Cross Checks: Pascal Dupuis

It is very possible, although not quite a guarantee, that Vincent Lecavalier will choose his next team by the end of the day Wednesday.

The UFA center, who is allowed to speak with teams earlier than other UFAs because his contract was bought out, has been deliberating with family where the best fit might be for him to continue this career.

The likes of the Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, Anaheim Ducks, Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames are among the teams that have shown interest.

The decision for Lecavalier begins with Montreal. He has to decide whether he wants to go home and deal with both the perks and detriments of playing in his native town. And if he goes home, it’s not going to be for the same kind of money or term other clubs would have offered. If he’s a Hab, it’s more because he really, really wants to be one. Montreal definitely has interest in signing him, but it’s going to have to be on a reasonable deal that fits within its cap and payroll structure.

But no one should fault Lecavalier if he decides to avoid that situation; that’s his choice as a UFA.

I still think Dallas is a solid possibility for Lecavalier if he wants to remain in a quiet, nontraditional hockey place such as the environment he has experienced his entire career with the Tampa Bay Lightning. And I think the Stars are willing to go five years on a deal.

While it’s true to a degree, as Nashville Predators GM David Poile suggested to his local media Tuesday, that Lecavalier would prefer to stay in the East, it does not preclude him from playing in Dallas, I can tell you that.

Detroit is a great fit, too, and so is Boston. We’ll know soon enough.

As a reminder, beginning at 12:01 a.m. ET Wednesday (so basically Tuesday night), a wrinkle in the new CBA kicks in that NHL fans haven’t seen before: Free agents have the right to speak with other teams in the 48-hour lead-up to the opening of the market Friday.

So for teams trying to re-sign their free agents, Tuesday was their last day of exclusivity to do so. For example, it was the last day for New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello to be the only voice in David Clarkson’s ear. Clarkson recently turned down an offer from the Devils and most likely is headed to the market. Then again, maybe Uncle Lou has another last trick up his sleeve.


• Traded texts Tuesday morning with UFA forward Danny Briere. He says he’s talking to teams as he’s narrowing his focus. We should know more Wednesday.

• The Devils and pending UFA center Patrik Elias were close to a deal, but it wasn’t done as of noon ET Tuesday, agent Allan Walsh said. Walsh also represents winger Pascal Dupuis, another pending UFA, and the agent said talks with the Pittsburgh Penguins were continuing.

• Pending UFA winger Damien Brunner was a day away from being able to speak with the 29 other teams. His agent, Neil Sheehy, told via email Tuesday morning that he planned to talk again with Detroit but wasn’t sure where it was all headed.

• The Predators put veteran blueliner Hal Gill on waivers. He has one year left on his deal at $2 million. GM David Poile said via text that the blue line is a little crowded given the drafting of Seth Jones, and the hope is to find a new home for Gill. If no one claims him on waivers, another possibility would be to buy him out.

There's always a lot of hocus-pocus when a team is down 3-0 in a best-of-seven series, and while Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma acknowledged "it's not a very encouraging picture," it was still interesting to hear Bylsma liken the situation to winning the gold medal at the Olympics.

Teams that win gold have to win four elimination games. They don't have to win them all at once and not all against the same team, but it's a process, one step leading to the next.

"In the Olympics to win a gold medal for Canada, they've got to win four games, four elimination games, Germany, Russia, Slovakia and U.S. Those are games that you have to win to go on, and that's what we're at right now," Bylsma said. "We don't have to win four games against the Boston Bruins, we have to win one game [Friday] night to move on to Game 5 to get this thing back to the 'Burgh, and that's what we have to look at, not the numbers, not the odds, not the four wins. We have to look at winning one hockey game, 60 minutes [Friday] night."

The Pens players with comeback experience include forward Pascal Dupuis, who was with the Minnesota Wild when the Wild twice erased 3-to-1 deficits in the 2003 playoffs, once against a Vancouver Canucks team for which current teammate Matt Cooke played.

"That's the closest thing. Once, against Matt in Vancouver," Dupuis said. "As far as numbers and odds and everything like that, every year is different. If you ask [the Bruins], they were up 3-0 a couple years ago, and they lost. So it's numbers, different players, everything is different about this one."

Cooke said he has seen a lot of different situations in his career and he prefers to think small picture.

