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Round 2
Round 3
Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Monday, 03.26.2012 / 4:34 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Vigneault confirms Daniel Sedin has concussion

Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault confirmed what most already suspected Monday, when he said leading goal scorer Daniel Sedin suffered a concussion on an elbow from Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith.

"Daniel obviously, as everyone knows, has got a concussion and we're following the protocol," Vigneault said after his team's morning skate, ignoring the fact no one else from the Canucks said so since Wednesday's hit, which resulted in a five-game suspension for Keith.

As for Sedin's timeline for a possible return, Vigneault didn't sound like he'd have updates anytime soon: "I'm not going to address this every day. He's got a concussion and when we've got something more to say, we'll say it."

While it's anyone's guess when Sedin will return, Vancouver could be getting a couple other players back sooner than expected. Utility forward Andrew Ebbett, who has 4 goals in 14 games this season, is practicing after having his collarbone broken in two places by a big hit in Boston on Jan. 7 and needing surgery to repair the damage. And defenseman Keith Ballard, out since Feb. 7 with a concussion, rejoined the team at Monday morning's skate. Ballard, who has been cleared for light contact after missing 22 games, is hoping to practice Tuesday, but wasn't close to thinking about playing in the final seven games.

"How he'll react next couple of days is anyone's guess," Vigneault said.

The same could be said of an up-and-down Canucks team that has been locked into the second seed in the Western Conference for a while -- they can clinch no worse than second and close within two of St. Louis for first place with a win over a more desperate Los Angeles Kings team fighting for its playoff life.

Vancouver will try to build off two-straight road wins and put a decidedly blasé 3-4-0 homestand in the past against a streaking Kings team that won six straight before losing to Boston on Saturday, dropping to eighth in the West -- tied with San Jose and Colorado, but just one point behind Dallas for the Pacific Division lead.

Here are the expected lineups for their final meeting of the season:

CANUCKS
Mason Raymond - Henrik Sedin - Zack Kassian
Alexandre Burrows - Ryan Kesler - David Booth
Chris Higgins - Samuel Pahlsson - Jannik Hansen
Manny Malhotra - Maxim Lapierre - Dale Weise

Alexander Edler - Kevin Bieksa
Dan Hamhuis - Christopher Tanev
Marc-Andre Gragnani - Sami Salo

Roberto Luongo
Cory Schneider

The only change for the Canucks is Gragnani coming back into the lineup for Aaron Rome, who suffered a minor knee injury Sunday in Colorado and is expected to be out seven to 10 days as a result.

Luongo is back in goal for a second straight game after splitting the four-game road trip with Schneider, and playing his two best game in recent weeks, including 38 saves in the 3-2 overtime win in Colorado Saturday.

KINGS

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dwight King - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Matt Greene - Alec Martinez

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier

Coach Darryl Sutter called the 4-2 loss to Boston one of the team's best games despite winning the previous six, so it's no surprise he won't change his lineup as the Kings open a tough four-game road trip that finished with an absurd Edmonton-to-Minnesota trip for games on consecutive nights.

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POSTED ON Monday, 03.26.2012 / 3:48 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Dallas' playoff fate is in the Stars

CALGARY -- The fate of the Dallas Stars lies within.
 
The fate of the Calgary Flames could lie in the Stars, too. A Dallas win over the Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Monday night would all but put an end to the playoff aspirations in Calgary.
 
Stars forward Eric Nystrom is well aware of that.
 
"We know we have a chance to put a team that's competing with us out of the picture -- or almost out of the picture," Nystrom said. "It's huge. We're battling for our lives just like they are. You just have to win hockey games."
 
The Stars currently hold down top spot in the Pacific Division, but are just four points up on the 11th place Flames with the Phoenix Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche scattered in between.
 
"We know what the standings are, we know what our position is, we know what we're trying to accomplish," Sheldon Souray said. "We'll take it one game at a time, and if it means going through Calgary and having one less team in there, perfect. Every night we have our work cut out for us, but obviously the fewer teams in there the better our chances are."
 
But a win over Calgary isn't all about ending the Flames hopes, according to Jamie Benn.
 
"We know what we can do, but the biggest picture is the two points and that's what we're going for," he said. "We have to keep climbing, keep playing our game, and hopefully have a strong push for the playoffs."
 
A strong push from here on out is critical if the Stars hope to have success given the proximity of how teams are situated.
 
