Canada continues to torment Russia with stunning comeback at Worlds

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It almost feels … mean.

Russia seemed like it would finally beat Canada in a significant international competition involving a decent number of top-level players on Saturday. Then the third period happened.

Canada stormed back from a 2-0 deficit in that final frame, ultimately taking the semifinal match with a 4-2 win. Thanks to that dizzying comeback, they’ll face either Sweden or Finland for the gold. Russia, meanwhile, is relegated to the bronze match.

The rally began with a Mark Scheifele power-play goal early in the third, yet Russia had a 2-1 lead deep into the contest. Nathan MacKinnon‘s 2-2 tally came with less than five minutes remaining in regulation.

Not long after, Ryan O'Reilly scored the decisive tally, while Sean Couturier‘s empty-netter ended any drama. Canada generated a 19-5 shot differential in that third-period push.

Check out full highlights above this post’s headline.

It’s been a frustrating year for Jesse Puljujarvi

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Not much has gone right this season for Jesse Puljujarvi.

The No. 4 overall pick at last year’s draft lasted just 28 games in Edmonton — scoring one goal — before he was sent down to AHL Bakersfield.

He never made it back up.

Not even for the playoffs. Rather than serve as a Black Ace while the Oilers came within one win of the Western Conference final, Puljujarvi was instead loaned to Finland for the World Hockey Championship.

There, he’s gone pointless through five games, and been healthy scratched twice.

It wasn’t surprising, then, to hear Edmonton GM Peter Chiarelli talk of a frustrated player when Puljujarvi came up during end-of-year media availability.

“He’s a kid from northern Finland and was frustrated because he wasn’t scoring,” Chiarelli said, per the Sun. “When he was here, he started well and lost confidence so we sent him down. I saw him play a few times and saw a lot of his video and he actually had a pretty good year with 29 points in 39 games in the American League.

“He had a period of apprenticeship, maybe something he didn’t think he’d have. I’m not unhappy with his development.”

Of course, Chiarelli said Puljujarvi was also “very frustrated with his game” in Bakersfield, feeling he didn’t score enough. And there’s no doubt the 19-year-old saw fellow draftees Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine light up the NHL this year, which probably added to the frustration.

Read more: Draft-day shocker sees Blue Jackets take Dubois over Puljujarvi

The big question for Edmonton is how this affects plans for next season.

There’s been widespread speculation Chiarelli could jettison Jordan Eberle this summer — and his $6 million cap hit — and replace him in the top-six forward group with Puljujarvi, who has two years left on his entry-level deal.

But that’s asking an awful lot. For as badly as he struggled in the postseason, Eberle still had 20 goals and 51 points during the regular season, and played a big role in Edmonton snapping its 11-year playoff drought. Can Puljujarvi replicate that? Or anything close to it?

If Chiarelli thinks he can, it makes moving Eberle easier.

If Chiarelli thinks he can’t, it makes a tough offseason that much tougher.

Hurricanes, Stars get early jump on NHL goalie carousel

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When the Carolina Hurricanes traded a third-round pick to Chicago for the rights to Scott Darling, the NHL’s goaltender carousel started spinning.

After Carolina signed Darling to a $16.6 million, four-year deal, the Dallas Stars sent a fourth-round pick to Los Angeles for the rights to Ben Bishop and signed the 6-foot-7 former Lightning starter for $29.5 million over six years. Carolina and Dallas were willing to give up picks to get the jump on what Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis called an interesting offseason to shop for a goalie.

“There’s two different paths you can look at: One is certainly who’s going to be available on July 1 and what it may take to get them in terms of years and in terms of salary, and then the other option is you’re looking at who might be available in terms of teams not wanting to lose a goaltender in expansion and willing to make a trade and what it costs you to get that player,” Francis said. “When we looked at everything and studied things, we thought this was the best viable option for us.”

It looks brilliant now ahead of a goalie shuffle that expected to happen over the next several weeks leading up to the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft June 21, the actual draft a few days later and the start of free agency July 1. The Golden Knights, Calgary Flames, Philadelphia Flyers and perhaps even the Winnipeg Jets and Colorado Avalanche are in the market, with Pittsburgh veteran Marc-Andre Fleury, Washington backup Philipp Grubauer and a handful of others in the mix to fill vacancies.

Fleury led the Penguins to the Eastern Conference final but could still be traded with Matt Murray entrenched as the goalie of the future, and his value has never been higher. Fleury wields power with his no-movement clause that could let him choose his destination.

Read more: Fleury could be good option for Flames … or even Flyers

Grubauer said he has no choice where he goes, but as a restricted free agent he does have some control and could be headed to Vegas. The Golden Knights will get 48 hours to negotiate with any unrestricted or restricted free agents left unprotected for the expansion draft, and the 25-year-old German had a 2.05 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in 24 games this season and is widely considered ready to be a starter.

