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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 1:50 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Sens need better game from Karlsson

NEW YORK -- The Stanley Cup Playoffs have no bearing on whether Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson wins the Norris Trophy this season, but the 21-year-old looked like anything but one of the NHL's best blueliners Thursday night.

Karlsson was on the ice for two of the New York Rangers' first three goals, including Brian Boyle's game-winner in the second period. Karlsson was beaten to a loose puck by forward Artem Anisimov and was unable to block Boyle's shot from the slot.

With the Senators down 1-0 in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, Karlsson knows he and his teammates have to be better in Game 2 on Saturday.

"We have to step it up a bit here if we want to be a contender to win this series," Karlsson said. "We didn't skate enough. We didn't compete enough. They out-battled us in a lot of areas. We have to be a lot tougher going into their net and making it hard for Rangers goaltender (Henrik Lundqvist) to make saves. It's one of those games where it didn't click for us and hopefully we can play better tonight."

Senators coach Paul MacLean said Karlsson can be better with and without the puck.

"He needs to skate. When Erik skates, he's a dominant player," MacLean said. "That's his No. 1 strength. We need to make sure he's skating."

In Game 1, Karlsson had zero points, three shots and was minus-1 in 24:23 of ice time. It was just the 11th time this season he was held scoreless and finished the game as a minus player; Rangers All-Star defenseman Dan Girardi accomplished that 17 times.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 1:40 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

Five reasons the Penguins are in trouble

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins can only hope they have five more games remaining to get this right.
 
The Penguins, a popular pick to raise the Stanley Cup only a few days ago, suddenly find themselves in a two-game hole after being swept at home by the Philadelphia Flyers to begin their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series.
 
What's remarkable is how they're losing: By opening up substantial early leads in both Game 1 and Game 2, only to have the Flyers dominate play the rest of the way. Pittsburgh owns a 6-1 scoring advantage in the first period; Philadelphia has an 11-2 edge in the second and third periods and overtime.
 
The only time in franchise history the Penguins dropped the first two games at home and recovered to win a series was against Washington in the conference quarterfinals in 1996, even though Boston pulled off just such a comeback last year against Montreal and went on to lift the Stanley Cup. And at least there's this: The Penguins have been swept in a four-game playoff series only once, by Boston in 1979.
 
But as they try to figure out how to extend this series for five more games, here are five reasons why the Penguins are in trouble:
 
1) THEIR STARS AREN'T STARRING. Unlike last season's first-round ouster by Tampa Bay, the Penguins appear to be relatively healthy, with both Sidney Crosby and NHL scoring champion Evgeni Malkin in the lineup. Only they're not being stars. Malkin looks frustrated as the Flyers keep targeting him for contact on almost every shift. Crosby scored early goals in each of the first two games, but couldn't find the net when the games were being decided. The Penguins are built to have No. 87 and No. 71 win games for them, especially in the playoffs, but, so far, it's not happening; Malkin is a minus-5. And James Neal, who is coming off a 40-goal season? He has one goal in nine career playoff games. Malkin's other linemate, Chris Kunitz, scored two goals in Game 2 yet, remarkably, was a minus-5.
 
2) THEY'RE OUT OF THEIR LEAD. The Penguins led 3-0 in the first period of Game 1, 3-1 in the first period of Game 2. And they lost both times. An anomaly? Hardly. Four times since March 18, the Penguins have built multi-goal leads against the Flyers, and they've lost each time. The Flyers keep rallying by staying patient and waiting for the free-wheeling Penguins to start making mistakes -- risky cross-ice passes, questionable decisions while in defensive zone coverage, a stubborn refusal to avoid  carrying the puck into traffic in the neutral zone (Malkin is a prime offender). The Flyers simply aren't worried when the Penguins get ahead, and it shows. And here's another worry for Pittsburgh: Philadelphia is 17-0 when it leads 2-0 in a series.
 
"We've got to find a way to do better with a lead, no doubt," Crosby said. "We know they're going to keep going. We know that."
 
3) THEY'RE NOT GETTING SEPARATION. Even while owning the final line change at home, the Penguins are constantly contending with Malkin's line being shadowed by Flyers rookie center Sean Couturier -- a younger version of the Penguins' own Jordan Staal. The 19-year-old Couturier not only is controlling Malkin, he is only the second teenager in Stanley Cup history to score three goals in a game. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma must be more creative to find ways to get Malkin on the ice when Couturier isn't.
 