"We're sitting in a position where everything is so ridiculously tight," Steve Ott said. "Their life is on their line. Our life is on our line as well. There are only so many games and so many points left in the season. The tightness is only going to continue to go until Game 82.
 
"If we continue to get points we'll figure it out by the end of the standings. It puts us in control of our own destiny."
 
It's something Stars coach Glen Gulutzan has been preaching to his club.
 
"We've got to help ourselves," Gulutzan said. "Anytime you start worrying about those other teams they keep winning. We've really had to look internally in our group to make sure we get points. Truthfully in our locker room all we're talking about is getting points. We've got to get points in every game we play. We can't look around and watch scoreboards."
 
It boils down to simple math to Nystrom.
 
"If you win, you're in," he said. "That's the way it works the whole year. It's no different right now. If we win games we're going to be in the playoffs."
 
And if the team happens to dismiss a few opponents along the way?
 
"It's nothing personal," said Nystrom, a former member of the Flames. "This is my team. I want us to make it. That's just an opponent that's standing in our way. It's nothing personal against them. I want my team to make it."
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.26.2012 / 3:12 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flames focused on winning out

CALGARY -- The playoff fate of the Calgary Flames is simple -- win out and get in.
 
Trailing the eighth and final playoff spot by three points with six games remaining coupled with having to leapfrog three teams, the 11th place Flames have set their sights on winning their remaining games in order to extend their season.
 
But the Flames can't win six if they don't first win one.
 
"We know we pretty much have to run the table, but it's with one game," captain Jarome Iginla said. "As far as the way we're thinking positively, we've been in a drought, but the tide will turn and we all have to approach it that it'll be tonight."
 
The Flames host the Dallas Stars, a team that took two points away from Calgary in the first of a home-and-home series Saturday. Another loss against the Stars puts the playoffs all but out of reach.
 
"The focus is to win tonight," Matt Stajan said. "If we don't win tonight, nothing else matters. That's our focus. We've got to be ready to go and treat it like Game 7 and go from there. The next game will be a Game 7, but you can't look past tonight."
 
A favorable schedule, Calgary will play the majority of their remaining games at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
 
"We've got six games left," winger Curtis Glencross said. "We're not out of it yet. We have five home games and we have to take advantage of it."
 
Iginla agreed.
 
"We have these games at home and we have this week at home," Iginla said. "It starts with tonight. We've got a shot, but we've got to win our own games. No matter how much help we get, we have to win our own games, and that's what our focus has to be."
 
Winning six straight is a daunting task for the Flames, whose season-high five-game winning streak in early March has given way to a five-game skid. Though they've earned points in three of their five losses, Calgary hasn't seen the win column since March 15.
 
“These last five games, we've went into them knowing how big each game is, we know where the standings are, and they haven't turned out well for us, obviously," Iginla said. "Now we just go play. As far as squeezing sticks, teams run into tough stretches where you have a hard time scoring goals. It turns. We need it to turn now. We know the time is running out and we need to get ourselves on a roll. We think it's going to turn."
 
It just has to start with one.
 
"The best way is to win one hockey game and we'll see what happens from there," Tim Jackman said. "All of a sudden you win two. Then you win three.
 
"We believe we can do this. We have the team. We just have to win one game and we'll take things from there."
 
Because if they can't, the Flames will find themselves watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third consecutive year.
 
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.26.2012 / 2:54 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Stars will be without services of 'warrior' Dvorak

CALGARY -- The Dallas Stars will be without veteran winger Radek Dvorak as the club enters the back-end of a home-and-home series with the Calgary Flames.
 
Dvorak, who missed three games in early March before returning for three, is battling ankle issues that will keep him out of the contest.
 
"What a warrior," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "Seventeen years in this League and getting shot up every night in the ankle to get through. He had some aggravation in the last game, so if we sit him here, that's four days."
 
Dvorak could return to the lineup as quickly as Wednesday in Edmonton, Gulutzan said.
 
"Maybe he can be ready for Edmonton," he said. "If not, we can go another two more and get a healthier player. Sixty-five percent when you have healthy bodies, it's easier to put a guy in that’s 100 and try to get Devo to 80."

Either Tom Wandell or Ryan Garbutt will draw into the lineup in Dvorak's absence.

Gulutzan is pleased with the impression Dvorak has left on his team.
 
