Bonino and Penguins win Game 1 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final

By: Nick Lanciani 

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Nick Bonino’s third period goal with less than five minutes remaining in regulation, accompanied by Matt Murray’s stellar goaltending, proved to hold out for the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 3-2 Game 1 victory in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final opener.

Murray made 24 saves on 26 shots faced for a .923 SV%, while San Jose’s Martin Jones made 38 saves on 41 shots against for a .927 SV% in an equally impressive performance, despite the loss.

Pittsburgh_Penguins_1971-1992.gifGame 1 marked the first appearance in a Stanley Cup Final game for Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Thornton had made 150 playoff appearances with the Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks before Monday night, while Marleau broke his record 165 playoff games before playing in a Stanley Cup Final game in his 18th season with the Sharks.

This year marks San Jose’s first Stanley Cup Final appearance in their silver anniversary season (25th year as a franchise for those of you who are unaware), while it is the fifth appearance in the Final for Pittsburgh.

Dainius Zubrus picked up the first penalty of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final at 8:54 of the first period after catching Pittsburgh’s Ian Cole with a high stick. The Penguins were unable to convert on the ensuing man advantage.

Bryan Rust scored the first goal of the series and gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead 12:46 into the first period. Rust’s wrist shot came on a failed attempt from Justin Schultz that resulted in the puck finding its way to Rust with a large gap in the net to the right of Jones. The goal was Rust’s 6th of the postseason and was assisted by Schultz (3) and Chris Kunitz (7).

A little over a minute later— 1:02 to be exact— the Penguins scored again and doubled their lead to 2-0. This time it was Conor Sheary with a wrist shot goal, his 3rd of the playoffs at 13:48 of the period. Sidney Crosby (10) and Olli Maata (5) picked up the primary and secondary assists.

After twenty minutes of play in Game 1, the Penguins led 2-0 on the scoreboard and 15-4 in shots on goal. Likewise, Pittsburgh also led in giveaways (2-1) entering the first intermission. The Sharks led in hits (17-16), faceoff wins (11-8) and takeaways (2-1) after one period, while both teams had seven blocked shots apiece.

Ian Cole hooked Melker Karlsson early into the second period and gave the flaming hot San Jose Sharks power play unit an opportunity just 1:14 into the period. While on the power play, Tomas Hertl gathered the puck and fired a wrist shot that beat Murray, right through the five hole, to cut the Penguins lead with a power play goal.

The goal was Hertl’s 6th of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and the first in the history of the Stanley Cup Final era for San Jose. Hertl’s power play goal was assisted by Joonas Donskoi (5) and Brent Burns (15) at 3:02 of the 2nd period.

While dominating in momentum, Martin Jones kept the Sharks in the game with some incredible leg pad saves that robbed Pittsburgh of surefire goals.

Patrick Marleau tied the game, 2-2, with his 5th goal of the playoffs on a slick wraparound, backhand goal, that he was able to angle off the skates of Murray into the twine at 18:12 of the 2nd. Burns picked up his second assist of the night, his 16th of the postseason, and Logan Couture notched the secondary assist, his 17th of the playoffs, on Marleau’s goal.

UnknownAt 18:52 of the 2nd period, Joe Pavelski tripped up Brian Dumoulin and was sent to the penalty box, giving Pittsburgh another power play. Meanwhile, Pavelski had some company in the sin bin and was joined by Joe Thornton in the San Jose box after Thornton had received a roughing minor after the stoppage in play for Pavelski’s penalty.

While Thornton was battling Evgeni Malkin, Malkin slashed Thornton and was promptly sent to the box for his minor infraction. All in all, Malkin and Thornton’s penalties canceled one another, while Pavelski’s penalty put the Penguins on a normal 5 on 4 power play.

With forty minutes in the books, the score was tied 2-2.

Pittsburgh continued to lead in shots on goal (23-17) and led in every other category heading into the 2nd intermission, including hits (27-26), faceoffs (23-21), giveaways (6-4), takeaways (5-2) and blocked shots (17-11). San Jose had gone 1/1 on the power play, while the Penguins were 0/2 on the man advantage.

Marleau would come under fire for an illegal hit to the head on Rust 4:47 into the third period. Rust briefly returned to the game before returning to the quiet room and being forced out of the lineup. Pending league review, Marleau only served a minor penalty in Game 1 for the hit. Penguins head coach, Mike Sullivan, indicated that he was not a fan of the hit and believes the league should take proper action, while informing reporters after the game that Rust is day-to-day with an upper body injury.

Pittsburgh was not able to score on the ensuing power play from Marleau’s illegal hit on Rust and the game continued without major infractions as a result of the increased tensions between the two teams.

Nick Bonino received a pass from Kris Letang and fired a wrist shot past Jones 17:27 into the third period to give Pittsburgh a 3-2 lead. Bonino’s goal, his 4th of the postseason, would prove to be enough for the game-winner. Letang (9) and Carl Hagelin (8) were credited with the assists.

Shortly thereafter, Penguins fans inside CONSOL Energy Center were on edge when Ben Lovejoy hooked Marleau and was subsequently penalized and sent to the box at 17:51 of the 3rd. San Jose had scored 11 power play goals in 18 playoff games entering Monday night and had scored their 12th in their 19th game in the 2nd period, but was unable to convert on their most crucial man advantage of the night in the third period.

With an empty net, the Sharks fought to keep the puck in the offensive zone, but Pittsburgh would have none of it and kept clearing it out of the zone. A couple failed attempts at the empty net had San Jose rejuvenated to go at one more attack, but the Penguins forced turnovers and made the Sharks opt to go with dump and chase plays.

One final clearing attempt was all that Pittsburgh needed, especially as icing was waved off. Penguins fans rejoiced as their team had won Game 1 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Pittsburgh now leads the series 1-0 with their 3-2 win on Monday night.

Game 1 of this year’s Stanley Cup Final became the seventh Final series opener to be decided by one goal in as many seasons. As well, the game-winning goal has been scored in the last five minutes of regulation or later in each Stanley Cup Final series opener since 2011.

After sixty minutes the Penguins finished the night leading in shots on goal (41-26), faceoff wins (33-29), giveaways (10-8), takeaways (10-4) and blocked shots (21-15). Both teams had 36 hits aside and San Jose went 1/2 on the power play, while Pittsburgh failed to convert on all three of their man advantage opportunities on the night.

Pittsburgh improved to 9-0 in the regular season and playoffs when Bryan Rust scores a goal.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, Monday night was just the 2nd time in history that the opening two goals of the Stanley Cup Final were scored by rookies (Rust and Sheary). Howie Morenz was the last rookie to score the first two goals in the 1924 Stanley Cup Final en route to the Montréal Canadiens 6-1 victory over the Calgary Tigers of the Western Canada Hockey League. For the record, 1924 was two years prior to when the NHL obtained sole possession of and competition for the Stanley Cup.

Game 2 of this year’s Stanley Cup Final is scheduled for Wednesday night in Pittsburgh at 8:00 PM ET and can be seen on NBCSN in the United States and on CBC and TVA Sports in Canada.

Tkachuk’s overtime winner propels London Knights to 2016 Memorial Cup championship

By: Nick Lanciani

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The 98th MasterCard Memorial Cup is in the books and the London Knights are your 2016 Memorial Cup Champions as the CHL’s top team.

Matthew Tkachuk, son of NHL legend Keith Tkachuk, scored the game winning goal— his second of the game— at 7:49 of overtime on Sunday to lift the Knights to a 3-2 victory over the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup Final.

A packed crowd at ENMAX Centrium in Red Deer, Alberta, witnessed Tyler Parsons make 29 saves on 31 shots faced for the win in a spectacular 67:49 effort. Chase Marchand made 31 saves on 33 shots against for the Huskies in the loss.

14Knights forward, Max Jones was denied by Marchand on a breakaway with 14:53 to go in the first period on a sequence of early transitions and end-to-end action. Shortly thereafter, Rouyn-Noranda amassed a few great chances on Tyler Parsons that led to save after save by Parsons as the first period rolled along.

Mitch Marner led a furious two-on-one the other way for the London Knights with about 10 and a half minutes to go in the first period, but Marchand stood tall for the Huskies in goal and kept it a 0-0 game.

At 13:33 of the first period, Gabriel Fontaine took the first penalty of the game— a minor for boarding— and gave the immensely successful London Knights’s power play their first opportunity of the afternoon. But the Knights’s special teams were no match for Rouyn-Noranda’s penalty kill, as the Huskies killed the penalty with ease.

After twenty minutes, the game was scoreless. London was leading in shots on goal 11-6 and in faceoff wins 8-2 after the 1st.

A.J. Greer was called for roughing just 4:55 into the 2nd period and gave the Knights their second man advantage of the afternoon. Rouyn-Noranda killed the penalty without harm.

Tkachuk opened the game’s scoring with his 4th goal of the Memorial Cup tournament on a shot that he tipped in at 9:19 of the second period to give London a 1-0 lead. This year’s Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy winner as the Memorial Cup MVP, Mitch Marner, and his teammate Christian Dvorak picked up the assists on Tkachuk’s goal.

About 15 seconds later, Francis Perron answered back in a hurry for the Huskies and tied the game at one on a redirection of his own just about in the crease, reminiscent of former Kamloops Blazer, Mark Recchi. Timo Meier notched the lone assist on Perron’s 2nd goal of the tournament at 9:34 of the second period.

Meier would then receive a minor penalty for tripping at 12:49 of the 2nd and send the Knights on their third power play of the night. London was unable to convert on the man advantage.

Rouyn-Noranda_Huskies.svgPhilippe Myers went down shortly thereafter with what appeared to be a knee injury, though no update was provided to the viewers watching on Sportsnet in Canada or on NHL Network in the United States.

Jacob Graves took the first and only penalty for London at 18:49 of the 2nd period. Graves was sent to the box for tripping and Rouyn-Noranda’s power play would extend into the 3rd period.

After forty minutes of play, the game was tied 1-1 and the Huskies were leading in shots on goal 22-21. London was in control of the faceoff circle, having dominated faceoff wins 18-12 after two periods. Rouyn-Noranda finished the second period without scoring on Graves’s penalty and would start the third period on the power play, while London went 0/3 on the man advantage heading into the second intermission.

The Huskies were unable to take advantage of their man advantage to start the third period and the game rolled along tied at one. After a flurry of chances at both ends, both teams settled into a rhythm.

Rouyn-Noranda took their first lead of the night a little after the nine-minute mark in the 3rd when Julien Nantel snapped a shot past Parsons to make it 2-1. The goal was Nantel’s 2nd of the Memorial Cup. Alexandre Fortin and Jeremy Lauzon picked up the primary and secondary assists at 9:13 of the period.

The Huskies promptly took a penalty nearly forty seconds later, when Greer sent the puck over the glass for a delay of game minor. Rouyn-Noranda amassed a short 5-on-3 penalty kill at 11:38 of the period when Fontaine was penalized for high sticking one of London’s skaters in front of the benches. The Knights were unable to convert on either of the power play opportunities, both when they had a two-man advantage and when play resumed to a normal 5-on-4 power play.

