Bonino’s patience, perfect pass set up Hagelin for Penguins’ winning goal

Jared Clinton
Nick Bonino #13 of the Pittsburgh Penguins moves the puck against the New York Rangers in Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on April 23, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

Nearly every post-season, there’s one player who unexpectedly steps up his game and helps lead the offensive charge for his club. Through the early stages of the second round, it looks like this year that player is going to be Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Bonino.

Bonino, 28, had eight points in seven games entering Game 3 of the second-round series between the Penguins and Washington Capitals, and over the course of the playoffs he’s been finding the score sheet with regularity while making things happen with the puck on his stick. In Game 3, he turned what looked like it was going to be a quick shot turned away by Capitals netminder Braden Holtby into an outstanding assist on the game-winning goal.

With five minutes remaining in the second period, Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt shovelled the puck up the middle of the ice, missed his target and turned over the puck to Penguins winger Phil Kessel. Kessel wasted no time moving the puck to the front of the Capitals net where Bonino was stationed. On his backhand, Bonino looked like he was about to chip the puck on goal, but instead waited until he had driven around Holtby before slipping a backhand pass right onto Carl Hagelin’s tape for a tap-in: Read more

Sensational Matt Murray wins Game 3 for Penguins – and the better team loses

Matt Murray and Patric Hornqvist. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

So much for messing with Matt Murray’s head.

That was the concern, at least in this corner, upon learning the Pittsburgh Penguins would dress their usual starting goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury, for Game 3 of the Metro Division semifinal. Fleury hadn’t played since March 31, when he sustained his second concussion of the 2015-16 season. Fleury earned a clean bill of health after missing the Pens’ first seven playoff games, and coach Mike Sullivan dressed Fleury as a backup to Murray Monday night.

There were two risk factors there. For one, was it worth bringing Fleury back if he wasn’t going to start anyway? Why not rest him further in that case? And secondly, what would Fleury’s presence do to Murray’s psyche? It would only be human to look over his shoulder a little bit with the franchise’s all-time wins leader sitting a few dozen feet away in full gear.

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Suspend him or not: Kris Letang hammers Marcus Johansson with big hit

letang hit

Is Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang a lightning rod for dangerous plays or what?

Whether he’s giving or receiving, he can’t seem to dodge controversy. Letang avoided a suspension for this slash in the first round of the playoffs on the New York Rangers’ Viktor Stalberg, as the NHL Department of Player Safety felt the stanchion launched Letang’s stick into Stalberg’s face.

Letang might have a tougher time escaping the law after what happened in Game 3 of his Penguins’ Metropolitan Division final matchup against the Washington Capitals Monday. A look at his powerful hit on Caps left winger Marcus Johansson:

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Penguins’ Maatta officially ruled out for Game 3 with ‘upper-body injury’

Jared Clinton
Olli Maatta (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

Early reports regarding Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta made it seem his chances of playing in Game 3 made were slim, and those chances became even slimmer when Maatta didn’t take the ice for Monday’s skate. After the game day skate, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan confirmed the young blueliner will indeed be out of action as the second-round series shifts to Pittsburgh.

Maatta, 21, has officially been ruled out of Monday’s game with an upper-body injury. While no timeline has been given for his return, the fact that Maatta was almost certainly out of Game 3 two days ahead of the actual contest likely puts Game 4 into question for the rearguard, and he could be out beyond that, too. Sullivan would only confirm that there’s a possibility Maatta returns in the series, but wouldn’t give a target date for a potential return.

The hit that injured Maatta came in the first five minutes of Game 2 when Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik threw a late, high hit on the Penguins defenseman. The hit left Maatta down on the ice, but Orpik somehow escaped with only a minor penalty for interference called on the play. However, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety handed down a three-game ban to Orpik Sunday, making him ineligible to return to the series until Game 6. Read more

Capitals’ Orpik banned three games for hit on Penguins’ Maatta

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 30: Brooks Orpik #44 of the Washington Capitals and Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins battle for the puck during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on April 30, 2016 in Washington, DC. The Penguins won 2-1. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik was allowed to stay in Saturday’s Game 2 after knocking Pittsburgh Penguins blueliner Olli Maatta out of the contest with a questionable hit. He did receive a minor penalty for interference on the play.

But Orpik didn’t escape more substantial punishment. The NHL Department of Player Safety suspended Oprik for three games on Sunday, banning him from playing until a potential Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series.

“This hit is forceful, unacceptably high and excessively late,” Player Safety director Patrick Burke said in a video explaining the rationale behind the suspension.

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Former Penguin Dupuis highlights Masterton nominees

Pascal Dupuis (Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images)

Pascal Dupuis’ career may have ended under less than ideal circumstances, but at least he has a chance to collect some hardware as a parting gift.

Dupuis retired from the NHL on Dec. 8 as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins because he was suffering from blood clots. He had two goals and four points in 18 games this season before he stopped playing. Dupuis was first diagnosed with a blood clot in his lung in November 2014 and missed the rest of the 2014-15 season.

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Suspend him or not: Capitals’ Orpik could be in trouble after hit on Penguins’ Maatta

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 30: Olli Maatta #3 of the Pittsburgh Penguins falls back to the ice after getting injured in the first period against the Washington Capitals during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on April 30, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik was only playing his second game since returning from what looked to be a serious injury resulting from a questionable check. And in that second game back, Orpik became the hitter under that same scenario rather than the recipient.

Orpik caught Pittsburgh Penguins blueliner Olli Maatta with a high and late hit in the first period of Game 2 on Saturday – a 2-1 Pittsburgh victory. Orpik made contact with Maatta almost two seconds after he released the puck. Orpik’s forearm or elbow appeared to make contact with Maatta’s head.

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Letang amazing as Penguins even series with Capitals

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 23:  Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the New York Rangers in Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on April 23, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***

Defenseman Kris Letang showed how value he is to the Pittsburgh Penguins throughout Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Washington Capitals.

With Olli Maatta knocked out of the game 4:13 in thanks to a questionable hit by former Penguin Brooks Orpik, Letang was forced to be a workhorse in the 2-1 win – a win that evened the series. Letang skated for well more than half the game – 35:22 to be exact – as Pittsburgh’s blueline depth was shredded. He played almost 10 minutes more than his regular season average of 26:56, which was fourth highest in the NHL.

With the 29-year-old rearguard patrolling the ice, the Penguins held the Capitals high-powered offense to 24 shots on goal on Saturday, including just 10 through the first two periods. That the Capitals came on during the third can be partially explained by Letang’s short absence. Letang was called for tripping 2:56 into the frame when he knocked Caps right winger Justin Williams off the puck, a call he vehemently disagreed with. Marcus Johansson scored on the power play to tie the game barely a minute later. It was one of only two power plays the Capitals were afforded in the contest.

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