New York Rangers

Video: Kreider solves Holtby to send Game 5 to overtime

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Chris Kreider was finally able to solve Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, at the most critical of times.

Kreider’s goal on a snap shot with 1:41 left in the third period finally got the Rangers on the board, sending Game 5 to overtime with New York needing a win to stave off elimination. Just after the midway mark of the third period, Curtis Glencross scored to give Washington a 1-0 lead.

Video: Controversial no-goal call against Capitals

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The Washington Capitals thought they opened the scoring late in the second period, however the goal was immediately waved off.

On a Washington point shot, the puck deflected, then got caught up with Capitals forward Joel Ward and New York’s Derek Stepan, who were battling immediately in front of and got tangled up with Henrik Lundqvist, and trickled in behind the Rangers’ goalie.

Video: Holtby denies St. Louis with quick left pad save

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There was no score between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals in the first period of Game 5, and the Capitals can thank goalie Braden Holtby for that.

Holtby was busy, particularly in the first half of the period when the shots were 11-2 New York at one point. His best save came on Martin St. Louis.

Holtby suddenly threw out the left pad to deny St. Louis in close on a cross-ice pass from Rick Nash, keeping the Rangers off the board. Through the first four games of this series, Holtby had allowed just five goals, with three of those coming in Game 2. He also has a save percentage this post-season of .950. Not bad.

Wild prospect Lucia won’t turn pro, but isn’t planning on testing free agency

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There were some eyebrows raised when Mario Lucia — Minnesota’s second-round pick at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft — opted against turning pro this week to return for his senior season at Notre Dame.

Was Lucia, like some previous collegiate draftees, thinking about letting the Wild’s rights expire to test free agency next summer?

Short answer: No.

“The Wild has a lot of interest in me,” Lucia said, per the Star-Tribune. “It’s my hometown team, and if I want to play in the NHL, I want to play with the Wild, for sure. I don’t anticipate not signing with the Wild when I’m ready.

“I just feel I should return to school, graduate and keep developing as a player.”

Lucia, 21, tied for 13th in the country this year in goals (13) and saw Fighting Irish linemate Vince Hinostroza sign a pro deal with Chicago, which some saw as a sign for Lucia make a similar leap (he’s also got NHL size at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds). But the Minnesota native — and son of Golden Gophers head coach Don Lucia — says he wants to further expand his game at the collegiate level before signing an entry-level deal.

That hasn’t, however, stopped people from wondering about the true intention of Lucia’s decision.

Ever since former Boston College star Kevin Hayes balked on signing with the Blackhawks — who took him in the first round in 2010 — to hit free agency and join the Rangers, seeds of doubt have been planted everywhere. We saw as much with Vermont’s Michael Paliotta (who eventually signed with Chicago, the team that drafted him) and Minnesota’s Mike Rielly (the Columbus draftee who’s announced he’s going pro… but maybe not as a Blue Jacket.)

NCAA draftees have leverage when it comes to staying in school for the full four years, then having their choice of suitors as unrestricted free agents.

But to hear Lucia explain it, that’s not what he’s planning to do.

“I really feel we have an opportunity to do special things here [in South Bend], and also I will really have an opportunity to focus on hockey next year,” he explained. “That can only help me mature as a player and help the Wild in the long run.”

Even Vanek admits he let the Wild down

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The Minnesota Wild signed Thomas Vanek to a lucrative deal with this in mind: they finally wanted to get over the hump against the Chicago Blackhawks. Vanek’s detractors would counter that he was the last guy who would accomplish such a task.

Unfortunately for the Wild, Vanek-haters seem to be correct, at least for one season. At least if you look at the results.

Even Vanek is disappointed with his play, as the Pioneer Press’ Chad Graff reports.

“I knew I only needed one to get going and I didn’t get it. I let them down,” Vanek said. “Their scorers scored when they needed to with timely goals and I didn’t.”

The 31-year-old didn’t just fail to score timely goals. He didn’t find the net in garbage time or merely to give Minnesota a little “insurance” either. In 10 playoff games, Vanek failed to score a single goal, settling for four assists.

Now, even the best snipers – a group Vanek belongs to, or at least once did – can hit a wall during the precious few games that make up a postseason. The 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs provide plenty of examples, from Steven Stamkos to Rick Nash. Marian Hossa’s struggles to get a bounce even flew under the radar, as his only goal of this playoff run so far came on an empty-netter in Game 4.

The key difference between Vanek and those other forwards is that, frankly, it’s tougher to gauge the effort from Vanek.

It’s not just a matter of puck luck failing him. Vanek only generated 19 shots on goal in 10 playoff games, and as flimsy as plus/minus can be, seeing him go pointless with a -4 mark in the last three contests isn’t promising. Unlike Hossa, Vanek doesn’t exactly draw rave reviews for his defensive play either, so it’s easy to understand the negativity surrounding the situation. NHL snipers don’t tend to age like fine wine, after all.

The key will be for him to play his game, and a big part of that is unleashing his shot with aplomb. Merely looking at his shot totals in 2013-14 (248 in 78 games with three different teams) versus this past season (just 171 in 80 contests with Minnesota), it’s reasonable to wonder if this was just an off year. Perhaps his off-the-ice issues were simply too much to overcome?

Whether it comes from within or from a coach saying the right words (Mike Yeo or perhaps someone else?), Vanek needs to turn things around.

At least he realizes as much, though.