Getty

Smith, Coyotes ‘very frustrated’ after blowing late lead versus L.A.

6 Comments

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Asked if he knew when he scored his last goal, Jordan Nolan put his head down in the locker room. He laughed a little.

“I couldn’t tell you,” Nolan said. “I don’t even want to look back on it. Just kind of forget about it and just move on.”

Nolan scored his first two goals of the season – and his first since April 2015 – to help the Los Angeles Kings edge the Arizona Coyotes 4-3 on Wednesday night.

“Just some puck luck, I guess,” Nolan said. “I feel like I got some good chances here and just fortunate to go in.”

Trevor Lewis scored the winner off a turnover with 4:05 left. The Kings withstood a late power play and an extra attacker to hold on for their sixth win in seven games.

Anze Kopitar had two assists and backup goalie Jeff Zatkoff, pressed into action to start the second period, faced 26 shots and made 25 saves.

Martin Hanzal scored twice for the Coyotes in the first period, with Michael Stone assisting on both. Mike Smith stopped 29 shots, but gave up two goals in the final 7 minutes.

“I thought he was unlucky,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said of Smith. “Made some great saves but was unlucky. I’m sure he’s very frustrated, just like the rest of us.”

The Coyotes pulled Smith for an extra attacker for the last 1:34, but couldn’t draw even.

The teams scored 9 seconds apart in the third period. Nolan’s second goal of the night came from a shot from behind the net that bounced off the back of Smith’s legs to give the Kings a 3-2 lead at 13:41 of the period.

“I see some of the top players kind of throw it at the net when they’re in the corner there,” Nolan said. “It goes in for them, so I thought why not give it a try?”

Arizona’s Tobias Rieder, who’d been a hard mark for Kings defenseman Drew Doughty for much of the game, took in a long pass from Alex Goligoski and got off a shot ahead of Doughty that beat Zatkoff at 13:50.

That set the stage for Lewis’ winner.

“We did a good job kind of weathering their push in the second and tied it,” Zatkoff said. “It was a gritty win. We probably didn’t play our best but it’s two points. Got contributions up and down the lineup.”

The Coyotes converted 2 of 6 power plays, the first successful power plays in the past five games. Nine of their last 10 games have been decided by one goal.

The Kings went 0 for 6 on power plays.

Forward Tyler Toffoli picked up two tripping penalties in the first 39 seconds of the game, the first which led to the Coyotes scoring their opening goal.

Toffoli was sent to the penalty box nine seconds into the game, and six seconds later, Hanzal deflected Radim Vrbata‘s shot into the net for a 1-0 Arizona lead.

Toffoli was whistled for tripping again at 39 seconds, but the Kings’ penalty kill unit prevented a second goal for those two minutes.

Los Angeles tied it at 12:25 of the first when Dustin Brown skated up ice, flipped a centering pass to Kopitar and got the puck back from Kopitar. Brown’s shot attempt was wide but it went to teammate Dwight King, who put the puck past Smith.

It was King’s fifth goal of the season.

The Coyotes went ahead 2-1 on Hanzal’s wrist shot that went off starting goalie Peter Budaj‘s stick and into the net at 18:32 of the period, again on the power play. Hanzal, with five goals, also has three two-point games this season.

Before that goal, the Coyotes, with Smith making several stops, thwarted a 5-on-3 opportunity the Kings had for 53 seconds in the first period.

Zatkoff got his first win as a King. He took over for Peter Budaj, who had four saves on six shots faced.

“Trying to win a game, right?” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said of his move to go with Zatkoff.

The Kings drew even again with Nolan’s goal at 10:14 of the second. Nolan’s backhand shot eluded Smith for his first goal of the season and first since April of 2015.

NOTES: Arizona’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson played after leaving Tuesday’s game at San Jose with an upper body injury, and logged an assist. … Arizona’s Shane Doan passed Wayne Gretzky for 19th place on the NHL’s career list.

Bruins hope to have a healthy Chara for Stanley Cup Final

3 Comments

BOSTON (AP) — The Bruins were able to sweep Carolina in the Eastern Conference final without captain Zdeno Chara.

