Mats Zuccarello #36 of the New York Rangers celebrates a goal against the Philadelphia Flyers during their game on March 6, 2011 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.
(March 5, 2011 - Source: Al Bello/Getty Images North America)

Rangers, Zuccarello have ‘good’ initial contract talks

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The New York Rangers have had an offseason filled with turnover — losing Brad Richards, Brian Boyle, Anton Stralman and Benoit Pouliot while adding Dan Boyle and Tanner Glass — so it had to be comforting to hear that negotiations are going well with last year’s leading scorer, RFA winger Mats Zuccarello.

From the New York Daily News:

Zuccarello’s agent, Craig Oster, reiterated his optimism Wednesday when he told the Daily News that the Newport Sports team had a “good” meeting with Gorton at last weekend’s NHL draft in Philadelphia.

Oster said Zuccarello knows the Rangers have a cap squeeze, the Blueshirts know he’s valuable, and they simply have to find a contract that fits both of their needs.

After the dust settled from the first two days of free agency, New York emerged with around $15 million in cap space to re-sign Zuccarello and fellow RFAs John Moore, Derick Brassard and Chris Kreider. While Kreider might be the most important long-term — just 23, the budding power forward had 17 goals last year and finished 10th in Calder voting — Zuccarello is the most pressing concern for the present.

The diminutive Norwegian played a huge role for the Rangers last season and did it on a tidy one-year, $1.5 million deal. He was a consistent producer both in the regular season (59 points in 77 games) and playoffs (13 in 25), all while averaging more than 17 minutes a night. At 26, he’s got plenty of quality years ahead of him and while he and Brassard will miss Pouliot — that line was New York’s best at times last season — it shouldn’t be too overwhelming a departure.

As such, the big question lingers… how much is Zuccarello going to command? Per Norwegian news outlet VG Sporten, Zuccarello is reportedly looking at a four-year pact worth $4-$5 million annually. If accurate, that really puts a dent in New York’s available money for its remaining RFAs.

PHT Morning Skate: Shane Doan takes a (friendly) shot at the Miracle on Ice

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Shane Doan took a friendly jab at the the movie “Miracle” and the Miracle on Ice. (BarDown)

–The best of the worst Upper Deck hockey cards from 2015-16. (Puck Junk)

–Here’s a list of the top 50 players in WHL history. (WHL)

–Watch the highlights of last night’s game between the Penguins and Capitals. (Top)

–A sad story about how Chris Phillips feels helpless as his hometown of Fort McMurray burns. (CBC)

–“You want to get back into things right away (but) I think these last four or five months have been good for me.” Former Penguins coach Mike Johnston is ready to coach again. (Local XPress)

–Blues forward Jori Lehtera is in a pretty random commercial:

Penguins push Capitals to brink of elimination with OT win

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The Pittsburgh Penguins ended a long run of playoff overtime struggles on Wednesday … and are now one win away from ending the Washington Capitals’ season.

Many expected the Penguins to crater on defense without Kris Letang (they were 2-8-1 in the regular season without him). While there were shaky moments, Pittsburgh emphasized its speed and other strengths in taking a 3-2 overtime thriller against Washington.

With that, the Penguins’ series lead grows to 3-1.

It was a thrilling, sometimes nasty contest, from Sidney Crosby shaking off an Alex Ovechkin slash, to Evgeni Malkin delivering a hit some thought was over the line and plenty of typical playoff skirmishes.

Ultimately, Matt Murray played another strong game and Patric Hornqvist scored the overtime-winner to put the Capitals in a tough spot.

The Penguins lost their previous eight playoff overtime games, so maybe it was just a matter of time before such a game went their way?

Then again, the history between the two teams is a little different:

If the Capitals want to advance beyond the second round for the first time in the Ovechkin era, they’ll need to accomplish quite the feat against arguably the hottest team in the NHL.

Sidney Crosby looks hurt (and furious) after Alex Ovechkin slash

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Sidney Crosby is known to get fiery, but even for his feisty standards, he was furious during the third period of Game 4.

An Alex Ovechkin slash caught Crosby on the hand, leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins star shaking his mitt and pleading for a call.

After that, Crosby left to get his hand looked at … but not before flipping out and destroying his stick.

You can watch it happen in the GIF and the videos above.

Crosby was able to return not that long after that moment, although we can only speculate regarding how his overall game will be affected if his hand isn’t 100 percent.

Dirty or not? Evgeni Malkin’s hit on Daniel Winnik

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Tensions seem to rise with every passing game in the playoffs, particularly in a series with bad blood like the one between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.

Kris Letang was suspended for his hit in Game 3, and some wonder if Evgeni Malkin should suffer a similar fate for his check on Daniel Winnik on Wednesday.

Winnik left the contest and has not yet returned during the third period.

Take a look at the hit in the video above and decide for yourself.