Mike Halford

Anaheim Ducks' Ryan Kesler (17) and Chris Stewart (29) celebrate with Ryan Getzlaf, second from right, after Nate Thompson, not shown, scored a goal against the Nashville Predators during the second period of Game 4 in an NHL hockey first-round Stanley Cup playoff series Thursday, April 21, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
AP

Ducks storm back, beat Preds to even series at 2-2

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What a difference four days can make.

On Sunday, Anaheim looked to be in serious trouble in its opening-round series against Nashville after dropping its second game — at home, no less — to fall behind two games to none.

Now, the series is all square.

The Ducks took care of business at Bridgestone for the second straight time on Thursday, beating the Preds 4-1 to even the series at two games apiece. Four different Ducks found the back of the net — Andrew Cogliano, Ryan Getzlaf, Nate Thompson and Jamie McGinn — while Frederik Andersen continued to shine in goal, stopping 30 of 31 shots.

Since taking over the starting gig from John Gibson, Andersen has posted a sparkling .982 save percentage.

As Andersen’s numbers suggest, Nashville’s offense has really dried up — and now, some of those missing scorers are under the microscope. Ryan Johansen is goalless in this series, and hasn’t registered a point since Game 1. Mike Ribeiro and Calle Jarnkrok, who had 50 and 30 points respectively this season, have posted goose eggs through four games.

The Preds will no doubt be disappointed with how this series has turned. After two very solid outings at Honda Center to open the series and steal home-ice advantage, they now find themselves in a best-of-three.

The Ducks, meanwhile, have regained momentum.

To be fair, it’s not surprising that Anaheim has pulled this off. This is a team, remember, that spent the first half of the season mired in a team-wide slump, only to stage a dramatic second-half comeback in which they were one of the NHL’s hottest teams. At January’s All-Star Game — in Nashville, fittingly enough — Corey Perry suggested the early struggles would pay dividends in the long run.

Perry said that when the Ducks offense went cold, they realized they could still win games by clamping down defensively — something that would come in handy in the playoffs.

“It’s definitely going to help us,” he said. “To get our wins we have to keep the team we’re playing to two goals or less. If you can do that in this league, you’re going to have a lot of chances to get wins.”

Notes:

Mike Fisher scored the lone goal for Nashville tonight, his first of the series… Pekka Rinne stopped 21 of 25 shots for an .840 save percentage… The Preds played tonight without Craig Smith, who’s out with a lower-body injury… Smith had 26 goals during the regular season, and two points through the first three games.

Rangers ‘picked a very bad night to have a very bad game’

Alain Vigneault
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Plenty of stats illustrate how bad tonight was for New York.

There was the score, 5-0.

There were the three goals allowed by Henrik Lundqvist in the first period, just the fourth time in his 114 playoff games that’s happened.

There was the power play, which went scoreless on the night and is now 1-for-14 in the series.

But sometimes, numbers can only tell part of the story. Sometimes, you need a seething head coach to really explain it.

So enter Rangers bench boss Alain Vigneault!

After eliminating the Penguins in each of the last two postseasons, the Rangers are now one loss away from Pittsburgh ending theirs. And while the Blueshirts do have some history on their side — remember, in 2014, they were down 3-1 to the Pens as well — Thursday’s debacle makes it tough to think this group is capable of a comeback.

“We are disappointed in the situation we are in,” a dejected Marc Staal said after the game, per The Record. “We are frustrated with the way the night turned out.”

If there’s one major difference between this series and the two prior, it’s Henrik Lundqvist.

The Swedish ‘tender has tormented the Penguins on numerous occasions but, in this series, not so much. There have been mitigating factors — his injury in the series opener, for example — but Game 4 was about as low as it gets: Lundqvist lasted just 24 minutes, allowing four goals on 18 shots, before he was pulled in favor of Antti Raanta.

Lundqvist, of course, isn’t the only culprit for New York.

Eric Staal‘s struggled through a forgettable series, pointless after four games with a ghastly minus-6 rating. Say what you will about the merit of plus-minus, it’s not a good look. J.T. Miller has yet to find the back of the net, and the bottom-six forward group has given zero offensively.

That’s probably Vigneault wasn’t about to start singling out players. The Rangers, collectively, are struggling.