Now they’re hoping 10 days off before the start of the Stanley Cup Final will be enough time for the defenseman to return.

The title round begins May 27 when Boston will face San Jose or St. Louis, with that conference final 2-2. The Bruins completed their sweep Thursday with Chara out with an undisclosed injury.

”We have a lot of time to make the absolute right decision to give him the proper time to get over something that’s been nagging him,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said Saturday. ”And we’ll cross our fingers that will be the case. But we’re confident it will be.”

Sweeney stopped short of guaranteeing Chara’s return for Game 1.

”I’m not living in how or where Zee feels. I expect he’ll be fine,” Sweeney said. ”But I’m not going to sit here and make a proclamation in terms of promises. I do believe that time will be used effectively and he’ll be fine. But sometimes those are out of your control.”

Defenseman Kevan Miller and forward Chris Wagner are doubtful for Game 1 of the Final. Miller hasn’t played since April 4 because of a lower-body injury. Wagner injured his right arm blocking a shot in Game 3 against Carolina.

Patrick Roy set to interview for Senators’ coaching vacancy: report

Getty Images
2 Comments

Interested in seeing more of this?

Or maybe some of this?

Well, you just might be in luck.

Postmedia’s Bruce Garrioch reports that Patrick Roy is set be the last interview done by Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion as the search for the next bench boss in Canada’s capital continues.

Roy has most recently been coaching the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He last coached in the NHL in 2016 with the Colorado Avalanche, a job he resigned from following that season. Two years earlier, he won the Jack Adams Award for the NHL’s best coach after the Avalanche went from last to first in the Western Conference.

Roy is 130-92-24 during his 246-game coaching career in the NHL.

“Those close to Roy believe he’d like to return to the NHL in the right situation and initially the only pressure in Ottawa will be to develop the young players,” Garrioch wrote. “The Senators have the potential to have 17 picks in the first three rounds of the next three drafts and finding the right fit is paramount.”

The Senators, according to Garrioch, have already interviewed several candidates, including fellow former Avalanche coach Mark Crawford, along with former Senators coach Jacques Martin and Dallas Stars assistance Rick Bowness.

Roy’s experience coaching young players, as Garrioch points out, would be appealing for a team as young as the Senators, who also have a litany of draft picks coming their way over the next three years.

Can Roy work under Senators owner Eugene Melnyk? Can he work with Dorion? Roy didn’t exactly have the best professional relationship with Joe Sakic and Roy would likely want some level of control of the direction of the team.

It remains to be seen, but Roy has a decent track record that is appealing, certainly.


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

Has Erik Karlsson’s lingering groin injury resurfaced?

Leave a comment

It plagued him for most of the second half of the season.

A good chunk of January, a good chunk of February, and the entirety of March, to be exact.

And now Erik Karlsson‘s Game 5 status is up in the air after he appeared to aggravate a lingering groin injury, one Karlsson said had only progressed in the right direction throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs after Game 1 of the Western Conference Final.

“I don’t have anything for you there,” said Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer when quizzed on Karlsson’s health following a 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues that evened the best-of-seven series 2-2 on Friday.

DeBoer quickly swept that question under the rug.

As did Brent Burns, who just said, “He’s doing good” followed by a “How’re you doing?” when a reporter probed Burns about his teammate.

You may not have noticed it, initially at least.

Normally guys who play 24:33 in a game don’t miss significant stretches. But from the 10:36 mark to 18:05 of the third period, Karlsson didn’t see the ice. With the Sharks trailing 2-1 at the time, you’d expect one of the game’s best offensive defensemen to be on the ice. Instead, Karlsson was grimacing in pain, coming out during commercial breaks to test whatever was ailing him.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Somehow, he played the final 1:55 of the game — nearly two minutes of madness where the Sharks tried, ultimately in vain, to find an equalizer. Karlsson bit down hard on his mouthpiece and bore the pain, but you could see its effects.

PHT’s James O’Brien wrote on Karlsson’s playoffs prior to Friday’s game.

