Stanley Cup playoffs three stars: Ducks break through on Pekka Rinne, Predators to claim Game 2

Much has been made about the impenetrable force that has been the Predators defensive unit, guiding an unlikely run to the Western Conference finals.

Sunday was a different story. The Ducks enjoyed a timely offensive breakthrough in the middle of Game 2 and held on for a 5-3 win to even their series at one game apiece as it heads to Nashville. Their four goals scored on an unusually flappable Predators goalie Pekka Rinne were the most in a single game all postseason.

In fact, Rinne had gone 21 starts dating to the regular season without allowing four goals.

He allowed more than two goals just three times in 12 playoff games heading into Monday as the dependable failsafe for the Preds’ blue chip blueliners.

That lead held until Bobby Ryan scored on a 5-on-3 power play with 6:45 remaining in the middle frame, ending a brutal 0-for-29 drought with the man advantage that had hung over the Sens’ heads like a dark cloud the last two series. Pittsburgh was winning the shot battle 34-19.

It wasn’t long into the third period before Mike Hoffman gave Ottawa its first lead since Game 4.

Hoffman gathered the puck near the blue line, skated into the high circle and uncorked an absolute beauty of a shot that caromed off the far-side post and into the net.

Pittsburgh applied plenty of pressure as the third period progressed, but Anderson was an immovable force in net. A Penguins too many men penalty with 4:05 to play all but extinguished their hopes at forcing overtime, coughing up a chance to reach the Stanley Cup Final for a fourth time in 10 years. At least for now.

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NHL playoffs 2017: Penguins demolish Senators 7-0 in Game 5

Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals if you call it call it that was nothing short of a senatorial bloodbath.

The Penguins won 7-0, with seven different players each scoring a goal. The game was over by the first period, with Pittsburgh scoring four goals on a shellshocked Craig Anderson. The scored one and two more goals in the second and third periods, respectively, to put a stamp on the win.

When Pegula fired Bylsma and Murray back in April, he made it clear he wanted to instill three characteristics into the organization that had been lacking: discipline, structure and communication.

Botterill’s plan checks all three boxes.

He’s pretty much done everything you can do in hockey, from being a player, being involved in evaluating, drafting, developing and then molding those players between two teams, the AHL and the NHL team, Pegula said. That takes a lot of discipline and a lot of structure.

You can see he’s well prepared. He’s been through the wars with the Pittsburgh organization.

That kind of goal-scoring production could help to fulfill some of those expectations Niedereiter talked about.

I’m not concerned about it at all, Niederreiter said. I’m still very young and I know I have a lot of room to grow. I haven’t had my best season yet.

With the ice time and everything there’s a lot of things I want to get better (at) and can get better. The more money you make the more pressure you will get from the outside perspective, but you have to perform on the ice and you have to do what you can do.

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The team that takes a 2-0 lead in the Cup Final is 45-5 all time.

Raanta was solid in his role of understudy to Henrik Lundqvist after being acquired from the Blackhawks two seasons ago. Last year he appeared in a career-high 30 games and posted a better goals-against average (2.26) and save percentage (.922) than Lundqvist.

Gorton, though, believes he will be able to find suitable replacements for Stepan and Raanta before the start of next season.

Obviously, we have money now, and my phone rings a little more often now that we have more cap space, he joked. I think there is a trade market, a big market out there right now, a lot of names. And in free agency there’s a lot of names, too. We look at this as an opportunity with the draft, free agency, the trade market to change things up a little bit.

The Rangers now have roughly $20 million in cap space. They also have two first-round selections in this year’s draft, as well as a highly skilled young defenseman to add to their core group on the blue line next season.

Scott Wilson scored the Penguins’ third goal with 3:13 gone in the third and Evgeni Malkin made it 4-1 just 15 seconds later, chasing Rinne, who has allowed eight goals on 36 shots in the first Cup Final of his career. The 34-year-old veteran was having a historic postseason before this series, but something clearly has him shaken.

It’s a major missed opportunity for the underdog Preds, who had the Penguins dead to rights in Game 1. Pittsburgh’s power play went 0 for 7 Wednesday and stars Malkin and Sidney Crosby combined for zero shots and only three attempts in the first two periods, yet Nashville had only one goal to show for it.

Historically, the odds are against the Predators. The team that takes a 2-0 lead in the Cup Final is 45-5 all time.

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Jets need better goaltending before taking next step

The Winnipeg Jets have a lot of things going for them right now. They have one of the best, young offensive talents in the league in second-year forward Patrik Laine. They have a budding star in 24-year-old center Mark Scheifele, and one of the better point-producers lately in the league, right-wing Blake Wheeler. On the back end, Dustin Byfuglien is an established defensive presence, and 22-year-old blue liner Jacob Trouba has shown lots of promise.

But in the NHL, it’s difficult to win, and nearly impossible to get anywhere near the Stanley Cup, with subpar goaltending, an area which has long been an Achilles heel in Winnipeg. And if the Jets can’t plug their leaky crease, Winnipeg will likely once again find itself on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.

