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The Playoff Buzzer: Blues overcome clutch Couture

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Blues 4, Sharks 2 (Series tied 1-1; Game 3 on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN; stream here).

The two teams took turns stunning each other during Game 2. First, Schwartz and Vince Dunn stunned the Sharks with two goals, with one coming in the first period and the other happening in the second. Dunn’s goal seemed to awake a sleeping giant, as Logan Couture then stunned the Blues with two goals in two minutes. Bortuzzo’s eventually game-winner was maybe the most stunning moment of the night, while Oskar Sundqvist‘s 4-2 insurance tally seemed to come out of nowhere (although that pass by Alexander Steen was no accident). Binnington was good enough for the Blues to get another road win during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Robert Bortuzzo

This was one of those “more than meets the eye” performances, as Bortuzzo transformed into an unlikely hero.

Bortuzzo’s game-winner stands as the number one reason why he snags this spot over players who were more productive during Game 2. He did more than that, though, as Bortuzzo brought attention to a delay of game penalty, landed a thunderous check on Marcus Sorensen, and blocked a Kevin Labanc one-timer that looked like a golden opportunity for San Jose to tie what was at the time a 3-2 game.

In just 10:37 of ice time, Bortuzzo scored that goal, enjoyed a +2 rating, generated two SOG, two blocked shots, and totaled five hits.

2. Logan Couture

Really, Couture was probably the biggest star of Game 2, though he probably wouldn’t argue too hard for that point since his Sharks lost.

Couture beat Binnington twice in slightly less than two minutes, first generating a shorthanded goal and then beating Binnington after a fantastic outlet pass from Timo Meier. Couture only took six faceoffs in Game 2, but won five of them, while also firing four SOG and delivering one hit, one blocked shot, and a +1 rating. Couture did his part – and then some – but most of his teammates just couldn’t really get much going.

3. Joel Edmundson

The only player other than Couture to score two points was a Blues defenseman, and that blueliner was Edmundson, not Bortuzzo.

Edmundson collected two assists in Game 2, giving him five assists and six points during 13 playoff games. Edmundson’s been heating up in general, really, as he’s generated four of his six points (one goal, three assists) in the last four games.

The Blues’ defensive group combined for two goals and three assists overall in Game 2.

Factoids

Tuesday’s game

Game 3: Boston Bruins at Carolina Hurricanes (Boston leads series 2-0; airs on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET; stream here)

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Sharks have historical edge; Holland’s philosophy

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Here’s the NBC Sports Stanley Cup playoff update for May 8

• The Sharks’ power play and the Avalanche penalty kill have been in a heated battle during their second-round series. (Fear the Fin)

• History tells us that the Sharks will have an advantage on the Avs heading into Game 7. (The Hockey News)

Joe Pavelski is still day-to-day for the Sharks heading into Game 7. (NBC Sports Bay Area)

J.T. Compher told Avs fans that he would be a difference maker for them, and he was in Game 6. (Mile High Sports)

• The Bruins and Hurricanes will kick off the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday night. (WEEI)

Tuukka Rask is performing at an incredibly high level for the Bruins right now. (NBC Sports Boston)

• Scott Walker has a lot of memories when it comes to battles between the Hurricanes and Bruins. (News & Observer)

• The Hurricanes aren’t just jerks. They’re hard workers that have found a way to get the job done in the playoffs. (Wralsportsfan.com)

• Now that we know he’ll be back with the Leafs, Mike Babcock has to find a way to make some changes to his coaching philosophies. (Sportsnet)

• Just how bad was Evgeni Malkin‘s “bad” season? (The Sports Daily)

• What can Oilers fans expect from a veteran GM like Ken Holland? (Oilers Nation)

• David Staples explains what Holland’s team-building philosophy is heading into his tenure with the Oilers. (Edmonton Journal)

• Holland admitted that a scouting trip with the Detroit Red Wings convinced him that he still had a desire to be a GM. (Detroit News)

• NHL players have a long love affair with iconic hair styles. Who can forget the Jagr mullet? (ESPN)

• Georges Laraque joined the Grand Stand Central Podcast to discuss veganism, politics and much more. (Grand Stand Central)

• Flyers fans are left wondering how Ian Laperiere still has a job with the organization. (Broadstreet Hockey)

• Rotoworld’s Corey Abbott breaks down what went wrong with the Los Angeles Kings this year. (Rotoworld)

• Does it make sense for the Canucks to present an offer sheet to a restricted free agent? (Vancourier)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Hurricanes end Islanders’ magical run with sweep

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The New York Islanders exceeded just about all expectations this season, and getting swept doesn’t erase all of the great memories, but the run is now over.

After the Islanders swept the Penguins in Round 1, they suffered that fate against the comparably magical Carolina Hurricanes, who managed an emphatic 5-2 Game 4 win to clinch the series 4-0.

For much of this Round 2 feud, every goal and bounce seemed to count. The Hurricanes won both games in Brooklyn despite only scoring three goals combined, and things were tight going into the third period of Game 3, as both teams were tied 2-2.

The Hurricanes really ran away with the series from that point on, though.

Carolina scored three third-period goals to win Game 3 by a score of 5-2, and convincingly closed down the sweep with another 5-2 win in Game 4. Overall, the Hurricanes scored eight of the last 10 goals to end the Islanders’ season, limiting the Islanders to just five goals overall in Round 2.

It really felt like the series was over once the Hurricanes transformed a 1-1 tie to a 3-1 lead with two quick goals in the second period, chasing Robin Lehner in the process.

Curtis McElhinney looks sharp since replacing an injured Petr Mrazek in Game 3, making 26 saves to close this one out. It’s a testament to McElhinney’s work, as he’s been a gem since the Hurricanes claimed him off of waivers. It’s also a testament to the Hurricanes that they’ve weathered so many injuries without really missing a beat.

Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen remain red-hot for the Hurricanes, as both generated one-goal, one-assist point nights in Game 4. They factored into the first goals of Game 4, when things were still looking very close. Those two are becoming more prominent to casual hockey fans during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and at this rate, could become household names.

Ending this series quickly could be huge for Carolina

Getting this sweep isn’t just about the optics of a perfect round.

The Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes are currently locked up at 2-2, and the earliest that Round 2 series can end is on Monday. (The two teams bid for a 3-2 series lead in Game 5 on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on NBC; Stream here).

The Hurricanes were battered thanks to that seven-game series against the Capitals, with Andrei Svechnikov missing most of Round 2 because of that ill-fated fight with Alex Ovechkin, while Jordan Martinook and Micheal Ferland also suffered injuries. That only continued against the Islanders; Petr Mrazek’s injury was the most significant of the series, while Trevor van Riemsdyk and Saku Mäenalanen also missed time.

From players who were playing flat-out injured to those who were simply less than 100 percent, this break is big.

And, yes, this means the Hurricanes avoid games where they could have suffered new injuries. Sure, you can make a “rest versus rust” argument, but I’d be confident this is a net-positive for Carolina.

[The Hurricanes discussed finishing this heading into Game 4.]

Islanders run out of gas

Barry Trotz’s system can throw offense in a wood chipper. Even stars like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin can struggle to score against a Trotz team when it really clamps down.

That said, the Islanders often had to walk a tightrope where they had very little margin of error. Maybe the Hurricanes’ strong defensive personnel and deep rotation of two-way players simply presented a bad matchup for the Islanders. Perhaps Lehner and others were tired. It could be that the bounces dried up.

And that’s what GM Lou Lamoriello and others need to grapple with. This was a magical, affirming run, but he also must do his best to take a sober look at this team once the sadness from the sweep dissipates.

Is this club in more of a “rebuild” mode like people anticipated when John Tavares left for Toronto? How much should they weigh their success with troubling thoughts, such as only managing five goals in that entire series against the Hurricanes? Are they a few moves from being a contender, and thus should spend big to keep some key players from leaving? Lehner is on a list of pending free agents who could put a dent in the wallet, joined by prominent names such as Jordan Eberle, Anders Lee, and Brock Nelson.

[Dive into the big decisions the Isles face here.]

For now, though, it’s all about mixed feelings. After finally winning a Stanley Cup, Trotz may have indeed topped himself with the work he did with the Islanders, and is almost certain to win the Jack Adams as a result. Sweeping the Penguins proved to be an emphatic statement. By my eyes, Mathew Barzal also confirmed his status as a legitimate star after his sensational Calder-winning 2017-18 season. Islanders fans had to love this ride, whether they were jeering Tavares or their team’s many doubters.

But for now, the magic’s over; we’ll have to wait and see if the Islanders have even more tricks up their sleeves. The Hurricanes, meanwhile, await the Bruins or Blue Jackets in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final.

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Isles melting down; Are Blues falling apart?

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Did the Blues just have one off night in Dallas in Game 4 or is this the start of a long slump? (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

• Stu Barnes’ experience has been a valuable asset for the Stars coaching staff. (NHL.com/Stars)

• This isn’t the first time Stars rookie Roope Hintz has had success in the postseason. (The Hockey News)

• Charles Glenn is doing his part to get the Blues fans in a frenzy during the singing of the national anthem. He’s hoping to earn a Stanley Cup ring before he retires at the end of the season. (NHL.com)

Jaccob Slavin doesn’t garner many headlines, but he’s found an effective way to use his stick while defending. (The Point Hockey)

• How much longer can the Hurricanes survive with a power play that doesn’t spark the team. (Canes Country)

• The Islanders went on a great run this season, but they’re starting melt down. (New York Post)

• When Joe Thornton has something to say, his teammates listen. (ESPN)

• The Detroit Red Wings released a statement on the passing of Red Kelly. (NHL.com/RedWings)

• What should the Golden Knights do to tweak their roster this summer? (Knights on Ice)

• Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is just as disappointed by his team’s early playoff exit as the fans are. (Tampa Bay Times)

• Did the Penguins have their best stretch of the season while Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang were out? Adam Gretz investigates. (Pensburgh)

Auston Matthews had some surgical hardware from a 2014 operation removed. This procedure isn’t expected to disrupt his off-season training. (Toronto Star)

• Former NHLer John Erskine was severely injured during a highway accident. (TSN)

• Tomahawk science has really helped Patrick Kane perform at a high level at the age of 30. (Forbes)

• Liz Knox explains why so many female hockey players are willing to boycott North American leagues. (The Ice Garden)

• It was an interesting season for Canucks goalie Michael DiPietro. (The Score)

• The New York Rangers signed defenseman Adam Fox, who they acquired from Carolina, to an entry-level deal. (Blue Shirt Banter)

Milan Lucic won’t rule out playing for the Canucks, but someone else should. (Vancourier)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

PHT Morning Skate: Bruins’ special teams nothing special; Dzingel disappointment?

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Here’s the NBC Sports Stanley Cup playoff update for May 2

• The Bruins’ special teams have been anything but. (Bruins Daily)

• Is Ryan Dzingel a disappointment? (The Cannon)

• Game 3 may have been Boone Jenner‘s finest for Columbus. (The Point)

• Pavelski FaceTimed team after Game 3, set to begin skating soon. (NBC Sports Bay Area)

Logan Couture is proving why he’s one of the best playoff performers of his generation. (The Hockey News)

• Avs lament ‘boneheaded’ Game 3 decisions. (NHL.com)

• Rotoworld has their NHL Mock Draft 1.0 up. (Rotoworld)

• It’s Red Wings or bust for Pavel Datsyuk if he returns to the NHL. (MLive)

• Widow of former NHLer Todd Ewen files lawsuit against league. (TSN)

• Oilers taking steps to quell fan angst. (Edmonton Journal)

• Jason Botchford, popular Vancouver sportswriter, dead at 48. (The Province)

• Jack Hughes is going to World Hockey Championships. He’s 17. (ESPN)

• A nice guide Kyle Dubas can follow to fix his defense. (Sportsnet)

• It’s time to trade Evgeni Malkin. (Yahoo Sports)

• Is it time for the Nashville Predators to deal a d-man? (On the Forecheck)


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