On Yzerman, the Lightning plan and new scout Callahan

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Gotta love it when a plan comes together.

On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning made a big free agent splash by bringing aboard two key members to the Rangers’ Stanley Cup run — center Brian Boyle and defenseman Anton Stralman.

And, per the Tampa Tribune, a prominent ex-Blueshirt played a big role bringing them aboard:

[Lightning GM Steve] Yzerman said he solicited information on Stralman and Boyle with Lightning forward Ryan Callahan, who was captain of the Rangers and played with both players before being dealt to Tampa Bay at the trade deadline in March, .

“We got (Callahan’s) thoughts on them, make sure that what we see of them as players is correct and get the character reference and if they will fit into our locker room,’’ Yzerman said. “So, he was a wealth of information for us.’’

No huge surprise. The Callahan-Boyle-Stralman trio spent parts of three years together in New York — for Boyle and Callahan, it was five — and as the free agent market began to unfold, it was clear the Lightning were freeing up money for UFA targets (which, hindsight being 20/20, were guys Callahan provided valuable intel on.)

On Sunday, Yzerman made a flurry of moves designed to land said targets, first shipping Teddy Purcell to Edmonton for Sam Gagner, then flipping Gagner and B.J. Crombeen to Phoenix for a draft pick. Shortly thereafter, Yzerman sent gritty forward Nate Thompson to Anaheim for a pair of picks — and when the dust settled, the Lightning GM suddenly had $9 million in cap space.

The moves were in lockstep with the plan Tampa Bay executed throughout the offseason: clear cap space and roster room.

Previous transactions also freed up money (like the compliance buyout for Ryan Malone) so the club could spend dollars to improve areas of need — notably on defense, where, in addition to Stralman, ex-Canuck Jason Garrison was brought aboard.

The plan also called for Yzerman to clear roster room so his young forward prospects could make the leap to the NHL. It worked last year with Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat — who put forth Calder-worthy seasons — and the Bolts are hopeful it’ll work again now with the likes of Jonathan Drouin (3rd overall, ’13) and Brett Connolly (6th overall, ’10).

Overall, Yzerman finished his work — “I don’t see us doing a whole lot [more],” he said yesterday — sounding pretty happy with how it all came together.

“We like the moves that we’ve made,” Yzerman said. “I’m cautiously optimistic and I like what we’ve been able to do and I’m pleased.

“And the end of the day on July 1, we feel OK.”

Video: Getzlaf, Perry, Kesler lose cool in scuffle with Kassian, Oilers

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In the first round, Zack Kassian reminded the hockey world why he came into the league with considerable hype as a first-rounder, as he scored some big goals for the Edmonton Oilers.

Of course, there’s a reason why Kassian has 522 penalty minutes in 313 career regular-season games. He can be a nasty presence who straddles the line.

He did as much late in Game 1, getting into it with Ryan Kesler, and then things really got out of hand. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and others were involved in “histrionics.”

(Who wants to start a Patreon to find out what Getzlaf and Andrej Sekera were saying to each other, by the way?)

It looks like the players involved were only whistled for roughing minors rather than fighting majors. This caps a tough night for Anaheim, who lost 5-3 and saw Kevin Bieksa suffer a troubling lower-body injury.

King Leon: Draisaitl collects four points vs. Ducks to give Oilers a Game 1 win

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So far, the Edmonton Oilers had been showing that they can win tight, low-scoring playoff games. And then the third period of Game 1 against the Anaheim Ducks happened.

The two teams entered the final frame tied 1-1, with smaller breaks and bounces being the story. Then just about everything happened in the third, with Leon Draisaitl guiding the Oilers to a 5-3 win to take a 1-0 series lead.

Draisaitl ended up with a goal and three assists, extending his point streak to three games (seven points during that span).

He wasn’t the only Oilers player to raise some eyebrows, and actually, the other two starring members were a lot more surprising. Mark Letestu seemed to make the early difference with two power-play goals, while low-scoring defenseman Adam Larsson found the net twice, including on the game-winner.

Phew, that’s a lot to absorb, right? This video captures the wildest scoring stretch of that period, even if there would be more:

While Connor McDavid hasn’t been bad, he’s been quiet – by his lofty standards – so far in the Oilers’ run, and that was mostly true on Wednesday. He ended up with a mere secondary assist in this one,

Yet, that might just be part of the good news for the Oilers. They advanced after McDavid had spotty series against the Sharks, and they just gave the Ducks their first postseason loss of 2017 with Draisaitl and others stealing the headlines.

Things got nasty at the end of this game, with key Ducks such as Ryan Getzlaf being prominently involved. Such moments make it clear that Anaheim isn’t likely to bow out of this one easily (and perhaps not gracefully?) but that should only make for a captivating Game 2.

That Game 2 airs Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN; you can watch online or via the NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream link.

Keep an eye on Oilers’ Slepyshev (the Ducks certainly should)

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The breaks and breakaways frequently went the Edmonton Oilers’ way as they eliminated the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of their first-round series. Those results have been more of a mixed bag for Edmonton against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 1 tonight, though.

Anton Slepyshev is a great example of those ups and downs.

In Game 6 against the Sharks, Slepyshev used his speed to score a breakaway tally that ended up being the game-winner. (See here for those friendly breakaways.)

Slepyshev’s been burning the Ducks with his speed on Wednesday, but the Oilers have been burned in the process. For one thing, John Gibson turned aside this big chance shortly after Ryan Getzlaf gave Anaheim a 1-0 lead:

Later on in that same second period, Slepyshev got a step on the Ducks defense again. This time, he didn’t just fail to score; he took a goalie interference penalty for bumping Gibson.

With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins being among those hitting posts, it might feel like it’s all against the Oilers this time around, but crossbars/postsanother theme from Edmonton’s Game 6 win vs. San Jose – have more or less balanced out.

And, one break really went Edmonton’s way: a Ducks defender broke his stick on the Oilers’ 5-on-3 opportunity, opening the door for a crucial Mark Letestu goal:

The end result is a 1-1 tie, but give the Oilers credit for not getting rattled. If Slepyshev can keep up his efforts, his speed could be a factor in a series that looks like it could be a real tug-o-war.

Jake Allen takes blame for Predators’ game-winner vs. Blues

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Let’s be honest: the St. Louis Blues owe a lot to Jake Allen‘s work against the Minnesota Wild in that first-round series.

He probably bought himself a significant amount of goodwill for that outstanding work, but Allen isn’t resting on his laurels. He admitted that “a little mistake by me cost” the Blues the 4-3 decision against the Predators, leaving St. Louis down 1-0 to Nashville.

The goal in question was Vernon Fiddler‘s unlikely 4-3 tally, which came after an unsuccessful poke check attempt by Allen:

Now, to be fair, that wasn’t even the only failed poke check that turned into a goal, as Pekka Rinne also got beat after making such an attempt:

Then again, Allen is wise to score points with teammates for taking the blame. As far as his team, head coach Mike Yeo believes that it was the second period that really made the difference.

Regardless, Allen and the Blues hope to carry over the momentum from their third-period dominance in Game 1 to Game 2 to tie the series 1-1.

That contest airs on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Friday. (You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; here’s the livestream link.)