Tag Archives: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Bruins downgrade Hurricanes, advance to Stanley Cup Final

For the first time since 2013, the Boston Bruins are going to the Stanley Cup Final– and for the first time since 1990, the Bruins will have home ice advantage in the Final– after their, 4-0, victory over the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Thursday.

The Bruins swept the Hurricanes in the series 4-0 to reach the 2019 Stanley Cup Final– their 20th appearance in the Final in franchise history.

Tuukka Rask (12-5 record, 1.84 goals against average, .942 save percentage in 17 games played this postseason) made 24 saves on 24 shots against to record the shutout win for Boston.

He made 109 saves on 114 shots faced in the entire series against the Canes.

Hurricanes goaltender, Curtis McElhinney (3-2, 2.01 GAA, .930 SV% in five games played this postseason) stopped 19 out of 22 shots faced (.864 SV%) in the loss.

Carolina finished the postseason 5-2 on home ice and 2-1 when facing elimination, while the Bruins improved to 11-0 when leading after two periods this season.

Boston also improved to 20-1 all time when leading a series 3-0.

The Hurricanes became the first team since the 1992 Bruins to sweep the Second Round, then be swept in the Eastern Conference Final.

Boston swept the Montreal Canadiens in the 1992 Adams Division Semifinals, then got swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1992 Eastern Conference Final– en route to Pittsburgh’s 1992 Cup run.

Bruce Cassidy was forced to make adjustments to his lineup due to injury, replacing Chris Wagner (upper body) with Noel Acciari on the fourth line right wing after Wagner blocked a shot and left Game 3, as well as Zdeno Chara (undisclosed) with John Moore for Game 4.

Moore was placed on the left side of the third defensive pairing alongside Connor Clifton, while Matt Grzelcyk took Chara’s place on the first pairing with Charlie McAvoy.

Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo suited up as normal on the second pairing.

Chara had played in 98 consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Aside from Chara, Wagner and Kevan Miller (lower body), Boston’s usual crew of healthy scratches included Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Jordan Szwarz, Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Steven Kampfer, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman.

Carolina had an early power play after Grzelcyk tripped Nino Niederreiter at 1:18 of the first period, but the Hurricanes did not convert on their first power play opportunity of the night.

Midway through the opening frame, Niederreiter skated to the penalty box with a minor infraction of his own for slashing Boston’s Brad Marchand at 10:35 of the first period.

The Bruins did not capitalize on their skater advantage and Charlie Coyle was penalized with about 20 seconds left on the power play– resulting in a short 4-on-4 even strength opportunity before an abbreviated power play for the Canes at 12:19.

Entering the first intermission, the score was still tied, 0-0, with the Hurricanes leading in shots on goal, 13-11.

The Canes also led in blocked shots (6-5) after one period, while the B’s led in takeaways (5-3), hits (9-7) and face-off win percentage (57-44). Both teams had seven giveaways each.

Heading into the second period, Carolina was 0/2 on the power play and the Bruins were 0/1.

Early in the middle frame, the Hurricanes botched a line change as the puck came out of their attacking zone and the Carolina bench was caught with too many men on the ice.

Justin Williams served the bench minor penalty at 4:28 of the second period.

Shortly thereafter, Marchand led Boston on a break in on the power play and sent a pass to the slot whereby David Pastrnak (7) redirected the puck behind McElhinney to give the B’s the first goal of the game, 1-0.

Pastrnak’s power play goal was assisted by Marchand (11) and Krug (11) at 4:46 of the second period.

Late in the period, Greg McKegg bumped into Rask while going hard to the crease, yielding a goaltender interference minor penalty at 18:10.

While on the ensuing power play, Patrice Bergeron (7) worked a give-and-go to Pastrnak and sneaked his way to the bumper to receive the pass back from his winger to rip the one-timer past McElhinney and give Boston a two-goal lead.

Bergeron’s power play goal was assisted by Pastrnak (7) and extended the Bruins lead to, 2-0, at 18:34 of the second period. The goal also moved Bergeron past Phil Esposito, John Bucyk and Jean Ratelle for the 2nd most power play goals by a Bruin in a postseason.

Cam Neely holds the franchise record with nine power play goals in a single playoff year.

Through 40 minutes of play, Boston led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 19-17, including an, 8-4 advantage in the second period alone.

The B’s also held the advantage in face-off win% (52-48), while the Hurricanes led in takeaways (10-7) and hits (19-15) after two periods. Entering the second intermission, both teams had 14 blocked shots aside and 11 giveaways each.

Carolina was 0/2 on the power play heading into the third period, while Boston was 2/3 on the skater advantage.

Midway through the final frame of regulation, the Selke Trophy finalist, Bergeron forced a turnover to Pastrnak in the attacking zone.

Pastrnak worked the puck back to Bergeron (8) along the goal line near the short side whereby the veteran Bruin blasted a one-timer past the Carolina goaltender to give Boston a three-goal lead.

With his second assist of the night, Pastrnak (8) had the only assist on Bergeron’s goal and notched his third point of the evening (1-2–3 totals) at 10:32 of the third period as the Bruins led, 3-0.

As time ticked down in the third period, Hurricanes head coach, Rod Brind’Amour, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker with about 5:22 to go in regulation.

Shortly thereafter, Bergeron freed the puck through the neutral zone to Marchand (7) for the empty net goal to make it, 4-0, Bruins.

Bergeron (5) and David Krejci (10) notched the assists on Marchand’s goal at 17:43 of the third period.

With the primary assist on the goal, Bergeron tallied a three-point night (two goals, one assist) as Boston closed out the series.

At the final horn, the Bruins completed the sweep with a, 4-0, win and finished the night leading in blocked shots (23-16) and face-off win% (53-47).

Carolina wrapped up their season leading in shots on goal (24-23), giveaways (15-14) and hits (33-17).

The Canes went 0/2 on the skater advantage, while Boston went 2/3 on the power play on Thursday night.

For the first time since 1990, the Bruins will have home ice in the Stanley Cup Final as they await the winner of the 2019 Western Conference Final between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues.

San Jose currently leads the series 2-1 over the Blues.

This will be the first Stanley Cup Final appearance for David Backes– who spent 10 seasons with St. Louis before signing with Boston in free agency on July 1, 2016.

It’s also Cassidy’s first Stanley Cup Final appearance as a head coach.

It will be the third time the Bruins are in the Stanley Cup Final since 2010, joining the Chicago Blackhawks as the only team to reach the Final in three or more appearances since 2010.

Chicago made (and won) the Final in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

(For those wondering, the Penguins made the Cup Final in 2008, 2009, 2016 and 2017.)

Chara, Bergeron, Krejci, Marchand and Rask are the only Bruins to have been part of all three Stanley Cup Final appearances for Boston since 1990 (2011, 2013 and 2019).

DTFR Podcast #158- Upon Further Review…

Nick and Pete take a stand on video review, predict the rest of the Conference Finals and discuss the Buffalo Sabres new head coach.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

Bruins, Rask, one win away from sweeping Hurricanes

The “Mayor of Walpole” initiated scoring, the “Little Ball of Hate” scored the eventual game winner and Tuukka “Mr. Steal Yo’ Game” Rask backstopped the Boston Bruins to a, 2-1, win at PNC Arena in Game 3 against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Boston leads the series 3-0 and is one win away from sweeping the Eastern Conference Final.

Tuukka Rask (11-5 record, 1.96 goals against average, .939 save percentage in 16 games played this postseason) turned aside 35 out of 36 shots faced for the .972 SV% in the win. He’s also made 85 saves on 90 shots faced through three games in this series.

Carolina goaltender, Curtis McElhinney (3-1, 1.70 GAA, .943 SV% in four games played this postseason), made 29 saves on 31 shots against for a .935 SV% in the loss.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made no changes to his lineup while John Moore (upper body), Noel Acciari (upper body) and Kevan Miller (lower body) remain out due to injury.

Acciari resumed skating with full-contact on Tuesday, but was a coach’s decision and did not suit up for Game 3.

The long list of healthy scratches in the playoffs continued Tuesday night for Boston– including Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Jordan Szwarz, Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Steven Kampfer, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman.

Meanwhile, Carolina head coach, Rod Brind’Amour relied on McElhinney for Game 3 in the crease in place of Games 1 and 2 starting goaltender, Petr Mrazek.

Almost a minute into Game 3, Brandon Carlo sent the puck over the glass in his own zone and received an automatic delay of game penalty, yielding the first power play of the game to the Hurricanes.

Carolina did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage, but continued to dominated possession in their attacking zone.

After saying he wasn’t going to play like poop again, Justin Williams didn’t play a disciplined game in the first period. Williams was sent to the penalty box on three separate occasions prior to the first intermission.

First, Williams and Torey Krug received matching roughing minor infractions, leading to a solid two minutes of 4-on-4 action at 6:23 of the first period.

The Canes were outshooting the Bruins, 11-1, by the time both players reached the sin bin to serve their minors.

Midway through the opening frame, Williams went back to the box for holding the stick at 10:41 of the first period and the B’s went on the power play for the first time of the night.

Boston’s power play was shortlived, however, as Jake DeBrusk slashed Jaccob Slavin at 11:26 and David Krejci followed things up with a high-sticking minor of his own at 11:32 after Sebastian Aho got a quick cross check to Krejci’s midsection that went uncalled.

Needless to say, discipline was an issue at both ends of the rink and the Hurricanes found themselves with an abbreviated 4-on-3 power play that became a short 5-on-3 skater advantage.

Carolina did not convert on the opportunity.

A few minutes later, after Rask froze the puck, a crowd gathered and Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle and Krug all went to the box with roughing minors at 14:19.

The Hurricanes didn’t score on the ensuing 5-on-4 power play.

Late in the period, Williams amassed his third penalty of the night after he elbowed Krug at 18:27. Though the power play overlapped into the second period, Boston did not muster a goal on the skater advantage.

Heading into the first intermission, the score remained tied, 0-0, while the Hurricanes led in shots on goal, 20-6.

Carolina also held the advantage in takeaways (7-6), giveaways (7-4) and hits (12-8) as Boston dominated in blocked shots (5-1) and face-off win percentage (61-39) after one period.

The Canes were 0/4 on the skater advantage and the B’s were 0/2 on the power play entering the second period.

Rask became the first Bruins goaltender to make 20 or more saves in a period since Tim Thomas did so in the third period of Game 2 against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals (Thomas made 22 saves).

Almost 90 seconds into the middle frame, Sean Kuraly kept the puck in the offensive zone and worked it deep to Joakim Nordstrom along the boards.

Nordstrom threw a shot towards the slot for Chris Wagner (2) to redirect past McElhinney at 1:21 of the second period to give Boston the first lead of the night, 1-0.

The former Hurricane, Nordstrom (2) picked up the primary assist, while Kuraly (3) was tabbed with the secondary assist on Wagner’s goal.

Moments late, Niederreiter went to the box for high-sticking Krejci at 4:47 of the second period.

Late in the ensuing skater advantage, Brad Marchand (6) let go of a backhand shot from the low slot that deflected off of Carolina defender, Calvin de Haan, and through McElhinney’s five-hole into the twine.

Krejci (9) and Charlie McAvoy (6) had the assists on Marchand’s power play goal and the Bruins led, 2-0, at 6:28 of the second period.

With the primary assist on Marchand’s goal, Krejci reached the 100-point plateau in his postseason career points totals and became just the 5th Bruin in franchise history to do so. He also tied Rick Middleton and John Bucyk for 3rd all-time in postseason scoring for Boston.

Phil Esposito is 2nd all-time in Bruins franchise history with 102 postseason points for the B’s. Ray Bourque has the most Stanley Cup Playoff points while wearing a Bruins sweater with 161.

Near the midpoint of regulation, Micheal Ferland got a stick up high on David Backes and was assessed minor infraction for high-sticking at 9:53 of the second period.

Boston did not score on the resulting power play and the Canes utilized the momentum of the penalty kill to muster a couple of great one-timer opportunities in the vulnerable minute thereafter, but Rask made a couple great saves across the crease.

Off of an offensive zone face-off win for Carolina, the Hurricanes worked the puck “D-to-D” along the blue line for the blast from de Haan (1) that squibbed through the leg pads of the Bruins goaltender for his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal.

