James O'Brien

Rangers beat Penguins at their own game to tie series 1-1


Evgeni Malkin looked dangerous at times during Game 2, but the New York Rangers’ scorers ended up being the lethal force.

From showing impressive burst to forcing mistakes, the Rangers accomplished a lot of the things that made the Penguins so dangerous during their stretch run. In the process, the Rangers tied their first-round series 1-1 thanks to a 4-2 decision.

Phil Kessel scored the first and last goal of the game, but the story revolved around the four unanswered goals New York scored in between.

Three of those tallies came during a second-period stretch that barely lasted more than four minutes. J.T. Miller grabbed three assists during that blistering span; Derick Brassard was right there with him production-wise with a goal and two assists.

(This post goes in-depth on that pivotal second period.)

While offensive fireworks dominate the highlights, Henrik Lundqvist made a difference after shaking off that eye injury from Game 1. He made a number of high-difficulty saves (29 stops total) to make this an easier win for the Rangers.

In case you’re wondering, it’s tough to pin any of the Rangers’ four goals on Jeff Zatkoff. The troubling thing for the Penguins is that few (if any) goalies would have bailed Pittsburgh out of the mistakes that led to those goals.

People seemed curiously eager to attach blame to individual players when things were getting messy for the Penguins. The truth is that there were enough sloppy moments to argue that this team, hot or not, has a lot of work to do as this series shifts to Madison Square Garden.

Really, it’s only predictable that these two teams are going to struggle back-and-forth. If the first two games are any indication, it should be a treat to watch.

As far as bumps and bruises go, it sounds like Derek Stepan may have avoided injury in Game 2:

Rangers survive goal review to stun Pens in second period


Another day, another team left slack-jawed after a borderline offside goal review.

This time around, the goal stood. The New York Rangers’ tally counted a day after the St. Louis Blues saw a potential 2-1 goal disallowed in a very controversial decision.

With Derick Brassard‘s goal counting after review, the Rangers scored two goals in 18 seconds to turn Game 2 upside down against the Pittsburgh Penguins. An impressive Phil Kessel tally (his first in the playoffs with Pittsburgh) feels like an afterthought now that the Rangers are up 3-1.

You can watch Brassard’s goal in the video above.

It really doesn’t get much closer than this:

The Penguins now find themselves down 3-1 without their timeout, as Mats Zuccarello added to what’s becoming a painful second period for the Pens.

Here’s the Keith Yandle goal that began that quick rush of production for New York:

Will borderline offside calls be the story of the playoffs? Not necessarily, but they’re coincidentally becoming the story of this weekend.

Aside: J.T. Miller has assists on all three Rangers goals, by the way.

Kings can play Marian Gaborik in Game 2 (if they choose to)

Los Angeles Kings right wing Marian Gaborik (12) reacts after scoring a goal against the New York Rangers during the first period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Marian Gaborik has been medically cleared to play for the Los Angeles Kings in Game 2, but that doesn’t guarantee that he will.

Kings head coach Darryl Sutter explained what will go into the decision to play (or not play) Gaborik against the San Jose Sharks with L.A. down 1-0, as LA Kings Insider’s Jon Rosen reports.

“He’ll go through warm-up, and he’ll declare himself,” Sutter said. “He’s been medically cleared, so it becomes a coach’s decision [and] a player’s declaration of whether he’s ready or not.”

The Kings might see some other lineup tweaks, as it sounds like Jamie McBain might be called upon to replace Alec Martinez (who didn’t skate this morning, according to Rosen.

Gaborik has been sidelined with a knee injury since Feb. 12. He clearly boosts the Kings’ skill level, but will the rust show in a challenging situation for Los Angeles? At 34, it’s reasonable to ask if Gaborik can jump right into the fire of postseason hockey.

Lightning lose J.T. Brown for the rest of the first round

Detroit Red Wings left wing Tomas Tatar (21), of Slovakia, checks Tampa Bay Lightning right wing J.T. Brown (23) into the boards during the third period of Game 1 in a first-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning won 3-2. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

The injury bug just keeps biting the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The latest loss comes in the form of an upper-body injury for hard-working forward J.T. Brown. The Bolts label Brown out indefinitely; the Tampa Bay Times puts it at least the remainder of their first-round series, if not longer.

Brown got hurt blocking a shot as the Lightning took a 2-0 series lead against the Detroit Red Wings.

Losing Brown obviously isn’t on the scale of losing Steven Stamkos or Anton Stralman, yet Jon Cooper explained his value to the Tampa Bay Times and other media members.

“It’s our third playoffs together, and if you’re going to pull that unsung hero tag, he’s definitely at the top of the list,” Cooper said. “He won’t light the scoreboard up in points, but you’re not going to find too many more bigger gamers than J.T. Brown. That’s a tough loss for us. But in the mantra of the (Steven) Stamkos’ and (Anton) Stralman’s, let’s just keep this going and make sure that wasn’t J.T. Brown’s last game.”

Just for Men: 2015 Blackhawks

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 15:  The Chicago Blackhawks pose with the Stanley Cup after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning  by a score of 2-0 in Game Six to win the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the United Center  on June 15, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

What better place to begin a discussion about playoff beards than to touch on the defending champions?

Let’s rattle off the furry-faced 2015 Stanley Cup winners who made up the Chicago Blackhawks.

Duncan Keith

Picture someone who doesn’t just do their job with skill, but also with maximum effort. Imagine a person who logged more time on the job than anyone else and even fought through pain, someone described as a “freak.”

Now admit that you probably pictured someone with a big, bushy beard, much like the one Keith sports.

Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith celebrates as he speaks during a rally celebrating the NHL hockey club's Stanley Cup championship, Thursday, June 18, 2015, at Soldier Field in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
via AP

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane

The Blackhawks’ two superstar forwards don’t have the greatest beards around, but much like Toews, they just get the job done.

Chicago Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews, left, and Patrick Kane after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final series on Monday, June 15, 2015, in Chicago. The Blackhawks defeated the Lightning 2-0 to win the series 4-2. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
via AP

In the case of Kane, let’s be honest: most of us think of his innovative “playoff mullet” more than his beard.

(Overall? Solid beards.)

Corey Crawford

Corey Crawford’s beard is a lot like his play: underrated, yet impressive once you really pour over it. Crawford tends to get lost in the shuffle, but should he? And should his beard?

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford answers a question during media day for the NHL hockey's Stanley Cup Finals Tuesday, June 2, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. The Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
via AP