"He's showing these guys what it takes to be a pro in the NHL," Gulutzan said. "I can't say enough about Dvorak. We have a young Czech kid, Tomas Vincour, who has matured probably five years from just the six months he spent with Devo. What a pro. He's done everything you want of a veteran guy for mentorship for young players. He's an invaluable guy for our locker room."
 
Dvorak isn't the only player who may make an appearance against the Oilers.
 
The Stars could also have college signing Reilly Smith on the ice as soon as Edmonton as well. Dallas signed the 20-year-old Sunday.
 
"He's got to do immigration, so I don't know how long that takes," Gulutzan said. "(Edmonton) is a possibility depending on how we're playing. Right now, the focus is on the group, not any individual. We want to make sure if we put him in, it's the right time and place to do it."
 
Smith, who is with the team in Calgary, had 30 goals and 48 points in 39 games with Miami University (Ohio) this season and was originally selected by the Stars in the third round (No. 69) in 2009.

Here's the projected lineup for the Stars:

Loui Eriksson - Mike Ribeiro - Michael Ryder
Brenden Morrow - Jamie Benn - Steve Ott
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Tom Wandell/Ryan Garbutt
Jake Dowell - Tom Wandell - Adam Burish
 
Sheldon Souray - Stephane Robidas
Trevor Daley - Adam Pardy
Philip Larsen - Alex Goligoski
 
Kari Lehtonen
Richard Bachman
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.26.2012 / 2:48 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Win would move Ottawa within two points of sixth

WINNIPEG -- A win tonight against the Winnipeg Jets would provide the Ottawa Senators with some separation from one cluster of clubs and nudge them into a higher echelon.

A win would move the seventh-place Senators (38-28-10) four points ahead of the Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres and to within two points of the sixth-place New Jersey Devils. They would also move to within three points of the Northeast Division lead the Boston Bruins hold at the moment.

Going against a desperate Winnipeg club poses a challenge for the Senators, they admit.

"They play hard and are desperate, just like we are," coach Paul MacLean said.

But Ottawa rebounded from a road shellacking against the Montreal Canadiens to take an 8-4 home decision over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night. Captain Daniel Alfredsson registered a season-high four-point evening and six Senators managed multi-point nights.

"We hope that the big goal output that we had [against Pittsburgh] can give guys some confidence," leading scorer Jason Spezza said. "I think it was a pretty good bounce-back game for us, a good character game for us."

The win cost the Senators the services of goaltender Ben Bishop, who exited the game with a lower-body injury. Bishop's absence means that Craig Anderson, who missed 12 games with a hand injury before returning last week, will start tonight's game. Alex Auld will back up Anderson.

After tonight's game, the Senators do not resume play until Saturday, when they visit Philadelphia, and will have just five games remaining.

"Desperate teams are tough to play against," Nick Foligno said. "They're fighting for their lives, and we have to treat it the same way for us. We're a desperate hockey team as well. It's a tight race for us. It's a push to the playoffs for us, as well."

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Senators:

Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Milan Michalek
Zack Smith - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Nick Foligno - Jim O'Brien - Chris Neil
Rob Klinkhammer - Kaspars Daugavins - Erik Condra

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - Matt Carkner

Craig Anderson
Alex Auld

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POSTED ON Monday, 03.26.2012 / 2:44 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Game against Senators represents last stand for Jets

WINNIPEG -- The end is not yet here for the Winnipeg Jets, but it certainly looms near.

A 1-2-0 road trip last week through Pittsburgh, Washington and Nashville dented the Jets' Stanley Cup Playoff aspirations severely. A loss tonight against the Ottawa Senators at the MTS Centre would spell near-certain doom for the Jets (35-32-8), who have seven games left in the regular season entering tonight's game. Sitting in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, the Jets trail the eighth-place Washington Capitals by six points.

"For us, you can say all the clichés, but we have to win the game," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "That's clear for us."

The Jets' fourth line featuring recent AHL recalls Spencer Machacek and Ben Maxwell, plus Tim Stapleton, carried them on the road trip. Stapleton holds a three-game goal streak, Machacek has 1 goal and 6 points in four games since his recall, and Maxwell has 1 goal and 4 points in his past three games. However, captain Andrew Ladd, leading goal-scorer Evander Kane, and Blake Wheeler all failed to produce a goal during the road swing, and Noel expects to his use his fourth line more.