"Personally, I think being in all different types of situations in the playoffs, and I've said this in the last two series, it always becomes about the next game and the next game is the most important, and you quickly have to move forward," Cooke said. "There's a lot of belief in our dressing room and the group that we have and what we've accomplished, and right now it's about Game 4 and that's it."


• Bylsma said there was no doubt in his mind there was a hook by Jaromir Jagr on Evgeni Malkin in the moments leading up to Patrice Bergeron's game winner late in the second overtime period in Game 3 Wednesday night. But ...

"I'm not sure at that point in the game I thought for one second, with how the game was being called, that I expected a call at all on the play," he said.

• Bylsma said there were no issues with defenseman Brooks Orpik in terms of playing in Game 4 Friday night after Orpik took a thunderous hit from Milan Lucic in the second overtime period. Orpik appeared dazed from the hit but did return to the ice a few moments later, and was on the ice when the winning goal was scored.

• There was an interesting give-and-take between veteran Pittsburgh beat writer Rob Rossi and Bylsma on Thursday afternoon. Rossi asked what the coach felt was at stake personally for him in Game 4 and moving forward in this series.

"I don't coach, have never coached, for my job," Bylsma responded. "When I took over as coach of this hockey team in '09, I came here to win hockey games, and that's where we're at right now. We know what's in front of us. We know exactly what's in front of us with the odds being down 0-3, but I believe in that group, I believe in that team, I believe in how we battled and how we're going to battle, and we're going to go in knowing we have an elimination game and win Game 4."

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins showed up for work Wednesday morning wearing T-shirts with the No. 4 on the back, a nod to the immediate task of winning four games to get out of the first round of the playoffs.

No word on whether those same shirts will be worn Thursday with the "4" crossed out and replaced by a "3" after the Penguins whipped the New York Islanders 5-0 in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.

They’re just T-shirts, of course: some fabric and a little lettering, including the phrase, "Here We Go."

But the shirts speak to a mindset, a narrowing of the focus to the task at hand.

When you are a team as deep and talented as the Penguins -- and when there is as much discussion about a long playoff run, a possible trip to the Stanley Cup finals, another championship -- it might be easy to forget about first things first.

If you look at the big picture, if you look at what is needed to win a Cup, "It’s a bit overwhelming," Pittsburgh forward Craig Adams said after Wednesday’s game.

And if you start thinking about that, "you’ll never get there," he said.

"Everyone wanted to hand us the Cup last year, and we saw how that turned out," Adams added.

And there’s the rub.

In an interview before Wednesday’s game, Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero went to great pains to reinforce that his team was very mindful of the Islanders, even though the Pens were the top seed in the Eastern Conference and the Isles the eighth seed.

"I know this team has a great deal of respect for the Islanders," Shero said. "There’s no way we’ll be underestimating them."

Those are the kinds of sentiments that are on display when you’re coming off a 2012 playoff season that really ended before it began with the Penguins blowing a 3-0 lead against Philadelphia in Game 1 and quickly falling behind 3-0 in the series en route to a six-game loss. It was the second consecutive one-and-done playoff spring for the Penguins, and they have won just one playoff round since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009.

So you can understand if there is an emphasis on the details this time around.

"We’ve been preaching that all year," Adams said. "I think we’ve been humbled."

After one game, it would appear the message has sunk in, as the Penguins methodically took apart an inexperienced Islanders team that is playing in the postseason for the first time since 2007.

The Pens took advantage of an early power play to go up 1-0 after a terrific play by Beau Bennett, who cut in from the right side and roofed a shot over veteran netminder Evgeni Nabokov. Bennett wouldn’t be in the lineup if it weren’t for the fact that doctors declined to let captain Sidney Crosby suit up for Game 1.

Talk about taking advantage of your opportunities: Bennett scored in his first-ever playoff game.

The Penguins would add another power-play goal early in the second period by Kris Letang before Pascal Dupuis, the king of even-strength goals, added two while the teams were playing five aside. Tanner Glass rounded out the scoring with his first-ever postseason goal.

Defensively, the Pens killed off four Islander power plays and limited the Isles to 26 shots, providing netminder Marc-Andre Fleury with ample protection. Fleury, who endured a nightmare series last postseason against the Flyers, earned his sixth postseason shutout.

