Ryan Dadoun

Adam Erne

Rangers, Lightning prospects combine to help Quebec win Memorial Cup opener

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While the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning fought in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final, players representing the rival organizations worked together in the Quebec Remparts’ 4-3 victory over the Kelowna Rockets in the first game of the 2015 Memorial Cup.

Rangers defensive prospect Ryan Graves found the back of the net while his team was shorthanded early in the third period to give Quebec a 3-1 lead. Anthony Duclair, who was drafted by New York but dealt to Arizona in the Keith Yandle trade, assisted on the marker. Kelowna’s Gage Quinney brought the Rockets within one, but Lightning prospect Adam Erne gave the Remparts some breathing room with an empty netter.

Erne’s marker proved to be vital as Leon Draisaitl, who was taken by the Edmonton Oilers with the third overall pick in the 2014 draft, scored for Kelowna with just 36 seconds remaining in regulation time. Draisaitl’s efforts ultimately proved to be too little, too late though.

Zachary Fucale was the winning goaltender with 25 saves. He’s a member of the Montreal Canadiens organization after being selected with the 36th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

The Memorial Cup will continue on Saturday when Rimouski takes on Oshawa.

Video: Stamkos nets big one-timer, Rangers answer with two goals in under two minutes

Stamkos goal
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Stamkos had a quiet start to the 2015 playoffs, but he’s heated up tremendously as we’ve gotten deeper into the postseason. With the Lightning down 1-0 in the second period, Stamkos extended his goal scoring streak to three games by launching a one-timer past Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist:

Stamkos now has six markers in his last nine games. Lightning coach Jon Cooper deserves some credit for that turnaround as his decision to move Stamkos to the wing has paid dividends.

It might not be enough to save Tampa Bay tonight though. While the Lightning largely controlled the play in the second period up until Stamkos’ goal, the Rangers bounced right back after they lost their lead. Chris Kreider scored at 15:16 of the second frame and Keith Yandle provided some insurance just 1:48 minutes later with his first marker of the 2015 playoffs:

Video: Slumping Nash charges hard to net, puts Rangers ahead

Nash goal

Rick Nash’s playoff struggles have been an ongoing topic throughout the playoffs. If he makes some more plays like he did in the first period of Game 4, then that storyline will look very dated.

After surrendering six goals in each of their last two games, the Rangers were able to hold the Lightning at bay for the opening period tonight. It was starting to look like this contest would be scoreless through 20 minutes, but Nash accepted a pass from Kevin Hayes and then charged at the net to beat goaltender Ben Bishop one-on-one:

Nash now has three goals in 16 playoff games and eight markers in 57 career postseason contests. Those numbers pale in comparison to what he’s done in the regular season, but if he’s able to heat up, then that could push the Rangers over the top in their series against Tampa Bay.

As it is, New York has its work cut out for it as it seeks to protect the lead and even this series at 2-2.


Vigneault defends Nash, but realizes they need more

Yzerman, Sather, Murray finalists for GM of the Year

Steve Yzerman

The NHL GM of the Year award has come down to Tampa Bay’s Steve Yzerman, the New York Rangers’ Glen Sather, and Anaheim’s Bob Murray.

For Murray its an opportunity to become the first general manager to win the award twice since it was first given in 2010. Anaheim won its division for the third straight year and is fighting the Chicago Blackhawks for a berth into the Stanley Cup Final.

Murray helped bring the Ducks to the next level in the playoffs by acquiring Ryan Kesler from Vancouver in the summer of 2014 in exchange for Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, and two draft picks. Kesler had a solid campaign and has been a big help in the postseason with four goals, nine points, and a 61.2 faceoff winning percentage in 12 contests. Perhaps the biggest move was the one Murray didn’t make though. He let goaltender Jonas Hiller walk as a free agent and rather than replace him, Murray put his trust in the idea that one of his two young netminders, Frederik Andersen or John Gibson, would be able to fill the void. So far that’s worked out for Anaheim.

Yzerman’s Tampa Bay Lightning had a 50-24-8 record in the regular season and advanced to the 2015 Eastern Conference Final. Yzerman inherited Steven Stamkos, but he’s done a great job of building a strong team around the superstar. The Lightning have a number of young offensive weapons, including Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat, all of which were acquired during Yzerman’s watch. Kucherov was a late second round selection in 2011 while Palat slipped all the way to the seventh round of the same draft. Johnson meanwhile was never drafted and Yzerman instead lured him over with an entry-level contract in 2011.

The Lightning general manager also acquired a vital piece of the puzzle in 2013 when he sent Cory Conacher and a fourth round pick to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Ben Bishop.

Sather has been running the Rangers’ front office since in 2000 and oversaw their Presidents’ Trophy-winning 2014-15 campaign. He’s made a habit of trading for or signing high-profile players with varying degrees of success. The most recent example is defenseman Keith Yandle, who he pried away from Arizona in March. Some of the other big names he’s acquired in recent years include Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis, and Dan Boyle.

Lowry emerging as darkhorse candidate for Sharks gig

Dave Lowry
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The San Jose Sharks are considering a lot of high profile options for their vacant head coaching job, but GM Doug Wilson might end up surprising people by picking Dave Lowry.

That’s based on speculation from David Pollak of the Mercury News, although as he notes, he’s not the only one that thinks Lowry has a chance:

He made the Merc’s list of 14 candidates the day after McLellan’s departure was announced. TSN’s Darren Dreger had him on a list of potential Sharks coaches as well, and the Times Colonist (great name for a newspaper, eh?) in Victoria did a quick story on Lowry’s name percolating for the San Jose job.

None of this is to suggest that Lowry has the inside track as Wilson is keeping his lip zipped while the search is in process. Consider it more of a reminder that the Sharks general manager is talking to a lot more people than the few names that do surface here and there.

Lowry has been serving as the bench boss of the WHL Victoria Royals, which went to the second round of the playoffs after posting a 39-29-3-1 regular season record. His efforts with the Royals have earned him the head coaching gig for Team Canada in the upcoming World Junior Championship.

As for the other names out there, three prominent ones are Adam Oates, Dan Bylsma, and Peter DeBoer.

In contrast to those three, Lowry doesn’t have any head coaching experience at the NHL level, but he did enjoy a 1,084-game playing career and previously served as an assistant coach with the Calgary Flames for three seasons.