Blue Jackets’ Alexander Wennberg forced from game after hit to head (Video)

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The bad hits keep coming on the second night of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

First, Josh Anderson was ejected from the Columbus Blue Jackets game against the Washington Capitals after a boarding major on Michal Kempny. Then, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri was sent for an early shower for a dirty hit on Tommy Wingels of the Boston Bruins.

Now, Capitals forward Tom Wilson drilled Alexander Wennberg with a hit to the head, forcing the later from the game.

With Anderson’s ejection and Wennberg’s injury, the Blue Jackets are down to 10 forwards. Still, they managed to tie the game 3-3 late in the third period off the stick of Seth Jones.

George Parros at the NHL Department of Player Safety is going to have himself a busy day on Friday.

UPDATE:


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Blue Jackets’ Josh Anderson tossed from Game 1 after hit from behind (Video)

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We have our first ejection of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

And, man, has it ever been costly for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Late in the first period of Game 1 between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals, Blue Jackets forward Josh Anderson drilled Caps defensemen Michal Kempny from behind on the end boards in Washington’s zone.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Kempny had a towel pressed to his face and left the game after the hit. He did not return for the second period. Anderson, for his efforts, was handed a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct.

Washington didn’t waste any time on the ensuing power play.

Evgeny Kuznetsov scored 29 seconds into the power play and then double the Caps lead to 2-0 with his second power-play goal of the game 29 seconds after that.

UPDATE:


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Capitals name Philipp Grubauer Game 1 playoff starter

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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Philipp Grubauer will start Washington’s playoff opener against Columbus, the first Capitals goaltender not named Braden Holtby to start a postseason series since 2011.

The 26-year-old German started 10 of the final 16 games of the regular season, going 7-3-0 with a 2.32 goals-against average and .925 save percentage. Grubauer’s 2.06 GAA and .933 save percentage are the best among NHL goalies since Oct. 27.

”I just think that Grubi deserves the opportunity,” coach Barry Trotz said Tuesday, a day after telling Grubauer of his decision. ”It sort of evolved all year. There wasn’t a date or anything like that. It just evolved and Grubi got more games and a bigger body of work.”

Grubauer called it a privilege to start after spending the past three full seasons as the backup to Holtby, who won the 2016 Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goaltender. It could be a short-lived privilege if he struggles because Trotz said his decision is only for Game 1 on Thursday night and the Capitals are going ”game by game.”

The opener will be Grubauer’s second career start in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Grubauer started a game against the New York Islanders in the first round in 2015 when Holtby was sick and entered in relief once in 2017.

”It doesn’t change how we go about our business,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. ”We’re just concerned about our game.”

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Grubauer led Windsor to the Ontario Hockey League title and won the Memorial Cup in 2010. He also helped Germany qualify for the 2018 Olympics. But it’s this recent stretch that gives him the most confidence going into the playoffs.

”It helps playing more and more,” Grubauer said. ”The more you get on the ice, the more experience you get. You see different situations and different teams. If you sit on the bench, you can get good from watching, but you’ve got to get the experience.”

He will likely see a lot of Columbus captain Nick Foligno, who is back after missing the final six games of the regular season with a lower-body injury. Foligno gives the Blue Jackets some net-crashing presence and will be in and around the crease often.

”I honestly feel great,” Foligno said after centering Oliver Bjorkstrand and Josh Anderson in practice on what is now the deep Blue Jackets’ third line. ”I’ve played this game long enough to know how you have to prepare during an injury to make sure you’re feeling good mentally and physically when you get back.”

Holtby has never sat on the bench for a Stanley Cup playoff game. Michal Neuvirth started all nine games for Washington in 2011 before injuries to him and Tomas Vokoun pressed Holtby into duty in 2012.

The 28-year-old has started 59 of the past 60 Capitals playoff games. But his struggles down the stretch – a 3.75 GAA and .886 save percentage in his final 17 appearances – cost him the ability to go into another postseason as the guy even after showing improvements following his four-game ”reset.”

Trotz said Holtby was a pro and told him: ”If you put me in the net, my job is to stop the puck. If I get that opportunity, I’ll stop the puck.” He was similarly gracious after practice about the demotion.

”My job is just to focus on my game, getting it the best it can get to,” said Holtby, who closed the season 5-1-0 with a 2.67 GAA and .911 save percentage . ”Coach’s decision who plays or not doesn’t have anything to do with me. I’ll just focus one practice at a time, trying to be a positive influence around the team and go from there.”

Holtby said in March it was good to ”clear the team’s head with that kind of stigma that’s kind of going on with me in net.” With Holtby and Grubauer splitting time down the stretch, the Capitals won 12 of their 15 final games.

”I think we have two good goalies who can play,” defenseman Dmitry Orlov said. ”Grubi was good for us all season. It’s not easy to be second goalie and not play some games. You need to always be prepared in practice. I think he did a good job like a professional player, and I think he’s got confidence right now.”

Alex Ovechkin scores 49th goal, claims another Rocket Richard Trophy

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Alex Ovechkin came close, but fell one goal short of hitting 50 for the seventh time in his NHL career. In the process, he’ll claim his seventh career Rocket Richard Trophy for leading the league in goals scored. No other player has won the award more than twice since it was introduced during the 1998-99 season.

The Washington Capitals captain tallied twice during a 5-3 win over the New Jersey Devils Saturday night. After needing just 2:21 into the game to score his 48th of the year, Ovechkin added No. 49 minutes into the third period.

There were plenty of opportunities for Ovi to grab his 50th, but he couldn’t capitalize, including on a third period breakaway and a late power play chance for the Capitals.

2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Schedule, Bracket, Streams and More

The second goal was Ovechkin’s 102nd career game-winning goal, passing Jarome Iginla (101) for sole possession of eighth place on the NHL’s all-time list.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Capitals best Penguins, clinch third straight Metro Division title

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The Washington Capitals clinched their third straight Metropolitan Division title with a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins Sunday night.

Philipp Grubauer, who’s been tremendous while giving head coach Barry Trotz something to think about as the playoffs approach, made 36 saves, including a couple of beauties in the third period to keep the Penguins at bay.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

T.J. Oshie opened the scoring 6:25 into the game and extended his point streak to five games. Pittsburgh tested Grubauer, firing 26 shot his way in the opening 40 minutes, but he denied them all. Dmitry Orlov would double the Capitals’ lead late in the second period with his 10th of the season.

The Penguins have five wins this season when trailing entering the third period, and coupled with their personnel, they had to be feeling confident that they could find a way to solve Grubauer over the final 20 minutes. That confidence was short-lived as Tom Wilson, via a great deflection, needed just 23 seconds to extend their lead to 3-0.

Playing on Washington’s top line with Alex Ovechkin, Wilson is experiencing a career season with 14 goals and 34 points, 32 of them coming at even strength.

Patric Hornqvist would ruin Grubauer’s shutout attempt with a goal four minutes from time. Then, since these two are hated rivals, things began to boil over. Evgeni Malkin was ready to fight the entire Capitals team.

Penguins assistant coach Mark Recchi was also given the heave-ho after chirping the officials.

This is the last meeting between these two teams in the regular season, but the bad blood will not be forgotten should they see one another yet again sometime in the next month.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.