"I don't know if I know any words to describe his game," 40-year-old Flyers forward Jaromir Jagr said of Couturier, who is less than half his age. "Awesome, maybe -- something like that?"
 
4) THERE'S NO DEFENSE FOR WHAT'S HAPPENING. For most of the season, the Penguins were a solid, stay-within-the-Bylsma system team defensively -- a prime reason why they accumulated 108 points despite not having Crosby for three-quarters of the season. During their 11-game winning streak from Feb. 21-March 17, they allowed only 17 goals. Over their last 11, they've given up 48. With opponents getting so many scoring chances, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury simply has had no chance at times, and he appears to be losing confidence. If the Penguins don't start playing with some pride and a purpose on defense, it won't matter how many goals Crosby and Malkin score.
 
"We've got to tighten up and try to play in their end," center Jordan Staal said.
 
5) THEIR SPECIAL TEAMS ARE ESPECIALLY BAD. As Bylsma desperately tries to find a workable power-play unit -- Crosby began the first couple of Game 2 power plays on the bench -- the Flyers keep turning games around with their special teams play. They scored on their first two power plays of the series, including Brayden Schenn's all-important tying goal in the third period of Game 2. And they struck for shorthanded goals by Maxime Talbot and Claude Giroux in Game 2. Whether it's personnel, or mindset or coaching, the Flyers are dominating the game-within-a-game special teams contest -- and, while they're doing it, the series, too.
 

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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 1:32 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Caps need more from Ovechkin, linemates

BOSTON – After he was limited to just one shot on goal in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Boston on Thursday, Washington star forward Alexander Ovechkin’s task in the second game is to find more room to work against the Bruins’ defense pair of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg.
               
If Ovechkin is looking for a little relief from his coach manipulating the matchups, Dale Hunter doesn’t sound like a man who plans to back away from allowing that marquee showdown to continue through Game 2 on Saturday and beyond.
               
“You can mix around lines, but pretty much even strength it was an even battle both ways through the whole thing,” Hunter said in reference to the Bruins’ 1-0 win in Game 1. “Until an overtime goal, it was pretty much even at even strength. Power-play time, they did have some more scoring chances because they had more power -play time. But as far as even strength, it was pretty even out there.”
               
The Capitals know that Ovechkin can’t beat the Bruins on his own, so his linemates are going to try to find way to aid the sniper’s cause.
               
“There’s things we can do. We know that he’s going to be keyed on, especially [by] Chara. He’s going to try to come across the ice a lot and pinch Alex,” center Brooks Laich said. “We can try to talk to him, we can try and get our bodies in the way. But when we get the puck, we have to skate. If we move the puck quick before they’re able to adjust their defense, whether it’s from the wing to the middle to the other wing or diagonal all the way, there’s some things we’re going to have to try to do.”
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 1:28 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Bruins look to improve power play in Game 2

BOSTON – An ineffective power play was maybe the only thing standing between the Boston Bruins and an easier road to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship.
               
Boston improved against Vancouver in the Stanley Cup Final, but still finished the 2011 postseason just 10-for-88. Against Washington in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Thursday, the Bruins’ power play was 0-for-4, a reminder of the 0-for-21 Boston compiled in last year’s first round against Montreal.
               
Rich Peverley had maybe the best two scoring chances during the Bruins’ man-advantages, and they both came on the same sequence. He sees room for improvement heading into Game 2 at TD Garden on Saturday.
               
“We definitely had chances, but I think quality chances, Grade-A chances, we definitely have to improve on,” Peverley said a couple hours before puck drop. “We’ve got to have a net-front presence, and if he’s [goaltender Braden Holtby] coming out and challenging, we’ve got to have a guy in his face.”
               
The Bruins re-aligned their power-play units just before the start of the playoffs, with Peverley being paired at the points with Dennis Seidenberg in one group, and Zdeno Chara and Joe Corvo on the other group’s points. Brian Rolston, who spent a lot of time on the point after he was acquired from the New York Islanders, moved up front with David Krejci and Brian Rolston, while the line of Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand stayed together as a power-play group.
               
Chara thinks Boston’s problems stem from a tendency to be too picky about their plays.
               
“I think that a lot of times we try to always make an extra play, an extra pass. Sometimes we overlook those simple shots. So maybe simplify a little bit,” the Bruins captain said.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 1:21 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Little-used Carter haunts former team

SUNRISE, Fla. — Only one player had less ice time than Ryan Carter in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between New Jersey and Florida.

