Tag Archives: Brian Dumoulin

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Finals – May 19

 

Pittsburgh Penguins at Ottawa Senators – Game 4

With their 3-2 victory over Ottawa at the Canadian Tire Centre Friday, the Penguins have leveled the Eastern Conference Finals at 2-2.

The biggest story coming into the game was Mike Sullivan‘s decision to entrust the Penguins’ net to Matthew Murray instead of Marc-Andre Fleury. The choice baffled many Yinzers considering the veteran goaltender had posted a .931 save percentage and 2.32 GAA in his 14 postseason games before getting pulled not even 13 minutes into Game 3 after allowing four goals.

Of course, hindsight is always 20/20. Sullivan may not have made the right decision, but it certainly wasn’t the wrong one. Allowing only two goals against, Murray earned his first victory of the 2017 playoffs on a .923 save percentage.

Stopping Ottawa’s attack was only half the battle though. Pittsburgh had only scored a goal-per-game in the first three contests of the series, but it exploded in comparison with three goals in one match – or, more precisely, just over 12 minutes.

It started with Olli Maatta‘s (Second Star of the Game Sidney Crosby and First Star Jake Guentzel) first-ever postseason tally with 46 seconds remaining in the opening frame. After crossing the near face-off circle, the fourth-year defenseman squeezed a wrist shot under Craig Anderson‘s blocker to give the Pens a one-goal lead going into the first intermission.

Where the Penguins’ offense truly took command of the game was in the middle frame. Thanks to Jean-Gabriel Pageau earning a roughing penalty for practicing his favorite WWE moves on Pittsburgh’s captain, Crosby (Guentzel and Phil Kessel) himself doubled his club’s lead with a scrappy power play goal 7:41 into the second period, followed 3:49 later by Brian Dumoulin (Ian Cole and Scott Wilson) banking a wrister from the far point off Dion Phaneuf‘s left skate and behind Anderson for what proved to be the deciding tally, the first game-winner of his playoff career.

With the Senators trailing 3-0, Sullivan’s decision was truly put to the test as the Senators upped their attacking intensity in the remaining 28:30 of regulation. In that time, they fired 16 shots at the second-year netminder, including 10 in the third period.

The first evidence came about in the waning moments of the second period. Just as Maatta did for the Pens late in the first period, Clarke MacArthur (Bobby Ryan) did for the Sens in the second. With 98 seconds remaining before the second intermission, he recharged a nervous Canadian Tire Centre with a tip-in that beat Murray top-shelf.

Even with MacArthur’s tally, the Penguins felt comfortable for most of the third period with their two-goal advantage. That lead was trimmed to one with 5:01 remaining when Third Star Tom Pyatt (Erik Karlsson and Pageau) not only acted as a screen on Karlsson’s initial shot, but also deflected it through Murray’s five-hole, making the remainder of regulation that much important in not only deciding Game 4’s victor, but also the momentum of the remaining games in the series.

Murray certainly did his job in those remaining five minutes as he saved all three shots he faced in that time, but it was the Penguins’ defensive efforts that were arguably more impressive – especially since they were on the short side of a six-on-four man-advantage for the final 37 seconds of the game due to having too many men on the ice.

In all, Pittsburgh forced three missed shots after Pyatt’s goal, including two from Kyle Turris, owner of a 14.6% regular season shooting percentage, the third-best on the Senators’ roster.

Shot blocking was also a major focus for the Penguins during Ottawa’s final possession to close regulation. In all, the Senators fired four shots after winning the last face-off of the game with 37 seconds remaining. Two were saved by Murray, and two were blocked by Dumoulin and Nick Bonino to secure the victory.

The Eastern Conference Finals, now a three-game series, return to PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh for Game 5 at 3 p.m. Eastern time this Sunday. American viewers should tune their televisions to NBC, while Canadians have the option between CBC and TVAS.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Finals – May 13

 

Ottawa Senators at Pittsburgh Penguins – Game 1

Thanks to Second Star of the Game Bobby Ryan‘s overtime winner, the Senators defeated Pittsburgh 2-1 at PPG Paints Arena Saturday to steal home ice in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Ryan was involved in both Senators tallies, as was Jean-Gabriel Pageau – the proud scorer of a wrist shot with 5:28 remaining in the first period. The play was caused when Pageau forced Brian Dumoulin into a giveaway behind Marc-Andre Fleury‘s net. Ryan collected the loose puck and centered a pass to the native Ottawan in the far face-off circle that he was more than able to bury top-shelf.

Though the Senators have been lauded for their defense this postseason, it certainly didn’t hurt that Pittsburgh struggled to find much rhythm offensively for most of the evening. The Pens uncharacteristically gave the puck away a whopping 17 times (Pittsburgh has given the puck away only 109 times this entire postseason, the fewest of the remaining squads), not to mention the 11 times Ottawa intentionally stole the puck.

A lot of that was due to the Sens’ physical play. Led by Marc Methot‘s seven blows, Ottawa threw 32 hits to knock the Penguins off balance. Even when Pittsburgh could manage a shot, the Sens were quick to get in the way, as they blocked an impressive 22 offerings (led by Methot’s four).

