Mike Halford

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


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)

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


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


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.

GM Fletcher ‘not on any hot seat’ with Wild owner

2012 NHL Entry Draft - Rounds 2-7
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Under-fire Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher will be back for another season.

That’s what Wild owner Craig Leipold said on Thursday, telling the Star-Tribune there’s “absolutely no way Chuck is not going to be here next year.”

“He is our guy,” Leipold added. “I continue to have a high level of confidence in Chuck and his staff and we’re already talking about next year.”

Leipold might have confidence in Fletcher, but there are those in Minnesota that don’t.

The Wild found themselves in a precarious position this year, fighting for a playoff spot after advancing to the second round in each of the last two seasons. The team isn’t young — Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek are all on the wrong side of 30 — and Fletcher’s twice fired coaches in the last five years: Todd Richards was dismissed in favor of Mike Yeo, and Yeo was sacked midway through this season in favor of current (and interim) bench boss John Torchetti.

The NHL’s seventh longest-tenured GM, Fletcher — to his credit — has made some nice moves over his seven years in charge. Acquiring Devan Dubnyk from Arizona all but saved the Wild last season, and his ability to land Parise and Suter during the summer of 2012 was a franchise-altering moment.

Looking ahead, though, it’ll be interesting to see how Fletcher alters what many see as an aging, expensive roster.

Pominville, who scored a career-low 11 goals this season, is pulling down $5.6M annually until 2019. The Suter and Parise contracts, which carry $7.5 million hits, run through 2025 (not a typo).

If Fletcher can integrate some of the club’s young draft prospects and win a trade or two — Matthew Dumba‘s name has come up as a potential chip on numerous occasions — he could turn this thing around.

It won’t be easy. But Fletcher, if nothing else, has the backing of his owner to get it sorted.

“Chuck knows he is not on any hot seat with me,” Leipold said. “So if there are rumors – and I haven’t seen them – then they aren’t something Chuck or anyone else should be worried about.”