Hornqvist scores overtime-winner as Penguins push Capitals to the brink of elimination

Patric Hornqvist (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

Thanks to Patric Hornqvist, the Pittsburgh Penguins are one win away from downing the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals and advancing to the Eastern Conference final for the first time since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign.

The teams traded goals through two frames with Jay Beagle and John Carlson finding the net for Washington and Trevor Daley and Matt Cullen responding for Pittsburgh, and played a back-and-forth scoreless third period that set up overtime for the second time in the series. And in overtime, it was Hornqvist who was gifted an incredible opportunity when Capitals defenseman Mike Weber, who was in the lineup in place of a healthy-scratched Nate Schmidt, made a nearly unthinkable error and poked a puck right into the Penguins winger’s wheelhouse.

Hornqvist made no mistake, firing the puck past Capitals netminder Braden Holtby for the win. Just like that, the Penguins skated away with a 3-2 victory in Game 4 and a 3-1 lead in the second-round series. Read more

Islanders have focus on the positives, eliminate the negatives, going into Game 4

Josh Bailey (left) and Travis Hamonic  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

BROOKLYN – New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano was talking about the tying goal in Game 3 of his team’s second-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the goal that never should have happened and led to the overtime loss that now finds the Islanders needing to win three of the next four games to take the series.

He talked about having the players he wanted out there, even though it was a group that hadn’t played very well all night. He talked about having two centermen on the ice, even though one of them was Frans Nielsen, who was beaten cleanly on the draw on the Lightning’s second goal. Then he talked about the Islanders not collapsing enough in front of their own net on the play.

And this is what hockey has come to, ladies and gentlemen. Because as far as these eyes could tell, the reason why the Islanders gave up that tying goal was they collapsed too much.

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If this is the first few chapters of The Jonathan Drouin Story, we can’t wait for the rest of the book

Thomas Hickey (left) and Jonathan Drouin  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

BROOKLYN – Nobody really knows how this Jonathan Drouin saga with the Tampa Bay Lightning is ultimately going to play out. But wouldn’t it be neat if 10 years from now, when Drouin is a star in the NHL and the lynchpin of the Lightning, we’re all sitting around talking about how his 2016 winter of discontent might have been the best thing that could have happened to him?

To be sure, nobody would be terribly surprised, given all the twists and turns this story has taken. But one thing is sure, the same player who was maligned for a lack of maturity when he left the Lightning in a snit earlier this season is emerging as a player who seems to have learned his lessons with, ahem, Lightning speed. And in a playoff season where the Lightning are missing their most dynamic offensive player, Drouin just might be proving to the organization that there could be life after Steven Stamkos.

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Watch Shea Weber use his unstoppable shot to score Game 3 winner

Jared Clinton
Shea Weber (John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

Nashville Predators blueliner Shea Weber gives up five inches and more than 20 pounds to Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, yet at the NHL skills competition the gap between the two rearguards hardest shots is a mere 0.3 miles per hour. So it goes almost without saying that Weber can tee off on a puck.

That’s why one of the best ways to stop Weber — at least offensively — is to eliminate the space he has to unload his slapshot. The problem, though, is that no matter how hard a team may try, Weber’s eventually going to get all of the puck on one of his shots and he might just put the puck through the netminder. Just ask San Jose Sharks goaltender Martin Jones, who must have blinked and missed Weber’s second-period blast careen off the post and in.

With the Predators and Sharks playing 4-on-4 in Game 3, Ryan Johansen cut into the San Jose zone with Roman Josi on his wing. As Johansen attempted to slip by Sharks defenseman Brent Burns, the puck was poked off of his stick and slowly moved towards the middle of the offensive zone. Weber was able to beat the Sharks forwards to the puck, wind up and skate into a slapshot that Jones had almost no chance of stopping: Read more

Update: Kris Letang suspended one game for late hit on Marcus Johansson

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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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

Stars still facing tough goaltending questions with no starter named for Game 3

Jared Clinton
Kari Lehtonen (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Barring an unexpectedly strong run of play by either Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi, it was a virtual certainty that the Dallas Stars would at the very least use both goaltenders at some point during the playoffs. In Round One, it took three games for Lehtonen to relinquish the starting duties to Niemi, but Round Two might see Niemi slide into the starting job after only two games.

In Game 2 of the second-round series between the Stars and St. Louis Blues, Lehtonen was chased from the net after 20 minutes of action. The Blues put five shots on Lehtonen in the first frame. Three of them found the back of the net. First it was Patrik Berglund hammering a slapshot past Lehtonen’s glove. Then Joel Edmunson snuck in from the blueline to put the Blues ahead. Finally, Troy Brouwer scored a power play goal and Lehtonen’s outing was over less than two minutes later.

“It really wasn’t [Lehtonen’s] night,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said post-game. “I felt that he was off and just decided to go with Antti (in the second period).”

But Ruff’s goaltending switch after one frame begs the question: which netminder gets the call in Game 3 with the Stars on the road and facing the possibility of trailing in a series for the first time this post-season? Read more

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