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McDonagh fully acclimated to role as Rangers captain

Tuesday, 04.21.2015 / 2:36 PM / Rangers vs Penguins - 2015 SCP First Round

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

PITTSBURGH -- Ryan McDonagh felt earlier this season that if he figured out how to marry being the New York Rangers captain and their top defensemen he'd start to resemble the player who earned each of those titles through his performance last season.

It was a union that took some time to develop and came with some internal struggles for McDonagh, but it's become the perfect marriage for the Rangers, who have a 2-1 lead on the Pittsburgh Penguins in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round series heading into Game 4 Wednesday at Consol Energy Center (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 2, ROOT, MSG).

"He's done so many great things for us and now you see it," Rangers center Derek Stepan said. "He's a big part of what we do as a group."

Pominville, Wild top line asserts itself in Game 3

Tuesday, 04.21.2015 / 2:01 PM / Blues vs Wild - 2015 SCP First Round

Dan Myers - Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- When judging the season of Minnesota Wild forward Jason Pominville, be sure to look further than his statistics.

Despite a 12-goal decline from last season, Pominville has been an important piece all season for the Wild, who are leading a Stanley Cup Playoff series for the first time in their history.

Pominville scored the game-winning goal in Game 3 of Minnesota's Western Conference First Round series against the St. Louis Blues on Monday, giving the Wild a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series with Game 4 on Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET; NCBSN, SN360, TVA3, FW-MW, FS-N).

"From a goal-scoring standpoint, you always want more," Pominville said. "From a point-production, I'm pretty much where I was last year (60-54). I went through a stretch [this season] where maybe I was making more plays and not shooting as much, but when you look at my total shots, I had more this year."

Islanders defense raising game in Hamonic's absence

Tuesday, 04.21.2015 / 12:22 PM / Capitals vs Islanders - 2015 SCP First Round

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- When defenseman Travis Hamonic sustained an undisclosed injury in the second-to-last game of the regular season, the rest of the New York Islanders blue line knew it would have to step it up a notch in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Brian Strait, who was shuffled in and out of the lineup during the season, has arguably been one of the Islanders' best defensemen through the first three games of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Washington Capitals, which continues Tuesday with Game 4 at Nassau Coliseum (7:30 p.m. ET; USA, SN360, TVA Sports 2, CSN-DC, MSG+).

The Islanders lead the best-of-7 series 2-1.

Strait was playing alongside Hamonic at the time of the injury and has since been paired with Calvin de Haan. Strait doesn't have a point in the series but he's helped limit a potent Capitals offense to one goal in two of the three games.

There is no timetable for Hamonic's return.

"It's tough because I was playing with him at the time and we were playing really well together," Strait said Tuesday. "More from a team standpoint, the things that he does physically and against top players, it's something that we miss. But I think everybody's stepped up pretty well and done a pretty decent job so far. I think we've got to keep progressing and getting better."

Jets lose Game 3, but Winnipeg wins

Tuesday, 04.21.2015 / 2:06 AM / Ducks vs Jets - 2015 SCP First Round

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

WINNIPEG -- A building that had been ear-splitting loud for hours fell deathly silent.

The contrast in the atmosphere at MTS Centre moments before and immediately after Rickard Rakell won the game for the Anaheim Ducks in overtime Monday showed how fleeting euphoria can be in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Especially for a city that hadn't experienced them for 19 years.

One moment, there's hope for the hometown Winnipeg Jets, perhaps the most hometown team of any in the NHL. The next moment that hope was gone and reality set in that the home team is down 3-0 in this Western Conference First Round series, losing three straight games it led in the third period.

Blues sloppy with puck in Game 3 loss to Wild

Tuesday, 04.21.2015 / 12:30 AM / Blues vs Wild - 2015 SCP First Round

Louie Korac - Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The St. Louis Blues said they understood what they would be facing against the Minnesota Wild in their Western Conference First Round series.

But after the Wild won Game 3 on Monday to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series, the Blues face a virtual must-win situation in Game 4 on Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 3, FS-MW, FS-N).

The Wild's speed game has given the Blues fits throughout this series. It again played a role Monday in Minnesota's 3-0 victory in front of 19,165 boisterous fans at Xcel Energy Center.

The Blues had no answer for wave after wave of speed and checking that the Wild threw at them.

"They played a good game from the start," St. Louis defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "We were slow from the start, and they just stayed on top of us the whole game."

