It’s OK, Tampa Bay. NBA legend Charles Barkley believes in you

Matt Larkin
Charles Barkley. (Photo by Steven Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images)

NHL hockey has seen its best TV ratings of all-time this decade when you factor in the American markets. The game has never been as popular as it is today. And yet, among the four major North American sports, hockey still suffers from younger sibling syndrome, doesn’t it?

When Charles Barkley briefly mentioned Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper during an NBA playoff telecast Tuesday night, people got excited. The story popped up on the Lightning’s website.

Here’s the clip from Tuesday’s edition of Inside the NBA on TNT. Barkley, a hockey fan, starts by mentioning how he watched Game 4 of the Capitals/Islanders series and wants to know what happened in the Blackhawks/Predators overtime. Then, the shoutout to Tampa’s ‘Coach Coop’ at the end:

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Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko tears it up against Wild in Game 4 with two goals – including an astonishing breakaway marker

Vladimir Tarasenko (Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

The St. Louis Blues have been searching for a post-season game-breaker on offense for many years now, and although they’ve had some scoring issues in the first three games of their series against Minnesota, star winger Vladmir Tarasenko stepped up in a meaningful way Wednesday in Game 4 with a two-goal performance against the Wild that included a dazzling breakaway goal.

Tarasenko’s first of the night (and fourth of the post-season) in Minnesota came 6:59 into the first period, when he tipped in a shot from blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk to give St. Louis a 2-0 advantage:

But Tarasenko’s second of the game was a true thing of beauty. After teammate Jori Lehtera found him with a brilliant pass from the Blues zone to the Wild’s blueline, Tarasenko broke free from Wild defenders Matt Dumba and Jordan Leopold, then undresses goalie Devan Dubnyk with a famous deke he’s used before: Read more

Emerson Etem dances Jacob Trouba, scores highlight-reel goal

Jared Clinton
Emerson Etem (Norm Hall/Getty Images)

The story of the first-round series between the Jets and Ducks has been that as soon as Winnipeg gets a lead, it seems Anaheim comes right back and ties it up. None of the Ducks’ game-tying tallies through three games have been quite as nice as Emerson Etem‘s, though.

After Bryan Little gave Winnipeg a 1-0 lead, not even two minutes had passed when Etem came streaking back up ice with Jacob Trouba defending him. Trouba was attempting to force Etem to the outside, but when the Jets defenseman attempted to make a move at the puck, he was beaten by an outstanding deke by Etem who then shifted the puck to his backhand and sent a drifting backhander into the top corner: Read more

Rangers rookie Kevin Hayes’ first career playoff goal is OT winner

Kevin Hayes (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

This past off-season, Kevin Hayes was the hottest unsigned NCAA free agent. Drafted by the Blackhawks in 2010, Chicago couldn’t get the big center under contract before he was eligible for free agency and the New York Rangers swooped in and inked Hayes to an entry-level deal.

Now, almost eight months to the day after Hayes inked his deal, the rookie has netted his first career playoff goal — and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. In overtime of Game 4 of the opening round series between the Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins, Hayes found a loose puck at the side of the goal and, with goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury flat on his back, Hayes shovelled the puck into the net for the overtime winner: Read more

Senators goalie Craig Anderson cooly stones Canadiens’ Brandon Prust on shorthanded breakaway

Sens goalie Craig Anderson turns aside a breakaway attempt from Canadiens winger Brandon Prust Wednesday in Game Four of Montreal's first-round series against Ottawa. (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

If the Ottawa Senators are to rebound from a 3-0 first-round series deficit to the Montreal Canadiens, they’re going to need nearly-perfect performances from the entire team the rest of the way. And although their power play in Game 4 Wednesday wasn’t perfect – allowing a shorthanded breakaway to Habs winger Brandon Prust – Sens goalie Craig Anderson was there to bail it out with a solid pad save to keep the contest scoreless.

Prust got his breakaway chance in the second period of the defensive display between the two teams, and when he attempted to deke Anderson out by first faking a backhanded shot then going to his forehand, Anderson cooly threw out his right pad to stop the shot and prevent the goal: Read more

Preds, Hawks go to triple-overtime in Game 4 – and once again, Chicago has just enough to win & take series stranglehold

Hawks stars Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith celebrate after Seabrook scored in triple-overtime to win Game 4 of Chicago's first-round series against the Nashville Predators. (Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

After falling behind 2 games to 1 in their first round series with the Blackhawks and facing the prospect of having to win three games in a row to stave off elimination, the Nashville Predators had to be treating Game 4 Tuesday as a must-win scenario. Playing for the second straight game without star defenseman and captain Shea Weber, the Preds displayed the urgency the moment demanded and had a 2-1 lead midway through the third period. The Hawks were their typically resilient selves and tied it on Brandon Saad’s second of the post-season with 8:57 left in regulation – and that’s when the Great Overtime Caper of 2015 began.

By the end of it – on the 100th shot of the game at at exactly one minute of the third OT period – the Hawks were victorious again (this time, via a 3-2 final score) thanks to Brent Seabrook’s game-winner, and the Preds were on the brink of another first-round exit: Read more

Jiri Hudler’s unreal no-look, between-the-legs pass sets up Johnny Gaudreau goal

Jiri Hudler (Gerry Thomas/Getty Images)

Jiri Hudler is coming off the best years of his career, as he was one of the catalysts that pushed the Calgary Flames into the playoffs with a 31-goal, 76-point campaign. No matter how many highlights he may have created during the regular season, none stack up against his incredible assist in Game 4 of Calgary’s first-round series with Vancouver.

Little more than three minutes into the opening frame, the puck around the boards to Hudler, who was stationed behind the net. With his back turned to the play and a Canucks defender draped all over him, Hudler swatted the puck between his legs without looking. The magic pass ended up right on the tape of Dennis Wideman, who found a wide-open Johnny Gaudreau for the game’s opening goal: Read more

Recent healthy scratch Antoine Vermette scores first playoff goal for Hawks in Game 4

Blackhawks center Antoine Vermette and Predators forward Paul Gaustad battle next to Preds goalie Pekka Rinne in Game 4 of Nashville's first-round series against Chicago. (Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

Veteran center Antoine Vermette sat in the press box as a healthy scratch in the first two games of Chicago’s first-round series against Nashville, but in Game 4 Tuesday, he made a case for remaining in the lineup by scoring his first playoff goal for the Blackhawks.

Playing before a typically raucous home crowd, Chicago had just fallen behind 1-0 to the Preds a little more than midway through the first period when Vermette moved to the middle of the ice a few feet from Preds goalie Pekka Rinne and was able to redirect a pass from Michal Rozsival into the visitors’ net: Read more