Braden Holtby gets the start in Washington’s biggest game of the year

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When Tomas Vokoun signed with the Caps in the offseason, games like tonight’s tilt with the Sabres that sees the winner take control of the final playoff spot in the East are the kind that he was brought in to play.

Thanks to a nagging injury, however, Vokoun won’t be playing and the starting duties instead fall to 22-year-old Braden Holtby. As Chuck Gormley from CSNWashington.com hears from Holtby, he’s fired up to get at it tonight.

“It’s a big game but at the same time it’s just another one,” said Holtby who is 2-1-1 for the Capitals this season, including a 3-0 shutout over Minnesota on Sunday. “It counts as two points, just like all the others do. You’ve got to go into it with that mindset, but there will be a little extra motivation to have the team going and get a win.”

The added motivation is to make sure the scorching hot Sabres don’t go sprinting past them and into the playoffs while the Caps are left to keep clawing away to keep up with them and the Ottawa Senators.

For Holtby, he’s seen pressure games before in the AHL helping Hershey to win a Calder Cup in 2010. It’s just a little different on the NHL stage though and this is as close to a playoff game as he’s going to see. No pressure, kid.

Lightning ‘turning the page’ after missing first chance to clinch Cup

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It was a missed opportunity, but the Tampa Bay Lightning still hold the series lead. Up 3-2 in the Stanley Cup Final, they get a second chance to hold a celebration at center ice inside Rogers Place Monday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC; livestream) against the Dallas Stars.

One thing that has defined this Lightning team in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs has been their ability to bounce back. Of the 24 games they’ve played inside a bubble this postseason, Tampa has only lost seven of them. Each loss has been followed up by a win, making them 6-0 since the Round-Robin after a defeat. The last time they posted consecutive losses was their two final games before the March NHL pause.

“The sting after a game, for both teams, whenever they lose, is usually that night,” said head coach Jon Cooper. “But the next day, I can only speak for our team, we’ve done a pretty good job of turning the page. When you are that close, you can sit here and say you can taste it, but in the end, we’re still up 3-2 in the series, and we feel pretty decent about our game, so let’s bring it [Monday] night and see what happens.”

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

In Tampa’s minds, Corey Perry‘s goal in double overtime Saturday night was just delaying the party. After Mikhail Sergachev scored early in the third period, the Lightning were 16:22 away from winning their second Cup in franchise history. Joe Pavelski had other ideas.

It’s a tough pill to swallow, knowing you were a goal away from winning it all. But there are still two games max to play, and Tampa holds has the advantage in the series.

“We can’t rewrite history,” Cooper said. “We can’t go back and say, ‘What if.’ There were so many times in these playoffs that we were like, ‘Holy cow, I can’t believe we did that, or we did this.’ So that’s happened way more than second-guessing a missed shot or a post here.

“We’ve got a plan. It’s gotten us this far and we fully believe it’ll get us through the end.”

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 3-2)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Lighting 5, Stars 4 [OT] (recap)
Stars 3, Lightning 2 [2OT] (recap)
Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

MORE: Lightning rule out Steven Stamkos for rest of Stanley Cup Final

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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.

NHL schedule for 2020 Stanley Cup Final

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The Stanley Cup Playoffs continue on Saturday, Sept. 19 in the hub city of Edmonton. Now that we are through the conference finals, the full 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final schedule has been announced.  

The top four teams during the regular season in both conferences played a three-game round robin for seeding in the First Round. The eight winners of the best-of-5 Qualifying Round advanced to the First Round.  

Rogers Place in Edmonton will host 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final.  

Here is the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final schedule.

2020 STANLEY CUP FINAL (Rogers Place – Edmonton)

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 3-2)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Lighting 5, Stars 4 [OT] (recap)
Stars 3, Lightning 2 [2OT] (recap)
Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

CONFERENCE FINAL RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
Lightning beat Islanders (4-2)

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
Stars beat Golden Knights (4-1)

***

SECOND ROUND RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Lightning beat Bruins (4-1)
Islanders beat Flyers (4-3)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Golden Knights beat Canucks (4-3)
Stars beat Avalanche (4-3)

***

NHL QUALIFYING ROUND / ROUND-ROBIN RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Philadelphia Flyers (3-0-0, 6 points)
Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1-0, 4 points)
Washington Capitals (1-1-1, 3 points)
Boston Bruins (0-3-0, 0 points)

Canadiens beat Penguins (3-1)
Hurricanes beat Rangers (3-0)
Islanders beat Panthers (3-1)
Blue Jackets beat Maple Leafs (3-2)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Vegas Golden Knights (3-0-0, 6 points)
Colorado Avalanche (2-1-0, 4 points)
Dallas Stars (1-2-0, 2 points)
St. Louis Blues (0-2-1, 1 point)

Blackhawks beat Oilers (3-1)
Coyotes beat Predators (3-1)
Canucks beat Wild (3-1)
Flames beat Jets (3-1)

***

FIRST ROUND RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Flyers beat Canadiens (4-2)
Lightning beat Blue Jackets (4-1)
Islanders beat Capitals (4-1)
Bruins beat Hurricanes (4-1)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Golden Knights beat Blackhawks (4-1)
Avalanche beat Coyotes (4-1)
Stars beat Flames (4-2)
Canucks beat Blues (4-2)

The Wraparound: Stars try to force Game 7 vs. Lightning

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down Monday’s Stanley Cup Final game with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

• Lightning captain Steven Stamkos has been ruled out for the rest of the Cup Final.

Don’t expect a bubble situation for the 2020-21 NHL regular season.

