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Stanley Cup pressure on Ovechkin? ‘I’m sure he’s feeling it a little bit,’ says Kadri

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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) Barry Trotz is wondering aloud if Washington Capitals have been the victim of some bad bounces against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“They’ve got some strange goals, and that sometimes can play in your mind a little bit and we fought through that,” Trotz said Thursday. “We’re getting really mentally tough in this series because we’re working, and you create your own luck.”

With the series tied 2-2 going into Game 5 in Washington on Friday, the Capitals are facing a bigger test than anyone ever imagined. Morgan Rielly said the Maple Leafs have earned the right to feel confident, and players don’t believe they’re all even in this series because of luck.

Quite the opposite. Echoing their coach, who noted they weren’t at their best and still were within a goal in the Game 4 loss , defenseman Connor Carrick called Game 4 an “opportunity missed.”

“We didn’t play anywhere close to what we’re capable of,” goaltender Frederik Andersen said.

Had the Maple Leafs erased a 4-1 deficit to take command of the series, the pressure would have been squarely on the Presidents’ Trophy winners with the checkered playoff past.

Read more: Capitals flex muscles, tie series with Leafs, despite some Game 4 drama

Already the Capitals were looking tight and the expectation is still on them to win and advance.

“I think we got our heads on straight right now on how we want to play, and unfortunately it’s taken us a couple games to get there,” right winger T.J. Oshie said after the game. “So we want to improve on (Game 4) and get even better, but I think (Wednesday night) was a right step breathing-wise.

Breathing is essential for a team that hasn’t made it past the second round in the past decade with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, and is facing major roster changes this summer no matter the result. This is Ovechkin’s best chance at the Stanley Cup, and everyone knows it.

“Yeah, I’m sure for him it’s hard not to think about that type of thing,” Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri said. “But I think he’s not the only desperate one that’s going to be out there. I think we’re going to be a desperate team fighting to bring the series back to Toronto up a game. It’s desperate for both groups, but yeah, I’m sure he’s feeling it a little bit.”

Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs are at the start of their contending window. They’re playing with house money and sound like the more confident bunch.

“We’re capable of winning this series,” winger Matt Martin said. “We just have to stay the course.”

Washington defenseman Karl Alzner‘s status is unclear after missing the past two games with an upper-body injury. He skated with a handful of other players Thursday, and Trotz termed him “day to day.”

Braden Holtby, who has allowed 14 goals in four games and has a .902 save percentage, also skated. Trotz called it “a pinball machine out there” and said he wasn’t worried about Holtby but didn’t exactly give his reigning Vezina Trophy winning goaltender’s play in this series a ringing endorsement.

“It’s hard to gauge it because they’ve had a lot of strange stuff,” Trotz said, praising Holtby for being hard-nosed to handle bad bounces. “During the year, goalies, they do everything on predictability and there are a lot of things that aren’t very predictable right now and that’s what at times makes Braden look like he’s not there.”

Who’s actually not there are winger Brett Connolly, who played 4:26 in Game 4, and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who saw 12:18 of ice time with just one power-play shift. Depth was considered one of the Capitals’ advantages, but Trotz shortening his bench bears watching.

WATCH LIVE: Four games on Thursday’s Stanley Cup playoff schedule

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It’s another busy night in the NHL playoffs, with four games on the schedule.

Two teams — the Pittsburgh Penguins and, most surprisingly, the Nashville Predators — will advance to the second round if they each win tonight, while the Canadiens, Rangers, Oilers and Sharks can put their respective opponents on the brink of elimination.

Here is all of the information you need for tonight’s games:

New York Rangers vs. Montreal Canadiens

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Network: USA Network (Stream online here)

Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Network: NHL Network (Stream online here)

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators

Time: 8:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

San Jose Sharks vs. Edmonton Oilers

Time: 10:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Nikita Tryamkin has apparently left the Canucks and returned to the KHL (Updated)

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After one full season in Vancouver, it appears towering defenseman Nikita Tryamkin is headed back to Russia.

The KHL reported Thursday morning that Tryamkin has returned to Yekaterinburg Automobilist, where he played prior to joining the Canucks toward the end of the 2015-16 season.

