Flyers

Penguins beat Predators for 2nd straight Stanley Cup

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Penguins beat Predators for 2nd straight Stanley Cup

BOX SCORE

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Sidney Crosby is bringing the Stanley Cup back home to Pittsburgh for a second consecutive year. He's bringing another MVP trophy, too.

Patric Hornqvist scored with 1:35 left and Matt Murray made 27 saves for his second straight shutout as the Penguins became the first team in nearly two decades to repeat as champion with a 2-0 win over the Nashville Predators in Game 6 on Sunday night.

The Penguins won their fifth title -- all of them clinched on the road -- to tie the Wayne Gretzky-Mark Messier-era Edmonton Oilers for sixth on the all-time list. The Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and `98 were the last champion to defend their title. The Penguins are the first to do it in the salary-cap era.

"We knew it was going to be tough all year, but we just tried to keep with it," Crosby said. "We had a lot of injuries and things like that. We just kept finding ways. That was really what we did all season, all playoffs. It's great to be able to do it."

Crosby also became just the third player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy in consecutive years as the Stanley Cup MVP to go along with his third championship. He led the Final in scoring with one goal and six assists, including three in a 6-0 win in Game 5 that put the Penguins on the doorstep of another title. Only teammate Evgeni Malkin (28 points) had more than Crosby's 27 this postseason.

"You have a small window to play and have a career," Crosby said. "I feel fortunate, but I also understand how difficult it was so you just want to try to make the best of it."

Hornqvist scored off Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne's left elbow , the former Predator silencing the raucous crowd that had stood for long minutes and flung a few more catfish, too. Nashville challenged for goalie interference, but the goal was upheld. With Pekka Rinne pulled for an extra attacker, Carl Hagelin set off a bench celebration with an empty netter with 13.6 seconds left.

"Obviously, it's going to be the biggest goal I'm ever going to score," Hornqvist said. "That's always going to stand really close to my heart."

All that was left was the celebrating. Crosby took the Cup from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman before handing the trophy off to veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey who passed it to veteran forward Matt Cullen.

Nashville lost for just the first time in regulation on home ice this postseason and this one had some hard luck. Colton Sissons had a goal erased by a whistle 67 seconds into the second period. The Predators went 0 of 4 with the man advantage, including 32 seconds of a 5-on-3 in the third.

"It stings," said defenseman P.K. Subban, brought over in a trade stunner in the offseason and a foil for Crosby all series. "I think the biggest thing we've got to take from this is, remember the feeling. That's what's going to drive us. .... We're going to be back here again next year."

Forget a golden anniversary: The Penguins will cap their 50th season with their names on the most famous silver cup in sports -- again. It is also the third championship for Crosby and a handful of teammates from the 2009 title team, surpassing the two won by the Penguins teams led by current owner Mario Lemieux in the 1990s.

And it's the second championship in 18 months for coach Mike Sullivan, who has yet to lose a playoff series since taking over after Mike Johnston was fired. Sullivan is the first American-born coach to win the Cup not once, but twice.

"It's been an amazing year from the start, trying to repeat," Lemieux said. "A lot of these guys played injured in the playoffs and showed a lot of character. Of course, Sid being the best player in the world again and winning the Conn Smythe. He was our leader and picked up the team when we needed it."

Murray became the first goalie to win not one, but two Stanley Cups as a rookie after being a late-season call up a year ago who didn't play enough games to get that tag removed. That's something neither Patrick Roy, Ken Dryden or Cam Ward ever managed, but the 23-year-old Murray finished this Final shutting out Nashville for the final 146:52. He set a rookie record with two shutouts in the Final.

"What an experience," he said. "It doesn't get any better."

The loss ended the upstart Predators' deepest playoff run in their 19-year history and one that became the talk of the town -- and the league.

Having won just three of 12 playoff series before this year, Nashville opened this postseason by eliminating the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks in four games. In doing so, the Predators became the first eighth-seeded team to sweep a first-round series since the current playoff format was introduced in 1994. Nashville went through St. Louis and then Anaheim to the Final, where only captain Mike Fisher on the roster had ever played before.

The stingy Predators found Pittsburgh was up to the task, with the Penguins taking the first two games on home ice. Nashville roared back at home to even things up, but the Penguins routed Nashville to set up Game 6.

The Penguins ruined Nashville's big party on the final night of CMA Music Festival, which brought more than 100,000 to downtown Nashville. Country star Luke Bryan serenaded fans from the rooftop of a honky-tonk in a performance that kicked off the television broadcast, and he also sang a four-song set for fans inside and outside the arena an hour before face-off.

Faith Hill became the latest to sing the national anthem with husband, star Tim McGraw, giving her a hug once finished before waving a towel in each hand. At least five catfish hit the ice before the face-off.

Then a series that hadn't featured even a single one-goal game went scoreless through the first 58 minutes. The Predators thought they had the first goal of the game, just like they did in Game 1 in Pittsburgh, only to have referee Kevin Pollock wave it off immediately. He had whistled the play dead when he lost sight of the puck with Murray on the ice between him and the puck.

Sissons tapped the puck into the net 67 seconds into the second period behind Murray's back. Officials huddled, but the goal was not allowed.

Murray also stopped Sissons on a breakaway midway through the second and also gloved a shot from Viktor Arvidsson later in the period. The Penguins also killed off 32 seconds of a 5-on-3 at 8:47 of the third after Trevor Daley punched Ryan Ellis with Olli Maatta already in the box for tripping. Murray made a big stop on a shot by Mattias Ekholm followed by a save on Arvidsson.

"We never gave up," Fisher said. "We lost a lot of guys to injuries. Sixteen seed. No one really gave us a chance against anyone and here we are in Game 6. Things didn't go our way, but that happens. That's sport. Like I said, this team never gave up. We believed all the way."

This championship season for the Penguins lacked some of the drama from a year ago, but it was far from a slam dunk. Washington won the President's Trophy for a second straight season and pushed Pittsburgh to seven games in the second round. Ottawa did the same thing, forcing the Penguins to double overtime to clinch the Eastern Conference title.

Crosby, Malkin and others also played in the World Cup of Hockey before the season, making this an even longer year than usual. In the end, the Penguins had more than enough in the tank to bring home another title.

"We've got a collection of guys who understand what it takes to win," Crosby said.

Notes
Lemieux won the Conn Smythe in 1992 and 1992, and Bernie Parent was the first to win the MVP trophy in consecutive years in 1974 and 1975. ... Murray is the first goalie with two shutouts in one Cup Final since Boston's Tim Thomas and Vancouver's Roberto Luongo had two apiece in 2011. ... Nashville finished the series going 0 of 8 on the power play over the final two games. ... Grammy winners Cage the Elephant performed during the second intermission after playing at Bonnaroo on Friday night.

Flyers Weekly Observations: Secondary scoring behind Western Canada surge

Flyers Weekly Observations: Secondary scoring behind Western Canada surge

A three-game win streak?!?!?! All through the daunting Western Canada road gauntlet?!?!?!

Here’s something we haven’t said in a while: what a week it was for the Flyers.

Ah, refreshing, isn’t it? I’m sure the guys in the locker room will tell you it is.

The Flyers’ kicked off the winning run with a 5-2 win Monday night vs. the Flames in Calgary to snap the dreadful 10-game losing skid. On Wednesday night, they skated past the Oilers in impressive fashion with a 4-2 victory in Edmonton. And capping things off the next night with by jumping out to a big lead in Vancouver and holding on to it for a 4-1 triumph.

Per usual, plenty of things to go through this week, but on the good side this time around.

So let’s get this party started, shall we?

• In their three victories this week, the offensively challenged Flyers scored 13 goals. They scored just 20 goals total throughout the prolonged misery of the 10-game losing streak. So what changed?