MONDAY’S STANLEY CUP FINAL GAME

Game 6: Stars vs. Lightning (TB leads 3-2) – 8 p.m. ET, NBC (livestream): Facing elimination for the second time this postseason, the Stars overcame a third-period deficit and won the first Cup Final double-overtime game since 2014 to deny the Lightning the title and force Game 6. In what was the second set of a back-to-back, two aging offseason signees were the difference for Dallas as 36-year-old Joe Pavelski tied the game with 6:45 remaining in regulation and 35-year-old Corey Perry ended the second overtime game in as many days with his put back 9:23 into the second extra session.

This was the first game this series in which neither team led by more than one goal at any point. Game 5 was the second straight game in which there was a lead change after zero such occurrences in the first three games this series.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The three oldest players on the ice in Game 5 were the difference makers as Perry and Pavelski scored all of Dallas’ goals and 34-year-old Anton Khudobin stopped 39 of 41 shots including all 11 faced in the overtime sessions. Perry and Pavelski, the two oldest players on the Stars, were long-time division rivals on their former clubs, and were signed the day free agency opened on July 1, 2019. Both were brought on to provide experience and although neither is the prolific goal-scorer they once were, the Stars got what they paid for with the timely scoring the two have provided in these playoffs. For Khudobin, a journeyman goalie starting in the postseason for the first time, he’s now two wins away from history and maybe a Conn Smythe Trophy.

Tampa became first team in NHL history to clinch all three series in overtime en route to reaching the Cup Final, but they were unable to win a fourth OT-series clincher, at least not yet. Head coach Jon Cooper compared his team’s situation now to the East Final, when they led the Islanders 3-1 and lost Game 5 in double overtime and then came back two days later and closed out the series in Game 6.

“We were in this spot before in the last series,” he said. “We had a 3-1 [series] lead, and coincidentally we lost in overtime in that one too. We’ve felt this feeling before, we’ve felt this sting, and then we’ve rebounded.”

The Lightning have yet to lose consecutive games this postseason – 5-0 following a loss since the First Round. They last lost consecutive games on March 8th and 10th – their final two games before the pause.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 3-2)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Lighting 5, Stars 4 [OT] (recap)
Stars 3, Lightning 2 [2OT] (recap)
Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

Bubble won’t be back for full 2020-21 NHL season

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EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — The 64 days spent in the NHL playoff bubble feel like six months to Barclay Goodrow.

”It’s tough,” the Tampa Bay Lightning forward said. ”It’s been a grind.”

It’s a grind he and players won’t do again next season. The league and Players’ Association will meet within the next two weeks to discuss the many possibilities of what the 2020-21 season could look like, but there’s no desire to stage it entirely within quarantined bubbles.

”Certainly not for a season, of course not,” NHLPA executive director Don Fehr told The Associated Press on Sunday. ”Nobody is going to do that for four months or six months or something like that. Whether we could create some protected environments that people would be tested and they’d be clean when they came in and lasted for some substantially shorter period of time with people cycling in and out is one of the things I suspect we will examine.”

Not long after the Stanley Cup is awarded, which could be as soon as Monday night if the Lightning beat the Dallas Stars in Game 6 of the final, the two sides will talk about when next season might start, how many games might be possible, what testing and protocols might be required and whether fans might be allowed into buildings at some capacity at some point.

A week after Commissioner Gary Bettman said a mid-to-late December or January start was possible, Fehr agreed that the tentative Dec. 1 opening night target date was the ”earliest conceivable date” the season could start and there’s good reason to believe it’ll be later.

The NHLPA is in the process of finalizing a committee to start answering the myriad of questions hockey faces in trying to get another season going. And while that and negotiations will begin quickly, the league and players are on the same page, that just like the return to play plan, they want to take time to get this right.

”Nobody is going to rush it,” Fehr said.

It helps the NHL has some time and an opportunity to monitor the NFL, Major League Baseball and college athletics for what’s working and not working in those sports.

But the NHL is the most dependent on attendance, which Bettman said affects at least 50% of revenues. It needs fans, but might not be able to get them in all 31 buildings.

”On whatever basis we may or may not be able to have fans in our buildings is something that may be well beyond our control in terms of local government regulations that will determine how much the shortfall is off of where we were and off of where we were projecting,” Bettman said Sept. 19.

The league and players negotiated a long-term extension of the collective bargaining agreement knowing projections for at least next season would be much different given the global pandemic. If each team can’t play 82 games with some fans at some point, everyone is likely to take an even bigger financial hit than expected, which could affect player salaries.

”Players are adults. They understand,” Fehr said. ”They may not like it. They may grumble, and they may wish it was different. I’m sure owners do. I’m sure fans do. I’m sure everybody does. Nobody likes what we’re living through. But you don’t gain anything by sugar coating or being less blunt than otherwise would be the case.”

Players leaving the playoff bubble were blunt that they don’t want to go through that kind of extended isolation again. Vegas forward Max Pacioretty was among them, saying, ”I hope we don’t have to do that again.”

”I hope the world takes a turn for the better here and hopefully get some normalcy back,” Pacioretty said.

With a true return to normalcy a long time away, everyone may have to make some sacrifices to get back on the ice. The Canadian border plays a factor and might require a rejiggered schedule with shorter or limited travel, like baseball did with its 60-game season.

The NHL could get to 60 games and hand out the Stanley Cup before the planned start of the now 2021 Tokyo Olympics. NBC is the NHL’s U.S. TV rightsholder and also airs the Olympics. Of course, it’s conceivable there’s no season because owners would lose tens of millions of dollars without fans, but Fehr doesn’t believe that’s likely.

”In this world we live in, I think anything is possible, but I think it’s pretty remote,” he said. ”What we have to do is basically proceed on the assumption that there will be a season, that we can figure out how to do it and how do we do it in a way which provides the requisite health and safety for players and staff and broadcasters and (reporters) and the fans once we can get them back in the arenas, but at the same time has some integrity. That’ll be the task.”