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Lightning evens finals with 4-3 win

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Lightning evens finals with 4-3 win

Andrei Vasilevskiy had no warning before Ben Bishop skated over to the Tampa Bay bench and went up the tunnel. Just like that, a 20-year-old Russian rookie was playing goalie for the Lightning in the third period of a tied Stanley Cup Final game.

Vasilevskiy barely had time to feel any nerves before the Lightning scored. Bishop returned -- and then left again, apparently struggling with an undisclosed injury.

But with his Tampa Bay teammates playing ferociously in front of him, Vasilevskiy had nothing to fear as the Lightning tied the series.

Jason Garrison scored the tiebreaking power-play goal with 11:11 to play, Vasilevskiy made five saves in a strange 9:13 of relief work, and the Lightning beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in Game 2 on Saturday night to even the series.

"Nervous? Just maybe a little bit," Vasilevskiy said. "But after the first couple shots, I feel myself better. Every game I'm ready, and I keep my head ready for the game, and that's it. ... First time, maybe more nervous. But second time, just play and that's it."

Tyler Johnson and Cedric Paquette also scored, but the Lightning's revived offensive effort was somewhat overshadowed by three goalie changes in the third period.

Vasilevskiy earned his first career playoff victory, and the Lightning refused to say exactly what happened to Bishop or give any indication of his prognosis.

"No one really knew what was going on," Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos said. "We were kind of listening to the announcements for who was in net for our team a couple of times. But depth has been a part for our success all season, and it showed in the net tonight, as well."

While a promising prospect, Vasilevskiy is greener than the Chicago River on St. Patrick's Day: He has 16 regular-season games of NHL experience, and he had played in just two games since March 31. But the Russian came in for 92 seconds before Garrison scored the go-ahead goal, and he returned to finish the game with 7:41 to play.

With his jarring No. 88 jersey and 45 previous minutes of NHL playoff experience, Vasilevskiy handled his surprise assignment splendidly. Although he didn't have to touch the puck on his first time in net, he made an outstanding pad save with less than five minutes to play as Tampa Bay killed a penalty, and he stayed strong while Tampa Bay prevented Chicago from mounting another third-period comeback.

"We just told him to have fun," Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman said about Vasilevskiy. "I have no idea what went through his head, but he's a calm kid. Even if he knows that he's not going to play, he always prepares for every game and does everything he can to be ready."

Nikita Kucherov had a goal and an assist for the Lightning, who played with all the aggression they lacked in the third period of Game 1 when Chicago rallied late to win.

The Lightning didn't say why Bishop left the game, came back and left again. He complained of interference on Brent Seabrook's tying goal early in the third period, but played on for several minutes.

Game 3 is Monday night in Chicago.

Andrew Shaw and Teuvo Teravainen scored 2:16 apart early in the second period for the Blackhawks.

"Regardless of who's in net, we were trying to find a way to tie that game in the end," said Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, who set up Seabrook's goal. "But sometimes those ones slip away from you. We just kept giving up goals every time we tied the game or got ourselves back into it. We just ran out of time."

Patrick Sharp took two penalties 2:18 apart in the third period, and the Lightning scored the winner on the second power play.

"It was something I don't think I've ever done before," Sharp said. "It happened. You move on from it. I take responsibility and apologize to our penalty killers for putting them under such stress."

With Sharp in the box, Garrison put the Lightning ahead when his shot apparently deflected off a Chicago player in front of Corey Crawford, who stopped 20 shots in an uninspiring effort. The goal was just Garrison's second of the postseason and his first since April 27.

The Lightning again showed off the resilience that got them to this lofty height, improving to 4-0 in Game 2 of their four postseason series after going 1-3 in Game 1. Tampa Bay has lost two straight games only once in the entire playoffs.

The Lightning blamed their 2-1 loss in the opener on too much caution in the third period, when Chicago scored two late goals to win. Neither team showed any particular caution from the start of Game 2, skating aggressively and working hard for offensive chances.

Paquette put a long shot through heavy traffic late in the first period for his first goal since April 27, ending a 13-game drought.

Shaw made his biggest impact on Game 1 when he apparently bit Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, but he evened Game 2 early in the second by outfighting Garrison for a loose puck.

During a power play moments later, Teravainen scored his third goal in two games off Marian Hossa's setup. The Lightning swiftly tied it up on a back-to-the-net, between-his-own-legs deflection by the gifted Kucherov.

Johnson then ended his five-game goal drought with his NHL-leading 13th goal of the postseason. Crawford probably should have saved the backhand, but it slid across his sweater and dropped in for Johnson's first goal since Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Seabrook evened it with 16:22 left in the third, teeing up a hard shot with no opposition after the Tampa Bay defense got distracted by captain Jonathan Toews. Bishop claimed Hossa interfered with him on top of his crease, but the goal stood.

