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Bettman dismisses Penguins’ complaints about Crosby treatment

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PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford is not happy with some of the treatment his captain and best player, Sidney Crosby, has been receiving this postseason.

The most notable example was probably the cross-check to the head he received from Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen in the second-round, forcing him to miss the remainder of that game as well as the next one. In Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Ottawa Senators, he was on the receiving end of some extra curricular activity, including this water bottle squirt from Mike Hoffman during the game.

In speaking to Ken Campbell of the Hockey News on Sunday, Rutherford sounded off and said that if the league does not take steps to protect its stars the league is headed back to where it was in the 1970s.

From The Hockey News:

“I hear year after year how the league and everyone loves how the Penguins play,” said Penguins GM Jim Rutherford. “ ‘They play pure hockey and they skate.’ Well, now it’s going to have to change and I feel bad about it, but it’s the only way we can do it. We’re going to have to get one or two guys…and some of these games that should be just good hockey games will turn into a sh—show. We’ll go right back to where we were in the ’70s and it’s really a shame.”

And more…

“The league has got to fix it,” Rutherford said. “In other leagues, they protect star players. In basketball, they don’t let their top players get abused. And in our league, well the thing I keep hearing is, ‘That’s hockey. That’s hockey,’ No, it’s not.”

On Monday, during his annual state of the league address before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, Bettman was asked about the treatment of Crosby as well as Rutherford’s comments.

Bettman said even though he has tremendous respect for Rutherford he found the timing of the comments to be “odd.”

“In the last few hours I saw Mr. Rutherford’s comments, and on a both a personal and professional level I think the world of Jim Rutherford,” said Bettman.

“He has done a great job here, as he did in Carolina. The timing of what he said seems a little odd. That is something you do in a GM’s meeting, not the night before or day of the Stanley Cup Final.”

Specifically, Bettman seemed to write it all off as gamesmanship leading into the Stanley Cup Final.

“Maybe he is trying to tweak the officials a little bit, but in the final analysis, we don’t want our players getting hurt. I think it is fair to say all of the teams that have been in the playoffs have been very physical. There are a couple of people have complained from other teams about some of the things Pittsburgh players have done. Some of that goes in the category of gamesmanship. Some of that goes to the fact we need to be vigilant as a league to make sure players are not unnecessarily and inappropriately hurt. As I said that is something we continue to monitor and will. Having said that I take all of the concerns from all of our players, all of our clubs and all of our owners very seriously on this issue.”

Along with the concussion that Crosby received as a result of the Niskanen hit, he also had another hard fall into the boards later in that series and was then on the receiving end of some extra curricular activity from the Ottawa Senators late in the Eastern Conference Final.

Niskanen was ejected for his cross-check, but did not receive any supplemental discipline from the league.

The truly eye-opening thing about Rutherford’s commentary was the part where he said they might need to get “one or two guys,” seemingly referring to a desire to bring in some added muscle. Along with that sort of thing not really working as a deterrent, that would also run counter to the way Rutherford has built this Penguins roster over the past two years where they have been more focussed on speed and skill than size and toughness. Given that they are back in the Stanley Cup Final for the second year in a row the approach seems to be working.

The Buzzer: Night of the goalies

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Players of the Night:

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning needed Vasilevskiy to play like the NHL All-Star that he is and that’s exactly what he gave them, stopping 40 shots to help the Lightning to a 2-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. The win was important for Tampa, who regained the top spot in the NHL standings and ended a three-game slide in the process. Vasilevskiy’s league-leading seventh shutout of the season ties a franchise record.

Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings: Mrazek fielded 37 shots from the New Jersey Devils on Monday night and handled each and every one of them for his second shutout in as many starts.

Nick Cousins, Arizona Coyotes: Cousins got the ball rolling for the Desert Dogs in the first period, giving them a 1-0 lead. After the Islanders tied the game in the third, Cousins put the final stamp on the game with a goal 2:21 into overtime to give Arizona their second straight win.

Comeback of the Night:

Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild: Zucker got drilled in the head with a slap shot in the first period and had to be helped off the ice. Miraculously, Zucker returned a short time later and went on to score the game-winning goal at the 4:59 mark of the third period, breaking a 1-1 tie in the Wild’s 3-1 win against the Ottawa Senators.

Highlights of the Night:

Granlund and Dumba:

Mrazek made plenty of saves on Monday and perhaps none better than this one (Brian Boyle‘s reaction is priceless):

Ottawa Senators fans will like this, even if the end result wasn’t great:

Auston Matthews had the celebration of the night:

Factoids of the Night:

Scores:

Avalanche 4, Maple Leafs 2

Red Wings 3, Devils 0

Wild 3, Senators 1

Lightning 2, Blackhawks 0

Sabres 2, Flames 1 (OT)

Coyotes 3, Islanders 2 (OT)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Lightning end three-game skid with 2-0 win over Blackhawks

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Jon Cooper called declared that his team was “out of sync” prior to Monday night’s game in Chicago.

It’s three words that haven’t been used at all this season to describe the Tampa Bay Lightning who, up until Sunday, was known as the best team in the NHL.

The Lightning came into Monday night nursing a three-game losing streak, another foreign concept for a team saw four of its players elected to the NHL’s All-Star Game this coming weekend.

But just as quickly as they dropped out of the top spot in the NHL — the Vegas Golden Knights assumed that throne for 24 hours after a win on Sunday night — the Lightning snatched it back in a 2-0 triumph over the Chicago Blackhawks in the Windy City on Monday.

For a team that perhaps forgot how to play with one another, they looked comfortable in each other’s company against the Blackhawks.

The game was tight for the most part, and it took the Blackhawks being caught napping shorthanded to break a 0-0 deadlock late in the second period as Chris Kunitz took advantage of a defensive mishap. 

Jake Dotchin’s wrister sailed wide, but Kunitz was allowed to waltz behind the net, pick up the loose puck and put it behind Jeff Glass, nearly untouched through the whole process.

The NHL’s top goalie once again lived up to the distinction as Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside all 40 shots that came his way.

The Blackhawks put up 10 or more shots in each of the game’s three periods, including 17 in the second frame. But the All-Star netminder played and exceptional game, including stopping 10 out of 10 on the power play to keep Chicago 0-for-6 on the power play.

Yanni Gourde sealed the game late in the third with a blast to make it 2-0.

It’s a win Tampa needed, especially after finding out they’ll miss forward Ondrej Palat indefinitely.

The struggles continued for the Blackhawks, meanwhile.

Chicago has now been shutout twice in their past three games and is on a three-game skid with a 4-5-1 record in their past 10.

The Lightning could afford their losing streak. They’ve earned an opportunity to slide a little bit.

For the Blackhawks, another loss means another chance missed trying to survive in a deeply competitive Central Division.

The Blackhawks are hanging by a thread and time is running out quickly.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Colorado Avalanche’s win streak hits double digits

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The streak is now in double digits.

The Colorado Avalanche won their 10th straight game on Monday night, taking down the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2.

Yes, that’s 10 wins by the team that ended last season with an NHL-worst 48 points.

Hockey is wonderful, isn’t it?

The Avalanche have been pretty darn good during that streak, outscoring opponents 41-16 during that span. Scoring four goals per game on average will win you more than it won’t.

And the Avs have had success on the back end. Jonathan Bernier has been completely lights out during the streak. He is on a streak of his own with nine straight wins, becoming the third netminder in franchise history to win nine in a row after Stephane Fiset (9) and Patrick Roy (11).

Colorado’s streak is also an NHL-best this season and it’s the second longest streak in Avs history (they won 12 straight during the 1998-99 season).

The Avs are sitting on 57 points, good for the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Jason Zucker takes a puck to the head (video)

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How in the world did he get up?

Too many players have been getting drilled in the head lately by slap shots. It’s an ugly site to behold whenever it happens

Somehow, however, Jason Zucker of the Minnesota Wild was able to pop right back up and head directly to the dressing room. No passing GO on this one.

The puck hit him so squarely in the helmet that it ricocheted back toward the Thomas Chabot, who uncorked the shot in the first place.

Even more insane is that Zucker was able to return to the game.

Talk about hard-headed.