Stanley Cup Final: Penguins smash Predators to move 1 win from title

Stanley Cup Final: Penguins smash Predators to move 1 win from title


PITTSBURGH -- The night started with a catfish throw.

It ended with haymaker after haymaker -- both literal and proverbial -- from Sidney Crosby and the rest of the resilient Pittsburgh Penguins.

The defending champions provided an emphatic reminder of why they're on the cusp of history with a 6-0 demolition of the Nashville Predators in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final to take a 3-2 lead. Pittsburgh will have a chance to become the first franchise to win back-to-back championships since Detroit in 1998 when the series shifts back to Nashville for Game 6 on Sunday night.

"Still a lot of work to be done but the way we played tonight, if we can build off that momentum, that's important," Crosby said after collecting three assists. "We know we're going to be facing a desperate team."

One that can't get back to the creature comforts of Smashville fast enough. The Penguins chased Pekka Rinne with a three-goal barrage in the first period and kept it going against backup Juuse Saros to push the Predators to the brink of elimination for the first time during their run to the final.

"I don't know if anybody shakes off a game like that that quickly," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "Nobody feels good leaving the building playing the way we did."

All the good mojo Rinne generated while helping Nashville rally to tie the series at 2 vanished in a span of 20 minutes. Justin Schultz beat Rinne just 91 seconds in , Bryan Rust and Evgeni Malkin followed before the first period horn sounded, continuing Rinne's baffling inability to play effectively in Pittsburgh during the series. Rinne has stopped just 34 of the 45 pucks that have come his way during seven forgettable periods at PPG Paints Arena.

"It was just one of those games where they were going and we were trying to find it and didn't really get it going at any point," Rinne said.

Not that the Penguins gave them much of a chance.

Conor Sheary, Phil Kessel -- just as linemate Malkin predicted -- and 35-year-old playoff newbie Ron Hainsey also scored for Pittsburgh. It was Crosby who sent the message -- with his vision, his creativity and, oddly, his fists.

The two-time MVP's eventful night included becoming the franchise's all-time leading scorer in the Stanley Cup Final, a two-minute roughing penalty for trying to dribble Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban's head on the ice near the end of the first period and what he said was an inadvertent flip of a water bottle onto the ice during play.

"I think Sid really understands the opportunity that this team has and he's not taking anything for granted," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.

And apparently not taking any more stuff from Subban either. The two stars became tangled up behind the Nashville goal late in the first with Crosby on top. He attempted to extract himself but couldn't, then unleashed a torrent of punches at Subban's head.

"He was doing some sort of UFC move on my foot," Crosby said. "I don't know what he was trying to do. ... I don't know what he was trying to do to my ankle. I was in some kind of lock there."

Subban, who claimed Crosby was complaining about Subban's breath during a Game 3 run-in, just kind of sat there and took it. The exchange ended with both players heading to the dressing room with minor penalties. They watched on TV as Malkin's wrist shot with 10 seconds left in the first gave Pittsburgh a 3-0 edge it never came close to giving up.

"That is, hands down, the best game that we've played in this series to this point," Sullivan said.

Saros hardly fared any better. Sheary took a pretty feed from Crosby and sent it by Saros 1:19 into the second to push Pittsburgh's lead to four. Kessel ended a six-game goal drought 8:02 into the second. The score had been predicted by Malkin and it came just seconds after Crosby threw a water bottle onto the ice as the play went by Pittsburgh's bench, a move he told referees was unintentional.

When Hainsey, who waited 907 regular-season games before reaching the playoffs for the first time this season, tapped in a pass from Malkin to make it 6-0, the stage was set for the Penguins to return to familiar territory.

The franchise has won all four of its Cups on the road. A shot at a fifth awaits Sunday, though it'll hardly be easy.

"It's a good game but it's still not done," Malkin said. "We still need one more game, one more win."

The Predators are 9-1 at home in the playoffs, a place they will need to be a haven once again if they want to extend their improbable Cup run back to Pittsburgh.

"The real hockey starts now," Subban said. "You're in the Cup final, this is what it's all about. It's about going back and forth."

Matt Murray finished with 24 saves. ... Crosby now has 20 career points in the Stanley Cup Final, a new franchise record and one more than team owner Mario Lemieux. ... Crosby also moved into a tie with Denis Potvin for 19th on the all-time career playoff scoring list. ... The team that has won Game 5 in a 2-2 series has gone on to win the Cup 71 percent (17 of 24) of the time since 1939. ... The teams combined for 100 penalty minutes (58 for Nashville, 42 for Pittsburgh). ... Guentzel's assist moved him into a tie with Dino Ciccarelli and Ville Leino for the most playoff points by a rookie in NHL history (21). ... Penguins F Nick Bonino missed his third straight game with a lower-body injury. ... Nashville F Colin Wilson made his series debut after missing the first four games with an undisclosed injury. Wilson skated on the fourth line with Frederick Gaudreau and Harry Zolnierczyk.

Flyers stunned by their effort in bad loss at bad time

Flyers stunned by their effort in bad loss at bad time


DETROIT — The Flyers brought a cold engine to the Motor City and it took a good 40 minutes to finally get it started.