With time beginning to wind down in the third period, Christian Dvorak tied the game at 2-2 with his 7th goal of the tournament. Aaron Berisha was credited with the only assist on Dvorak’s wrist shot goal at 15:49 of the 3rd.

Tied after sixty minutes of regulation, the London Knights and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies went to overtime in the 98th Memorial Cup. Over the course of the entire QMJHL season, the Huskies only lost nine games in regulation. Meanwhile the Knights had not lost in any game (Memorial Cup or OHL— regular season and playoff) since the last week of the NHL’s regular season.

Early in overtime the Knights and Huskies exchanged quick transitions and a couple of shots that rang the post and squibbed through the crease.

But it wasn’t until 7:49 into overtime that Tkachuk fired the game winner, his second of the night and 5th of the Memorial Cup. Aiden Jamieson and Olli Juolevi were awarded the assists on the goal and the London Knights defeated the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies by a score of 3-2.

London outshot Rouyn-Noranda 33-31, but trailed in faceoff wins 32-31 at the end of the day. The Huskies finished 0/1 on the power play on the afternoon and the Knights went 0/5.

Sunday was the first time in 30 years that the OHL and QMJHL champions met up in the Memorial Cup Final on WHL ice, as the host city Red Deer Rebels bowed out to Rouyn-Noranda on Friday in a 3-1 loss. The last time an OHL/QMJHL matchup on WHL ice occurred in 1986, the Guelph Platers defeated the Hull Olympiques, 6-2, in Portland, Oregon.

The Knights won their 17th game in a row, including all their games prior to Sunday and finished 2-0 against the Huskies in the tournament, having defeated Rouyn-Noranda 5-2 in this year’s round robin action. London also outscored their opponents 23-7 in the entire Memorial Cup, en route to capturing just their second CHL title— and first since 2005.

The Knights avenged the ghosts of their 2012, 2013 and 2014 Memorial Cup appearances with Sunday’s Memorial Cup title. As mentioned before, Toronto Maple Leaf’s prospect, Mitch Marner was awarded the Stafford Smyth Memorial Trophy as the MVP of the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup.

Several talented Junior players await to be drafted at this June’s NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo at First Niagara Center. We’ll have more of an outlook for all seven rounds as the weekend of June 24th and 25th nears right here on Down the Frozen River, including another rendition of a mock draft or two of Round 1. For now, though, another CHL season is in the books and the London Knights are on top of the Junior world (well at least in North America).

Huskies Bite Back in Rematch With Rebels, Advance to Memorial Cup Final.

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Alright Down the Frozen River and hockey fans, we here are going to try something new for the first time! This subject, surprisingly, doesn’t have anything to do with the NHL! What?!? I am covering a junior game for the first time! What does this mean?!?! Well, tonight we will be recapping the 2016 Memorial Cup Hockey Semi-Final Game between the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and the Red Deer Rebels. The Memorial Cup is a junior hockey championship trophy awarded annually to the CHL (Canadian Hockey League) champion. It is awarded to a team following a round-robin tourney, between four teams, between a host team, and the champions of the CHL’s three leagues: the OHL which is the Ontario Hockey League, the QMJHL which is the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and WHL which is the Western Hockey League.

 

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The teams involved in this year tournament are the London Knights of the OHL, Red Deer Rebels out of the WHL who are also the host team this year, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies from the QMJHL, and, last but not least, the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL.

 

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(The Brandon Wheat Kings locked up the 2nd overall spot in the WHL going 48-18-4-2 with 102 points, only four points out of first. The Wheat Kings went on to win the Ed Chynoweth Cup, which is given to the playoff champion. Brandon winded up crushing the Seattle Thunderbirds in five games to capture the crown and a spot to the Memorial Cup. While the London Knights finished 2nd in their division going 51-14-2-1 with 105 points to end the regular season. They actually tied the Erie Otters in their division in points, but the reason why they finished 2nd was they had one less win then the Otters. So since they finished 2nd, ended up 5th overall behind the four regular season division champs. The Knights went on to capture the J. Ross Robertson Cup, which is also for the playoff champion. They only lost two games the entire playoffs, sweeping every round after the first round.)

Tonight was the play in game for the Championship Game against the London Knights who earned an automatic bid to the Final game after going 3-0 in round robin play. The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies had a bye into the semifinal matchup and awaited the winner of the quarterfinal game between the Brandon Wheat Kinds and the Red Deer Rebels. The Wheat Kings jumped out to a 1-0 lead halfway through the middle period. The Rebels fought their way back into the contest tying the game with a little over five minutes remaining in the game. That’s when Red Deer tallied the game-winning goal in Over Time with a minute left in extra time to punch their ticket to the Semis aginst the Huskies.

Red Deer finished 6th overall in the Western Hockey League during the regular season going 45-24-1-2 and 93 points and clinching a spot in the playoffs. The Rebels lost in the Eastern Conference Championship Series 4 games to 1 of the WHL playoffs against, believe it or not, the Wheat Kings. While the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies were the regular season champs finishing in 1st place with an impressive 54-9-3-2 record with 113 points! That was 20 points better than the second-place team! The Huskies went on to win the Presidents Cup, which is awarded to the playoff champion. They won the required 16 games in each of the four rounds, and only lost three total games! So clearly this game was going to be a battle.

Coming into the game, the starting goaltender for each team were a little less than impressive with their stats. The Huskies goalie Chase Marchand had an amazing QMJHL playoff run appearing in all 19 games going 15-3 with an astounding 1.35 GAA and a .946 SV% and a marvelous shutout streak of 223:23. His numbers led all netminders in the playoffs (he also led all goalies in GAA in the regular season with 2.42). Coming into tonight’s game, Chase went 1-2 with a horrid 4.02 GAA and .883 SV% in his 3 Memorial Cup Games.

While Red Deers goalie Rylan Toth played nine games in their playoffs. His record was a less impressive 3-5-1 with a .905 SV% and a 3.19 GAA. As well as his 2-1 record, a 2.94 GAA and a .904 SV%. So clearly Marchand was much better in his playoffs then Toth. When Toth has been much better in his three games in the MC (Memorial Cup).

Red Deer is looking to become the first host team to advance and play in the Finals since 2012. The last team to do this were the Shawinigan Cataractes who beat the London Knights 2-1 in front of their home crowd to win it all. Now if the Huskies win, it will be their first time ever in the Final.

Alright finally (now the fun part begins) let’s get to the game! Here’s what went down:

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The game started off with a very quick pace. Both clubs combined for a total of six shots within the first four minutes of the game. Then with the seventh shot of the first period, just 4:50 into the opening frame we finally got the game’s first prime scoring chance. Huskies defender Allan Carron grabbed the loose puck along the left side boards. Carron skated to the bottom of the left side hash marks in the slot and let a sharp wrister on net. Rebel goalie Rylan Toth was up to the task and blockered the shot into the corner to keep the score at zero.

Then a minute later, it was Red Deer’s turn to try and break the deadlock. Rebels center Jeff de Wit flew down the right-hand side into the attacking zone, taking on the defender. Wit made some nifty moves and found his way to the left side dot. Wit noticed a shot opportunity and took full advantage as he rifled a wrist shot that was pegged for the top left corner. Huskies goalie Chase Marchand somehow, some way was able to get his right shoulder in the way and deflected the puck into the corner for his best save of the game so far.

Five minutes later, we would then get the games first penalty. Rebels D-man Austin Strand got a two minute trip to the sin bin for high sticking minor. This would send Rouyn-Noranda to their first manpower advantage of the game. It only took the Huskies 33 seconds to strike first for the games first goal. San Jose draftee and Huskies star Timo Meier would intercept a bad pass from a Rebels D in their own zone at the top of the left circle. Meier saw Senators draft pick Francis Perron wide open across the ice on the right circle. Meier hit Perron with a sweet pass right in his wheelhouse and Perron let a one-time clap bomb go. Perron’s heat-seeking shot beat Toth far side, back in the direction he came from, to open the scoring at 1-0. This was Perron’s first goal of the MC.

It only took Rouyn-Noranda 1:07 later to double their score. Huskies winger and Colorado pick A.J. Greer fell over with the puck in the left corner of the attacking zone. Toronto draftee Martins Dzierkals picked up the puck in the corner and drove right to the front of the net. For some reason, Rebels defenders gave him all of the time and room that he wanted. Dzierkals took advantage of this and flipped a wimpy backhand shot on net that beat Toth between his legs. Dzierkals first goal of the MC and it increased his team’s lead to 2-0.

At the 16:51 mark of the first period, the Huskies took their first penalty of the game. Bruins draftee and Huskies D-man Jeremy Lauzon got called for roughing on Rebels center Jeff de Wit. This now put the Rebels on their first PP of the game where they looked to cut into the two-goal deficit before the intermission. Unfortunately, thanks to stellar penalty killing and goaltending, the Huskies killed it off only giving up two shots.

The first period ended with the Huskies up 2-0 thanks to goals 1:07 apart and solid goaltending from Chase Marchand.

The second period opened up with the Rebels in on the attack. Just 20 seconds into the period Red Deer had an offensive zone faceoff. The Rebels won the faceoff and D-man Kyle Doetzel found himself with the puck at the point. Doetzel fired a slap shot right towards the net that was deflected on its way through. Goalie Marchand looked to glove the shot down, but since it was deflected, the puck hit the top of his glove and rang right off the crossbar and out! Red Deer was that close to scoring and cutting into the lead.

Once again, a minute later, the Rebels had another prime chance to score. Other Bruins pick and Rebels winger Jake DeBrusk came speeding down the left-hand side and into the offensive zone. DeBrusk picked his head up at the bottom of the circle and lasered a pass over to captain Luke Philp in front of the net. Philp directed the pass on net and was stoned by Marchand with his glove again to keep the score at 2-0.

Red Deer were all over the Huskies in the opening minutes of the second period. They held the puck in the attacking zone for a while and were relentless on the puck. They managed to get five shots within the first three minutes. All the shots were high-quality scoring chances but were turned away by Marchand.

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Rouyn-Noranda went back on to the power play 3:46 into the middle frame. Red Deer defender Josh Mahura got caught for interfering with Huskies winger Martins Dzierkals. The Huskies looked to strike on the PP for another crushing goal. Well, the Huskies got just want they wanted and scored with 42 seconds left on the power play. With all the PP time being spent in the offensive zone on the prowl for a goal. Ottawa draft pick and Huskies winger Francis Perron had the puck at the top of the left-hand circle. Perron passed the puck up to D-man Nikolas Brouillard who unloaded a nasty one-time slapper that beat Rebel goalie Rylan Toth over his glove, off the post, and went into triple their lead at 3-0. This was Brouillard first goal of the MC and team’s second power-play goal of the game.