Slow start dooms Penguins again in Game 3

Monday, 04.20.2015 / 11:01 PM / Rangers vs Penguins - 2015 SCP First Round

Wes Crosby - Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins had a sluggish start again on Monday, and the New York Rangers took advantage for a 2-1 win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Consol Energy Center.

Unlike in Game 1 of their best-of-7 series, the Penguins did not respond well from a porous first period to pull within one goal in the second and earn a puncher's chance to steal a win with ample time to spare. Unlike in Game 2, they did not respond from another lackluster first to control the majority of the final 40 minutes to earn an eye-opening win.

In Game 3, Pittsburgh started slow again. By the time it got going, it was too late.

"Tonight, I think, what we talked about before, sometimes at home, you get the energy and you try to do things and you try to force," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "I thought we forced a lot of plays in the first period. And really, we can't do that. We have to make sure we have better shot selection, get more pucks to the net. That's what's going to create the loose puck intensity."

The Penguins weren't drastically outplayed in the first period, because neither team played particularly well. The Rangers scored the period's lone goal when Keith Yandle sent Carl Hagelin on a breakaway, and Pittsburgh was caught during a botched line change.

Commissioner Bettman thrilled for Jets, Winnipeg

Monday, 04.20.2015 / 9:31 PM / Ducks vs Jets - 2015 SCP First Round

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

WINNIPEG -- As NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made his tour of the League during the first week of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there was one question he says he heard more often than any other: Would he be in Winnipeg on Monday?

Commissioner Bettman was indeed at MTS Centre to witness Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round series between the Winnipeg Jets and the Anaheim Ducks, marking the return of NHL playoff hockey to the city after a 19-year absence.

"I'm here just to witness what I think will be a wonderful, emotional and exciting evening," Commissioner Bettman said about 90 minutes prior to puck drop. "I know that this has been a night that was 19 years in the making and you can feel the energy in the city. It's palpable."

Flames' Ferland enjoys success one year into sobriety

Monday, 04.20.2015 / 8:49 PM / Canucks vs Flames - 2015 SCP First Round

Aaron Vickers - Correspondent

CALGARY -- Thunderous checks, and plenty of them, have forward Michael Ferland gaining plenty of attention.
But there's something more important that he'd like to be known for: sobriety.
Ferland, who turned 23 on Monday, has been sober for nearly 13 months.
"I think about that every day," Ferland said. "A year ago today, I was in rehab. I didn't think I would be playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs right now."
It's not hard to imagine a different, darker path for Ferland.

Senators don't have to look very far for inspiration

Monday, 04.20.2015 / 6:23 PM / Canadiens vs Senators - 2015 SCP First Round

Chris Stevenson - Correspondent

OTTAWA -- The Ottawa Senators can draw inspiration from a number of places as they try to become the third team in six years, and the fifth in NHL history, to come back from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series.

The Senators, who face elimination Wednesday against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference First Round series at Canadian Tire Centre (7 p.m. ET; USA, CBC, TVA Sports), can begin that search in their own backyard.

On Feb. 10, Ottawa was 14 points out of a postseason position, meaning it practically had to win out over the last two months of the regular season to make the playoffs. The Senators went 23-4-4 and earned the first wild card.

"The games when our backs were against the wall and we had to win, we won. You can take that as a positive," Senators forward Clarke MacArthur said Monday.

Canadiens using two-day break to their advantage

Monday, 04.20.2015 / 5:42 PM / Canadiens vs Senators - 2015 SCP First Round

Sean Farrell - Correspondent

The Montreal Canadiens are resting, relaxing and reloading to deliver what they hope will be a final knockout blow against the Ottawa Senators in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; USA, CBC, TVA Sports).

The Canadiens headed north of Ottawa to the resort destination of Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, after taking a 3-0 lead Sunday with a 2-1 overtime win against the Senators at Canadian Tire Centre.

Montreal won the first two games at Bell Centre and will look to open the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a four-game sweep for a second year in a row with a win in Ottawa in Game 4.

Center Torrey Mitchell was making the most of the Canadiens' day off Monday.

"Yeah, it is really good, especially all three games have been pretty physical and rest is a weapon right now," said Mitchell, who scored Montreal's first goal in a 4-3 win in Game 1 and assisted on each of right wing Dale Weise's goals Sunday.

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Quote of the Day

I spent a long summer thinking about that playoff series and what could have been. [The Blackhawks] ended up being the Stanley Cup champions, so we know we lost to a very good team. It's tough to know how close we were, and it motivates us for this year.

— Nashville captain Shea Weber in an interview with the Predators website