Avalanche

Jake Guentzel’s goal lifts Penguins over Predators in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins rarely tested the hottest goaltender in the playoffs in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against Nashville. They beat Pekka Rinne anyway. Rookie Jake Guentzel fired the puck past Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a back-and-forth 5-3 victory on Monday night. Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead. Related ArticlesMay 12, 2017 Predators’ postseason run has turned Music City into Smashville May 7, 2017 Leon Draisaitl’s hat trick helps Oilers rout Ducks 7-1 to force Game 7 Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Matt Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach’s challenge in Final history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37 minutes at one point without a shot. “I think at the end of the day we’re up 1-0,” Bonino said. “We had a good first, we had a terrible second and we were terrible in the third. I don’t think it’s Xs and Os. We’ve got to work harder, compete a little harder, but we got some timely goals.” Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots. The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday. Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year. Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL’s biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions, trying to become the first repeat winner since Detroit in 1998. All the guys from “Smashville” have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home. The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn’t happen, mostly because Nashville’s forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray. Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead. Sullivan used his coach’s challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg’s right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no. “The impact of that moment and then the chain of events that happened after that with the penalty kills I think changed the course of the game,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. The decision gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge. Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Bonino’s innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm’s left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command. Gregory Shamus, Getty ImagesPekka Rinne, right, of the Nashville Predators and Jake Guentzel of the Pittsburgh Penguins watch as a shot by Evgeni Malkin goes into the net for a goal during the first period in Game One of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final at PPG Paints Arena on May 29, 2017 in Pittsburgh. It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa, when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout. Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn’t bail. Instead, they rallied and took over the game. Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second and Nashville kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn’t manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it’s happened in a playoff game in franchise history — and the first such period by any team in a Final game since the NHL began tracking shots on goal in 1958. Nashv [...]
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Mystique vs. mayhem in unlikely Stanley Cup Final
PITTSBURGH — The dynasty that once appeared so certain is again in the offing for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Four victories against the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final would make Pittsburgh the first franchise to win back-to-back championships in nearly 20 years and the first in the parity-driven salary cap era. It would give stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin their third Cup, one more than their boss — owner Mario Lemieux — earned during his Hall of Fame career and check off whatever boxes remain unchecked for a duo that is becoming one of the most accomplished in NHL history. Yet for all the resiliency the Penguins have shown during their injury-marred title defense, they are taking nothing for granted heading into Game 1 on Monday night. Take Our Poll (function(d,c,j){if(!d.getElementById(j)){var pd=d.createElement(c),s;pd.id=j;pd.src='http://www.denverpost.com/wp-content/plugins/polldaddy/js/polldaddy-shortcode.js';s=d.getElementsByTagName(c)[0];s.parentNode.insertBefore(pd,s);} else if(typeof jQuery !=='undefined')jQuery(d.body).trigger('pd-script-load');}(document,'script','pd-polldaddy-loader')); Not their home-ice advantage. Not their massive edge in Stanley Cup Final experience (156 games vs. just five for the Predators, all by captain Mike Fisher while playing for Ottawa a decade ago). Not their ability under coach Mike Sullivan to thrive under the pressure that once seemed to crush them. “I think the fact that a lot of guys went through it last year and they can draw from that experience is good,” Crosby said. “But it doesn’t guarantee anything.” Certainly not against the swaggering and well-rested Predators. One of the last teams to qualify for the playoffs is now the last one standing between the Penguins and another parade in downtown Pittsburgh. Just don’t call Nashville the underdog. The Predators have hardly played like one while beating Chicago in a lopsided four-game sweep then outrunning St. Louis and outlasting Anaheim to reach the Cup final for the first time. “I know we were the eighth seed but we didn’t feel like a group that we were,” Fisher said. Now the guys from the place that calls itself “Smashville” have a chance to become the first franchise to win the Cup in its first try since Carolina did 11 years ago. That team, like this one, is based in a place hardly considered hockey hotbed a generation ago. This team, like that one, was led by coach Peter Laviolette. This team, like that one, has nothing to lose. “This year we were kind of mediocre in the standings and maybe that’s what we needed just to come into the playoffs not really caring about home ice or who we were playing but just knowing comfortably and confidently as a team we could be in this position,” said Predators defenseman P.K. Subban. A position the Penguins have become increasingly comfortable in under Sullivan. The core that Crosby and Malkin led to the Cup in 2009 went through seven frustrating and fruitless springs before returning to the top in 2016. Now they’re here again, aware of the stakes but hardly caught up in the hype. “I think that it’s a tough road no matter how you get here,” Crosby said. “We found ways all season long and in the playoffs we’ve found ways. We’ve had that same mentality and that’s helped us. I think that’s kind of been our biggest strength.” Some things to look for in would could be a highly entertaining final: HOMECOMINGS (KIND OF) One of Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford’s first moves when he took over in 2014 was to send forward James Neal to Nashville for forward Patric Hornqvist. It’s worked out beautifully for both sides. Hornqvist, who will be a game-time decision for Game 1 while recovering from upper-body injury, gives the Penguins a nearly intractable net-front presence. Neal possesses the kind of shot that can change the complexion of things dramatically. MISSING PARTS Both sides have been forced to navigate their way through serious health issues . The Penguins are playing without star defenseman Kris Letang, out for the season after neck surgery. The Predators lost center Ryan Johansen to a severe thigh injury. Pittsburgh’s defense has thrived even without Letang. Nashville’s lengthy layoff since the conference final mean Fisher and forward Craig Smith should be available for Game 1. MADE IN THE USA This is the first time in the history of the Cup final the coaches on both benches are American. Both Laviolette and Sullivan have stressed the series is about the players, but there’s no denying the ability of both men to cut through the noise. Laviolette has given the Predators the edge they’ve always needed while Sullivan’s straightforward approach and expert button-pushing have made Pittsburgh seemingly immune to any kind of Cup hangover. Rela [...]
