Blue Jackets get very badly needed win

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In a vacuum, pummeling the lowly Vancouver Canucks 5-0 didn’t technically mean that much for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

After all, they still end the weekend on the outside looking in on the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They’re two points behind the Montreal Canadiens for the East’s final playoff spot, and while there’s no doubt that things look brighter — Columbus also has a game in hand on the Habs — the Blue Jackets are likely fully aware that they have a long way to go.

Yet, nights like these restore some hope that there truly might be a light at the end of the tunnel.

The Canadiens and Hurricanes engaging in a three-point game (Carolina won in OT, and did another goofy win celebration) was described as a worst-case scenario for Columbus, but consider the circumstances and Columbus is probably breathing a sigh of relief.

  • The Blue Jackets won after GM Jarmo Kekalainen called them out for not playing “like a team.”
  • Columbus ended a three-game losing streak, and the Blue Jackets were at least able to end a four-game road trip with a win (going 1-2-1).
  • Some of the Blue Jackets’ big guns broke through against Vancouver.

As much attention falls on potentially leaving players like Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin, along with newly added players like Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel, it was a serious concern that sophomore center Pierre Luc-Dubois was mired in a terrible slump. He looked more like a first-line center on Sunday, however, with a goal and an assist.

While there might be some valid concerns about the Blue Jackets’ team play, it’s been easy to forget just how unlucky Columbus has been lately. With that in mind, it must have been nice to get a bounce or two, such as with this Dzingel goal:

It would certainly comfort Kekalainen to see Bobrovsky play to his potential during this stretch, so Sunday was promising in that regard, as Bob generated a 21-save shutout.

(Josh Anderson had the best Sunday of any Blue Jackets player, scoring two goals and one assist.)

Again, this win doesn’t heal all wounds. The Canucks, after all, aren’t very good, and that’s especially true with Brock Boeser on the shelf. It’s also worth repeating that Columbus remains out of the top eight, even after this win:

WC 1: Hurricanes: 42-26-7, 91 points, 75 games played, 40 regulation/OT wins
WC 2: Canadiens: 40-28-8, 88 points, 76 GP, 38 ROW

Blue Jackets: 41-30-4, 86 points, 75 GP, 40 ROW

Now that the Blue Jackets avoided a “trap game” of sorts against Vancouver, they turn their attention to two challenging upcoming games against opponents with a lot more on the line. They’ll host the Islanders on Tuesday, and then what might be their biggest game of 2018-19: a Thursday matchup against the Habs in Columbus.

Winning Sunday’s game doesn’t bail the Blue Jackets out, but it at least allows them to fight for their season. We’ll see if they can carry this momentum over to these next, much bigger tests.

If nothing else, things look a lot better mere days after their GM aired his grievances, and panic seemed to be creeping in.

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.

Bubble crankiness ratchets up the nasty for Stars-Lightning

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EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Pat Maroon shot a puck into the Dallas bench, nailing an opponent in the face. Victor Hedman tripped Corey Perry before a faceoff. Perry put Tampa Bay’s Cedric Paquette into a headlock before getting flipped over.

The dislike is building quickly for the Stars and Lightning in this Stanley Cup Final, which is knotted at 1-1 going into Wednesday night’s game. While nastiness typically develops in a lot of series this deep in the playoffs, it’s happening even earlier in this one because players have grown cranky after eight weeks in the NHL bubble.

They are taking it out on the ice.

”That would probably play a big part of it,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. ”The things that you normally do to relax between games, whether it’s going out for dinner with your wife or go for a drive or going to the driving range to hit golf balls – anything you can do to relax between games is not there, so everyone’s a little edgy.”

The championship will ultimately be decided by which team can dictate its game to the other in what has become a best three out of five series. Those extra pushes, shoves and facewashes are part of it – and they only ratchet up the intensity, even without fans to cheer or boo it all.

”It seems like in this setting with no fans, it’s even more competitive out there with just you and the other team,” Dallas forward Andrew Cogliano said. ”Both teams are going to fight for every inch. As the series goes on, it’s just going to get more competitive.”

It’s competitive and chippy after the teams split the first two games and combined for 50 penalty minutes. Fourteen of those belong to Maroon, who got a 10-minute misconduct for flipping a puck into the bench and two minutes for roughing it up with Jamie Oleksiak in Game 1, then another two in Game 2 for running Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin.

”You know what happened,” Maroon said when asked about the puck incident. Stars veteran Joe Pavelski wasn’t thrilled the puck hit rookie Joel Kiviranta in the face, but said the referees handled it.

”That’s all you can do,” Pavelski said. ”It doesn’t take us off our game.”

After Maroon ran into Khudobin and incited a skirmish that qualifies as modern hockey’s line brawl, it was clear he has not endeared himself to the Stars.

”Why’s Maroon still out there?” a Dallas player yelled, easily heard in the empty arena. ”Put him in the box already!”

By the time Maroon, Hedman and Paquette got to the box, it was so crowded all three couldn’t sit down. Each team wants to avoid unnecessary penalties like that, but players know what’s at stake and they are not surprised by all the post-whistle extracurriculars.

