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2014 NHL playoffs: Montreal Canadiens sweep Tampa Bay Lightning

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By Sarah Kwak

Max Pacioretty had been searching, scavenging for his opportunity all game long — well, no, it had been more like all week. Goalless for six-plus games, he was approaching his longest scoring drought of the season. While he watched Canadiens teammates Brendan Gallagher and Rene Bourque make their mark on this postseason series against the Lightning, Pacioretty waited patiently and stuck to his game. Though Montreal coach Michel Therrien encouraged him, praising the 25-year-old winger’s play, sometimes it’s hard to believe words when the numbers don’t follow.

But finally, in the waning seconds of a 3-3 game, one in which Tampa Bay tried valiantly to avoid an embarrassing sweep, Pacioretty got his first playoff goal. On a late power play, he did the little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. He made the right plays to keep the puck moving in the zone, so when Thomas Vanek’s shot deflected in the slot and remained loose in front of Lightning goalie Kristers Gudlevskis, Pacioretty was right there to punch the puck in with 43 seconds remaining. The Bell Centre erupted. The Canadiens finished off Tampa Bay with a 4-3 victory.

That’s a balayage pour les Bleu, Blanc et Rouge.

Here are some observations from Game 4:

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  • Published On Apr 22, 2014
  • 2014 NHL Playoffs: Penguins rally to edge Blue Jackets 4-3 in Game 3

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    Lee Stempniak's first-ever playoff goal helped the Pens retake the series lead. (Jay LaPrete/AP)

    Lee Stempniak’s first-ever playoff goal helped the Penguins take a 2-1 series lead. (Jay LaPrete/AP)

    By Sarah Kwak

    No two-goal lead is safe in these playoffs, people, particularly in the first-round series between the Penguins and the Blue Jackets. For the third straight game, the team that built an early two-goal advantage saw their lead slip away late. On Monday night in Game 3, it was Columbus, which hoped to follow up its first postseason win with its first playoff win at home.

    Two goals in the first three-and-a-half minutes of the game were a promising start. But in final two seconds of the second period, Pittsburgh broke through when backliner Brooks Orpik scored.  A Jackets tally by Cam Atkinson iless than two minutes into the third period kept hope alive for the home crowd, but a wacky stretch midway through the period made sure the jinx of the two-goal lead lived on. On three consecutive shots in two minutes and 13 seconds the Penguins rattled Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, scoring three unanswered goals to come back and win 4-3.

    Some more thoughts and observations from Monday night’s game:
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  • Published On Apr 21, 2014
  • 2014 NHL playoffs: Flyers show resilience in 4-2 win over Rangers

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    2014 NHL Playoffs: Philadelphia Flyers bounce back in Game 2 win over New York Rangers

    Wayne Simmonds (left) iced the win for the Flyers with a great effort that led to an empty net goal. (Getty Images)

    By Sarah Kwak

    NEW YORK — Bouncing back has been a theme all season in Philadelphia, where the Flyers have embraced adversity and turned it into a strength. Their atrocious 1-7-0 start and the dismissal of coach Peter Laviolette were just minor detours on the way to a 94-point season. Captain Claude Giroux went goalless for the first month of the season, but turned his season around and became the NHL’s most productive player of the second half. Philly had the third-best record in the Eastern Conference when trailing after two periods and they scored the second-most third-period goals in the league. Really, bad starts don’t seem to bother the Flyers all that much. Game 2 of their series against the Rangers proved that on Sunday afternoon.

    Philadelphia rookie Jason Akeson redeemed himself after a catastrophic playoff debut in a 4-1 loss in Game 1, and goalie Ray Emery also improved his play markedly — on Thursday, his surgically-repaired hips had been exploited time and time again. Despite falling behind by two goals in the first 10 minutes of the game on Sunday, the Flyers didn’t panic. They fought back, and though they were outshot 33-25 by New York, three second-period goals carried them to a 4-2 win. As the series heads two hours south down I-95, Philly and Rangers are now tied one game apiece.