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Cody McLeod got his wish from Avalanche, will play for the Stanley Cup with Predators
On Jan. 1, Cody McLeod was a disgruntled member of the Avalanche, the NHL’s worst team which stood 12-23-1 and going nowhere. The Avs had stripped him from the  ‘A’ on his chest as alternate captain, scratched him on opening night and generally only played him when others were injured. McLeod hinted about a trade to a playoff-contending team, and less than two weeks later, the fourth-line forward and middleweight enforcer got his wish. McLeod, Colorado’s most veteran player, was traded to the Nashville Predators on Jan. 13 for minor-league forward Felix Girard. The following night against the Avs at the Pepsi Center, McLeod, in his Nashville debut, scored a goal and fought Jarome Iginla in the Preds’ 3-2 triumph. McLeod enjoys Tennessee. On Monday, he will begin playing for the Stanley Cup when the Preds visit the Pittsburgh Penguins for Game 1 of the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final. Things unfolded just how McLeod dreamed on Jan. 1, when he spoke candidly with The Denver Post about his situation and his desire to play for a winner. Related ArticlesMay 28, 2017 Mystique vs. mayhem in unlikely Stanley Cup Final May 27, 2017 Minus Kris Letang, anonymous Pittsburgh Penguins’ defense still thriving May 26, 2017 NHL royalty vs. the rowdy neighbors in Stanley Cup Final May 19, 2017 Frei: 2000-01 Avalanche deservedly makes the cut to the “Top 20 Greatest NHL Teams” May 19, 2017 NHL nearing record for one-goal games this postseason “We’ll see when that time comes,” McLeod said of the March 1 trade deadline. “But I love Denver and my family is here. We love the fans and we’ll probably stay here when I retire. But at the end of the day, I want to win. I want a chance to win the Stanley Cup.” He added: “I feel like I come to play hard every night. I know I’m not the most talented guy, and I’m getting older. But I still feel like I have more to give.” McLeod has played in 12 of Nashville’s 16 playoff games. He was scratched in the track meet that was the Preds’ four-game first-round sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks, but has played in each of the last 12. He has a goal and a team-high 23 penalty minutes in those 12 games, and is beloved by his teammates as he was in Colorado. He’s considered a valuable commodity by Preds coach Peter Laviolette. “Cody has so much value to our team,” Laviolette told The Tennessean. “”What he brings in his physicality and his willingness to help any one of his teammates at any point, his energy that he brings in the room, those things — there are no measures unless you’re on the inside and dealing with him on a daily basis like we are.” First-year Avalanche coach Jared Bednar didn’t see that with McLeod, who was deemed an integral part of the team under the club’s two previous head coaches since 2012, when Joe Sacco gave him an “A” on his chest. Sacco’s successor, Patrick Roy, also was a staunch supporter and maintained his leadership role. McLeod was not available for a phone interview. On Jan. 1, he told The Post: “We’re professionals and it’s a privilege to play in the NHL. But I feel like I can still play and contribute more than what I’m getting right now. It’s more frustrating that we’re losing, and the way we’re losing hockey games. I wish I was more part of it.” McLeod still is part of the Avs’ payroll. As part of the trade, Colorado agreed to retain approximately one-third is his $1.333,333 million salary through 2017-18, and the Avs will pay him $533,333 next season. [...]
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Frei: Like sands through the hourglass, these are the days of the Avalanche offseason
In the wake of the Tuesday announcement that assistant coaches Tim Army, Dave Farrish and Francois Allaire won’t return, the Avalanche will have a new-look staff next season. Meanwhile, massaging Joe Sakic‘s job title and bringing in a new general manager, or otherwise significantly rearranging responsibility in the front office, now is unlikely. That tweaking was a possibility Avalanche president Josh Kroenke’s remarks to me hinted at in early May, even as he expressed support for Sakic, and I mentioned Maple Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas in the follow column. Related ArticlesMay 26, 2017 Lakewood’s Nicole Hensley could be a golden girl as Team USA’s goalie May 25, 2017 Luke Salazar is back skating in his home state, seeking ECHL title with Colorado Eagles May 24, 2017 Avalanche prospects helped Colorado Eagles reach the upcoming ECHL Finals May 24, 2017 Former Avalanche assistant Tim Army not surprised he was let go May 23, 2017 Avalanche assistants Tim Army, Dave Farrish and Francois Allaire won’t be back Next, Sportsnet’s Toronto-based Elliotte Friedman reported the other day that the Avs indeed had received permission to speak with Dubas. By then, though, Dubas was locked in to staying with the Leafs. What all of this does is lay the groundwork for promoting Sakic (though many seem to be forgetting that Kroenke holds the title of team president) and bringing in a new GM — regardless of how the titles are massaged — if this franchise continues to have problems, and especially if it’s no longer reasonable to argue that the jury still is out on the tie-up-the-core-and-fill-in-around-it strategy. Then it becomes an exit strategy, if Sakic would even want to stay under those circumstances. The coaching staff changes weren’t shocking, and in his Wednesday night conversation with me from his offseason home in Maine, Army acknowledged that, plus that it’s the peril of the business. Scapegoating assistant coaches in any sport is distasteful. It also is increasingly fashionable, especially in pro and college football, where head coaches often save their, um, jobs by showing a GM or athletic director they’re doing something — and, at least implicitly, finding someone to blame for a season gone wrong. Or when management imposes its will on a head coach, saying if he wants to stay, he has to accept an assistant or two or three being shown the door. That doesn’t mean assistant coaches should be invulnerable to accountability and criticism, but the truth is, it more often has become a dishonorable way to shift the focus. In the NHL, after Chicago inexplicably was swept by Nashville in the first round, the Blackhawks announced the firing of long-time assistant Mike Kitchen, Joel Quenneville’s former teammate at Colorado and New Jersey. It was not Quenneville’s choice and he was not happy. The perception was that somebody had to take the fall for the first-round exit, and that someone was Kitchen, in charge of the defensemen and the penalty kill. Here, the changes were due to a combination of embarrassment over the horrible season, plus the realization that Jared Bednar should have the right to do more than inherit coaches in his first crack at the NHL. That wasn’t necessarily inevitable; if the Avalanche had put together a decent or better season, perhaps the comfort level would have been high enough to have all decide to maintain the status quo — including with Nolan Pratt, the former Avalanche defenseman who worked with Bednar in the AHL and joined the Avalanche staff last summer before Roy resigned. While the thought is that it might serve Bednar well to have a veteran as an associate coach — a la Marc Crawford in Ottawa this season — Farrish could have fit that role. Army’s extensive remarks to me managed to both take the high road, with sincerity, and illuminate. His comments about noticing friction between Sakic and Roy after last season were interesting, and as the assistant closest to Matt Duchene, his assessment of Duchene’s tendency to get down on himself — while nothing we didn’t know — was especially significant. [...]
