Sharks’ core steps up yet again in ugly Game 2 win over Predators

Joe Pavelski scores at SAP Center on May 1, 2016 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

It was probably the best thing the San Jose Sharks could have hoped for. They didn’t play anywhere near their best. Yet, they won anyway.

The Sharks became the only team to take a 2-0 series lead in the second round when they edged the Nashville Predators 3-2 on Sunday night. They were outshot 39-25 by the desperate visitors, but managed to hang in before captain Joe Pavelski netted a crucial go-ahead goal at 17:20 of the third period.

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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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Roussel’s penalties prove costly as Stars drop Game 2 to Blues

Antoine-Roussel-DAL

There’s an old adage in hockey that states stupid penalties are harder to kill off. Antoine Roussel and the Dallas Stars learned that the hard way on Sunday.

The St. Louis Blues scored twice in the game on separate unwise Roussel penalties, including when captain David Backes found the back of the net 10:58 into overtime. The 4-3 loss in Game 2 allowed the Blues to even the Western Conference semifinal series before it shifted to St. Louis.

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Sharks retrieve Game 1 black cat; hope to find it a home

Sharks black cat

The black cat that gained notoriety by making an appearance Friday before Game 1 of the series between San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators will soon find a new home.

According to the Sharks, the cat, which has been renamed Joe PAW-velski in honor of captain Joe Pavelski, was retrieved by staff at the SAP Center on Saturday. The team said it is making arrangements to transport the cat to a nearby animal shelter, where it will undergo a full medical exam and microchip scan to determine if it has an owner. If the cat doesn’t have an owner, the Sharks are hoping it will be made available to adoption.

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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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Former castoff Drouin shines in Game 2 win for Lightning

TAMPA, FL - APRIL 30:  Jonathan Drouin #27 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates his goal against the New York Islanders  during the first period in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 30, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images)

And to think, there was once a time when the Tampa Bay Lightning and Jonathan Drouin had no use for one another.

Now, Drouin’s spot in the Lightning lineup is not only firmly secure, but the left winger is making important contributions in playoff victories. Drouin scored his first career post-season goal and added an assist in a 4-1 Game 2 win on Saturday as Tampa Bay evened its Eastern Conference semifinal series against the New York Islanders.

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Seven players who can turn a successful playoff performance into a contract for 2016-17

Mike Brophy
Steve Ott (Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Hockey is the ultimate team sport, or so we are lead to believe.

And yet we also know that the further a team goes in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the more it can benefit the individuals that make up the teams. Let’s be honest, there are a number of players on the eight teams still standing who are playing for contracts next season.

A player like center Matt Cullen of the Pittsburgh Penguins, for example, is in his 19th season in the NHL, on a one-year contract for $800,000 — quite a comedown for a guy who used to earn $4 million a year with the Nashville Predators. Still the 39-year-old native of Virginia, MN, is playing for the love of the game. Playing pretty well, too. In six games, Cullen has two goals – both game-winners – and three points while averaging 15:22 of dependable two-way play.

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