach Alain Vigneault said last night that he’d know more today about Nash’s status.

The Rangers also play Friday in Chicago.

Related: Despite winning record, Rangers ‘very aware’ they must be better

Fare thee well, John Scott

Pacific Division forward John Scott (28) is lifted up by teammates Mark Giordano (5), of the Calgary Flames, Joe Pavelski (8), and Brent Burns (88), of the San Jose Sharks after they defeated the Atlantic Division team 1-0 at an NHL hockey All-Star championship game, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. The Pacific Division won 1-0. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
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For John Scott, the ride is officially over.

Scott, the longtime NHL enforcer that became a folk hero by capturing MVP honors at last year’s All-Star Game, officially announced his retirement from pro hockey on Wednesday.

From his piece in The Players’ Tribune:

It has been a hell of a ride. But I’m done. I am officially retired, as of today.

I scored five goals. I had four kids. And I had one hell of a good time over the years. By my count, I only had 43 fights in the NHL. I only really lost one clean, in my humble opinion. Congratulations, Justin Johnson. You caught me with the left hook. What can I say? Good job.

Can I just make a final confession, though? I don’t care what people remember about me as a hockey player, but please remember this one thing: I didn’t love to fight. The actual 30 seconds of fighting was fine. Your adrenaline takes over and the competition of battling at such a high level is actually enjoyable. The problem is all the anticipation of having to drop the gloves with another very skilled individual who can hurt you.

The waiting is what drives you crazy. It’s not very easy on your psyche, especially once you have a family.

PHT covered Scott fairly extensively at the 2016 ASG in Nashville.

If I had one significant takeaway, it was this:

Scott was a really bright guy. (Note: considering he’s a mechanical engineering alumnus from Michigan Tech, this might not be a “significant takeaway.” But bear with me.)

He was bright enough to realize how lucky he was to play in the All-Star Game, but he was also bright enough to realize the platform it provided. Everybody got to see the side of Scott that went well beyond the punching and grappling — he was a quick-witted, introspective, genuine person that was unbelievably appreciative of the opportunities he’d been provided.

Yes, he knew he spent the better part of 10 professional hockey campaigns beating up opponents, or intimidating them into thinking he might.

But that’s what he had to do to get to the sport’s highest apex. And he wanted to make it clear — that didn’t define him as a person. He didn’t love it, but he loved playing in the NHL, and never took a second of his time in the league for granted.

It’s a complex narrative to weave, though. Which is why John Scott wanted to write his own story.

So he did.

He’s now forever be a part of NHL history, which is great. The stats might not reflect an unforgettable player — 286 games, 11 points, 544 PIM — but there he is, etched in the record books alongside a list of All-Star MVPs that includes the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr and Mario Lemieux.

That’s pretty cool.

Happy trails, John Scott.

NHL on NBCSN: Ovechkin will look to stay out of the box against Bruins

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 18: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals collides with Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden on October 21, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts.  The Bruins defeated the Capitals 4-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Washington Capitals host the Boston Bruins at 8:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

The Capitals put an end to their three-game losing streak by defeating the Buffalo Sabres in overtime on Monday night, but the biggest thing that came out of that game was coach Barry Trotz’s criticism of Alex Ovechkin.

“If it’s going on again, then there’s not going to be a lot of power play and playing time,” Trotz said, per the Washington Post. “If my message is not getting through, then the only thing I have is really ice time.”

On Tuesday, Ovechkin, who has five minor penalties in his last three games, had a chance to respond to his coach’s comments.

“Obviously, I have to be on the ice and not in the penalty box,” Ovechkin said. “It’s a good thing we talk. It’s my mistakes, and I just have to handle it and don’t take those penalties.”

Washington’s captain seems to have taken the criticism in stride, and we’ll see if Trotz’s message gets through to him right away.

Beyond the Ovechkin story line, the Capitals have surprisingly had a difficult time scoring goals.

With names like Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and company, you’d think that they’d be willing to fill the net with ease. Instead, Washington currently sits 23rd in goals for with 61.

They’ll be going head-to-head with the team that’s scored the same amount of goals, the Boston Bruins.

Boston’s inability to score with regularity was a little easier to predict than Washington’s, but they’re hoping that their latest 4-3 OT win over the Panthers will give them a spark.

“A few more guys are feeling [better] about their games, and know that we’re capable of putting a crooked number up like that. It bodes well moving forward,” said David Backes, per CSN New England. “But you can’t think that we’re going to relax after the effort that we put in. We’ve got to skill to those dirty areas and still get those second and third chances, and not take anything off during those opportunities. It’s got to go to the back of the net.”

One Bruin who isn’t struggling, is David Pastrnak. The 20-year-old has been one of the pleasant surprises of the 2016-17 season.

He’s already scored 15 goals in 21 games, which puts him on pace to find the back of the net an incredible 55 times.

This should be a great one!

PHT Morning Skate: A beer named after Shayne Gostisbehere

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–Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere took the league by storm last year and obviously, people noticed. Starting on Friday, he’ll have a beer named after him. The Conshohocken Brewery is coming out with the “Ghost Bear Golden Ale”. (Bardown)

–No one expected rookie Brandon Carlo to make the Bruins out of camp, but he’s been terrific in his first NHL season. Thanks to his reach and wingspan, he’s been able to be effective in his own zone. “The one thing is that he’s so long and his stick is so long, it gives him time to recover because as a young kid in the league you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. He has the ability to come back and recover,” said teammate Torey Krug. (CSN New England)

–The Pittsburgh Penguins have an interesting dilemma with the upcoming expansion draft. First, they need to figure out if they’ll keep eight skaters and one goalie or seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie. Once that’s settled, the team will need to figure what to do with Marc-Andre Fleury and a youngster like Derrick Pouliot. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun takes a closer look at their situation. (ESPN)

–Through 24 games, Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon has yet to pick up a single penalty minute. Some people might see that as a positive thing, but others might feel he’s too soft. So, which one is it? We know what MacKinnon thinks: “I’m being aggressive. I’m playing regularly, just not taking any minors. I think it’s a good thing. Usually I’m good for some roughing penalties and I’ve asked a couple guys to fight this year. I’m not trying to have zero penalty minutes,” said MacKinnon. (Denver Post)

–Injuries have hit the Tampa Bay Lightning pretty hard this year, but they have a bargaining chip named Ben Bishop. Is it time for them to trade him? Here are five reasons why they should.  (The Hockey News)

–The San Jose Sharks are having some fun on social media. Their latest hilarious video involves players guessing which teammate of theirs is depicted in a young fan’s drawing. It’s pretty funny: