NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues with a doubleheader on Thursday night. In the early game, the Pittsburgh Penguins visit the Montreal Canadiens at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can watch that game online by clicking here.
The Penguins head to Montreal a day after blowing a 2-0 third period lead to the New York Rangers. “Cocky” was the word defenseman Kris Letang used to describe Pittsburgh’s play in the third period. Sloppy play and a sense that the game was already over cost them in the final 20 minutes, which saw their opponents force overtime before Mika Zibanejad ended things.
“There’s a fine line between losing and winning in this league,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said afterward. “You can’t play 40 minutes and think you are going to win.”
After Thursday’s game, the Penguins will have four days off before heading to Brooklyn to face the New York Islanders. This three-game road trip is an opportunity to pick up points against non-playoff teams as they stay in the hunt for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division, but games like the one against the Rangers will cost them.
“We threw away that game in the third,” Letang said. “It was like we were not even interested. We have to learn from that. In this league there’s no bad team. There are teams that are outside the playoffs, but there are still tons of good players on those teams. They’ll make you pay if you don’t respect them.”
In the late game, the Detroit Red Wings head out west to take on the Los Angeles Kings at 10 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here.
Like the Penguins, the Kings are currently in a playoff spot, but with not as good of a cushion with several teams chasing them in the Pacific Division. LA plays tonight and Saturday against the New Jersey Devils before heading out on a big four-game road trip against the Wild, Jets, Avalance and Oilers.
While the Kings added Tobias Rieder, Dion Phaneuf and Nate Thompson before the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 26, their biggest acquisition was the return of Jeff Carter, who missed four months after suffering a lacerated ankle tendon. The forward has six goals in nine games since coming back into the lineup as they’ve kept pace in the Western Conference playoff picture.
“I think it’s tough for guys that have been injured for a long time trying to get back, and the schedule is what it is,” said Kings head coach John Stevens. “If you look around the league, there are some really good hockey teams that on certain nights, they really lack energy, so for an injured guy coming back in his situation, it’s hard. But Jeff’s a pro. He knows how to dig deep within himself to make a difference, and he has.”
[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.