And the Penguins’ 28 shots that did manage to reach First Star Craig Anderson? He saved all but one for a .964 save percentage.

But no matter how well a defense and goaltender perform, its tough to keep the mighty Penguins offense off the board. With 5:35 remaining in regulation, Third Star Evgeni Malkin (Chris Kunitz and Ron Hainsey) leveled the game at one-all to give Pittsurgh life. It was a beautiful redirection by Malkin on Kunitz’ initial shot from the near face-off circle to beat Anderson five-hole.

That marker could have rattled the Sens, but they regrouped following regulation to reestablish their dominance. In the 4:59 of extra time, they allowed only two Penguins shots to reach Anderson.

The Senators themselves may have managed only three shots, but their final one ended the game. Assisted by Pageau and Mark Stone, Ryan fended off Bryan Rust in his own defensive zone to set up a breakaway opportunity for himself. Screaming up the near boards, he crossed across the slot to set up a nasty backhander that beat Fleury to the far post.

After a day off, these teams will be right back at it Monday at 8 p.m. Eastern time for Game 2. NBCSN has broadcasting rights withing the 50 United States, while Canada will be serviced by both CBC and TVAS.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Second Round – May 8

 

Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins – Game 6

By beating Pittsburgh 5-2 at PPG Paints Arena, the Capitals have forced a winner-takes-all Game 7 for a chance to play in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Simply put, absolutely nothing was going right for the Penguins. Though the Capitals did throw an impressive 38 hits (led by both Jay Beagle and Tom Wilson‘s five blows), Pittsburgh still should have managed more than 18 shots on goal.

It wasn’t until 7:43 remained in the first period that the Pens managed their first shot on Braden Holtby‘s goal. Unfortunately for them, Third Star of the Game T.J. Oshie (Evgeny Kuznetsov and Second Star Nicklas Backstrom) was already getting to work on the Capitals’ first goal of the night 24 seconds later, a power play snap shot from the far face-off circle.

Another part of the game the Penguins struggled at was keeping the puck away from Washington. They committed a combined 11 giveaways, the most egregious of which was Ron Hainsey‘s at the 6:32 mark of the second period.

Though it doesn’t go down as a turnover because First Star Andre Burakovsky dislodged the puck with a hit along the far boards, Hainsey brought the contact on himself. At the tail end of what proved to be a long 76-second shift, he tried to maintain possession for his club instead of chip the puck out of the defensive zone, turning back towards Marc-Andre Fleury‘s goal. Burakovsky took advantage of the exhausted defenseman to squeeze a wrist shot between Fleury and the far post to double the Caps’ lead.

But not all of Washington’s goals were results of Penguins mistakes. The game-winner certainly qualifies as one of those, as Backstrom (Oshie and Dmitry Orlov) won the third frame’s opening face-off to bury a snapper only 16 seconds later to set the score at 3-0.

John Carlson (Matt Niskanen and Kuznetsov) and Burakovsky tacked on two more goals within 1:12 of one another to set up a comfortable five-goal advantage for the visiting Caps, more than enough to survive Jake Guentzel (Sidney Crosby) and Evgeni Malkin‘s (Conor Sheary and Brian Dumoulin) two-goal surge in the remaining 3:22 of regulation.

The series’ deciding game has been scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, May 10. American viewers can catch the game on NBCSN, while Canadian hockey fans will be serviced by both CBC and TVAS.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round– April 16

For at least the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writers are Connor Keith and Nick Lanciani.

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Minnesota Wild at St. Louis Blues – Game 3

By: Connor Keith

St. Louis is one game away from the Western Conference Semifinals thanks to its 3-1 victory over the Wild Sunday afternoon at the Scottrade Center.

“A goal a frame keeps the Wild away” seemed to be Mike Yeo’s lesson for his club, and St. Louis performed that plan to a t. That attack started early, as Second Star of the Game Colton Parayko (Patrik Berglund and David Perron) scored a wrist shot under Devan Dubnyk’s glove from beyond the face-off dots.

The second period’s goal was a little later than the third, but no less important. The play actually started with 5:48 remaining in the frame when Ryan White hi-sticked Third Star Jaden Schwartz. As it turns out, Schwartz is not the Blue Note Minnesota wanted to aggravate, as he was able to tip-in a power play tally only 67 seconds later (Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko) to register what proved to be the game-winning goal.

Steen completed the scoring by taking credit for the third period’s goal, though he was also the beneficiary of a missing Wild player. Assisted by Berglund and Vladimir Sobotka, the center fired a wrister into a vacant net from behind the blue line to ensure the Blues’ victory.

Though the offense performed spectacularly, it was actually Jake Allen that took First Star honors. Though his defense blocked a whopping 23 shots (led by Captain Alex Pietrangelo’s five), Allen still faced 41 pucks throughout the game, saving all but Charlie Coyle’s (Zach Parise and Ryan Suter) tip-in with 7:01 remaining in the second period that then tied the game at one-all.