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Minus Kris Letang, anonymous Pittsburgh Penguins’ defense still thriving
PITTSBURGH — The handful of men who carry out the most thankless of tasks for the Pittsburgh Penguins are a rag-tag group thrown together by circumstance and a touch of foresight by general manager Jim Rutherford. They are largely anonymous and blissfully so, only too happy to work in the considerable shadows created by the stars who play in front of them and their unquestioned leader, the one forced to watch the franchise’s run to a second straight Stanley Cup Final in immaculately tailored suits from the press box while he recovers from neck surgery. When defenseman Kris Letang’s star-crossed season ended for good in early April when he abandoned any hope of a comeback from the injuries that limited him to just 40 games this season, the chances of the Penguins becoming the first team to win back-to-back titles was supposed to vanish along with him. Yet here they are hosting Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night, four wins away from a repeat that seemed improbable seven weeks ago. And they’ve done it with a group of blue liners who lack Letang’s unique talents or the undeniable dynamic charisma of the defensemen like P.K. Subban who have helped power the Predators’ dominant sprint to the final. “That’s fine with us,” said Brian Dumoulin, who leads the Penguins in ice time during the postseason. “They’re great players and stuff like that. No chip on our shoulder. We know who we are as a D core.” They might be one of the few. A quick introduction. There’s well-traveled Ron Hainsey, the 36-year-old who needed to wait a record 907 games before reaching the postseason for the first time in his 14-year career. There’s Trevor Daley and Olli Maatta, the battle-tested veteran and the baby-faced kid from Finland, both of whom spent significant chunks of time on the injured reserve this season only to develop an unquantifiable chemistry during the playoffs. There’s Dumoulin, who has become Pittsburgh’s new iron man with Letang out. There’s Ian Cole, the thoughtful well-bearded conscience who revels in the more physical aspects of his job. There’s 39-year-old Mark Streit, who like Hainsey was brought in as insurance at the trade deadline then spent six weeks as a healthy scratch only to fill in capably when another spate of injuries struck in the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa. Mostly, however, there’s Justin Schultz. Considered a disappointment during three-plus underwhelming seasons in Edmonton, Schultz has spent 15 months in Pittsburgh remodeling his game. It’s Schultz who has taken over as the quarterback on the Penguins’ potent power play. It’s Schultz who has found a knack for the big moment. He delivered the winning goal in Game 4 of the second round against Washington. He put the Penguins ahead in the third period of Game 7 against Ottawa and ended up with the secondary assist on Chris Kunitz’s knuckler that finally put away the Senators in double overtime. Schultz is reluctant to talk about his transformation or the upper-body injury that sidelined him for four games during the Ottawa series. He returned for the decider to play more than 24 minutes, gritting his teeth all the way through. When asked if the injury limited his ability to get off the shot that became his third goal of the postseason, Schultz responded with typical modesty. “Not full but like I said, those guys did such a good job screening … it didn’t have to be the hardest shot to get through,” said Schultz, who set a career -high with 51 points during the regular season and has added another 10 in the playoffs. Schultz, however, could always shoot. That’s never been the problem. It’s at the other end of the ice where he’s truly matured and likely made him one of the most coveted free agents to be in the process. The defenseman who never had any trouble jumping into the play has not become adept at thwarting them too. “He’s always had ability to excel on the offensive side,” said Penguins assistant Jacques Martin, who coaches the defense. “He’s got tremendous vision. He’s been able to replace Kris on the power play. The area (of growth) that’s most noticeable has been his defensive side … his positioning. He’s improved his compete level, his use of his stick, his position. All areas he’s grown in over the season.” The Penguins have needed every last ounce of it as they have from the rest of their defensemen who has spent the last four months trying to replace the seemingly irreplaceable Letang. Related ArticlesMay 26, 2017 NHL royalty vs. the rowdy neighbors in Stanley Cup Final May 25, 2017 Penguins beat Senators in double OT thriller, advance to Stanley Cup Final May 24, 2017 Game 7 offers chance at history for Penguins and Sena [...]