    A few observations from Madison Square Garden on Easter Sunday: Read More…


  • Published On Apr 20, 2014
  • 2014 NHL playoffs: Canadiens dominate Lightning, 4-1, to take 2-0 series lead

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    Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban (76) had two assists in the win over the Lightning. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

    Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban (76) had two assists in Montreal’s victory over the Lightning. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

    By Sarah Kwak

    The Lightning knew that the bum wrist sidelining goalie Ben Bishop would be an issue at some point in their first-round series against the Canadiens. Well, the moment came on Friday night in Tampa Bay. Backup Anders Lindback had been serviceable in Wednesday’s Game 1, making 39 saves in a 5-4 overtime loss, but in Game 2, he wasn’t nearly as good. Lindback surrendered three goals on 23 shots before Lightning coach Jon Cooper yanked him in favor of Kristers Gudlevskis, a Latvian minor leaguer who gained fame in Sochi for nearly defeating Team Canada. Against Montreal, he didn’t fare so well, allowing a goal on just three shots as the Canadiens cruised to a 4-1 victory.

    By taking both of the first two games in Tampa Bay, Montreal put itself in position to make this series a short one. After all, beating Canadiens goalie Carey Price in four out of the next five games seems like a particularly tall order. Price has followed up his career season and a gold medal in Sochi with strong play in the first two postseason games. He made 26 saves on Friday night, including a spectacular one on Lightning center Cedric Paquette in the second period. But hey, if Montreal’s offense gets into the habit of scoring four-plus goals a night, Price may not have to play the hero too often.

    Read More…


  • Published On Apr 18, 2014
  • Rangers take advantage of the power play to win Game 1 over Flyers

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    A four-minute power play in the third period helped the Rangers score twice in 47 seconds. (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

    A four-minute power play in the third period helped the Rangers score twice in 47 seconds. (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

    By Sarah Kwak

    NEW YORK — This was supposed to be a special day for Flyers winger Jason Akeson — he was playing in his first NHL playoff game, and making just his third appearance in the league overall. It’s one he’ll remember for the rest of his life, though chances are, he’ll want to forget it as soon as Friday. Skating on a line with Sean Couturier and Matt Read, the youngster was earning his ice time. He was aggressive, and finishing his checks — but one, he finished poorly.

    Game 1 of the first-round series between Philadelphia and the Rangers was knotted 1-1 midway through the third period at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night when the 23-year-old Akeson went in to hit New York winger Carl Hagelin on the boards in the neutral zone. Akeson took Hagelin off the puck, but his stick caught Hagelin up high. When a rookie dreams of changing the course of a game with his stick, this isn’t what he imagines. Akeson’s blade drew blood, and a double minor.

    Read More…


  • Published On Apr 18, 2014
  • 2014 NHL playoffs preview: New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers

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    Goalie Steve Mason of the Philadelphia Flyers vs. the New York Rangers

    If it’s spring, there must be questions about the quality of the Flyers’ playoff goaltending. (Scott Levy/Getty Images)

    By Sarah Kwak

    Regular season recaps

    Oct. 24: Flyers 2, Rangers 1

    Jan. 12: Rangers 4. Flyers 1

    March 1: Flyers 4, Rangers 2

    March 26: Rangers 3, Flyers 1

    Notable injuries

    Rangers: D Ryan McDonagh (shoulder, day-to-day), LW Chris Kreider (hand, day-to-day)
    Flyers: G Steve Mason (upper body, day-to-day)

    Read More…


  • Published On Apr 15, 2014
  • 2014 NHL playoffs preview: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

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    The Blue Jackets will have a hard time shutting down Sidney Crosby and the Penguins. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

    The Blue Jackets will have a hard time shutting down Sidney Crosby and the Penguins. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

    By Sarah Kwak

    Regular season recaps

    Nov. 1: Penguins 4, Blue Jackets 2

    Nov. 2: Penguins 3, Blue Jackets 0

    Dec. 9: Penguins 2, Blue Jackets 1

    Dec. 29: Penguins 5, Blue Jackets 3

    March 28: Penguins 2, Blue Jackets 1

    Notable injuries

    Penguins: C Marcel Goc (ankle, day-to-day); C Evgeni Malkin (foot, IR); LW Pascal Dupuis (torn ACL, IR)

    Blue Jackets: RW Nathan Horton (lower body, day-to-day); LW R.J. Umberger (upper body, day-to-day); LW Nick Foligno (lower-body, day-to-day)

    Read More…


  • Published On Apr 15, 2014
  • FHL hug-and-beer-hockey-fight stunt falls flat; players suspended

