Mike Halford

New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey (14) is congratulated by New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic (3) after scoring the game-winning goal during overtime in Game 3 of an NHL hockey first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Florida Panthers, Sunday, April 17, 2016, in New York. The Islanders defeated the Panthers 4-3 in overtime. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
AP

Disallowed goal ‘probably the turning point’ for Isles in wild win over Panthers

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Usually, it’s the players that decide playoff games.

But in the new-look Stanley Cup playoffs, coaches are having a bigger influence than ever.

Another coach’s challenge resulted in a huge momentum swing on Sunday night in Brooklyn, as Isles head coach Jack Capuano successfully overturned a Florida goal, correctly judging that Jonathan Huberdeau was offside prior to Aaron Ekblad‘s second period marker.

“There’s so much talk about that offside rule, but that was an incredible boost,” Thomas Hickey said, per Yahoo. “You could feel it in the building when they called ‘no goal’ and I think it gave us extra life.”

Hickey, who scored the eventual game-winner in a wild OT affair, might have a point. Ekblad’s goal would’ve made the score 3-0, a massive hole for the Isles. Instead, the Brooklynites found themselves down just two goals — and, moments after the successful challenge, Ryan Pulock scored his first of the playoffs to cut the lead to 2-1.

Nick Bjugstad would score to restore Florida’s two-goal lead but, as Hickey mentioned, the Isles had life. Shane Prince and Frans Nielsen scored to even things at 3-3, setting the stage for Hickey’s OT heroics.

Prior to tonight, the biggest — and most controversial — coach’s challenge happened during Game 2 of the St. Louis-Chicago series, in which Joel Quenneville wiped out Vladimir Tarasenko’s go-ahead goal after correctly judging that Jori Lehtera was offside.

Nobody knew how profoundly coach’s challenges — in their first year of existence — would affect the playoffs.

But it didn’t take long for everyone to figure out the answer.

“That was probably the turning point in the game,” Hickey said. “As stupid as it sounds.”

Preds go Duck hunting, again, to take 2-0 series lead

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This series couldn’t have started better for Nashville.

And it couldn’t have started worse for the Ducks.

After stealing home-ice advantage with their Game 1 win, the Preds stunned the Anaheim faithful on Sunday night, capturing Game 2 by a 3-2 scoreline to take a commanding 2-0 series lead.

Shea Weber scored the game-winning goal on a late second period power-play, and Pekka Rinne stopped 27 of 29 shots to push Nashville to victory, and put the Pacific Division champs in a tough spot.

Craig Smith and Mattias Ekholm also scored for Nashville.

For Anaheim, Andrew Cogliano and Nate Thompson scored, with Thompon’s goal coming with less than three minutes remaining to set up an exciting finish.

The big story for the Ducks, though, wasn’t the guys on the scoresheet — it was those who failed to crack it.

After all three notched points in the series opener, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler and captain Ryan Getzlaf put up goose eggs on Sunday.

Anaheim’s defense also continued to struggle offensively. Not a single one hit the scoresheet Sunday, leaving Hampus Lindholm as the only blueliner to have scored a point this series, and it was on an assist in Game 1.

Meanwhile, forwards Jakob Silfverberg, Rickard Rakell, David Perron, Jamie McGinn and Chris Stewart all remain pointless this series.

Looking ahead, this are going to be very intriguing as the teams shift to Bridgestone for Game 3.

The Preds are now in the driver’s seat, and have to be thrilled at the prospect of returning home — where they went 23-11-7 this year — with two wins already in the bag. Rinne’s been solid, the defense has held Anaheim to just two goals per game and the scoring has been balanced, with six different players accounting for the club’s six goals.

For the Ducks… yikes.

The club’s now facing the daunting task of needing to win four of the next five games — three of which will come on the road. One also has to wonder what lineup changes head coach Bruce Boudreau might consider.

Specifically, one has to wonder if Boudreau will contemplate a goalie switch.

While John Gibson can’t be faulted for either of the two losses, Boudreau could take a page from the Detroit book. Wings head coach Jeff Blashill pulled a successful goalie switch on Sunday night — after losing the first two games of their series with Tampa Bay, he parked Jimmy Howard in favor of Petr Mrazek tonight, and Mrazek posted a 2-0 shutout win.

Will the Ducks go the same route in Nashville?

 

‘Exhausted’ Luongo: ‘I need the rest’ after three games in four nights

Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo (1) reacts after New York Islanders Thomas Hickey scored the game-winning goal during overtime in Game 3 of an NHL hockey first-round Stanley Cup playoff series, Sunday, April 17, 2016, in New York. The Islanders won 4-3. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
AP
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Bobby Lu needs a break.

After playing his third game in four nights — Sunday’s 4-3 OT loss to the Isles — Florida goalie Roberto Luongo minced no words about his fatigue level in advance of Wednesday’s Game 4 at Barclays.

“I need the rest,’’ the 37-year-old said, per the Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Three games in four nights with an overtime, so I’m pretty exhausted right now.”

Luongo allowed four goals on 39 shots tonight, his second consecutive heavy workload. In Friday’s Game 2 win at BB&T, the Isles put 42 shots on Luongo but the veteran ‘tender responded incredibly well, surrendering just a single goal.

But now, the fatigue factor is definitely at play.

Luongo admitted as much but, even if he didn’t, the numbers would do the talking. His save percentage for the series is now a mere .907 — well down from the .922 he posted during the regular season — and one has to wonder if the Isles and their coaching staff have made a concerted effort to throw more pucks on goal.

After registering just 26 shots in the series opener, New York has recorded an average of 40 in each of the last two games.

Clearly, all that rubber is affecting Luongo — who, it should be remembered, is one of the NHL’s oldest starting netminders.

“I need a couple days to re-energize here to get ready for Wednesday,” he said.

Here are the West finalists for Kraft Hockeyville 2016

The votes have been cast, and the results are in.

Maysa Arena (Minot, North Dakota) and the Rushmore Thunderdome (Rapid City, South Dakota) have emerged from the field to become the West finalists for this year’s Kraft Hockeyville competition.

The Maysa Arena is the only ice open year-round in Western North Dakota, and the Thunderdome is a community-built arena that’s been housing local stick-n-puck enthusiasts since 1995.

To vote for who emerges from the West to compete in the final — and to learn more about each rink — visit the Kraft Hockeyville website.

Here are the East finalists for Kraft Hockeyville 2016

The votes have been cast, and the results are in.

The Lakeview Arena (Marquette, Michigan) and Twin Ponds Family Complex East (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) have emerged from the field to become the East finalists for this year’s Kraft Hockeyville competition.

The Lakeview Arena was home to the 1991 NCAA championship, when Northern Michigan beat Boston University in a thrilling triple-OT classic.

The Twin Ponds Family Complex opened in 1993 and hosts a number of popular local teams, from the Hershey Junior Bears to the Capital City Vipers.

To vote for who emerges from the East to compete in the final — and to learn more about each rink — visit the Kraft Hockeyville website.