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Jonas Siegenthaler earns first NHL point and plays like he belongs in win over Carolina

Jonas Siegenthaler earns first NHL point and plays like he belongs in win over Carolina

The Capitals released the unfortunate news on Friday that defenseman Christian Djoos is out indefinitely after undergoing a surgical procedure in his left thigh. It is rare that a team can lose one of its top-six defensemen and not miss a beat, but if Friday’s game is any indication, the Caps will be just fine with keeping Jonas Siegenthaler in the lineup.

“He’s got a pretty calm mentality and I think he’s found ways to ramp it up a bit to play in the NHL level,” Braden Holtby told reporters Friday. “It’s a good quality to have.”

Siegenthaler turned in another strong performance in Friday’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes, just the sixth NHL game of his career. He also recorded his first career point, a primary assist on Alex Ovechkin’s first goal.

The rookie defenseman grabbed the puck at the blue line in the first period and skated in. Ovechkin turned his body to face Siegenthaler and held his stick up waiting for the one-timer. Siegenthaler fed him the puck which Ovechkin rocketed past goalie Scott Darling.

Ovechkin made sure to grab the puck as a keepsake for the rookie on his first point.

The assist was Siegenthaler’s only point of the night, but he was also instrumental in setting up Ovechkin’s second goal of the game.

Ovechkin held the puck near the blue line, closely guarded by defenseman Dougie Hamilton. Siegenthaler crossed in front of Ovechkin and knocked into Hamilton which opened up plenty of space for Ovechkin to make a play.

To be fair, the call could have easily been called for interference and Carolina head coach Rod Brind’Amour voiced his displeasure to the referees over the no-call on the bench. At best it was a pick play, but considering the erroneous holding penalty Ovechkin was called for earlier in the second which resulted in a goal for the Hurricanes, things certainly leveled out.

Siegenthaler’s play on Ovechkin’s second goal was notable because that is more of the type of impact you can expect to see from him. He is a physical presence on the ice and he’s not afraid to show it despite only being a rookie. Just as importantly, however, is that he also is not reckless with it.

Young, physical players can often make the mistake of being too timid when they enter the NHL, thus negating a strength of their game, or they can be reckless with throwing their body around leading to mistakes such as taking bad penalties or playing out of position to make a hit. Siegenthaler has done neither since getting recalled and his steady demeanor on the blue line certainly has caught the attention of his netminder.

“He doesn’t panic or anything and he’s making quicker plays now too,” Holtby said. “He’s got an NHL talent, that’s for sure. He’s still extremely young and the way he’s playing, he’s going to be a really good D-man. He’s already there. He’s filled in really well.”

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Another Ovechkin hat trick, another Capitals win

Another Ovechkin hat trick, another Capitals win

This is getting a little silly. 

Alex Ovechkin, at age 33, matched the longest point-scoring streak of his career and recorded his second hat trick in a row. What else is there to say? 

The Capitals beat the Carolina Hurricanes 6-5 in a shootout in Raleigh on Friday night. They rallied from 4-1 down to beat a Metropolitan Division rival and have now won 12 of their past 15 games. They’re rolling. 

But all you can talk about after these games is Ovechkin, who now has 28 goals in 31 games to lead the NHL. He’ll cool off eventually. But there’s no sign of that happening any time soon. Ovechkin has a five-goal lead over Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine. He is seventh overall in points with 42. 

Ovechkin is the 18th different player since 1943-44 to score at least 28 goals in his team's first 31 games, and third to do so since 1993-94. The others: Jaromir Jagr in 1995-96 (28 goals) and 1996-97 (30 goals) and Mario Lemieux in 1995-96 (29 goals). 

Only 14 players have recorded consecutive hat tricks multiple times. Ovechkin is now one of them. He leads all active players with 22 hat tricks and just tied Teemu Selanne for 11th all time. 

Ovechkin would tie Bengt Gustafsson for fifth-longest point streak in team history if he has a point in Saturday’s game against Buffalo. The numbers almost become numbing.

He’s leading the way for a team five points clear of second-place Columbus in the Metropolitan Division. The Caps are also seven ahead of third-place Pittsburgh. But Ovechkin isn’t the only reason. 

On a night where Braden Holtby struggled, including the gaffe behind the net trying a clear that led to Carolina tying the game at 13:48 of the third period in a 5-4 game, others produced. Tom Wilson scored again. His goal at 12:37 of the second period started the comeback from 4-1 down.

Give the fourth line credit. The trio of Nic Dowd, Travis Boyd and Dmitrij Jaskin is a factor almost every night. They played their fourth game together in a row and Boyd tipped home the goal that cut the deficit to 4-3. In this stretch Dowd has five assists, including three against the Hurricanes. Boyd has five points (three goals, two assists) and Jaskin is the physical moral compass of the line. He has a goal and an assist. Overall, Dowd has 10 points in his past 10 games (three goals, seven assists).

John Carlson also had three assists, including the primary on Boyd’s goal and then Ovechkin’s power-play goal at 9:49 of the third period. He’s up to 35 points (five goals, 30 assists) and well on his way to passing last year’s career-best 68. He is again quietly tied with Ottawa’s Thomas Chabot for most points by a defenseman this season.   

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