The Buzzer: Capitals, Predators even their respective series

Sunday’s results

Washington Capitals 4, Pittsburgh Penguins 1 (series tied 1-1): The Capitals built up another lead on Sunday, but this time they didn’t let it go, tying up the Eastern Conference Second Round series in impressive fashion, although not without controversy. Washington got off to a fast start again with Alex Ovechkin scoring 1:26 in. From there, the Caps built up a 3-0 lead before Kris Letang pulled one back. Washington would add the empty netter to tie up the best-of-7 series. Lars Ellers had three assists in the game. Braden Holtby made 32 saves for the win.

Nashville Predators 5, Winnipeg Jets 4 (2OT — series tied 1-1): A thriller from beginning to end, including three regulation periods and 25:45 of overtime. Frantic action back and forth and a double-overtime winner from Kevin Fiala that sent Nashville into the stratosphere. The game had it all and the Predators avoided having to head to Winnipeg down 2-0 in the series. Ryan Johansen scored a pair, as did Mark Scheifele, and the latter has four goals in two games in the series. Nashville needed the line of Fiala, Kyle Turris and Craig Smith to show up in the series, and they left their mark on the game-winner.

Three stars

Braden Holtby, Capitals: Holtby had a solid bounce-back game, making 32 saves as the Capitals evened their series with the Penguins in a tidy 4-1 win. Holtby simply needs to be great if they want to beat the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs, and he was certainly that and more on Sunday afternoon.

Ryan Johansen, Predators: Call the Game 2 a must-win and then scored 27 seconds into the game for a quick lead. In the third period, he dipsy-doodled around Toby Enstrom to put the Predators up 4-3.

Mark Scheifele, Jets: Scheifele, like Johansen, scored twice in the game, including a massive goal with 65 seconds left in the third period to force overtime. Scheifele has four goals over the first two games of the series.

Highlights of the Night

Kevin Fiala’s beauty game-winner in double overtime:

Johansen did Toby Enstrom dirty on this one:

Here’s Dustin Byfuglien ragdolling two grown men with ease:

Matt Murray didn’t get the win, but he did get this save:

World class release:

Factoids of the Night

Monday’s action

Boston Bruins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (NBCSN) — Bruins lead series 1-0

Vegas Golden Knights vs. San Jose Sharks (NBCSN) — series tied 1-1


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

Backstrom provides OT winner as Capitals take 3-2 series lead

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The Washington Capitals are on the verge of the second round.

Yes, the Capitals, who began the series with back-to-back losses in Game 1 and 2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, are now on the brink of eliminating Ohio’s team after Nicklas Backstrom‘s deft deflection in overtime gave the Capitals their third straight win and a 3-2 series lead.

It was the fourth time in the series both clubs played to a tie in regulation. After Columbus won the first two in OT, Washington replied with a win in double-overtime in Game 3 before Backstrom ended Game 5 at the 11:53 mark of the first frame of free hockey.

Backstrom scored his first goal of the series to open the scoring for the Caps and assisted for the sixth time in the series on the go-ahead goal in the second period before Oliver Bjorkstrand tied it in third.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Braden Holtby had to be sharp, especially in the third period as, inexplicably, the Caps were outshot 16-1. At home. Holtby made 40 saves when it was all said and done.

Two-hundred feet away, Sergei Bobrovsky was up to the task, making some silly stops including a big one on Alex Ovechkin earlier in overtime and a bigger one in regulation time off the same man’s stick.

Game 6 of this series is slated for Monday in Columbus, with a start time still to be determined.

In his post-game comments, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said, twice, that his team will be back in the capital for Game 7.

The promise has been made.


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

Alex Ovechkin scores 49th goal, claims another Rocket Richard Trophy

AP Images
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Alex Ovechkin came close, but fell one goal short of hitting 50 for the seventh time in his NHL career. In the process, he’ll claim his seventh career Rocket Richard Trophy for leading the league in goals scored. No other player has won the award more than twice since it was introduced during the 1998-99 season.

The Washington Capitals captain tallied twice during a 5-3 win over the New Jersey Devils Saturday night. After needing just 2:21 into the game to score his 48th of the year, Ovechkin added No. 49 minutes into the third period.

There were plenty of opportunities for Ovi to grab his 50th, but he couldn’t capitalize, including on a third period breakaway and a late power play chance for the Capitals.

2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Schedule, Bracket, Streams and More

The second goal was Ovechkin’s 102nd career game-winning goal, passing Jarome Iginla (101) for sole possession of eighth place on the NHL’s all-time list.

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: Luongo on Parkland; Tocchet takes a leave of absence

Artemi Panarin / Twitter
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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.

