NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 18, 2016

Playoff recaps and more in today’s collection of notable NHL headlines.  NHL Playoff Recaps STLTODAY/CHICAGO TRIBUNE: A late-game high-sticking penalty by Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane set the stage for Jaden Schwartz’s game-winning goal to give the St. Louis Blues a 3-2 victory in Game 3 of their best-of-seven series. The Blues overcame a 2-1 […]

Predators edge Ducks to take franchise’s 1st 2-0 series lead

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Craig Smith had a goal and an assist, Pekka Rinne made 27 saves and the Nashville Predators confidently claimed their second straight road victory to open their first-round series, 3-2 over the Anaheim Ducks in Game 2 on Sunday night.

Shea Weber and Mattias Ekholm also scored as the Predators took a 2-0 playoff series lead for the first time in franchise history with another win over the Pacific Division champions.

Smith got the tiebreaking goal midway through the second period on a slick setup from Forsberg, and Weber's booming shot put the Predators up 3-1 during a power play.

Nate Thompson cut into the lead with 2:42 to play, but Nashville closed out just its second road playoff victory since 2012.

Game 3 is Tuesday night in Nashville.

Andrew Cogliano scored and John Gibson stopped 24 shots for the Ducks, who have lost four straight postseason games dating to last year's Western Conference finals.

Related: Neal slyly tries to poke stick through Gibson's mask

The Ducks, who lost their regular-season home finale, hadn't lost three straight at Honda Center since mid-November. That was well before their phenomenal run from 29th place in the NHL standings to their fourth straight Pacific Division title.

That run won't last much longer if Anaheim can't solve the Predators, who have won just two playoff series in their entire franchise history - the same number won by Anaheim last season.

Roman Josi and Filip Forsberg each had two assists as Nashville took command of the series and silenced a boisterous arena in Game 2.

The Predators matched Anaheim's physical play, while Forsberg led an opportunistic offense in front of Rinne. The imposing Finnish goalie has outplayed Gibson, the rookie who has lost four straight postseason starts since 2014.

Neither team dominated the series opener, won 3-2 by the Predators. Anaheim gave up an opening-minute goal in Game 1, but held the Predators without a shot in the first five minutes of Game 2.

After Nashville's power play came up empty twice, Cogliano put the Ducks ahead when he blocked a dump-in by Weber and sped past Barret Jackman to score on a breakaway.

Ekholm tied it on a backhand late in the first after a setup from Colin Wilson. Smith then put the Predators ahead midway through the second on a pass from Forsberg after a sharp play along the boards by Josi.

Thompson trimmed the lead with a backhand that deflected off Josi's leg.

The Ducks lost defenseman Josh Manson to an upper-body injury at the first-period horn in Game 1, but veteran Kevin Bieksa returned to the lineup for his first playoff game with Anaheim. Bieksa hadn't played since March 24 due to an undisclosed injury.

NOTES: Weber played his 47th postseason game for Nashville, matching David Legwand for the franchise record. ... James Neal stoked the Ducks' anger later in the second when he took an unpenalized whack at Gibson's mask with his stick long after the whistle blew. ... Weber played 27:36.

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Neal slyly tries to poke stick through Gibson’s mask

Neal #hockey - Streamable

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James Neal is doing his best to get under the opposition's skin... or mask.

The Nashville Predators forward was caught trying to force the end of his stick through the cage of Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson in the second period of Sunday's game.

Neal appears to have been unsuccessful and luckily so after seeing a similar incident - an accident in this case - occur to New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist in Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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Hickey edges Islanders’ video coach for postgame plaudits

Thomas Hickey, scorer of the first ever overtime winner at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, led the New York Islanders to a 4-3 victory and 2-1 series lead over the Florida Panthers on Sunday night.

After the game, however, he had to share the adulation.

Islanders video coach Matt Bertani - who wired down to the bench to suggest the bench challenge Aaron Ekblad's goal - was apparently in the mix for the button-up varsity jacket awarded to the player-chosen MVP after each win.

With Bertani's advice, the Islanders successfully contended that Jonathan Huberdeau was offside and avoided falling behind 3-0 before the five-minute mark of the second period.

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Panthers’ Luongo ‘exhausted’ after 3 games in 4 days

Three games in four nights might be too much hockey.

Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo spoke following his team's 4-3 loss to the New York Islanders in Game 3, and admitted he's 'exhausted' following the trio of games over four nights, according to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston.

The Panthers and Islanders opened their best-of-seven series with back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday, and after just one day of rest, they were back at it again Sunday night.

Luongo has suited up in all three games for his club, but the 37-year-old has allowed 10 goals in that span. He now boasts a 3.13 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage, down from his 2.35 and .922 marks from the regular season.

Luckily for Luongo and company, the teams will now get two days of rest before resuming the series Wednesday.

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Watch: Islanders recoup series lead with Hickey’s overtime winner

It was an ending to remember Sunday night when the Stanley Cup Playoffs made its debut in Brooklyn.

Thomas Hickey scored at 12:31 mark of the first overtime period as the New York Islanders scored three answered in Game 3 of their first-round matchup with the Florida Panthers, reclaiming the series lead with a 4-3 triumph.

Related: Video review bites Panthers, Huberdeau

Ryan Pulock, Shane Prince, and Frans Nielsen also scored for the Islanders, while John Tavares and Kyle Okposo collected two assists apiece.

Thomas Greiss made 36 saves to earn the win.

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