NHL Wrap: Isles spoil Crosby's return

050313-crosby-islanders-uspw.jpg

NHL Wrap: Isles spoil Crosby's return

PITTSBURGH -- Kyle Okposo's first career playoff goal with 7:37 remaining lifted the New York Islanders to a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night, evening their playoffs series at one game each.

Matt Moulson, Colin McDonald and Matt Martin also scored for the Islanders, who spoiled Sidney Crosby's comeback from a broken jaw by rallying from an early two-goal deficit.

Crosby scored twice in the game's first eight minutes as the Penguins raced to a quick 3-1 lead. But they couldn't hold it as the Islanders bounced back from a lifeless performance in Game 1.

Evgeni Nabokov overcame a sluggish start to stop 30 shots as the Islanders won their first playoff game in more than six years.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 38 saves for Pittsburgh, which allowed the speedy Islanders to effectively counterpunch all night (see full recap).

Canadiens top Senators to tie series
MONTREAL -- Ryan White started a three-goal second period and goalie Carey Price was back in top form with 29 saves and the Montreal Canadiens downed the Ottawa Senators 3-1 to even their playoff series on Friday.

The best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal is tied 1-1 heading into Game 3 on Sunday in Ottawa.

Brendan Gallagher and Michael Ryder also scored for Montreal. Milan Michalek scored for Ottawa, which was let down by a power play that went 0-for-4.

There was anticipation of rough play after Eric Gryba's hit that saw Montreal's Lars Eller carried off the Bell Centre ice on a stretcher with a concussion and some missing teeth in Ottawa's 4-2 win in the series opener on Thursday night. Eller spent the night in hospital and was released Friday morning (see full recap).

Blackhawks roll over Wild
CHICAGO -- Patrick Sharp and Michael Frolik had two goals apiece, and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild 5-2 on Friday night in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series.

Patrick Kane added two assists as Chicago put together a strong start and impressive finish to open a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Bryan Bickell added an empty-net score to his winning goal in the Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime victory in the postseason opener Tuesday night.

Game 3 is Sunday afternoon in Minnesota.

Devin Setoguchi and Marco Scandella scored for the Wild, who are making their first postseason appearance in five years (see full recap).

Sharks beat Canucks in OT
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Raffi Torres scored at 5:31 of overtime to give the San Jose Sharks a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 2 of their playoff series Friday night.

The Sharks took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, which shifts to San Jose for games Sunday and Tuesday. San Jose was 17-2-5 at home this season.

Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, whose goal in the final minute of the third period forced overtime, also scored for San Jose.

The Canucks took their sixth consecutive loss in a home playoff game. Now, they might not get another one after winning their fifth consecutive Northwest Division title.

Ryan Kesler scored two third-period goals for Vancouver, helping the Canucks overcome a 1-0 deficit that stood since the first period (see full recap).

Claude Giroux's struggles mirroring Flyers' offensive issues

Claude Giroux's struggles mirroring Flyers' offensive issues

PITTSBURGH -- He was plus-1 with an assist.
 
No shots on goal and obviously, no goals.
 
Another day's useless energy spent by Flyers captain Claude Giroux, skating around the rink looking for the net and finding nothing but darkness.
 
He hasn't scored a goal in nine games, which is a major reason why the Flyers are 2-6-1 over that same span of time, including Saturday night's 4-2 loss to the Penguins at Heinz Field in the Stadium Series (see game recap).
 
Indoors, outdoors it makes no difference right now for Dave Hakstol's band of minstrels. As goes the captain, so go the Flyers, and it's rough sledding these days with the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference fast disappearing.
 
"Yeah, it’s frustrating," Giroux said this weekend. "You try to do the best you can do to help the team. Right now it’s not going in. I really believe we’re playing some good hockey, playing the right way and we’re going to get rewarded soon."
 
Asked whether he believed his own production is a mirrored reflection of the team he plays for, Giroux hedged.
 
"You try to play the right way, do what’s asked of you," he replied. "I've had a lot of chances, but at the end of the day, it has to go in. We’re done with excuses."
 
Thing is, Giroux really hasn’t had that many chances. Just 13 shots during this nine-game stretch. In four of those games, he had no shots at all.
 
Teammate Jakub Voracek says it’s going to come for Giroux. But when? Time is running out on the Flyers.
 