With 7:31 left in period two Red Deer would get another chance to score on their second power play of the game. Rouyn-Noranda winger Mathieu Boucher got caught for slashing Rebels center Conner Bleackley. Finally, after all of Red Deer’s pressure, they were able to get one past “on point” (don’t worry, that means good) Chase Marchand after a flurry of shots (three in eight seconds). Rebels center Michael Spacek had the puck at the left circle looking for options to pass to. Spacek found fellow D-man and Hurricanes draft pick Hayden Fleury open in the middle of the ice at the top of the point with a pass. Fleury wasted no time and put a one-t slapshot on net in hopes for a rebound. His wish was granted when the puck was deflected in the slot and slid right to captain Luke Philp just above the crease off to the right. Philp grabbed the loose puck and slammed the puck into the open net right before Marchand could get his pad over to his right. This was Philp’s second goal of the MC and brought his team back in the game at 3-1.

Three minutes later Red Deer would go right back on their third man advantage hoping to strike just like last time. Huskies D-man Jeremy Lauzon would make his second trip to the box, this time for holding Rebels winger Evan Polei. Sadly for Red Deer, they were held to just one shot thanks to stellar penalty killing from Rouyn-Noranda.

Towards the end of the period, specifically 50 seconds left, Red Deer would get one last chance before the second period would come to a close. Rebel defender Colton Bobyk, who is well known for his slap shot, decided to change it up a bit. Bobyk would fancy his luck with the puck and try to take it upon his own to score a goal. Bobyk would move on into the offensive zone just above the left circle. Bobyk ripped a wrist shot on net, that was labeled for the top right corner. Huskies Chase Marchand had other ideas and reached out and robbed Bobyk with a heavenly glove save to keep his team’s two-goal lead at 3-1 going into the second intermission.

As the third period started, Red Deer’s players and fans realized their season was coming to an end and were pushing to get a goal.

Five minutes into the final period, Rouyn-Noranda would get their third PP of the contest. Rebels winger Grayson Pawlenchuk got tacked with an infraction for cross checking on Huskies Mathieu Boucher. Red Deer kept their composure, only gave up one shot, and killed off the penalty with poise. Things did not get any better for Red Deer as they took another penalty four minutes later. This time, it was D-man Kyle Doetzel hauling down Huskies winger Timo Meier with a hook and sent Rouyn-Noranda to their fourth power play. Once again, Red Deer were ecstatic on the PK and killed it off.

Then with 6:50 left in the final frame, the Huskies were looking to tack on another insurance goal. Huskies winger Timo Meier was in a battle on the left point blue line into the attacking zone. Meier made a fantastic play and tipped the puck to Av’s draft pick and streaking center Julien Nantel to send him in on a breakaway. Nantel tried fooling Rebel goalie Rylan Toth with a couple fake moves and put a little wrister on net from the slot. Toth made a confident and easy right pad save and pushed the puck into the right corner to keep the game tied and give the Rebels a little glimmer of hope.

Red Deer tried another common tactic with 2:21 remaining. They pulled their goalie to get an extra attacker on the ice and play some 6 on 5 hockey. Well, this did not work at all one bit! Thanks to some stunning defense from Rouyn-Noranda in their own zone, they didn’t allow a single shot. This usually doesn’t happen with a man advantage, especially with the goalie is pulled, but the Huskies were up to the challenge and shut the Rebels down.

The game ended with the Huskies pulling out the win 3-1. Rebels goalie Rylan Toth stopped 24 out of 27 shots for a .889 SV% while Huskies goalie Chase Marchand stopped a whopping 36 out of 37 shots for a .973 SV %.

The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies will now face the RED HOT London Knights and Mitch Marner in the Championship Game on Sunday afternoon at 4:30. The game can be seen on NHL Network.

Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh – Game 7 – Rust scores both goals en route to the Eastern Title

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With a 2-1 Game 7 victory, the Pittsburgh Penguins earn a date with the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Steven Stamkos made his first return to the ice after recovering from his blood clots.  That malady had kept him sidelined since the last day of March, almost two full months.

The easiest thing to say about the first period is that it was just about even, not favoring one team or the other.  Although Tampa Bay almost certainly won the possession metric and effectively used those efforts to apply pressure on Second Star of the Game Matt Murray, Pittsburgh had more quality chances.

That being said, it was the Lightning who had the first quality chance.  It was a breakaway with one more skater to beat – defenseman Olli Maatta.  Before the Bolt could rear back and fire, the third-year Penguin performed a quality poke check to neutralize the attack.

Third Star Evgeni Malkin was busy in the period, but not always for Pittsburgh’s benefit.  He had at least two strong opportunities, but both times his efforts did not yield a goal.

He was also the first penalty of the contest, interfering with Ondrej Palat at the 6:52 mark.  The Bolts‘ power play lasted only 31 seconds, cut short when Brian Boyle slashed Nick Bonino.

Pittsburgh led the first frame in hits (eight to five), face-offs (56%), blocks (seven to six) and takeaways (three to two), while Tampa was the better squad in the giveaway (one to four) and hit (16 to 10) departments.

The second period had many more goals than the first, made true by First Star Bryan Rust’s snap shot only 1:55 after resuming play.  He was assisted by Chris Kunitz (his sixth helper of the postseason) and Malkin.  Waiting at the offensive blue line, Geno received a long pass from Maatta in the defensive zone.  Almost immediately after crossing into the zone, he left the puck for Kunitz, who found the rookie streaking towards Andrei Vasilevskiy’s crease.  He scored from between the face-off dots over the netminder’s glove.

A minute later, play transitioned into a four-on-four scenario once again as tempers started flaring, with Ian Cole (elbowing) and Cedric Paquette (roughing) both earning a seat in the sin bin.  During this time, the ice was certainly slanted towards Vasilevskiy’s cage, as Sidney Crosby and the Penguins took advantage of the less-congested ice to fire three quality shots (two by the captain) over two opportunities, all saved by the Lightning netminder.

Even once Cole and Paquette returned to the rink, Pittsburgh still maintained heavy pressure in their own offensive zone.  It wasn’t until the 8:43 mark that Tampa had a real opportunity on Murray’s net, but was able to make the save on only the second shot he’d faced in the frame.

That effort was important though, as the next Lightning attack leveled the game.  Sophomore Jonathan Drouin scored his fifth tally of the playoffs on a top-shelf wrister at the 9:36 mark, assisted by Valtteri Filppula and Victor Hedman (his 10th postseason assist).  Drouin collected a puck in the neutral zone from Filppula and advanced into the offensive zone in a three-on-three situation.  He crossed from far to near face-off zones before shooting over Murray’s glove.

The tied game didn’t last long though – only half a minute, to be exact.  Rust took credit for his second goal of the night (this on the game winner) on a wrister of his own, assisted by Ben Lovejoy and Malkin (his 11th helper of these playoffs).  Malkin found the puck in the near corner and shoved it up the boards to Lovejoy to reset the play.  The defenseman fired a shot off the boards behind the net, which Rust collected and shoved between the near post and Vasilevskiy’s left skate.

All of this was a result of increased offensive pressure.  Although Tampa Bay was successful in scoring on 20% of their shots this period, the Penguins preferred to do things the old-fashioned way with tons of shots – 21 to be exact, leading the Lightning‘s second period attempts by 16 shots.

Ryan Callahan was the next Bolt to take a seat on the wrong side of the ice, charged with hi-sticking Lovejoy with 7:37 remaining in the period.  Pittsburgh quickly took to peppering Vasilevskiy’s net, but try as they might, including an incredible opportunity for Conor Sheary stopped by Hedman, the Pens couldn’t register an insurance goal.

The Penguins once again headed to the power play with 5:06 remaining in the second period when Drouin held Tom Kuhnhackl’s stick, but just like Tampa‘s man-advantage, it ended early.  Like he has been so many other times this postseason, Kris Letang was the guilty party for tripping Palat only 19 seconds into the advantage.

Just like the other four-on-four this period, the Penguins took advantage of the open ice to put quick pressure on Vasilevskiy, but Stamkos and the Lightning took notes and returned the favor.  Both keepers made the necessary saves to keep the score differential favoring Pittsburgh by only a tally.

Right when Drouin exited the box, Hedman took a seat for slashing Malkin.  19 seconds later, the Penguins went to work on the power play for 101 ticks on the clock.  Phil Kessel almost scored on a rebound with half a minute remaining on the advantage, but once again Anton Stralman and the Tampa Bay defense stood tall to hold the score at 2-1.

Although Pittsburgh led the frame’s shots and takeaways (four to none), Tampa was actually better at the face-off dot and in blocks (six to three) and giveaways (two to three).  The teams both threw 12 hits in the frame, meaning Tampa was still the more physical team after 40 minutes (28 hits to 22).

As would be expected, Tampa Bay came out of the dressing room with a mission.  They applied almost constant pressure to Murray’s net for the first five minutes of the frame.  During the attack, Bonino performed a block that left him dazed, requiring him to be helped to the dressing room.  He returned to the bench approximately five game minutes later.

Nikita Kucherov put a kink in that offensive though when he fired a puck over the glass, earning him a two minute break.  The Penguins did well to earn Murray a break, but they could not expand their lead.  Just as soon as Kucherov returned, they resumed their attack on Murray’s crease with a Coyle breakaway chance, stopped by the goaltender’s right pad.

Thanks to some spectacular offensive pressure by the Pens, Vasilevskiy didn’t make his way to the Tampa bench until only a minute remained in regulation.

That minute was the loudest CONSOL Energy Center had been all night.  Tampa Bay took their timeout with 44 seconds remaining in regulation.  The ensuing face-off was in Pittsburgh‘s defensive zone, who won the restart and got the puck out of the zone twice… well, kind of.  The second one was an icing penalty with 14.9 seconds to go.

The Penguins then took their timeout, won the restart and tried to clear, but the puck hit Lovejoy’s stick.  The problem with that?  He was on the bench, meaning the next face-off was once again in Murray’s end.  Tampa Bay could not fire a shot in the remaining time, meaning that Pittsburgh won the Prince of Wales Trophy for the first time since 2009, taking it from the Eastern Conference runner-up.

Murray earns the victory after saving 16 of 17 shots faced (94.1%), while Vasilevskiy takes the loss, saving 37 of 39 (94.9%).

The Penguins will host the Western Champion San Jose Sharks this Monday, May 30.  Puck drop is scheduled for 8 p.m. eastern and may be viewed on CBC, NBC or TVAS.

HOT TAKES: Is It Time To Trade Marc-Andre Fleury?

By: Nick Lanciani

With Matt Murray’s impressive 2016 Stanley Cup Playoff run for the Pittsburgh Penguins, is it time for them to think about their future in goal and realize the future is now? Let’s decide whether or not it’s time for the Penguins to trade Marc-Andre Fleury.

Pittsburgh Penguins Logo

Trade Him, Trade Him Now

Everyone’s making a big fuss over goaltenders these days, yet it seems like the smart thing to do would be to stick with your number one goalie all along. The St. Louis Blues fallout in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final against the now-headed to their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history, San Jose Sharks, had nothing to do with shaky goaltending, despite being outscored by a large margin.

Brian Elliott was the Blues clear starting goalie in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs as Jake Allen lost his way in the final month and a half of the regular season and was relegated to the backup role in the playoffs. Allen’s Game 5 loss to the Sharks comes as no surprise, given well, let’s just say Elliott is the clear number one goaltender as of right now for St. Louis’s 2016-2017 season opener (and I’m not just saying that because of a bet I made with Connor).

The Penguins rode the momentum of their tremendous run on the backs of Marc-Andre Fleury, Matt Murray and Jeff Zatkoff this season, but one thing has emerged as a clear choice to make. Is it time to replace Fleury?

Look, that might sound surprising— okay, I’m even surprising myself— but let’s face it, Fleury is coming off his greatest season ever and there’s no greater time to amass a significant return than right now. Especially when Matt Murray put up similar numbers in the regular season to the currently elite Washington Capitals goaltender, Braden Holtby’s rookie year.

Fleury went 35-17-6 is 58 games played this season with a 2.29 GAA and a .921 SV%. He recorded five shutouts this year, which put him at 20 shutouts over the last three seasons. Last year, Fleury went 34-20-9 in 64 appearances, with a league leading and career high 10 shutouts and a 2.32 GAA and .920 SV%. For the lack of a better summarization, Fleury’s been on fire in recent years.

His success seems to be unusual, considering how Fleury often flutters out of peak performance in the playoffs— oh wait.

Having been out of the lineup since March 31st with a concussion, Fleury returned to his first game action in relief of Murray in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Lightning on May 20th. Fleury made his first start in nearly two months on May 22nd in Game 5.

In two playoff appearances, Fleury is 0-1-1 with a 3.03 GAA and an .875 SV%. In other words, not good for his first couple of games back on the wings of a spectacular Vezina Trophy worthy season (it beats me why Jonathan Quick is a finalist this year and Fleury is not). A good playoff goalie is expected to make an impact on the series, bar none.

I get it, he’s coming back from being mostly inactive for the last couple of months, but he is considered a regular at what he does for a living and should not have even started Game 5, based on Murray’s performance in the playoffs as a whole. You don’t change your goalie in a series unless it’s goalie change in a relief appearance or heading into an elimination game— otherwise you’re only tinkering with momentum and robbing a goalie’s confidence (and perhaps the rest of the team’s confidence).

But Matt Murray is ten years younger and making an impact as good, if not better than Fleury, when it comes to crunch time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In Murray’s 13 regular season games this season, he went 9-2-1 with a 2.00 GAA and a .930 SV%. His rookie season save percentage almost mirror’s Holtby’s .934 SV% as a rookie 21-year-old back in the 2010-2011 season. Holtby also went 12-10-2 in 14 games with a 1.79 GAA, for the record, that year.

While Holtby set himself apart from the rest in 12 playoff appearances this year with a 1.72 GAA and .942 SV% at 26-years old, Murray’s been Holtby-esque spectacular, all while defeating the Capitals and taking his team further than Holtby’s ever been in the playoffs.

In 14 playoff appearances, Murray is 10-4-1 with a 2.30 GAA and a .924 SV% in his first run through the Stanley Cup Playoffs heading into Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. Holtby went 7-7-4 in 14 games played with a .935 SV% and a 1.95 GAA in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs (his first taste of playoff hockey). While the numbers might seem misleading, Holtby allowed 30 goals on 459 shots against that year and Murray’s allowed 32 goals on 420 shots against thus far in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

For a 21— 22-year-old goaltender, this kind of a run is insanity, no matter how you look at it.

For a general manager, living in the Braden Holtby-as-top-dog-in-net era, it’s certainly worth considering moving Murray up not only from the third-string position, but to your number one spot for good.

I have nothing against Marc-Andre Fleury as he is now.

I’ll repeat that. I have nothing against Marc-Andre Fleury.

However, at $5.75 million with 4 years left on his contract and Murray only costing $620K with two years left and a plethora of other talented pending RFA’s in the next couple of seasons for the Penguins, it’s worth the time to see what other teams would give up for a surefire number one goalie for at least the next five years (if not longer- Fleury isn’t showing signs of turning into the next Ryan Miller anytime soon).

And given the relationship between the Penguins and the Toronto Maple Leafs after the Phil Kessel deal in the offseason, it might be worth investigating just how badly Toronto needs a goaltender. Let alone other teams scampering around the Maple Leafs in the standings.

One more tidbit of information; Fleury’s rookie campaign of the 2003-2004 season only saw a 4-win, 14 losses and 2 ties performances in 21 games played with a 3.64 GAA and a .896 SV% at the age of 18 going on 19.

The fact of the matter is that the Penguins could lengthen the life of their success with a young goalie like Murray putting on a performance similar to their rival in Washington’s goalie (Holtby) and still be built on the currently successful Chicago model of running a team.

A team built on interchangeable scoring, a shutdown defense and a goalie that is clutch when you need him to be, but can be bailed out as he grows with the team in front of him.

Trade Fleury while you can. Make a pure hockey move, reminiscent of the days when the Boston Bruins acquired prolific goal scorer Phil Esposito in a deal that worked out for everyone involved— Blackhawks included— or like when the Colorado Avalanche landed Patrick Roy from the Montréal Canadiens— except the Canadiens didn’t really get much out of that deal and it was kind of forced on them (or by themselves, depending of who you ask).

Bottom line, hockey is a business and in a business you’re always looking for the here and now and where you’re headed in the future. Otherwise you’re only doomed to mismanagement at its finest. Pittsburgh has a chance to avoid poor management by trading Fleury while the price is still high and avoid falling in the standings by the grace of the rest of their organization and Matt Murray in goal.

Sharks Silence the Blues in Six Games, Reach First Ever Stanley Cup Final.

The St. Louis Blues will have to wait another season to try and make it to the Stanley Cup Final. The Blues have not made it to the SCF since the 1969-70 season when they lost to the Boston Bruins in 4 games (you might recall that flying goal by Bobby Orr in overtime in Game 4). That is a whopping 44 seasons in a row, which ranks 2nd all-time among teams trailing only the Toronto Maple Leafs who have not made it since 1966-67, which is 47 seasons.

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This is the San Jose Sharks biggest game in their 25 years of being a NHL team. They will try and silence the  St. Louis Blues Stanley Cup run tonight at “The Shark Tank”.

With a Sharks win in Game 6 on Wednesday night, they would advance to the Stanley Cup Final. It would be their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history. The Blues will be going back to their “number one” goalie Brian Elliott for Game 6. Elliott was benched for their last two games as he was replaced by Jake Allen.

After Allen’s horrid Game 5, where he 0nly stopped 21 out of 25 shots for a terrible .840 SV% the Blues made the switch back to Elliott for the next game. Elliott has given up 6 goals on his last 37 shots in his last 2 starts, as well as being 2-0 in elimination games these playoffs. Allen did start Game 4 in San Jose where the Blues looked like a brand new team winning 6-3 and Allen finishing with a strong .912 SV%. St. Louis fans had something to look forward too after his win, but were let down as Allen and the Blues looked like a pee-wee team and squandered a 2-1 lead and a 3-2 lead and ended up losing the game.

As well as the Blues goalie troubles, they are having scoring troubles from their better players. For example, star winger Vladimir Tarasenko led the Blues in scoring with 40 goals which were the most on the team. Tarasenko has yet to register a POINT let alone a goal in the series. He will definitely have to pick up his play. So the Blues will look to stave off elimination and force another Game 7 back in St. Louis.

San Jose has played in a total of 31 playoff series. Out of these 31 series, 10 of them have ended in 6 games. The Sharks have been on the losing end of the majority of these matchups with their record being 3-7. The Sharks will look to keep their composure and win in front of their home crowd. While St. Louis will look to do the opposite and get the crowd out of the game early, just as they did the last time they were here.

The Sharks won the battle of the crowd-pleasing early, although the game’s first shot didn’t happen until almost two minutes in (courtesy of San Jose), they got the crowd pumped and ready to go with a couple chances early. St. Louis got a little life back as they went on a little run, stringing together 3 shots but were all turned away by San Jose’s goalie Martin Jones. The Sharks would keep the crowd loud and proud as they would tally first almost four minutes in.

Here’s how it went down:

Sharks goalie Martin Jones would come up huge with a wicked glove save to stone Blues vet Alex Steen in the slot. The rebound would go flying into the left corner. Sharks winger Tomas Hertl found the puck lying in the corner and went back to get it. Hertl basically grabbed the puck, turned around in the corner, and threw the puck out of the zone for what it looked like to be a harmless clear.

Well, Sharks vet Jumbo Joe Thornton would sneak behind the two St. Louis’ defenders, pick up the loose puck after it was slowed down by a tip, and burst in on a breakaway. Thornton would come in on Blues goalie Brian Elliott and flip a wrister on net in the slot but would miss the net completely going high and get all glass behind the net.

As both of the Blues defenders would clumsily go behind the net looking for the puck, Sharks captain Joe Pavelski would find the loose puck behind the net. Pavelski sneakily wrapped the puck around the back of the net to Elliott’s left and get stoned by Elliott as he whipped out his left pad. Fortunately for Pavelski, since the defenders were still behind the net, the puck sat on the goal line. Pavelski had another huge whack at the puck and pushed the puck over the goal line to-tally first and put them in the lead at 1-0. This was Pavelski’s league leading 13th goal of the playoffs.

This early goal got the crowd ROARING early and LOUDLY. This was exactly what the Sharks wanted, to jump out to an early lead and get the crowd going. Sharks fans had something to look up to, because in all 5 previous games in the series, the team to score first would end up winning the game. The Sharks would also shut down the Blues offense early as they held St. Louis shot-less for a long six-minute span in the middle of the first period.

Surprisingly, there were no more big opportunities, just small ones, and no team took a single penalty in the first frame which happened for the second straight game. Other than that, to sum up the opening period between these two teams… it was ALL Sharks. When I say “ALL Sharks” I really mean it, this doesn’t happen very often, when a team controls the whole period. The Sharks only let 4 shots reach goalie Martin Jones as he had a quiet period after his glove save. San Jose scored early and dominated the rest of the period and kept their 1-0 lead going into the first intermission.

The “no penalty” part of the first did not carry over into the second period. Just 36 seconds into the middle period, Blues winger Troy Brouwer gets called for interference on Sharks winger Joonas Donskoi. This sent the Sharks to their first power play of the game, where they always dominate even if they don’t score a man up. They always create momentum no matter what. Unfortunately, the Blues were great at getting their sticks in the shooting lane and only let one shot get to Elliott and they killed it off.

The Sharks would once again lock down on defense and didn’t allow a shot until five minutes into the period. This stellar defense would lead to their second goal of the game. San Jose’s 3rd line would go right to work in the attacking zone looking for a goal. Sharks grinder Chris Tierney would find his way out of a battle in the right corner with the puck. Tierney pushed the puck up to Sharks star D-man Brent Burns at the right side point. Burns flipped a wrister on net that would find the stick of Sharks winger, Joel Ward. The puck would deflect right off Ward’s stick, past Elliott’s blocker, and into the net. This was Ward’s 3rd goal of the playoffs and 19th of his career in the postseason.

The Sharks would have another glorious chance as they would get their potent power play back onto the ice, and this one was a lengthy one. Blues 4th liner Scottie Upshall would catch Sharks winger Tommy Wingels up high with his stick. It would be a double minor (four minutes) because Wingels was bleeding from the contact with the stick. The Blues were once again up to the task, only giving up two shots, and killed off a huge penalty to keep the score at 2-0 at the midway point of the second period.

St. Louis would get their best chance to cut into the lead at the 10:48 mark of the period. Blues 1st line center Jori Lehtera would receive a perfect pass from teammate Robby Fabbri right in his wheelhouse in the slot on the right hash marks. Lehtera would unleash a massive one-time clap bomb and was absolutely ROBBED by Jones’ left pad. Jones pushed from his right to his left and kicked out his left pad at the last minute to rob Lehtera to keep his perfect night intact. This save was Jones’ best save of the series by far!

The second period would end with the score still being 2-0 in favor of the Sharks. The only thing different in the summary of the period was that San Jose had all the momentum early in the period especially with the goal five minutes in. Although, after the Blues killed off the massive four minutes power play, they brought the momentum back to their side. They spent probably 70% of the remainder of the period in the Sharks zone threatening to score. St. Louis outshot the Sharks 7-2 after killing the penalty. San Jose’s Martin Jones was there for every shot and turned them all away. The Sharks are 7-0 when leading after two periods in the playoffs while outscoring the opposition 26-12 in the third periods overall.

Well, the Sharks third period dominance showed up again early in the final period. San Jose’s 2nd line was in on the prowl looking to extend their lead and they did with beautiful passing. Sharks winger Joel Ward stole the puck in the offensive zone high on the right side boards. Ward looked up and fired a cross-ice pass over to linemate Logan Couture on top of the left side circle. Couture corralled the pass and skated down to the left side hash marks almost right on the boards.

Couture then whipped a wicked pass over to a streaking Joel Ward, who slipped down past the defense, parked right above the goalie crease to the right and tapped it into the wide-open net to extend their lead to 3-0 just three minutes into period three. It was Ward’s second goal of the game and fourth goal in his past two games.

The Sharks threatened to score again almost two minutes later. Sharks winger Tomas Hertl found himself with the puck behind the Blues net. Hertl stickhandled three to four times in place and found a wide open Joe Pavelski right below the left side hash marks. Pavelski put a snap shot right on net that had to be headed down into the corner by Elliott to keep the Blues’ little glimmer of hope still alive.

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That little glimmer of hope was smashed into pieces just four minutes later when San Jose would score again to go up 4-0. Sharks’ Patrick Marleau seized the puck in the neutral zone and skated into the offensive zone on the right side.

Marleau stopped on a T at the hash marks near the boards and dumped the puck off to streaking winger Logan Couture at the top of the circle. Couture took the puck, skated a foot, and spotted fellow winger Joonas Donskoi wide open in the slot to his left.

Donskoi wasted no time with the pass and unloaded a massive one-timer that beat Brian Elliott to his right. This was Donskoi’s 5th goal of the playoffs.

St. Louis would piece together a little bit of hope that was previously smashed by Donskoi’s goal. Blue’s D-man Colton Parayko would get the puck on the top of the right circle. Parayko would rip a wrister on net that was saved by Jones’ pad, but Jones would trip himself up and fall over. Blues’ Jori Lehtera would get the rebound and take the puck behind the net to set back up. Lehtera would find Russian star Vladimir Tarasenko high left side in the slot. Tarasenko would find the puck in his feet, kick the puck to his stick, and shoot a wrister on net that beat the out of position Jones high blocker side. This was finally Tarasenko’s first point and goal of the series to make the score 4-1.

Then with 4:25 left in the game a scrum would ensue between the benches. After everything settled down, both teams would get a penalty with a player from each side going to the box. Sharks’ Tommy Wingels would get caught for slashing Blues D-man Kevin Shattenkirk while Shattenkirk would get caught for cross-checking Wingels right back. We would have played 4 on 4 hockey with the penalties offsetting each other. St. Louis wasn’t going to take any chances and needed to score badly so they pulled Brian Elliott to make it 5 on 4 in favor of St. Louis.

This worked right in favor for the Blues as the scored 50 seconds later to cut the Sharks lead in half at 4-2. Blues center Paul Stastny would get the bouncing puck above the hash marks on the left side. Stastny would pass the puck down to recent goal scorer Vladimir Tarasenko right on the goal line in the left corner. Tarasenko would see that the Sharks were giving him a lot of room and drove right to the net on the goal line. Tara would simply try his luck on goal with a little wrist shot. Somehow the seeing-eye shot would find a way into the net after Tara banked the puck right in off Jones’ hip as he was hugging the right post. This was Tarasenko’s second goal of the game and gave the team a little more hope then before.

St. Louis would then pull Brian Elliott and replace him with Jake Allen. The main reason for the replacement was that Allen is a much better puck handler in case he had to handle a loose puck. They move did not make much sense because they pulled him for the rest of the game to get the extra attacker to play 6 on 5 hockey for the last three minutes of the game.

The extra attacker did not pay off as they only managed four more shots that were stopped by Jones to keep their two goal lead. Then with 20 seconds left in the game, after a nice blocked shot from defender Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the Sharks would put the icing on the cake with Logan Couture’s empty net goal to make it 5-2.

This would end up being the final score as the Sharks ended the Blues season earlier then they hoped. San Jose will now play in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history. The most experienced players on the team, them being Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, will also play in their first SCF after a combined 3,093 games! The Sharks were then presented with the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, which is awarded to the Western Conference Playoff Champion.

There is a superstition about touching or not touching the trophy when it is presented to you. Some say if you touch it, you will lose the SCF. Well captain, Joe Pavelski did not touch the trophy, as most players choose not to so we will see what happens! This is also Sharks coach Peter DeBoer 2nd career time reaching the Stanley Cup Final. His first time was with the New Jersey Devils in 2012, his first time coaching in the NHL. The 2012 Devils, like the 2016 Sharks, missed the playoffs entirely the year before.

Sharks goalie Martin Jones stopped 23 out of 25 shots for a solid .920 SV% and Blues’ Brian Elliott stopped 22 out of 26 shots for a disastrous .856 SV%. St. Louis led in faceoffs (32-27), penalty minutes (8-2), and hits (42-31) while San Jose led in shots (27-25),  blocked shots (18-14), and giveaways (19-12). San Jose was 0/3 on the PP and St. Louis was 0/1.

San Jose’s final stats for their Conference Final are as followed: Teams leading goal scorer were Joe Pavelski and Joel Ward both with four, leading apple (assist) getter was Joe Thornton with seven, leading total point getter was Joe Pavelski with nine points (4G, 5A), the time on ice leader was Brent Burns averaging 23:39 per game. Goalie Stats: Martin Jones appeared in 6 games going 4-2 with a .920 SV% and 2.02 GAA and James Reimer appeared in 1 game (a relief effort) saving 6 out of 7 shots for a .857 and 2.06 GAA.

St. Louis’ final stats for their CF are: Teams leading goal scorer was surprisingly Troy Brouwer with three, leading apple getter was Paul Stastny with four, total point getter was Paul Stastny with four points (0G, 4A), time on ice leader was Alex Pietrangelo averaging 26:44 per game. Goalie Stats: Brian Elliott in 4 games going 1-3 with a .884 SV% and 3.02 GAA and Jake Allen also in 4 games going 1-1 with a .885 SV% and a 3.29 GAA%.

San Jose will have a nice little break as they wait to find out their opponent— either the Pittsburgh Penguins or Tampa Bay Lightning— for the Stanley Cup. Pittsburgh and Tampa battle in Game 7 of the 2016 Eastern Conference Final on Thursday night at CONSOL Energy Center. The first game of the Stanley Cup Final will be on Monday, May 30th.

Penguins force Game 7 with 5-2 victory over Lightning

By: Nick Lanciani

Pittsburgh Penguins LogoWell, Evgeni Malkin made true on his words— there will be a Game 7 in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Sidney Crosby’s 6th goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs proved to be the game-winner for the Pittsburgh Penguins after a third period surge by the Tampa Bay Lightning, as Pittsburgh walked out of Amalie Arena on Tuesday night in Game 6 with a 5-2 win.

Matt Murray was in net for the Penguins after some speculation over whether or not Marc-Andre Fleury would return to the goal after his Game 5 flub in a 4-3 overtime comeback for Tampa on Sunday. Instead, it was Murray in goal for the Pens, staving off elimination for at least one more game day. Tuesday night was the first time this postseason that Pittsburgh was facing elimination.

Murray made 28 saves on 30 shots on goal for a .933 SV% in the 60 minute effort, while Andrei Vasilevskiy came up with just 29 saves on 33 shots faced for a .879 SV% in the loss.

After an overturned goal early into the first period, the Tampa Bay Lightning fell out of rhythm and the Pittsburgh Penguins settled in for an eventual 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

Here’s how it happened.

Lightning fans in attendance jumped from their seats as Jonathan Drouin thought he had scored on a beautiful rebound from Matt Murray into the wide open net vacated by an out of position Penguins goaltender (Murray). But with 14:48 to go in the first period, Penguins head coach, Mike Sullivan, used his only coach’s challenge of the night to review the goal and see if the play entering the zone was offside.

As Tampa entered the zone, Drouin had lifted his left leg, which was trailing his already-in-the-offensive-zone- right leg as the puck just barely crossed the blue line, thereby making Drouin offside. Multiple angles confirmed it and the call on the ice was overturned. The Lightning were offside and had not scored as a result. Play resumed, scoreless.

Drouin’s overturned goal was the 8th overturned goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Evgeni Malkin added fuel to his own fiery passion for the game upon a retaliation infraction at 14:20 of the first period. Malkin received a two-minute minor penalty for slashing Tampa Bay captain, Ryan Callahan, and gave the Lightning their first power play of the night. The Bolts were unable to capitalize on the man advantage and the Penguins escaped a bad situation with one of their top forwards in the box with no harm.

Two penalties in a span of 41 seconds doomed the Lightning on their penalty kill unit’s first appearance of the night. Anton Stralman was called for interference on a subjectively early/on time hit, depending who you ask, on Tom Kuhnhackl at 17:09 of the 1st and Victor Hedman was called for delay of game for sending the puck over the glass at 17:50 of the 1st period. With Tampa’s top defensive pair (Stralman and Hedman) in the box, Pittsburgh went to work on a 5-on-3 power play opportunity.

Phil Kessel hacked at a flubbed pass from Sidney Crosby and ended up putting the puck at the back of the net for his 9th goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Crosby (9) and Malkin (9) picked up the assists on the power play goal at 18:46 of the period.

With the goal, the Lightning gained a man back on the penalty kill and were able to escape the ensuing 5-on-4 advantage for Pittsburgh unscathed.

After twenty minutes of play, the Penguins led 1-0 on the scoreboard and 14-4 in shots on goal, continuing their trend of outshooting the Lightning, as they entered Game 6 with a 196-131 shots on goal advantage over Tampa. The Bolts led in hits (7-6), faceoff wins (16-4), giveaways (7-3) and blocked shots (6-4), meanwhile Pittsburgh went 1/2 on the man advantage in the first and the Lightning went 0/1.

Tampa started the second period with an extra jump in their step that they quickly lost and found themselves trailing the Penguins all over the ice.

Kris Letang made it a 2-0 game with his 2nd goal of the playoffs scored on a nice wrist shot with a Penguin screening Vasilevskiy in front of the net. Conor Sheary (5) and Nick Bonino (12) notched the primary and secondary assists on Letang’s goal at 7:40 of the 2nd period.

Ondrej Palat slashed Carl Hagelin just past halfway in the second period and received a minor penalty, which put Pittsburgh on the power play at 10:06 of the period. The Penguins were unable to convert on the man advantage and the Lightning were successful on the penalty kill without committing too many turnovers.

With 25.6 seconds left in the period, Sidney Crosby made it a 3-0 game with his 6th goal of the playoffs on a wicked impressive wrist shot that beat Vasilevskiy. The lone assist went to Patric Hornqvist and was his 4th assist of the postseason.

Forty minutes were in the books and the Penguins looked all but sure to have the game easily wrapped up by the second intermission, but Tampa Bay’s Brian Boyle had other plans in mind, at least in terms of entertainment value for the Lightning fans that packed Amalie Arena on Tuesday night.

Unknown-1Five and a half minutes into the third period, Boyle fired a shot that bounced off a Pittsburgh skater and wound its way behind Murray to get Tampa on the board and cut the Penguins lead to two. The goal was Boyle’s 4th of the postseason and made it 3-1.

Trailing by two, the Lightning drummed up several more quality chances before finally breaking through Murray’s brick wall with another goal from Boyle. His 5th of the playoffs, Boyle’s second goal of the night was assisted by Slater Koekkoek (1) and Jonathan Drouin (9) at 12:43 of the 3rd period. Plenty of time left for Tampa to make things interesting.

But nearly five minutes after Brian Boyle earned his 1st career multi-goal playoff game, Bryan Rust skated in on Vasilevskiy on a costly breakaway.

With a deke and a forehanded shot that slid past Vasilevskiy’s leg pad, Rust scored his 3rd goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and put the Penguins back up by two. Chris Kunitz (5) and Olli Maatta (3) were credited with the assists on Rust’s goal at 17:52 of the third period in what was now a 4-2 game.

Neither team committed a penalty in the third period and both teams swapped a couple of chances before Jon Cooper had to make the call to pull Vasilevskiy in favor of an extra attacker with about 75 seconds left in the game.

Bonino promptly tallied an empty net goal for Pittsburgh at 19:06 of the third period and made it an unreachable three-goal lead. His 3rd of the playoffs, Bonino’s goal made it 5-2 and was assisted by Ben Lovejoy (2).

With the win, road teams improved to 42-41 this postseason. In the entire 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, road teams were 38-51. Pittsburgh improved to 47-1 when leading after two periods this season (regular and postseason combined). Their only loss came in Game 5 to the Lightning.

The Penguins last rallied from a 3-2 series deficit in the 2009 Stanley Cup Final against the Detroit Red Wings. Having forced a Game 7 for Thursday night, the Penguins have a chance to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2009. Tampa is looking to go to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history, having lost in last year’s Stanley Cup Final run to the defending champion, Chicago Blackhawks.

The Lightning also defeated the New York Rangers on the road in Game 7 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Final, for the record.

Pittsburgh and Tampa have faced each other in a Game 7 only one other time in Stanley Cup Playoff history. They met each other in the 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals and the series came down to a 1-0 victory for the Lightning in Game 7 on the road at CONSOL Energy Center.

Some final stats from Game 6…

The Penguins led in shots on goal (34-30) and blocked shots (15-8), while the Lightning dominated in hits (26-18), faceoff wins (39-31), giveaways (17-7) and takeaways (8-6). Pittsburgh finished the night 1/3 on the power play and Tampa ended Tuesday’s action 0/1 on the man advantage.

The Lightning were still without Ben Bishop and Steven Stamkos and it is unclear whether or not either one of them, if not both, may return for Game 7 on Thursday night in Pittsburgh at CONSOL Energy Center.

Puck drop for Thursday is scheduled for 8 PM ET and the game can be viewed on NBCSN in the United States and on CBC and TVA Sports in Canada.

San Jose at St. Louis – Game 5 – Sharks score six goals to pull within a win of the Stanley Cup Finals

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The two highest scoring postseason teams went at it again Monday night, and did not disappoint as the Sharks won 6-3 to pull within a win of the Stanley Cup Finals.

St. Louis started the night with three straight shots before the Sharks could register their first almost four minutes into play.  It didn’t matter though, as Shot No. 2 found the back of the net on a Tomas Hertl backhander, assisted by Marc-Edouard Vlasic and First Star of the Game Joe Pavelski.  Third Star Joe Thornton won the face-off at the far dot, which was collected by Pavelski heading towards the point.  He passed back to the far boards to Vlasic, who fired a slap shot towards Jake Allen’s net before Troy Brouwer could apply pressure, but Hertl redirected the puck before it reached the crease to get past Allen’s glove.

Following that tally, the Sharks certainly took control of the game, as they had another great scoring opportunity around the 6:30 mark.  A San Jose forward collected a rebound in front of a fairly open net, but he elevated the puck too much and it sailed over the cross bar.

Jaden Schwartz leveled the game at the 7:04 mark with a wrister, assisted by David Backes (his seventh helper of the postseason) and Patrik Berglund.  Off an initial shot from Kevin Shattenkirk, Berglund collected the rebound around the near face-off dot.  He turned around and shot again at Martin Jones’ net, which was once again blocked.  From his usual spot right in front of the crease, Backes passed along the goal line to Schwartz, who fired past Jones’ stick side to tie the game at one-all.

With 4:52 remaining in the frame, Brouwer fired a wrister out of midair to give the Blues their second tally.  He was assisted by Paul Stastny (his ninth playoff helper), who had fired the initial shot that became the airborne rebound off Jones’ pads, and Alexander Steen.  Steen advanced the puck into the zone before running into Hertl, but passed just in time to Stastny who fired from between the face-off dots.  Brouwer one-timed his shot from the near face-off circle to beat Jones stick side.

Just like San Jose, the Blues fed off the momentum of that tally to keep the puck almost predominantly in the offensive zone.  Although it did not turn into their third goal, the Notes were certainly happy to keep the Sharks off the board for the remainder of the frame, sending the game into intermission at 2-1.

Although St. Louis led on the scoreboard, San Jose statistically had the advantage through the first frame.  Their 10 shots were one more than the Blues‘, helped by winning 56% of face-offs.  Defensively, their five blocks were two more than St. Louis‘, the same differential as their takeaways (the Sharks had three of those).  Giveaways and hits also favored San Jose, as the Sharks committed one fewer turnover and threw four more blows.

The first power play of the game occurred at the 2:38 mark, but it was three players earning seats.  Tommy Wingels hit an unaware Shattenkirk, who didn’t take kindly to it and initiated a fight.  He was also charged with roughing, which was served by the innocent Second Star Robby Fabbri.  The Blues were two seconds from killing the penalty, but Joel Ward was able to score a wild puck to tie the game again at the 4:37 mark.  He was assisted by Vlasic and Paul Martin.  Martin received a pass at the point and passed to Vlasic, waiting at the top of the near face-off circle.  His initial shot on Allen’s net was saved, but wildly bounced off the crossbar and the net-minder’s back.  Ward’s quick stick was able to complete the score to level the game at two-all.

St. Louis earned their chance at the power play at the 8:03 mark when Justin Braun held Fabbri, partially because he had thrown a solid hit and fired a quality in the preceding seconds.  The Sharks‘ penalty kill stood tall though, so the score remained tied at two.

The second fight of the night was between Roman Polak and Dmitrij Jaskin.  The two were tumbled together in the St. Louis offensive zone and, while they were still on the ice, Polak threw a right punch at Jaskin’s head, and again once they’d gotten  up.  Polak was charged with roughing, and both with fighting, giving the Blues a second power play.

In their first power play attempt, the Blues didn’t notch a shot on goal.  They learned from their mistakes and scored on this one with 8:02 remaining in the frame.  Fabbri takes credit for the tally, assisted by Colton Parayko and Alex Pietrangelo (his seventh playoff helper).  Fabbri begins the play retreating back to the blue line before passing across the zone to Pietrangelo.  After getting to the near face-off dot, he passed across the zone to the rookie defenseman in open ice, who found Fabbri at the point to score five-hole on Jones, making him only the second Blues rookie with 15+ points in a postseason.

With 2:52 remaining, Shattenkirk earned a seat in the sin bin for hooking Hertl as he was streaking towards Allen’s crease, although I would guess that many folks in the Bay Area would have been inclined to award a penalty shot.  The net result was the same, as the Sharks struck on their second power play with their second power play goal with 1:27 remaining in the frame to level the score again.  Pavelski takes credit with a slap shot, assisted by Thornton and Logan Couture (his 14th playoff assist).  Patrick Marleau collected the puck along the near boards and dumped further into the goal to Couture, who won a scrum against Carl Gunnarsson to pass behind the net to Thornton.  Thornton centered a pass to Pavelski, setting him up to beat Allen over his glove.

Three more shots in the period turned into an extra goal for the Sharks, especially when paired with eight takeaways, only two giveaways and 30 hits through 40 minutes.

The Sharks took a 4-3 lead only 16 seconds after returning to the ice when Pavelski tipped-in his second goal of the game, assisted by Brent Burns (his 13th postseason helper) and Hertl.  Off another face-off win (this one courtesy of the goalscorer), Thornton collected and dumped off to Burns, who fired a shot on Allen.  Allen blocked the attempt into the near corner where it was collected by Hertl, who returned the puck to Burns at the top of the zone.  Burns fired once again from the blue line, which Pavelski redirected under Allen’s glove.

A bad situation got worse for St. Louis when they were caught with too many men on the ice, giving the Sharks the opportunity to go three-for-three on the power play this game.  Vladimir Tarasenko took the seat in the box for the Notes at the 4:52 mark.  It lasted only 41 seconds before Marleau tripped Parayko, setting the game at four-on-four for 1:19 and ending that opportunity.  The four-on-four was exciting, with both teams having solid opportunities, but no score.

St. Louis‘ 41 seconds of the power play was equally as unsuccessful as the Sharks‘, so the score remained 4-3.

With 54 seconds remaining in the regulation, Chris Tierney scored a wrap-around goal on an empty net to secure the victory, assisted by Thornton (his 14th playoff helper).  Another empty netter was struck from mid-ice 21 seconds later by Ward, his fourth of the playoffs, setting the score at the 6-3 final.

Jones earns the win after saving 18 of the 21 shots he faced (85.7%), while Allen takes the loss, saving 21 of 25 (84%).

Game 6 will take place on May 25 in San Jose at 9 p.m. eastern.  It may be viewed on CBC, NBCSN or TVAS.

The Duo of Johnson and Kucherov lead The Bolts to a Comeback Win, Now Lead Series 3-2.

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The Pittsburgh Penguins blew two leads; a 2-0 lead, and a 3-2 lead late in the game and lost a heartbreaker to the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in Overtime. This win puts the Lightning up 3-2 in the series and are now one win away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second year in a row.

The Pittsburgh Penguins looked to get back into the win column tonight at home. After dominating Games 2 and 3, the Pens were outworked in a Game 4 loss. Pittsburgh was welcomed to see that WWE Hall-of-Fame legend The Heartbreak Kid aka Shawn Micheals would be in attendance for tonight game. The Penguins 3rd line, better known as the HBK line, made up of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, and Phil Kessel has been on fire as of late. Shawn Michaels has inspired all Pittsburgh fans to now call this line the HBK line and the Pens invited him to come out to the game and he did! So Michaels hoped he could see the Pens pull out a win.

The Penguins turned to their 12-year vet, goaltender Marc-André Fleury for his first start since March 31st. Fleury has not played since the end of March because he was battling a concussion. The Penguins were going with newcomer Matt Murray in hopes that he could spark the team and go on a long run. They were right and Murray was the backbone of the team and led them all the way to Round 3, the Conference Finals. Sadly, after Murray’s last performance in the Game 4 loss, he was pulled at the start of the third period due to the fact that he let in 4 goals on 30 total shots for a measly .867 SV%. Murray has appeared in a total of 13 games in this year’s playoffs going 9-4-1 with a .923 SV% and a 2.33 GAA. Pittsburgh is making the right call going with Fleury for Game 5. This game is also Fleury’s 100th career playoff game.

Now on to the long list of injuries. As expected, Tampa goalie Ben Bishop, who has been out since his lower-body-injury in Game 1, is sidelined again for the 4th consecutive game. Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos, who also has not played since the end of March due to a blood clot, is still not able to suit up. The Penguins have scratched winger Conor Sheary who has not scored a goal since April 23rd. Beau Bennett has been given the nod to play tonight. This will be Bennett’s first game of the playoffs this year, and his first game since April 5th at Ottawa. On the other hand, Pens lockdown D-man Trevor Daley will miss the rest of the postseason, no matter how far Pittsburgh gets, due to a broken left ankle suffered in Game 4. Pittsburgh will welcome D-man Olli Maatta back into the lineup. Maatta has been dealing with a lingering injury suffered against the Capitals in Round 2 and some poor play that has held him in and out of the lineup. The Penguins will have to rely on the play of D-man Kris Letang more if they will want to shut down the strong forwards of the Lightning.

The game started out with both teams flying out of the gate and being very physical with each other. The two clubs combined for a total of 13 hits within the first nine minutes of the opening frame. So you could tell that both teams aren’t messing around and want an early edge over the other squad.

We would get the game’s first penalty with them being coincidental. Tampa defender Matt Carle and Pens center Evgeni Malkin both getting the gate for unsportsmanlike conduct at 9:11 of the first period. We would play 4 on 4 hockey for 1:25 until the Lightning would get the games first true penalty. Tampa center Tyler Johnson would get a two-minute call for hooking Pens captain Sidney Crosby. With this call the Pens would play 35 seconds of 4 on 3 man advantage, they were not able to score or apply pressure. The coincidental would expire and both teams would get their players back and they would play a regular 5 on 4 power play for 1:25. Pittsburgh only managed one shot and Tampa killed it off.

Pittsburgh would get on the board first, but would barely beat the buzzer. It all started with a great play by Pens winger Chris Kunitz who would get the puck on the left-hand boards by the blue line in his own zone. Kunitz would make a beautiful play to chip the puck past pinching Tampa defender Anton Stralman and up to a streaking teammate, Bryan Rust in the neutral zone. Rust would grab the pass and beat opposing defender Victor Hedman wide and go in on a mini breakaway. Rust was able to hold of the back checking of Hedman and get off a wimpy shot in close that was saved by a stretched out Andrei Vasilevskiy and his right pad. The rebound was sat right on top of the goalie crease for anyone to grab. Meanwhile behind the play, Pens defender Brian Dumoulin jumped up in the play when he realized that the time was running out in the period. Dumoulin beat Tampa grinder Brian Boyle to the net and shoveled home the rebound with .7 seconds left in the period to put the Pens on the board at 1-0. This goal was Dumoulin’s first goal in 103 games (he did not score in the regular season playing 79 games), his first ever playoff goal, and his second ever career goal in the NHL.

The second period would start with it being all Penguins, and as a result, the Pens would double their lead. Pittsburgh would bring the puck into the zone with Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby skating down to the right boards to the hash marks. Crosby would post up and spot Pens D-man Olli Maatta wide open in the middle of the ice at the point. Maatta would receive the pass and quickly fire a shot pass to winger Carl Hagelin who peeled open at the top of the goalie crease on the left side. Hagelin would direct the pass to fellow winger Patric Hornqvist on top of the crease to the right side. Hornqvist would then tap the puck into the wide open net to increase the Pens lead to 2-0. This was Hornqvist’s 7th goal of the playoffs.

Tampa would get their first power play of the game, and their first real chance to cut into Pittsburgh’s deficit. Pens D-man Kris Letang would get a two-minute trip to the box for slashing Tampa youngster Jonathan Drouin. Tampa’s power play has been struggling lately as they are just 2/8 in the series coming into Game 5. The Lightning would get their best chance of the game with the PP coming to an end. Defender Victor Hedman would get the puck at the point and come right down the middle of the ice. Hedman would fake a shot and dish it off to center Tyler Johnson at the side of the net. Johnson had the whole top of the net to shoot at. He one-timed the puck and was completely ROBBED by the stretched out toe of goalie Marc-André Fleury as he pushed from his left to his right to keep the score at 2-0 and kill the penalty.

Just about four minutes later the Pens would go back to their second manpower advantage of the game. Tampa winger Nikita Kucherov would get the gate for holding winger Bryan Rust. The Penguins would only get two shots on the net and could not capitalize.

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The Tampa Bay Lightning would then score just 13 seconds after they killed off the penalty at 13:15 of the middle period. Tampa defender Andrej Sustr would hold the puck in at the right side hash marks and play the puck around the back of the net. Winger Alex Killorn would grab the puck at the left side hash marks skate in a foot and absolutely let a laser of a wrist shot go that beat Fleury high short side over the blocker to get the Bolts on the board and trim the Pens lead to 2-1. Tampa would then tie the game up 1:10 seconds later at the 14:25 mark. Again Lightning D-man Andrej Sustr would carry the puck into the same spot on the right side but he ended up losing the puck. Luckily, grinder Vladislav Namesnikov would pick up the loose puck, carry on towards the net and find an open Nikita Kucherov on the left hash marks in the slot. Namesnikov hit Kucherov right in his wheelhouse and Kucherov let a gnarly one-t snap-shot go into the wide open net before Fleury could get there to tie the game up at 2-2. This was Kucherov’s 10th goal of the playoffs which now puts him in a tie for first in the league with Sharks captain Joe Pavelski.

Once again, the Pens would strike as the period would expire. Penguins defender Olli Maatta would carry the puck into the zone through the middle and dangle his way past the net and below the goal line on the right side. Maata would stop on a dime, turn around, and feed winger Evgeni Malkin in the slot. Malkin would grab the puck, fight off a falling Tampa defender, turn around, and fire a wrist shot on net. Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy would make the save on top of the crease but let the rebound fall right in front of him. Before Vasy could dive and fall on the puck, Pens winger Chris Kunitz would bat the puck out of mid-air just before Vasy could get it with his glove. The puck would go right under Vasy’s body, through his legs, and into the net. The goal came with 50 seconds remaining in the second period to gain the lead back and make it 3-2.

The Penguins are 46-0-0 (regular season and playoffs) when leading after two periods this season. They are the ONLY team to win every game when leading at this point. So if the Lightning want to be the first to beat them, they will have to jump out early in the final period and gain some momentum.

With just 2:36 gone in the final period Tampa would go back on the power play. Pens defender Olli Maatta would get a double minor for catching Lightning’s Slater Koekkoek up high with his stick. So Tampa would have a four minutes power play in hopes of tying the game. With around two minutes gone in the four-minute man advantage center, Tyler Johnson would get called for interference on Pens defender Kris Letang. This penalty on Johnson would nullify the rest of Tampa’s power play and they would play 1:53 of 4 on 4 hockey. The 4 on 4 hockey did not result in anything so once Maatta’s double minor expired, the Pens would get a brief 6 seconds of PP time but could not do anything.

With 3:52 left in the game, Tampa winger Ryan Callahan came down the left-hand side with the puck. Callahan skated to the dot and put a beauty of a wrist shot towards the net. The puck hit Fleury’s jersey near his arm, deflected off the post, and across the goal line but stayed out! Tampa was inches away from tying this contest up. Then just 36 seconds later, Tampa was able to get their tying goal. Winger Nikita Kucherov skating down the left side with the puck and dropped a nice backhand pass to fellow linemate Tyler Johnson at the left boards. Johnson put a shot on the net that was padded aside by Fleury. Regrettably, the puck fell to the boards behind the net where Kucherov was there to pick it up. Kucherov grabbed the puck and instantly wrapped around to the other side of the net and beat Fleury’s pad to the post and knotted this game up at 3-3 with 3:16 to go in the final frame. This was Kucherov’s second goal of the game (11th) which now puts him in sole position of first place for goals.

The third period ended with the score still the same at 3-3 and went into over time. The only reason why the Penguins never scored again so far in the game is because the stellar play of goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasy was amazing making a numerous amount of clutch saves. This is the second time in the series these two teams would play OT. Pittsburgh won Game 2 in OT. Tampa is 2-1 in OT games in the playoffs and Pittsburgh is 3-1.

As the overtime started, both teams were hoping to end this game early. That hope was fulfilled by one team, that team? The Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa’s first line was in on the attack in the offensive zone. Lightning winger Ondrej Palat, who was on the right side hash marks, passed the puck up to Nikita Kucherov in the middle at the blue line. Kucherov accepted the pass and immediately passed the puck over to D-man Jason Garrison who slide down to the dot of the left-hand circle. Garrison put a wrist shot on net that ended up deflecting off center Tyler Johnson’s backside and ricocheting into the net for the game-winner only 53 seconds into extra time.

Tampa Bay was led by their goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy who turned away 31 out of 34 shots for a nice .912 SV% while Pittsburgh’s Marc-André Fleury stopped 21 out of 25 shots for a terrible .840 SV% in his first game back. The Pens coach Mike Sullivan will have another big question on who to start for Game 6. Pittsburgh led in shots (34-25), faceoffs (37-31), hits (43-37), blocked shots (22-8), and giveaways (9-1) whereas Tampa Bay did not lead in any category. The teams were tied in penalty minutes (8-8) and both teams were 0/3 on the PP.

These two powerhouse squads will suit back up for Game 6 where Tampa will look to close out the series and advance to the Stanley Cup Final Tuesday night at 8 pm.

Brodziak and Brouwer Lead The Bluenotes to a Vital Game 4 Victory.

The St. Louis Blues easily defeated the San Jose Sharks by the score of 6-3 on Saturday night at “The Shark Tank”. The Blues were led by the surprising play of underdogs Troy Brouwer and Kyle Brodziak who scored two goals apiece. This game was the Blues 100th game of the 2015-2016 season which is now a new franchise record.

The St. Louis Blues looked to get back on track in the series after falling behind 2 games to 1. They were blown out by the combined score of 7-0 in Games 2 and 3, the Blues made a major change in net. Blues skipper Ken Hitchcock decided to bench Brian Elliot because of his very poor performances in Games 2 and 3 and go down a different path. He turned to surprising tendy Jake Allen, for his first start since April 3rd, to try and grab a crucial road win and even up the series. Allen’s only playoff action of this year’s playoffs were two relief efforts when the Blues pulled Brian Elliot. He’s only seen a total of nine shots in two games. Allen has appeared in a total of nine games, going 2-4 with a .910 SV% and 1.90 GAA in the playoffs.

St. Louis will look to try and get a puck past Sharks star goalie Martin Jones. The Blues have not scored a single goal in seven and a half periods going back to their last goal in Game 1 totaling to a whopping 147:43 in time. St. Louis has a total of two goals in three games this series.

The game started surprisingly slow which is uncommon for both teams. We got the games first penalty exactly five minutes into the game when Sharks star Brent Burns tripped Blues winger Jaden Schwartz. This sent St. Louis to their dreadful power play that is 1/9 on the man advantage in the series. It did not take long for the Blues to convert for the games first goal. St. Louis center Paul Stastny grabbed the puck above the hash marks on the right side. Stastny didn’t hold on to it long and dished the puck down to winger Robby Fabbri who was parked below the goal line. Fabbri immediately one touched the puck up to winger Troy Brouwer who instantly ripped a one-timer past goalie Martin Jones. St. Louis scored 1:14 into the manpower advantage and took the 1-0 lead thanks to Brouwer’s 6th goal of the playoffs. This goal ended Martin Jones stunning shutout streak at 156:59.

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St. Louis would double their lead just 4:14 later. St. Louis would go on the forecheck and force a turnover from the Sharks D in their own zone. The Blues would jump right on the loose puck and come in on a rush. Blues center Jori Lehtera, in the slot, would sauce a pass over to winger Robby Fabbri who had all net to shoot at as Martin Jones was way out of position. Just as Fabbri released his wrister Sharks goaltender Martin Jones pushed from left to right and absolutely ROBBED Fabbri with the paddle of his goalie stick. Fabbri looked up to the rafters in disbelief that he didn’t score, but he wasn’t sad for long. Jones’ rebound sat right in the goalie crease and Sharks D-man Brent Burns hastily kicked the puck out of the crease. Unfortunately, Burns kicked the puck right to Blues center Jori Lehtera who, made no mistake and, potted the puck into the gaping net. Lehtera’s 3rd goal of the playoffs increased the Blues lead to 2-0.

Just 17 seconds later Blues center Paul Stastny got a two-minute interference call on San Jose captain Joe Pavelski. This sent the Sharks to their first power play of the game while they are 2/10 in the series. St. Louis came to play early and weren’t having any nonsense and killed the penalty off without conceding a single shot.

Then with 24 seconds left in the opening frame, the Blues would go back onto the power play. Sharks defender Marc-Edouard Vlasic got the call for slashing St. Louis winger Vladimir Tarasenko. The first period would end with the game being all St. Louis. St. Louis will start the second period with 1:36 of power play time.

Things would not get any better for San Jose as just 48 seconds into the second period Sharks center Logan Couture would get called for a delay of game penalty. St. Louis would get a great chance to score again as they played 48 seconds of 5 on 3 hockey. The Sharks clamped down defensively, only giving up two shots, and killed the long penalty off.

We would get another penalty with 5:10 gone in period two. Blues D-man Kevin Shattenkirk would get a two-minute trip to the sin bin for interfering with Sharks Melker Karlsson. San Jose looked to cut into the Blues two-goal lead with their second power-play of the game but ended up giving up a short-handed goal instead. Blues winger Jaden Schwartz seized the loose puck on the left-hand point from a terrible pass from Sharks vet Joe Thornton in the offensive zone. Schwartz noticed he had a two on one odd man rush the other way and decided to take off towards the net. Schwartz carried the puck all the way to the left-hand hash marks and sauced a beaut of a pass to center Kyle Brodziak on the right-hand hash marks. Martin Jones was way out of position coming over to face the shooter, again, and Brodziak promptly ripped a wrister over Jones’ blocker to triple their lead to 3-0. Brodziak’s goal was their first short-handed goal of the playoffs.

San Jose still had a minute left on the power play to try and score a goal to gain some momentum back. St. Louis shut them down again while only giving up one shot.

Believe it or not, just four minutes later the Blues would strike again. St. Louis’ 4th line was in on the attack in the offensive zone. Blues winger Dmitrij Jaskin found himself behind the Sharks’ net with the puck. Jaskin curled around the net and spotted center Kyle Brodziak on the left side hash marks and hit him with a tape to tape pass. Brodziak wasted no time after corraling the pass and rifled a nasty snap shot top cheese to take their lead to 4-0. This is now Brodziak’s first career two-goal game in the playoffs. The Blues scored at exactly the same time (10:11) in the first and second period.

San Jose’s coach Peter DeBoer took no time and quickly called for backup goalie James Reimer to come in and replace the struggling, Martin Jones. James Reimer faced only three shots in the remainder of period two. The Sharks call for a goalie change made it official that now all four teams (Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, San Jose, and St. Louis) in the Conference Finals have used both of their goalies. On the other hand, bad news for the Blues, as captain David Backes did not play a single shift in the second period, when he played 5:34 in the first, as he may have been injured in the first. St. Louis controlled the whole period again and the second period ended with the Blues up 4-0.

The Sharks looked like a new team coming right out of the break to start the third period. San Jose jumped right out of the gun and scored 1:05 into the final period to make the score 4-1. Sharks D-man Paul Martin faked a slap shot on the right-hand point and fed center Joe Thornton the puck. Thornton skated down the left side and once he got to the top of the left circle dished a beautiful saucer pass to linemate Joe Pavelski on the right side cutting to the net. Pavelski had a completely wide open net and an easy tap in goal to get the Sharks on the board and give San Jose some momentum. This was Pavelski’s league leading 10th goal of the playoffs and a new franchise record for most in a single season. He beat the previous record of nine goals held by teammate Patrick Marleau in 2010.

St. Louis would go back on the power play when Sharks newcomer Joel Ward got caught flipping the puck out of his own zone for a delay of game penalty. This sent the Blues to their 4th PP of the game. It only took “The Notes” seven seconds to cash in on their now red hot man advantage. Blues center Paul Stastny on the left-hand boards passed the puck over to fellow center Alex Steen who let a one time shot go on the right side point. Steen’s shot found the stick of winger Troy Brouwer in the slot and was redirected right under Sharks goalie James Reimer’s arm. This was Brouwer’s second power-play goal of the game and makes it 5-1.

With 6:57 gone in the third period, the Sharks would get back in the goal scoring column. The Sharks 3rd line went to work in the attacking zone as Chris Tierney got the puck below the goal line on the right side. Tierney spotted fellow winger Melker Karlsson just below the right-hand hash and hit him with a pass. Karlsson let a one-t clapper go that was saved by Jake Allen. Although, Allen sticked the rebound away to his left but the puck went right to Chris Tierney’s stick. Tierney quickly shot the puck on net and it deflected off of Jake Allen’s leg and went in the net to cut the Blues lead to 3 at 5-2.

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Then just seven seconds later at the 7:07 mark of period three the Blues would take another penalty. Blues winger Jaden Schwartz tripped Sharks winger Joe Pavelski. The Sharks would go to their third PP of the game but only managed one shot and the Blues killed it off. San Jose would have numerous chances to cut into the Blues lead but goalie Jake Allen had to make two to four marvelous saves to keep the Sharks from scoring again. With three minutes later, yet again, St. Louis would get called for another infraction with Paul Stastny getting his second penalty of the game. Stastny hauled down Sharks grinder Chris Tierney. San Jose looked to try and score again quickly but the Blues halted their progress only letting one shot get on net in the two minutes.

San Jose took a page out of Colorado’s Patrick Roy book and pulled their goalie, James Reimer, with 5:05 remaining in the game. This tactic did not work to the Sharks’ liking at all. Only 44 seconds later St. Louis would tack on their final goal of the contest. Alex Pietrangelo would make a great defensive play in his own zone at the blue line, grab the loose puck, and fire it down the ice and into the empty net to get their lead back up to 4 at 6-2.

San Jose would tack on a consolation goal 49 seconds later at the 16:28 mark of period three. The Sharks third line would go back to work again in the attacking zone with center Chris Tierney corralling the vulcanized rubber behind the net and to Jake Allen’s right. Tierney centered the puck intended for winger Melker Karlsson who was parked just in front of the goal crease of to the left. The puck hit Karlsson’s skate/stick and slid in front of Jake Allen. St. Louis D-man Joel Edmundson tried poking the puck away but instead poked it through the legs of Jake Allen for an own goal. The goal was credited to the player who last touched the puck, Melker Karlsson. This was the Sharks last positive note of the game, and made the score 6-3

With 2:11 left in the game a fight broke out between Blues D-man Carl Gunnarsson and Sharks D-man Brenden Dillon. It is very rare to see a fight in the playoffs, let alone two defenders involved in it! Each player received a standard five-minute call. During the fight,  St. Louis’ Alex Steen and San Jose’s Tommy Wingels both received a 10-minute misconduct. All four players hit the showers early and did not finish the game. Last but not least, the Blues took a pointless penalty with 40 seconds left in the contest with Jori Lehtera slashing Sharks’ Tomas Hertl. The game ended with the score being 6-3, a very strong win for the Blues.

St. Louis goalie Jake Allen stopped 31 out of 34 shots thrown his way for a .912 SV%. San Jose’s goalies Martin Jones stopped 15 out of 19 shots for a terrible .789 SV% and James Reimer stopped 6 out of 7 for a .857SV% in relief of Jones. San Jose led in shots (34-27), faceoffs (30-29), hits (35-26), and giveaways (19-9). St. Louis only led in blocked shots (14-11). The teams tied in penalty minutes with 25 a piece while St. Louis went an awesome 2/4 on the PP and the Sharks went a terrible 0/4.

These two clubs will get on a flight and fly back for Game 5 in St. Louis, Missouri on Monday night at 8 pm.