“He’s an outstanding goalie,” Capitals starter Braden Holtby said. “What I think I’ve seen from him the last year especially, his talent is NHL talent, but a lot of guys have that. His mental game, his mental prep – every game he was in he was never out of it mentally. He was always sharp and that shows.”

Grubauer and Darling could follow the path of understudies-turned-starters blazed by Edmonton’s Cam Talbot, who has thrived since backing up Henrik Lundqvist with the Rangers, and San Jose’s Martin Jones, who took the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Final a year ago after being Jonathan Quick‘s No. 2 in Los Angeles. Much like Grubauer, the 28-year-old Darling has improved the mental side of his game as Corey Crawford‘s backup with the Blackhawks and believes he has the stuff to start.

“I’m confident because I’m excited about it and I’m going to do everything in my power to learn how to be the best starter I can be,” said Darling, who’s 6-foot-6 and had a .924 save percentage last season. “I have a good network of goalie friends that I’m going to be picking their brains and asking for help and just trying to do everything that I can do to be successful in that role.”

Current Rangers backup Antti Raanta, who has a year left on his deal at a bargain-basement $1 million salary-cap hit, has shown evidence he can be successful too and has been speculated as a Vegas option. So have Grubauer and Flyers goaltender Michal Neuvirth because of close ties to GM George McPhee and goalie coach Dave Prior.

“There’s a lot of other guys on the market too that could possibly go out there, so it’s not just me,” Grubauer said. “George drafted me, so they know what they probably get and with other guys they probably not know as much. I don’t know what they’re going to do.”

Vegas’ decisions in goal could have as much of a domino effect as Carolina getting Darling and Dallas locking up Bishop. The Flames made the playoffs with the tandem of Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson, now pending free agents, and could go young with prospect Jon Gilles, look at Fleury or move in another direction to improve on their 19th-ranked save percentage.

Winnipeg has youngsters Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson and Colorado has Semyon Varlamov and Calvin Pickard but could shake things up in net to speed up the process of returning to playoff contention. The Flyers will likely move on from the Neuvirth-Steve Mason combo, but former goaltender and now GM Ron Hextall seems fine patching things up until one of Philadelphia’s top prospects (Carter Hart, Alex Lyon or Felix Sandstrom) is ready for the NHL.

“We do have kids coming, and I think everybody knows it,” Hextall said.

 

Related: Nill thinks Niemi or Lehtonen could be ‘intriguing’ for some teams

Is Brian Elliott a fit for Winnipeg?

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With the goalie market in full fluidity — Carolina got Scott Darling, and Dallas landed Ben Bishop — focus has turned to the clubs still in need of help between the pipes.

Like in Winnipeg, for example.

After a year in which Connor Hellebuyck, Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson failed to provide consistent netminding, the Jets will need to add something in goal. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said the club would “look at all the different options” for upgrading the position this summer, but two of those options — Darling and Bishop — are now off the table.

So, what about veteran Brian Elliott? From the Winnipeg Sun:

Elliott is a name that’s being tossed around as a candidate for the Jets.

He’s 32, has plenty of experience in the Central Division as both a starter and a backup and while his past season started slowly, he provided strong enough goaltending to get the Flames into the playoffs.

There’s no doubt Elliott struggled in the playoffs against the Ducks but he also helped the St. Louis Blues reach the Western Conference final the previous season.

He would also be a good mentor for Hellebuyck.

Elliott just wrapped a three-year, $7.5 million deal with a $2.5M average annual cap hit. He could, in theory, re-up with the Flames, but it’s been widely speculated his time in Calgary is done.

 

 

 

USA scores four unanswered goals to rally past Latvia

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Team USA won its fourth consecutive game at the IIHF World Championships on Saturday with a 5-3 win over Latvia.

It was not an easy win by any stretch of the imagination.

Trailing 3-1 midway through the second period, the United States need to rally with four consecutive goals to pick up the win. The rally started with a Nick Bjugstad goal with just under seven minutes to play in the second period. Just a few minutes later Johnny Gaudreau scored the equalizer. The game would remained tied until late in the third period when Andrew Copp would score the eventual game-winner with just under four minutes to play in regulation.

Dylan Larkin added an empty net goal to put the game away, extending his point streak in the tournament to five games. He is the only team USA player to record a point in every game of the tournament.

You can see all of the highlights from the game in the video above.

After being upset by Germany in the opening game of the tournament, the United States has outscored its next four opponents (Denmark, Sweden, Italy and Latvia) by a 19-8 margin.

Team USA is back in action on Sunday against Slovakia then closes out the first round on Tuesday against Russia.