Rumor Roundup: Big decisions loom in Dallas as Stars seek goaltending upgrade

Kari Lehtonen (left) and Antti Niemi (Steven Ryan/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals are the latest to join the list of playoff casualties. Their early exits from the postseason makes them fodder for offseason trade and free-agent speculation.

Shaky goaltending was the prime culprit in the Stars’ departure. The tandem of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi entered the playoffs with the worst combined regular-season goals-against average (2.78). They finished with a bloated combined GAA of 3.23.

ESPN.com’s Craig Custance recommends the Stars upgrade between the pipes, but that won’t be easy. The Stars have over $10 million invested in Lehtonen and Niemi through 2017-18. Niemi carries a full no-trade for 2016-17 while Lehtonen holds a partial NTC.

Should GM Jim Nill trade or buy out Lehtonen or Niemi, the Dallas Morning News’ Mike Heika lists Cam Ward of the Carolina Hurricanes, James Reimer of the San Jose Sharks and Carter Hutton of the Nashville Predators as free-agent options. He also suggests Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Frederik Andersen of the Anaheim Ducks as trade targets. Read more

Puck over glass rule in desperate need of reform

Jason Kay
Jay Beagle makes a heroic, desperation save to keep a thrilling Game 6 alive a little longer. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

I’ve never been a fan of the puck over glass penalty rule. It’s always felt as though the punishment dwarfs the crime, especially when compared to other infractions that either get penalized with an identical two minute minor or not at all.

Screaming case in point. In Pittsburgh-Washington Game 6, the Pens take three consecutive minors for illegal clears, are faced with consecutive 5-on-3s, and surrender the inevitable game-tying goal. Fast forward to overtime when Jason Chimera is cross-checked in the offensive zone, which leads directly to a golden 2-on-1 opportunity for Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr.

In the puck-over-glass scenarios, the offenders had zero intention of committing an infraction, and their actions did not nullify an immediate scoring opportunity. By contrast, the Capitals would have been eliminated on what appeared to be a non-call against Chimera if not for a strong play by netminder Braden Holtby.

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Penguins eliminate Capitals on Nick Bonino’s overtime winner in weird, wild, wonderful Game 6

The Penguins celebrate Bonino's winner.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are off to the Eastern Conference final, thanks mostly to some unsung heroes. The Penguins eliminated the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night in a roller-coaster Game 6.

Nick Bonino scored 6:32 into overtime to secure a 4-3 win and send the Penguins to the East final for the first time since 2013, when they were swept by the Boston Bruins.

Bonino has been traded three times in his six-year career, yet Tuesday’s winner was his third career playoff overtime goal. He banged in a rebound off a Carl Hagelin shot after he was fed in the slot by Phil Kessel.

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Watch John Carlson send Game 6 to overtime after Capitals rally from down 3-0

Nicklas Backstrom (Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Penguins appeared on their way to eliminating the Washington Capitals and reaching the Eastern Conference final on Tuesday night.

Then the high-scoring Capitals struck back, thanks in part to one of hockey’s most controversial rules.

After falling behind 3-0, Capitals defenseman John Carlson scored 13:01 into the third period on a 5-on-3 power play to tie the game and send it to overtime.

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Watch Capitals’ great birthday surprise for 101-year-old fan

Jared Clinton
Gert Friedman Washington Capitals featured

In her 100 years, Gert Friedman had never attended a hockey game live. So the Washington Capitals and NHL gave Friedman the best gift she could ask for Saturday night, inviting the soon-to-be 101-year-old to Game 5 between the Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.

And while the tickets to the game may have been enough for Friedman, the league and the Capitals stepped it up beyond simply getting her into Verizon Centre for the second-round playoff game. During the first intermission, Friedman was brought out onto the ice in the passenger seat of the ice resurfacer where she rode along for the duration of the ice cleaning, waving to fans in attendance: Read more

Braden Holtby robs Patric Hornqvist, steals goal from Justin Schultz 16 seconds later

Jared Clinton
Braden Holtby (via NHL.com)

Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby had to have his best game of the season Saturday night with Washington facing elimination in Game 5 of their second-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and he answered that challenge with an outstanding 30-save performance. But in a game where Holtby earned himself first-star honors, it was two second-period saves that stood out most.

The first jaw-dropping stop came with less than four minutes remaining in the second frame. With the Penguins pressuring and attempting to pull back within one, the Capitals turned the puck over behind their net. Penguins center Matt Cullen was there to pick it up and swept out in front of the net before laying a pass across to Patric Hornqvist.

Cullen’s pass landed right on Hornqvist’s tape, and the veteran winger had an open look. But instead of finding the back of the net, Hornqvist was met with Holtby’s right pad as the Capitals netminder shot across his crease to turn aside the attempt:

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Ovechkin dominates, Capitals solve Penguins’ Murray to stave off elimination

Alex Ovechkin celebrates his power play goal (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

For Washington to stay alive in their second-round series against Pittsburgh, the Capitals’ stars would need to be their stars in Game 5. Alex Ovechkin absolutely got that message.

Ovechkin had been fairly quiet production-wise through the first four games of the series, racking up just one goal and three points, but it was evident early on that the Capitals’ captain was going to be making a difference in some way Saturday night. Only four minutes into the contest, with Washington on the power play, Ovechkin set up shop, loaded up and blasted home his second goal of the series to give the Capitals an early 1-0 lead. That was just the beginning of his night, though.

After his goal, he added an assist but it was about more than what he did that showed up on the scoreboard. He was a force to be reckoned with in Game 5. Ovechkin finished with almost 20 minutes of ice time, six shots on goal, nine shot attempts, three hits, two takeaways and a blocked shot. It’s a phrase repeated often, but Ovechkin seemed to be literally all over the ice throughout the game. That’s exactly what the Capitals needed, and of course it was Ovechkin who delivered. Read more

NHLPA selects Kane, Benn and Holtby as finalists for Ted Lindsay Award

Patrick Kane and Jamie Benn (Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane, Dallas Stars winger Jamie Benn and Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby have been selected by their peers as finalists for the Ted Lindsay Award, formerly known as the Lester B. Pearson Award, which recognizes the league’s most outstanding player as voted by the members of the NHLPA, the players.

The three finalists make it a certainty that this season will see a first-time winner, though there’s no clearcut favorite for the award. For both Kane and Holtby, this is their first nomination for the award, while Benn receives his second nod as a finalist. Benn was a finalist in 2014-15 for leading the league in scoring, but he was one of the runners up to Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price.

None of the finalists are necessarily surprising, but Kane’s nod as one of the top-three vote-getters was almost a given. Kane, 27, led the NHL in scoring by 17 points, finished second in goal scoring behind Alex Ovechkin with 46 markers and Kane’s 60 assists put him in third place behind Erik Karlsson and Joe Thornton. In many ways, his season was a continuation of the previous campaign, where he was at or near the top of the league’s scoring leaders before he fell injured in late February. Read more