NHL Notes: P.K. Subban guarantees Predators will win Game 3 of Stanley Cup Final

NHL Notes: P.K. Subban guarantees Predators will win Game 3 of Stanley Cup Final

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A good night's sleep has P.K. Subban more confident than ever about what the Nashville Predators will do on their own ice trailing the Pittsburgh Penguins 0-2 in the Stanley Cup Final.

He delivered an All-Star guarantee for Saturday night.

"There's no question," Subban said Thursday. "We're going to win the next game, and then we'll move forward."

Subban came very close to guaranteeing a win in the moments after Pittsburgh's 4-1 win Wednesday night. The Penguins turned a 1-1 game into a rout by scoring three goals in the first 3:28 of the third period , forcing Nashville coach Peter Laviolette to pull star goaltender Pekka Rinne for rookie Juuse Saros.

On Thursday, the All-Star defenseman channeled Mark Messier, who backed up his own guarantee of a Rangers' win against New Jersey in the 1994 Eastern Conference finals. Subban explained why he was so confident, noting the Predators know they deserve to be playing for the Stanley Cup.

"We're capable of playing even better than we did in Pittsburgh, and I thought we played some great hockey," Subban said. "I mean, out of 120 minutes, maybe we'd like to take back six of them. Ultimately, we have to be realistic with where we're at. We're down 2-nothing. We're coming back in our barn, and we don't lose here. So it starts Saturday" (see full story).

Sabres: Team relinquishes rights to Estephan, Possler
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Sabres have relinquished the rights to prospect forwards Giorgio Estephan and Gustav Possler by not signing them to contracts before an NHL deadline struck Thursday.

Estephan will re-enter the pool of players eligible to be selected in the draft this month. Possler becomes an unrestricted free agent.

The 20-year-old Estephan was Buffalo's sixth-round pick in 2015, and Possler was a fifth-round pick in 2013.

Estephan scored a career-best 35 goals and 89 points in 68 games last season with Lethbridge of the Western Hockey League. He added 11 goals and 24 points in 18 playoff games.

The 22-year-old Possler had two goals and four points in 21 games for Swedish League's Djurgardens IF in a season cut short by an ankle injury.

Panthers: Thornton hired as business executive
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Shawn Thornton is now a Florida Panthers executive.

The recently retired forward was announced Thursday as the Panthers' new vice president of business operations. Thornton revealed in April that he would join the team's front office and work under Panthers president and CEO Matthew Caldwell after taking a bit of time after the season to prepare for his new career.

"It's a humbling day for me and I'm excited to begin the next chapter of my career in hockey," Thornton said.

Thornton played for two Stanley Cup winners as part of the Boston Bruins. He played professionally for 20 years, spending the first half of that toiling in the minors before eventually breaking through and logging 705 NHL games with the Bruins, Panthers, Anaheim and Chicago.

He is one of two players to play more than 600 games in the American Hockey League and at least 700 in the NHL. The Panthers said Thornton also is the only player this century to record 10 fights, score 10 goals and win the Stanley Cup in the same season.

"Shawn's work ethic, enthusiasm and passion for the Panthers organization is second to none," Caldwell said. "We are thrilled to welcome him to our executive team and know that he will bring the same level of professionalism, experience and leadership to the business side of our organization as he did in the locker room" (see full story).

Wild: Brunette promoted to assistant GM
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild have promoted Andrew Brunette to assistant general manager, the latest post in the organization for one of the best players in franchise history.

Brunette's elevated role was announced Thursday, with 10 other hockey operations and business side promotions.

Brunette was a hockey operations adviser last season after serving as an assistant coach the two years before that. He played six seasons for the Wild, ranking in their all-time top five in games played, goals, assists and power-play points.

Shep Harder, who was director of hockey administration, was also named an assistant general manager. Brent Flahr was promoted from assistant general manager to senior vice president of hockey operations.

Matt Majka, the chief operating officer and executive vice president, was named president of the Wild.

Flyers drop back into top wild-card spot with SO loss

AP Images

Flyers drop back into top wild-card spot with SO loss


DETROIT — It took awhile for the Flyers to get their motors running in the Motor City. Once they did, they rallied from a two-goal third-period deficit to earn a point before losing to the Red Wings, 5-4, in a shootout.

Shootout specialist Frans Nielsen scored the only goal during the skill competition.

The loss dropped the Flyers into the top wild-card spot in the playoff race (see standings).

On the other end, the win snapped Detroit’s 10-game losing streak with its first win since Feb. 25.

• In his first return to Detroit since being traded to the Flyers, Petr Mrazek was pulled after allowing three goals on 19 shots in the opening 30 minutes.

• Alex Lyon stopped 11 of 12 shots in relief, including two buzzer-beaters and the final save that forced a shootout.

• Matt Read scored his first goal of the season, Sean Couturier reached the 30-goal mark for the first time and Travis Konecny continued his brilliant second half with his 20th goal of the season. And with three assists, Claude Giroux became the Flyers' fifth all-time leading scorer at 662 points.

• The Red Wings were able to strike first as they caught four Flyers in deep and unable to retreat in transition. Dylan Larkin slowed down Konecny and snapped a shot far post on Mrazek to give Detroit a 1-0 lead. 