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Denver’s Luke Salazar is back skating in his home state, seeking ECHL title with Colorado Eagles
LOVELAND — After finishing his collegiate hockey career at the University of Denver, Pioneers winger Luke Salazar spent the next four years seeing the world. The Thornton native and Legacy High School graduate played professionally in Norway, Sweden, Austria and ultimately, in 2015-16, with the Manchester Storm in England. Then it was time to come back to Colorado. “I did the European experience,” Salazar, 28, said this week at the Budweiser Events Center. “It was four fun years. I got to see a lot of cool places. But I was excited to start my life back home. It’s fun to play back in Colorado again, and I just wanted to be home, to be honest with you. And I’ve had a blast this year.” Related ArticlesMay 24, 2017 Avalanche prospects helped Colorado Eagles reach the upcoming ECHL Finals The 5-foot-7, 150-pound Salazar signed with the team up the road from his Denver home — the ECHL’s Colorado Eagles. After scoring 30 goals for the Eagles in the regular season, second on the roster to Matt Garbowsky’s 36, Salazar has three goals in 16 playoff games for Colorado. And following a five-game romp past the Toledo Walleye in the Western Conference Finals, Salazar and the Eagles — with a handful of players provided through a working affiliation with the Avalanche and AHL San Antonio Rampage — will open the ECHL’s Kelly Cup Finals on Friday at home against the South Carolina Stingrays. “I didn’t really know what kind of role I was going to have here, just based off the affiliation with the Avalanche and stuff,” Salazar said. “I assumed they’d have a bunch of draft picks coming in and out. Luckily, I’ve been able to have a good year myself and now we’re going to the finals. It’s been an unreal experience. I’ve never gotten this far in my hockey career before.” The Eagles have two other Coloradans on their roster — defenseman and captain Sean Zimmerman, from Denver; and former Princeton defenseman Michael Sdao, from Niwot. Eagles coach Aaron Schneekloth said Salazar’s desire to play in Colorado caught his attention. “We’ve had a long-running relationship with some players from (DU),” said Schneekloth, who played for the Pioneers’ rival, North Dakota. “Hearing that Luke potentially wanted to stay in North America, if that was his choice, we knew we wanted him on our team. He’s a guy who plays bigger than his size and, obviously, we’ll put him right up there with the best in the league in puck skills, especially with what he’s able to do in traffic and on the power play.” The ECHL salary cap is $12,600 a week for the entire roster, with the Eagles, for example, paying the first $525 per week of players under contract to the Avalanche/Rampage. So this isn’t a way to get rich, though many players stay long enough to be considered ECHL journeymen. It’s tricky because of limits on the number of “veterans” on each roster. Regardless, it’s hockey. “It’s not for the money,” Salazar said. “All I was doing coming here was wanting to keep playing and have fun. As far as what the future holds, I don’t even know. I work on the side, too. I don’t just do this.” That side job is with Pinnacle Real Estate Management in Denver. “I’m interning now, but hopefully it turns into something in the future,” Salazar said. “It’s been a good experience. I go there after practice and work a few hours in the afternoon, when I can. With hockey, I’m going with the flow and hopefully we win here and then we’ll see what happens this summer. I haven’t really talked with the organization about the future at all.” As a youth, Salazar played in the Hyland Hills Hockey Association programs before heading off for two seasons with the Wichita Falls Thunder in the North American Hockey League, and then skating for DU from 2008-12. His European trek concluded with the Manchester Storm a year ago, and he understandably was jarred when he heard of the suicide bomber attack at the Ariana Grande concert in that English city this week. The Storm played in a small arena in Altrincham, adjacent to Manchester. “You hope everyone stays strong and people do everything they can to help the families,” Salazar said. “I know people who live there, I hope they’re OK. All the people who came to our games were awesome, and I hope their families are all right.” Kelly Cup Finals: South Carolina Stingrays vs. Colorado Eagles Friday, Game 1 at Budweiser Events Center, Loveland, 7:05 p.m. Sunday, Game 2 at Budweiser Events Center, 7:35 p.m. June 4, Game 3: at Charleston, 5:05 p.m. June 5, Game 4: at Charleston, 5:05 p.m. June 7, Game 5: at Charleston, 5:05 p.m. (If necessary.) June 9, [...]
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Lakewood’s Nicole Hensley could be a golden girl as Team USA’s goalie
LITTLETON — On a recent blustery afternoon at the Edge Ice Arena, home of the Foothills Hockey Association, distinguished alum Nicole Hensley tried to connect the past and present and explain how she got this far — how she became America’s No. 1 women’s hockey goaltender. Six years ago, Hensley was a senior at Green Mountain High School and playing for the all-girls Colorado Select hockey program. Her only college scholarship offer came from a start-up program at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., and playing international hockey was a far-fetched fantasy. Six years later, Hensley is the NCAA Division I all-time saves leader and on pace to lead Team USA on the ice for its Olympic opener in February at Pyeongchang, South Korea. The little girl from Lakewood who grew up mostly playing with boys at Foothills is now a two-time World Championship gold medalist and a concern across Canada, the country she recently tormented. On April 7 in Plymouth, Mich., Hensley backstopped the Americans’ thrilling 3-2 overtime victory over Canada in the WC gold-medal game. She finished 3-0 in the tournament, beating Canada twice and stopping 54-of-56 shots overall. She shut out Canada, the defending Olympic gold medalist, in a preliminary-round game in which she was named MVP. Photo provided by USA Hockey/Nancie BattagliaUSA goalie Nicole Hensley of Lakewood prepares to make a save against Canada at the 2015 Under-22 Series at the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y. The Americans won the three-game series 2-1, going 1-1 with Hensley in goal.  The tournament unfolded following an 11th-hour compensation settlement between the U.S. women’s team and USA Hockey. The players threatened to boycott the World Championship before the parties agreed to a four-year contract. “To be able to win on home soil — the first time the U.S. has ever won on home soil — and to do it after what we had gone through in the weeks before, it was definitely a special time and for me, personally,” Hensley said. “It’s definitely one of my biggest accomplishments to really contribute to the team.” The 22-year-old Hensley, a 2016 Lindenwood graduate, will compete for the U.S.’s No. 1 Olympic goaltending position with former University of Wisconsin star Alex Rigsby, 25, and Madeline Rooney, 19, a junior-to-be at Minnesota-Duluth. Based on the recent World Championship and that head coach Robb Stauber also will coach the Olympic team, Hensley is the favorite to succeed the retired Jessie Vetter as the Americans’ No. 1 Olympic goalie. “We just like the way she’s trending. We like it a lot,” Stauber, a former NCAA and NHL goalie, said. “She’s very focused. She has a great mindset to continue to improve her game, along with her work ethic. All the goalies are very capable, but at the end of the day, it’s going to come down to who seizes it like (Hensley) has. That’s what it’s going to take. There is very little room for error. All the goalies know that. Nicole understands it. Again, we just really like how she’s trending.” Stauber played for the Minnesota Gophers and became the first goalie to win the Hobey Baker Award as NCAA player of the year in 1988, after his sophomore season. Hensley enjoys working with Stauber, who took over for former Avalanche defenseman Ken Klee last year. “I definitely think it’s a unique situation and helpful to have a head coach that has seen as many scenarios on the ice as you have, and understands when things are going well, and not going well,” Hensley said of Stauber. “The goalie position is so different than the rest of the team, so it’s nice to have someone who understands it and has been in your shoes.” Hensley won’t assume she will be the opening-day Olympic starter. “We have a great trio and, between the three of us, the team can be really confident in any of us, no matter who’s playing,” she said. “We do a good job of pushing ourselves by pushing each other, but at the same time lean on each other if we need to. For me, personally, they’ve done a good job of moving me up and not throwing me to the wolves right off the bat. I’m just honored to be on the team and be part of our goaltending trio. I’ve learned so much from Alex over the last three or four years. She’s been in the program so long and is the veteran presence in our goalie group.” Hensley will train in the St. Louis area most of the spring and summer before joining the rest of the U.S. women’s team in Tampa, where it will reside and train before departing for South Korea in February. Plans for the U.S. men’s hockey team are unclear, with the NHL announcing it will not schedule around the Olympics to allow its players to participate. Related ArticlesMay 26, 2017 NHL r [...]