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    By Sarah Kwak

    The scene was familiar to any fan, but particularly to those who know and love the trenches of minor minor-league hockey. Off a third-period draw last Friday — in a game in which the Danville Dashers trailed the Dayton Demonz by four goals with less than 10 minutes to go in their Federal League seasons — Danville forward Matt Puntureri and Dayton center Jesse Felten shed their gloves, elbow pads and helmets and made for center ice. They looked at each other as they deked and danced from there to the far blue line, but when Puntureri made his move to scrap, he did so with outstretched arms. Felten, too, opened his arms wide, and the two hugged it out before a punch was thrown. But that’s not all. Puntureri then reached into his hockey shorts and took out a can of Coors Light, a leftover from the Dashers’ rookie party last week. He cracked it open and, with his arm around Felten while flashing a peace sign, the two skated around the rink in a surprising show of harmony.

    On the video of the “hug and beer fight,” which went viral over the weekend, an announcer proclaimed, “I think that was set up.” His ever-astute reasoning proved correct.

    “It was my idea, not to brag or anything,” Puntureri said on Monday from his home in Wampum, Pa. “I’m always pulling silly antics like this, whether it be some celebrations or anything like that.”

    Read More…


  • Published On Apr 01, 2014
  • SI.com NHL fan misery rankings: No. 3 Buffalo Sabres

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    Brett Hull scores the infamous foot in the crease goal vs. Buffalo in the 1999 Stanley Cup Final.

    Brett Hull’s controversial Stanley Cup-winning goal sums up what it means to be a Sabres fan. (Kevin Frayer/AP)

    By Sarah Kwak

    Sometimes it’s just plain awful to be a fan.

    We’re not talking about the occasional emotional bump and bruise, the kind fans get from a devastating last-second loss or a disastrous season-ending injury — or even when they watch their favorite team bow out in the conference finals, one round shy of a shot at the Stanley Cup. We mean years of suffering at the hands of a club that almost seems to delight in tormenting those who freely give to it their hearts, minds, time and money.

    This is the eighth in our series on the 10 NHL franchises that take an ongoing toll on their fans, the teams that suggest that their devoted followers are either bottomless wells of hope or certified masochists — or perhaps just a touch crazy. Today we look at the Buffalo Sabres, a team that inspires exceptional passion and dedication in its followers while often languishing on the lower end of the spectrum between bad and promising while cruel fate lurks to darken its brightest moments.

    TEAM 10: Winnipeg Jets | 9: Dallas Stars | 8: Columbus Blue Jackets | 7: Vancouver Canucks
    6:
    Florida Panthers | 5. Edmonton Oilers | 4. Washington Capitals | 2. New York Islanders
    1. Toronto Maple Leafs

    Read More…


  • Published On Mar 21, 2014
  • Top Line: Tom Wilson dodges Shanaban, Kings rookie rolls on, more links

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    An annotated guide to this morning’s must-read hockey stories:

    By Sarah Kwak

    • Just two days after taking a nasty hit into the boards by Capitals rookie Tom Wilson (who dodged a suspension), Flyers forward Brayden Schenn played on Thursday night against the Blue Jackets. He also didn’t take a concussion test, claiming that he was not experiencing symptoms. Right. No sense in chancing it with a test. Never mind that sometimes the onset of apparent symptoms can be delayed for days …

    • Meanwhile, Capitals coach Adam Oates continued to defend Wilson. Said the coach: “[Schenn] had every opportunity to resist the hit, and he chose not to.” When will “blame the victim” cease being the standard hockey person’s logic? Probably never.

    •  Late in the first period on Thursday night, Kings captain Dustin Brown received a five-minute major and game misconduct for a nasty knee-on-knee hit on Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl, who didn’t return to the game. The league will probably look at it.

    •  Kings’ rookie goalie Martin Jones remained undefeated and continued to amazingly keep pucks out of his net. His extraordinary emergence has some observers saying, “Jonathan who?” and is fueling speculation that L.A. could dangle Ben Scrivens as trade bait.

    • Philadelphia put together a feverish comeback on Thursday night against Columbus, scoring five goals in the third period. Highlight? Claude Giroux lifting a filthy backhand with a man draped on his back while falling down. The goal was the 100th of his career, and the game-winner. Philadelphia is now in playoff position. Then again, the Metropolitan Division is not very good.

    • It’s official. The Ottawa Senators have entered The Crisis Zone.

    Read More…


  • Published On Dec 20, 2013


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