Justin Faulk (7) and Aho (7) notched the assists on de Haan’s goal at 13:48 and the Hurricanes cut the B’s lead in half, 2-1.

After 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and trailed, 26-24, in shots on goal– despite outshooting the Hurricanes, 18-6, in the second period alone.

Carolina maintained the advantage in blocked shots (9-7), takeaways (11-9), giveaways (11-5) and hits (28-19), while Boston led in face-off win% (61-39).

The Canes were 0/4 on the power play heading into the second intermission, while the B’s were 1/4 on the skater advantage entering the third period.

de Haan tripped Marchand at 3:43 of the third period to grace Boston with an early power play to begin the final frame of regulation.

While on the power play, the Bruins thought they scored when Krug fired a shot from the point that deflected off of Slavin and went behind McElhinney as the Hurricanes goaltender was being screened by DeBrusk, but the goal was immediately waved off for incidental contact with the goaltender (goaltender interference).

As such, Cassidy challenged the call on the ice, but his coach’s challenge was to no avail because– even after it appeared DeBrusk was bumped by Slavin and tried to get out of the way of McElhinney as the Canes goaltender skated out of his crease into the oncoming Bruin on his own merit– this is what happens when a coach’s challenge is a thing.

The call on the ice was confirmed. No goal.

Can’t just enjoy a call– blown or otherwise– like the good ol’ days, right? (Standard disclaimer, not all video review is bad, folks.)

Anyway, Boston lost their timeout and followed things up with a penalty of their own as Matt Grzelcyk was caught behind the play and interfered with Brock McGinn at 5:38 of the third period.

The Hurricanes did not score on the ensuing power play opportunity.

Despite pulling McElhinney for an extra attacker with about 2:04 remaining in regulation, Carolina was not able to slip a puck past Rask and the Bruins managed to defend their way to the, 2-1, win at the final horn.

The Canes finished the night leading in shots on goal (36-31), giveaways (15-5) and hits (35-24), while the B’s finished Tuesday night leading in blocked shots (16-13) and face-off win% (57-43).

Carolina went 0/5 on the power play and Boston went 1/5 on the skater advantage, while taking command of a 3-0 series lead heading into Game 4 on Thursday.

The Bruins are 19-1 all-time when leading a series 3-0 and have won seven straight Eastern Conference Final games dating back to their last appearance in the Eastern Conference Final in 2013 (a 4-0 series sweep over the Pittsburgh Penguins).

Boston is also on a six game winning streak in the postseason for the first time since 1978, and improved to 10-0 this postseason when leading after two periods.

The Hurricanes fell to 5-1 on home ice in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and are looking to avoid elimination Thursday night at PNC Arena.

Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 8:00 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBCSN. Fans in Canada can tune to CBC, SN or TVAS for the game.

DTFR Overtime: Fixing the Winter Classic

We’ve all had some time to digest the spectacle that was the 2018 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, now let’s reflect on the experience as a whole for a minute and discuss ways to make it more interesting, considering ratings fell for the third year in a row.

This is DTFR Overtime and I’ve been neglecting you all through the holidays.


The Winter Classic is great.

You heard that right. I love an outdoor NHL game. Not for the most commonly stated reason why NBC loves the game. No, I couldn’t care less about how much a player feels like they’re a kid again playing outdoors on their backyard rink, local pond, river or lake.

I love the Winter Classic because it’s different.

Different jerseys, different atmosphere, different venue and usually a different game winner.

The Buffalo Sabres-New York Rangers matchup actually turned out to be a good one. Just when all hope was thought to be lost after trailing 2-0 early, the Sabres showed up on the scoreboard.

In the end, the Rangers won and that was fitting, since they were closer to their home ice than the technically speaking “home” team in this year’s Winter Classic due to a clause in New York’s contract with Madison Square Garden that states the Rangers cannot play a home game outside MSG.

Overtime outdoors with flames in the end seemed like a perfect ending to a largely under-produced, under-promoted, sporting event.

The Winter Classic has always shown potential. Why not tap into it?

Let’s address the obvious elephant in the room from this year’s matchup– the matchup itself. Sure, letting Jack Eichel run around outside is a great idea and all, but against the New York Rangers at Citi Field? None of that makes sense, considering 1) if you’re going to go with the 10th anniversary narrative, at least invite the Pittsburgh Penguins alumni team and Sabres alumni team to skate around the mini rink during intermission or something and 2) it should have been you, New York Islanders.

Not a Sabres-Islanders matchup, but rather a Battle for New York (City). Rangers-Islanders at Citi Field would’ve made a lot more sense, because, you know. The Islanders are the New York Mets of the NHL. Jimmy Fallon loves the Rangers, Jon Stewart loves… well, the Mets. At least the Islanders have that whole color scheme going for them (oh and a new arena coming soon to Belmont Park).

NBC didn’t have a problem calling up archival footage of Sidney Crosby scoring the shootout winning goal from the first Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, NY.

Like Colby Kephart said on the podcast two weeks ago, Crosby’s path to glory at the NHL level started with that game winning shootout goal. He rose to stardom, but didn’t win a Cup immediately. Prior to appearing in the 2008 Stanley Cup Final (and 2009, 2016 and 2017 as well), Crosby’s biggest stage was his Winter Classic moment (again, until he lifted the Cup over his head in 2009, 2016 and 2017).

Eichel could’ve been played up as the American version of Crosby– still one of the greatest players in the league, though sometimes overlooked as if he had to prove himself some more.

Don’t like a Pittsburgh-Buffalo rematch 10 years in the making? That’s fine.

A Rangers-Islanders matchup would’ve made more sense on New Year’s Day if you really want to play the rivalry card. It also would’ve actually meant something in the ultra-competitive Metropolitan Division.

As much as people hate on NBC for taking away divisional or actual rivalry games from local media broadcasting crews, sometimes it must be done. Nationally displaced local fans want to be able to watch their teams with ease– having some of their biggest matchups on national television isn’t a bad thing when it’s done right.

Give us the standings– give us the storylines of recent hatred among the clubs and national audiences might eat it up more than hearing over and over again where somebody is from or how one goaltending coach taught the two goalies at opposite ends of the ice everything they know.