The Notes’ first opportunity to punch their ticket into the next round will occur Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. Eastern time. American viewers can watch the contest on NBCSN, while Canadians will be serviced by both SN360 and TVAS2.

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Pittsburgh Penguins at Columbus Blue Jackets – Game 3

By: Connor Keith

With their 5-4 overtime victory in Columbus, the Penguins are a game away from eliminating the Blue Jackets and punching their ticket to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

It’s not just the Maple Leafs’ rookies that are capable of scoring, as First Star of the Game Jake Guentzel is already having himself a brilliant postseason. Sunday’s overtime snap shot (Sidney Crosby) was not only his second game-winning goal of his first playoff appearance, but also his third-goal of the night for the first hat trick of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Though Guentzel buried the tally, Crosby actually did all the work. The captain took possession of the puck behind Sergei Bobrovsky’s net with two Jackets surrounding him. For eight seconds he fought with Brandon Dubinsky and David Savard in the trapezoid to maintain ownership before dishing to the rookie patiently waiting at the far corner of the goal crease. Immediately upon receiving the pass, Guentzel squeezed a quick snapper between Bobrovsky and the far post to win the game for the Pens.

Another Penguins youngster that deserves praise is Second Star Bryan Rust, as the sophomore’s tally at the start of the second period sparked a streak of three unanswered goals. It was a tip-in 5:21 (Brian Dumoulin and Evgeni Malkin) after resuming play after the first intermission. Dumoulin originally fired his slap shot from the blue line towards Bobrovsky’s glove side, but outside the near post. Waiting at the near corner of the crease, Rust resolved that issue by redirecting the puck between the netminders’ legs and beyond the goal line. The wing’s tally then pulled Pittsburgh back within a 3-2 deficit.

As a high-scoring overtime contest will indicate, offense was the name of the game for both clubs. Third Star Cam Atkinson was a major part of that effort for Columbus, as he registered two of its four tallies – both in the first period. His first (Dubinsky and Nick Foligno) was only 11 seconds into the game, a snap shot on the rebound of Dubinsky’s attempt that rebounded off Marc-Andre Fleury’s right pad.

Only 4:51 later, Atkinson struck again to reclaim a 2-1 lead for the Jackets. This time, it was an unassisted backhander immediately after stealing the puck off an unsuspecting Crosby’s stick at the near face-off dot. That steal set up a one-on-one situation against Fleury, and the right wing made the netminder commit to the near post before pulling the puck across the crease and burying it on the opposite side.

The Blue Jackets’ defense actually deserves a lot of credit in this game. Though they did allow Pittsburgh to fire 47 shots on goal, they managed an impressive 29 shot blocks, including a whopping seven courtesy of Jack Johnson.

The Pens and Jackets will take to the ice again Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time, and Pittsburgh will have the opportunity to end the series. The contest will be broadcast on CNBC on the United States, while Canadians can take the game in on either SN360 or TVAS2.

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Montreal Canadiens at New York Rangers– Game 3

By: Nick Lanciani

Special teams opportunities were costly for the New York Rangers on Sunday night, as Shea Weber’s 2nd period goal on the power play (the 2nd of the night for the Montreal Canadiens) proved to be enough to hand the home team Rangers with their sixth straight loss in the Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden— dating back to the 2015 Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

New York’s Henrik Lundqvist made 26 saves on 29 shots against in the loss, while Montreal’s Carey Price made 20 saves on 21 shots faced for the win.

Both teams failed to score in the first period, setting up for what some may have thought to be an intense goaltender battle for the rest of the night, considering the many saves Lundqvist and Price made in Games 1 and 2.

But Artturi Lehkonen (1) of the Canadiens had other things in mind when he scored his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal in just his 3rd career NHL playoff appearance on the power play at 17:37 of the 2nd period. J.T. Miller had been in the box for New York for a delay of game infraction after using his hand to illegally win a faceoff.

Brendan Gallagher (2) and Tomas Plekanec (2) had the assists on Lehkonen’s goal which made it 1-0 Montreal heading into the 2nd intermission.

Weber pounced on another power play goal for Montreal after Mats Zuccarello served a high sticking double minor for the Rangers. Weber’s goal was his first postseason goal with the Canadiens since the offseason blockbuster trade with the Nashville Predators involving P.K. Subban in June and was his 14th career playoff goal.

Alex Galchenyuk (2) and Alexander Radulov (3) tallied the assists on Weber’s goal at 7:42 of the 3rd period.

The Habs went up 3-0 on a goal from Radulov (2) at 15:35 of the period, which all but  officially put things away. Phillip Danault (2) was credited with the only assist on Radulov’s goal.

Price’s bid for a shutout came to an end with 2:56 remaining in the game, as Brady Skjei (1) fired one past the Montreal goaltender for his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal. Kevin Klein (1) and Mika Zibanejad (1) had the assists on the Rangers goal which cut the lead to two, but proved to be too little, too late.

The Canadiens now lead the series 2-1 with Game 4 scheduled for Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET and can be viewed nationally in the United States on NBCSN, as well as CBC and TVAS in Canada.

