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Stanley Cup Final: Penguins score early in OT for 2-0 series lead

Stanley Cup Final: Penguins score early in OT for 2-0 series lead

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PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby enters the faceoff circle with a plan every time, well aware it will almost certainly evaporate once the puck smacks the ice.

That doesn't stop the Pittsburgh superstar from doing it, because every once in a while the idea in his head morphs into reality. Times like Wednesday night, when Crosby's improvisation helped move the Penguins within two victories of the Stanley Cup.

Crosby's faceoff win helped set up Conor Sheary's perfectly placed wrist shot 2:35 into overtime, one that lifted the Penguins to a 2-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

"I call 25 faceoffs a night," Crosby said with a laugh. "I got 24 wrong tonight."

It's the one Crosby got right that will live on if the Penguins find a way to close out their fourth championship. Just before heading to the dot to the right of San Jose goalie Martin Jones, Crosby told Sheary to line up on the wall and then look for a soft spot in the San Jose defense.

Crosby won the draw and dropped it to defenseman Kris Letang, who feigned a shot then slipped it to Sheary. The 23-year-old rookie zipped it over Jones' outstretched glove for his fourth goal of the playoffs and second of the series.

"It's pretty surreal," said Sheary, who began the season in the minor leagues.

Game 3 is Saturday night in San Jose.

Sharks defenseman Justin Braun tied it with 4:05 left in regulation, but San Jose fell to 0-4 when pushed to overtime in the playoffs after getting largely outplayed for much of the night by the quicker, more nimble Penguins.

Phil Kessel scored his 10th goal of the postseason for Pittsburgh, and Matt Murray made 21 stops. The Penguins have not trailed at any point while reeling off four straight playoff victories after falling behind in the Eastern Conference final against Tampa Bay.

"Game 1 was decided in last two minutes, tonight was decided in overtime," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "We'll hold off on the funeral."

Maybe, but time is running out. Only five teams in NHL history have come back from a 2-0 deficit in the final to win the Cup, a hole the Sharks find themselves in despite Braun's second career playoff goal and 28 stops by Martin Jones.

"We know that if we play this way we're not going to win games, so we need to be better," San Jose center Logan Couture said.

The Sharks blamed themselves for their shaky start in Game 1, with defenseman Brent Burns admitting the spectacle of playing the franchise's first Finals led to spending a large portion of the first period standing around and watching the Penguins take an early lead on the way to an eventual 3-2 victory.

Burns and his teammates promised repeatedly they would be sharper and more focused faced with the prospect of heading home in a massive hole, pointing to their 5-1 record this postseason in games immediately following a loss as proof of their resilience.

While the Sharks were better Wednesday, the sustained push the Penguins were expecting from the Western Conference champions failed to materialize until it was nearly too late. Pittsburgh did the two things that have been the club's hallmark since coach Mike Sullivan took over for Mike Johnston in mid-December, controlling the puck and forcing the San Jose to go a full 200 feet to create chances.

"I think that's the identity of our team," Sheary said after becoming the fifth rookie to score in overtime in a Cup final.

Pittsburgh's forecheck made San Jose labor just to get the puck in the offensive zone and once there, the Penguins kept throwing black-and-gold glad bodies in the way.

Still, it took time for Pittsburgh's heady and hectic play to translate into a goal, with the group that's been Pittsburgh's best line for the last three months finally breaking through against Jones just before the midway point.

Thrust together as an experiment when Evgeni Malkin went out with a left elbow injury in mid-February, the trio of Kessel, Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino have rapidly evolved into Pittsburgh's most dangerous line. They began the night with 90 combined points in 34 games, and added to it during another typically aggressive shift when Hagelin stripped it from San Jose defenseman Roman Polak and slipped it to Bonino in the slot.

Bonino, who put in the Game 1 winner with 2:33 remaining from a similar spot, slipped it to Kessel on the door step. The pass was heading for the net but Kessel nudged it in anyway just to be sure.

"They're feeling it right now," Sullivan said about the line dubbed `HBK.' "They have that chemistry."

It appeared as if it would be enough to wrap things up in regulation until Braun found a moment of joy in the midst of a difficult time for his family. Braun's father-in-law, former Flames and Blackhawks center Tom Lysiak, passed away on Monday following a lengthy fight with leukemia.

Braun remained with the team, pledging to pay his respects to Lysiak before Game 3. His first goal of these playoffs -- a shot from just outside the top of the right circle that made its way under Murray's glove and off the post before crossing the line -- gave the Sharks a needed jolt with their chances at a first championships teetering.