Personally, I don’t want to give up hope. Hopefully, this isn’t the last we see of him in an NHL arena. He’s someone seemingly everyone can enjoy watching, and I learned that as well as anyone. You see, there’s no reason for Hossa to be one of my favorite players to watch in recent NHL history. In fact, growing up a Penguins fan, I have plenty of reasons to dislike him, including the way he left the Penguins for the team that defeated them in the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals, the Detroit Red Wings — even citing that he felt he had better of a chance to win the Cup in Detroit. Once he signed with the Red Wings, I assumed I would go on silently hoping he’d never win a Stanley Cup.

But all it took was that one play, seven games into his stretch in Detroit, to remember everything about what makes Hossa such a wholly unique player, and one worth rooting for even as he demolishes your favorite team.

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NHL playoffs 2017: Chris Kunitz ends epic Game 7 in double OT, sends Penguins back to Cup Final

Four months since his last goal, Chris Kunitz scored twice, including 5:09 into double overtime, to send the Penguins back to the Stanley Cup Final for a second straight year with a 3-2 win in Thursday’s epic double-overtime win against the Senators.

In an Eastern Conference finals that tested every ounce of winning will remaining in the defending champions, it’s especially fitting Kunitz, the 37-year-old veteran, did the honors.

And somehow, some way, the Penguins, injured and exhausted, having played more games in two years than any other NHL team, found a way to edge the never-say-die Sens in their 207th game since the start of the 2015-16 season. They’re the first to make back-to-back trips since the Red Wings in 2007-09.

Pittsburgh led by a goal on two occasions in Game 7, first thanks to Kunitz in the second period and again when Justin Schultz scored on a power play with just under nine minutes remaining in regulation that figured to be the decider.

In the second period, when Nashville won the shot battle 11-0, Pittsburgh became the first team to go without a shot on goal in a Cup Final period since the NHL started tracking shots in 1957-58. The Pens’ 12 total shots, a franchise record low, were the fewest by a winning team in Final history.

Pittsburgh got its 3-0 lead thanks to three goals in the final 4:28 of the first period. Evgeni Malkin, Conor Sheary and Bonino did the honors.

Eventually a catfish found its way to the ice, despite Pittsburgh’s fishy ban. That led to Ryan Ellis’ fifth goal of the playoffs moments later and Colton Sissons made it 3-2 10:06 into the third period before Gaudreau evened the ledger.

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Stanley Cup playoffs three stars: Predators reach first West finals; Oilers force Game 7

Pekka Rinne wore a permanent ear-to-ear grin when asked to contextualize the Predators’ unlikely playoff run 18 years in the making.

Rinne’s Nashville roots run deep. He was drafted in 2004, a gem unearthed in the eighth round when such a thing was still in practice. In that sense, the hulking goaltender is Predators personified and was understandably beaming when, in his 566th NHL game, he finally led the franchise to its first berth in the Western Conference finals.

It means everything right now, Rinne told reporters following a 3-1 victory to oust the Blues in six games. Obviously, we haven’t gone further than this before. It’s a great feeling, but there’s also a lot of work left. After this round, there’s only four teams, and we all know that we have what it takes and everything is in our hands. … This is why you play this game. I’m happy.

It’s safe to assume Crosby and Subban didn’t get together for a pregame Primanti Brothers sandwich to celebrate National Best Friend Day.

The two got into a wrestling match toward the end of the first period. It all started when Crosby gave Subban a whack in the back with his stick while Subban navigated toward the Pittsburgh net. The two fell and Crosby pinned Subban down, repeatedly bashing his head into the ice. Subban wasn’t a saint either, though, as he placed Crosby into a headlock as the two rose to their feet. The ordeal resulted in two-minute holding minors for both men, who headed for the locker room with 1:32 remaining in the period.

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We’re thrilled to have him join us

He’s built championship teams and organizations and has managed stadiums, ballparks and arenas across the United States. Most importantly, he previously worked in our market and has the necessary corporate and political relationships to help us secure a long-term home for the Coyotes in the Valley. We’re thrilled to have him join us.

The Coyotes have used Gila River Arena in Glendale as their home stadium since 2003, but the team has recently been at odds with local politicians, who convinced the city to cancel its arena management deal with the Coyotes in 2015. That ended all public subsidies the team was receiving. The franchise has since said it is no longer financially viable to play at the arena due to its inconvenient proximity to the majority of its fans and sponsors.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in March the Coyotes must have a new arena location to succeed and cannot and will not remain in Glendale.

Less then a month before Bettman’s statement, an Arizona Senate committee passed a Senate Bill 1149 that would help provide funding to build the Coyotes a new $395 million arena. That bill, however, was essentially declared dead in late April. That is where Patterson, and his local connections, come in.