If the league could schedule one or two matchups between rivals within a week or two before they take things outside, imagine what a perfect storm of potential chaos that would be on the ice.

Of course, timing is everything when it comes to touting a rivalry as a premiere event to be seen by all.

Remember how the 2016 Winter Classic was a 5-1 blowout by the Montreal Canadiens on road ice at Gillette Stadium? The Boston Bruins missed the playoffs in 2015 and they went on to miss them again in 2016.

They were in a lull in talent on the ice. Their longest rivalry with Montreal had crescendoed when Bruins exorcised their demons in 2011 en route to the Cup, but not much of the championship roster from 2011 remained in 2016– except for core players in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask.

Then the rivalry went dormant as Boston fell asleep at the wheel in the Second Round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Canadiens ousted the President’s Trophy winning Bruins in seven games.

And 2017’s Winter Classic matchup of the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks at Busch Stadium didn’t go as hoped for a 50-year old rivalry– the Blues defeated the Blackhawks 4-1.

If you’re looking ahead to the 2019 Winter Classic between Boston and Chicago from Notre Dame Stadium, well, you better hope both teams are as lively as they’ve been at times this season on January 1, 2019.

Timing is everything.

If you’re worried about making adidas Winter Classic merchandise and getting it out to the consumers in time for the big game, let alone scheduling the right venue, teams and ticket sales, then why not have all 31 teams prepare something. Let every NHL franchise draw up a set of potential home and road Winter Classic sweaters.

Instead of announcing the following year’s Winter Classic a year and a half ahead of when it’s going to be played, just keep the fans in suspense– let rumors swirl about every team’s potential outdoor look and/or venue for just long enough until the league says “surprise, it’s going to be the Vegas Golden Knights against the Nashville Predators from Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee”. Trust me, people would want to go see that.

Worried about having jerseys made in time for fans to purchase? Make the Winter Classic announcement in July or August, then make the Winter Classic jerseys go on sale in pro shops in December.

Boost your holiday sales while not having to give in to the demands of consumers who want to get everything done and out of the way in October or November leading up to the December holidays and Happy Honda Days.

I know it’s hard, but actually keep some things secret.

The Winter Classic should be around through 2021 at least (pending NBC broadcasting rights and negotiations regarding an extension or who knows, maybe ESPN will want to cover hockey again in three years?), but we shouldn’t find out– through the league or anonymous sources– that the Blackhawks will be hosting the Penguins in a first ever home-and-home matchup in 2020 whereby Chicago hosts the Winter Classic and Pittsburgh hosts the Stadium Series until, say, before the start of the 2019-20 season.

The 2019 Winter Classic shouldn’t have been unveiled by a report from Barstool Sports in November 2017. Calendar-year-wise that’s a difference of two years.

That’s at least a year and six months of potential suspense that could’ve been building over where the local market cash grab outdoor game would be venturing off to– it’s Chicago again, isn’t it? Dammit.

At the very least, a league that’s pulling in $4.5 billion in revenue that also doesn’t want to share more money with the players (hello forthcoming lockout anytime between 2020 and 2022) should shell out $1 million to get someone like Lady Gaga or yes, even Coldplay (because hockey is played in the cold), or literally anyone other than Goo Goo Dolls, Nate Ruess or someone NBC wants on TV because they’re a winner or runner up from The Voice.

You can either praise Sidney Crosby all day during a game in which Crosby isn’t involved or you can give me a reality TV singing contestant that nobody’s heard of but you can’t have both in one day, NBC! *That sounded better in John Oliver’s voice in my head than it did when I wrote it, but the point still stands.*

Think of it this way, Mr. Bettman.

If you cast aside one or two outdoor games a year– because we all know three or four of them a year is too many– then you should have enough money to attract someone better than this year’s Super Bowl Pepsi Halftime Show performer, Justin Timberlake, and assert your dominance over the NFL in intermission/halftime entertainment at your very own “super bowl” (ahem, the Winter Classic) months before the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

I’ll even take more of whatever this year’s Road to the Winter Classic was actually about (I think it was a Honda ad) if you’d just entertain us all for once during intermission instead of putting us to sleep before the Blackhawks come back out of the locker room for their 82nd outdoor game of the season.

And if it’s supposed to have a winter carnival vibe, maybe don’t bring the same stuff every year to each venue.

Bubble hockey is great and all, but giant inflatable snow globes and inflatable jerseys have gotten old. NASCAR’s Fanatics merchandise tent is more exciting than your free FanFest or whatever.

And please, bring back the Winter Classic Alumni Game. Beg NBCSN to show that instead of whatever Mecum Auto Auction they’re rerunning on New Year’s Eve or whatever.

I just don’t want to go a day without hockey, especially when I’m starting a new calendar year.

March 17 – Day 149 – Killing two birds with one stone, even though there’s only one bird team here

In preparation for Saturday’s action there’s not too many games happening tonight – four, to be exact. Half of those contests drop the puck at 7 p.m. (Florida at the New York Rangers [NHLN/TVAS] and New Jersey at Pittsburgh [SN360]), followed two hours later by Dallas at Calgary. Finally, Buffalo visits Anaheim at 10 p.m. to complete the night’s festivities. All times eastern.

Unfortunately, the action this evening, in addition to not being high-volume, is not expected to be exceptionally noteworthy. Since it’s been a while since we’ve featured either Anaheim or Buffalo, let’s kill two birds with one stone and catch their matchup at the Honda Center.

 

This season has not treated the 28-31-12 Sabres how they would’ve liked. Many fans came into the campaign dreaming of making the playoffs, but with the club currently sitting in 14th-place in the Eastern Conference, it seems those dreams will be dashed for the sixth year in a row.

Much of the reason for that is an offense that has managed only 177 goals in 71 games, which ties for the seventh-worst rate in the league. Of course, much of that is due to Jack Eichel‘s lower body injury suffered in a practice only a day before Buffalo‘s season got underway. Even though he’s missed 22 games this year, he still leads the team in points with 48, but Buffalonians can only dream of what he could have done playing a full 82-game season.

Another players who’s missed considerable time but has still produced is Evander Kane. He’s had to sit out a dozen contests, but his 25 goals still top the squad.

