A CHALLENGER HAS EMERGED.
A thriller of a series between the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs came to a close last night in overtime of Game 6. Marcus Johansson scored at 6:31 of the extra frame to eliminate the Maple Leafs and set up a second round series between the Penguins and Capitals for the second straight season. The Pens won last year’s meeting in six games on route to the Stanley Cup.
Here is the schedule for the matchup:
One way the long layoff has benefitted the Pens is a few of the remaining injured players have made strides in their recovery. Forward Chris Kunitz and defenseman Chad Ruhwedel both returned to practice on Sunday wearing no-contact jerseys. [Penguins]
While some guys return to ice there is still one big piece missing. Goaltender Matt Murray has not returned to the ice in any capacity since being injured in warmups before Game 1 against Columbus. It appears Marc-Andre Fleury will be back in goal when Round 2 kicks off. [TSN]
There has been no greater insurance policy in hockey this year than Marc-Andre Fleury. Following a solid regular season, Fleury has been stellar in relief of an injured Murray through the first round of the playoffs. [Globe and Mail]
For long stretches in the first round it was apparent Conor Sheary was struggling on the top line alongside Sidney Crosby and Jake Gunetzel. Late in Game 5 head coach Mike Sullivan bumped Sheary to the third line and replaced the winger with Patric Hornqvist for the remainder of the game. [Trib Live]
Although he has been relegated to the third line, Sheary has no plans of making that a permanent home. The young winger plans on working through his slump quickly and reclaim his spot with Sid and Jake. [Times Online]
Shaking off some nerves and rust after missing the final month of the season, Evgeni Malkin returned to the Pens lineup in a big way in Round 1. In just five games played, Geno leads playoff scoring with 11 points. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
News and notes from around the NHL...
Over a decade since their last series win, the Edmonton Oilers closed out the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 on Saturday night with a 3-1 victory. They will face the Anaheim Ducks in the second round. [NBC Sports]
Long seen as the head coach in waiting, on Sunday the Los Angeles Kings promoted long time assistant John Stevens to head coach. Stevens will replace Darryl Sutter behind the bench whom he won two Stanley Cups with as his assistant. [ESPN]