Cullen: Canucks in control; Rangers bounce back at home

Scott Cullen
4/18/2011 9:10:33 AM
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The Canucks put the Blackhawks on the brink, the Predators dominated in a one-goal win and the Rangers weren't ready to roll over against the Capitals.

The Rangers outshot the Capitals 35-25, including 16-11 in the third period, in what was a must-win game for the Blueshirts to stay in the series.

Brandon Dubinsky paced the Rangers, not only scoring the winning goal with 1:39 left in the third period, but he also assisted on the Rangers' second goal, was plus-2 for the game and played a game-high 25:45.  As the Rangers wait for Marian Gaborik to light the lamp for the first time since March 20, it's imperative that Dubinsky contribute and he did that and more Sunday.

Dubinsky also has a bit of a rivalry going with Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin who, in the losing effort, still put up a goal and an assist. Times are changing for Ovechkin.  He played 19:32, which is a full night's work for many forwards, yet it ranked fourth among Washington forwards.

Even though Ovechkin is putting up points, the Rangers have to be satisfied with the efforts of Marc Staal and Dan Girardi who, as the primary defensive pair matched up against Ovechkin, have limited him to three shots on goal in the last two games (something that, incidentally, hasn't happened since December).

A shot-blocking force in the first couple of games, Capitals defenceman Karl Alzner was victimized by the Rangers' top line in the third period and ended up minus-2 on the game and his 18:19 of ice time was his lowest in the last 17 games.

Alexander Semin led the Capitals with six shots on Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, but couldn't find the back of the net.  He has one goal -- the OT winner in Game One -- on 11 shots in the series, so he's going to fare better than last year's no goals on 44 shots in the first round against Montreal.

There was a lot of talk, after two games, about how impressive the Capitals were taking a 2-0 series lead, with perhaps not enough attention paid to the fact that one of the wins came in overtime or that both games were at home.  Now, if the Capitals are going to take a stranglehold of this series, they'd better take Game Four at MSG.

In a game that was closer on the scoreboard than it really had a right to be, the Nashville Predators outlasted the Anaheim Ducks 4-3, while outshooting the Ducks 37-16.

The Predators seemed to have the game well under control until the Ducks turned the game ugly late in the second period.  Some after-the-whistle roughing following a scrap between Ryan Getzlaf and Mike Fisher somehow got the Ducks back into the game.  More specifically, Teemu Selanne connected on a power play goal, then tallied again 30 seconds later to knot things at two after two, even though the shots were 27-10 in favour of Nashville at that point.

Nashville's star defence pairing of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber controlled the game. Suter was outstanding, recording two assists and a plus-2 rating while playing a game-high 27:55.  Weber played a couple minutes less, but was a tidy plus-3, an effective counter to Anaheim's Getzlaf, who was minus-2 and in the dressing room serving his fighting major when Anaheim scored their first two goals.

In addition to dropping the gloves with Getzlaf, Fisher scored the winning goal midway through the third period, giving him five points in the first three games of this series.  Fisher also finished the regular season on a roll, with eight points in the last seven games so, with 13 points, he's matched the best 10-game point total of his career (Dec. 2007-Jan. 2008).

With Bobby Ryan serving the first of his two-game suspension for stomping on Jonathon Blum's foot, the Ducks inserted rookie Brandon McMillan on the wing with Getzlaf and Corey Perry.  He added a physical element, registering five hits, but didn't have a shot on goal in 18:22 of ice time.

Even though the game ended up being close, the Ducks have to be significantly better if they hope to get out of Nashville with a split and it's not going to be easy with Ryan out for the next game as well.

While they did end up with a pair of power play goals, the Chicago Blackhawks couldn't capitalize enough on their early power plays to put the Canucks away.  Roberto Luongo was terrific, making several spectacular saves to keep it a one-goal game in the first period, giving Vancouver an opportunity to climb back and take the lead.

Christian Ehrhoff and the Sedin Twins each had two points and Mikael Samuelsson scored the winner in the third period.

The game was hit-and-miss for Chicago's stars, however.  Joanthan Toews had two assists and Sharp scored the Blackhawks' second goal, but Patrick Kane came up empty, despite playing a season-high 26:15, and Marian Hossa is still looking for his first point of the series.

Blackhawks defenceman Brent Seabrook was clocked by Canucks winger Raffi Torres, twice, and while Torres was penalized (leading to Sharp's power play goal), it seems reasonable to wonder if the league's new concussion protocol presents a double-edged sword.

On one hand, of course, it's good to have players get checked out when there is suspicion of a head injury. 

On the other, if a bone-rattling (or head-jarring) hit could take a top-pair defenceman out of the game for at least 15 minutes, while they go to the quiet room for observation, that isn't exactly incentive for a forward coming in on the forecheck to think twice about launching at the defenceman's noggin.  The rules are new, so I'm going to be interested to see how they play out.

(It's also a different look to see the Blackhawks split up the defence pairing of Seabrook and Duncan Keith, as Keith played with Nick Leddy and Seabrook with Niklas Hjalmarsson in five-on-five situations.)

Now that they are up three games to none, the Canucks are on the verge of exorcising their Blackhawks demons.  With a lineup that is depleted by injuries, the Blackhawks hope that they might have Dave Bolland back for Game Four, but Chicago effectively needs a miracle to come back in this series.  So far it's been an impressive showing by Luongo and the Canucks, who appear ready for bigger and better challenges in the next round.

Scott Cullen can be reached at and followed on Twitter at For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

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