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Penguins beat Senators in double OT thriller, advance to Stanley Cup Final
PITTSBURGH — Chris Kunitz spent a portion of the spring nursing a lower-body injury and wondering if his time with the Pittsburgh Penguins was over. The veteran forward’s contract is up this summer and he’s been around long enough to know how these things go, particularly when you’re 37. “It’s not fun thinking about the future,” Kunitz said. He found a pretty compelling way to put it off for at least four more games and push his team to the brink of history in the process. Kunitz’s knuckling shot from outside the circle fluttered past Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime to give the defending Stanley Cup champions a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night. Thrust alongside old linemate Sidney Crosby as the game wore on, the two reconnected for a goal that moved the Penguins closer to becoming the first team since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings to win back-to-back titles. Crosby sent a soft backhand pass from the right faceoff circle to Kunitz and for a moment, it seemed like old times. “With the way he was holding the stick you could tell he wanted it bad,” Crosby said. “I just tried to lay it there for him. I’ve seen him score from there pretty often. It was a huge goal for us, and a great reward for him for the way he played all night.” Kunitz scored twice, his first two of the playoffs. Justin Schultz added the other in his return from an upper-body injury, and Matt Murray stopped 27 shots on his 23rd birthday. The Penguins will host Western Conference champion Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night. Boxscore: Pittsburgh 3, Ottawa 2  Not bad for a team that watched so many of its core players — from defenseman Kris Letang to Evgeni Malkin to Crosby — deal with some serious bumps along the way. And yet here they are on the doorstep to a title once again. “If you look at the amount of guys who have played on this roster throughout the course of the year, it’s a lot of guys,” Crosby said. “The biggest step is ahead.” Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa. The Senators rallied twice to tie it, with Dzingel making it 2-2 with 5:19 left in regulation. Craig Anderson made 39 saves, but couldn’t get a handle on Kunitz’s shot as the Senators fell to 0-6 in Game 7s in franchise history. Just don’t call them cursed. A year ago, Ottawa didn’t even make the playoffs yet they found a way to push the Penguins to the 85th minute of Game 7 of the conference finals. “We wanted to make then earn it and they earned it, rightfully so,” said Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, who assisted on both of Ottawa’s goals and played the entire postseason with a pair of hairline fractures in his left heel. “We got to give it to them. They were the better team.” The Senators forced a return trip to Pittsburgh — where they lost 7-0 in Game 5 on Sunday — by leaning heavily on Anderson in a 2-1 Game 6 victory. Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told his team to not get caught up in the big picture but instead focus on the small ones, a recipe that carried the Senators throughout a bumpy transition under their first-year head coach to within a victory of the franchise’s second Cup appearance. The Penguins, trying to become the first defending champion to return to the Final since Detroit in 2009, came in confident they would advance if they could replicate their dominant Game 6, when they were undone only by Anderson’s brilliance. Pittsburgh has been nearly unflappable in the face of adversity under Mike Sullivan, and is now 13-2 in playoff games following a loss over the last two springs. “I couldn’t be more proud of our team for just its ‘sticktoitiveness,'” Sullivan said. “The last four games of this series, we found our game.” Related ArticlesMay 24, 2017 Avalanche prospects helped Colorado Eagles reach the upcoming ECHL Finals May 24, 2017 Game 7 offers chance at history for Penguins and Senators May 24, 2017 Pekka Rinne has Nashville in 1st Stanley Cup Final with smothering run May 23, 2017 Mike Hoffman’s goal helps Senators beat Penguins to force Game 7 May 22, 2017 Nashville Predators beat Anaheim Ducks, advance to 1st Stanley Cup Final Kunitz ended a 25-game playoff goal drought when he completed a 2-on-1 with Conor Sheary — a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 — by slipping the puck by Anderson 9:55 into the second period. The momentum lasted all of 20 seconds. Ottawa responded immediately with Stone — who stretched his left skate to stay onside — fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Murray . Pittsburgh kept coming. Schultz, returning after missing four games with an upper-body injury, zip [...]
