Flyers

NHL Playoffs: Senators thump Penguins in Game 3 to take series lead

NHL Playoffs: Senators thump Penguins in Game 3 to take series lead

BOX SCORE

OTTAWA, Ontario -- Mike Hoffman and his Ottawa Senators teammates heard all the chatter on social media about their style of play, which some perceived as "boring."

Their response? Well, LOL. And another big W.

Marc Methot, Derick Brassard and Zack Smith scored in a 2:18 span midway through the first period to chase goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and the Senators beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1 on Wednesday night to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

Hoffman opened the scoring 48 seconds in, and the Senators blew it open against the sluggish Penguins a few minutes later with the fastest three goals in team playoff history. Kyle Turris made it 5-0 late in the second period.

"If we played a run-and-gun game that maybe some people would rather watch, we probably wouldn't be here," Hoffman said after routing the defending Stanley Cup champs. "So we use our assets and that's what works."

Sidney Crosby ended Craig Anderson's shutout bid with a power-play goal in the third. Pittsburgh has scored a goal in each game in the series, dropping the opener 2-1 in overtime and winning the second 1-0.

"It was a bad start," Crosby said. "You don't want to get down at any point, but to get down 4-0 is digging a pretty big hole."

Anderson finished with 25 saves. Fleury allowed four goals on nine shots, and Matthew Murray made 19 saves in relief.

Game 4 is Friday night in Ottawa.

Coach Guy Boucher has insisted on an extremely defensive style from the day he took over the Senators last May. It took until December for the team to fully embrace it, but that's when everyone knew where they needed to be on the ice and what their responsibility was.

"At this level, you do what the coach says," said Hoffman, who also played for Boucher in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. "We're workers here. We don't decide which system is put in place. We just have to go out there and execute it and do our job.

"That's what we're here to do."

Hosting their first Eastern Conference final game in 10 years, the Sens came out flying. Hoffman got it going by capitalizing on Turris' shot that bounced awkwardly wide of the goal. Hoffman stuffed the shot, standing to the left of the goal, just between the post and right pad of Fleury.

Brassard got the first of three when he snatched Erik Karlsson's dump-in and swung wide of the Pittsburgh goal. Bobby Ryan eventually gained possession down low and found Methot with a crafty pass. While his initial shot was stopped, the rebound bounced off Penguins defenseman Ian Cole and into the net. It was the second goal of the playoffs for Methot after he went scoreless in 68 games during the regular season.

Brassard added his fourth of the postseason less than two minutes later, taking advantage of the Senators' offensive zone pressure before slipping behind the aging Mark Streit for the shot that beat Fleury.

"We're not bothered by what's said about our team," Brassard said. "Our focus is on what we need to do."

Streit was making his playoff debut for the increasingly battered Pens, who lost Justin Schultz and Bryan Rust to upper-body injuries in Game 2. Pittsburgh, which did get Trevor Daley back from injury, also remained without injured winger Patric Hornqvist as well as No. 1 defenseman Kris Letang, who's out for the season with a neck ailment.

Apparent miscommunication between the 39-year-old Streit and Cole led to Cole throwing the puck away shortly before Brassard's goal.

Ottawa, looking crisp and confident, finished the flurry 24 seconds after Brassard's goal, with Smith beating Fleury on a wrap-around, chasing Fleury from the game.

"It's tough when you give up that many goals in the first period you don't really give yourself or your team a chance in the game," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "It wasn't like we gave up a lot of scoring chances, we didn't, but they all seemed to go in the net.

"For me, the takeaway is you can't lose the first period by four goals and think you're going to win."

In question now is whether Sullivan turns to Murray, who helped deliver the Pens a Cup last season and was excellent in his first full NHL season, for Game 4 or goes back to Fleury.

"I just think we've got to be more ready to play from the drop of the puck," said Sullivan, who added that he hadn't yet given thought to who would start in goal.

The crowd was delirious throughout the one-sided win and all the more so when their team got under the skin of the Penguins. At one point late in the first, Dion Phaneuf levelled former Maple Leafs teammate Phil Kessel. Ryan came by with a shove seconds later as Kessel waved his stick in the air at the Sens winger in apparent frustration.

Towel-waving fans chanted Kessel's name and later cheered as Mark Stone mixed it up with Evgeni Malkin.

Best of NHL: Maple Leafs hand Kings 1st regulation loss of season

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USA Today Images

Best of NHL: Maple Leafs hand Kings 1st regulation loss of season

TORONTO -- Frederik Andersen made 36 saves, and the Toronto Maple Leafs handed the Los Angeles Kings their first regulation loss of the season with a 3-2 victory on Monday night.

Matt Martin, Tyler Bozak and Patrick Marleau scored for the Maple Leafs (7-2-0). Mitch Marner added two assists.

Toronto has won at least seven of its first nine games for the first time since the 1993-94 season and just the seventh time overall in franchise history.

Adrian Kempe and Trevor Lewis scored for Los Angeles (6-1-1), which had won four in a row. Jonathan Quick stopped 31 shots.

Toronto defenseman Roman Polak made his season debut after signing a $1.1 million, one-year deal on Sunday. He had one assist and played 12-plus minutes (see full recap).

Couture, Jones lead Sharks past struggling Rangers
NEW YORK -- Logan Couture had a goal and an assist, Martin Jones stopped 33 shots and the San Jose Sharks beat the struggling New York Rangers 4-1 on Monday night.