• What do we think of Artemi Panarin‘s new hat? [Twitter]

Alex Ovechkin‘s parents pen him a letter after the Washington Capitals superstar notched career goal No. 600. [NHL.com]

Evgeny Kuznetsov adequately sums up Ovechkin’s feat: “Holy f— that’s a lot of goals.” [RMNB]

• Florida Panthers goalie and Parkland resident Roberto Luongo: “We need to keep talking about this” [ESPN]

• Arizona Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet is taking a leave of absence due to an illness in his family. Assistant coach John MacLean will take over coaching duties until Tocchet returns. [Coyotes]

Bobby Ryan of the Ottawa Senators on the trade that nearly sent him and Erik Karlsson out of town: “I heard on Sunday it was done and somebody backed out at the last second. Karl and I were like, ‘pack it up’. We thought we were gone. That’s just the way it goes. Then you’re like, I’ve got to move again? I guess I’ll just wait and see how it goes in the summer. That’s all you can do.” [Ottawa Sun]

• What do you do when you’re a team with one “Hartsy” and you add another? Ask the Nashville Predators and Ryan Hartman and Scott Hartnell. [Tennessean]

• Speaking of the Preds, who’s going to stop them? [TSN]

• Is it time to worry about Andre Vasilevskiy’s workload with the Tampa Bay Lightning? [Raw Charge]

• As they cling to a playoff spot out west, the Anaheim Ducks are keeping an eye on the teams around them. [OC Register]

• Brian Gionta and Chris Kelly go from the Olympics straight into the NHL playoff race. [SI.com]

• The question facing the Carolina Hurricanes: What now? [Spector’s Hockey]

• Are scoring chances better than Corsi? [Maple Leafs Nation]

• A stick and jersey from Canadian women’s Olympic team players Sarah Nurse and Brigette Lacquette are heading to the Hockey Hall of Fame. [Color of Hockey]

• It’s bracket time! So why not take a gander at what the NHL playoffs would look like if it was done like March Madness. [On the Forecheck]

• Finally, as Ovi hits 600, let’s hop in the wayback machine for one of his best goals ever:

————

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.

Patrik Laine, Alex Ovechkin meet to kick off Rocket Richard stretch run

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From a team perspective, Monday’s matchup between the Washington Capitals and visiting Winnipeg Jets has its own set of storylines.

A win for the Capitals would vault them back into first place in a volatile Metropolitan Division, a revolving throne that was last claimed on Sunday when the Pittsburgh Penguins leapfrogged the Caps with a 3-1 win against the Dallas Stars.

For the Jets, a win accomplishes two things: First and foremost, it keeps a six-point gap between themselves and the Minnesota Wild for second place in the Central Division. Secondly, a win claws back a couple points from the Nashville Predators, who sit atop the summit of the toughest division in hockey with a seven-point lead.

Given that the Jets play Nashville on the back-to-back on Tuesday, they could close that gap to just three points with two wins on the trot over the next 48 hours.

But these are all team goals and mumbo jumbo. The real story on Monday night, in Washington, in Winnipeg, and across the NHL, is focused squarely on the battle between Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine.

Yes, Monday’s game is the unofficial beginning of the race to the Rocket Richard Trophy.

[Who’s going to win the Maurice Richard Trophy?]

Both Ovechkin, a six-time winner, and Laine, a 19-year-old NHL sophomore, sit tied for first place on 40 goals, one ahead of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin.

Malkin is clearly in the race, as are a bevy of other players. But tonight’s spotlight is on the champ and the pretender.

Both teams have 14 games remaining on their respective schedules.

“It’s always been one of my dreams to win it,” Laine told Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun over the weekend. “It’s something that every goal-scorer dreams about. There are still 15 games to go. There are a lot of things that can happen, but (along) with our team goals, it’s a good motivation for me.”

In many respects, Laine has emulated parts of what has made Ovechkin — Laine’s childhood idol — the NHL’s best goal-scorer since he was drafted years ago. Laine’s one-timer, like Ovi’s, is as lethal as they come. His position on the power play, Ovi’s office, as it were, is much the same. The release? Both are world-class, and well beyond their peers in the NHL.

Ovechkin has been scoring consistently all season long. For Laine, he’s produced 15 goals in his past 11 games, is on an 11-game point streak and has at least one goal in five-straight and nine of his last 10.

Unlike last season, where his offense sputtered down the stretch, Laine has come alive to make himself the favorite to capture his first goal-scoring crown.

Laine is shooting at a few ticks over 20 percent thus far and leads the NHL in power play goals with 18. And his scoring on Winnipeg’s current six-game road trip has helped his team tremendously in the win department. Laine has seven of the Jets’ 11 goals through four games. Winnipeg is 3-1-0 on the trip so far.

Ovechkin, by comparison, has just one goal in his past five games. But no one takes more shots in the NHL than the Great 8. His sheer volume would lead one to suggest that he’ll get back on that goal-scoring wagon soon. Perhaps even tonight.

On your marks.

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