Believe it or not, the season’s injury list actually continues. In total, the top four forwards (Eichel, Kane, Ryan O’Reilly and the currently injured Kyle Okposo) have all missed a combined 41 games. With Kane and O’Reilly both playing on the top line, it’s proven difficult for the Sabres to maintain consistency and build chemistry.

But when Buffalo fights through the injuries and manages to put a quality roster on the ice, it’s more than proven what it’s capable of. That’s no more apparent than when the Sabres take to the power play, as their 23.4% success rate is second-best in the league. Rasmus Ristolainen, coincidentally one of the big-names on the Sabres‘ roster that hasn’t missed a game yet this year, has been at the head of that attack with his 24 man-advantage points.

Ristolainen has made a hobby of setting up linemates, as most of those are assists. Instead, it’s Matt Moulson who has scored the most power play goals on the team, with 10 to his credit.

Unfortunately, special teams giveth, and special teams taketh away. As great as the Sabres have been on the power play, they’ve been equally terrible on the penalty kill. Buffalo defends only 76.4% of its penalties, the second-worst rate in the league even though Josh Gorges has done all he can with his 34 shorthanded shot blocks (11th-most in the NHL).

Even with that effort, 19-22-8 Robin Lehner has still faced 255 shots against when his club is shorthanded, the third-most in the league. He saves a more-than-respectable .886 of those, but has not been rewarded with improved defensive play in front of him. Until Buffalo can improve on that defensive effort, it will not be a true Cup-contender. We will have to wait and see what Tim Murray has planned for the offseason.

Hosting the Sabres this evening are the 37-23-10 Ducks, winners of their past two games that currently occupy second place in the Pacific Division. Defense is the name of the game in Anaheim, as the Ducks have allowed only 173 goals against this season, which ties for the sixth-lowest total in the league.

At the core of that defense is 23-16-8 John Gibson, Anaheim‘s first-year starter. He’s done admirably in his new position, but recently suffered a lower body injury. In his stead, the Ducks are expected to start 14-7-2 Jonathan Bernier, whose .913 season save percentage and 2.62 GAA rank 29th-best in the league among the 60 netminders with at least a dozen appearances.

Randy Carlyle and Bob Murray prescribe to a decent philosophy: an under-worked good goalie becomes a great goaltender. That’s where Cam Fowler‘s group comes into play. Thanks in part to Fowler’s team-leading 118 shot blocks, the Ducks allow only 29.6 shots to reach Gibson’s (now Bernier’s) crease per game, the ninth-lowest average in the league.

The solid defensive effort continues when Anaheim is forced to defend a penalty. 85.1% of the time the Ducks are forced into a shorthanded situation, they do not yield a goal, which ties for the third-best rate in the NHL. Just like he is at even-strength, Fowler is very responsible for the Ducks‘ penalty kill success as he has a team-leading 24 shorthanded blocks.

With only 24 days remaining on the NHL calendar for the regular season, it’s not a surprise that this is the last time the Ducks and Sabres will meet this year. The Ducks visited Buffalo on February 9 and exploded for a 5-2 victory.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Anaheim‘s Ryan Getzlaf (44 assists [tied for sixth-most in the league]) and Buffalo‘s Ristolainen (38 assists and 154 blocks [both lead the team]).

A -210 line is never a good sign for the road team, and it’s definitely discouraging me from picking against the Ducks. Not only are they on The Pond, where they’ve won all but 11 of their contests, but they also have a defense that can cover for an injured goaltender (Exhibits A and B: the last two games). Anaheim should have another two points after tonight’s game is complete.

Hockey Birthday

  • Craig Ramsay (1951-) – This longtime Sabres left wing saved his best for the last season of his career. Selected by Buffalo 19th-overall in the 1971 NHL Amateur Draft, he retired immediately after winning the 1985 Frank J. Selke Trophy.
  • Andrew Ference (1979-) – Pittsburgh may have selected this defenseman in the eighth round of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, but he’s spent most of his career with Boston. He was a member of the Bruins‘ 2011 Stanley Cup-winning team, and also earned the 2014 King Clancy Memorial Trophy.
  • Ryan Parent (1987-) – It simply never panned out for this defenseman, the 18th-overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by Nashville. He played 106 career games in the league – 102 with Philadelphia – and only had three points to show for it.
  • Bobby Ryan (1987-) – Anaheim selected this left wing second-overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he spent the first six years of his career. Since 2013, he’s called Ottawa home, where he’s registered 182 points.
  • Ryan White (1988-) – This center was selected 66th-overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by Montréal, and that’s where he’s spent a majority of his eight-year career. That being said, he currently plays for the Wild after being traded from the Coyotes at this season’s deadline.

If I had to guess, the best way to break the resolve of a team is by by scoring four unanswered goals in a period. The Maple Leafs did just that to best Tampa Bay with a five-goal shutout in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Since Third Star of the Game Roman Polak (Tyler Bozak) was the first Leaf to score a goal – a slap shot 9:19 into the game – he gets to take credit for the game-winning tally. It’s a special statistic for a defenseman, as this is only the sixth of his 11-year career, and his first of the season.

Where Toronto truly won the game was in the second period. In the span of 13:17, Second Star Morgan Rielly (Nazem Kadri and Alexey Marchenko), Matt Martin (Matt Hunwick and Nikita Soshnikov), Connor Brown (Leo Komarov and William Nylander) and James van Riemsdyk (Rielly and Mitch Marner) all scored to set the score at the 5-0 final.

Frederik Andersen earned his First Star award in the final 40 minutes of the game. The Lightning fired a total of 26 shots in the second and third frames, but Andersen did not let a single one by to earn his fourth shutout of the season.

In all, Andersen saved all 33 shots he faced for the victory, while Andrei Vasilevskiy takes the loss after saving 11-of-15 (73.3%) shots faced. He was replaced following Brown’s power play goal (the score read 4-0 then) by Peter Budaj, who saved five-of-six (83.3%) for no decision.

For two days in a row now, the 76-53-22 road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series have scored five goals en route to a victory. Those offensive explosions has given the visitors in the series a three-point advantage on the hosts.

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

By: Nick Lanciani 

Stanley Cup Final Logo

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.

