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NHL on NBCSN: Rangers look to push winning streak to six games against Blue Jackets

NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Columbus Blue Jackets host the New York Rangers at 7:30 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

The Rangers have been invincible since the beginning of the month. They just completed a perfect 4-0 homestand at MSG and they head into tonight’s game riding a five-game winning streak.

Henrik Lundqvist, who collected his 400th win on Saturday, has been between the pipes for each of those five straight victories. After going through many ups and downs in 2016-17, he finally seems to have found a level of consistency to his game. That can only be beneficial to the Rangers heading into the final stretch of the regular season.

Another player who’s been contributing with regularity is forward J.T. Miller. Oh by the way, he leads the team in scoring and he’s on a six-game point streak. Miller’s racked up four multi-point games during that stretch and he’s also recorded at least one point in nine of his last 10 games and 16 of 18.

A win over the Blue Jackets would propel the Rangers into a three-way tie for second in the Metropolitan Division with 75 points, but they’ve played more games than both Columbus and Pittsburgh.

The last time the Rangers dropped a game was back on Jan. 31 when they lost a 6-4 decision to this very same Columbus team.

The Jackets have cooled off since they went on their 16-game winning streak earlier this season. After leading the division for a while, they’ve dropped to second place and are currently nine points behind the red-hot Capitals with two games in hand.

They’re still in the midst of putting together a quality season, but are things starting to unravel under John Tortorella’s watch?

On Saturday, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos and Elliotte Friedman talked about how the players recently had a meeting with Tortorella about how they want him to ease up on them and be more positive around the group.

You’re probably thinking, “same old Torts,” right? But according to captain Nick Foligno, the report made things seem worse than they actually are.

“This whole story is blown out of proportion,” Foligno told the Columbus Dispatch on Sunday. “We talked about a lot of things in the meeting. Meetings happen all the time, and I’m not sure why this one was turned into something way more than what it was.”

Columbus is coming off a 2-1 win over the Red Wings on Saturday night, but they’ve been mediocre during this last stretch. In their last 18 contests, they’ve managed to come away with just eight wins.

Every team goes through rough patches over the course of an 82-game season, but we’ll see how this young team responds with the Pens and Rangers breathing down their neck.

Even though the schedule won’t be easy this week, Columbus is fortunate that their games against Toronto, Pittsburgh and Nashville will all be played at home. They’ll then go on their bye week before returning home to take on the Isles on Feb. 25. Their next road game won’t come until the 26th when they take on these same Rangers.

Ovechkin shrugs off Caps’ Game 1 loss in very Ovechkin way

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You know, it happens. Maybe not always in those exact words.

The Washington Capitals carried the play during portions of their 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and even down 1-0 in the series, just about every player seemed happy with their overall game.

(Granted, Braden Holtby picked apart two of the three goals he allowed, and so on.)

Still, Alex Ovechkin shrugged off the disappointment in a way that wasn’t quite Rated R, but probably ranks in the PG-13 range:

The penalty element is interesting, though.

When asked after the loss about the lack of power plays, Matt Niskanen merely offered a “no comment.”

The Penguins experienced some sprawling moments, yet they avoided taking a penalty each time. Often, when a team carries long sequences of play, they’ll go on the PP (especially with home-ice advantage) … but not the Capitals in Game 1.

via Natural Stat Trick

It’s a situation to watch as the Capitals hope to even the series against the Penguins with Game 2 coming on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. (You can watch online, via the NBC Sports App and follow the livestream here).

Holtby takes blame for two big goals in Caps’ loss to Pens

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It’s just about a consensus that the Washington Capitals believed that they generally played a strong game despite falling 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Braden Holtby‘s teammates likely wouldn’t agree with his assessment that the Game 1 loss is on his shoulders, but the perennial Vezina candidate took the blame for Sidney Crosby‘s first goal of the night and Nick Bonino‘s game-winner.

Noting that the Penguins are a dangerous rush team – making them a different threat than the Toronto Maple Leafs – Holtby believes that he should have had his glove in position to stop the 1-0 goal. He said he’s capable of making such a stop and “will next time.” Check out Crosby’s two goals below, with Holtby having a beef with the first one:

It’s really difficult to place too much blame on Holtby for giving up Nick Bonino’s game-winner, as it seemed like a great rush play that few goalies would be able to stop.

Judge for yourself in the highlights:

The Penguins were ultimately able to take a 1-0 series lead, but the Capitals seem capable of shrugging off questions about frustrations, even with naysayers starting to gain confidence in claiming that there will be more than the same.

If Washington’s going to get over this big hurdle, Holtby is likely to be a big part in doing so.

Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

(Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).

Karlsson makes difference for Senators vs. Lundqvist, Rangers

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Swedish superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson were both stupendous in Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

Still, it was Karlsson’s game-winning goal (from a seemingly impossible angle) against Lundqvist that made the difference as the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 on Thursday. With that, the Senators are up 1-0 in the series.

That Karlsson goal really deserves a special look.

Whether you blame that 2-1 tally on Lundqvist or not, the Rangers would be foolish to do anything but praise their red-hot franchise goalie. He stopped all 21 Senators shots in the first period and ultimately made 41 out of 43 stops in defeat.

Craig Anderson was strong in his own right, mind you, stopping 34 out of 35 shots (including all 28 at even-strength) to help Ottawa take that tight contest.

Anderson’s strong play highlights the fact that Rangers – Senators doesn’t merely come down to Lundqvist vs. Karlsson … but even so, both Swedish superstars really did stand out in this one.

Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.