Joshua Norris (No. 19 overall, SJS): His father, Dwayne, was drafted 127th overall by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1990 NHL Draft and appeared in 20 games with the Nordiques and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim from 1993 to ’96.

Pierre-Olivier Joseph (No. 23 overall, ARI): His brother, Mathieu, is a forward who was selected 120th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2015 NHL Draft and competed at the 2017 Memorial Cup with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL.

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The offensive outburst helped bail out goalie John Gibson

Jakob Silfverberg scored his ninth goal of the playoffs 39 seconds into the second period, erasing the 2-0 lead Nashville had built early in the first period. Filip Forsberg took it back seven minutes later, but Anaheim broke through thanks to a goal by Ondrej Kase and another from Nick Ritchie to take a 4-3 lead into the third period.

Antoine Vermette’s empty netter, his first goal of the playoffs, gave the Ducks their third game of five or more goals in the playoffs.

What’s more, Anaheim solved its woes on the man advantage when Sami Vatanen scored on the power play in the first period. The power-play unit had gone without a goal in its last 21 opportunities, an ominous drought for a Stanley Cup semifinalist.

The offensive outburst helped bail out goalie John Gibson, whose inconsistency streak reared its ugly head when the Predators scored three goals on their first 13 shots. But Gibson buckled down in the second and third periods.

The Caps’ goal explosion came courtesy of stars like T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov, who had been criticized at times for playing short of their typically high standards. All combined for multi-point efforts and Andre Burakovsky chipped in a pair of goals to send the series back to the nation’s capital.

Of course, merely making it to a Game 7 won’t be good enough for the Capitals. The Presidents’ Trophy winners need to win it if they’re to put to rest the playoff choker label that’s consumed the franchise.

A win Wednesday and Washington would become the first team since 2010 to erase a 3-1 series deficit and advance.

The Penguins have won all three of their previous Game 7 meetings against the Caps, including in 2009, when they rode that victory to a Stanley Cup.

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NHL Expansion Draft: Vegas chants for Marc-Andre Fleury as Penguins bid farewell

If the Vegas Golden Knights were to uncover a franchise face among 30 other teams, the obvious choice was Marc-Andre Fleury.

Toward the end of the NHL’s awards show and expansion draft Wednesday, it was the now-former Penguins goaltender who drew the largest ovation from the crowd at T Mobile Arena when his name was announced as Vegas’ 29th pick of the evening.

Indeed, Fleury, long beloved by fans in Pittsburgh, instantly becomes the Knights’ most marketable player as the franchise set out to fill seats in a brand new market.

That much was evident by the reception.

One fan screamed, I love you! Fleury, doing an interview, stopped mid-sentence and responded, I love you too!

I’m not looking to be the face of much, he told reporters after the fanfare settled. I didn’t expect the ovation. It was so crazy. We’re really excited to get this started.

Kariya appeared in a promotional video for the Ducks last season. He said Monday the headaches stopped a year after his playing career ended, adding, I feel really good. These days he surfs three to four days a week and enjoys skiing and snowboarding in the winter months.

This is fine for Gaudreau.

After rocky negotiations with the Canadiens, Radulov became enchanted with the Stars, in part by their substantial contract commitment and in part by the roster they’ve been improving before his signing.

Instead, the uncertainty surrounding Crosby, named a Hart Trophy finalist earlier Monday, only adds to injury woes that the Penguins have managed thus far.

The Capitals were 1-5 all time while trailing 2-0 in a playoff series before Monday and improved to 9-19 in Pittsburgh during the playoffs.

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Stanley Cup Final three stars: Predators find their groove in Music City

Between an Alan Jackson concert outside and tens of thousands who packed Bridgestone Arena and the honky tonks up and down Broadway, it was clear long before the puck dropped on Saturday’s Stanley Cup Final Game 3 that the rest of the NHL had never seen hockey quite like this.

It turned out to be just what was needed for the Predators to claw their way back into the series.

Two unfortunate losses in Pittsburgh behind them, the Predators returned to their country confines a rejuvenated bunch and punched back on the Penguins for a decisive 5-1 victory.

There was no telling how the Music City’s first-ever Cup Final game would go over.

Craig Smith’s clean breakaway 4:54 into the third period to give the Preds a 4-1 lead was the dagger.

As good as the Predators offense was Saturday, their defense was even better. Penguins stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were each held without a shot in a playoff game for the first time ever.

Based off production alone, Niederreiter continues to make the case that he’s ready for a more prominent role. He’s coming off his third straight season scoring 20 or more goals. His ice time though in Minnesota has plateaued: He actually saw a decrease in average time on ice this past season, down to 15:04 per-game from 15:33.

Niederreier was third on the Wild with 25 goals and fourth with 57 points. He’s got his sights set on an even bigger offensive performance though, and knows there will be expectations that come with a long-term, big-dollar extension.

My big goal is to get 30 (goals) in this league, he said. For that I have to work hard, and help my game, and shoot more pucks to the net.

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