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The Buzzer: Scary injury for NHL official; Robbery by Bob

Sunday’s games

Penguins 5, Flyers 1 (Penguins lead series 2-1)

Is this a series or a see-saw? So far, the Penguins won by a mile in the odd-numbered Games (1 and 3), while the Flyers won 5-1 in Game 2. In Sunday’s case, Sidney Crosby really took over the afternoon, while Matt Murray made some huge saves in stopping 26 out of 27 shots on goal. Special teams was one of the stories of the game. While the Penguins went 3-for-7 on the power play, the Flyers failed on their six opportunities.

The Penguins really ran away with the game when they scored two goals in five seconds.

Wild 6, Jets 2 (Jets lead series 2-1)

Game 3 opened with an engaged Wild team taking a one-goal lead in the first period as the two teams seemed to take turns losing their cool and getting sent to the penalty box. Between Tyler Myers‘ injury and a two-goal burst in 21 seconds, things really fell apart for the Jets in the second period. The Wild ended up inflating their lead to 6-2 in the middle frame, and that was about it, as Connor Hellebuyck saw a hot start to the postseason hit a big wall.

Blue Jackets 5, Capitals 4 [OT] (Blue Jackets lead series 2-0)

Brutal. The Capitals squandered another two-goal lead, once again. This time around, the Capitals sent the game beyond regulation thanks to a T.J. Oshie tally in the third, but Washington once again fell in overtime. They absolutely dominated puck possession, and Alex Ovechkin scored two power-play goals (nearly nabbing a hat trick), yet Sergei Bobrovsky was brilliant in helping the Blue Jackets send the series back to Columbus with a 2-0 series lead.

Again, brutal.

Golden Knights 3, Kings 2 (Golden Knights lead series 3-0)

Los Angeles put forth its best effort of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs so far, generating a 39-26 shots on goal advantage. The Kings scored first, but Vegas took over in the third, scoring three straight goals. Things really got out of hand for L.A. during a 21 second span when James Neal and William Karlsson made it 3-1. The Golden Knights managed to hold on for the win, opening the door for another franchise first: a possible sweep on their first try. Those Golden Knights are unbelievable, right?

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Three Stars

1. Sidney Crosby, Penguins: After generating a hat trick in Pittsburgh’s Game 1, Crosby enjoyed another standout performance in Game 3, scoring a goal and three assists. Crosby’s seven points in three games puts him second in scoring during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, trailing only David Pastrnak‘s ridiculous nine points in two contests.

2. Marc-Andre Fleury, Golden Knights: Jonathan Quick was very close to stealing Game 2 for the Kings. Fleury produced a fantastic performance in Game 3, turning aside 37 out of 39 shots, and he enjoys the added bonus of grabbing the win.

So far during this series, Fleury has only allowed three goals through as many games, generating a stupendous .970 save percentage. Considering how well he played for the Penguins during the 2017 postseason, he’s been on a playoff hot streak lately.

3. Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets: Speaking of goalies who’ve developed reputations for struggles in the playoffs, “Bob” is really coming through Columbus so far. The Capitals ended up scoring four goals in Game 2, but Bobrovsky was astounding, making a whopping 54 stops. You could absolutely argue that he was actually the first or second star of the night instead.

MISC.

Warning: this might make you a little queasy. Official Steve Barton was helped off the ice during the Blue Jackets – Capitals game. Looks like he blew out his knee:

The Kings didn’t win Game 3, but they did draw in celebrities, including Margot Robbie (think she was impressed by the skating after playing Tonya Harding?):

And David Beckham:

Factoids

The Golden Knights are making more history in the postseason.

Some perspective on the Blue Jackets’ comebacks.

Monday’s games

Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs, 7 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Tampa Bay Lightning at New Jersey Devils, 7:30 p.m. ET (CNBC)
Nashville Predators at Colorado Avalanche, 10 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Anaheim Ducks at San Jose Sharks, 10:30 p.m. ET (CNBC)

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.

NY governor says pro teams can resume training

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says teams in his state can return to their facilities for training after a pause of more than two months.

”Starting today, all the New York professional sports leagues will be able to begin training camps,” the Democratic governor said during a news conference Sunday.

The New York City area was one of the hardest-hit parts of the U.S. by the coronavirus pandemic, but COVID-19 deaths and new infections in the state have been trending downward.

Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL are discussing the resumption of their seasons with their players’ unions.

”I believe that sports that can come back without having people in the stadium, without having people in the arena – do it! Do it!” Cuomo said. ”Work out the economics, if you can. We want you up. We want people to be able to watch sports. To the extent people are still staying home, it gives people something to do. It’s a return to normalcy. So we are working and encouraging all sports teams to start their training camps as soon as possible. And we’ll work with them to make sure that can happen.”

