Penguins pushing Capitals, Blue Jackets in Metro races

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Rather than suffering through a big Stanley Cup hangover, it was looking like the Washington Capitals would once again cruise to a Metropolitan Division title.

The defending champions will end Friday in first place, yet the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins are nipping at their heels. The Blue Jackets and idle Islanders make it a fascinating four-team race for three divisional playoff spots, with the odd team out slated to face tough competition for a wild card berth.

Friday was an eventful night in making the races tighter:

  • The Capitals managed a standings point, but lost to the surging Stars in overtime.

Somewhere, Stars CEO Jim Lites might be taking a lot of credit for “lighting a fire under the Stars.” Tyler Seguin‘s driving the bus lately, though, as he scored two goals (including the OT-winner) while fellow scapegoat Jamie Benn sat out that tight 2-1 OT win with an injury.

As a reminder of how steady Washington really has been, note that this is the Capitals’ first three-game losing streak of 2018-19.

  • Penguins win their eighth game in a row.

The Pens pasted the Jets 4-0 on Friday, extending their red-hot run. They also continued an odd trend, as the Jets’ losing streak in visits to Pittsburgh stretches back to their Atlanta Thrashers days.

  • The Blue Jackets fell 4-2 to the Islanders, pushing them to third place in the Metro.

If the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs began today, Washington would retain the top seed, while Pittsburgh would hold home-ice advantage over Columbus. With the Islanders idle on Friday, you can see that there’s very little room to breathe in the top four:

1. Capitals: 24-12-4 for 52 points, 40 GP, 21 ROW
2. Penguins: 23-12-6 for 52 points, 41 GP, 22 ROW
3. Blue Jackets: 23-13-3 for 49 points, 40 GP, 23 ROW
4. Islanders: 22-13-4 for 48 points, 39 GP, 20 ROW

As part of a remarkable first season under Barry Trotz, the Isles are currently on a five-game winning streak of their own, and are even closer behind the top three teams in the Metro when you consider their game in hand on Washington and Columbus, and two games in hand over Pittsburgh.

The Islanders have also played only 18 home games versus 21 on the road, while the other three teams have either played an even number of home/away games or have played slightly more at home than on the road. That doesn’t amount to an enormous disparity, yet it could be relevant if things remain so claustrophobically close.

While stranger things have happened, it looks like nine teams will realistically joust for the East’s eight playoff positions, so the bubble races might be less interesting in 2018-19 than they have in wilder years.

(The trade deadline could also be more fun if a greater number of teams realize that they’re essentially out of the mix.)

The drama, then, could come from teams battling for the division title, home-ice advantage, or even the right to avoid the Lightning. It could end up being a lot of fun, even if the Capitals would probably prefer a more familiar leisurely stroll to another division title.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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

The Playoff Buzzer: Wild Card teams are 4-for-4

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  • The Washington Capitals blew 2-0 and 3-1 leads to drop Game 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes. Former Capitals player and frequent Game 7 star Justin Williams played a big role in Carolina’s 2OT winning goal.
  • With Carolina’s victory, all four Wild Card teams have advanced to Round 2.

Hurricanes 4, Capitals 3 [2OT] (CAR wins 4-3)
The Capitals got off to a terrific start. Andre Burakovsky and Tom Wilson scored in the first 6:23 minutes of the contest, but rather than fall apart, the Hurricanes dug in. It wasn’t until 2:56 of the third period when the Hurricanes caught up thanks to a Jordan Staal goal. Washington battled hard for the rest of the third period, but once overtime started the game was all Carolina until finally they broke through when Brock McGinn tipped in a Jason Williams shot. With that, the defending Stanley Cup champions are done and a franchise that last made the playoffs in 2009 is going to Round 2.

Three Stars

1. Brock McGinn, Carolina Hurricanes.
He got the series-winning goal and registered an assist on Teuvo Teravainen‘s marker. This was the 25-year-old’s first playoff series and prior to it he had 36 goals in 240 career regular season games. Of those 36 goals, only two were game-winners.

2. Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes.

Assisted on three of the Hurricanes’ four goals. He also led both teams with 38:27 minutes of ice time in the 2OT contest. He finished the series with nine assists in seven games.

3. Andre Burakovsky, Washington Capitals.

Got the scoring started just 2:13 minutes into the contest off a superb steal. It was his first goal of the series.

One goal Dougie Hamilton will be happy is forgotten

It didn’t end up defining the game, but Alex Ovechkin outplayed Hamilton on this goal. If Washington won this game, this goal might have been a big part of the story.

Factoids of the night

Thursday’s Games

Game 1: Blue Jackets at Bruins, 7:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Game 1: Stars at Blues, 9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

No More Champs: Hurricanes oust Capitals in 2OT


Not even the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals were immune in one of the craziest opening rounds ever seen. Brock McGinn tipped a shot by Justin Williams in double overtime in a series-clinching 4-3 victory for the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7.

Early on, it didn’t look like this would be a dramatic contest. Andre Burakovsky stripped the puck away in the Hurricanes’ zone and then beat goalie Petr Mrazek to put Washington on the board just 2:13 minutes into the game. Just four minutes later, Alex Ovechkin outplayed Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton before feeding the puck to Tom Wilson, who made the game 2-0.

Carolina hung in there though. Sebastian Aho scored a shorthanded goal at 9:51 of the second period to cut the lead in half. Evgeny Kuznetsov regained the two-goal lead at 13:22 of the second period, but Teuvo Teravainen answered right back at 16:37.

Early in the third period, Jordan Staal got a clean shot on Braden Holtby that he managed to get by him. It’s one that Holtby arguably should have gotten, but he didn’t have help on that play either and the end result was the game was tied.

From there, Carolina was a dominant force in overtime and it looked more and more like it was just a matter of time before the Hurricanes beat Holtby one more time. It took a while, but it happened.

Just like that, all four wild-card teams have advanced. Washington is out. Pittsburgh, which won the Cup in 2016 and 2017, is out. Vegas, which got to the Stanley Cup Finals last year, is out. Tampa Bay, which tied an NHL record with 62 wins in the regular season, is out.

This year has reinforced the notion that anything can happen in the playoffs. Carolina will face the New York Islanders in Round 2 and while the Hurricanes might be the underdogs, that hasn’t been a bad spot to be in.

MORE: Round 2 schedule, TV info

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2019: Round 2 schedule, TV info

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We’re down to eight.

With the last Game 7 out of the way in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we can now look ahead to all that Round 2 will bring.

The battle for the 2019 Stanley Cup continues as eight teams vie to become this year’s champion, and there won’t be a repeat after the Washington Capitals got bounced in Game 7 on Wednesday. All four wildcard teams are in. All four divisional winners are out. It’s been a wild ride and there are still three rounds to go.

Here is the full Round 2 schedule with the all-important TV information: 

MORE: 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Schedule, Bracket, Streams and More

For the third consecutive postseason, NBC Sports’ coverage of Stanley Cup Playoff first-round games on NBCUniversal cable networks (NBCSN, USA Network and CNBC), as well as NHL Network, will air side-by-side and will be available for streaming on and the NBC Sports app in local markets alongside regional sports network game telecasts. (Local blackouts apply in Las Vegas and Pittsburgh in the first round).

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

WATCH LIVE: Capitals, Hurricanes meet in Game 7

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Game 7: Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals, 7:30 p.m. ET (Series tied 3-3)
Call: Kenny Albert, Eddie Olczyk, Pierre McGuire
Series preview

Stream here

Tonight’s pre-game coverage on NBCSN begins at 6:30 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside analysts Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones.

NBC Sports begins its exclusive coverage of the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs tomorrow with a Game 1 doubleheader on NBCSN. Coverage starts at 7 p.m. ET between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Boston Bruins, followed by the Dallas Stars-St. Louis Blues series at 9:30 p.m. ET. Thursday’s doubleheader pre-game coverage begins on NBCSN at 6 p.m. ET with NHL Live.