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NHL royalty vs. the rowdy neighbors in Stanley Cup Final
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins kept getting by even as their star players kept skating off the ice in pain. Even as the targets on their back as Stanley Cup champions kept getting bigger. Even as Columbus and Washington and Ottawa kept pushing and prodding, poking and pinching. “Just play,” coach Mike Sullivan kept telling his players. Over and over and over again. So the Penguins did. And the team that found itself uncharacteristically on its heels for long stretches as it fended off the Blue Jackets in the first round, shut down the Capitals in the second and outlasted blue-collar Senators in the third is back where it was a year ago: heading to the Stanley Cup Final with confidence, momentum and more than a little bit of swagger. Next up: “Smashville.” Frederick Breedon, Getty ImagesPontus Aberg of the Nashville Predators celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Anaheim Ducks during the third period in Game Six of the Western Conference Final during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena on May 22, 2017 in Nashville, Tenn. Pittsburgh earned a return trip to the Cup with a thrilling 3-2 double-overtime victory over Ottawa in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday. Chris Kunitz provided the winner, a knuckler from just outside the circle that made its way past Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second extra period and moved the Penguins a step closer to becoming the first team in nearly 20 years to repeat. And here’s the scary part: after a season pock-marked by the loss of do-everything defenseman Kris Letang and significant absences by Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Kunitz, goaltender Matt Murray and a host of others, the Penguins are starting to look like the team that picked apart San Jose last June to capture the franchise’s fourth title. “Our last four games in this series for me, we really found our game,” Sullivan said. The result is a potentially intriguing final between NHL royalty and the rowdy neighbors next door. The Penguins have the experience, the leadership and the star power. The Predators have defenseman P.K. Subban, a bunch of country music A-listers in the stands and absolutely nothing to lose in their first appearance on hockey’s biggest stage. Game 1 is Monday night in Pittsburgh. The teams split their two meetings during the regular season, with each winning on home ice, with Nashville overwhelming Pittsburgh 5-1 back in November and the Penguins returning the favor with a 4-2 victory in January. Don’t let the flimsy resume fool you. Though they tied for the fewest points in the 16-team playoff field (94), the Predators are dangerous and very much for real after steamrolling through the Western Conference playoffs, never trailing at any point in series wins over Chicago, St. Louis and Anaheim. “We haven’t dominated the play that maybe we wanted to,” Kunitz said. “Maybe we’ve done a better job these last couple of games. But it’s something we’re going to have to get better at playing a 60-minute game if we’re going to have a chance to beat Nashville.” The meeting marks the first time in NHL history the coaches of both teams are Americans. Nashville’s Peter Laviolette first turned a team in the deep south into a champion 11 years ago when he guided the Carolina Hurricanes to their first and only Cup. Sullivan took over in Pittsburgh in Dec. 2015 and provided the edge the Penguins so desperately needed, becoming the sixth U.S.-born coach to win it all. Their teams in some ways have become reflections of them. The Predators aren’t nicknamed “Smashville” just for kicks. They were the last team to qualify for the playoffs but have caught fire in the last six weeks, sweeping Chicago in the first round then proving it wasn’t a fluke by putting away the Blues and the Ducks. “It should be some exciting hockey as far as back and forth and fast and physical,” Crosby said. “I think both teams like to play a pretty similar style.” Related ArticlesMay 25, 2017 Penguins beat Senators in double OT thriller, advance to Stanley Cup Final May 24, 2017 Game 7 offers chance at history for Penguins and Senators May 24, 2017 Pekka Rinne has Nashville in 1st Stanley Cup Final with smothering run May 23, 2017 Mike Hoffman’s goal helps Senators beat Penguins to force Game 7 May 22, 2017 Nashville Predators beat Anaheim Ducks, advance to 1st Stanley Cup Final With a handful of familiar faces on both sides. One of Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford’s first moves when he was hired in 2014 was to trade forward James Neal to the Predators for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. It’s worked out for nearly all involved. Hornqvist’s relentless energy a [...]
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Former Avalanche assistant Tim Army not surprised he was let go
Departing Avalanche assistant coach Tim Army, who has been with the team for six seasons under three head coaches, said Wednesday night he wasn’t surprised when general manager Joe Sakic told him Tuesday that the team wasn’t exercising the club option for the second year of the two-year contract he signed in 2016. “I honestly expected something would happen, based on the year that we had,” Army said from his off-season home near Portland, Maine. “You have to make some changes. I get it. But even though you expect it, it still stings and it still hurts and it’s disappointing. But when you win 22 games, something has to happen and I understand that part of the sport. … I’ll be angry at some point, but right now it’s too new.” Coming off a 22-56-4 season, the worst in the NHL since the expansion Atlanta Thrashers in 1999-2000, the Avalanche announced Tuesday that three assistants — Army, Dave Farrish and goaltending guru Francois Allaire — wouldn’t return to head coach Jared Bednar‘s staff next season. Farrish is believed to have one year remaining on a three-year deal. All three were holdovers from Patrick Roy‘s staff, under contract and remaining with the Avalanche after Roy’s sudden departure last August. The Avalanche said Sakic wouldn’t comment on the changes until replacements were hired, and Bednar wasn’t made available to discuss them, either. Army, previously an assistant at Anaheim and Washington and a head coach in the AHL and at Providence College, said he believed he got along well with Bednar, including in their discussions this week, even after Sakic told Army he wouldn’t be back. “As much as it hurts and I would like to come back, I get it,” Army said. “I think it’s more Joe and upper management. I think Jared had to be comfortable with it. But I think we worked really well together and the staff worked well together. It obviously didn’t show in the wins, but it always takes time to get used to somebody new. I’m talking about a head coach, it takes some time to get used to his rhythm and simple things like where to place pucks in the practices. “From my standpoint, I think we worked well together and fit well together and it even was positive since the end of the season. But I think, ultimately, upper management felt like they needed to make a change.” What went wrong this season? “I don’t think there was any one thing,” said Army, who then mentioned the decent 9-9 start and the 0-4-1 homestand that started the downward spiral. “It started there for us,” he added. “We never seemed to be able to get any traction after that, we never seemed able to build on anything.” He also cited the injuries to defenseman Erik Johnson (broken leg), goaltender Semyon Varlamov (groin muscle issues and season-ending hip surgery) and even a Matt Duchene concussion that, in retrospect, seemed to derail his season. “We were better over the last 20 games, though it didn’t show in a lot of wins, but I think the young guys gave us a spark,” Army said. “I think that youth movement added more speed to our lineup late. We were not a quick lineup and it’s tough now, you watch the games now, you even watch the first round of the playoffs, the teams are so fast. We weren’t fast enough and it’s a speed game now. We weren’t quick enough. … I think there were a lot of balls in the air, with the injuries and then we didn’t have the depth to compensate for it. We didn’t tighten up and we always found a way to let the games get away from us.” Under Army’s watch, the Avalanche’s power play was the worst in the league, and Colorado got a baffling lack of production from “core” forwards Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabe Landeskog. Related ArticlesMay 24, 2017 Avalanche prospects helped Colorado Eagles reach the upcoming ECHL Finals May 23, 2017 Avalanche assistants Tim Army, Dave Farrish and Francois Allaire won’t be back May 21, 2017 Sweden, with Avs Gabe Landeskog and Carl Soderberg, wins world ice hockey championship on penalty shots over Canada May 20, 2017 Nathan MacKinnon, Calvin Pickard help spark Canada to 4-2 comeback win over Russia, claiming spot in gold medal game May 19, 2017 Frei: 2000-01 Avalanche deservedly makes the cut to the “Top 20 Greatest NHL Teams” “We weren’t necessarily a possession team and I think the speed issue hurt us and we had a little lack of depth on the back end with E.J. out,” he said. “That affected our transition game, our breakouts, our play in the neutral zone. I think a lack of foot speed hurt us from a possession standpoint. Yeah, [...]