The Canucks selected the six-foot-seven-inch, 265-pound Tryamkin in the third round of the 2014 draft.

Given his size and at times ferocious play, he was becoming a fan favorite in Vancouver while showing potential he could perhaps one day be a top-four defenseman.

He was at the end of a two-year contract with an annual cap hit of $925,000. This season, he played in 66 games, scoring twice with nine points. He also averaged 16:44 of ice time, which was seventh among Canucks defensemen.

At this point, there are more questions than answers when it comes to why, exactly, Tryamkin made this decision. But it appears the ice time he received this past season — under former coach Willie Desjardins — is one of the reasons for his departure.

“Getting decent playing time. But not for 12 minutes in the game to come out. This I do not want,” said Tryamkin, according to a Google translation from The Province.

“I have experienced these feelings. When you do, I would not get pleasure from the game and (instead) just sit, look and realize that there’s nothing you can do.”

This news comes just hours after the Canucks revealed forward Brendan Gaunce will have shoulder surgery, with a potential recovery time reported to be four to six months.

Canucks’ Gaunce to have shoulder surgery, reported timeline could be 4-6 months

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After missing the final month of the regular season with a shoulder injury, Canucks forward Brendan Gaunce will undergo surgery Thursday, the club announced.

“Brendan sustained a shoulder injury in March and has been working closely with our medical team,” said GM Jim Benning in a statement.

“After a period of rehabilitation and observation, Brendan and our medical team have deemed, that based on his response to treatment, the best course of action is to undergo surgery for injury management and preparation for next season.”

Gaunce, 23, last played on March 9. In 57 games, he recorded five assists, going the entire season without scoring a goal. To his credit, he did have the highest Corsi For rating (51.3 per cent) among Canucks players with 400 minutes or more at five-on-five.

The Canucks didn’t announce a timeline for recovery, but it appears to be lengthy, according to Ben Kuzma of The Province newspaper.

From The Province:

That procedure will be performed Thursday in Vancouver and depending on severity of the tear, the 23-year-old centre-turned-winger could be sidelined from four to six months. Professional athletes recover quicker and the best prognosis for Gaunce would be a four-month recovery window and then ramping up his training and skating a month before main camp in Vancouver.

Gaunce is a pending restricted free agent, at the end of his entry-level contract that has an annual cap hit of just over $863,000.

It’s been widely reported in Vancouver that Gaunce could be a potential target for the Vegas Golden Knights in June’s expansion draft, although this development — and the reported timeline — could make him a less desirable option.

Flames’ Elliott ‘still can’t explain’ soft opening goal in Game 4 loss

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Brian Elliott‘s night didn’t last long. The same is true for the Flames’ foray into the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Needing a win Wednesday to stave off elimination and a first-round sweep against the Anaheim Ducks, Elliott got the start but was pulled less than six minutes in after allowing a bad goal from Patrick Eaves, giving the visitors an early lead.

Speaking to reporters after the game, a 3-1 Flames loss, ending their season, Calgary’s coach Glen Gulutzan admitted he didn’t like the goal Elliott gave up and that he felt his team at that time “needed a spark.”

Gulutzan certainly didn’t waste any time making his decision to pull Elliott.

Chad Johnson entered the game and was promptly scored on. The Flames, meanwhile, were only able to get one by Ducks goalie John Gibson, who redeemed himself after a shaky outing in Game 3.

“As a goalie you take pride in giving yourself and your team a chance to win every night and that, off the bat, I still can’t explain how it goes under my pad there,” said Elliott, per the Calgary Herald.

“I feel bad. I didn’t give our guys a chance right off the bat. It was definitely a short leash – I’m not saying I deserve a longer one after that. It’s tough when you can’t go out and redeem yourself, but the guys went out and did a great job trying to come back. They put it all out there, I’m definitely proud of them.”

That same column also strongly suggested — or stated outright — that the 32-year-old Elliott’s time with the Flames is done after one season.

Acquired last summer from St. Louis, Elliott is a pending unrestricted free agent, per CapFriendly, at the end of a three-year, $7.5 million contract he signed while with the Blues.

He was streaky at times during the season, but ultimately struggled in the latter half of this series, particularly in a Game 3 Flames collapse, before getting the hook after just three shots faced Wednesday.