"Everything went great tonight," Dupuis said. "Yes, we did play the right way, but you have to keep saying to yourself it’s only 1-0."

If there was cause for concern for the Penguins, it was the loss of James Neal, who got tangled up with Travis Hamonic early in the second period and did not return. There was no information on his status for Game 2 Friday.

Also, Jussi Jokinen, who added two assists and continues to be a point machine since coming over from Carolina at the trade deadline, went off the ice gingerly after a collision with Islanders forward Marty Reasoner, who was assessed a kneeing major with 2:10 left in the game.

The Islanders, meanwhile, looked like a team whose most important players (outside Nabokov) were playing in their first playoff game. Reasoner, playing in his 24th career postseason game, was the player with the most playoff experience among Islander skaters, and he’d been a healthy scratch for the final 10 regular-season games.

John Tavares, who figures to be among the finalists for the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP, was a nonfactor, finishing the night without a shot. Likewise, Brad Boyes and Matt Moulson weren’t the players who combined for 25 regular-season goals.

Head coach Jack Capuano said the team’s work ethic and determination weren’t what they had been during the final month of the regular season, when the Isles secured an unexpected playoff berth, and the execution was lacking.

Nabokov, a player Capuano referred to as an extension of the coaching staff given his experience, was given the hook just 1:51 into the second period after the Pens made it 4-0 with two goals in 32 seconds.

Although he was beaten twice by hard, high shots courtesy of Bennett and Letang on the power play, this loss wasn’t a function of poor goaltending. Instead, this was a loss that was, pure and simple, about one team being light years ahead of another in terms of getting the job done.

"Obviously, I think it was a little bit too easy for them, for the Penguins. All-around game has to be better. Better saves, more saves. I guess it’s got to start with me," Nabokov said.

"I’ve got to make key saves at the key times and give the guys a chance to battle. But the game was over basically at the beginning of the second period, it’s four-zip, and it’s really tough to come out of it against that type of team. So [I] have to find a way to tighten up and be better," he said.

Of course, as the Pens’ T-shirts remind us, this series is not the best of one.

The Islanders have a chance to regroup, and one imagines whatever nerves and butterflies might have invaded their bodies Wednesday will have dissipated by the time Game 2 rolls around Friday night.

"I don’t think anything is easy. You have to come out, and you have to work hard. It’s got to hurt to play; I heard somebody in the locker room actually say that: It’s got to hurt to play," Nabokov said.

"I think we have to come out next game, and we have to be ready, be more physical and just make it hard on them everywhere, every inch of the ice. We have to battle for every inch of the ice, everywhere. I think that’s the only way we can play with that team because, otherwise, they’re too skilled. They’re too good."

Morning jam: Dupuis proving double-plus good

March, 29, 2013
Penguins 4, Jets 0
* Penguins: won 14 straight games (tied for 3rd-longest win streak in NHL history)
* Sidney Crosby (Penguins): 2 assists (19 assists during win streak)
* Pascal Dupuis (Penguins): 2 goals (3rd multi-goal game during win streak)
* Jets: lost 12 straight ROAD games at Penguins
FROM ELIAS: Pascal Dupuis scored two goals and finished with a plus-2 as the Penguins extended their winning streak to 14 games by shutting out the Jets, 4-0. Dupuis has scored 10 goals during Pittsburgh's 14-game winning streak and he's finished with a plus in each game. (His combined plus/minus over that stretch is plus-19.) Dupuis is the first NHL skater to be a plus player in each of 14 consecutive team games in one season since defenseman Brad McCrimmon had a 14-game streak for the Flyers in October/November 1984.

Chris Kunitz scored his 20th goal of the season to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead against the Jets. The primary assist went to Sidney Crosby for the 10th time this season, the second best combination behind the Islanders tandem of Matt Moulson and John Tavares, who the Penguins play Saturday.

