Antti Niemi, Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Challenging early schedule looms for Sharks

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The general feeling is that San Jose Sharks management seemed on the verge of panic this summer, yet for the most part, the team’s core remains intact. Looking at their schedule, one cannot help but ask: will they overreact to a slow start?

The New York Rangers played the first nine games of the 2013-14 season on the road, and while they ended up fine, they looked shaky for much of the campaign … especially as Alain Vigneault settled in. With 16 of their first 21 games away from “the Shark Tank,” one wonders if things could get rocky.

Here’s the full run, which looks that much more daunting to begin the month of November (home games in bold):

Oct. 8: at Los Angeles
Oct. 11: vs. Winnipeg
Oct. 14: at Washington
Oct. 16: at New York Islanders
Oct. 18: at New Jersey
Oct. 19: at New York Rangers
Oct. 21: at Boston
Oct. 23: vs. Columbus
Oct. 25: vs. Buffalo
Oct. 26: at Anaheim
Oct. 28: at Colorado
Oct. 30: at Minnesota
Nov. 1: vs. New York Islanders
Nov. 6: vs. Vancouver
Nov. 8: at Dallas
Nov. 9: at Chicago
Nov. 11: at Florida
Nov. 13: at Tampa Bay
Nov. 15: at Columbus
Nov. 16: at Carolina
Nov. 18: at Buffalo

Things turn around for the Sharks after that run, as they’ll play six home games in row beginning on Nov. 20 and 11 of 13 in San Jose from Nov. 20 through Dec. 20, so hopefully management (or perhaps even ownership) will keep that in mind.

While they were better at home (29-7-5) last season, the Sharks were still pretty strong on the road (22-15-4), so it’s not crazy to imagine this talented group weathering the storm anyway. That’s especially true if the West continues its domination of the East in 2014-15, as 10 of those 15 road contests come against squads from the other conference.

(H/T to NHL.com’s fantasy crew for pointing out this tough start.)

Video: Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have spoken out against a late, high hit that Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik threw on Olli Maatta early in the first period of an eventful Game 2 on Saturday.

Maatta left and didn’t return. He played only 31 seconds, and the Penguins were reduced to five defensemen for a large portion of the game. Orpik was given a minor penalty on the play, but the league’s Department of Player Safety may see it differently.

The hit occurred well after Maatta had gotten rid of the puck. He struggled on his way to the dressing room for further evaluation.

Based on multiple reports, Orpik wasn’t made available to the media following the game, which went to the Penguins as they earned the split on the road.

But the Penguins have taken issue with the hit.

“I thought it was a late hit,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, as per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

Game on: Penguins even series with rival Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins will head back home with a split of their second-round series with the rival Washington Capitals.

Former Capitals forward Eric Fehr came back to burn his hold team, as he scored with under five minutes remaining in regulation to help lift the Penguins over Washington with a 2-1 victory in an eventful Game 2 on Saturday. Evgeni Malkin threw the puck toward the net and Fehr was able to re-direct it by Braden Holtby.

Oh, this was an eventful game, indeed.

It started early in the first period with Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik catching Penguins blue liner Olli Maatta with a late and high hit that warranted — at least for now — only a minor penalty for interference. Maatta, clearly in distress following the hit, didn’t play another shift and saw only 31 seconds of ice time in total, as Pittsburgh was reduced to five defensemen for the remainder of the game.

It continued in the third period. Kris Letang was furious after getting called for a trip on Justin Williams, and even more ticked off when the Capitals tied the game on the ensuing power play.

For two periods, the Capitals couldn’t get much going. Only four of their players had registered a shot on goal through 40 minutes, while the Penguins held the edge in that department and held the lead.

Washington came out with more jump in the third period, testing rookie netminder Matt Murray with 14 shots in the final 20 minutes. But the Penguins got the late goal to break the deadlock.

Video: Penguins’ Letang was furious after Capitals tie up Game 2 with power play goal

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Kris Letang watched from the penalty box as the Washington Capitals tied up Game 2 with a power play goal in the third period. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman was called for tripping after he appeared to muscle Justin Williams off the puck as he entered the zone.

Letang let his disagreement with the call be known at the time, and was furious after the Capitals capitalized on a goal from Marcus Johansson.

The Capitals started the period down a goal and being outshot 28-10 by the Penguins, who need a win to even the series.

Also, it seems this is worth mentioning:

Video: Hagelin goes top shelf to give Penguins the lead in Game 2

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In their quest to even the series, the Pittsburgh Penguins had done a nice job through two periods of suffocating the Washington Capitals, while gaining the lead on a beautiful goal.

Carl Hagelin took advantage of a vast amount of space that opened up in front of the Washington net, finishing off a nice pass from Nick Bonino, burying his shot just under the cross bar on the glove side of Braden Holtby.

Through two periods, the Penguins were outshooting Washington 28-10. Only four Capitals players — Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen — had registered shots on goal.