Like Frankenstein, the Flyers’ secondary scoring sat up and came to life. While Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek each still put up their points, they weren’t forced to do all of the heavy lifting this week. In Calgary, Scott Laughton scored for the first time in 22 games, Valtteri Filppula tallied for the first time in 18 games, Wayne Simmonds struck for just the second time in 19 games and Michael Raffl cashed in for just the third time all season. In Edmonton, Jordan Weal scored for the first time in 13 games and just the third time all year while Dale Weise beat a netminder for just the second time in 16 games. And in Vancouver, Shayne Gostisbehere scored for the third time in 20 games.

Now that … that is what the Flyers were drastically missing during the skid. If Giroux, Voracek and or Couturier weren’t scoring, it was basically game, set and match from the get-go and the Flyers would be fortunate to even get a single marker on the board. Heck, at one point a few weeks ago that trio had accounted for nearly 50 percent of the Flyers’ goals for the entire season.

Giroux, Voracek and Couturier will continue to get theirs. That’s just what they do. But when the others get theirs as well, you see it makes all the difference in the world.

• Have a good number of Dave Hakstol’s lineup decisions dating back to last season raised eyebrows and garnered legitimate questions? Yes, absolutely. But you have to give credit where credit is due as he made a bold decision and broke up the potent Giroux-Couturier-Voracek trio heading into the Calgary game Monday.

That was a gutsy decision to break up a line that was that lethal and one of the best in the league. I’m sure that decision raised a few more eyebrows across the Delaware Valley, but when you’re on a putrid skid and haven’t won a game in almost a month, you can try some crazy things.

This crazy thing worked as the Flyers’ goal-scoring pulse is alive again with those 13 goals in the last three games. Hakstol deserves a lot of credit for pushing the right button there.

• Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the recent line changes has been Raffl.

The 29-year-old Austrian started the season as part of an effective fourth line with Scott Laughton and Taylor Leier. But as the Flyers started to flounder like a fish out of water, Raffl was juggled up and down the lineup with no set spot. That was until this week when Hakstol injected Raffl into the top six on the second line with Voracek and Filppula. It was one of Hakstol’s bold moves, considering Raffl hadn’t scored since January prior to his goal vs. the New York Islanders on Nov. 22, a span of 42 games (Raffl missed the final month and change last season with an injury).

And the confidence the coach put in the winger is paying off. Raffl looks like a new player out there. He’s using his speed and strength to his advantage, barreling down the ice and setting up shop in front of the net to wreak havoc and cash in. And that’s his game — he’s got a power game and is more than capable of putting the puck in the net. And he’s got noted chemistry with Voracek. Remember, the two were on the Flyers’ top line three seasons ago when Raffl potted a career-high 20 goals. Raffl could be quite the important piece moving forward if the Flyers are to dig out of this hole.

• I’d be remiss beyond comprehension if I didn’t show Brian Elliott some love here. He was pretty darn good for the Flyers over that 10-game losing skid when he went 0-3-5 with a 3.06 goals-against average and .906 save percentage. The best numbers in the world? No. But he made the saves he needed to make and gave the Flyers chances to win night in and night out, exactly what they needed. Elliott’s teammates in front of him just couldn’t pick him up.

But Elliott took his game to another level this week as he was stellar in the three games the Flyers took out in Western Canada. All told, he made 103 stops on 108 shots with a 1.67 goals-against average and .954 save percentage. His best showing of a sterling week came Monday vs. his old mates in Calgary when he stopped 43 of 45 shots faced. The Flames were pouring it on, especially in the second period when they fired 21 pucks on net. But Elliott stood firm and righted the Flyers’ ship with his play. He then stopped 24 of 26 Wednesday in Edmonton and 36 of 37 Thursday in Vancouver.

The guy has been the steadying veteran presence in net and in the locker room. He’s been invaluable to the team so far. He’s taken the reigns of the No. 1 job, and that was even before Michal Neuvirth’s most recent injury. The Flyers clearly have their No. 1 goalie. And Elliott has earned every ounce of that role.

