New York Rangers

Video: Spaling gets unusual goal as puck bounces off arm

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Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury have been at the top of their game so far tonight, so in a way, it seems appropriate that Pittsburgh’s first marker of the contest came under unusual circumstances.

With the Penguins down 1-0 and facing elimination, Sidney Crosby took a shot on goal that was stopped by Lundqvist. However, he could not control the rebound under the circumstances and it ended up hitting Nick Spaling in the arm as he crashed towards the net. The play was initially reviewed to determine if Spaling batted it in with his hand, but it was determined to be a good goal.

The NHL Situation Room issued this statement:

At 17:23 of the second period in the Pittsburgh Penguins/New York Rangers game, video review supported the referee’s call on the ice that the puck deflected off Nick Spaling and into the New York net in a legal fashion. According to Rule 78.4 “If an attacking player has the puck deflect into the net, off his skate or body, in any manner, the goal shall be allowed”. Good goal Pittsburgh.

Spaling only had nine goals in 82 games during the 2014-15 regular season. Coming into this contest, he had two career markers in 32 playoff contests.

The game remained tied at 1-1 going into the second intermission.

Mats Zuccarello sidelined after taking puck to the head

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New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello wasn’t able to join his teammates for the start of the second period in Game 5 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Shortly after the frame began, the Rangers confirmed that he was done for the night.

Zuccarello was struck in the head by teammate Ryan McDonagh’s shot late in the first period. He immediately headed to the locker room, but the good news is that he did so on his own strength.

You can see the incident below:

Losing the 27-year-old forward for any amount of time would be a significant blow for the Rangers. He’s coming off of a solid regular season where he scored 15 goals and 49 points in 78 contests. That led to him signing a four-year, $18 million extension in March.

He also had two assists in the four playoff games coming into tonight’s action.

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoff TV schedule for tonight

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A quick look at what games will be on what channels in tonight’s Stanley Cup playoff action…

Senators at Canadiens, 7:00 p.m. ET on CNBC

The Ottawa Senators will once again look to avoid elimination tonight as their series with the Canadiens moves to Montreal’s Bell Centre for Game 5. The Sens are no strangers to playing desperate hockey. Andrew Hammond led Ottawa to a 20-1-2 record down the stretch as the Sens clawed their way into the playoffs. In order for Ottawa to have a chance tonight they’ll have to solve Habs’ starter Carey Price. After allowing three goals in Game 1, he has surrendered just four goals in three games while posting a .959 save percentage. Paul Romanuk, Mike Johnson and Glenn Healy have the call tonight.

Penguins at Rangers, 7:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Like the Sens, the Penguins will need to go into MSG tonight and find a win in order to prolong their series with the New York Rangers. Kevin Hayes scored the overtime winner in Game 4 giving the Rangers a 3-1 stranglehold on the series. The Penguins, who have been to the conference finals once in the past five years, are trying to avoid being bounced from the first round for the first time since the 2011-12 season. Gord Miller and Pierre McGuire will be on the call tonight.

Wild at Blues, 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

The final game of the evening has the Minnesota Wild in St. Louis to take on the Blues in Game 5. St. Louis is coming off a dominating 6-1 victory in Game 4. It appears the heavy workload may be catching up to goaltender Devan Dubnyk. After winning 26 of 34 starts since joining the Wild in January, Dubnyk is now 3-5-1 in April with an .895 save percentage. Dave Strader and Brian Engblom have the call of Game 5.

Tight Calder Trophy race down to Ekblad, Gaudreau, Stone

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This year featured a tight race for the Calder Trophy with several candidates worthy of being called the Rookie of the Year. However, only one can win and tonight we learned that the three candidates are Florida’s Aaron Ekblad, Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau, and Ottawa’s Mark Stone.

At this point it’s not surprising to see Gaudreau’s name on the list of Calder Trophy finalists, but going into the season there was a lot of skepticism about him. He was the 2014 Hobey Baker Award winner after scoring an incredible 80 points in 40 NCAA contests with Boston College, so obviously he had potential offensively, but there were concerns about the 5-foot-9 forward’s ability to adjust to the NHL given his size. Aware of that perception, he reached out to other undersized forwards like Martin St. Louis before the start of the season to get their advice.