"They've been really good, given minimal minutes," Noel said of his fourth line. "I don't know if they continue at that rate, but there is no reason why I can't play them more in games, especially if things don't go the same with other lines, because you can't be a one-line team.

"You've got to give [the fourth line] full marks," Noel said. "My hat goes off to those guys."

Nik Antropov and Chris Thorburn remain sidelined with injuries.

Ondrej Pavelec will make his 12th consecutive start for the Jets.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Jets:

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Antti Miettinen
Tim Stapleton - Ben Maxwell - Spencer Machacek

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey - Zach Bogosian
Randy Jones - Mark Stuart

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.26.2012 / 2:36 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Lecavalier's 'best day' puts him closer to returning

PHILADELPHIA -- Vincent Lecavalier skated with his teammates Monday morning, but said he won't be playing when his Tampa Bay Lightning teammates take the ice against the Philadelphia Flyers (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, TSN2).

Lecavalier hasn't played since Feb. 18 when he broke his right hand during a game against the Washington Capitals.

"It was definitely my best day today, by far," Lecavalier said after this morning's practice. "I felt really good. Obviously I'm not going to play tonight (but) it's progressing really well."

Lecavalier said the power is returning to his shots, and that he hopes to get into a game at some point during the team's three-game road trip; after tonight's game in Philadelphia, they'll play in Boston and New Jersey.

"That's why I'm here," he said. "I want to play, (but) we'll see. It all depends on how it reacts. Today was probably the best day, but see how it feels tomorrow."

Lecavalier said he's anxious to jump back in the lineup.

"It's not really fun," he said of rehabilitating. "The first four weeks I was skating alone, no pucks. It wasn't a lot of fun. It'll be nice to get back to your teammates. Today just practicing with my teammates was a lot of fun."

With all the injuries the Lightning have suffered this season, coach Guy Boucher said he's happy to know that any of his veteran forwards are close to returning.

"It'll mean a lot for us," Boucher said. "Half the team is from the American league. Any guys we can get back makes a big, big difference. Our guys from the American league have done everything they could for us to stay in games and battle, and we have. Guys are playing real well. But like I've said before, we can't expect or put pressure on guys coming up and replacing Vinny. Power play, 5-on-5, and same thing with (Nate) Thompson, they're such important players for our team. (Adam) Hall's not there, (Ryan) Shannon's not there. More than half our forwards are guys that didn't start the year with us. It's important those guys understand we're asking them to do things they can do and when Vinny's back, we'll ask Vinny to do things he can do."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK




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POSTED ON Monday, 03.26.2012 / 2:32 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Mason gets immediate opportunity to redeem himself

DETROIT -- Despite getting pulled after a five-goal second period on Sunday in a 6-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers, Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason will start on Monday night against the Detroit Red Wings.

"He's our No. 1 goalie right now, so he's playing," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said after Monday's morning skate at Joe Louis Arena. "It was a 3 o'clock game (Sunday). Took him out for the third period thinking that we'll get him a little bit more rest and get him ready for (Monday night)."

Richards said he hadn't had a discussion with Mason after the outing and hopes the goalie will be able to erase it and look ahead to the Red Wings -- who've struggled with injuries, but stormed back from a 4-1 deficit to beat Carolina 5-4 on Saturday night at the "Joe."

"I didn't have a conversation (with Mason)," Richards said. "There may be different times when I'll have conversations with either him or another player in regards to whether it was a tough outing or my decision ... a decision I made maybe, but I didn't talk to him last night and I didn't talk to him today, but I did let him know that he was going to play."

Despite Detroit's multitude of injured regulars, the Wings still have enough left to be dangerous to face, according to Richards. Like they did on Saturday night to the Hurricanes, the Red Wings are capable of putting up goals in bunches -- which is nothing new to the Blue Jackets when facing Detroit.

"That's what good teams can do," Richards said. "This team knows how to win. They have a skill set up front and they can burn you if you aren't ready to play. It's blood in the water. I've felt it in this building before and I've seen it before, whether we're playing at home or on the road. So, it's going to be how we manage it."

Along those lines, how will the Jackets finish out the last seven games of an otherwise dreadful season?

"The goals are the same,'" Richards said. "I think we all knew that's where we were going to be. We had all accepted that and again, our focus was going to be on how we played the last 19 games. We've have some good games. We've had some disappointing games. We've had some games where we've played well for the majority of the game, but we lost our game and it ended up costing us games."

