National Hockey League

      ***** National Hockey League Previews from The Sports Network *****
                             Wednesday, April 23rd
                              (All times Eastern)
 ( - The Pittsburgh Penguins will try to move one win away
 from advancing to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs when
 they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets for Wednesday's Game 4 at Nationwide
 The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, hope to put a Game 3 collapse behind them and
 secure the first home playoff win in franchise history as they attempt to even
 the best-of-seven series at 2-2.
 The first three games of this set between Metropolitan Division combatants
 have shown us two-goal leads in this series aren't safe. So far, the loser of
 each game in this series held a two-goal cushion at one point but couldn't
 hold it.
 On Monday, Columbus scored twice in the first four minutes of regulation, but
 Pittsburgh tallied four of the game's last five goals to take the road
 contest, 4-3.
 The Blue Jackets opened the scoring with Boone Jenner's goal at 1:38 of the
 first and Jack Johnson scored 1:40 later to stake Columbus to a 2-0 lead. The
 score remained that way until Brooks Orpik beat Sergei Bobrovsky with two
 seconds left in the second period.
 Columbus restored its two-goal lead just 1:04 into the third stanza when Cam
 Atkinson hit the net to make it a 3-1 game, but it was all Pittsburgh from
 there. Brandon Sutter, Lee Stempniak and Olli Maatta scored on three straight
 shots in a 2:13 span to give the Penguins all the offense they would need to
 grab a 2-1 edge in the series.
 "We just stayed with it," said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who had an
 assist but remains without a goal in the series. "We knew there was a lot of
 hockey left. I thought we out-played them, at least in the second and third
 Pittsburgh's game-deciding barrage began when Brandon Sutter deflected Paul
 Martin's shot from the high right side at 5:53 of the third. Lee Stempniak
 scored on a deft pass from Chris Kunitz behind a trailing defenseman at the
 7:03 mark to tie it up and Jussi Jokinen scored 63 seconds later to give the
 Pens the 4-3 lead.
 "We got caught playing their game, a little bit of the run-and-gun," said
 Columbus forward Nick Foligno. "Their transition is so quick and that's what
 kind of caught us a couple of times. It was just a lucky bounce with that
 fourth one, but that's playoff hockey."
 Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury allowed two goals on the first three
 shots he faced but stopped 16 of the last 17. Fleury's teammates had
 opportunities to give him a bigger cushion, but Pittsburgh failed to score on
 six chances with the man advantage.
 The visitors also outshot Columbus 41-20 in the contest and that includes a
 16-7 advantage in the first period when the Blue Jackets grabbed the 2-0
 Bobrovsky had stopped all 25 Penguins shots until Orpik's goal in the waning
 seconds of the middle stanza. He finished with 37 saves.
 The Blue Jackets fell to 0-3 in playoff games at Nationwide Arena. They were
 playing on the five-year anniversary of their first home playoff game, a 4-1
 loss to Detroit in Game 3 of the 2009 Western Conference quarterfinals. The
 Red Wings also won Game 4 that year at Nationwide Arena to sweep the Blue
 Columbus is 0-4 against at home against the division champion Penguins since
 the start of 2013-14, but the club hopes to reverse that trend tonight and
 finally earn a home postseason win.
 "I don't think Game 4 can come fast enough," said Johnson.
 Pittsburgh finished 16 points ahead of fourth-place Columbus in the
 Metropolitan and also went 5-0-0 against the Blue Jackets during the 2013-14
 season series.
 The Blue Jackets were 22-15-4 as the host this season, but Pittsburgh was a
 solid 23-15-3 on the road.
 This series will head back to Pittsburgh for Game 5, which is scheduled for
 Fedor Tyutin missed Monday's game due to an upper-body injury. He did skate in
 Tuesday's optional practice and expects to sit out a second straight game
 ( - The Dallas Stars hope to pick up another win on home ice
 and even the Western Conference quarterfinals at two games apiece, as they
 host the Anaheim Ducks in Wednesday's Game 4 at American Airlines Center.
 The Ducks picked up a pair of one-goal wins in Games 1 and 2 on home ice, but
 Dallas cut its series deficit in half with Monday's 3-0 victory in Big D. It
 was the club's first playoff win since a victory over Detroit in Dallas' run
 to the Western Conference finals in 2008.
 Kari Lehtonen came up huge for the Stars in Game 3, making 37 saves for his
 first playoff win and shutout. Lehtonen was 0-2 for the now-relocated Atlanta
 Thrashers during the 2007 playoffs, but improved his career postseason mark to
 1-4 on Monday.
 "I think tonight when the puck was coming at me, it always seemed to hit
 something or bounce past me," said Lehtonen. "In the two other games, I felt
 like all those kind of plays seemed to go the other way. Some nights it goes
 that way no matter what you try to do. I've learned that my game doesn't get
 better if I start trying to over-do things and be more aggressive."
 Stars head coach Lindy Ruff praised his 30-year-old goaltender for setting the
 tone in Game 3.
 "I think tonight (Lehtonen) made a statement that he was determined to be
 better than he was in the previous game," said Ruff. "And I asked all the
 players to be determined to be better in some small areas and I thought we
 were tonight."
 Jamie Benn, Ryan Garbutt and Valeri Nichushkin all scored for the Stars, who
 were outscored by a slim 7-5 margin in the first two games of the series.
 Although it forced its way back into the series with Monday's win, Dallas
 cannot afford to take its foot of the gas in Game 4. If the Stars lose tonight
 that would give Anaheim a chance to end the series Friday evening in Anaheim.
