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

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


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.

Blue Jackets tighten grip for 10th straight win

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Blue Jackets tighten grip for 10th straight win

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 33 shots for his fifth shutout of the season, Cam Atkinson had a goal and an assist, and the Columbus Blue Jackets shut out the Florida Panthers 4-0 on Thursday night for their 10th straight win.

Pierre-Luc Dubois had two assists for the Blue Jackets, who improved to 42-28-5 and joined Philadelphia (1984-86) and Pittsburgh (2010-13) as the only NHL franchises to record 10-game win streaks in consecutive seasons.

The shutout was the 24th of Bobrovsky's career and his seventh straight win. Sonny Milano, Seth Jones and Thomas Vanek -- into an empty net -- also scored for Columbus, which moved into a second-place tie in the Metropolitan Division with idle Pittsburgh, each with 89 points.

Florida dropped to 37-28-7. With 10 games left in the season, the Panthers remained a point behind the idle New Jersey Devils for a playoff spot (see full recap).

Maple Leafs top Predators in Matthews’ return
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Auston Matthews had a goal in his return from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for 10 games and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Nashville Predators 5-2 on Thursday night.

The Predators had been 14-0-1 since their previous regulation loss on Feb. 17.

James van Riemsdyk and Mitchell Marner each had a goal and an assist, and William Nylander and Jake Gardiner also scored for Toronto, which has won five of six.

Morgan Rielly had three assists for the Maple Leafs, and Tyler Bozak had two. Frederik Andersen stopped 23 shots.

Viktor Arvidsson and Scott Hartnell scored for Nashville. Pekka Rinne had 23 saves (see full recap).

Grubauer, Capitals shut out Red Wings
DETROIT -- Philipp Grubauer made 39 saves for his third shutout of the season, and Brett Connolly scored the game's only goal on a third-period breakaway to lift the Washington Capitals to a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.

The Capitals have won six of seven and lead Pittsburgh and Columbus by four points atop the Metropolitan Division as the regular season winds down. Washington has turned increasingly to Grubauer of late after Braden Holtby struggled in February and at the beginning of March. Holtby wasn't available Thursday because of an injury coach Barry Trotz described as a tweak.

The Capitals took the lead with 13:19 remaining in the game after Detroit defenseman Xavier Ouellet couldn't control the puck near Washington's blue line. Connolly and teammate Jakub Vrana went the other way on a two-man breakaway, and Connolly beat Jimmy Howard with a wrist shot to the glove side. It was his 15th goal of the season.

The Red Wings had a goal called back for goalie interference in the first period -- replays showed Tyler Bertuzzi appearing to make contact with Grubauer in front of the net. Detroit squandered a great opportunity in the second when the Red Wings had a two-man advantage for the full 2:00.

Andreas Athanasiou had a breakaway in the third, but couldn't beat Grubauer. Athanasiou had another chance in the final minutes, but his shot deflected wide as Grubauer tried unsuccessfully to grab it with his glove.

Detroit has lost 11 of 12 (see full recap).

Dave Hakstol shows who he can trust in Flyers' win over Rangers

Dave Hakstol shows who he can trust in Flyers' win over Rangers


Who can I trust?

That’s the underlying question Dave Hakstol is attempting to answer almost nightly as the Flyers inch their way toward a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It was no different in the Flyers' frantic 4-3 win over the Rangers Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

“We were sporadic. The first three or four minutes of the game, we weren’t sharp or crisp,” Hakstol said. “Honestly, we got back on our heels in the last part of the third period. There are things that we obviously have to clean up.”

The cleanup crew Hakstol is looking for must possess a trustworthiness factor that makes each player dependable during crunch time. Against the Rangers, the Flyers' coach was forced to lean heavily on a handful of guys who weren’t even on Hakstol’s roster during the first half of the season.

Matt Read replaced Travis Konecny (who scored two goals) on the top line, and was counted on defensively where Konecny came up short in the previous two periods. Read played 13:52 to Konecny’s 12:29.

“He wasn’t taking care of the puck very well,” Hakstol said of Konecny. “Individuals have got to be better at this time of year and how we manage the puck and the mentality that we’re going to do things with.”

“It’s just part of buying in and doing things for the team” Konecny said. “I have no problem with it. It’s a matter of getting the two points. If that’s the way we’ve got to win, then we’ve got to do that every time.”

The 21-year-old Oskar Lindblom scored the eventual game-winning goal on the opening shift of the third period, and the second-line winger was consistently shifted until the final four minutes of regulation.  

“Everybody’s different. It depends on the player,” Hakstol said. “Oskar is a guy that has come in and fit into the structural part of our game very well if you watch Oskar’s game. He’s just very intelligent in terms of playing within a system. He always finds a way to be on the right side of the puck.”

And then there’s goaltender Alex Lyon, who stepped up following his strong performance in relief of Petr Mrazek Tuesday night in Detroit. 

When the defense in front of him broke down, Lyon answered the call and preserved the Flyers' lead throughout times in the second period and even during a spotty third period.

“I was actually thinking about it before the game today,” Lyon said. “Every game is so different, and you feel different. Circumstances are different, the team is different every day, so I think the best guys are those who can adjust to that, so I try and take a page out of their book.”

And with his 33-save performance, Lyon has put himself in position to start Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh.

If there’s a doghouse for those who perform poorly, then consider this to be Hakstol’s safe house. They may not be the Flyers' best guys, but as of now, they’re the reliable ones.

Or as Hakstol is looking for — those who play on the right side of the puck.