• If you haven’t yet, check out my colleague Jordan Hall’s column from Saturday morning on Hakstol and how the Flyers’ current philosophy has put him in a tricky spot behind the bench.

The Flyers have been toeing this line between development and trying to win for a while now and it’s been a tug of war for Hakstol with his coaching decisions. While some are rightfully questioned, he is still in a tricky spot. It’s a deep dive into that position for Hakstol. Well worth any Flyers fan’s time.

Coming up this week: Tuesday vs. Toronto (7 p.m. on NBCSP), Thursday vs. Buffalo (7 p.m. on NBCSP), Saturday vs. Dallas (7 p.m. on NBCSP).

Best of NHL: Sergei Bobrovsky gets 23rd career shutout in Blue Jackets' win

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Best of NHL: Sergei Bobrovsky gets 23rd career shutout in Blue Jackets' win

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Josh Anderson scored 30 seconds into the game and Sergei Bobrovsky did the rest, recording his 23rd career shutout as the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Arizona Coyotes 1-0 on Saturday night.

The reigning Vezina Trophy winner had 35 saves and got his fourth shutout this season as Columbus won its second game in as many days and its 10th out of 13.

Antti Raanta started in goal for the Coyotes after missing seven games with an injury and was sharp in stopping 33 shots.

But Bobrovsky was better, and the Blue Jackets (19-10-1) created more quality looks overall.

Anderson got his team-leading 11th goal when he picked up a hard Artemi Panarin ricochet pass off the back wall, skated around the net and snapped a shot over Raanta's glove into the far corner. Pierre-Luc Dubois also got an assist.

Arizona (7-20-5) lost its third in a row and sixth out of its last seven (see full recap).

Bozak scores twice, Maple Leafs bury Pens early in win
PITTSBURGH -- Tyler Bozak scored two goals, and the Toronto Maple Leafs got off to a fast start in a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.

Conner Brown and James van Riemsdyk scored in the first 1:42 of the game, and Bozak also scored in the first period. Mitch Marner had three assists for the Maple Leafs, who've won five of their last seven.

Frederik Andersen stopped 33 shots for his 50th win with the Maple Leafs. Andersen has won 11 of his last 15 starts.

Evgeni Malkin scored his ninth goal on the power play and Riley Sheahan tallied his third for Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby scored his 13th with 2:48 to play, but the Penguins couldn't manage the equalizer. Crosby has at least one point in 10 of the last 12 games. Pittsburgh had won five of six before Saturday.

Tristan Jarry made 13 saves, but allowed three first-period goals before he was pulled for Casey DeSmith. DeSmith, making his second career appearance, stopped eight shots.

Brown got Toronto on the board early when he took a feed from Morgan Rielly in the slot and whipped a wrist shot behind Jarry (see full recap).

Blues score 4 times in 5-shot span, rout Red Wings
DETROIT -- Jaden Schwartz knocked home his own rebound and the St. Louis Blues scored four times on only five shots on the way to beating the Detroit Red Wings 6-1 Saturday.

Vladimir Sobotka, Scottie Upshall, Jay Bouwmeester, Brayden Schenn and Dmitrij Jaskin also had goals for the Blues in their third straight victory.

Frans Nielsen scored for Detroit, which has won just once in its last eight games.

Shortly after killing off a high-sticking penalty, the Blues opened the scoring at 11:50 of the first period. Schwartz took a pass from Alex Steen and drove a low shot that Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard stopped with his left pad. Schwartz put the rebound past Howard.

The Blues made it 2-0 at 4:07 of the second period when Sobotka's long wrist shot from just inside the Detroit blue line beat Howard high on the glove side. It was the Blues' first shot on goal since Schwartz opened the scoring.

St. Louis made it three goals on three consecutive shots when Upshall got loose on a breakaway after a turnover by defenseman Niklas Kronwall and slipped the puck between Howard's pads to make it 3-0 at 6:17 of the second period (see full recap).