Karlsson limped into the playoffs and said himself that he could barely move in Round 1 against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Still, and as James pointed out in his story, it’s been hard to notice with two goals and 14 assists in 18 postseason games. Karlsson has played big minutes and produced at nearly a point-per-game pace in the playoffs, essentially everything the Sharks envisioned he would do when they brought him in last summer.

What they didn’t want was a nagging injury that force Karlsson to missed 29 games during the regular season and now, perhaps, some at a critical juncture for a team that’s hoping they’ve finally put it all together this year.

Maybe it’s nothing. But those painful faces that Karlsson wore in Game 4 weren’t exactly inspiring confidence in the “maybe it’s nothing” part.

If Karlsson can’t play, it’s only going to mean more minutes for guys like Burns, who is already averaging nearly 29 minutes a night. Karlsson has played an instrumental role in these playoffs for the Sharks.

A loss, even for a game, would be a massive blow in what’s now a best-of-three series.

[MORE: Blues handling adversity like champions]


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

Blues handling adversity like champions

Getty Images
2 Comments

How many times have we thought the St. Louis Blues were dead in the water?

Was it in Round 1 when, after jetting out to a 2-0 lead against the Winnipeg Jets, they lost two straight as it appeared the Jets finally got their act together?

Was it after Games 4 and 5 in Round 2 where the Dallas Stars took a 3-2 series lead and we figured that was the end of their miraculous run?

Was it after the San Jose Sharks benefitted from a hand pass by Timo Meier that found the stick of Erik Karlsson to end Game 3 in overtime to give the Sharks a 2-1 series lead in the Western Conference Final?

For a team that sat plumb last in the NHL on the morning of Jan. 3, are we really all that surprised that they’re still alive and kicking?

Perhaps we shouldn’t be.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that a rookie goaltender is now 11-2 following a loss in the regular and postseason combined, throwing up an incredible .936 save percentage when his team needs a win.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be miffed when a team as resilient as the Blues, given all they’ve been through, have outscored opponents 14-9 after a loss in these playoffs.

Embrace the grind, as they say.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

And the Blues have, particularly in Game 4 where they could have imploded after losing in such terrible fashion one-game earlier.

“We just talked about… you’ve got to just move on,” said Blues head coach Craig Berube, saying he went into the room after Game 3 to talk that loss over with the team. “The call, you can’t change it now. It is what it is. I think we talked in terms like that game we had a one-goal lead, we could have closed it out then and we didn’t. We let it go to overtime, and the only difference tonight, we closed it out with a one-goal lead.”

Indeed, the whole overtime crisis of Game 3 could have been averted if the Blues could have held onto a 4-3 third-period lead. They trailed 2-0 and 3-1 in that game but led after a four-goal second period. Only Logan Couture‘s magic 6-on-5 prevented the win in regulation and we all know what happened from there.

Resilience will only take a team so far. It’s an intangible. At the end of the day, that resilience needs to bend but not break and the players have to ultimately get the job done. It broke in Game 3. In Game 4, however, the Blues adjusted.

They didn’t have to play from behind — an Ivan Barbashev goal 35 seconds in solved that issue in short order. Tyler Bozak‘s game-winner was scored later on in the same frame.

The Sharks certainly attacked, finishing the game with 73 shot attempts — more than double that of St. Louis.

But St. Louis held the line.

The final 1:55 of the third period was frantic — madness, as Jordan Binnington put it following the game. A big save from Binnington was followed up by a big block of Alex Steen. Brayden Schenn then did the only thing he could do amidst the onslaught as he iced the puck. With no times outs, the Blues couldn’t get a breather until Joel Edmundson‘s desperate attempt to clear was just short of being an icing call.

The Sharks came back, only to have a shot blocked by Bozak and eventually cleared. Ryan O'Reilly then won a key draw in the neutral zone and Oskar Sundqvist thwarted the final attempt by the Sharks.

“We’ve fought through adversity all year,” Bozak said. “We usually play our best when we have to respond to something.”

Full buy-in from a team that’s done nothing but since Jan. 3. And a 2-2 series stalemate after four games with a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup on the line.

This is simply expected from the Blues at this point.

MORE:
• Conference Finals schedule, TV info
• PHT Conference Finals predictions


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