Tim Heed, Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson also scored to help the Sharks win for the third time in four games. Jones got his fourth straight win after losing his first two starts.

Mika Zibanejad scored and Henrik Lundqvist finished with 20 saves for the Rangers, who fell to 2-6-2 on the season. New York finished 0 for 6 on the power play and is 3 for 25 over the last six games.

With the Sharks leading 3-0 after two periods, Couture took the puck away from Lundqvist behind the goal and sent it to Karlsson, who put it in for his second of the season at 2:51 of the third. Couture got his 200th career assist on the play.

San Jose turned the puck over in its defensive zone and Zibanejad snapped a shot into the top right corner to spoil Jones' shutout bid at 4:23 of the final period (see full recap).

Flyers shuffle defensive pairings with Andrew MacDonald out

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AP Images

Flyers shuffle defensive pairings with Andrew MacDonald out

VOORHEES, N.J. — When Andrew MacDonald took the direct brunt of Mark Letestu’s blistering slap shot to the left knee in the third period of Saturday’s win over Edmonton, the Flyers' experience within their defensive corps also took a hit.

The Flyers announced Sunday MacDonald will miss the next four to six weeks with a lower-body injury.

Now in his ninth NHL season, MacDonald has logged 481 games, and while Flyers fans may quickly write off his contributions and longevity in the league, he has averaged over 20 minutes of ice time in each of his previous eight seasons. MacDonald has earned the respect of his teammates, who voted before the season to name him as one of two new alternate captains.

“[MacDonald] is a pro,” said general manager Ron Hextall. “I hear there’s criticism. It’s unfair. I think everyone knows what his teammates think of him and what we think of him. He’s just persevered through whatever.”

“He’s a very good player,” Ivan Provorov, MacDonald's typical defensive partner, said. “We had a really good chemistry. We played a lot together last year and a little this year and it sucks that he’s out.”

Take MacDonald out of the equation and now the Flyers will be forced to lean on a very talented, but still inexperienced defense. According to hockey-reference.com, 57 active defensemen have more games played than the Flyers entire current six-man unit combined.

“He’s been the biggest part of our defense. He’s the most experienced guy that we have,” Radko Gudas said of MacDonald. “Losing him, it’s obviously tough for us, but it’s opportunity for some of the other guys to step up and show they’re capable of playing a big amount of minutes.”

Complicating MacDonald’s injury for head coach Dave Hakstol is losing a right-side defenseman. As a result, Hakstol elected to rearrange all three of his defense pairings during Monday’s practice, likely signaling what we'll see Tuesday against the visiting Anaheim Ducks:

• Provorov/Robert Hagg (98 combined games) — There may not be another top shutdown pair in the NHL with less experience than Provorov and Hagg, which is not to say they can’t handle the responsibilities. Provorov and Hagg were paired together for a couple of preseason games and a few shifts so far in the regular season. They’ll have a monumental task of containing the Ryan Getzlaf/Corey Perry duo.

“We’ll try and communicate as much as we can and talk before the game, probably talk today about some plays and I think we should be fine,” Provorov said.

• Shayne Gostisbehere/Gudas (427 combined games) — Interestingly, this pair has the most experience, yet according to Gostisbehere, the two guys have never played together. Gudas is expected to fill MacDonald’s role on the team’s top penalty-killing unit alongside with Provorov, and together, "Ghost" and Gudas compliment each other well. Gudas is a stay-at-home defenseman while Gostisbehere is active offensively.

“Obviously things are a little different now,” Gostisbehere said, “We just got to feel each other out right now. I’m sure there will be some growing pains. Hopefully our mistakes won’t be magnified too much. It’s a good fit. Obviously, Gudy’s a bit more defensive and is going to kill people. I’m the guy who’s a puck mover.”

• Brandon Manning/Travis Sanheim (150 combined games) — For two players who have been interchangeable over the first eight games, Tuesday will mark the first time Manning and Sanheim will have played together. Manning will stay on the left side as Sanheim transitions to the right. Actually, I’m intrigued to see Sanheim on the right once a spot opens up for Samuel Morin.

“I think it’s just personnel you have to be aware,” Manning said, “You got to be aware of guys who can skate and obviously other guys who can finish their checks and play you hard.”   

“There’s different roles that each unit has,” said head coach Dave Hakstol, “There’s a different rhythm back on the back end, than there certainly is up front.”

Now with a roster that has no reserves on defense, there’s a curiosity of which Phantom could have been promoted from Lehigh Valley. However, Hextall doesn’t anticipate recalling Morin or another defenseman to serve in a backup role at this time.

“We’re going to go with six right now,” Hextall said, “We’re at home and there’s no reason to call someone up to sit.”

On whether the Flyers will call up a seventh defenseman up before the next road trip begins Thursday in Ottawa, “I don’t know that," Hextall said. "We’ll approach it on a day-to-day basis. We’ll see how tomorrow goes and if we get banged up and whatnot. The one great thing about having your minor league team an hour away is you don’t have to cover yourself all the time.”  

Projected lines, pairings and goalies
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Jori Lehtera-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl/Dale Weise

Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Shayne Gostisbehere-Radko Gudas
Brandon Manning-Travis Sanheim

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth