MONTREAL, QC - MAY 27: Dustin Tokarski #35 of the Montreal Canadiens defends the net against Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final in the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell Centre on May 27, 2014 in Montreal, Canada. Canadiens defeated the Rangers 7-4.

PHT Morning Skate: Rangers get second chance to eliminate Montreal


Like the Montreal Canadiens before them, the Chicago Blackhawks were able to stave off elimination last night when faced with a 3-1 series deficit. They certainly didn’t make it look easy as the Los Angeles Kings pushed them to the bitter end in the double-overtime contest, but the Blackhawks have lived to fight another day.

The series switch off again today, which means that we’re back to the Eastern Conference Final.

Game 6: Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers [New York leads 3-2] (8:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist squandered his first opportunity to reach the Stanley Cup Final, but his strong effort earlier in the series has afforded him two more chances.

Lundqvist was yanked just 28:58 minutes into Tuesday’s contest after allowing four goals on 19 shots. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, it would have been interesting to see if Lundqvist could have shrugged off his rough start as the Rangers rallied back from a 4-1 deficit after he left the game, but backup Cam Talbot couldn’t hold onto the lead.

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

At the same time, yanking him prevented the situation from getting out of hand and potentially hurting his confidence. Now Lundqvist can come back tonight fresh and refocused. He’s not the only Rangers player that needs to do that.

“We didn’t give [Lundqvist] too much help,” Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi acknowledged.

For Montreal, all eyes will be on Max Pacioretty, who scored 39 goals in the regular season, but has been on-and-off in the playoffs. He struggled in Game 4 and called on himself to bounce back for Game 5. He did just that by scoring a goal and an assist, but the Canadiens need sustained production out of him.

Montreal doesn’t have any margin for error left and can’t count on another seven-goal outing led by a hat trick from an unlikely hero like Rene Bourque. Ultimately, the Canadiens top players will probably make or break them and that puts the pressure on Pacioretty.

Montreal’s defense needs to step up too, which had a nasty breakdown midway through Game 5 when the Rangers scored three unanswered goals in less than five minutes. That kind of stretch would have sunk the team on another night.

Even if Carey Price had been healthy, he wouldn’t have been able to bail out his teammates entirely during that stretch, but it’s not like rookie goalie Dustin Tokarski was blameless. He certainly has made some great saves along the way and deserves a lot of credit for coming into a high pressure situation and holding his own despite his lack of NHL experience. Still, Tokarski will have his hands full tonight if Lundqvist and the Rangers defense bounce back.

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado