The Wraparound: Blue Jackets aim to pad series lead

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

Can the Columbus Blue Jackets do it?

After stunning the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 on Wednesday night, the Jackets will look to go up 2-0 in their best-of-seven series against one of the best teams in NHL history. Even the most optimistic Blue Jackets supporter probably didn’t expect them to take the first two games in Tampa, but they’ll have an opportunity to do so tonight (7 p.m. ET; CNBC; live stream).

There are several reasons why Columbus was able to overcome a 3-0 deficit in the first game. They started winning more 50/50 puck battles, Sergei Bobrovsky came up with some big saves, Tampa Bay took their foot of the gas, but the biggest reason they were finally able to climb that hill was thanks to their special teams.

When they were trailing 3-2 in the third frame, Brandon Dubinsky took a four-minute hi-sticking penalty on Cedric Paquette that could have put an end to the Blue Jackets’ comeback bid. Instead, Josh Anderson managed to score the equalizer while his team was shorthanded. You may not realize this, but Tampa Bay and Columbus both finished the regular season with the top penalty-killing percentage in the league at 85 percent. So it’s not surprising to see this team excel in that area of the game.

The surprise came just over two minutes later, when Seth Jones put his team ahead for good with a power-play tally. They ranked 28th in the NHL on the man-advantage during the regular season. That was huge considering they gave up a shorthanded tally to Alex Killorn in the first period.

Winning the special teams battle against a team that finished first on the power play and tied for first on the penalty kill won’t be easy going forward, but for one night the Jackets showed that they could get production from both of their units.

Can they do it again? That might be the difference between going up 2-0 or heading back home tied 1-1.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Game 2: Penguins vs. Islanders, 7:30 p.m. ET (Islanders lead 1-0): The Penguins managed to overcome three one-goal deficits in Game 1, but they eventually lost in overtime. To make the Islanders truly uncomfortable, you have to make them open up. And the only way they open up, is if they fall behind and are forced to chase the game. That’s the key for Pittsburgh. Doing that at Nassau Coliseum in front of that lively crowd is going to be easier said than done though. (NBCSN; Live stream)

Game 2: Blues at Jets, 9:30 p.m. ET (Blues lead 1-0): If you like big bodies flying around at each other on a sheet of ice, you’ve come to the right place. We saw a tight-checking game with two confident goalies that played really well. As Mark Scheifele found out in the final minute of Game 1, solving Jordan Binnington isn’t going to be easy. The Jets will have to find a way to find the back of the net more than just once. If this series goes the distance, will either one of these teams have anything left in the tank? (CNBC; Live stream)

Game 2: Golden Knights at Sharks, 10:30 p.m. ET (Sharks lead 1-0): Game 1 couldn’t have gone any better for San Jose, as almost all of their top players managed to find their way onto the scoresheet. The Golden Knights have to find a way to slow down the Sharks and they need to stay out of the penalty box. Even though Martin Jones picked up the win in the first game, he still looked shaky at times. Vegas could stand to make his life a little more difficult. (NBCSN; Live stream)

SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE
Game 2: Hurricanes at Capitals, 3 p.m. ET (NBC)
Game 2: Stars at Predators, 6 p.m. ET (CNBC)
Game 2: Maple Leafs at bruins, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
Game 3: Avalanche at Flames, 10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

PHT’s 2019 Stanley Cup playoff previews
Capitals vs Hurricanes
Islanders vs. Penguins

Bruins vs. Maple Leafs
Lightning vs. Blue Jackets

Predators vs. Stars
Blues vs. Jets
Flames vs. Avalanche
Sharks vs. Golden Knights

Power Rankings: Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup
• 
Roundtable: Goaltending issues, challenging the Lightning
NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round 1 schedule, TV info

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.

Blue Jackets – Lightning provide first goal, fight of playoffs

After a high-scoring 2018-19 regular season, the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs are off to a fast start.

The Columbus Blue Jackets and Tampa Bay Lightning are setting the tone in Game 1. About three minutes into the contest, Dan Girardi was whistled for illegal hit to the head on his former Rangers teammate Brandon Dubinsky, which inspired something you probably didn’t expect this soon: the first fight of the postseason.

Check out the hit and fight here:

The Blue Jackets ended up getting a two-minute power play advantage from that ensuing fracas, but it really just started the bleeding for Columbus. Alex Killorn snagged the puck from Seth Jones, opening up a breakaway and a shorthanded goal, the first goal of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch that video in the clip above this post’s headline.

Things didn’t get any better for the Blue Jackets from that 1-0 goal. Anthony Cirelli made it 2-0 on a goal Sergei Bobrovsky would want back, while Yanni Gourde‘s deflection on a 3-0 goal was something Bob really had no chance on.

So, two-out-of-three goals weren’t Bob’s bad, but he had some other shaky moments, and the conventional wisdom that the Blue Jackets will need brilliant goaltending to steal games from the Bolts continues to hold.

It begs the question: will the Blue Jackets also provide another first for this postseason: the first goalie change?

Game 2 of Blue Jackets-Lightning is Friday, April 12, at 7 p.m. ET on CNBC

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.

