Author: Ryan Dadoun

Evgeni Malkin

Can Penguins repay Rangers for last year’s 3-1 comeback?

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The New York Rangers know what it’s like to come back from a 3-1 series deficit. They’ve done it, most recently against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2014. The roles have been reversed in the 2015 rematch after New York earned a 2-1 overtime win against Pittsburgh in Game 4 tonight, and the Rangers are well aware that the Penguins are no more out of it than they were last year.

Remembering what it was like, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist expects the Penguins to give them everything they’ve got in Game 5 on Friday.

“It’s desperation mode for them and the key is to match that,” Lundqvist said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Seth Rorabaugh. “You have to grab every opportunity you get to finish a series. You can’t just think you have more chances. You’ve got to go for it and match their desperation. It’s tough. Every game here has been one goal and it’s not going to be easy. We have to prepare the right way mentally, physically and get ready for battle.”

There wasn’t a lot of optimism surrounding the Penguins going into this series given the way they limped into the playoffs, but it’s worth remembering that they’ve been competitive in every game in this series. Not much would have had to change for this series to look very different going into Friday’s contest.

Penguins star forward Evgeni Malkin has no points and just five shots on goal so far. If he was having a better series, that alone might have been enough to tip the scale in the Penguins’ favor. As it is, Malkin bouncing back would be enough to give Pittsburgh a fighting chance going forward.

Rangers rookie Hayes is an OT hero, Pens now desperate

Penguins OT loss
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The Pittsburgh Penguins enjoyed a strong start against the New York Rangers in Game 4 of the first round series tonight. They did not enjoy the finish as the Rangers secured a 2-1 overtime victory to take a 3-1 series lead.

The Penguins surrendered the opening goal in each of the first three contests, but Patric Hornqvist put them ahead just 2:22 minutes into Game 4:

By the end of the first frame, Pittsburgh had an 8-2 edge in shots and were in position to even the series at home. However, Derick Brassard evened the contest late in the second period on a gritty goal. It was his third of the series and he’s the only multi-goal player on the Rangers so far in the 2015 postseason.

The two sides were unable to settle this contest in the third, but the overtime period didn’t last long. Rangers rookie Kevin Hayes managed to beat goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury after just 3:14 minutes of extra time. It was Hayes’ first career playoff point after recording 17 goals and 45 points in 79 regular season contests.

All four games of this series have been decided by just one goal, but that’s not much of a consolation for Pittsburgh, which is now on the brink of elimination. This series will return to Madison Square Garden on Friday.

Sens survive: Anderson shuts out Habs to avoid elimination

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The benefit of being a Cinderella Story is that you get very familiar playing in must-win games. Ottawa needed to go on an incredible 21-3-3 just to make the playoffs. Compared to that a four-game winning streak doesn’t sound so daunting. The Seantors were down 3-0 in the first round going into tonight’s contest, but they stayed alive for at least one more game by earning a 1-0 victory over Montreal tonight.

As has been the case so often for Ottawa in recent months, goaltending was the story. Craig Anderson, who had lost the starting gig to Andrew Hammond by the end of the season, got the nod for the second straight game and turned aside 28 shots to earn his third career playoff shutout.

His efforts proved critical as netminder Carey Price and the Canadiens were very effective at shutting down the Senators. Two of Ottawa’s top forwards, Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan, were once again held off the scoresheet in this first round series. Not that they were alone in that tonight as 25-year-old rookie Mike Hoffman accounted for the game’s only goal:

Of course a team winning Game 4 after falling behind 3-0 isn’t unheard of, but actually pulling off a reverse sweep is a very rare feat. Ottawa will have another must-win game on Friday.

Video: Rare faceoff violation nearly costs Senators

Faceoff
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Ottawa needs to win tonight against Montreal or its playoff run will end after just four games, but the Senators ran into penalty troubles in the first half of the contest. The penalties were 3-1 against Ottawa at that stage of the game and that included a very rare call.

The Senators got were charged with consecutive false starts on the draw at 8:34 of the second period. As of the 2014-15 campaign, that’s a minor penalty, but it’s one that’s almost never been applicable in practice.

You can see the unusual scenario below:

Given that this call is scarce enough that you might not have even been aware of its existence, here is Rule 76.6:

When a least two face-off violations have been committed by the same team during the same face-off, this team shall be penalized with a bench minor penalty to the offending team. This penalty shall be announced as a “Bench Minor Penalty for Delay of Game – Face-off Violation.”

Fortunately for the Senators, they killed the penalty to keep the contest scoreless. Wouldn’t that have been an embarrassing way to get eliminated.

Quenneville: ‘It might be the year of the backup goalie’

Scott Darling, Brent Seabrook
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Goaltender Corey Crawford has led the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup championship, but when Chicago attempts to eliminate Nashville on Thursday, he won’t be playing between the pipes. Rookie Scott Darling has been a big part of the first round series and will get another start in Game 5.

It’s an impressive, yet oddly common story this season. If you look at the GAA leaders so far in the 2015 postseason, you won’t see Carey Price or Henrik Lundqvist listed in the top-three. Instead it’s Darling, Devan Dubnyk, and Jake Allen. Three netminders who weren’t in starting roles when the campaign began. Then there’s Petr Mrazek, who shutout the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday to give Detroit a 2-1 series lead.

“It might be the year of the backup goalie this year,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told CSN Chicago. “Somebody you’ve never heard of may get an opportunity and all of a sudden is a key guy. We all know the importance of the goalie and how the guy who is playing well is getting that net. Sometimes it’s competitive with internal competition but at the same time the rapport is excellent [with the normal starter] and it’s a healthy situation to be in.”

The question is if this trend will continue. Dubnyk really can’t be regarded as a backup anymore and that’s been true since Minnesota acquired him, but if Darling, Allen, or Mrazek falter, then their respective teams might not wait long to replace them.

We’ve already seen Ottawa’s Andrew Hammond be relegated to warming the bench despite his tremendous regular season run and Vancouver’s Eddie Lack was yanked early in Tuesday’s contest. Even still, at this point it’s entirely possible that the goaltender who leads his team to a Stanley Cup championship will be one that didn’t hold the starting job at the beginning of the season.