Flyers

Stanley Cup Final: Predators leaning on Pekka Rinne to force Penguins back to Pittsburgh

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Stanley Cup Final: Predators leaning on Pekka Rinne to force Penguins back to Pittsburgh

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Pekka Rinne is a friendly, polite man off the ice. Slipping the puck past the Nashville Predators goaltender is one of the few ways to anger the 6-foot-5 Finn.

Pucks bouncing past him on the NHL's biggest stage infuriate him. Rinne chopped his stick against a goalpost not once, but twice after giving up a fifth and final goal a year ago when Nashville was ousted from the playoffs.

That was just Game 7 in the second round.

Now Rinne goes into the biggest game of his career Sunday night needing yet another home victory to force both the defending champs and the Stanley Cup Final to a deciding seventh game back in Pittsburgh. And Rinne spent the past 40 minutes stewing on the bench as the Penguins finished off a 6-0 rout Thursday night in easily Nashville's worst playoff loss.

"You have those thoughts that why (is) the puck getting deflected in off our guys or something like that," Rinne said Saturday. "You try to work so hard that the luck is also on your side. When bounces not going your way, sometimes you question, have second thoughts in your head, but that's life."

The goalie so competitive he doesn't like teammates scoring on him in practice is back in Nashville where he's been nearly unbeatable over the past two postseasons at 13-1.

Rinne has a 9-1 record this spring with a 1.44 goals-against average and .949 save percentage in Nashville. He's allowed two or fewer goals in eight of those 10 games and tied Antti Niemi with his 36th playoff win for the most in NHL history by a Finnish-born goaltender.

Yet the goalie and the Predators stand between Pittsburgh and a big chunk of history.

The Penguins are trying to become the first team to win the Stanley Cup in consecutive seasons in nearly two decades since Detroit repeated in 1997 and 1998. One more win gives the Penguins the franchise's fifth Stanley Cup, tying them with Edmonton for sixth all-time.

All four of Pittsburgh's Stanley Cups have been clinched on the road with Chicago the last team to win the Cup on home ice back in 2015.

"Opportunities like this, they don't come around often, so you want to make the most of them," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said.

The Predators haven't scored a goal in 63 minutes, 23 seconds since Filip Forsberg's empty-net goal in Game 4. So Rinne will need to be at his best to give Nashville a chance at its first Game 7 and Pittsburgh's third this postseason.

Rinne understands coach Peter Laviolette was trying to wake up the Predators by pulling the veteran after allowing three goals on nine shots in the first 20 minutes of Game 5. Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel all put up at least two points each in that game.

Yet there's been no question that Rinne, who has never won a start in Pittsburgh, will be in net Sunday night.

"Right now our backs are against the wall, and this is our opportunity and I think you try to do anything in your power and prepare the best you can for this one," Rinne said.

The Predators know exactly what they need to do better against Pittsburgh. Part of that is being better in front of Rinne.

"We made mistakes in front of him," Laviolette said. "So I know there's things that we can do that can support our goaltender better."

Nashville may be without defenseman Ryan Ellis, who didn't finish Thursday night's loss. Ellis was among several Predators who did not take part in an optional practice Saturday. Ellis plays with Roman Josi on Nashville's top defensive pair and is tied for third with 13 points this postseason.

The Penguins skated in Pittsburgh before flying to Nashville. Center Nick Bonino, who has missed three straight games with an injured left foot, did not practice for the Pens.

Pittsburgh couldn't close out Columbus, Washington or Ottawa the first chance the Penguins had in each of their previous three playoff series. Coach Mike Sullivan thinks his Penguins are playing better, harder and smarter over the past two games.

"When these guys play a committed, inspired game the way they do and they execute, then their talent and their instincts are going to take over," Sullivan said. "And when they do that, they're hard to defend."

Having the Stanley Cup in Bridgestone Arena gives the Predators plenty of motivation as well in the first game they've faced elimination this postseason. Nashville went 3-1 in such games last year.

"Our motivation is the Cup," Nashville captain Mike Fisher said. "We want to win it."

Flyers sign prospect Wade Allison to entry-level contract

Flyers sign prospect Wade Allison to entry-level contract

There are no more worries about the Flyers' college prospects.

Four days after Tanner Laczynski inked a deal with the organization, the Flyers signed Wade Allison to his two-year entry-level contract Friday.

Both college seniors had rights to the Flyers that were set to expire Aug. 15. Now the 2016 draft picks are officially in the fold for the future.

