Mike Halford

St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock, back, directs his team as players Steve Ott, front left, and Ryan Reaves look on against the Colorado Avalanche in the third period of an NHL hockey game on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, in Denver. The Blues won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Hitchcock: ‘Calls aren’t going to go your way, you’re not going to get the officiating you want’


Everybody was curious to hear Ken Hitchcock’s remarks in the wake of Friday’s wild Game 2 loss to Chicago.

And Hitchcock, to his credit, responded like you’d expect a seasoned bench boss to respond.

“We’re upset, but we can’t let it get in the way of what we’re going to have to do,” Hitchcock said after Vladimir Tarasenko‘s would-be goal was wiped out after Joel Quenneville’s successful coach’s challenge, paving the way for a 3-2 Chicago win. “Calls aren’t going to go your way, you’re not going to get the officiating you want.

“It’s going to seem like it’s one-sided.”

Quenneville’s successful challenge — easily the biggest in a brief Stanley Cup playoff history — turned the game on its head. Jori Lehtera was correctly deemed to have entered the attacking zone offside prior to Tarasenko scoring, but that play itself wasn’t the only story.

There was the aftermath.

A visibly frustrated Tarasenko took a slashing penalty after the challenge, which in turn led to Andrew Shaw‘s power-play goal.

Which, in turn, led to another challenge.

Hitchcock alleged Shaw interfered with Brian Elliott on the play, and officials were forced to go back to the monitor. This time, though, there would be no overturning — Shaw’s goal held up, sending the Scottrade crowd into a chorus of boos.

Under normal circumstances, Friday’s game would be seen as a potential momentum swinger.

But in the case of St. Louis, it could be seen as much more — this is a club that, for the last three years, has faced major hurdles getting out of Round 1. After an emotional 1-0 OT win in the series opener, things looked to be going the Blues’ way… only for Friday night to happen.

Hitchcock, it seemed, was well aware of this being a potential  turning point.

But he sounded determined not to let it be.

“When you play the defending Cup champions, you’re going to have to fight through a lot of stuff,” he said. “That’s the way it is.”

Video review madness in St. Louis as ‘Hawks level series at 1-1


Everybody knew this was going to happen eventually.

But that didn’t make the moment any less dramatic.

In what was easily the biggest coach’s challenge in Stanley Cup playoff history, Chicago’s Joel Quenneville wiped out what looked to be Vladimir Tarasenko‘s go-ahead goal in the third period, correctly claiming that Jori Lehtera went offside prior to the puck going in.

Then, moments later, Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock tried the same tact, challenging that Andrew Shaw interfered with Brian Elliott on Chicago’s go-ahead goal.

Hitchcock, though, didn’t have the same success as his counterpart. Shaw’s goal stood, the ‘Hawks went on to win 3-2 and even up the series at 1-1.

Social media, meanwhile, was set ablaze with the hottest of takes about video review.

Lost in all the controversy was the fact that, oh yeah, this was a pretty good hockey game. After a thrilling Game 1 in which David Backes broke a scoreless tie with his OT winner, the ‘Hawks and Blues got right back at it on Friday, though the two teams did wait until the second period to score an actual regulation goal.

Tarasenko opened at the 15:20 mark, only for Duncan Keith — playing after sitting Game 1 due to suspension — to equalize with just five seconds left in the frame.

That set the stage for a crazy third period in which Shaw looked to have scored the game winner, only for Artemi Panarin‘s empty-netter to stand as the GWG when Kevin Shattenkirk scored a meaningless goal with two seconds left.

Both goalies were good in this one. Crawford stopped 29 of 31 shots for a .935 save percentage, Elliott 26 of 28 for a .929.

Looking ahead, it’s going to be really interesting to see how St. Louis — a that doesn’t exactly have a reputation for mental fortitude in the playoffs — will respond to this turn of events. It’ll also be curious to see how momentum shifts now that the series is going back to Chicago and the United Center, one of the loudest arenas in the NHL.

Panthers win first playoff game in four years, even up series with Isles

Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo (1) and center Aleksander Barkov (16) celebrate after they defeated the Montreal Canadiens in an NHL hockey game, Saturday, April 2, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The last time Florida won a playoff game, Jose Theodore was in net and Kris Versteeg scored the game-winning goal.

So yeah, this one was a long time coming.

Florida defeated the Islanders 3-1 in Game 2 of their opening-round series on Friday night, the first time the Panthers have won a postseason tilt since beating New Jersey in the opening round four years ago.