The Buzzer: More ludicrous numbers for Kucherov, Lightning

Three Stars

1. Nikita Kucherov

You could probably give the overall nod to Yanni Gourde. While Kucherov’s three points were all assists, Gourde got to three with two goals and one assist.

But Kucherov’s larger accomplishments demand the greater mention. With these three points, Kucherov somehow has 125 points in 2018-19, with three games to spare. Lightning coach Jon Cooper will need to weigh allowing Kucherov to chase new highs with the lure of rest, as the Bolts have locked up everything for … a while now.

Kucherov’s 125 points ties Joe Thornton‘s 125 from 2005-06 for the best point total since the NHL began using a salary cap (you know, after the full season lost in 2004-05, grumble grumble). You have to go back to Jaromir Jagr’s 1998-99 season, when Jagr scored 127 points in 81 games, to find a higher total that 125 points.

So, sorry, Yanni, but that no-look assist was better than a Night at the Acropolis.

2. Aleksander Barkov

Kucherov wasn’t the only one who hit some gaudy numbers on Monday, although Barkov’s are a bit more specific — and Barkov can only celebrate so much, as his Panthers finish another season without the playoffs, and with little motivation beyond being spoilers.

(Granted, they went almost down to the wire in 2017-18.)

Barkov collected three assists as the Panthers denied the Capitals a chance to lock down the Metropolitan Division title. Those three assists push Barkov’s point total to 94. That’s not just a career-high for Barkov; it also ties the most points generated by a Panthers player, as Pavel Bure hit 94 in just 74 games in 1999-200. (No, your young[er?] eyes weren’t lying to you; Jagr and Bure really were amazing.)

Barkov’s been underrated long enough that most casual fans know that he’s a big deal, but it’s still a sin that he’s only played beyond game 82 once in his already-impressive career.

3. Dylan Strome

Strome’s been a big reason why Chicago has been able to keep their playoff hopes – faint or not – alive, as he’s been tremendous since being traded from the Coyotes. The third pick of the 2015 NHL Draft scored two goals and one assist for three points, helping the Blackhawks push the Winnipeg Jets to overtime before the Jets eventually won.

This pushes Strome to 19 goals and 54 points in 75 games, with 48 of those points coming in his 55 points with the Blackhawks.

Considering how people were wondering if Strome might be a bust, this is a comforting trend for player and the Blackhawks, even if they’re just about certain to fall short of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Highlights of the Night

Kevin Hayes scored the overtime game-winner for the Jets against the Blackhawks, and it was pretty sweet. This is Hayes’ first OT goal at the NHL level, by the way.

That Gourde assist to Brayden Point:

Factoids

Scores

Panthers 5, Capitals 3
Devils 4, Rangers 2
Maple Leafs 2, Islanders 1
Lightning 5, Senators 2
Blues 3, Avalanche 2 (SO)
Jets 4, Blackhawks 3 (OT)
Golden Knights 3, Oilers 1
Flames 7, Kings 2

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.

Lightning’s Gourde suspended two games for illegal check to the head

NHL
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Yanni Gourde has been suspended two games by the NHL Department of Player Safety for his hit to the head of Jordan Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday night.

The Tampa Bay Lightning forward went to lay a hit on Staal and ended up getting his head, leading to a match penalty and an ejection. Staal, who missed 32 games this season while dealing with a concussion, left the game before returning and scoring Carolina’s second goal in a 6-3 loss.

“I haven’t really watched or seen it but, you know, it’s a fast game, things happen,” Staal said afterward. “Obviously, you never want to see those hits. I was fortunate enough to come out of it feeling all right.”

DoPS head George Parros said the head check was avoidable in the department’s suspension video.

“While we acknowledge Gourde’s argument that Staal is bent low and stumbling as he plays the puck, this hit does not meet any of the criteria for unavoidable head contact,” Parros said.

Gourde, who has no history with the DoPS in his 179-game career, will miss the Lightning’s games against St. Louis on Saturday and Boston on Monday. He is eligible to return next Saturday vs. Washington.

Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Gourde forfeits $10,752.68 — money that goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Lightning’s Gourde ejected after hit to the head of Hurricanes’ Staal

Sportsnet
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Jordan Staal already missed 32 games earlier this season thanks to concussions, and he’s incredibly lucky to not have suffered another on Thursday night.

The Carolina Hurricanes forward was flattened by a hit to the head from Tampa Bay Lightning forward Yanni Gourde during the first period.

Gourde, coming across the ice, drove his shoulder through the face of Staal, who was leaning forward, not looking in Gourde’s direction given where the puck was, and beginning to fall after getting tripped up by Ryan Callahan.

Regardless of how you look at the hit, and any events leading up to it, it was completely avoidable.

While Gourde’s intention probably wasn’t to drill Staal, the video is plenty damning for the Lightning’s young gun.

To the surprise of no one, Gourde was given a match penalty on the play for an illegal check to the head. Staal, meanwhile, left the game for the rest of the first period but was back on the bench to start the second, which is fantastic news.

Coming back from his last concussion was hell, as Luke DeCock of the Raleigh News & Observer chronicled in a great story about Staals’ road to recovery last month, just days before he returned to lineup.

UPDATE:

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