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Avalanche prospects helped Colorado Eagles reach the upcoming ECHL Finals
LOVELAND — The Avalanche’s American Hockey League affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage, didn’t make the playoffs, either. So as the season wound down, the Avalanche maneuvered to dispatch four of its young prospects to the ECHL Colorado Eagles, in the Loveland-based franchise’s first year of a working agreement with the NHL team from down the freeway. More than six weeks after the organization’s NHL and AHL seasons ended, the four — defensemen Mason Geertsen and Sergei Boikov, plus forwards Shawn St-Amant and Julien Nantel — are playing major roles in the postseason as the Eagles chase after the ECHL’s Pat Kelly Cup. The Cup Finals, matching the Western Conference champion Eagles against the Eastern Conference’s South Carolina Stingrays, open Friday night at the Budweiser Events Center. Related ArticlesMay 24, 2017 Former Avalanche assistant Tim Army not surprised he was let go May 23, 2017 Avalanche assistants Tim Army, Dave Farrish and Francois Allaire won’t be back May 21, 2017 Sweden, with Avs Gabe Landeskog and Carl Soderberg, wins world ice hockey championship on penalty shots over Canada May 20, 2017 Nathan MacKinnon, Calvin Pickard help spark Canada to 4-2 comeback win over Russia, claiming spot in gold medal game May 19, 2017 Frei: 2000-01 Avalanche deservedly makes the cut to the “Top 20 Greatest NHL Teams” “It’s been seamless,” Eagles coach Aaron Schneekloth said Wednesday after practice. “The guys that came to our roster spent some time with us in the regular season. I think the biggest adjustment was for Game 1 in the first round (against Idaho), when we inserted four or five players that we had seen, but hadn’t been with us for an extended period. But after that, you could see the chemistry starting to build each and every day. “The guys we received from our affiliates are happy to be here and they’ve worked hard for the team and their teammates and they’re not just concerned with their own play, and that’s why we’re having success. This experience is so valuable for them, whether they think it is now or not. This playoff experience and winning is valuable to their careers.” Here’s my NHL Report from during the season, explaining the Avalanche affiliation. In short, the Eagles have a hybrid roster, with a handful of players with contractural connections to the NHL/AHL organization, but mostly talent under ECHL contracts to the Eagles in the cost-controlled “AA” league. In this case, the Avalanche jumped on the chance to get those four prospects — plus goalie Kent Simpson and center Alex Belzile, both under AHL contracts with San Antonio — extended work in the ECHL playoffs. They also spent regular-season stints with the Eagles amid the organizational shuffling, but getting them back to Loveland for the ECHL playoffs wasn’t automatic. I’ve used the term “prospects” here, but let’s be realistic: These are not potential Avalanche stars. The upside is that they can be solid organizational players and perhaps even crack and stick in the NHL at some point — whether with Colorado or anyone else. But they’re playing well, and one more series win will lead to them hoisting a trophy overhead. That’s never a bad thing. The biggest mystery is why Belzile, 25, now the Eagles’ best player, didn’t get more of a serious look at San Antonio as the Rampage tried to force him into a plugger’s role around the more highly valued draft choices. He had only five goals in 45 games with the Rampage this season, but now has 24 goals in 31 regular-season and playoff games with the Eagles. Here’s a look at the major Avalanche/Rampage-connected players on the Eagles’ playoff roster: Defenseman Sergei Boikov, 21 Avalanche’s sixth-round pick, 2015 The Russian played with Drummondville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League This season at San Antonio: 63 games, 3 goals, 13 assists, 16 points With Eagles in regular season: 7 games, 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points. Playoffs: 14 games, 2 goals, 5 assists, 7 points. Schneekloth on Boikov: “Young, hungry defenseman, and it’s fun seeing him walking into the arena. He’s always got a smile on his face. He’s putting in the work to be a complete player. He’s got an edge to his game on the ice. He’s got a hard, quick shot from the point.” Defenseman Mason Geertsen, 22 Avalanche’s fourth-round pick, 2013 Played major junior with Edmonton and Vancouver of the Western League This season at San Antonio: 36 games, 0 goals, 4 assists, 4 points With Eagles in regular season: 9 games, 0 goals, 5 assists, 5 points. Playoffs: 15 games, 1 goal, 3 assists, 4 points. Schneekloth on G [...]
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Mike Hoffman’s goal helps Senators beat Penguins to force Game 7
OTTAWA, Ontario — Craig Anderson and the Ottawa Senators bounced back nicely two days after a blowout loss put them on the brink of elimination. Anderson stopped 45 shots, Mike Hoffman scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period and the Senators beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 Tuesday night to force a decisive Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals. The 36-year-old Anderson was coming off a pair of rough outings, including Sunday when he was pulled after yielding four goals in Ottawa’s 7-0 loss in Game 5 at Pittsburgh. “You can’t change what happens in the past,” said Anderson, who has credited work with a sports psychologist early in his career for helping him manage the mental side of the game. “From that moment on you have to look forward and get ready for the next one.” Hoffman fired a slap shot through traffic off a pass from Fredrik Claesson to put the Senators ahead at 1:34 of the third. Bobby Ryan also scored a rare power-play goal for Ottawa. It was quite a response after the drubbing in the previous game. “I think the biggest message for us was if somebody told us back in training camp in September that we’d have an opportunity to win Game 6 in the Eastern Conference final at home in front of our fans we would’ve taken it,” Ryan said. “So let’s not dwell, let’s not kick ourselves and put our heads down. Let’s embrace this opportunity to extend this for two more days together and go from there.” Evgeni Malkin gave Pittsburgh, vying for its second straight trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the lead early in the second period and Matt Murray finished with 28 saves. Jana Chytilova, Freestyle Photo/Getty ImagesMike Hoffman #68 of the Ottawa Senators celebrates with his teammate after scoring a goal on Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final at Canadian Tire Centre on May 23, 2017 in Ottawa, Canada. “I thought we played a real good game,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “I thought we dominated zone time. We had lots of chances. We didn’t score tonight. The puck didn’t go in the net, but if we continue to play the game that way, then