New York Rangers v Montreal Canadiens - Game Five

With Lundqvist, AV is nipping potential meltdowns in the bud

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Alain Vigneault didn’t ask Henrik Lundqvist if he wanted to go back in for the third period. The Rangers coach had already made the decision to pull his star goalie less than halfway through Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final, after Montreal had taken a 4-1 lead and the Bell Centre had entered full-on madhouse mode.

Backup Cam Talbot was the one between the pipes as New York stormed back to tie it, and he stayed between the pipes for the rest of the game, a 7-4 Canadiens victory. Talbot surrendered one goal in the second, after New York had leveled the score, then one more in the third. The Habs scored their seventh into an empty net.

“I pulled [Lundqvist] because I thought at that time we needed a little momentum shift, and I thought it might catch everybody’s attention,” Vigneault said. “It did for a while. Obviously, it didn’t work out.”

It was the second time in these playoffs that Lundqvist had been pulled after allowing four goals prior to the second intermission. He got the hook in Game 6 of the Rangers’ first-round series versus Philadelphia, before responding with a solid performance in Game 7, a 2-1 New York victory.

Vigneault expects another solid bounce-back Thursday at Madison Square Garden, this time with a chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

“He’s a veteran player,” the coach said today. “One of the best in his area, and I’m sure he’s going to be focused and ready for the next game.”

Vigneault, you may recall, was criticized when he was coaching Vancouver for failing to pull Roberto Luongo during rough playoff outings. Like in Game 3 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, when Luongo allowed all eight goals in an 8-1 loss to the Bruins in Boston.

“[Luongo] said, ‘Don’t even think about taking me out,’ so that’s what I did,” Vigneault said after that game, leaving many to wonder why the coach had left the decision up to the player. It was 4-0 after 15:47 of the second period. Why not pull him then, before things got really out of hand? Which they most certainly did. Much to the delight of the Boston fans.

The very next game, Vigneault did pull Luongo, early in the third after he’d allowed four goals on just 20 shots, perhaps still shaken from his previous outing.

But it was the eight-goal meltdown that people still remember to this day. And don’t forget, all the blame Luongo received after the Canucks blew a 2-0 lead and lost to the Bruins was a factor in his much-publicized request to be traded.

Three years later, is it possible Vigneault has learned from his experience in Vancouver? That he’s realized people have a way of forgetting when goalies get pulled after allowing four goals? That it’s the big-time meltdowns — when six, seven or eight get past a guy — that everyone remembers, and can have franchise-altering consequences?

Only the coach has the power to nip those meltdowns in the bud.

“We didn’t give [Lundqvist] too much help,” said Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi, “and obviously A.V. felt that was the right move just to get him out of the game.”

And get re-focused for the next one.

 

Devils unveil ‘The Salute’ statue in honor of Martin Brodeur

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The New Jersey Devils on Monday unveiled ‘The Salute’ — a statue paying homage to one of the greatest goalies in NHL history, Martin Brodeur, who will have his No. 30 uniform retired Tuesday at Prudential Center.

“Looking at the pictures of my career and some of the events that meant a lot to me, I always saluted the fans,” Brodeur, a three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Devils, told the Fire and Ice blog.

“That picture, at different times, in different jerseys, actually, like with Team Canada, it all came to that same pose.”

More on the statue from the Devils:

The 900-pound bronze statue was created by renowned sculpture and artist Jon Krawczyk, who worked with Brodeur on the design. Krawczyk, a Boonton Township, N.J. native and lifelong Devils fan, who also created the hockey statue on Championship Plaza outside of Prudential Center, personally drove “The Salute” from his Malibu, Cali. studio to the arena late last week.

Video: Panthers furious after Abdelkader ‘cheap shot’ hit on Barkov

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The Florida Panthers are fuming after their skilled 20-year-old forward Aleksander Barkov left Monday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings following a hit from Justin Abdelkader.

Abdelkader caught Barkov with a hard hit near the goal line as the Panthers player tried to move the puck up ice early in the second period.

The only call on the play was to Panthers’ blue liner Alex Petrovic for the retaliatory cross check on Abdelkader. Barkov left the game and didn’t return with an upper-body injury.

Members of the Panthers irate with the hit, and the fact there was no call.

“It was a cheap hit, I don’t know how the ref didn’t call it,” Nick Bjugstad told the Miami Herald. “It was frustrating, the whole bench felt that way. We’re not happy with it. It turned the game around. Barkov has tough shoes to fill. It looked pretty serious. We’ll see how the league handles it and I think they will. I just don’t know how it wasn’t handled on the ice.”

“You hate to lose your top player, but that’s part of the game,” added Panthers’ head coach Gerard Gallant.

“We’re disappointed to lose him. I thought it was a cheap shot but the referees didn’t see it that way and explained to me it was a clean check. It’s tough. It happens quick and we get to see the replay. I think it’ll be looked at. [Abdelkader] left his feet a little and got him in the jaw.”

The Panthers gave up three goals in the third period in a 3-0 loss to the Red Wings.

Penguins thump the Ducks as Crosby’s hot streak continues

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In a meeting between two clubs enjoying hot streaks and their own subsequent climbs through the standings, the Pittsburgh Penguins bested the Anaheim Ducks courtesy another dominant Sidney Crosby performance on Monday.

After that slow start, Crosby has put together a growing number of dominant performances of late.

The latest, a four-point night, helped the Penguins to a 6-2 final over the Ducks, stopping Anaheim’s winning streak at six games.

— He extended his scoring streak to a career best seven games, and did so with two beauty goals versus the Ducks.

— From Dec. 18 to Feb. 8, he’s appeared in 21 games. In that span, he’s recorded 34 points.

— Crosby is now into the top five among NHL players in points, with 53 in 51 games this season.

He wasn’t the only Pittsburgh player to have a big night. Keep in mind, Evgeni Malkin wasn’t even in the lineup due to a lower-body injury.

Ten different Penguins players recorded points. In addition to Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang had multi-point efforts, and four players — Kunitz, Crosby, Olli Maatta and Patric Hornqvist — were plus-four.

The Penguins now move into third in the Metropolitan Division, while the New York Islanders slip into the first Wild Card spot in the East. Pittsburgh’s lead over the Islanders, however, is only one point.

The Islanders also have a game in hand.

Panthers’ Barkov (upper-body injury) leaves game versus Red Wings

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The Florida Panthers will be without Aleksander Barkov for the remainder of their game versus the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.

As per multiple reports, Barkov will not return due to an upper-body injury suffered after a hit from Justin Abdelkader early in the second period.

Abdelkader wasn’t given a penalty on the play. Barkov didn’t play another shift after that hit.

In 42 games this season, the 20-year-old Barkov has 16 goals and 35 points.