But Carter skated long enough for some serious payback.

The little-used 28-year-old center ended up with the game-winning goal against his former team when he scored with 5:04 left in the first period to give New Jersey a 3-0 lead.

Carter started the season with Florida and played seven games before he was waived with the idea of reassigning him to San Antonio of the AHL. Needing depth at center, the Devils claimed him off waivers.

Little did the Panthers know he would come back to haunt them in their first playoff game since 2000.

Carter, who played 6:56 in his third game at the BankAtlantic Center since joining the Devils, focused more on the significance of his goal than the opponent.

“Yeah, I am past that,” said Carter, who topped only teammate Stephen Gionta in ice time Friday. “The first couple of games back here maybe there were some extra feelings like that. Now, Jersey is my team and I just want to find a way to help them win. And that’s really what it’s about. It’s not about sticking it to somebody else, it’s about helping our team.”

Carter, who went pointless for Florida before recording four goals and four assists in 65 games with New Jersey, wasn’t among the forwards the Panthers figured they had to stop coming into the series.

But less than a minute after Dainius Zubrus scored to make it 2-0 for New Jersey, Carter stole the puck from Sean Bergenheim in the neutral zone and then took advantage of a flat-footed Ed Jovanovski at the  blue line.

Carter chipped the puck off the boards, skated around Jovanovski to retrieve it and skated in alone on the right side. He beat Jose Theodore with a quick wrist shot to the far side.

“It was a controlled forecheck,” Carter said. “They had two guys swinging to that left wall, so that made it easy to check both of them. I think they had a misread on who was going where, so that exposed the puck a little bit. I chipped it by one guy and found myself in a two-on-one and just shot it.”

The goal came on a shift that lasted exactly 13 seconds for Carter.

In fact, through the first two periods, Carter got only 3:37 of ice time. He got almost twice that much in the third period as coach Peter DeBoer turned to his fourth line — Carter, Gionta and Steve Bernier, another former Panther — to help protect the 3-2 lead.

“The fourth line was big for us,” DeBoer said. “The game-winning goal and five or six critical shifts in the third period when our guys were starting to get fatigued. We talked between the second and third about the importance of those guys giving us some quality shifts and I thought they were great.”

Carter’s goal was his third in 21 career playoff games. The other two came with Anaheim in 2009.

“To get a chance to get a goal and chip in, it’s definitely huge,” Carter said. “Tonight it turned out to be the difference-maker. Anytime you can contribute that’s big. That’s your job.”
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 1:14 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

MacLean considering loading up top line

NEW YORK -- Senators coach Paul MacLean felt his team played a solid 54 minutes in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Rangers on Thursday, save for a six-minute stretch in which the Rangers scored three goals to roll to a 4-2 victory.

MacLean won't make any lineup changes for Game 2 on Saturday night because of that showing, but he is considering loading up his top line.

Captain Daniel Alfredsson was on the team's top line with Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek during the morning skate while Erik Condra was moved up from the fourth line to play with Kyle Turris and Nick Foligno on the second line

Spezza, Michalek and Alfredsson were the Senators' three top scorers among forwards, combining for 96 goals and 107 assists, but they rarely played together during the regular season. The lack of familiarity won't be a problem if they play together against the Rangers, according to Spezza.

"We've played together at times this year and we have instant chemistry," Spezza said. "Me and Alfie played a lot of years together and we don't always play together now to start games, but we do a lot of times throughout games. He's a real smart player. We read real well off each other. If that's what we go with, there's never adjustment needed."

Foligno believes shuffling the lines will also serve to make the other three lines more dangerous.

"I think it makes the other team be more aware of our first line. They're pretty potent offensively," Foligno said. "It spreads it out a little more. We have a lot of depth and guys can step in. It shows the depth we have on this team. We're looking to have a really good night with Condra and Turris and hopefully all the other lines can step up as well."

MacLean said even if he doesn't open the game with the lines he showed at practice, he could go to them later.

"We're not certain yet if we're going to start the game that way," MacLean said. "We're looking at that, but it's also something we can go to during the game that we're comfortable with."

If the Senators decided to put their big three on a line, they can expect to face Rangers shut-down defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi on every shift. Both Senators goals in Game 1 came with Rangers defenseman Marc Staal on the ice.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 1:01 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Sharks series blog

Stewart scratched for Game 2, projected lineups

ST. LOUIS -- The probable lineups for Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals between the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks from Scottrade Center.