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.

Lightning hold on for 4-3 win in Game 4, Series Tied 2-2

By: Nick Lanciani

Unknown-1The Tampa Bay Lightning had just enough in them by the third period to hold off a charging comeback from the Pittsburgh Penguins to win 4-3 in Game 4 of the 2016 Eastern Conference Final on home ice at Amalie Arena on Friday night.

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 35 saves on 38 shots faced for a .921 SV% en route to the victory, while Matt Murray made just 26 saves on 30 shots against before being replaced after the second period in the loss.

Murray’s replacement, Marc-Andre Fleury, made seven saves on seven shots faced in the third period.

Ryan Callahan kicked off the scoring with the second fastest playoff goal in franchise history for the Lightning, just 27 seconds into the first period on redirect. Victor Hedman fired a slap shot from the point that Callahan tipped past Murray for the goal, which was just his 2nd of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Hedman (8) and J.T. Brown (2) notched the primary and secondary assists.

Adam Hall had the fastest playoff goal for Tampa, 13 seconds into Game 2 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Final in Boston.

Carl Hagelin gave the Bolts their first power play of the night when he was sent to the penalty box for tripping Lightning forward, Alex Killorn, at 1:10 of the first period. Tampa was unable to convert on the power play.

The Lightning also failed to take advantage of another man advantage when the Penguins were penalized for too many men on the ice at 7:59 of the first period. Phil Kessel served the bench minor for Pittsburgh.

Andrej Sustr found the back of the net on a breakout for Tampa at 14:28 of the first period and gave the Bolts a 2-0 lead with his first goal of the playoffs. Nikita Kucherov (6) and Alex Killorn (7) picked up the primary and secondary assists on Sustr’s goal.

With two minutes left in the first period, Chris Kunitz and J.T. Brown got into a little bit of a shoving match that set the tone for the rest of the game. Both players received roughing minors and were sent to the locker room early to cool off before the first intermission commenced.

After twenty minutes, Tampa was leading 2-0.

Pittsburgh Penguins LogoThe second period began with a Pittsburgh power play just a little over two minutes into it. Kucherov was called for boarding on a hit that shook up Ian Cole for a minute or two, before he regained himself and continued to play the rest of the night.

The Penguins were unable to convert on the man advantage and failed again to do so when Jonathan Drouin was sent to the box for holding almost four minutes later.

At 11:38 of the 2nd period the whistle had blown on a delayed call against the Penguins, except Kris Letang continued to shoot the puck up the boards and into a passing by Drouin. Several Lightning players, including Drouin, were sure to let Letang know they did not appreciate the extracurricular effort.

As a result, Matt Cullen was sent to the box with the original infraction of holding and his friends Brian Boyle and Letang each took a trip to their respective boxes with him (Boyle for roughing, Letang for roughing and cross checking). Because Letang took two penalties at once, the Penguins were shorthanded for four minutes and the Lightning went to work on a lengthy power play opportunity.

Vasilevskiy had just denied a shorthanded breakaway with a huge save to keep it a 2-0 game, when the Bolts found a way to get going to the other side of the ice and start generating rebounds. Drouin found a rebound in the low slot, off of Murray, and sent it to the back of the twine to give Tampa a 3-0 lead with a power play goal. Drouin’s goal was his 4th of the postseason and 3rd of the series.

Ondrej Palat (5) and Hedman (9) were credited with the assists on the goal.

In a largely undisciplined second period, the Lightning again took another penalty when Alex Killorn tripped Evgeni Malkin with less than five minutes remaining in the period. Pittsburgh was unable to generate any successful offense on the ensuing power play.

Tyler Johnson added another goal for Tampa with what would become the game-winning tip-in goal at 17:48 of the 2nd period. An errant shot by Kucherov caught enough of Johnson to deflect past Murray to give the Lightning a 4-0 lead. Johnson’s goal was his 6th of the playoffs and was assisted by Kucherov (7) and Killorn (8).

With forty minutes in the books the Lightning were ahead 4-0 on the scoreboard and led in shots on goal (30-22), faceoff wins (23-22) and blocked shots (6-5). The Penguins led in hits (18-17) and giveaways (8-7) in what was a tight possession battle that had yet to translate on the scoresheet. Pittsburgh was 0/3 on the power play entering the second intermission and Tampa was 1/3.

Penguins head coach, Mike Sullivan, made the executive decision to replace Murray with the veteran— though back from an injury and yet to have seen much action in the playoffs— Marc-Andre Fleury after Murray allowed four goals through forty minutes of play.

Phil Kessel kick started the comeback attempt for the Pens with his 8th goal of the playoffs 1:18 into the 3rd period. Nick Bonino (11) and Brian Dumoulin (6) tallied the assists.

Evgeni Malkin scored his 4th goal of the postseason (his 1st of the series) just past the eleven minute mark at 11:13 of the third period to cut Tampa’s lead in half. Ian Cole picked up his 2nd assist of the playoffs on Malkin’s goal that made it a 4-2 game with plenty of time remaining.

Thirteen seconds after Malkin scored, the Lightning committed their last infraction as Killorn was guilty of tripping up Letang. The Penguins were once again, on the power play for the fourth time of the night and found a way to convert in its closing seconds.

Chris Kunitz notched his 3rd goal of the postseason on a pass from Justin Schultz at 13:08 of the third and brought Pittsburgh to within one. Schultz (2) and Conor Sheary (4) assisted on Kunitz’s goal. What had been a 4-0 lead for Tampa was now a nerve-wracking 4-3 battle.

With over a minute and a half remaining in the game, Sullivan motioned to Fleury to vacate his net and head for the bench in exchange for an extra attacker.

Facing desperation, Vasilevskiy stood tall in his net and picked up his first career playoff win that was not in a relief appearance for the Lightning. Tampa Bay had held off the momentum swinging Penguins in a raucous third period and tied the series 2-2.

What looked like it would be a blowout turned out to be a close 4-3 victory for Tampa and a hard fought battle for Pittsburgh. After sixty minutes, the Penguins finished the night leading in shots on goal (38-37), hits (29-27), faceoff wins (33-31) and giveaways (10-7), while the Lightning clung on to an advantage in takeaways (4-2) and in blocked shots (14-6). Both teams wrapped up the night 1/4 on the power play.