Richards said he believed the Jackets are still in it to win games, but admitted it gets tougher for players to stay motivated over the last few games of a disappointing season. Still, Monday night's game is against a team trying to clinch its 21st straight post-season appearance in a row with a victory.

"I don't think there should be a lot of motivation from me getting ready for this game and even the next game at home, playing these guys back to back for six periods," Richards said. "These guys can embarrass you quick. They're trying to elevate their game. They're gearing up for the playoffs. They're using this game and the next game to get ready for the big games for them coming up."
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.26.2012 / 2:24 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Roloson back in net for Lightning

PHILADELPHIA -- With Dwayne Roloson winning the last two games, Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher has elected to stick with the hot hand and start the veteran in net Monday against the Philadelphia Flyers (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2).

Roloson has made 34 saves in back-to-back wins; it's the first time he's won consecutive games since a three-game streak Nov. 4-9.

In 34 games, this season, the 42-year-old goalie is 10-14-2, with a 3.67 goals-against average and .884 save percentage.

"It's been a tough year for him," said Boucher. "We're all feeling for him the entire year. He's had some tough moments and we wanted to help him, he wanted to help himself. He's done everything he could, it just was tough. Lately he's been very calm in the net and he's played well the last two games. I want to give him the net. During the year there were lots of times I wanted to give him the net but it was tougher than we expected. Now if we can give him those games back, I'm happy for him."

We had the Flyers lineup here earlier
. Here's the rest of the lineup the Lightning potentially will use tonight:

Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Tim Wallace - Trevor Smith - JT Wyman
Ryan Malone - Tom Pyatt - Brett Connolly
Pierre-Cedric Labrie - Brandon Segal

Victor Hedman - Eric Brewer
Brian Lee - Brett Clark
Mike Commodore - Brendan Mikkelson
Keith Aulie

Dwayne Roloson
Sebastien Caron

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK


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POSTED ON Monday, 03.26.2012 / 2:14 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Amidst injuries, kids showing they're alright in Detroit

DETROIT -- If there is a silver lining to the multitude of injuries the Detroit Red Wings have been saddled with this season, it's that several young players have gotten a chance to show what they can do in the NHL.

Cory Emmerton has basically taken on the fourth-line center's role, Jan Mursak is finally back up to speed after a broken leg in training camp set him back, and defenseman Brendan Smith and forward Gustav Nyquist both made their presence felt.

Smith was sent back to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League on Saturday night, after Nicklas Lidstrom returned, while Nyquist is still with the Wings likely until Johan Franzen returns. Both left impressions on their teammates and Red Wings coach Mike Babcock.

"I thought (Smith) was really good," Babcock said. "We just sent him down because we need to play the players that are here, but we also need to play him. I thought he played great for us. Smitty did a real good job. He's just got to continue to grow with his maturity, his decisions with and without the puck, but I think he's an NHL player for sure.''

And the 22-year old Nyquist?

"As far as Gus, I just noticed he's got 5 points in (his last) six games, so by accident he gets points," Babcock said. "It's a good opportunity. He's a real smart player. He's good without the puck. He's got a lot to learn, but it looks like he's a legitimate NHL player.''

Nyquist, who's playing left wing on the second line with center Pavel Datsyuk and forward Todd Bertuzzi, doesn't have any goals yet -- but Swedish star center Henrik Zetterberg isn't worried.

"He has everything," said Zetterberg, whose own line with Valterri Filppula and Jiri Hudler is scorching hot right now. "He's fast. He's good with the puck and he sees the ice very well. He's just got to commit to the shot a little bit more, but that's ... everyone who comes over here from Sweden, that's a tough thing to do. But he will learn soon."

Lidstrom had some high praise for Smith, as well.

"He's a very good skater," Lidstrom said. "He brings the puck up the ice real well and he's really good at reading plays, when to get up in the play. I think it's just a matter of getting used to playing up here at this level of hockey and the tempo and keeping it simple. He did that, too. When he was in trouble, he got rid of the puck or got the puck out of our own zone -- which is something you want to do. He adjusted real well to that."
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For me, it's a great win for our hockey team and for a lot of people back in Columbus, especially our fans in particular … people who have been devoted to this organization, it's big.

— Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards on their win vs. the Penguins in Game 2, the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff victory