MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 18:  Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins defends his net during the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on January 18, 2017 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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Goalie Nods: Matt Murray makes sixth straight start for Penguins

It appears that the starting net in Pittsburgh belongs to Matt Murray.

He will be in the lineup once again on Thursday night when the Penguins visit the Boston Bruins, making his sixth consecutive start (and seventh in the past eight games) since returning to the lineup from a lower body injury.

The distribution of playing time between Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury in Pittsburgh has been a big focus for much of this season, and at times it seemed to be a matter of each goalie simply getting the starts until they lost a game or had a clunker of a performance. That does not seem to be the case lately, especially with Murray getting the start on Thursday following a 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues earlier this week and getting a start in Montreal a week ago after giving up seven goals in a wild 8-7 overtime win over the Washington Capitals.

In 25 appearances this season Murray has a .922 save percentage (Fleury is currently at .905) this season. Since making his NHL debut a year ago his .925 career save percentage in the regular season (minimum 35 games played) is the third best mark in the league, behind only Thomas Greiss and Braden Holtby.

No official word yet from the Bruins on their starter, but it would be a surprise if it was not Tuukka Rask.

The Penguins enter the game having won four of their past five games, while the Bruins, whose 4-3 overtime win against Detroit on Tuesday snapped what had been a four-game losing streak, enter the evening on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Murray and the Penguins beat the Bruins on Sunday, 5-1, with Murray making 44 saves on 45 shots.

Elsewhere…

— Braden Holtby looks to get the Washington Capitals back into the win column after their 3-0 loss in Ottawa on Tuesday. He will be opposed by New Jersey’s Keith Kinkaid.

— Thomas Greiss has allowed just five goals in his past four games (a stretch that has seen the Islanders collect seven out of eight points) and will look to continue his recent strong play against Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens. With 30 saves on 31 shots in his most recent start Price is looking to break out of his recent slump.

Frederik Andersen gets the night off for Toronto after his shutout against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night. It will be Curtis McElhinney going for the Maple Leafs when they visit the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers have not announced their starter but Steve Mason started on Wednesday, shutting out the New  York Rangers. It could be a Michal Neuvirth night with this being their second game in 24 hours.

Cam Ward has been mired in a pretty significant slump in recent weeks but he gets another start for the Hurricanes on Thursday when they host the Los Angeles Kings. Ward has allowed 21 goals in his past four starts. Look for Peter Budaj to go again for the Kings.

— After stopping 36 shots against Chicago on Tuesday, Andrei Vasilevskiy goes again for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night when they take on the Florida Panthers in a game where both teams should be desperate for two points. Roberto Luongo goes for the Panthers.

Brian Elliott gets a chance to snap a personal four-game losing streak on Thursday when he gets the call for the Calgary Flames when they visit the Ottawa Senators. The Senators have not announced their starter.

Sergei Bobrovsky gets a chance to rebound from a rough start earlier this week against the New York Islanders when he goes for the Columbus Blue Jackets against the surging Nashville Predators. Pekka Rinne is the man in net for a Nashville team that has earned a point in seven of its past eight games (6-1-1).

— After shutting out the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, Carter Hutton gets another start for the St. Louis Blues when they take on the first place Minnesota Wild. As expected, Devan Dubnyk gets another start for the Wild.

— As Corey Crawford continues to struggle a bit Scott Darling gets another chance for the Chicago Blackhawks when they take on the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night. The Jets go with Connor Hellebuyck.

— It will be Anders Nilsson for Antti Niemi when the Dallas Stars host the Buffalo Sabres.

— After Jacob Markstrom went for the Canucks in their win over Colorado on Wednesday, Ryan Miller is back in the crease on Thursday against another of the NHL’s worst teams when they take on the Arizona Coyotes. Mike Smith gets the call at the other end of the ice.

— The Oilers and Sharks have yet to announce their starters for the late game, but it is a good bet that it will be Cam Talbot vs. Martin Jones.

Early thoughts – and praise – for Capitals landing Kevin Shattenkirk

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Jaws dropped around the hockey world when news broke that the Washington Capitals landed Kevin Shattenkirk in a blockbuster trade. Heads were then scratched as people tried to make sense of the “conditions” of a conditional second-rounder involved in the move.

With a little time for the smoke to clear and with the assets revealed, here are some scattered thoughts.

PHT will likely cover more of the fallout on Tuesday and beyond, though, so stay tuned.

Brian MacLellan deserves consideration as a top GM

Judging an executive can be really tricky; while a GM of the Year award is easy to justify, it’s also easy to mock. Even the best managers inherit a roster (aside from MacLellan’s predecessor George McPhee, who will build one in Vegas), so you have to credit some successes to the guy who came before.

And, yes, McPhee helped put together a core that includes Alex Ovechkin, Braden Holtby and Nicklas Backstrom.

Even so, MacLellan evokes Stan Bowman in masterfully adding tremendous electrons to a fantastic nucleus.

