Rangers need to use their speed against Kings

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The New York Rangers have been a force through three rounds in these Stanley Cup playoffs because of their speed.

It’s with that relentless pace that they knocked out the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Final, and they believe it’s what they’ll need if they’re to be successful against the L.A. Kings when it matters the most – in the Stanley Cup Final.

“Our speed definitely helped us in terms of creating good chances. We just need to continue doing that throughout the series,” said New York forward Carl Hagelin, who scored a short-handed goal late in the first period of Wednesday’s Game 1 loss for the Rangers.

“It’s hard to beat them. All their (defense) are pretty steady defensively. You have to make sure you get behind them and hopefully win races.”

The Rangers, including head coach Alain Vigneault, were still lamenting an opportunity that got away from them in the championship series opener. New York jumped out to a two-goal lead, but gave up three unanswered goals in the loss.

The Rangers registered 33 bodychecks compared to the 45 of the Kings. Although, they feel that, again, using their speed on the forecheck should be a benefit.

You don’t necessarily have to plaster an opposing player to the boards, but their ability to get in and pressure opposing defenders has been a major strength for New York during this post-season.

For the majority of the game, I felt we were matching them, too, physically. We had some big hits ourselves. We understand they’re going to be physical on us, and we’re not going to shy away from it for sure,” said Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh.

“We’ve got to look for opportunities to be physical on them for our forecheck, our speed. Doesn’t necessarily have to be a big hit, but utilizing our legs, getting on the right side of guys, creating turnovers that way is part of being physical, too. We feel we can play that game, as well.”

Bolts close gap on struggling Bruins in playoff race

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Well, that was quite a third period.

For the Boston Bruins, it was disastrous. For the Tampa Bay Lightning, it propelled them to a critical victory in the playoff race.

Nikita Kucherov completed the hat trick with a pair of goals in the final period and Jonathan Drouin scored what would eventually be the winner, as Tampa Bay snapped its own three-game losing streak in a 6-3 victory, putting the Bolts within three points of the final wild card spot — held by the Bruins — in the Eastern Conference.

The Drouin goal — his 18th of the season but first since Feb. 19, a span of 13 games — is probably one Tuukka Rask would like back.

Drouin teed up the slap shot from the faceoff circle, beating Rask under the left arm.

And just like that, the Bruins have lost four consecutive games. On Saturday, they face the New York Islanders, another team looking to catch Boston in the wild card race.

Read more: Remember this stretch if Bruins settle for a wild card spot (or worse?)

The Islanders are only two points back of Boston.

Despite the win, there was bad news for the Lightning during this game, as defenseman Jason Garrison left with an injury.

From NHL.com:

The play occurred behind the Lightning goal, Garrison appearing to get his left leg rolled up from behind by a Bruin. Garrison had to be helped off the ice by Anton Stralman and Brayden Point and headed back to the Bolts’ locker room.

The team announced during the second intermission that Garrison sustained a lower-body injury. He did not return to the game.

Video: Ovechkin rocks custom skates for Russian Heritage Night

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As promised, Capitals star Alex Ovechkin rocked a pair of custom skates in honor of Russian Heritage Night on Thursday.

On his right skate, he paid tribute to the United States with a custom design, and paid tribute to his home nation on his left skate while taking the pre-game warm-up prior to facing the Columbus Blue Jackets.

He’ll be auctioning off the skates, as well.

From CSN Mid-Atlantic:

The skates were painted by noted custom shoe artists Nick Avery and Polo Kerber, whom Ovechkin personally selected. The skates feature the U.S. and Russia flags as well as the Capitol Building and Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral.

Video: Crosby slash leaves Methot’s finger bloodied and injured (Updated)

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Sidney Crosby has made news lately for his goal scoring and his use of the stick.

He speared Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly below the belt the other night, and on Thursday he delivered a slash to Senators defenseman Marc Methot, who has since not returned to the game.

The slash rendered a finger on Methot’s left hand bloodied and injured. It certainly didn’t look good as Method (calmly) skated to the bench.

There was no call on the play.

Updated: Methot won’t return to this game.

Show me the money! Nylander sets Leafs rookie record with latest assist

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Toronto’s talented rookies were back at it again Thursday, as William Nylander and Auston Matthews combined to set up the Maple Leafs’ first goal versus the New Jersey Devils.

Nylander added the second assist on the power play goal, giving him 35 helpers on the season.

That’s significant for a couple of reasons: He extends his point streak to 10 games, which sets a new Leafs rookie record. And the assist reportedly secured him another entry-level bonus:

Not bad.