”You’re not trying to give anyone an inch out there,” Tampa Bay center Anthony Cirelli said. ”You’re trying to finish every check when you can, it’s going to be physical, the emotions are going to be high. I think that’s just what comes with the entire playoffs, and that’s what playoff hockey is all about.”

This is also playoff hockey in the most unnatural of circumstances. As Bowness pointed out, players and coaches usually would be able to clear their minds and blow off steam between games.

That’s not possible right now.

”You’re just finding other ways,” Bowness said. ”The grind, the Groundhog Day, that is tough, and the normal things you would do to help you relax are just not there, so you adapt.”

Most players started this postseason healthy, and of course the injuries built up, but the struggle the Stars and Lightning are enduring right now is as much mental as anything. And it’s different playing playoff games without the usual transition from an 82-game regular season.

”The teams are so good that what separates you sometimes is whoever wants it more,” Cogliano said. ”Physically and mentally, it’s hard, but that’s the point at this time of the year and that’s the point of playing in the playoffs. It’s supposed to be hard and you have to enjoy it and want to be out there.”

Dallas played this style of game throughout the first three rounds, ousting high-scoring Colorado and Vegas along the way. Tampa Bay, after adding Maroon in free agency and Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman in trades, isn’t just a skill team and is more than happy to mix it up.

”I think we have some skill, we have some speed and we also bring that physical aspect to the game,” Cirelli said. ”But we’re not trying to be goons out there. We’re trying to win hockey games.”

The Wraparound: Lightning look to build off Game 2 win vs. Stars

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

• A look at how the Lightning built one of the best lines in the playoffs.

• Bob Bougher has been named head coach of the Sharks. He held the interim role after Peter DeBoer’s dismissal in December.

WEDNESDAY’S STANLEY CUP FINAL GAME

Game 3: Stars vs. Lightning (Series tied 1-1) – 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN (livestream): Tampa scored three goals in the first 15:16 minutes of the game, including two on the power play, and held off a late push by Dallas to win 3-2 and even the Stanley Cup Final at 1 game apiece. Brayden Point opened the scoring by netting his 10th of the postseason and Ondrej Palat and Kevin Shattenkirk each scored to give the Lightning a three-goal lead they would not relinquish.

Tampa’s power play was 0-for-14 in their previous four games and scored once in 18 opportunities before Point and Palat scored 2:59 apart in the first period. The Stars helped the Lightning power play wake up by taking three penalties in the opening 13 minutes of the game.

“That’s where we lost the game today,” Stars forward Mattias Janmark said after Game 1. “We don’t want to take penalties. We have taken way too many throughout the playoffs, but then I think when we get them, we’ve just got to go out and kill them, and we didn’t manage to do that today, and I think that’s where they won the game, so we’ve got to do a better job there.”

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Tyler Seguin, who is making his third appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, has struggled mightily in the 2020 playoffs. The 28- year-old has gone 11 consecutive games without a goal and has just one assist over that span. His last goal came in Game 3 of the Second Round vs. the Avalanche. He went 17 straight games during the regular season without scoring from Dec. 29 – Feb. 11.

“Feel like I’m playing a lot better as of late,” he said. “Definitely looking for that one bounce, but good things are happening when you’re getting chances and that’s the way you look at it.”

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (Series tied 1-1)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Game 3: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

Lightning-Stars stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with Wednesday’s Stanley Cup Final matchup between the Lightning and Stars. Pre-game coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Lightning-Stars stream on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Tampa scored three goals in the first 15:16 minutes of the game, including two on the power play, and held off a late push by Dallas to win 3-2 and even the Stanley Cup Final at one game apiece. Brayden Point opened the scoring by netting his 10th of the postseason and Ondrej Palat and Kevin Shattenkirk each scored to give the Lightning a three-goal lead they would not relinquish.

Since the beginning of their First Round series against Columbus, the Lightning are a perfect 5-0 following a loss this postseason. Tampa last lost consecutive games on March 8th and 10th – its final two games before the pause. Andrei Vasilevskiy has not lost consecutive starts since dropping three straight from Feb. 20-25.

After going 0/14 on the power play in their previous four games, the Lightning scored twice on the man-advantage in Game 2, with both tallies coming in the first period. Point and Palat scored power-play goals 2:59 apart in the first period in the win. Dallas took three penalties in the first 14 minutes of play and the Lightning were able to take control by scoring twice.

Tyler Seguin, who is making his third appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, has struggled mightily in the 2020 playoffs. The 28- year-old has gone 11 consecutive games without a goal and has just one assist over that span. His last goal came in Game 3 of the Second Round vs. Colorado.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

WHAT: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton
WHEN: Wednesday, September 23, 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
ON THE CALL: Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, Brian Boucher
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Lightning-Stars stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (Series tied 1-1)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Game 3: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

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 (Series tied 1-1)

Game 1: Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Game 2: Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Game 3: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*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)