BLUES

David Perron - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Alex Steen - Patrik Berglund - Andy McDonald
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
B.J. Crombeen - Scott Nichol - Matt D'Agostini

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

The Blues' healthy scratches include forwards Chris Stewart, Jaden Schwartz, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves as well as defensemen Kent Huskins and Ian Cole

SHARKS

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Martin Havlat
Daniel Winnik - Andrew Desjardins - Tommy Wingels
TJ Galiardi - Dominic Moore - Torrey Mitchell

Dan Boyle - Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Jason Demers - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

The Sharks' healthy scratches include D Colin White, D Jim Vandermeer, LW Brad Winchester, LW Benn Ferriero and C Michal Handzus.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 12:37 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Senators series blog

Senators, Rangers stick with same lineups

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators will go with the same lineups in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

Rangers coach John Tortorella was asked in the morning where the Rangers needed to be better in Game 2 after winning 4-2 in Game 1.

"Everywhere," he responded.

Even goaltending?

"Everywhere," he quipped again.

Senators coach Paul MacLean will also ice the same lineup, but he shuffled his forward lines at practice.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 12:31 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Theodore starts strong for Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. — Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen’s goalie decision figures to be a lot easier for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Sunday against the New Jersey Devils.

Dineen never revealed his Game 1 starting goalie to the media until lineup sheets were distributed shortly before game time, but Jose Theodore figures to have earned another start after a stellar performance Friday.

The Panthers lost 3-2, but Theodore was the reason the score wasn’t more lopsided, as he stopped 35 of 38 shots.

Theodore was particularly impressive in the first period despite allowing three goals. New Jersey peppered him with 26 shots, a franchise playoff record and the highest first-period total in the NHL playoffs since 1997 when Philadelphia recorded 28 shots against Pittsburgh.

“I thought he was really good in the first period,” Dineen said after the game. “You give up three goals in the first period and you’re like, boy, that’s something you’re always questioning about a goalie, but if he doesn’t play the way he did, we’re in trouble. [It was] a solid night for our goaltender.”

Theodore, who got the nod for Game 1 over backup Scott Clemmensen, entered the playoffs having given up nine goals in his previous two starts.

He also had given up a soft goal in each of those games, a 5-4 overtime loss to Winnipeg and a 4-2 loss at Washington.

But none of the three goals Friday could be pinned on him.

“When you have that many shots in the first period and you make a couple of saves right away, I felt pretty good, to be honest,” Theodore said. “During the playoffs, it’s all about winning and losing. We lost the game, so we’ve just got to bounce back. It’s the best I felt [Friday night], let’s say, the last week or so.”

Before Patrik Elias opened the scoring at 6:31, Theodore had stopped him on a breakaway after the Panthers were caught in a bad line change.

Theodore also stopped Zach Parise on a breakaway midway through the third period to keep the Panthers within a goal after they had scored twice in the second period to pull to within 3-2.

“We created a lot of offense, if it wasn’t for Jose, it could have been a lot different,” said Martin Brodeur, who recorded his 100th playoff victory to join Patrick Roy as the only goalies to reach triple digits. “He played unbelievable. He made some big saves and, even in the third stopping Zach on the breakaway, kept them in the game.”

Theodore’s performance was a far cry from his last playoff outing.

That came in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the top-seeded Washington Capitals and eighth-seeded Montreal. After the Canadiens had taken Game 1, 3-2 in overtime, Theodore was pulled by coach Bruce Boudreau after allowing two goals on the first two shots.

Theodore didn’t play again as Montreal upset the Capitals in seven games.

The game Friday marked Theodore’s 52nd career playoff appearance, and it will go down as one of his best.

Devils forward Dainius Zubrus finished with a goal and an assist, but was impressed with the performance of his former Montreal teammate.

“He weathered the storm,” Zubrus said, “and he kept them in the game.”
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 12:07 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Flyers' comebacks have them in control

Maybe the Philadelphia Flyers ought to let the Pittsburgh Penguins just start the game with a couple of goals to get the preliminaries out of the way.

Friday night marked the fourth time in less than four weeks that the Penguins jumped to a multiple-goal lead against the Flyers -- and lost. On Wednesday, they led 3-0 and lost 4-3 in overtime; on Friday, they led 2-0 and 3-1, only to be beaten 8-5.

Three of the Flyers' four comebacks have come in Pittsburgh, where the Flyers are 7-1-0 at the two-year-old Consol Energy Center.
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