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Edmonton Oilers at San Jose Sharks– Game 3

By: Nick Lanciani

Cam Talbot and the Edmonton Oilers were victorious at SAP Center on Sunday night with a 1-0 win against the San Jose Sharks and their second straight shutout in the series.

Scoreless through a little over fifty minutes, Edmonton’s Zack Kassian (2) wired a shot past San Jose goaltender, Martin Jones, to give the Oilers a 1-0 lead and the only goal of the night. Kassian’s goal was unassisted at 10:45 of the 3rd period.

Talbot continued to play lights out hockey with a 23 save performance and his second straight shutout in the win, while Jones amassed 20 saves on 21 shots faced for a .955 save percentage in the loss.

Joe Thornton made his return to the Sharks lineup and had two shots on goal, as well as two hits in 16:27 of ice time.

The series resumes on Tuesday night with Game 4 in San Jose at 10 p.m. ET and can be seen nationally in the United States on NBCSN, as well as SN and TVAS in Canada. The Edmonton Oilers now have a 2-1 series lead and will look to make it a 3-1 series lead on Tuesday with a chance to punch their ticket into the Second Round in Game 5 back on home ice at Rogers Place if they can pull off another win on the road.

April 4 – Day 167 – Who gets Game 7?

After a quiet Monday in the NHL last night, the final Tuesday of the regular season should be absolutely stellar.

Barring some freak weather system or facilities complication, 13 contests will take place this evening. All but four teams will be in action tonight, including the entire Western Conference.

The action gets started at 7 p.m. with three games (Tampa Bay at Boston [NBCSN/SN/TVAS], Philadelphia at New Jersey and Columbus at Pittsburgh), followed half an hour later by two more (Washington at Toronto and Detroit at Ottawa [RDS]). Another trio (Winnipeg at St. Louis, the New York Islanders at Nashville and Carolina at Minnesota) will be contested at 8 p.m., with Arizona at Dallas waiting 30 minutes before getting underway. Chicago at Colorado is the only matchup to start at 9 p.m., which is the same for Calgary at Anaheim (SN1) at 10 p.m. Finally, tonight’s co-nightcaps (Edmonton at Los Angeles [NBCSN] and Vancouver at San Jose) will drop the puck at 10:30 p.m. to finish the night.

Short list:

  • Philadelphia at New Jersey: Both teams may be eliminated from the postseason, but that won’t take away from the Battle of the Jersey Turnpike, which was already heated before Dalton Prout‘s hit on Radko Gudas.
  • Columbus at Pittsburgh: While the rivalry status of this matchup is still in the air, one thing is certain: it will have an immediate impact on the Metropolitan Division with only six days remaining in the season.
  • Edmonton at Los Angeles: With a little help from the Flames, this old-timey rivalry could provide the Oilers a shot at first place in the Pacific Division.

Riding a two-game winning streak, it seems like the Penguins are getting healthy and returning to form just in time for the playoffs. They’ll need all the help they can get tonight to try to retain home ice in the Eastern Quarterfinals.

 

There’s a lot at stake tonight in this game. 48-19-11 Pittsburgh currently has a one-point advantage on 49-21-8 Columbus for the second seed in the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference. Of course, that second seed is ultra-important in the not-so-new-anymore playoff format the NHL is using nowadways.

Instead of a conference tournament where the best team was paired with the worst team in a given conference until the conference championship (effectively the NBA’s playoffs, except the NHL used to reseed after every round), the league now crowns two division champions, determined by three seven-game playoffs, to play for one of the conference titles.

Whether you’re a fan of the format or not (Hint: I’m not. #TeamOldFormat), it’s the world we live in. And that’s what makes this matchup so integral. As all sports fans know, a home ice/court/field advantage can be wildly important in deciding who wins a Game 7 and advances to the next round, or loses and schedules tee times a week later.

All that aside, this also acts as a week-early preview for a highly-probable first round playoff matchup. Considering what is on the table, I doubt either of the coaching staffs are too concerned about putting too much film in their opponent’s hands. Then again, we are talking about John Tortorella, so who knows?

While I’m in no way implying that I think the Jackets have lost their edge, they have hit a slight rough patch in the past week; since March 30, they’ve amassed only a 0-2-1 record. Given, their two regulation losses are in Chicago and against the Capitals, but beating playoff teams is relatively important when the postseason starts next week.

The Blue Jackets have been one of the best defenses in the league all season long, allowing only 2.28 goals-against per game – the second-best mark in the NHL. In the last three games, they’ve allowed eight goals – well above that mark.

Much of that season success has been due to a solid blueline. Unfortunately for 41-15-5 Sergei Bobrovsky (more on him in a minute), a blueline collapse is not the reason for Columbus‘ recent struggles. They’ve allowed only 28.3 shots-against in the past week, which is actually down from the usual 30.4 they’ve averaged all year.

No, the blame rests on Bobrovsky’s shoulders. While he’s been almost as far from horrible as one can get, he’s not been his usual super-reliable self. On the season, he has a .934 save percentage and 1.99 GAA (both are best in the league among goalies with more than eight games played), but he’s let his numbers drop to .906 and 2.56 in the past six days.