Back then, it was Theodore and Versteeg doing the business.

Tonight? Roberto Luongo and Reilly Smith.

The veteran goalie won his first-ever playoff game for the Cats — the franchise that drafted him, then re-acquired him three years ago — with an outstanding effort, stopping 41 of 42 shots faced. It was a great bounce-back from Bobby Lu who, in Game 1, faced some criticism after surrendering five goals on just 26 shots.

Not surprisingly, Luongo was named the first star on Friday.

Smith, meanwhile, continued his terrific play with another two-point effort, scoring Florida’s first goal and setting up Nick Bjugstad‘s game-winner. The 25-year-old now has five points through two games, continuing on from the fine regular season form that saw him score a career-high 25 goals and 50 points.

For the Islanders, John Tavares continued his great play to start this series by scoring his team’s only goal. That puts Tavares on four points through the first two games.

In goal, Thomas Greiss stopped 28 of 30 shots faced.

From Florida’s perspective, tonight’s game was a virtual must-win after dropping Game 1 at home — so, as far as the Cats are concerned, mission accomplished. That should provide some good momentum heading into Brooklyn for Game 3.

For the Islanders — well, it’s a bit more tricky. They got what they wanted in the opener, achieving the split in Sunrise. But given how badly they out-shot the Panthers tonight, they’re probably leaving Florida wondering if they could’ve gotten more — like, say, a 2-0 series lead.

Wings can’t handle new-look Triplets line, Bolts take 2-0 series lead


Who needs Steve Stamkos when you’ve got Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn?

That’s what Tampa Bay fans have to be at least thinking — maybe not out loud, but quietly — after Friday’s 5-2 win over Detroit at Amalie Arena, one that gave the Bolts a commanding 2-0 series lead.

For the second straight game, the “Revamped Triplets” line proved too much for the Red Wings. Johnson, Kucherov and Killorn combined for eight points — four of them from Johnson — which came after a Game 1 in which the trio went for seven.

So yeah, 15 points in two games. No wonder the Red Wings are in a hole.

As for tonight, Brad Richards and Dylan Larkin replied for Detroit. It was the first Stanley Cup playoff goal for Larkin, the Red Wings’ star rookie, but it came on a night in which Larkin and his mates just couldn’t keep pace with the new-look Triplets.

The original Triplets Line, you’ll recall, featured Ondrej Palat in place of Killorn — and last year, Palat’s chemistry with Johnson and Kucherov saw him rack up a career-best 63 points during the regular season, and another 16 in 26 playoff games.

Killorn, at least trough two games this series, hasn’t missed a beat.

After a solid regular season in which he scored 40 points, Killorn’s found similar success playing alongside Johnson and Kucherov, and was a thorn in Detroit’s side all night on Friday.

Speaking of thorns in sides, Detroit and Tampa Bay really don’t like one another. After a hostile Game 1 in which the two sides combined for 36 penalty minutes, the teams upped the ante on Friday, combining for a whopping 109.

There was also Danny DeKeyser‘s big, questionable hit on Ondrej Palat midway through the contest, which seemed to add more fuel to the fire:

Ben Bishop had another solid night in goal for Tampa, finishing with 30 saves on 32 shots. Though he was at no fault for the loss, Jimmy Howard finished with pedestrian numbers — four goals allowed on 30 shots, and .867 save percentage.

The series now shifts to Detroit, where the Red Wings will host the Bolts in Game 3 on Sunday. That gives head coach Jeff Blashill 48 hours to try and come up with a way to stop Johnson, Kucherov and Killorn.

If Blashill doesn’t, this series isn’t going much longer.

Wings-Lightning nastiness continues as DeKeyser nails Palat (Video)


There was no shortage of angst in Game 1 of the Tampa Bay-Detroit series, as the two teams combined for 36 penalty minutes.

And there’s been no shortage of it in Game 2, either.

Things reached a fever pitch midway during the second period when Detroit d-man Danny DeKeyser hammered Tampa’s Ondrej Palat behind the Red Wings goal.

The hit resulted in a pair of roughing penalties — to Riley Sheahan and Jonathan Drouin — and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for Victor Hedman.

So no, DeKeyser was not penalized for the hit.

That decision came under some scrutiny, as Palat looked shaken up on the play and exited briefly. He did return to action and took regular shifts for the remainder of the second period.