Isles not surprised by 3-0 lead against Penguins

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The New York Islanders are in position to usher Pittsburgh out of the playoffs with barely a squeak from the Penguins.

The Islanders can complete a four-game sweep in their first-round playoff series with a win Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

It that’s a surprise — Pittsburgh was widely picked to win the series despite finishing one spot and three points behind the Islanders in the Metropolitan Division — it shouldn’t be, argued New York goaltender Robin Lehner.

“We got 103 points in the standings,” said Lehner, who has a 1.62 goals-against average and a .951 save percentage through three games. “The truth can’t be a surprise. Everyone looks and compares players and all that stuff. I look at our roster and see a really good organization and great coaching and great defensemen and a lot of heart. No one should be surprised.”

The Penguins have held a lead for just 3:17 in the series and have not scored consecutive goals.

“That’s been the story line the last two games,” said Jordan Eberle, who has three goals in three games for the Islanders. “They’ve scored, and we’ve come back. Playoffs are all about momentum.”

They also are about strategy, and New York has found a successful one.

“There’s not a lot of risk associated with the Islanders’ game,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “They’ve got numbers back. They have a defense-first mentality. That’s been their identity all year. That’s what’s brought them success.”

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Between the play of Lehner and a scheme orchestrated by coach Barry Trotz that puts the Islanders in spots to disrupt the Penguins at every turn, they have outscored Pittsburgh 11-5 and have forced mistakes and turnovers.

They have held Pittsburgh team captain and 100-point scorer Sidney Crosby, as well as his linemate and 40-goal scorer Jake Guentzel, without a point.

“The strategy is to stop everyone. There isn’t any focus on one particular guy,” Trotz said. “I think when you’re on the ice against anybody in the league, you take care of your business. I think we’ve been doing that.”

The Penguins are in backs-against-the-wall territory.

“Obviously, you don’t want to be down 3-0,” Pittsburgh winger Phil Kessel said. “It’s not good now.”

The Penguins have tried sitting Jack Johnson and Olli Maatta at different times with seven healthy defensemen available. They have juggled their line combinations. It hasn’t made a difference in the outcomes.

So they are taking about the only approach available to them.

“We’ve got to focus on one game. We can’t even it up in one game, but we can get ourselves back in it,” said Crosby, who has piled up 66 goals, 185 points in 163 career playoff games while captaining Pittsburgh to three Stanley Cups, as recently as 2017.

“We’ve got to focus on winning Game 4. We haven’t left ourselves a lot of room for error. All we can control is coming in with the right mindset for Game 4 and finding a way to get a win.”

The last time Pittsburgh was down 3-0 in a series, the Boston Bruins finished off a sweep in the 2013 Eastern Conference finals. They did it in similar fashion — a smothering style that stymied the Penguins’ stars, and strong goaltending.

–Field Level Media

Blackhawks F Katchouk will be sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced Sunday.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.