Sure, Dave Hakstol’s team rallied back from a two-goal deficit Tuesday to earn a point at a time when every point is critical, but losing a 5-4 shootout to a fragile Detroit team is unacceptable and unexplainable (see observations).

“Maybe we thought it was going to be an easy game,” Sean Couturier said. “We didn’t play the right way. We didn’t play hard. We wasted 40 minutes. We came back and got a big point, but we can’t be wasting time at this time of the year.”

On a night when the Flyers could have officially eliminated the Red Wings from postseason contention, they turned back the clock and made this Detroit team look more like the juggernaut that won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships 20 years ago. 

At least through the first two periods.

“The second period was god-awful,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “We really didn’t help our cause out. We weren’t pushing plays and we just weren’t battling out there. You saw in the third what we could do when we light a fire under our ass. It’s tough like that when you dig yourself a hole and you come back, you expend a lot of energy. The positive we can take is that we got a point out of it.”

You may have never known this was the same Red Wings team that, like the Flyers in the first half of the season, had dropped 10 straight with an 0-9-1 record. Detroit had been outscored a whopping 41-19 from Feb. 28-March 18.

The Red Wings had also returned from a four-game Western Conference road trip less than 48 hours prior to the opening faceoff.

With eight games remaining on the Flyers' schedule, Hakstol is also mired in a goaltending dilemma. Petr Mrazek was rescued from Detroit to be the savior in Philadelphia following injuries to Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth. 

After winning his first three starts, Mrazek’s numbers reek of mediocrity: a 2-5-1 record, 3.72 GAA and an .860 save percentage. Most recently, he’s been pulled in favor of Alex Lyon in two of his last three games.

“The second one is a bad-angle goal,” Hakstol said. “Obviously, he wants that one back, but we gave up a number of opportunities that he was very strong on.”

Mrazek was pulled from the game at 3-1, and before heading to the locker room, he expressed his disappointment with the coaching staff over a non-goaltender interference call during the Red Wings' third goal.

“I talked to Coach and I was just wondering about the goalie interference because someone had bumped in there during the shot,” Mrazek said. “It wasn’t anything like I was mad or something that I got pulled. I was just asking him if there was a goalie interference or not.”

The Flyers' shootout loss coupled with the Blue Jackets' ninth straight victory now drops the orange and black into wild-card territory (see standings).

If this is indeed a playoff team, it needs to repair what’s under the hood and fix it fast.

Panthers rout Senators after death of Karlsson's son

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Panthers rout Senators after death of Karlsson's son

OTTAWA, Ontario -- Jared McCann had a goal and two assists to lead the Florida Panthers over the Senators 7-2 on Tuesday night as Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson sat out following the death of his son.

The team announced the death of Karlsson's son before the game. Erik and Melinda Karlsson were married last year and announced in November they were expecting their first child in the spring. The team released a statement offering its "collective thoughts and prayers" and requested privacy for the family.

Keith Yandle, Nick Bjugstad, Evgeni Dadonov, Jamie McGinn and Frank Vatrano each had a goal and an assist for Florida. Colton Sceviour had the other goal while James Reimer made 33 saves.

Patrick Sieloff and Marian Gaborik scored for the Senators, who lost their second straight. Craig Anderson started in goal but was replaced by Mike Condon after allowing four goals on 17 shots. Condon made 19 saves (see full recap).

Blue Jackets extend win streak to 9
NEW YORK -- Artemi Panarin had three goals and an assist, Sergei Bobrovsky made 29 saves and the Columbus Blue Jackets extended their winning streak to nine games with a 5-3 victory over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night.

Markus Nutivaara and Alexander Wennberg also scored for the Blue Jackets, who have surged into a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. It is Columbus' longest winning streak since its 16-game run last season from Nov. 29, 2016, to Jan. 3, 2017.

Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad scored power-play goals and Kevin Hayes had a short-handed goal for the Rangers.

Henrik Lundqvist made 26 saves in his first start since March 10 against Florida. Lundqvist was briefly shaken up when Matt Calvert upended him and knocked his helmet off with five minutes remaining.

With Columbus leading 3-2 in the third period, Lundqvist made a nice save as Cam Atkinson drove toward the net, but Panarin poked the puck free and in for his 24th goal at 11:19.

Kreider scored his 14th with 1:52 remaining to get the Rangers to 4-3.

Panarin added an empty-netter for the hat trick and his 25th of the season (see full recap).

Islanders jump all over Pens to snap skid
NEW YORK -- Mathew Barzal and Adam Pelech scored in the first period and the New York Islanders went on to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 on Tuesday night.

Anders Lee had a goal in the third period and Jordan Eberle added an empty-netter to help the Islanders snap a three-game skid with just their second win in 13 games (2-7-4).

Christopher Gibson, pulled in his last start after giving up five goals on 12 shots against Washington last Thursday, stopped 36 shots and has both wins for New York in its recent stretch.

Conor Sheary scored for Pittsburgh, which was 5-1-1 in its previous seven but fell four points behind first-place Washington in the tight Metropolitan Division. Columbus pulled into a tie with the Penguins for second at 87 points -- Pittsburgh holds the tiebreaker over the Blue Jackets.

Matt Murray, returning after missing nine games due to a concussion, finished with 36 saves for the Penguins (see full recap).