He added Matt Niskanen (and, admittedly, flubbed it with Brooks Orpik) to beef up a defense to help the shrewd hiring of Barry Trotz as head coach. Trotz seems like he’s ending what was a busy procession of shaky bench bosses.

MacLellan really nailed it the next summer, trading for T.J. Oshie and signing Justin Williams to a bargain deal. A year later, the Capitals added a fantastic third-line center option in Lars Eller via a smart trade.

And now this. It’s not clear where Kevin Shattenkirk will fit in the Capitals’ lineup, but either way, he boosts an already formidable group.

Misc.

Let’s lightning round some other thoughts.

  • Scottie Upshall joked about all the one-timers Shattenkirk is primed to set up for Alex Ovechkin … but he has a point.
  • It’s difficult to imagine the Capitals re-signing Shattenkirk, putting continued emphasis on the talk of Washington being in the last season of a “two-year window” to make their greatest push for a Stanley Cup. At the same time, there aren’t a lot of problem contracts beyond Orpik’s in Washington, so the plus side is that MacLellan can also show how he might be Bowman-like in making the right calls in who to bring back. Make no mistake about it, getting Shattenkirk is about now, not later.
  • Oh yeah the Capitals also got a nice sneaky bonus in landing Pheonix Copley, who better have the nickname “typo.”

All things considered, it’s no surprise that the Capitals are excited.

There’s at least a chance Shattenkirk might be able to suit up for Washington as soon as Tuesday’s game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, but either way, this sure looks like a slam dunk.

Wild just wouldn’t stay down, edge Kings in OT

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Don’t blame Ben Bishop if, deep down, he was glad that he didn’t make his Los Angeles Kings debut on Monday.

After seeing the kind of speed, drive and all-around electric play displayed by the Minnesota Wild, you can understand a goalie shuddering at the often wide-open action. Despite falling behind four times against the Kings, the Wild ultimately edged Los Angeles 5-4 in an overtime thriller.

Mikael Granlund‘s 20th goal of the season ended it in OT, and quickly. And it was beautiful:

…. Unless you’re Jonathan Quick and the Kings, that is.

Granlund is absolutely on fire right now.

Ryan White made a great first impression for the Wild, scoring a goal and an assist (while displaying great flow). Martin Hanzal wasn’t able to score, though he did make his presence felt with five hits. And, again, Bishop might have secretly been relieved to put his Kings debut on hold.

Marian Gaborik turned back the clock a bit to his Wild prime, scoring a goal and an assist. He generally made quite a bit happen for Los Angeles.

It was a tough one for Anze Kopitar, meanwhile, who was unable to generate offense and suffered a -3. He wasn’t able to stop Granlund in OT, though who could?

The Wild still must worry as mumps sidelined at least Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, but for now, they’re battling on. Just ask the Kings how resilient this group really is.

Sell this: Kucherov, Lightning put trades behind them, blast Senators

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The Tampa Bay Lightning might be in sell mode, but that doesn’t mean their players are quitting on this season.

After shipping Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle out of town, they could have rolled over against a hungry Ottawa Senators team. Instead, they blew them out, winning 5-1 on Monday.

Nikita Kucherov was the biggest standout, collecting a natural hat trick, which you can watch above. (He also generated an assist.)

Jonathan Drouin had a big night in his own right, assisting on all three of Kucherov’s goals. Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson generated two assists apiece, as well.

And, yes, Andrei Vasilevskiy inspired at least a few “Ben who?” jokes by making 39 out of 40 saves, including this beauty:

As you can see, Ottawa actually had a 1-0 lead at that point, so it could have been a different game if the agile goalie did do the splits there.

The Lightning are still five points out of the final wild card spot, trailing Boyle’s new team in the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators, meanwhile, find themselves slipping a bit out of the race to win the Atlantic Division, especially considering Montreal’s comeback win against New Jersey.

Tampa Bay may may not be done making moves and recognizing painful truth that the odds are against them rallying to a playoff spot. That said, nights like these make you wonder if a run is at least possible.

Canadiens’ big guns trigger comeback OT win against Devils

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 27:  Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates the game winning power play goal by Alex Galchenyuk #27 at 2:54 of overtrime against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 27, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey.  The Canadiens defeated the Devils 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Things were looking a little grim there for the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

The New Jersey Devils had, at one point, a 2-0 lead. At least in some corners there were murmurs about a bad start for Claude Julien. Then their big guns swung the game.

The comeback started with Alex Radulov, though the drama was just beginning:

Travis Zajac made it 3-1 for the Devils on the power play, only for Radulov to assist on two Max Pacioretty goals to send the game to overtime.

From there, Alex Galchenyuk scored the overtime-winner for Montreal on the man advantage. Radulov got yet another secondary assist – he ended up with four points tonight – while Shea Weber nabbed the primary helpers on the last two tallies.

Long story short, the Canadiens biggest names came through, allowing Julien to maybe utther a sigh of relief.