Stanley Cup Final: Predators handle Penguins to even series at 2-2

Stanley Cup Final: Predators handle Penguins to even series at 2-2


NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Frederick Gaudreau sure is doing his best to earn his own locker with the Nashville Predators with a Stanley Cup Final debut for the ages.

For now, he insists he is happy enough just to sit on the floor as long as he plays.

An undrafted free agent playing in just his sixth postseason game, Gaudreau scored the go-ahead goal 3:45 into the second period and Pekka Rinne made 23 often-spectacular saves as the Predators beat the Penguins 4-1 on Monday night to even the series at 2-2.

It's now a best-of-three sprint to the Stanley Cup, and Nashville is riding a wave of momentum after outscoring the defending champions 9-2 in the Games 3 and 4 of their Final debut.

Game 5 is Thursday night in Pittsburgh.

Gaudreau, a 24-year-old rookie, only has a chair in the locker room, but he now is the second player in NHL history to score his first three career goals in a Stanley Cup Final, joining Johnny Harms with the 1944 Blackhawks.

"He's been unbelievable for us the way he's come in, and he's just been so good, timely goals and composed," Nashville captain Mike Fisher said. "He definitely belongs, and he's been a huge part of our success."

Gaudreau is also just the third rookie to score game-winning goals in consecutive games in the Stanley Cup Final since the NHL took over sole possession of the trophy in 1926-27. Pittsburgh's Jake Guentzel did it in the first two games of this series and Roy Conacher did it for Boston in Games 3, 4 and 5 against Toronto in 1939.

Calle Jarnkrok, Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg also scored for Nashville, which improved to 9-1 at home and roared back after dropping the first two games of the series on the road.

"We were in a tough hole against a really good team, came home and took care of the home games with the help of all our great fans," Rinne said. "It's a great feeling. We played two really good games."

Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby scored his first goal in the series after not getting a shot on goal in Game 3. The goal was his first in the Stanley Cup Final since June 4, 2009, a span of 12 games, but it wasn't enough as the Penguins lost two straight for the second time this postseason. Goalie Matt Murray lost consecutive games for the first time in his young career.

"It's hard to win when you score one goal," Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. "I thought tonight of all nights, we generated the most chances of the highest quality."

Nashville tapped country singer Dierks Bentley as the latest star to sing the national anthem, while Jason Aldean waved the towel to rev up the crowd. Former NBA star and TV commentator Charles Barkley also was on hand , accepting NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman's invitation to watch in person. Carrie Underwood admitted during the first intermission that she didn't get Fisher, her husband, a birthday present on Monday -- holding out hope that a Stanley Cup championship celebration would do the trick in coming days.

"That's all I wanted for my birthday," Fisher said afterward of the big win.

Craig Smith ricocheted a puck off Murray's pads that Jarnkrok tapped in at 14:51 to start the fans yelling louder. Pittsburgh lost a challenge for goalie interference.

Just 66 seconds later, Crosby tied it up for Pittsburgh on a dazzling breakaway. He skated in on Rinne, holding the puck, faking a slap shot and then slipping one past the goalie for his eighth goal and 24th point of the playoffs. He also moved into 20th all-time in NHL playoff points but the Predators clamped down after that.

Rinne kept it tied in the early minutes of the second with a stop of Guentzel before a big save on Chris Kunitz on a breakaway. And then came Gaudreau's goal, confirmed only after the horn sounded and officials reviewed the play. They ruled Gaudreau's wraparound attempt slid the puck just over the line before Murray stopped it, giving Nashville a 2-1 lead 3:45 into the second.

"I heard it on the bench that it was possibly in the net," Gaudreau said. "I wasn't certain. When I heard the horn, I sort of thought it was in."

Crosby had another breakaway nearly midway through the period, and Rinne stopped him not once, but twice. Then the goalie slid to his right stopping Guentzel with an assist from Nashville defenseman Roman Josi. Crosby and Evgeni Malkin finished with six shots, but just the lone goal.

"It's a game of execution," Crosby said. "They capitalized on our mistakes, and we have to do the same."

Arvidsson made it a 3-1 Nashville lead with his first goal since the end of the first round. James Neal started the play, getting the puck to Fisher who fed the puck up to Arvidsson while falling to the ice. Arvidsson beat Murray under his glove, putting the puck just inside the right post at 13:08.

"If I make the save there, it could be a different game," Murray said.

Forsberg sealed the win with an empty-netter with 3:23 left.

Fisher, scoreless until the Final, now has four points with his fourth on his 37th birthday. ... With his goal, Crosby now has 161 career playoff points and moved past Mike Bossy, Gordie Howe, Al MacInnis and Bobby Smith for 20th all-time by himself. ... The Penguins now are 13-3 after a playoff loss under coach Mike Sullivan, and Murray is 7-1 in playoff games started after a loss. ... Rain kept the crowd outside from reaching the more than 50,000 who turned Saturday night for the first Stanley Cup Final game in Tennessee. Still, people filled three blocks of Broadway, even with Nashville opening up a downtown amphitheater for fans to watch. ... After the anthem, two catfish and one stuffed penguin hit the ice despite Nashville coach Peter Laviolette's video plea earlier Monday asking fans not to throw anything.