• On the Flyers’ second power play, catastrophe struck again as they surrendered their 10th shorthanded goal of the season and a 2-0 Red Wings’ lead. Luke Glendening fired a shot top shelf, near side post over Mrazek’s glove hand. Mrazek appeared somewhat surprised as he usually comes out a little farther in his crease to cut down the angle. 

• The Flyers were in a complete defensive disarray on Detroit’s third goal, and I would love to know what Wayne Simmonds was doing during this sequence. He reached unsuccessfully for the puck, peeled off and then didn’t help out on the coverage down low. With the Flyers in complete scramble mode, it set up perfectly for Evgeny Svechnikov, who banged home an easy rebound.

• Mrazek was pulled after allowing three goals in the first 10 minutes of the second period and replaced by Lyon. You have to wonder where Dave Hakstol’s trust in Mrazek is after his night was cut short for the second time in three games. However, the Flyers let down Mrazek defensively and the goalie appeared to have said something to the coaching staff as he raced off to the dressing room.

• The Flyers finally woke up in the third period as Hakstol performed the four-line shuffle they needed to get that first one to wake up the sleeping bear. Surprisingly, it came from Read, who scored his first of the season. Scott Laughton’s shot deflected off of Read and angled upward past Jimmy Howard as the Flyers cut the deficit to 3-2.

• The Red Wings’ penalty kill sat back and let the Flyers’ power play drive to the net. Giroux did a solid job of settling the puck down and moving it over to Jakub Voracek. Voracek’s cross-ice pass allowed Shayne Gostisbehere to snipe the puck from close range. Howard had no chance as the Flyers tied it at 3-3.

• Just 28 seconds after Larkin made it 4-3 for the Red Wings, the Flyers struck back as a hard-charging Konecny got his body in the way of Couturier’s shot. Credit the Flyers, who weren’t ready for the start of this game, but had a never-say-die mentality in the final 10 minutes of regulation. 

• Interesting to see how the Red Wings attacked Mrazek with knowledge of his tendencies. Early on in the first period, Detroit elected to test Mrazek on wide-angle shots whether to generate a rebound or catch him leaving the near-side post unprotected. 

Petr Mrazek in strange yet familiar territory

AP Images

Petr Mrazek in strange yet familiar territory

DETROIT — Petr Mrazek knew the day he was traded to the Flyers wouldn’t be the last time he’d be in Detroit. Looking at the Flyers’ schedule, Mrazek noticed one more game left to be played against his former team.

Tonight, Mrazek will make his 12th start with his new team against the organization that drafted him in the fifth round in 2010.

Prior to the morning skate, Mrazek spent time talking with former teammates and fellow netminders Jimmy Howard and Jared Coreau. But it was a little strange walking into Little Caesars Arena for the first time as a visitor.

“A little different, different entrance, but it’s a fun building and one of the nicest visitor locker rooms in the league,” Mrazek said. “Every game is different. I wouldn’t know who’s got more of an advantage. I talked with Double-A (Andreas Athanasiou) this morning and asked if he’s going to do the same move as he always does or if he’s going to go backhand. But when the puck drops, we've just got to focus on ourselves.”

Mrazek won his fifth game in orange and black with a 6-3 victory over the Washington Capitals Sunday. If the Flyers advance to the playoffs, the Red Wings would receive a third-round draft pick as compensation.  

The Dead Wing era
With a win tonight, Mrazek and the Flyers can eliminate the Red Wings from postseason contention. It will mark the second straight season Detroit has failed to advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which hasn’t happened in Hockeytown since the early 1980s.
The current-day Red Wings have completely tanked since the trade deadline. They’ve dropped 10 straight (0-9-1) since Feb. 26, and have just one regulation victory over the last 15 games.

The Flyers will be looking for a three-game season sweep of the Red Wings while being mindful of a dreaded letdown game against one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference.

“It’s important for us to be ready from the start,” center Sean Couturier said. “We don’t want to get surprised. They’re still a good team. They’ve got some talent, probably some guys who want to prove themselves. These games are never easy. We’ve got to be prepared for that and just focus on what we’ve got to do.”

The Dead Wing era is a period in Detroit hockey from the late 1960s to the early 1980s when the Red Wings failed to reach the postseason in 15 of 17 seasons. 

Passing 'Big E'
With a point tonight, Claude Giroux can pass Eric Lindros for fifth place on the Flyers' all-time scoring list with 660 points. Whenever his career ends, Giroux will join Lindros one day in the Flyers' Hall of Fame.

The current and former Flyers captains spoke briefly in Voorhees, New Jersey, earlier this season prior to Lindros’ No. 88 retirement ceremony on Jan. 18. Overtaking “Big E” is an accomplishment Giroux holds in high regard.

“Just for what he’s done for the organization, it means something. He’s had a great career,” Giroux said. “Just talking with him was pretty special. He talked about what experiences he’s had, talking about things he was going through as a team. To be able to pass him, it’s pretty special.” 

This season alone, Giroux has worked his way from 11th on the franchise’s career scoring list to where he is now. Once he moves past Lindros, Giroux will be 38 points shy of passing Rick MacLeish for fourth place, which in all likelihood, will come next season.