Share this story...
Latest News

Rangers, Canadiens out to clinch 1st-round series

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Blowouts are rare this time of year in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Still, it only counts as one win.

The New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens lead their series 3-1 with every game decided by one goal.

It remains to be seen whether the St. Louis Blues can build momentum off the five-goal rout of the Minnesota Wild on the road.

It’s the only opening-round series with no one-goal decisions and yet is tied at 2-2.

After St. Louis ended a nine-game playoff road losing streak with a 6-1 victory, coach Ken Hitchcock was emphatic he expected more of the same when the Central Division champions return home for Game 5 Friday night.

“This is our game, it’s not our best game,” Hitchcock said after the Blues did all of their scoring in the first two periods. “We’re not going to chase it around the rink like we did the first three games. This is the way it’s going to be for the next little while and if they can match it, great on them.”

One more win on Friday night, and it’s on to Round 2 for the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Rangers and the Canadiens.

Both of those series have been tight, with three games combined settled in overtime.

Here’s a look at Friday night’s lineup. All times EDT:

___

Pittsburgh at New York, Rangers lead 3-1, Game 5, 7 p.m. NBCSN, MSG, ROOT

SAY HAYES KID: Rookie Kevin Hayes’ overtime goal put the Penguins on the brink of elimination. Hayes led the team with 29 points after the All-Star break.

The Rangers are 6-1 in the past seven playoff meetings against Pittsburgh.

The Penguins have scored two or fewer goals in 13 of their past 19 games and dropped consecutive home playoff games. But they nearly took Game 4 in the final minute of regulation with Henrik Lundqvist denying Patrick Hornqvist with a sliding save.

UP AGAINST IT: Sidney Crosby will have to pull off a big rally if the two-time MVP wants to extend his team’s season beyond the opening round. Pittsburgh has never overcome a 3-1 deficit in Crosby’s career.

“We can’t look at it as having to win three games to win the series, we have to make sure our mentality is to go there and win one and the great news for us is we don’t have to change a whole lot,” Crosby said.

“It’s not like we have to scramble, make adjustments and do different things. We’ve done a lot of good things and, just have to find a way to get a win and get home.”

The Penguins know it can be done: Pittsburgh has blown 3-1 deficits twice since 2011, including last year against the Rangers in the conference semifinals.

___

Ottawa at Montreal, Canadiens lead 3-1, Game 5, 7 p.m., CBC, CNBC.

BIG CUSHION: Only NHL four teams have recovered from a 3-0 series deficit — Toronto in 1942, the Islanders in 1975, Philadelphia in 2010 and Los Angeles in 2014.

Mike Hoffman, who led rookies with 27 goals in the regular season for Ottawa, scored in the third period for the lone goal of Game 4 and Craig Anderson made 28 saves for his third career playoff shutout. Hoffman was moved from the fourth line up to the second unit in the first period.

The Senators snapped a five-game playoff losing streak. Ottawa coach Dave Cameron said there hasn’t been much fretting about the win-or-else scenario.

“It’s there,” Cameron said after Game 4, “but it certainly didn’t occupy a lot of space.”

LONG MEMORIES: The Canadiens were eliminated by Ottawa in five games in the opening round in 2013, dropping the finale 6-1 at home. So there’s hunger on a roster that includes 10 players from the ’13 team.

“They got the last word tonight, but we have to reason to be embarrassed about our performance,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said.

Ottawa has kept it close behind the play of goalie Andrew Hammond. The Senators roared home 20-1-2 and finished seventh in the Eastern Conference.

Enlivening a power play would help Montreal’s chances. So would a stronger start.

The Canadiens are just 1 for 16 with the man advantage in the series and the Senators have started the scoring in all four games.

___

Minnesota at St. Louis, series tied 2-2, Game 5, 9:30 p.m. NBCSN

KEEP PUSHING: A 3-0 loss in Game 3 was apparently the Blues’ second wakeup call. The Central Division champions also struggled in the series opener, a 4-2 loss at home, then recovered for a 4-1 victory in Game 2.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the franchise’s first playoff hat trick in 11 years in Game 2 after getting no shots in Game 1. He was scoreless in Game 3 and had two goals in Game 4.

Twice, Minnesota appeared to have the upper hand. Now, the Blues aim to keep it.

“We have to have the same urgency and remember that feeling when you’re down 2-1 in the series, how desperate we were,” Blues captain David Backes said. “If we don’t bring that desperation, that urgency for 60 minutes, they’re a great team and they’ll take advantage of us.”

Blues rookie goalie Jake Allen has been a constant, allowing two or fewer goals in 12 consecutive games. He is the franchise’s first goalie to win a road playoff game since Curtis Joseph on April 8, 1990, at Toronto.

DUBNYK DILEMMA: The Wild took off after acquiring goalie Devan Dubnyk in mid-January and the former 28-year-old Arizona backup started 39 of the last 40 regular-season games. He’s coming off by far the worst showing since joining Minnesota, getting yanked in the second period after allowing six goals.

“I think he’ll react great,” coach Mike Yeo said. “I’m very, very confident in that, knowing his personality, just knowing what he’s been through No. 1 to get this opportunity and how we got our team here.”

___

AP Sports Writers Dave Campbell and Will Graves contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.