Changes may be in store for struggling Flyers

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Changes may be in store for struggling Flyers

Flyers coach Dake Hakstol acknowledged a shakeup in the lineup might be on the way after his squad lost for the seventh time in eight games.

“We haven’t done much of that so far, but there’s a chance that we’ll make a change or two in terms of combinations, maybe even in terms of who’s in and who’s out of the lineup,” Hakstol said after Friday’s practice. “It’s too early to say that for sure right now, but we’re looking at a couple different things just to try to change a little bit of the rhythm, change a little bit of the chemistry.”

With only 10 games remaining and the Flyers’ once tight grip on a playoff spot suddenly in jeopardy, Hakstol may not want to wait too long to act.

The Flyers enter a pivotal weekend in third place in the Metropolitan Division, but several teams are nipping at their heels. Their 81 points are tied with the Blue Jackets, who are behind in the standings based on a tiebreaker, followed by the Devils with 80 and the Panthers’ 77.

Not only that, but the Blue Jackets and Panthers are hot, both winning eight of their last 10 contests. The Devils and Panthers also have one and three more games remaining, respectively.

Time is not on the Flyers’ side.

“We’re going to address some things individually as well as team-wise and get pushing in the right direction,” Hakstol said.

Despite their recent tumble in the standings, the Flyers aren’t panicking. Hakstol noted several of the losses have been close, though that’s largely only true of their last three defeats. They’ve played a tough schedule during the ongoing slump, a slate that included the Lightning, Penguins, Bruins, Jets and Golden Knights – all teams with better records.

Plus, the Flyers have been incredibly streaky all season long, a fact not lost on the team captain.

“We’ve been in this position before,” said Claude Giroux. “We got out of it pretty well. We just need to find a way to get out of it and stay on the winning track.”

Prior to their skid, the Flyers had a four-game losing streak sandwiched between a run where they won eight of nine and another where they won 10 of 11. There was also a 10-game winless stretch that spanned from mid-November into the first week of December.

Giroux thinks the Flyers will be fine as long as they continue doing the things that brought them to this point.

“Obviously, we have to be a little bit better in what we’re doing,” Giroux said. “But in talking about our system, I think we just keep doing what we’re doing and just work a little harder and we’ll be more successful.

Having been through cold spells before, it’s safe to say the Flyers won’t be thinking about it once the puck drops.

“Right now it’s about our guys making sure mentally the deck is clear from anything from last night or from the past week and just a real clear mindset on what our next opportunity is here,” Hakstol said.

The Flyers’ next opportunity to snap out of their funk is at the Hurricanes on Saturday.

Capitals reclaim sole possession of Metro lead

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Capitals reclaim sole possession of Metro lead

WASHINGTON — T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom and Matt Niskanen scored as the Washington Capitals swept a home-and-home set against the skidding New York Islanders with a 6-3 win on Friday night.

Alex Chiasson had a goal and two assists for the Capitals, who hammered the Islanders 7-3 in New York on Thursday. Jakub Vrana's goal gave Washington a 5-1 lead with 9:04 remaining. Lars Eller added an empty-netter, and Braden Holtby made 22 saves.

Washington broke a tie with the idle Pittsburgh Penguins for sole possession of first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals' four-game winning streak is their longest since taking five in a row from Dec. 28 to Jan. 9.

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington's second-leading scorer, left in the second period and did not return after sustaining an upper-body injury, according to the team.

Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson and John Tavares scored for the Islanders, who have lost 10 of 11 (see full recap).

Hoffman lifts Senators over Stars in OT
OTTAWA, Ontario — Mike Hoffman scored at 3:26 of overtime and the Ottawa Senators beat the Dallas Stars 3-2 on Friday night to win their third game in a row for just the second time this season.

Ottawa won on home ice for the first time since Feb. 17.

Marian Gaborik and Matt Duchene also scored for the Senators (26-33-11), and Craig Anderson made 23 saves.

Tyler Seguin and Tyler Pitlick had the goals for the Stars (38-26-8). Ben Bishop, who stopped 22 shots, made his first start since missing five games with a knee injury sustained March 5 against the Senators. Bishop has a 9-0-4 career record against Ottawa.

Dallas has lost four straight, its longest skid of the season (see full recap).

Predators rally past Coyotes
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Nashville Predators keep rolling toward the best regular season in franchise history.

Kevin Fiala and Kyle Turris each had a goal and assist in the third period, leading Nashville to a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night. Ryan Ellis also scored to help the Western Conference-leading Predators get their 21st road win of the season and improve to 12-0-1 in their last 13 games overall. Pekka Rinne finished with 32 saves.

Nashville, which reached the Stanley Cup Final a year ago after earning the second wild card in the West, has 102 points through 70 games, and needs nine more in its final 12 games to set a new franchise record (see full recap).