Artturi Lehkonen

Canadiens advance in Game 4 as Penguins end season with a whimper

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The 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers continue to teach us to expect the unexpected. Even so, it was surprising to see the Penguins end their season with such a flat effort, as the Canadiens scored a late 1-0 goal to win Game 4, and take the series 3-1.

Technically, this marks the first time the Penguins “missed” the playoffs since 2006. While that flies in the face of a pretty solid regular season, it feels fitting for how it all ended.

(With a whimper, that is.)

Canadiens eliminate Penguins in anticlimactic Game 4

Yes, it’s fair to say that there were some close calls. In particular, Sidney Crosby fired a few thisclose shots at Carey Price. And, while it ended up being “too little, too late,” Tristan Jarry gave the Penguins a chance in Game 4 with some strong saves.

Maybe Jarry would want that Artturi Lehkonen goal back, yet for a team like the Penguins, it’s tough to accept leaving things up to chance in a one-goal game.

But the Penguins simply didn’t get much going against the Canadiens in Game 4.

Credit the likes of Shea Weber and Jeff Petry for making life difficult for Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, not to mention a vaunted supporting cast of other impressive scorers. Still, it felt like the Penguins lacked any energy really since the Canadiens surprisingly tied Game 3.

Ultimately, the Penguins must grapple with some haunting questions. Should the Penguins have turned to Jarry sooner, or maybe even to start the series? Could Mike Sullivan have found more ways to get Crosby and Malkin more ice time, including skating together when there wasn’t much happening?

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Much has been made about Montreal being a strong five-on-five team, and that shined through this series. Still, to lose to the Canadiens even though Montreal failed to score a single power play is stunning. While the Canadiens were playing with house money, the Penguins are a team brimming with aging veterans, and it’s fair to wonder how many shots they’ll get at big runs. Even if they have more in them, this is a gut punch that will burst many bubbles.

(5) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (12) Montreal Canadiens (MTL won series 3-1)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Canadiens 3, Penguins 2 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Penguins 3, Canadiens 1 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Canadiens 4, Penguins 3 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Canadiens 2, Penguins 0

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

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.

Johnny Boychuk needs 90 stitches after skate to face

Islanders
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New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk was injured on Tuesday night when he was hit in the face by the skate blade of Montreal Canadiens forward Artturi Lehkonen in the third period of their game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

It was a terrifying scene as it happened, especially as Boychuk frantically scrambled off the ice holding his face.

On Wednesday, general manager Lou Lamoriello issued an update on Boychuk’s status.

The official word is that while Boychuk needed 90 stitches to repair the cut, there is no damage to his eye and, according to Lamoriello, he should be “fine.”

“Johnny Boychuk is okay,” said Lamoriello when addressing the media on Wednesday. “There has been no damage to his eye. He had quite a night. He felt the skate blade get his eye, but fortunately it just got the eyelid. It took 90 stitches to fix, a plastic surgeon took care of it. I don’t want to exaggerate with the stitches because they do use very small stitches, but there were 90 of them. He will be fine. It’s just a matter of time with the eye opening up and him feeling good.”

It goes without saying that 90 stitches to your eye-lid area is major deal, but given the circumstances Boychuk is very fortunate this situation did not turn out far worse.

This is the third significant injury the Islanders have had to deal with this season due to a skate blade cut.

Cal Clutterbuck missed more than two months after he suffered a cut to his wrist from Patrice Bergeron‘s skate back in December.

Casey Cizikas has also been sidelined for the past 10 games after a cut to the leg.

Lamoriello also issued an update on Cizikas on Wednesday.

“Casey is coming along as quickly as he can,” said Lamoriello. “He is walking, he is doing all of the things he should be doing. Hopefully we will get him back on the ice in the next week or so. Then it’s a process of him just getting his strength back. I would say he is at least another couple of weeks away.”

Related: Islanders’ Boychuk injured by skate blade

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

The Buzzer: Fiala stays hot; Rust’s hat trick gets Pens back on track

Kevin Fiala #22 of the Minnesota Wild celebrates after scoring a goal
Getty Images

Three Stars

1) Bryan Rust, Pittsburgh Penguins

His third NHL hat trick helped the Penguins end a six-game slide as they defeated the Ottawa Senators, 7-3. Rust broke a 1-1 tie late in the opening period with a perfectly placed wrist shot from the high slot. He netted his second at 13:29 of the third when he buried a loose puck in front after crashing the net. No. 17 would complete his hat trick late in the third after forcing a turnover near the blue line then firing a wrist shot between the goaltenders’ pads. Evgeni Malkin had four assists and Sidney Crosby recorded his 800th career helper as the Penguins restored order in Pittsburgh with an important victory.

2) Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets

When you think of elite goal scorers, Connor does not immediately jump to the top of the list for many. However, the 23-year old is tied for sixth in the NHL scoring race and is closing in on his first career 40-goal season. Connor scored twice and added an assist in the Jets’ 3-1 win against the Sabres at Bell MTS Place. He has scored in four consecutive games and registered his sixth multi-goal game of the season as the Jets picked up their second win in the previous two games. Connor netted his first of the evening when he buried a perfect feed from Blake Wheeler at 13:59 of the first period. He notched his second of the game in the middle frame when he quickly pounced on a loose puck in front and buried the rebound.

The Jets remain in a heated wild-card race in the Western Conference, but Connor’s consistent offensive production should help Winnipeg reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

3) Kevin Fiala, Minnesota Wild

Fiala scored in his fifth straight game to lead the Wild to a crucial 3-1 victory against the Nashville Predators. The Swiss forward has five goals and six assists in the previous five games. Minnesota is only one point from both Western Conference Wild Card spots and has played two less games than the Jets who occupy the position currently. Fiala’s 23 points since February 4 are second most in the NHL, trailing the scorching-hot Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers.

Highlights of the Night

Jake DeBrusk won a foot race and converted a breakaway to break a 10-game scoring drought as the Bruins topped the Lightning, 2-1.

Mitch Marner put the puck between his legs then slid a backhanded shot past Martin Jones to even the score at 2-2.

Fiala maneuvered around Ryan Ellis with a patient toe drag and then evened the score at 1-1 with a nifty wrist shot.

Charles Hudon’s wicked wrist shot helped the Montreal Canadiens cruise past the New York Islanders, 6-2.

Patrick Kane helped Dylan Strome notch his second goal with a perfect cross-ice pass in the Blackhawks’ 6-2 win.

Craig Smith snagged a puck with his glove then rifled a bouncing puck into the back of the net.

Push for the Playoffs

Stats of the Night

Injury news

Scores

Montreal Canadiens 6, New York Islanders 2
St. Louis Blues 3, New York Rangers 1
Pittsburgh Penguins 7, Ottawa Senators 3
Boston Bruins 2, Tampa Bay Lightning 1
Minnesota Wild 3, Nashville Predators 1
Winnipeg Jets 3, Buffalo Sabres 1
Chicago Blackhawks 6, Anaheim Ducks 2
Edmonton Oilers 2, Dallas Stars 1 (OT)
Vegas Golden Knights 3, New Jersey Devils 0
San Jose Sharks 5, Toronto Maple Leafs 2


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Islanders’ Boychuk injured by skate against Canadiens

Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk clipped with skate
NHL.TV
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(UPDATE: Boychuk needed 90 stitches after skate to face.)

It was not a scene for the faint of heart.

Johnny Boychuk covered his face and bolted for the locker room after a skate caught him up high. The Islanders defenseman was escorting Artturi Lehkonen away from the net when the Canadiens forward fell, and clipped Boychuk with his skate.

After the game, Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said Boychuk was being evaluated.

“It’s a scary situation,” captain Anders Lee said after the 6-2 loss. “You hate to see that happen.”

“It’s not good,” said Cal Clutterbuck. “Not easy to see. Not good at all.”

This is the third time this season the Islanders have lost a player due to a skate blade. Clutterbuck suffered a gash on his wrist against the Bruins on December 19th and returned to the lineup this past Saturday. Casey Cizikas was cut on his leg with a skate against the Flyers in February.

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

WATCH LIVE: Ovechkin continues chase for 700 vs. Canadiens on NBCSN

Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals celebrates
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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Thursday’s matchup between the Washington Capitals and Montreal Canadiens. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Washington hosts Montreal in D.C. tonight in what will be the third and final meeting between the two clubs this season. All eyes will be on Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin as he continues his quest for 700 career goals.

Ovechkin is now goalless in five straight games after registering a hat trick against the Kings on Feb. 4. Of the seven members in the 700-goal club, five players took five games or longer to go from 698 to 700 career goals – Jaromir Jagr (5 games), Marcel Dionne, Wayne Gretzky, Mike Gartner (6 games), and Brett Hull (12 games).

The Capitals have struggled in the midst of Ovechkin’s trek towards 700 goals. For the first time since mid-October, Washington no longer owns at least a share of the Metro Division lead as Pittsburgh now occupies the top spot.

Tuesday afternoon, the Capitals acquired defenseman Brenden Dillon from the San Jose Sharks for a 2020 second round pick (originally acquired from Colorado) and a conditional 2021 third round pick.

Montreal lost 4-3 at Detroit on Tuesday night after blowing a two-goal third period lead. The Habs led 3-1 entering the third and gave up three unanswered goals to pick up their fifth straight loss. To make matters worse, the Red Wings swept the Habs in the regular season (four games) for the first time in franchise history. Four of Detroit’s league-worst 15 wins this season have come against Montreal.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

WHAT: Montreal Canadiens at Washington Capitals
WHERE: Capital One Arena
WHEN: Thursday, Feb. 20, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Capitals-Canadiens stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

CANADIENS
Tomas TatarPhilip DanaultBrendan Gallagher
Jonathan DrouinNick SuzukiJoel Armia
Artturi LehkonenMax DomiIlya Kovalchuk
Paul ByronNate ThompsonNick Cousins

Ben ChiarotShea Weber
Brett KulakJeff Petry
Xavier OuelletChristian Folin

Starting goalie: Carey Price

CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas BackstromTom Wilson
Jakub VranaEvgeny KuznetsovT.J. Oshie
Carl HagelinLars EllerRichard Panik
Travis BoydNic DowdGarnet Hathaway

Brenden Dillon – John Carlson
Dmitry OrlovNick Jensen
Michal KempnyRadko Gudas

Starting goalie: Braden Holtby

Joe Beninati and analysts Craig Laughlin and Alan May will have the call from Capital One Arena.