“This is definitely a team loss,” he said, per WFAN 660. “I’m not going to single out one individual. As a whole group, we had a hard time.”

Stars rule out Seguin for Game 5

Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin (91) competes in the hardest shot competition at the NHL hockey All-Star game skills competition Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
AP

DALLAS (AP) The Dallas Stars will again be without All-Star center Tyler Seguin for Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against Minnesota.

Seguin played Game 2 on Saturday after missing a month because of a slight cut of his left Achilles tendon. But he missed Games 3 and 4 in Minnesota and coach Lindy Ruff said he won’t play Friday night when the Stars can wrap up the series with a victory.

Seguin played 15:40 and took one shot in Game 2. But he hasn’t been on the ice since.

Ruff earlier this week described Seguin’s absence as “kind of related” to the Achilles injury and maybe fallout of suddenly playing at a high pace after missing 11 games since getting hurt March 17.

Broadway flop: Rangers thumped by Pens at MSG, now on brink of elimination

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Maybe it was revenge, because the Rangers ended their season two years in a row.

Or maybe it’s just the better team exerting dominance.

Whatever the case, one thing is clear — the Penguins stamped their authority on their opening-round series on Thursday night, whipping the Rangers 5-0 at Madison Square Garden for a commanding three games to one lead.

Evgeni Malkin was the catalyst for Pittsburgh, with two goals and two assists, while Patric Hornqvist and captain Sidney Crosby chipped in with a pair of points each. Eric Fehr and Conor Sheary also scored.

For the Rangers — well, nobody did much of anything on a forgettable night.

The club’s anemic power play went scoreless again — it’s now 1-for-16 in the series — and the normally reliable Henrik Lundqvist couldn’t bail the club out, and was hooked after allowing goal No. 4 early in the second period.

It’s been a series with few positives for the Rangers thus far, and Thursday night only emphasized that.

The big guns that failed to fire through the first three games were silent again. Eric Staal and J.T. Miller are still without goals. The bottom-six forward group has given literally nothing in terms of offense.

These are tough times for the Rangers.

The Penguins, meanwhile, have to be thrilled with how the series has gone. They opened without the services of Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury — the No. 1 netminder is still out, which paved the way for Matt Murray to record his first-ever playoff shutout tonight — yet have won three of the first four games, and really found their offense.

Game 5 goes Saturday in Pittsburgh. If the Rangers can’t dramatically alter things, it’ll be the last of the series.

Killer finish: Killorn’s late winner bounces Detroit from playoffs

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The Detroit Red Wings did almost everything they could to extend the series tonight.

Everything, that is, but score a goal.

Alex Killorn did what the Red Wings couldn’t, tallying the lone marker with just 1:43 remaining to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 win on Thursday night, closing out the series four games to one.

Killorn’s goal, his third in five games, came on a gritty net-front effort in which he banged home a puck past Petr Mrazek. It ended what was a tight, compelling affair in which Detroit threw nearly everything it could at Ben Bishop.

It just couldn’t throw anything past him.

The rangy netminder was terrific on the night, especially on breakaways — he stopped Luke Glendening, Darren Helm and Dylan Larkin on separate occasions, and finished with a 33-save shutout.

It was a fitting ending for Bishop who, last year, beat the Red Wings in Game 7 of their opening-round series by stopped all 31 shots faced.

For Detroit, tonight’s game had to be frustrating, and that’s a theme that arose throughout the series. The Red Wings were a frustrated bunch during the opening two games of this series, in which they took an unusually high number of penalties while falling behind 0-2.

While the goaltending switch to Mrazek from Jimmy Howard provided a brief spark, it didn’t last long. Tampa Bay regained control of the series after dropping Game 3, and never really looked back.

Speaking of the Lightning, this series win spoke volumes about the club’s resiliency. Entering without the services of captain Steve Stamkos and key d-man Anton Stralman, many thought the injures would be too much for Tampa to overcome. But the club withstood another injury — to J.T. Brown, who was knocked out of the series early — to become the first team this spring to advance to Round 2.

As for Detroit, the focus will now quickly turn to the future of Pavel Datsyuk, who could have played his final game in a Red Wings uniform.