As showcased by Chicago and Washington, that extra sliver of space is all elite offenses need to capitalize.

With the postseason on the horizon, the important thing is that the penalty kill has remained healthy. The fact that the Jackets have allowed only one power play goal against since March 30 is proof enough that nothing needs to be retooled in Columbus; Bobrovsky just needs to focus back in and the Jackets should be set for an effective postseason.

The thing that does need to be checked for life is the power play. Usually successful on 19.9% of attempts – an above-average effort – the Jackets haven’t scored on the man-advantage in their past seven attempts. It is moments like these where Captain Nick Foligno and power play-mastermind Alexander Wennberg need to step up and provide the offensive spark for their club, a squad that desperately needs one with the extra-man.

Meanwhile, it’s not as if the Penguins are doing much better of late. Since March 23, they’ve gone 2-2-2, though their last two contests were victories against solid offenses in Carolina and New York.

Though I love statistics, Pittsburgh‘s drop in production can be attributed to one thing and one thing along: injuries. There’s still seven Penguins on the injury report, including the likes of Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Chris Kunitz, who went down against the Rangers Saturday.

That explains why the best offense in the league has managed only 13 goals in six games, but why has Pittsburgh allowed so many goals of late?

I’m going to give  30-10-4 Matthew Murray a pass here and blame the blueline. Of course, the Penguins‘ defense is hurt too. Trevor Daley, Letang and Olli Maatta have not registered a game since at least February 21, all of whom average more than a shot block per game when healthy.

One of those pieces looks to be coming back soon though. The Penguins‘ official Twitter handle indicated that Daley returned to practice today, so it remains to be seen when he will see game action.

Until then, Pittsburgh needs to find a way to keep shots off Murray. In the past six games, the Pens blueline has allowed 213 shots (35.5) to reach their goaltender, which is worse than their already very bad 32.6 season average.

Both Justin Schultz and Ian Cole have been fantastic in their efforts, as they’ve combined for 26 shot blocks in the past six games. But it’s skaters like Brian Dumoulin and Chad Ruhwedel that need to improve their effort.

It is hard to have such high expectations for Ruhwedel, who has bounced between Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, but the fact that he has only one block in five games with the Penguins should be alarming to Jim Rutherford and Mike Sullivan, and could impact if he gets a contract of any kind this offseason.

Where Murray doesn’t get a pass is the penalty kill. He’s faced seven power play shots in the past six games, and has saved only four of them. Four. As you’d expect, a .571 power play save percentage has dropped the Penguins‘ penalty kill numbers to the bottom of the league in that stretch of time, as they’ve successfully stopped only 76.9% of opposing attempts in the last 13 days.

The current Penguins‘ brightest spot has to be a a power play that has managed to convert 30.8% of its opportunities since March 23, the seventh-best effort in that time. Though Phil Kessel, who has 29 power play points on the season, still leads the team’s man-advantage, it’s been a full-team attack of late as both lines have found the back of the net. In fact, even though the squad has managed four power play goals in this stretch, no player has more than two points to his credit.

Though the Blue Jackets have gone 2-0-1 against Pittsburgh this year, they still have yet to clinch the season series. The Pens could tie it all up tonight if they can best Columbus in regulation.

If February 17 is any indicator, the Penguins will have to work extremely hard to get that done. Columbus needed overtime to best Pittsburgh 2-1 the last time they met (Brandon Dubinsky scored the game-winner), though they had that pesky home ice we were talking about earlier in their favor.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include ColumbusCam Atkinson (34 goals [tied for seventh-most in the league]), Bobrovsky (1.99 GAA on a .934 save percentage [both best in the NHL] for 41 wins [tied for the most in the league], including seven shutouts [tied for second-most in the NHL]) and David Savard (+30 [sixth-best in the league]) & Pittsburgh‘s Sidney Crosby (43 goals [leads the NHL] for 84 points [tied for fourth-most in the league]) and Murray (.923 save percentage [tied for sixth-best in the NHL]).

Though wounded, Vegas has marked Pittsburgh a -130 favorite going into tonight’s game. I expect a tight game, but I’m actually leaning towards the Blue Jackets. I think their special teams are an even match for those of the Penguins and their offense should take advantage of a struggling Pittsburgh defensive corps.

