NHL

Cullen: Notes on St. Louis, Crosby, Nash, Suter, more

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Scott Cullen
5/12/2014 2:01:13 AM
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The Rangers force Game Seven, the Blackhawks hold on home ice; notes on Martin St. Louis, Sidney Crosby, Rick Nash, Ryan Suter, Jonathan Toews, Bryan Bickell and more.

RANGERS PUSH BACK

Facing elimination once again, the New York Rangers took a 3-1 decision against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six, forcing the series to Game Seven.

In the wake of his mother's sudden passing this week, Rangers RW Martin St. Louis has been put more in the spotlight, particularly with Sunday's game falling on Mother's Day, and St. Louis got the Rangers on the board first, scoring 3:34 into the game. It hasn't been a glorious run for St. Louis with the Rangers, scoring four goals and 15 points in 32 (regular season plus playoff) games, but this was his first goal since Game Three against Philadelphia. If he's able to perform through this adversity, that's a real credit to him in what is surely a difficult time.

Pittsburgh's lone goal of Game Six came from C Brandon Sutter, who now has five goals in the playoffs; only Evgeni Malkin and Jussi Jokinen, both with six, have more for the Penguins.

Penguins C Sidney Crosby was held off the scoresheet again, despite playing 24:23. Crosby has been a dominant player in the playoffs, even though his point totals haven't followed. He has three points in the series, and one goal in a dozen playoff games, but the Penguins ultimately need goals when Crosby is on the ice and, to this point in the postseason, Crosby has been on the ice for eight goals for and eight goals against during 5-on-5 play.

That frustration appeared to boil over in Game Six, with Crosby getting into a confrontation with Rangers C Dominic Moore, which then led to Rangers G Henrik Lundqvist squirting Crosby with a water bottle in the ensuing pile-up.

The best of the Rangers in terms of Game Six possession stats was D Kevin Klein, on for 11 5-on-5 shot attempts for and five against. Klein is getting limited ice time, ranking sixth among Rangers defencemen in the postseason, but he has the best possession stats among Rangers blueliners and the second-best on the team.

The one player with better possession stats than Klein, RW Rick Nash, maintains that lead despite getting overrun Sunday. With Nash on the ice, at 5-on-5, the Rangers had four shot attempts for and 22 against (15.4%); with Nash off the ice, the Rangers had 52.1% of the 5-on-5 shot attempts. A bad possession game puts the exclamation mark on Nash's postseason struggles -- he has no goals in his 51 shots on goal. He's now seven away from the playoff record for most shots on goal without scoring, set last year by Jaromir Jagr.

That the Rangers are taking this series to Game Seven, despite Nash's ongoing struggles and limited production from St. Louis, is a testament to the rest of the club but, to some degree, the same can be said for the Penguins, who are still waiting for Crosby to break out offensively.

With Game Seven all that's left to decide which team goes to the Eastern Conference Final, it's a prime opportunity for the stars on either side to make the difference.

BLACKHAWKS HOLD HOME ICE

After a slow start at home in Game Five, the Chicago Blackhawks picked up their game, and won 2-1 over the Minnesota Wild, taking a 3-2 lead in a series in which the home team has won every game.

Minnesota's first-period goal came from rookie C Erik Haula, who has been a nice playoff contributor with three goals and six points in a dozen games, and the line of Haula, Matt Cooke and Justin Fontaine had the best possession stats among Wild forwards. D Jared Spurgeon had the best possession stats for the Wild, on the ice for 19 5-on-5 shots for and and nine against (67.9%).

On the other hand, Wild D Ryan Suter, who played a game-high 28:32, was on the ice for 14 shot attempts for and 28 against (his most against in the playoffs). Suter gets charged with facing both of the Blackhawks' top scoring lines but, on this night, he was getting stuck in his own end all too often.

Chicago's second-period rally brought goals from LW Bryan Bickell and C Jonathan Toews. Bickell scored his team-leading sixth goal of the playoffs, on the power play, but was part of a very effective line with Peter Regin and Kris Versteeg; all three were on the ice for at least 68.8% of the 5-on-5 shot attempts.

The game-winner came from C Jonathan Toews, who was re-united with LW Patrick Sharp and RW Marian Hossa, as Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was shuffling lines. Toews had a dominant game, with 76.0% of shot attempts.

Chicago set the pairing of Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya out, primarily, against Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville, and Oduya had the game's best possession stats, on the ice for 16 shot attempts for and four against.

The Blackhawks controlled play significantly, but the win didn't come easily for them, and isn't really a surprise given how the first four games of the series played out. They'll have a chance to finish off the Wild in Minnesota for Game Six but, considering that the Wild are 5-0 at home in the playoffs, outscoring opponents 16-5, it will come as no surprise if this series has to go the distance.

 

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Rick Nash (Photo: Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)
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