"He's always been a streaky player," Voracek said. "And not streaky that he's going to go on a tear for 10 games and then disappear for 10. He was streaky for 18 and then struggled for two, then he had another 20 games.
 
"It's only a matter of time. I think the last two games he played really well. For the guys who don't watch the hockey game, they look at the stat sheet and say, 'Oh, he didn't have any points.' But that's the way it is."
 
The Flyers used the word "desperation" before and after their outdoor loss to the Penguins. They played another pretty good overall game, but one thing stood out: they didn't make it difficult enough for Pens goalie Matt Murray in terms of traffic.
 
Pittsburgh's fourth goal was an example of what the Flyers couldn't do – screen out the goalie.
 
"I thought in the first couple periods we – not a whole lot, but I thought there were a few opportunities where we didn't make it difficult enough for [Murray] to find the puck," Hakstol said.
 
"But we had enough quality, no question. We did have good quality. Is it enough? Obviously tonight it wasn't. We didn't win the hockey game."
 
There were spurts where the Flyers carried the play, showed momentum, and then it died. When Shayne Gostisbehere made it a 3-2 affair early in the third, the Flyers needed to seize the moment. They didn't get the equalizer.
 
Eight minutes later, the Penguins scored from the point off a lost faceoff draw between Evgeni Malkin and Sean Couturier. Michal Neuvirth didn't see the puck soon enough. On Matt Cullen's wraparound goal that made it 3-1, Neuvirth was unaware.
 
Neuvirth wasn't very good in this game.
 
"There's no question they had two or three spurts where they carried some momentum for short periods of time, but I thought overall through the 60 minutes, our group did a good job and played the type of game that we wanted to play," Hakstol said.
 
Giroux was asked this weekend how much pressure he is putting on himself right now to salvage the Flyers' fading playoff hopes.
 
"It’s tough not to put a lot of pressure on yourself when it’s not going the right way," Giroux said. "At the end of the day, you have to take a step back and know what you’re playing for.
 
"I’ve been playing since I was three years old and I love the game so much, just try to go out and enjoy the game even if it’s not going your way. You have to find a way to love the game and play with passion."
 
You've seen the Flyers do that throughout all this losing – 3-7-1 in their last 11 – but passion doesn't always result in goals. Voracek had a goal in this game. His second in three games.
 
The Flyers need a bunch of guys to get going simultaneously like last season when they made their playoff charge. Over the last 16 games (6-9-1), the Flyers have scored just 25 goals. That's a bad trend that needs to be reversed immediately.
 
"Obviously, we haven't been able to score a whole lot," Hakstol said. "There's been a lot made of that. And you know what, fairly so. I think that's fair.
 
"Yet tonight, I look at the opportunities at this time of year, the type of opportunities and the number of opportunities that we generated were pretty reasonable.
 
"We've got to stick with it. We've gone through a tough stretch here, and through that stretch we've played for the vast majority, we've played some pretty good hockey.  ... We've got to make sure that we completely stay together as we have, and we've got to keep pushing the envelope."
 
Hakstol was pleading his case.
 
Whether he wins it, is another story.

Brandon Manning to face hearing for hit on Penguins' Jake Guentzel

Brandon Manning to face hearing for hit on Penguins' Jake Guentzel

As if Saturday night's deflating loss to the Penguins at Heinz Field wasn't enough, the Flyers could be coming out of the defeat minus a defenseman in the lineup.

Brandon Manning will have a hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety on Monday morning for his hit on Pittsburgh forward Jake Guentzel during the second period of the Stadium Series game.

That means a suspension is looming.

Just over three minutes into the second stanza on Saturday, Guentzel tried to corral a bouncing puck as he exited the Penguins' zone. He did not see Manning, who flattened him with a huge hit.

While the hit did seem a bit late in real speed to the naked eye, no interference penalty was called and play continued. Manning did look to leave his feet to the deliver the hit and make contact with Guentzel's head, though, so both could work against him during the hearing.

Video of the hit in question can be seen above.

Guentzel was not injured on the play, stayed in the game and finished the evening with two assists.

Manning has a clean history as he has never been suspended in the NHL.

If Manning does get suspended by the league, Michael Del Zotto is likely to draw back into the Flyers' lineup Tuesday against visiting Colorado.

Del Zotto, who is a prime candidate to be moved before Wednesday's trade deadline, has sat out the past three games as a healthy scratch.