Hockey Birthday

  • Pat Burns (1952-2010) – It may have been the shortest stop in his 14 years of head coaching, but Burns is most remembered for leading the 2003 Devils to the Stanley Cup.
  • Dale Hawerchuk (1963-) – Winnipeg selected this center with the top pick in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft, and it turned out to be a good pick. In addition to winning the 1982 Calder Memorial Trophy, this Hall-of-Famer played in five All-Star Games over his 16 seasons.
  • Yanic Perreault (1971-) – Selected 47th-overall in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft by Toronto, this center played 14 seasons – most of which with Los Angeles. Though he appeared in only one All-Star Game, he scored 247 goals over his career.
  • Kevin Weekes (1975-) – Before working for NHL Network and starting his clothing line No5Hole, this goaltender was selected 41st-overall in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft by Florida. He ended up playing 348 games over 11 seasons – most of which with Carolina – for a 105-163-39 record.
  • Roberto Luongo (1979-) – Another goalie, Luongo was picked fourth-overall by the Islanders in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. Currently in his second stint with the Panthers, he’s played 494 of his 966 games with Florida. He has a career 453-365-117 record.
  • Evgeny Artyukhin (1983-) – Tampa Bay selected this right wing 94th-overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he played most of his three-year career. He managed only 49 points before returning to Russia.
  • Doug Lynch (1983-) – Another player whose career didn’t last long, this defenseman was selected 43rd-overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft by Edmonton. He only played two games with the Oilers, and has since played most of his career in the EBEL.
  • Cam Barker (1986-) – This defenseman was the third-overall pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft by Chicago, and that’s where he spent most of his eight-year NHL career. Most recently, he was playing in the KHL for HC Slovan Bratislava.

Led by Nazem Kadri‘s two-point effort, the Maple Leafs bested Buffalo 4-2 in the Battle of the QEW, yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Toronto took command of this game quickly, as it had a 3-0 lead by the 5:09 mark of the first frame. Third Star of the Game Leo Komarov (Kadri) took credit for the Leafs‘ first tally, tipping-in a shot 4:26 after the initial puck drop. 35 seconds later, First Star Auston Matthews (William Nylander and Jake Gardiner) doubled that lead by potting a wrist shot. That surge culminated with Second Star James van Riemsdyk (Tyler Bozak), who notched the game-winner only eight seconds after Matthews’ 39th tally of the season, the most ever by an American rookie.

Buffalo finally got on the board 1:51 into the second period. Though Marcus Foligno still had nine seconds remaining on his cross-checking penalty against Kadri at the end of the first period, Ryan O’Reilly (Brian Gionta) notched a shorthanded snap shot to pull the Sabres within two goals of their Canadian rivals.

That 3-1 score held until the 5:50 mark of the third period. That’s when Kadri (Mitch Marner and Nikita Zaitsev) buried his power play marker to reclaim a three-goal advantage for Toronto. Jack Eichel (Sam Reinhart) buried a backhanded shot with 56 seconds remaining in the game, but it was too little too late to effect Buffalo‘s fate.

Frederik Andersen earned the win after saving 20-of-22 shots faced (90.9%), leaving the loss to Robin Lehner, who saved two-of-five (40%). He was pulled after van Riemsdyk’s game-winning slap shot in favor of Anders Nilsson, who saved 39-of-40 (97.5%) for no decision.

Toronto‘s victory snaps the four-game winning streak by the 85-59-25 home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series. Though hosts have still had more success when featured, their advantage over the visitors is now only three points.

Pittsburgh at San Jose – Game 6 – Penguins hoist the Cup after a 3-1 victory

Pittsburgh Penguins LogoUnknownIf football is any predictor, we should’ve known this series would be exactly this long – the Raiders and Steelers have split their six games when meeting in the AFC playoffs in their historic rivalry, including such occurrences as the Immaculate Reception.  In hockey, we cannot end a playoff series tied, and the Penguins now have a 4-2 postseason record over the Sharks that they used to hoist the Stanley Cup for the fourth time in the franchise’s history.

Perhaps Kris Letang’s goal (by a defenseman no less, not ironic if you’re familiar with the history of both football teams) will be remembered with such accolades as the one listed before and become one of those named plays in Pittsburgh‘s vast sporting lore.  The Second Star of the Game’s slap shot found the back of Third Star Martin Jones’ net at the 7:46 mark of the second period after assists from First Star Sidney Crosby (his 12th helper of the postseason) and Conor Sheary.  A centering pass to Patric Hornqvist went awry, leading to Crosby ending up with the puck on the near side of Jones’ crease.  He took it behind the net and passed to Letang waiting at the far face-off zone to bang it off the netminder for a five-hole goal.

What’s more impressive is that tally was struck only 1:19 after Logan Couture and the Sharks had leveled the score.

For the opening five minutes of the second period, the Sharks were making extremely evident what Coach Peter DeBoer had stressed during intermission, as they led the shot totals five to one.

Those efforts proved fruitful 6:27 after resuming play when Couture scored his 30th point of the postseason (only the fifth player to reach that mark since 1995) with a goal-scoring wrister, assisted by Melker Karlsson and Brent Burns (his 17th helper of the postseason).  Burns had gloved down a clearing attempt by the Penguins just outside San Jose‘s offensive zone.  He passed from the near to far boards along the blue line to Karlsson to enter the zone, who immediately shoved the puck along to the attacking Couture.  Although the scouting report has said to attack Matt Murray’s glove hand, Couture fired for the netminder’s five-hole, banking a shot off his left pad to level the score after a first period goal from Brian Dumoulin.

