What a hockey game we just witnessed.
The Chicago Blackhawks have forced a Game 7 in the Western Conference Final by beating the L.A. Kings by a final score of 4-3 on Friday. It was back-and-forth. There was heavy hitting. There was an exchange of pleasantries between goalies Corey Crawford and Jonathan Quick. And there was star power. No, not the celebs in the seats of the Staples Center.
We’re talking Drew Doughty. And Patrick Kane. Those two players themselves went shot-for-shot in the third period.
The Kings, needing a win to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three years, entered the third period down a goal. But they responded, and took the lead with two goals in 2:06 early, thanks to the brilliance of Doughty, who tied the game and then showed strength, finesse and guts by setting up Alec Martinez to give L.A. a 3-2 lead.
After going the first three games of this series without a point, Kane has been on fire in the last three games. He set up Keith to get Chicago on even terms less than four minutes after L.A. took the third-period lead. Then, the shifty and highly skilled Blackhawks forward gave his team the lead, beating Quick with a wrist shot after evading the coverage of Marian Gaborik.
In the last three games, Kane has eight points. And the Blackhawks have forced a deciding game after trailing in this series 3-1. Meanwhile, it will mark the third time in these playoffs the Kings have played in a Game 7.
It was a remarkable display between the two teams on Friday. It’s not over. They’ll meet one last time this spring on Sunday, as they battle for a berth in the championship series and the chance to face the New York Rangers.
For those Maple Leafs fans who once hoped Steven Stamkos would go to free agency and sign in Toronto, what transpired Tuesday will probably sting for a bit.
Playing in Toronto for the first time since he re-signed with the Lightning, opting not to test the open market and potentially signing with what is essentially his hometown team, Stamkos scored 1:19 into the contest, after getting sent in alone and beating goalie Frederik Andersen.
That one might hurt.
There was even a smattering of boos directed at Stamkos, who has never played a game for the Leafs, when he first touched the puck during Tuesday’s contest.
You’ll recall that last season, the Stamkos-to-Toronto speculation dominated headlines at times. A bit of a “circus,” indeed.
There were even ‘Sign Stamkos’ signs being handed out to fans prior to a game between the Lightning and Maple Leafs last season.
All signs pointed to it happening earlier in the day, but it is now official: Sidney Crosby is making his 2016-17 debut on Tuesday night when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Florida Panthers.
Crosby, the captain of the Penguins and the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner, missed the first six games of the season due to a concussion. He was injured during practice following the World Cup of Hockey where he led Canada to a championship. Given how much time he missed a few years ago with a concussion only missing six games a positive development for both him and the Penguins.
Crosby will open the game skating on the Penguins’ top line alongside wingers Patric Hornqvist and Scott Wilson.
Along with Crosby return to the lineup, goaltender Matt Murray is also in uniform for the Penguins for the first time this season and will serve as Marc-Andre Fleury‘s backup.
Murray, who took over the starting job in the playoffs last year when Fleury was sidelined at the start of the first round, was injured at the World Cup while playing for Team North America and has been sidelined since.
Even with the return of Crosby and Murray on Tuesday the Penguins are still missing a pretty significant player as defenseman Kris Letang remains sidelined with an upper body injury.
The Buffalo Sabres visit the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. This match-up features two teams off to slow starts and looking to work their way up the standings in their respective divisions.
You can check out the action on NBCSN or the NBC Sports’ Live Extra (7:30 pm ET).
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE
Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:
Flyers put Raffl (upper body) on IR
NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Sabres vs. Flyers; Ducks vs. Sharks
Bylsma: ‘We need to get more’ out of Reinhart
After missing the last week with an upper-body ailment, Flyers forward Michael Raffl has been placed on injured reserve.
To fill his spot, the Flyers recalled Taylor Leier from AHL Lehigh Valley.
Raffl, 27, has appeared in three games this season, scoring once while averaging 12:21 TOI per night. He hasn’t suited up since a 7-4 loss to Chicago on Oct. 18, failing to suit up for Thursday’s loss to Anaheim, Saturday’s win over Carolina and yesterday’s 3-1 defeat in Montreal.
The Flyers are taking on Buffalo tonight (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
Philly could make this IR designation retroactive to last Tuesday, which is when Raffl last played. It’s unclear how GM Ron Hextall will handle Raffl’s $2.35 million cap hit with regards to IR, but he’ll need to do some adjusting soon once injured defenseman Michael Del Zotto and forward Scott Laughton get back in the mix.