Rangers rookie Hayes is an OT hero, Pens now desperate

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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.

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

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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.

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…

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

In the 35 times the Montreal Canadiens have taken a 3-0 series lead, they’ve never lost. Meanwhile the Ottawa Senators are looking to become just the fifth team to battle back from down three games to win a series. The L.A. Kings did it last spring against the San Jose Sharks on the way to winning the franchise’s second Stanley Cup. John Forslund and Andy Brickley have the call of Game 4.

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

The Pittsburgh Penguins will look to even their series at two and avoid heading back to New York down 3-1. In order to tie the series the Penguins will need to have a better start. New York has out-scored Pittsburgh 9-1 in first periods dating back to Game 5 of last year’s series. Doc Emrick and Pierre McGuire will have the call.

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

The Minnesota Wild have won three of the eight playoff series they’ve played, but they’ve never held a 3-1 series lead. The Wild will look to put the Blues on the brink of elimination in Game 4 at Minnesota’s Xcel Energy Center. Dave Strader and Brian Engblom will be on the call.

Ducks at Jets, 9:30 p.m. ET on USA

Like the Sens, the Winnipeg Jets will try to avoid a sweep tonight. The Jets have blown third period leads in each of the first three games of the series and find themselves behind 3-0 to the Anaheim Ducks. Anaheim has out-scored Winnipeg 7-0 in third periods in the series. The Jets will look for their first playoff win in franchise history in Game 4 while the Ducks are seeking their first playoff sweep in nine years. Chris Cuthbert and Bret Hedican are on the call.

Hobey Baker finalist Hyman won’t sign with Florida

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University of Michigan senior Zach Hyman — taken by Florida in the fifth round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft — has informed the Panthers he won’t be signing an entry-level deal with the club.

The move will allow Hyman to become an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 16, though the Panthers may trade his rights before then. Regardless, the Sunrise-based team will be losing out on a fairly promising prospect; Hyman led the Wolverines in scoring this year, with 54 points in 37 games, and finished as a Hobey Baker finalist.

This move is not unlike what Kevin Hayes and Justin Schultz did with their drafting teams (Chicago and Anaheim, respectively.) Both waited for the mid-August deadline to pass, then became UFAs and signed elsewhere (with the Rangers and Oilers, respectively.)

It’s a scenario that could play out again this summer with Columubus draftee Mike Reilly, a University of Minnesota junior who’s announced his intention to turn pro next year, but has yet to sign his ELC with the Blue Jackets.

No further discipline for Byfuglien after Perry hit

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Winnipeg defenseman Dustin Byfuglien won’t face any supplemental discipline for his antics in Monday’s OT loss to Anaheim, an NHL spokesman confirmed.

Byfuglien was given a two-minute roughing minor after running Ducks forward Corey Perry from behind just after Perry had scored to give his team a 2-1 lead:

“Obviously, we don’t like it,” Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game, per the OC Register. “It was a tough play.”

The incident comes just weeks after Byfuglien was slapped with a four-game suspension for a “dangerous” crosscheck on Rangers forward J.T. Miller.