Dumoulin’s play actually begins 26 seconds before he finds the net when he was tripped by Dainius Zubrus at the 7:50 mark of the first period, causing the first power play of the game.  His ensuing slap shot was assisted by Justin Schultz and Chris Kunitz (his eighth helper of the postseason).  Kunitz passed up the near boards to Schultz at the point, who passed across the blue line to the waiting goal scorer.  The defenseman faked a shot to get Karlsson out of his way before following through with a second attempt that narrowly beat Jones far side.

For the most part, Pittsburgh was in control for most of the final game of the NHL season.

The first period stats that best explain the opening frame (other than Pittsburgh‘s 100% power play success rate) include the Pens‘ 60% face-off win rate and the 16 combined turnovers in favor of the Sharks – 11 giveaways from the Penguins and another five Shark takeaways.

Overall, Pittsburgh controlled the puck, but when San Jose could ascertain possession, they certainly struck fear into Murray and the black-and-gold on a few occasions, but the netminder stood tall to keep the Sharks off the board.

 

Once again the Penguins entered the intermission with a one-goal lead, but the long change in the second period, as its prone to do, has a way of evening things out to not favor either side.  The Sharks actually led the frame’s shot totals (13 to 11, respectively) in addition to continuing their dominance along the boards (18 to 10 for the period and 36 to 22 after two periods), but Pittsburgh continued to own the face-off dot (winning 15 out of 22 face-offs in the frame and 65% for the contest) to hold their own.

Statistics for the final frame are misleading, with the exception of one: blocked shots.  Pittsburgh ended the game with 33 blocks, with quite a few of them occurring in the final 20 minutes.  With the help of those blocks and the threat of others forcing rushed attempts, only two Shark shots reached Murray’s net.

With two minutes remaining in San Jose‘s season, Jones left the ice for a sixth skater.  Hornqvist made the Sharks pay with 62 seconds remaining with a wrister on the empty net after an assist from Crosby to seal the victory for the City of Champions.  The Conn Smythe Trohpy-winning captain took credit for one of the many blocks of the frame near the point and dished to a streaking Hornqvist, who barely advanced into the Sharks’ zone before scoring.

History certainly has a way of repeating itself, even when excluding the connection between these towns on the gridiron.  Seven years ago, to the day, was the date when the Penguins last hoisted the Cup.  The seasons followed a similar story line: a team that looked so dangerous on paper that failed to live up to the scouting report on ice.  To resolve the issue, a new coach was hired, then Dan Bylsma, and Sullivan this season.  Even the fact that the Penguins won in their road white sweaters (That’s a Steel City tradition though, at this point.  It’s been since 1960 that a Pittsburgh-based Big Four team [baseball, basketball, football and hockey] has won on home turf (the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates) recalls memories of the Penguins‘ triumph in Joe Louis Arena.

Both goaltenders played exceptionally well, but Murray earned the victory after saving 18 of the 19 shots he faced (94.7%), while Jones takes the loss, saving 24 of 26 (92.3%).

Jones carries San Jose on his back as Sharks defeat Penguins in Game 5

By: Nick Lanciani

Stanley Cup Final Logo

Martin Jones and the San Jose Sharks never looked back after taking a 3-2 lead on a goal from Melker Karlsson in the first period, as Jones made 44 saves and the Sharks added an empty net goal to win 4-2 in Game 5 at CONSOL Energy Center on Thursday night.

Jones’s 44 saves came on 46 shots against with a .957 SV% in the sixty minute effort. Meanwhile Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender, Matt Murray, amassed 18 saves on 21 shots faced. In 58:43 TOI, Murray walked away with a .857 SV% despite entering Game 5 with a 2.09 GAA and a .925 SV% through his first 19 playoff starts this postseason.

Earlier in the day on Thursday it was confirmed that Tomas Hertl would not be in San Jose’s lineup once again, and that he remains day-to-day with a lower body injury.

UnknownGame 5 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final kicked off with the fastest four goals scored by either team in Stanley Cup Final history. It only took 2:53 for the Sharks to make it 2-0, but at 5:06 of the first period, the Penguins had tied the game, 2-2.

Brent Burns kicked off the goal scoring just 1:04 into the night with his 7th goal of the playoffs on a wrist shot that beat Matt Murray. Melker Karlsson (2) and Logan Couture (19) picked up the assists as Couture began what would be a three point twenty minute effort on the goal. The 1-0 lead was San Jose’s first in-game lead of the series.

Couture capitalized on a redirection for his 9th goal of the postseason at 2:53 of the first period. Justin Braun had fired a shot that Couture knocked down just enough to change its destination from a routine save to a twine-seeking missile. Braun notched his 5th assist of the playoffs on the goal and the Sharks led 2-0.

Shortly thereafter, Dainius Zubrus sent the puck over the glass and consequently received an automatic minor penalty for delay of game. While on the power play, Phil Kessel sent a beauty of a pass to Evgeni Malkin, as Malkin fired a wrist shot past Martin Jones to cut the San Jose’s lead in half. Pittsburgh had successfully converted on the power play with Malkin’s 6th goal of the playoffs and his second power play goal in as many games. Kessel (12) and Kris Letang (12) were credited with the primary and secondary assists at 4:44 of the 1st.

