Rangers looking to regroup at home
NEW YORK - Sidney Crosby and the defending champion Penguins have looked impressive in jumping out to a 2-0 lead against the Blue Jackets.
The same is true for the Blues, who have earned a pair of 2-1 victories on the road for a two-game edge over Minnesota with the series shifting to St. Louis.
And the Rangers were 18 seconds away from joining them until Tomas Plekanec tied Game 2 late in the third period before Alexander Radulov won it for the Canadiens to tie that series at a game apiece going into Game 3 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night.
“Every time you win you kind of change the momentum,” Plekanec said Friday night. “You feel better about yourself and your game.
“But it’s just one game. We have to get better because we haven’t played a great game yet.”
While the Canadiens have the momentum, the Rangers must regroup at home, where they have struggled at times this season.
Goalie Henrik Lundqvist was busy Friday night, when he had a playoff career-high 54 saves for New York.
“We had stretches where they came really hard and made it tough for us,” Lundqvist said. “They did a good job of keeping pucks in tonight and that’s where we got hurt.
“We had a couple of times to get the puck out and they worked hard to keep them in. That’s where they created their second and third chances.”
As the Blue Jackets look to get back in their series, they will be without forward Matt Calvert, who was suspended one game by the league for his cross-check to Pittsburgh’s Tom Kuhnhackl late in the third period.
Calvert had received a minor penalty for cross-checking on Friday when he chased down Kuhnhackl away from the play and hit the Penguins forward in the head with his stick, which broke in the process. The NHL Department of Players Safety handed down the suspension Saturday. ——— Wild at Blues, St. Louis leads 2-0 (2 p.m., NBC)
Frustration began to creep into the Minnesota Wild’s play during a 2-1 loss to St. Louis at home in Game 2, on the heels of a 2-1 defeat in overtime in Game 1, when they outshot the Blues 52-26.
The Wild managed only 24 attempts on target in Game 2 against a similarly stifling Blues defense, but in trying to create energy, luck and momentum, they began to stray from their identity.
“Quite frankly, I think we were running out of the way trying to hit guys too much,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We didn’t do that for 82 games. I don’t know why we’re starting now.”
There’s always the temptation to try a different approach in this scenario, searching for a spark on the road with the Blues halfway to winning the series.
But the Wild realize they’re better off continuing to use their speed, depth and faceoff dominance toward the scoring chances that were in abundance over the first two games only to be thwarted by goalie Jake Allen.
The key will be finding smarter or timelier ways to attack against the packed-in defense of the Blues that continually clogs the prime shooting lanes.
“This is a group that still challenges you,” Blues coach Mike Yeo said. “That’s still tough. They’ve still got a lot of players over there, and the way they throw pucks at the net, it’s challenging. But we’re digging in on it, and so far we’ve been good at it.” ——— Penguins at Blue Jackets, Pittsburgh leads 2-0 (5 p.m., CNBC)
Crosby had a goal and two assists and Marc-Andre Fleury made 39 saves in Game 2. Fleury is expected to make his club-record 103rd playoff appearance on Sunday.
The Penguins also blocked 23 shots to frustrate Columbus.
Despite the deficit, Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella likes the aggressive play and is eager to get home to Columbus.
“I think we did a lot of the things we wanted to do,” Tortorella said. “I’m proud of our club, the way they’ve handled themselves.
“They did all the things we’re asking them to do.” ——— Canadiens at Rangers, Series tied 1-1 (6 p.m., NBCSN)
Being tied 1-1 in a series is nothing new for the Rangers.
They have split the first two games of a playoff series in each of their past five playoff series, going back to the start of the 2015 playoffs.
Forward Michael Grabner has scored in both games of the series and missed on a breakaway attempt in the third period Friday night that could have made it 4-2.
The Rangers were not overly concerned about being outshot 58-38 in Game 2.
“They threw a lot of pucks at our net, but I don’t think there were too many chances. We did a pretty good job,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said Friday night. ——— Oilers at Sharks, Series tied 1-1 (9 p.m., NBCSN)
The Oilers didn’t get more disciplined in Game 2, they just performed far better when short-handed. If the Sharks are going to regain the lead in this series, they will have to make Edmonton pay for its physical play.
San Jose got a momentum-changing power-play goal from its second unit to start a Game 1 comeback, then came up empty on all six chances with the man advantage in Game 2.
Making matters even worse, the Oilers scored the only two goals of the game with San Jose on the power play. Zack Kassian and Connor McDavid each scored short-handed goals to help tie the series. “You can’t overreact to that,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist makes a save against the Montreal Canadiens during Game 1 their first-round playoff series Wednesday in Montreal.