WCHA’s Alabama-Huntsville cuts hockey program

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Alabama-Huntsville is dropping men’s hockey and men’s and women’s tennis as part of budget cuts in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

School officials said athletes in those sports who want to join another team’s roster will be released without penalty and free to transfer immediately. If they choose to stay, their current scholarships will be honored for the duration of their academic careers.

Alabama-Huntsville was one of the only southern schools to have a men’s hockey varsity program. The Chargers won Division II national titles in 1996 and 1998 and were Division II runners-up in 1994 and 1997 before making the move to the Division I level for the 1998-99 season.

Men’s hockey had been the lone Division I sport for Alabama-Huntsville. It competes at the Division II level in all other sports.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

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Canada’s NHL teams have offered season-ticket holders rebate or refund options in acknowledgment that no more 2019-20 regular-season games will be played in front of fans in their respective buildings.

In a four-day span May 13-16, all seven teams contacted their season-ticket bases with options and, in some cases, deadlines to make a decision, according to The Canadian Press.

“It has become increasingly apparent, that any possibility will not include any further games being played this season in front of fans at Bell MTS Place,” the Winnipeg Jets said in an email.

That admission may seem anticlimactic given leagues and teams around the world are either playing in empty stadiums, or trying to figure out a way to just resume play during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But season-ticket money is a key element of NHL business. Clubs are loathe to part with it.

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money.

Toronto Maple Leafs season-ticket holders had to declare they wanted their money back by Victoria Day or a credit would be applied to their accounts.

Their Montreal Canadiens counterparts had to make a decision by Friday, while the Vancouver Canucks’ deadline is June 3.

NHLPA board approves 24-team, return-to play-format

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We have our first step towards resuming the 2019-20 season with the approval of the return-to-play format by the NHLPA Executive Board.

The 31 NHL team representatives voted and a majority gave the thumbs up to the 24-team, conference-based proposal.

According to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie, the vote was 29-2 in favor.

Now the plan moves on to the Board of Governors for their approval.

From the NHLPA:

The Executive Board of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) has authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup. Several details remain to be negotiated and an agreement on the format would still be subject to the parties reaching agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play.

If the BOG green lights it, the next steps would include figuring out proper safety protocols for all involved and how the hub city plan would work, among numerous other details.

Based on points percentage at the time of the March 12 NHL pause, the top four teams in each conference (Boston, Tampa, Washington, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas, Dallas) will receive a first-round bye. Round 1 will feature eight play-in matchups in a best-of-five series.

As the play-in round takes place, the eight conference leaders could potentially take part in a mini tournament that will determine the seeding for Round 2. Reseeding after the play-in round is another topic likely to be discussed.

Here’s what it might end up looking like:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

ROUND 1 BYES
• Bruins
• Lightning
• Capitals
• Flyers

PLAY-IN ROUND
(5) Penguins
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 4 seed
(12) Canadiens

(6) Hurricanes
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 3 seed
(11) Rangers

(7) Islanders
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 2 seed
(10) Panthers

(8) Maple Leafs
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 1 seed
(9) Blue Jackets

WESTERN CONFERENCE

ROUND 1 BYES
• Blues
• Avalanche
• Golden Knights
• Stars

PLAY-IN ROUND
(5) Oilers
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 4 seed
(12) Blackhawks

(6) Predators
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 3 seed
(11) Coyotes

(7) Canucks
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 2 seed
(10) Wild

(8) Flames
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 1 seed
(9) Jets

Games would be played without fans with teams based in hub cities potentially located in both the U.S. and Canada. Columbus, Las Vegas, and Edmonton are a few of the cities that have shown interested in playing host to playoff games.

Since the 24-team format entered the rumor mill, it’s received a mixed reaction from players.

“Twenty-four teams sounds like a lot of teams to me,” Capitals defenseman John Carlson told Mike Tirico on Thursday. “You have to make sure there is some level playing field in terms of intensity…So while 24 teams sounds like a lot, maybe due to logistics, that makes the most sense.”

“I will say that when it comes to the format I think it is almost impossible to make everyone happy … the situation is what it is,” Lars Eller of the Capitals said via the Washington Post. “It is far from perfect. We are going to manage the best we can and I do think we will come together and find a solution regarding that. It is not going to be easy.”

Kris Letang told Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman that Penguins players voted “yes” on the proposal citing “greater good for everyone.”

“At the end of the day, nobody gets exactly what they want,” Letang said. “But, we all want what is best for hockey and to continue to grow the game.”

MORE:
Predators’ Duchene: ‘You don’t want to have a COVID Cup’
Our Line Starts podcast: Evaluating fairness of 24-team NHL playoff

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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.