“I’ve just got to make sure I follow in their footsteps and do what they’ve been doing,” Gaudreau said back in July. He’s taken a great first step by scoring 24 goals and 64 points in 80 contests with the Calgary Flames.

Out of all the rookies that stepped up this season, Mark Stone was perhaps the biggest surprise. Originally taken in the sixth round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Stone had to hone his game in the minors before being able to earn a regular spot with Ottawa. He got off to a solid start this season, but it wasn’t until Dave Cameron took over as the team’s bench boss that his playing time grew substantially. He repaid Cameron’s trust by scoring 15 goals and 38 points in 36 contests after the All-Star break. No other rookie even came close to matching Stone’s pace during that stretch and if the NHL season was just a few weeks longer, he might have been regarded as the undisputed favorite for this year’s rookie honors.

As it is Stone still ended up tying Gaudreau for first place in the scoring race.

Unlike Stone or Gaudreau, Aaron Ekblad managed to jump straight into the NHL after being drafted. While that’s pretty much the standard for a first overall selection, it is still very rare to see a defenseman be this effective as a teenager. He had 12 goals and 39 points in 81 contests while also leading the Panthers with a plus-12 rating. Perhaps the most impressive thing about him though is the level of trust he earned with the Panthers, as evidenced by his average of 21:48 minutes per contest.

Of course in a year with this many strong rookie seasons, there’s bound to be snubs and Filip Forsberg arguably tops that list.

The Nashville Predators have been hurting for a top-end skilled forward for a while and their search seems to be over. Although Forsberg needed to spend the 2013-14 campaign adjusting to North America hockey after playing predominantly in Sweden prior to that, he hit the ground running this season with 14 goals and 35 points in 36 contests by New Year’s Day. At one point he looked like the heavy favorite to win this year’s Calder Trophy, but he slowed down somewhat in the second half and consequently finished a close third in the scoring race with 63 points in 82 contests.

John Klingberg is another big snub. He didn’t make his NHL debut until Nov. 11, but he still led all rookie defensemen in scoring. The 22-year-old had 11 goals and 40 points in 65 contests while making the transition from Sweden. Stars GM Jim Nill was so impressed by Klingberg that he handed the blueliner a seven-year, $29.75 million contract despite the relatively small sample size. So while he won’t get the Calder, his efforts were far from unrecognized.

Pens coach draws on personal experience of trailing series 3-1 and winning

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Mike Johnston doesn’t need to be told a team can come back from a 3-1 series deficit. Back in 2003, when he was an associate coach with the Canucks, he lived it.

“I remember clearly when I was in Vancouver,” the Penguins coach recalled today, “we were in a series with St. Louis, and we went into St. Louis and won Game 5. And all of a sudden St. Louis had to pack their bags and come back to Vancouver. And they really didn’t want to. They wanted to have a couple of extra days to get ready for the next series.

“A few [Blues] got sick, got the flu, we won Game 6, won Game 7. The series can change so fast. And a lot of our players have been through that. Those are the experiences you need to draw on.”

And what Johnston didn’t mention about 2003 was the Canucks blowing a 3-1 series lead, to Minnesota, in the next round.

Of course, it was the Penguins who led the Rangers 3-1 last year, then proceeded to lose three straight.

“Several of the players have been through the reversal last year,” said Johnston. “They were leading on New York 3-1, and the whole series changed.

“This game going into New York, we win (and) the series changes completely, and it heads in our favor for sure. Just because of the psychological edge, when they’re at home, and we win that game and bring it back here, that’s a whole different series. We need one game, and that’s it.”

The Penguins may be in a deep hole trailing 3-1, but it’s not like they’ve been blown out so far. All four games have been decided by one goal, with last night’s contest going to overtime before Kevin Hayes scored for the Rangers.

“If you look at the way the whole series has gone, it’s just a fine line,” Johnston said afterwards.

Game 5 goes tomorrow at 7 p.m. ET (on NBCSN).