 Frederik Andersen made 19 stops in the loss for the Ducks, who were shut out
 for the first time since a 2-0 home loss against Chicago on Feb. 5. Anaheim
 also was shut out in Game 3 of the opening round for the second straight
 spring. The Ducks lost Game 3 in Detroit by a 4-0 score on May 4, 2013 and
 wound up losing the Western Conference quarterfinal series in seven games.
 In addition to dropping Game 3 in Dallas, the Stars also lost defenseman
 Stephane Robidas for the remainder of the postseason with a broken leg.
 Robidas was injured early in the second period during a collision with Garbutt
 and was taken to a local hospital. The team later said that he suffered a
 fractured right leg.
 He was making his return to Dallas, which traded him to Anaheim in March. At
 the time of the trade, he was recovering from a fracture in the same leg -- a
 bit lower than this one -- that kept him off the ice for close to four months.
 Robidas was ruled out for the rest of the playoffs on Tuesday.
 "It's a huge loss because he was playing great," said Anaheim head coach Bruce
 Boudreau. "And of course, I think all the guys on the bench felt extremely bad
 for him. Here's your teammate who's just fought his way back from a broken
 Either Mark Fistric or Luca Sbisa expects to enter the lineup in Robidas'
 absence on Wednesday.
 Sbisa had one goal and five assists over 30 regular-season games in 2013-14.
 The 24-year-old has one assist over 12 career playoff games. Fistric, a former
 Stars defenseman, had one goal and five assists in 34 tilts for Anaheim this
 season. He has never registered a point in nine career playoff games -- all of
 which came with Dallas.
 Dallas was 23-11-7 as the home team in 2013-14 and beat the Ducks, 6-3, on
 Nov. 26 in the lone regular-season meeting between the clubs in Big D. Anaheim
 was 25-12-4 as the visiting club this season.
 This series marks the third all-time playoff meeting between these clubs and
 first since the Stars bested the Ducks in six games during the 2008 Western
 Conference quarterfinals.
 ( - The Chicago Blackhawks cut their series' deficit in half
 with a win on home ice. On Wednesday, the defending Stanley Cup champions hope
 to draw even with the St. Louis Blues when they host Game 4 at United Center.
 St. Louis won the first two games of this best-of-seven series on home ice,
 taking both contests despite Chicago carrying a lead into the final two
 minutes of the third period in each battle. The Blackhawks fell 4-3 in triple
 overtime in Thursday's Game 1 before falling by the same score in the first OT
 on Saturday.
 Chicago, however, shrugged off those frustrating losses to notch Monday's 2-0
 home win over the Blues. Corey Crawford turned in a clutch performance for the
 Blackhawks, stopping all 34 shots he faced.
 Meanwhile, the only Blackhawk to score on Ryan Miller was Jonathan Toews, who
 beat the St. Louis netminder with a wrister less than five minutes into
 the game. The only other tally came when Marcus Kruger sealed the win by
 scoring with Miller pulled in the final minute of the third period.
 After allowing four goals in each of the first two games of this Western
 Conference quarterfinal matchup, Crawford notched the third shutout of his
 playoff career in Game 3. The 29-year-old had one shutout in a 23-game playoff
 run for Chicago last spring and also posted a 1.84 goals against average in
 the 2013 playoffs to help the Blackhawks win their second Stanley Cup title in
 four years.
 Crawford stopped 15 shots in the first period, eight in the second and 11 in
 the third to blank St. Louis on Monday. His last save of the game came on an
 Alex Pietrangelo shot that was re-directed in the final minute.
 "That was a big win for us but we have to keep the same mentality," said
 Crawford. "Just because we came here and got the first one at home doesn't
 mean it's going to be easy. We have to be prepared to work even harder and
 keep the same good feelings we had in this game."
 While Chicago tries to maintain momentum in Game 4, the Blues are hoping to
 avoid a repeat of last year when they posted a pair of 2-1 wins over Los
 Angeles to open the first round, then lost the next four games.
 "We knew this was going to be a long series," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock.
 "We really played hard and played well and did a lot of things we needed to do
 to win the game, but you have to give their goalie credit. He was good."
 Miller stopped 23-of-24 shots he faced in this one, only letting Toews'
 seemingly harmless shot from the top of the left circle get past him. Toews
 took the shot with Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk in front of him, and it
 squeaked through Miller's legs. The score stayed 1-0 until Kruger knocked home
 an empty-netter with 20 seconds remaining.
 "After that I feel like I competed an battled," said Miller of his play after
 allowing the soft goal from Toews. "There are going to be moments where things
 aren't going to go your way, you just have to keep moving forward."
 Of course, both teams were missing top players on Monday, as Chicago
 defenseman Brent Seabrook began serving his three-game suspension for the
 check that knocked David Backes out of Game 2. Backes also was out with an
 upper-body injury after Seabrook drove his shoulder into the Blues captain's
 face, sending him head-first into the corner boards.
 That play resulted in a five-minute charging major for Seabrook and eventually
 led to Vladimir Tarasenko's power-play goal, which tied Game 2 for St. Louis
 with just 6.4 seconds left in regulation. After Tarasenko evened the score,
 Barret Jackman scored 5:50 into overtime to give St. Louis a 2-0 series lead.
 Seabrook won't be available to return in this series until Game 6, if the
 matchup goes that long. Hitchcock said Tuesday that Backes could be "back in
 the next two or three games" but the St. Louis forward will miss a second
 straight game on Wednesday.
 The Blackhawks boasted an impressive 27-7-7 record at the United Center in the
 2013-14 regular season. That included a 2-0-1 mark against the Blues during
 the five-game season series.
 However, if St. Louis is able to pick up a win tonight on the road tonight it
 will have a chance to wrap up this series on home ice. The Blues are set to
 host Game 5 at Scottrade Center on Friday.
 04/23 10:50:05 ET

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