Pastrnak opens scoring with impressive but controversial goal

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With their season hanging in the balance and goaltender Tuukka Rask out with an illness, the Boston Bruins arguably caught a break early in the first period of today’s game against the Ottawa Senators.

In the Senators zone, David Pastrnak snatched the sailing puck out of midair and quickly put himself in a position to beat goalie Andrew Hammond one-on-one.

The question is if Pastrnak was offside. Ottawa challenged the call, but it ultimately stood as the league believed the video was inconclusive. The NHL referred to Rule 78.7 which states, “If a review is not conclusive and/or there is any doubt whatsoever as to whether the call on the ice was correct, the On-Ice Official(s) will be instructed to confirm their original call.”

The Senators lost their timeout as a result of the failed challenge.

It is worth noting that it does look like offside:

As AP’s Stephen Whyno noted, the NHL is putting cameras on the blue lines for the playoffs, so we’re not likely to get inconclusive reviews in these scenarios in the near future.

With season on the line, Rask can’t play in finale

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This is the worst of times to lose your starting goaltender.

Boston is facing the Ottawa Senators this afternoon without Tuukka Rask due to an illness, per the team’s Twitter feed. As a result, the Bruins announced that they have summoned goaltender Jeremy Smith on an emergency basis and Jonas Gustavsson will play between the pipes.

Rask did join the Bruins for their warmup, but he barely participated and left it early.

Boston has leaned heavily on Rask this season, asking him to start in 62 games. In fact this is Jonas Gustavsson’s first start since March 18, although he has appeared twice since then in games that Rask didn’t complete.

Going into this game, Boston controls the second Wild Card seed, but it has just a one-point edge over Philadelphia and the Flyers have two contests left on their schedule. In other words, if the Bruins lose in regulation, then Philadelphia would need to get just two points over two games to boot Boston from the Wild Card race.

A Boston loss in regulation would also guarantee the Red Wings a playoff spot regardless of the outcome of Detroit’s game against the New York Rangers this afternoon. The Red Wings and Bruins are currently tied in terms of points, but Detroit controls the tiebreaker and thus holds the third Atlantic Division seed for now.

‘We’ve never once said this was going to be easy or fast,’ Benning says as Canucks close losing season

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Making the playoffs may have been the ideal for Vancouver, but with the team about to finish their worst campaign since 1998-99, Canucks GM Jim Benning emphasized that this season has been one step in a longer process.

“We’ve never once said this was going to be easy or fast,” Benning said, per the Vancouver Sun. “What we said is our goal every year is try to be competitive and make the playoffs. But we’ve never once mentioned the Stanley Cup or had any illusions about where we are as a team. If you don’t have the goal to be a playoff team, what’s the sense of even playing the games?”

The Canucks have put an emphasis on getting younger, but they’ve also resisted doing a complete overhaul. Back in April 2015, they made it clear that they didn’t want to go the same route as other rebuilding teams that are stuck at or near the NHL basement for years while they rebuild through the draft. Instead, they felt it was important to develop prospects within a “winning environment.”

If you wanted to draw a parallel to what they were going for, perhaps the Detroit Red Wings would be a fair comparison of a team that attempted to rebuild on the fly. Despite that, Vancouver will sit in the 28th spot in the NHL with just one game left on its schedule.

So in that sense, this season could be seen of as a failure, but at the same time it’s not a deviation from their long-term goals. After all, Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi, Ben Hutton, and goalie Jacob Markstrom all played significant roles this season and could be important pieces of this franchise for years to come. Meanwhile rookies Jared McCann and Jake Virtanen were given a chance to grow within the NHL.

Benning still wants to be competitive next season, but he thinks realistically it will be a few years before Vancouver can stack up against the league’s top squads.

Related: The outcome of the trade deadline frustrated Benning

Is the Capitals’ slump cause for concern?


The Washington Capitals don’t need wins at this point, but it’s still troubling that they’re not getting them.

They’ve dropped three straight games for the first time this season and while they battled Pittsburgh to overtime last night, Capitals coach Barry Trotz wasn’t happy with what he saw.

“Way too much cheat in our game, not enough detail and not enough work,” Trotz told CSN Mid-Atlantic. “You can’t go around games, you gotta go through them and we didn’t go through them early.”

The issue is, if the Capitals get sloppy with their game now, can they simply reverse that with the snap of a finger in Game 1 of the playoffs? Or will those bad habits be harder than that to break, especially against a team that had to claw its way into the first round while Washington played in games that were largely meaningless to them.

Trotz remains optimistic, but he warned his players that once the postseason starts, there won’t be time to wait for players to get going and those that struggle out of the gate will be in danger of dropping in the depth charts, per the Washington Post.

This all is happening with the backdrop of a bigger story that’s being playing out in Washington for years. There was a time not so long ago that the Capitals were regarded as a regular season team that simply couldn’t deliver in the playoffs. This will be the eighth time in nine seasons that Washington has advanced to the postseason and their sixth division win (albeit with most of that predating the realignment), but they haven’t advanced past the second round over that stretch.

The hope is that with new management, a largely different core outside of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, and Trotz guiding the way, things are different in Washington now. It will be hard to make that argument though if the Capitals fall flat in the playoffs after winning the Presidents’ Trophy.

Devils summon top prospect Pavel Zacha

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Saturday’s contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs might go down as something more than just the end of another disappointing season for the Devils.

New Jersey opened the door for the game more meaning when they announced that Pavel Zacha has been summoned from OHL Sarnia. That makes the highly regarded prospect available to make his NHL debut.

The 19-year-old forward was taken with the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. He then went into training camp and just barely fell short of a roster spot. Even before the season began, Zacha already had the build of an NHLer at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds and his offensive abilities had to make the possibility of having him on the roster tempting. At the same time, his experience within North America was limited going into the 2015-16 campaign.

That’s been remedied after a full season with Sarnia where he had 28 goals, 64 points, and 97 penalty minutes in 51 contests. He added another 13 points and 16 penalty minutes in seven playoff games.

At the least, playing him tomorrow would give Zacha a taste of what the NHL is like to motivate him over the summer. However, it would also be a chance for him to make a strong impression even before the 2016 training camp.