Montreal Canadiens v New York Rangers - Game Three

Do Rangers prefer Kings or Blackhawks? AV: ‘Pick your poison’

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You won’t run into many situations in which an idle playoff team will acknowledge its preferred opponent as the next round approaches. Even so, it seems that much easier to believe the New York Rangers when they seem ambivalent regarding their opponent in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.

As strong as the Rangers have looked during their best moments in their first run to the championship round in 20 years, there’s a good chance most pundits will predict that the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks will go on to win it all.

Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault certainly didn’t provide any potential bulletin board material to the Bergen Record, deeming it a “pick your poison” situation.

“They’re two different teams,” Derick Brassard said. “Chicago is really high skilled. They transition really well. They have a good D corps. And L.A. is in your face. They work hard. But it doesn’t matter. We never picked our opponent. Every round you’re facing a different team and you’re up for the challenge.”

Whether the Rangers are “rooting” for one team or the other, they admit that they’ll watch tonight’s big contest.

They’ll bring an interesting perspective, too.

“I think it’s 50-50 – as a fan, but also you try to see what they like to do,” Henrik Lundqvist said. “We only played them twice, so we kind of know what to expect, but we’re going to have meetings in the next couple of days to go over what they like to do. But, a big part of me just likes watching the games right now. It’s intense out there. It’s good speed and great players making great plays, good goaltending. So, it’s fun to watch the game.

“So, I’m a fan, but also will try to learn a little bit.”

For what it’s worth, the Rangers fared pretty well in their games against those Western Conference powers:

Jan. 3: 3-2 at Chicago
Feb. 27: 2-1 win vs. Chicago

Oct. 7: 3-1 win at Los Angeles
Nov. 17: 1-0 loss vs. Los Angeles

Obviously a lot of time has passed and the stakes are significantly higher, so they might actually learn more from watching these two teams on June 1 than they would from meetings stretching back several months.

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

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The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

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The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

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Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.