Allison, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound winger out of Western Michigan, will bring a craftiness around the net and powerful shot to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

“We are very happy to have Wade under contract,” Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr said in a statement released by the team. “He possesses a great package of size, speed and skill, and we strongly believe he’ll be an NHL power forward moving forward.”

The second-round selection has battled injuries during his time with the Broncos, including a torn ACL his sophomore year. That season, Allison was on a torrid pace with 15 goals and 15 assists in 22 games before suffering the injury. As a senior in 2019-20, Allison put up 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists) and a plus-11 mark in 26 games.

Allison will turn 23 years old in October and his experience could help him climb quickly. Health will be vital, as well. There's a lot to like, though, with Allison's overall ability.

In the last 18 days, the Flyers have signed prospects Allison, Laczynski and Wyatte Wylie to entry-level deals.

Another college player to keep an eye on is Wyatt Kalynuk, who is coming off his junior season at Wisconsin. The defenseman can return to Madison for his senior year or turn pro in 2020-21 as his rights don't expire until the summer of 2021.

Meanwhile, the rights to prospects Linus Hogberg and David Bernhardt, two Swedish blueliners in the Flyers' system, expire June 1.



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Flyers' Game 6 win over Oilers at the Spectrum was The Best Game I Ever Saw Live

Flyers' Game 6 win over Oilers at the Spectrum was The Best Game I Ever Saw Live

Seventeen thousand, two hundred and twenty-two.

In 1987, that was the capacity for a hockey game at the Spectrum (WFC today: 19,537). I would suggest that on May 28, 1987, that number was elevated like a Brian Propp slap shot — because the Flyers hosted the Edmonton Oilers in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. It would be the last Flyers home game of season. It was the ticket of the spring season in Philadelphia. Sixers games, concerts, Phillies games — nothing came close to the anticipation, the electricity surrounding this game.

Why? 

The orange and black were supposed to get swept by an Oilers team that featured seven future NHL Hall of Famers starting with Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Grant Fuhr.

But the Flyers had some great players of their own — Propp, Rick Tocchet, Ron Hextall. Trailing 3-2 in the series, they returned to the Spectrum hoping to force a Game 7.

I was covering the game for Channel 3 and I had close to an ice-side seat. No, I didn’t sit in the press box. The press box was overflowing because of the clamor surrounding the game. The Spectrum's press box was not that big. So, Lou Tilley (Channel 3), Joe Pellegrino (Channel 10) and I were about 10 rows from the glass, slightly left of the Flyers' bench. It was awesome. Until the Oilers scored the first two goals and the Flyers were staring at elimination.

To the third period with the Flyers trailing 2-1. With 6:56 left in the game, on the power play, Propp! The goal capped off an awesome rush that saw the puck go to Pelle Eklund in the corner and he snapped it cross ice to Propp, who was in the slot and put it past Fuhr. Tied at 2!

The reason this game was so special to me, the reason I recall it here, was not just because of the excitement on the ice. I have been blessed to attend every manner of sporting events in the world — World Series, Super Bowl, NBA Finals, Olympics, major tennis championships, track meets. I’ve never heard fans as loud as I did that Thursday night in South Philadelphia. They made the building tremble — like aftershocks from an earthquake.

If the volume was dialed to 10 for the Propp goal, it was at a 15 1:24 later. That’s when J.J. Daigneault (Dane-YO!) scooped up a weak Oilers’ clear attempt. The puck waffled to him lightly just inside the blue line. And he hammered it. One-timer. With Scott Mellanby standing at the crease screening Fuhr. The Flyers had the lead 3-2!  

You couldn’t hear yourself speak let alone think. I’m telling you, Tilley and I were right up to each other’s ears trying to hear each other. Not a word. The fans were screaming and stomping and shouting and laughing. Eventually we gave up and just took it in. The roof blew off the Spectrum in its first season in 1967. It almost came off again on this night. Pow! The sheer, unchecked joy of the 17,222 (plus a few more) in attendance that night is something I will always remember. It was the joy of possibility because the Flyers had evened up the series at three games apiece. 

Really, that’s all you can ask for is possibility. Hope. They had that going to Edmonton for Game 7. And when Murray Craven scored the game’s first goal, I thought, “We’re having a parade down Broad Street!” But ... Edmonton, on its home ice, scored the next two goals and battle as the Flyers might they couldn’t get the equalizer. The Oilers added one more inside two minutes to play and that was that. The Oilers were champs. Again.

But, I’ll always hear the echo of those two Flyers goals at the Spectrum the night the team took Game 6.

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