Series tied 2-2
Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff finally may be content with Kari Lehtonen between the pipes after seeing his goaltender carousel undergo several turns in the playoffs. Lehtonen is expected to be in net on Saturday afternoon as the Stars host the Central Division-rival St. Louis Blues in Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinal series.
“I’ll use the word maturity,” Ruff told reporters of Lehtonen on Friday, one day after the latter made 24 saves as Dallas evened the series with a 3-2 overtime win in Game 4. “There’s some maturity there. There’s some calmness to his game. I think he’s living off his past experience, which you want every player to do, and I think he’s trying to put that all behind him.” St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko put his three-game point drought in his rear-view mirror by scoring a goal and setting up two others in a 6-1 rout in Game 3 before adding one of each on Thursday. The 24-year-old Russian has a team-leading six tallies and 11 points in the playoffs.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, NBC, Sportsnet, TVAS
Blues – Brian Elliott (W/L: 6-5, GAA: 2.31, SAVE %: .930)
Stars – Kari Lehtonen (W/L: 5-1, GAA: 2.58, SAVE %: .906)
ABOUT THE BLUES (55-27-11, 37-42 O/U): Coach Ken Hitchcock was quick to praise Paul Stastny’s overall performance after the 30-year-old Quebec native scored his first goal of the postseason on Thursday. “He’s competing at a very high level, as high as he’s ever done since he’s been here,” Hitchcock told the team’s website of Stastny, whose 27 shots are third-best on the team. Fellow forward Jaden Schwartz is heating up of late, notching an assist in the two most recent contests to extend his point total to nine (three goals, six assists) in his last 10 games.
ABOUT THE STARS (56-25-11, 50-39 O/U): Captain Jamie Benn set up a pair of tallies on Thursday to push his postseason point total to a team-leading 14 (five goals, nine assists) and was honored the following day as a finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award, which is presented to the NHL’s “Most Outstanding Player” as voted by players. While Benn has been consistent throughout the playoffs, Patrick Sharp recorded his first two points of the series on Thursday with his club’s first power-play goal versus the Blues before assisting on Cody Eakin’s overtime tally.Tyler Seguin (Achilles) skated for the fifth straight day on Friday, but Ruff admitted that the electric forward is “not ready to play.”
* Blues are 8-2 in their last 10 road games versus a team with a home winning % of greater than .600.
* Stars are 5-0 in their last five Saturday games.
* Over is 5-1-4 in Blues last 10 overall.
* Over is 5-1-2 in Stars last eight overall.
Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals (A: +122, H: -135, O/U: 5)
Penguins lead series 3-1
The Washington Capitals don’t need to be reminded that a team can rally from a 3-1 deficit to win a series – after all, they were on the wrong side of history last year. The Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals look to stave off elimination on Saturday when they host the Metropolitan Division-rival Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
“We were in a reverse situation last year where, Game 5, you know, we had a team basically pretty well down and out,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said after his team squandered a 3-1 series advantage and succumbed to the New York Rangers. “(Captain Ryan McDonagh) threw a puck to the net and it hits one of our defensemen, goes in, and they end up winning in overtime and that sort of changed it.” While the Capitals have overcome a 3-1 series deficit on two occasions (1989, 2009), the Penguins have seen the bottom fall out in that scenario three times – with the Rangers accomplishing the feat most recently in 2014. Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang will do his best to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself when he returns from a one-game suspension to play in Saturday’s tilt.
TV: 7:15 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, TVAS
Penguins – Matt Murray (W/L: 6-1, GAA: 1.88, SAVE %: .944)
Capitals – Braden Holtby (W/L: 5-5, GAA: 1.59, SAVE %: .945)
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (55-27-9, 40-34 O/U): The line of Nick Bonino (one goal, three assists), Carl Hagelin (two goals, two assists) and Phil Kessel (two assists) have stepped it up a notch with captain Sidney Crosby (one assist) and fellow superstar Evgeni Malkin (one goal, one assist) struggling to find their offense in this series. “I think we try to push each other,” Hagelin told reporters. “We have a good mix on the line. (Bonino) is an extremely smart player, picking up passes in the middle and winning battles down low. We know Phil has a rip of a shot and is an extremely great skater … I’m just trying to be out there to find pucks, use my speed.” Bonino is tied with Crosby (three goals, six assists) and Malkin (three goals, six assists) for the team lead with nine points while Kessel’s eight points match Patric Hornqvist, who scored his club-best fifth goal 2:34 into overtime to give Pittsburgh a 3-2 win on Wednesday.