I believe we’ll get the result.” Game 7 is Thursday night in Pittsburgh, with the winner advancing to face the Nashville Predators for the championship. Ottawa was primarily looking for a return to structure in Game 6, beginning with a smoother start — which they got. Notable in a scoreless opening period were two effective penalty kills, one of which saw Viktor Stalberg get the best opportunity short-handed. Pittsburgh had four shots with the man advantage, but Anderson stopped them all. It was evident early that he had his game back in this one. He stopped Nick Bonino off a rebound in transition, Scott Wilson off a deflected shot by Phil Kessel, and Bonino again when Kyle Turris gave the puck away. Anderson then stopped 22 of 23 shots in the second period. Boxscore: Ottawa 2, Pittsburgh 1 “I think Anderson was the reason that they got this one, he played big for them,” Murray said. “But in our room we just focus on what we need to do. We played really well, we just didn’t get the bounces and weren’t able to put one home.” Anderson’s performance was a reminder for Senators coach Guy Boucher of why he took the job with Ottawa in the first place last May. “I’ll be honest with you, if I didn’t have a No. 1 goalie, I didn’t want the job,” Boucher said. “I’ve lived it for quite a few years, and it’s hell when you don’t have it because everything you do turns to darkness, and there’s nothing that really matters when you don’t have a real No. 1 goaltender. “It’s like a quarterback in football and a pitcher in baseball, and we have it,” Boucher added. Murray was also sharp. The 22-year-old, who replaced Marc-Andre Fleury after Game 3, made maybe his finest save of the first on Derick Brassard, who found an open lane down the middle of the ice following a pass from Ryan. Related ArticlesMay 22, 2017 Nashville Predators beat Anaheim Ducks, advance to 1st Stanley Cup Final May 22, 2017 Desperate Ottawa Senators tries to avoid elimination by Pittsburgh Penguins May 21, 2017 Penguins strike early, destroy Senators 7-0 to take 3-2 lead May 20, 2017 Pontus Aberg’s goal puts Predators past Ducks in Game 5 May 19, 2017 Sidney Crosby, Penguins beat Senators 3-2 to tie series The Penguins appeared to have opened the scoring just over three minutes into the second, but Trevor Daley was deemed to have interfered with Anderson following an Ottawa challenge. Less than two minutes later though, Pittsburgh took the 1-0 [...]
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Desperate Ottawa Senators tries to avoid elimination by Pittsburgh Penguins
OTTAWA, Ontario — Guy Boucher has typically kept his team off the ice on off-days during the postseason. Not Monday. The Ottawa coach opted for a half-hour practice ahead of Game 6 on Tuesday night to help his team “refresh” and “reload” after a 7-0 beating by Pittsburgh, one of the worst losses in team playoff history. Players thought the practice, as well as an encouraging chat beforehand, helped wipe the slate clean as they prepare for an elimination game. The Penguins lead the Eastern Conference final 3-2 and can return to the Stanley Cup Final with a win. “We can’t be sitting in our mud puddle,” Boucher told The Canadian Press after practice. “We’ve got to get up and go.” Reloading against an opponent vying for back-to-back Stanley Cups means reverting back to strengths of the club. In Sunday’s blowout loss, Boucher said, he thought his team tried to trade goals with the high-scoring Penguins — an odd choice for a Senators team that thrives on shutting down opponents. “If we stay away from our strengths there’s no chance,” Boucher said on Monday. “We’re aware of that. We got slapped — hard enough. The reality sets back in.” Veteran Marc Methot said the team needs to stay tight on defense “because any opportunity where there’s a lapse in judgment or a mistake on the ice there’s a good chance one of those top two lines will capitalize on you.” The Penguins suddenly have three lines operating at full power once more with Sidney Crosby returning to form (two goals, two assists in his last two games), Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel firing effectively in tandem and the just-united trio of Nick Bonino, Carter Rowney and Bryan Rust spurring three goals in Game 5. “I think we’ve done a better job of playing on our toes and managing the puck” Crosby said Monday. “Probably our fore-check creates a lot more. Rather than spending time in our end, we’ve created more opportunities, and we’ve played a little bit faster and gotten some momentum.” As for the 7-0 win, Crosby shrugged it off: “I think it’s about how you play the next game, and I think we expect a pretty desperate group. You don’t get to the Eastern Conference Finals without having that ability to bounce back. We know that tomorrow night’s going to be their best game, and it’s going to be our best as well.” Ottawa forward Zack Smith said the Senators have been giving the Penguins a lot more room to operate, putting them on the defensive. The Senators managed just 51 shots over two games against Matt Murray, scoring twice. Central to their woes is a power play that is 0-29 over the last 10 games. Ottawa last scored a power-play goal in Game 1 of a second round series against the New York Rangers. “If we had an answer we would’ve done it already,” Ottawa winger Mark Stone said. Boucher had one possible answer. He believed the power play was trying to make plays that weren’t there. Better poise under pressure was required. Not only haven’t the Sens scored with their power play, but they’ve allowed five in the series on 15 opportunities (67 per cent), including three against in Game 5. Related ArticlesMay 22, 2017 Nashville Predators beat Anaheim Ducks, advance to 1st Stanley Cup Final May 21, 2017 Penguins strike early, destroy Senators 7-0 to take 3-2 lead May 20, 2017 Pontus Aberg’s goal puts Predators past Ducks in Game 5 May 19, 2017 Sidney Crosby, Penguins beat Senators 3-2 to tie series May 19, 2017 Frei: 2000-01 Avalanche deservedly makes the cut to the “Top 20 Greatest NHL Teams” Coming back to topple the Penguins means shutting those efforts down and reclaiming the staunch defensive approach which got the Ottawa far further than anyone could have expected. That includes a better performance from Craig Anderson, who’s posted an .857 save percentage in the last two losses (seven goals on 49 shots) after stopping 80 of 83 shots in the opening three games. Boucher recalled the message he delivered before the postseason began. “It’s about the ability to reload as fast as you can,” Boucher said. “And if you can’t do that then you’re in the wrong business because that’s what it’s about.” Notes: Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson, Derick Brassard and Cody Ceci did not skate Monday after leaving Game 5 early with injuries, but all are expected to play Tuesday night. Mark Borowiecki is also a possibility to draw back in for the first time since the opening round against Boston. [...]
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