Game 5 is scheduled for Sunday night at 8:00 PM ET at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh. It can be seen on NBCSN for viewers in the United States and on CBC and TVA Sports in Canada.

Couture’s 3-Point Night Leads Sharks to 2016 Western Conference Final

By: Nick Lanciani

UnknownThe San Jose Sharks thumped the Nashville Predators 5-0 in Game 7 of their 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round matchup.

Logan Couture had a three point night and Joe Pavelski scored the game winning goal while Martin Jones made 20 saves on 20 shots faced en route to the shutout victory on Thursday night at SAP Center in San Jose.

Jones became the fourth Sharks goaltender in franchise history to record a playoff shutout and became the first San Jose goalie to do so in a Game 7. Not only that, but it was the first Game 7 of Jones’s career.

Pekka Rinne made 21 saves on 26 shots against for a .808 SV% in the loss and was pulled in the third period after the Sharks scored their fifth goal of the evening. Rinne’s replacement, Carter Hutton, notched one save on one shot on goal in 16:06 TOI.

With the win, San Jose advanced to the Western Conference Final and will face the St. Louis Blues in the next round of the playoffs. It is the Sharks first appearance in the Western Conference Final since 2011 and their fourth overall (2004, 2010, 2011 and 2016).

Entering Thursday night it was the 13th playoff game in 25 days for the Nashville Predators, who were 3-0 when facing elimination this postseason until Thursday’s outcome. It was just the second Game 7 in Predators franchise history, with their first Game 7 having been a 2-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on road ice in Round One of this year’s playoffs.

Sharks forward, Matt Nieto, was out of the lineup for Game 7 due to an undisclosed injury. As a result, Tommy Wingels was inserted into the lineup for the first time in two games after being a healthy scratch. San Jose entered the night 3-0 at home in the series and finished 4-0 at home in the series, while Nashville fell to 0-8 in all-time playoff games at SAP Center. Peter Laviolette’s five straight Game 7 winning streak was snapped and his record as a head coach in Game 7s fell to 5-2 (1-1 with Nashville) with the 5-0 outcome.

Viktor Arvidsson took the game’s first penalty at 8:22 of the first period for sending the puck over the glass. Arvidsson’s delay of game minor gave San Jose their first power play of the night and it didn’t take them long to capitalize on the man advantage. Joe Pavelski wristed one past Rinne for his 9th goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead at 9:02 of the first period. Patrick Marleau (5) and Joe Thornton (8) picked up the primary and secondary assists on Pavelski’s goal.

The goal was just Pavelski’s 2nd career Game 7 goal and tied a Sharks postseason record for most goals in a playoff year with nine.

It was apparent in the first eight minutes that the Sharks were grabbing momentum of Game 7 when they had already fired numerous shots on goal before Nashville got their first shot on Jones.

In keeping with the home ice, home crowd fueled momentum; Joel Ward received a pass from Melker Karlsson that sent him in on a breakaway towards Rinne. Ward deked and slid the puck underneath Rinne’s five-hole to give San Jose a 2-0 lead at 16:51 of the period. Karlsson (1) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (7) assisted on Ward’s goal— his 3rd in five-career Game 7s.

To finish off the first period, Shea Weber took an interference minor that would extend into the second period for 38 seconds.

UnknownAfter twenty minutes of play the Sharks led 2-0 on the scoreboard and outshot the Predators 17-3. San Jose also lead in faceoff wins (15-7) and takeaways (5-0), while Nashville led in hits (16-14) and giveaways (8-5).

Both teams blocked seven shots in the first period and Nashville has yet to see time on the man advantage, while the Sharks were 1/2 on the power play.

Logan Couture extended his two-game point streak to three games with a quick goal 36 seconds into the second period that put San Jose on top 3-0. Couture capitalized on a Shea Weber mishap (that seemed to be a theme of the night) and put his seventh goal of the playoffs through Rinne’s five-hole. With two assists in the third period, Couture not only extended his point streak, but added to his already five goals and three assists (now make that six goals and five assists) in the series.

His 11 points in the series passed Igor Larionov’s 1994 Sharks franchise record of ten points in a single postseason series.

Fed up with his own play and Nashville’s general lack of effort, Mattias Ekholm went undisciplined at the end of the second period and cross checked Tommy Wingels. Ekholm received a minor penalty that would be served in its entirety to start the third period.

But it didn’t take long for San Jose to capitalize on their third chance on the power play as Joe Thornton sent a backhanded puck in the twine 32 seconds into the third period. Thornton’s 3rd goal of the playoffs was assisted by Couture (9) and made it 4-0 Sharks.

In keeping with the hometown momentum, San Jose pressured the Predators early in the third, resulting in another goal at 3:54 of the period. Joonas Donskoi sent the puck to Couture who then found Patrick Marleau for a snap shot that beat Rinne and made it 5-0 Sharks in the third period. Marleau’s 4th goal of the playoffs was enough to chase Rinne from the net, but not before Rinne swung his stick twice at the net to break it and a third time as he threw it behind him, before skating off the ice to be replaced by Hutton.

Marleau’s goal was assisted by Couture (10) and Donskoi (5).

At 14:34 of the third, Justin Braun took the Sharks first penalty of the night for interfering with Colin Wilson. Nashville was unable to amount anything on their only power play of the night and Jones and the Sharks went on to hold the 5-0 lead through the end of the game.

With the shutout, Wilson’s seven-game point streak had been snapped, along with his 4-5-9 totals in that span and James Neal’s four-game point streak came to an end as well for the Preds.

San Jose finished the night leading in shots on goal (27-20), takeaways (10-4) and blocked shots (22-12). Nashville ended the night leading in hits (46-31), faceoff wins (32-31) and giveaways (21-12). The Sharks went 2/3 on the power play, while the Predators went 0/1.

While Couture had a three-point night and Marleau, Thornton and Vlasic each had two-point nights, top Nashville defensive pair, Weber and Roman Josi finished the night as minus-3’s.

Despite trailing in shots on goal in periods one and two (17-3 and 6-5, respectively), Nashville outshot San Jose 12-4 in the third period.