ABOUT THE CAPITALS (61-22-9, 35-38 O/U): Captain Alex Ovechkin was reunited with countryman Evgeny Kutznetsov and T.J. Oshie on the top line during Friday’s practice and Marcus Johansson joined Nicklas Backstrom and Andre Burakovsky on the second line. “Using the other side of your brain once in a while when you’re with someone different in the lineup,” Trotz told the Washington Post of the line changes. The three-time Hart Trophy-winning Ovechkin recorded 16 points in the 12 contests he was paired with Kuznetsov, who has been limited to just two points (one goal, one assist) and is a minus-4 in the playoffs.
* Penguins are 11-2 in their last 13 road games.
* Capitals are 1-6 in their last 7 Conference Semi finals games.
* Over is 15-5-6 in Penguins last 26 games following a win.
* Under is 10-2-6 in Capitals last 18 Conference Semi finals games.
Nashville Predators at San Jose Sharks (A: +144, H: -160, O/U: 5)
Series tied 2-2
The San Jose Sharks need to have short memories as they return home to face the Nashville Predators on Saturday night in Game 5 of their Western Conference second-round series. The Sharks were inches from taking a commanding 3-1 series lead over Nashville in Thursday’s Game 4, only to have an apparent goal waved off before the Predators prevailed 4-3 in three overtimes.
“That rule has been as clear as mud to every coach in the league all year, so why should it be different now?” San Jose coach Peter DeBoer vented to reporters after captain Joe Pavelski’s overtime goal was negated due to goaltender interference. The Sharks owned the league’s best road record, but dropped both games in Nashville to turn it into a best-of-three series. Mike Fisher delivered the game-winning goal to end Thurday’s marathon for the Predators, who won three times in Anaheim in the first round. “To win a game like that is big,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “If you think about the other scenario, you’re 3-1 the other way. This ties it up 2-2; it shortens the series. Our guys played like champs (on Thursday).”
TV: 10 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, TVAS
Predators – Pekka Rinne (W/L: 6-5, GAA: 2.22, SAVE %: .922)
Sharks – Martin Jones (W/L: 6-3, GAA: 2.32, SAVE %: .928)
ABOUT THE PREDATORS (47-32-14, 36-36 O/U): The bold move by Laviolette to scratch veteran Mike Ribeiro in Game 3 and elevate Fisher to a line with Colin Wilson and James Neal has paid huge dividends for Nashville, as the unit combined for all four goals in Thursday’s victory – including Neal’s tying tally with just over four minutes left in regulation. Wilson continued his postseason heroics with another tally, giving him three goals and four assists during a five-game point streak after scoring only six times during the regular season. Pekka Rinne continues to be immense in net for the Predators, turning aside 44 shots Thursday and surrendering only six goals in the past three contests.
ABOUT THE SHARKS (52-31-8, 46-35 O/U): Lost in the hullabaloo over Pavelski’s non-goal was another superlative performance by defenseman Brent Burns, who scored a pair of goals in Game 4 and has registered multiple points in five of the nine postseason contests. Logan Couture was denied a goal on a highlight-reel move, but he still collected a pair of assists to boost his point total to nine over the past five games. “It’s just fun hockey,” Couture said. “If you’re not having a great time out there playing in overtime, you’re doing the wrong thing. It was a blast.”
* Predators are 7-21 in the last 28 meetings in San Jose.
* Sharks are 4-1 in their last five home games.
* Over is 4-0-2 in Predators last six road games versus a team with a losing home record.
* Over is 3-0-3 in Sharks last six overall.