Carl Hagelin scored the tying goal 5:06 into the opening period. Nick Bonino fired a shot that Hagelin in turn redirected past Jones for his 6th goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Bonino was credited with the only assist on the goal (his 14th of the postseason).

With the score tied at two San Jose had to endure a crucial penalty kill after Brent Burns caught Brian Dumoulin with a high stick nearly midway through the period; at a time where all of the momentum had appeared to have swung 180 degrees in favor of the Penguins.

But the Sharks penalty kill, as well as the goaltending of Jones, worked effectively and San Jose prevailed unscathed by the Pittsburgh power play that had already scored on their first opportunity of the night.

At 14:47 of the first period, Karlsson received the puck from Couture and sent a wrist shot past Murray for his 5th goal of the postseason and gave the Sharks their second lead of the night. Couture (20) and Brenden Dillon (2) had the assists on the goal that made it 3-2 San Jose. Couture’s assist on Karlsson’s goal capped off his three-point night.

As the period came to a close, the Sharks held onto the one goal lead heading into the first intermission. In the first four games of the series both teams had only totaled five goals, but in the first period alone of Game 5, both teams yielded five goals combined on the scoreboard.

The Penguins outshot the Sharks (15-7) and led in faceoff wins (15-10), giveaways (2-1), takeaways (5-4) and blocked shots (9-4). Both teams had 13 hits aside after twenty minutes of play. San Jose had yet to see time on the man advantage and Pittsburgh converted on one of their two man advantage opportunities of the first period.

A scoreless second period encountered two penalties and numerous desperation saves from Jones. Pittsburgh served and killed off a bench minor for too many men at 5:58 of the period, while San Jose killed off Karlsson’s slashing minor that was assigned at 10:30 of the 2nd.

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With forty minutes in the books the Sharks still led 3-2 despite trailing the Penguins in shots on goal 32-15. Both teams tied in hits (23-23) and blocked shots (10-10) after two periods.

Meanwhile the Penguins led in faceoff wins (24-23), giveaways (4-2) and takeaways (7-5) after two. San Jose went 0/1 on the power play and Pittsburgh had gone 1/3 on the power play entering the second intermission.

An eventful, save filled, third period saw its crescendo in the last six minutes of regulation, when Hagelin took a penalty for hooking at 14:04 of the third, giving the Sharks their second power play of the night. While Pittsburgh kept the puck out of their defensive zone for the most part on the ensuing penalty kill, the Sharks had a couple phenomenal scoring rushes while being outshot by a 2:1 ratio.

With about 90 seconds left on the clock Penguins head coach, Mike Sullivan, instructed Murray to vacate the net in favor of an extra attacker. In turn, Pittsburgh would take a timeout shortly after a stoppage in play, to try to rest their key players and draw up a surefire way of tying the game.

Whatever plan the Penguins drew up, they could not execute, as the Sharks eventually cleared the zone and Joe Pavelski tallied his first goal of the series on an empty net. Pavelski’s 14th goal of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is now the 3rd most in a postseason by a U.S. born player (behind Kevin Stevens’ 17 goals in 1991 with Pittsburgh and Joe Mullen’s 16 goals in 1989 with the Calgary Flames). Joe Thornton had the sole assist— his 18th of the playoffs— on Pavelski’s goal.

With about four seconds left in the game and after a whistle for a routine cover up by Jones, Sidney Crosby and Marc-Edouard Vlasic got into it a bit as the rest of the skaters on the ice gathered in a scrum. Crosby and Vlasic each received roughing minors and the game became a 4-on-4 battle for the remaining seconds on the clock in regulation.

Time ticked down and the Sharks walked away with a 4-2 victory in Pittsburgh.

Thursday night’s win was San Jose’s 6th road win of the postseason, which surpassed their previous franchise record set back in 2004. Likewise, the Sharks improved to 9-0 in this postseason when leading after two periods. The Penguins fell to 0-5 while trailing after forty minutes.

Pittsburgh led in shots on goal (46-22), hits (32-30), giveaways (10-2) and takeaways (7-5) at the final horn of Game 5 and San Jose led in faceoff wins (36-34) and blocked shots (17-10). The Sharks finished the night 0/2 on the man advantage and the Penguins went 1/3.

With the win in Game 5, San Jose became just the 15th team to win Game 5 while trailing 3-1 in the series (in 33 of such series’ in NHL history). Pittsburgh now leads the 2016 Stanley Cup Final three games to two (3-2) heading into Game 6 at SAP Center in San Jose.

A win for the Penguins in Game 6 on Sunday would clinch their fourth Stanley Cup championship in franchise history. Meanwhile a win at home for the Sharks would send the series back to Pittsburgh for a Game 7 on Wednesday, June 15th.

Game 6 is Sunday night at SAP Center in San Jose. Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 8:00 PM ET and the game can be viewed on NBC in the United States, as well as on CBC and TVA Sports in Canada.

 

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.

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.

Pittsburgh Penguins Logo

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.

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.