The momentum didn't last. The Penguins wasted little time while improving to 4-2 in overtime.

"We did a good job of playing well here at home," Crosby said. "We know it's going to get challenging going to San Jose.

Former Flyers goalie Ray Emery dies at 35

Former Flyers goalie Ray Emery dies at 35

Former Flyers goaltender Ray Emery died Sunday morning. First responders pulled his body out of Hamilton Harbour, where he had been swimming with friends. An investigation into the cause of death is still ongoing. 

Emery was 35.

According to local authorities, Emery was checking out a friend’s boat docked at Royal Hamilton Yacht Club when the group he was with decided to jump in the water around 6:30 a.m. Emery’s body never surfaced and was eventually recovered around 2:50 p.m. Sunday afternoon. Hamilton police say Emery’s body was recovered in close proximity to where he was last seen.

Emery was last seen publicly with a handful of his former teammates Saturday night as the goaltender participated in Zac Rinaldo’s charity hockey game in Hamilton. Emery can be seen standing during the playing of “O Canada.”

"The Philadelphia Flyers are stunned and extremely saddened to hear of the tragic passing of former Flyers goaltender Ray Emery," president Paul Holmgren said in a statement from the team. "Ray was an outstanding teammate and an extremely gifted goaltender. He had exceptional athleticism, was a fierce competitor and battled in every game he played with the Flyers.

"His performances through the 2009-10 season were a very big part of the team's success in making the playoffs and reaching the Stanley Cup Final. Ray's talent, work ethic and determination helped him enjoy a successful 11-year NHL career. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time."

Several of Emery’s former teammates over the years offered their condolences via Twitter after learning of the tragedy.

Former Flyer Daniel Carcillo shared the he was crushed by the news (NSFW).

Jakub Voracek also shared his condolences (NSFW).

Emery joined the Flyers in June 2009 on a one-year contract, shutting out the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 in his Flyers debut. The goaltender’s first stint in Philadelphia was cut short when he suffered a muscle tear in his abdomen in December missing the remainder of the season. Emery was later diagnosed with avascular necrosis — a degenerative condition to the bone tissue in his hip.

After undergoing successful surgery, Emery eventually joined the Ducks before winning a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2013. Impressively, Emery finished the regular season with a 17-1-0 record. He re-signed with the Flyers that summer as a backup to Steve Mason.

Emery’s most infamous moment in Philadelphia came during an ugly 7-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on November 1, 2013, as the Flyers netminder pummeled Caps goalie Braden Holtby during a line brawl in the early stages of the third period.

Emery faced criminal charges over a handful of off-the-ice incidents and altercations. Most recently, he was arrested for assault with a weapon in 2017 against former fiancé Keshia Chanté. 

Emery played a total of 287 NHL games, 88 with the Flyers. 

Flyers' Danick Martel accepts qualifying offer; team re-signs Taylor Leier and Tyrell Goulbourne

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Flyers' Danick Martel accepts qualifying offer; team re-signs Taylor Leier and Tyrell Goulbourne

Updated: 9:44 p.m.

Three young forwards will all be staying in the Flyers organization, at least for one more year.

Sunday, the team announced that Danick Martel accepted his qualifying offer on a one-year contract, and that restricted free agents Taylor Leier and Tyrell Goulbourne signed one-year deals.

Restricted free agent goalie Anthony Stolarz has also accepted his qualifying offer of $761,250, according to a report from John Hoven. Stolarz, 24, played in just one game for the Phantoms in the 2017-18 season after undergoing surgery on a meniscus tear last summer. A second-round pick by the Flyers in the 2012 draft, Stolarz went 18-9 and posted a 2.92 goals against average with Lehigh Valley in 2016-17.

Though the team didn't include any salary details, Martel's deal is reportedly a two-way contract worth $715,000.

The 23-year-old Martel made his NHL debut last season, finishing with no points and six shots over four games. He scored a career-best 25 goals for Lehigh Valley.

With Leier, the Flyers avoided a possible arbitration hearing. According to CapFriendly, Leier's contract is a one-way deal for $720,000. Leier's hearing was scheduled for Aug. 3. The team also earlier avoided a hearing with Alex Lyon, their other player who filed for arbitration, signing the goalie to a two-year deal.

A fourth-round selection in 2012, Leier had one goal and four assists in 39 regular-season games with the Flyers as a rookie.

Goulbourne, who made his NHL debut on Jan. 6, appeared in nine regular-season contests, with 15 hits.

If Stolarz is indeed back in the fold, Robert Hagg would be the team's only remaining restricted free agent. 

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