Most Primary Assists to Goal Scorer – This Season
Moulson to Tavares (NYI) 12
Crosby to Kunitz (PIT) 10<<
Purcell to Stamkos (TB) 8
Parenteau to Duchene (COL) 8
Thornton to Marleau (SJ) 8
>>6 during win streak including first goal Thursday

Longest Single-Season Winning Streaks - NHL History
1992-93 Penguins 17
1981-82 Islanders<< 15
2012-13 Penguins 14
2009-10 Capitals 14
1929-30 Bruins 14
>>Won Stanley Cup

Penguins Upcoming Schedule
Potential Date Opponent Head-To-Head Other Notes
Win # This Season
15 Saturday vs Islanders 3-1-0 Won last 3 meetings vs NYI after losing 1st meeting this season
16 April 2 vs Sabres 1-0-0 9—2-0 in last 11 meetings vs BUF
17 April 3 at Rangers 3-0-0 Won last 4 games vs NYR at Madison Square Garden
18 April 5 vs Rangers Have not swept season series vs NYR since 1994-95 (last meeting of season)

Sharks 2, Red Wings 0
* Sharks: won 7 of last 9 vs Red Wings
* Joe Pavelski (Sharks): Goal (10); 3rd straight game with goal
* Antti Niemi (Sharks): 27 saves; 2nd straight shutout (had 1 shutout in 1st 27 starts)

Canucks 4, Avalanche 1
* Canucks: 10th straight win vs Avalanche (last loss 1/18/2011)
* Canucks: 6th straight win (allowed 6 goals in that span)
* Avalanche: 0-8-3 in last 11 road games (allowed 4 or more goals against in 7 of the games)
* Cory Schneider (VAN): only 4 goals allowed in last 5 games

Oilers 6, Blue Jackets 4
* Oilers: 5th straight home win vs Blue Jackets (last loss 1/7/2010)
* Taylor Hall (EDM): 2 goals, 3 assists in last 3 games
* Blue Jackets: 1-4-2 in last 7 road games
* Blue Jackets: only 2nd regulation loss in last 11 games (6-2-3)

Coyotes 7, Predators 4
* Coyotes: 6 goals in the first period; ties their NHL franchise record for goals in a period
* Coyotes: have gone 4-1-0 past 5 games in Nashville
* Rob Klinkhammer (Coyotes): 1 Ast; has 2G, 2A past 3 games
* Predators: 3-gaame home win streak snapped
FROM ELIAS: Phoenix jumped out to a 5-0 lead by the 8:26 mark of Thursday's game. It was the quickest five goals by one team from the start of an NHL game since Nov. 5, 1993, when the Devils led 5-0 only 8:05 after the opening faceoff of their game in Anaheim. New Jersey scored only once more and won, 6-3.

Kings 4, Blues 2
* Mike Richards (LA): go-ahead goal (8) with 2:43 left in 3rd period (1st goal in last 8 games)
* Kings: 3-0-0 vs Blues this season
* Kings: 13-1-1 when scoring first this season
* Blues: on 3-game losing streak

Panthers 5, Sabres 4 (F/SO) (FLA wins shootout, 2-1)
* Panthers: snap 3-game losing streak, just 3rd win in last 10 games (3-7-0)
* Panthers: 1st win in last 5 HOME games (1-3-1)
* Panthers: 2-0-1 vs Sabres this season
* Sabres: 0-1-1 in last 2 games following a 3-game winning streak

Islanders 4, Flyers 3 (F/SO) (NYI wins shootout, 2-1)
* Islanders: 1st 3-game win streak this season (won season-high 4 straight on road)
* Islanders: won 3 of last 4 road games at Flyers following 13 straight winless games at Flyers from 2007-11
* Flyers: season-worst 4-game winless streak (0-2-2)
* John Tavares (Islanders): 4 G, 1 A during 5-game point streak (matches season-long)

Senators 3, Rangers 0
* Senators: 3-0 vs Rangers this season, won 5 straight regular-season games ve them overall
* Senators: 9-1-1 in last 11 home games
* Ben Bishop (Senators): 24 saves, 2nd career shutout (1st since the 2010-11 season with the Blues)
* Andre Benoit (Senators): 2nd career goal, 1st since February 19.

Maple Leafs 6, Hurricanes 3
* Maple Leafs: 4-0-3 past 7 games, 15/16 on PK
* Maple Leafs: 6-1-2 past 9 games at home
* Joffrey Lupul (Maple Leafs): Goal (7); all have been scored in his last 5 games
* Hurricanes: 0-6-1 past 7 games, outscored 25-10