With the series outcome, the team that scores first in Game 7s improved to 123-42 (.745) all-time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (4-0 this postseason). San Jose improved to 8-0 when Pavelski records at least a point and the home team won all seven games in the series, which was just the fourth such occurrence in the last 20 years (with the other times being the 2013 Conference Semifinals between Los Angeles and San Jose, the 2003 Stanley Cup Final between New Jersey and Anaheim and the 2002 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between Toronto and the New York Islanders).

For the seventh straight season, a team from California will be playing in the Western Conference Final. San Jose played in the WCF in 2010 and 2011 against the Chicago Blackhawks and the Vancouver Canucks, respectively, while Los Angeles took on the then Phoenix Coyotes in 2012 and the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2014. The Anaheim Ducks played the Blackhawks in 2015 and San Jose is once again back in the Western Conference Final in 2016.

Game 1 of the 2016 Western Conference Final is scheduled for Sunday night at 8:00 PM EST in St. Louis at Scottrade Center and will be televised on NBCSN in the United States and CBC and TVA Sports in Canada. The St. Louis Blues have home ice advantage and play host to San Jose in Games 1 and 2, as well as 5 and 7 if necessary. The Sharks will host the Blues at SAP Center in Games 3 and 4, and Game 6 if necessary.

Pavelski leads the way (again) as Sharks top Predators 5-1 in Game 5

By: Nick Lanciani 

UnknownJoe Pavelski picked up the game-winning goal on a two-goal night in the San Jose Sharks 5-1 victory over the Nashville Predators at SAP Center in Game 5 on Saturday night.

Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and Melker Karlsson had the other goals for the Sharks and Mike Fisher had the lone goal for Nashville.

Martin Jones made 24 saves on 25 shots against for a .960 SV% en route to the win, while Pekka Rinne made 23 saves on 27 shots faced for a .852 SV% before being replaced by Carter Hutton for the final three minutes of the game. Hutton allowed one goal on two shots on net in his 3:01 of ice time.

With the win, San Jose now has a 3-2 series lead over Nashville heading into Game 6 on Monday night at Bridgestone Arena. The Sharks are one win away from advancing to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2011. Meanwhile, the Predators fell to 0-7 at SAP Center in their all-time Stanley Cup Playoff matchups with San Jose.

Marleau kicked off the scoring at 10:47 of the first period with his 3rd goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Joonas Donskoi picked up his first of two assists on the night. Marleau’s goal gave San Jose a 1-0 lead, but Mike Fisher soon answered with a game tying goal of his own less than five minutes later. Fisher found the back of the net on a backhand shot that beat Jones for his 5th goal of the postseason, assisted by James Neal (3) and Colin Wilson (8) at 15:40 of the first period.

But the game wouldn’t stay tied at 1 for long.

Joe Pavelski received a pass from Joe Thornton and fired home a slap shot behind Rinne for what would be the eventual game winning goal. Pavelski’s 7th goal of the playoffs was assisted by Thornton (5) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (5) at 17:21 of the opening frame and gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission.

After twenty minutes of play San Jose was leading in shots on goal (13-11), giveaways (8-6) and takeaways (5-1). Nashville led in hits (15-11) and blocked shots (12-5), while both teams split faceoff wins 11-11 and had yet to see special teams opportunities.

Just thirty-five seconds into the second period, Logan Couture found himself on a breakaway and sent one past Rinne on the backhand to give the Sharks a 3-1 lead. Couture’s 5th goal of the playoffs was his 7th point of the series and put him one point shy of leading in postseason scoring across the NHL with 5-8-13 totals thus far in two rounds. Donskoi picked up the assist (his fourth of the playoffs) on the goal.

Marleau, Pavelski and Couture rank 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively, in Sharks all-time playoff goal scoring and each forward had at least one goal on Saturday night.

Brenden Dillon was charged with the game’s first penalty as he was sent to the box for interference 10:31 into the 2nd period. The Predators were unable to convert on their first power play opportunity of the night and the Sharks were therefore successful on their first penalty kill of the game.

UnknownRoman Josi had the most time on ice of any player in Game 4 (49:42 TOI) and was called for a tripping minor at 19:13 of the second period after he tripped up Couture.

Nine seconds on the power play was all it took for Pavelski to find the twine for the second time of the night and his 8th goal of the postseason. Pavelski’s power play goal gave San Jose a 4-1 lead and was assisted by Marleau (4) and Thornton (6).

Ryan Johansen received a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct with less than 15 seconds remaining in the second period and gave the Sharks a short power play before Joel Ward caught Paul Gaustad with a high stick and drew some blood. Ward was sent to the box with a double minor for high sticking and the Sharks and Predators would see some 4-on-4 action to end the 2nd period and begin the 3rd period.

Not much happened in the third period until Johansen tried to mix things up with Pavelski and Thornton roughed up Barret Jackman. Johansen was given a roughing minor and a 10-minute misconduct, while Thornton received two minutes for slashing Jackman and Mike Ribeiro ascertained a 10-minute misconduct himself at 16:01 of the third period.

Almost a minute later, Anthony Bitetto put the Sharks on a 4-on-3 power play after Bitetto tripped Nick Spaling. By then the Predators had tried just about anything and soon replaced Rinne in goal with Hutton for the last three minutes or so.

None sooner had the Predators swapped goalies than San Jose capitalized on the goalie change and Melker Karlsson squeaked one past Hutton to make it 5-1 with about 50 seconds left in the game. Chris Tierney (1) and Justin Braun (3) picked up the assists on Karlsson’s 2nd of the postseason.

The Sharks finished the night leading in shots on goal (29-25), hits (40-37), giveaways (22-17), takeaways (13-2) and blocked shots (18-16) while the Predators ended the night leading in faceoff wins (32-27). Nashville went 0/3 on the power play and San Jose went 1/3 on the man advantage after sixty minutes of play.

With the 5-1 victory on home ice in Game 5, San Jose now holds a 3-2 series lead— with a chance to eliminate Nashville from the Second Round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs— heading to enemy territory for Game 6 on Monday night at Bridgestone Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 9:00 PM EST and the game will be televised on CNBC in the United States and on Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada.