Gary Bettman not pleased with conspiracy talk

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Dave Lozo of
NHL.com has a lengthy interview
with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman
up, in which he speaks on ‘conspiracies’ that have invaded the talk
around hockey and about a possible Winter Classic in Los Angeles.

“It was determined it was kicked in,” Bettman said of the
ruling. When asked about the seven-minute review, he added, “When they
do video replay, they want to make sure they get it right. It should
take as long as it takes them to get it right. I’d rather that than say
you’ve got a minute and 30 seconds and get it wrong.

“Let’s get
something straight — I have complete confidence in the integrity and
professionalism and judgment of my hockey operations department. Period.

“I
think this whole tact of innuendo and insinuation is both insulting and
pure fantasy.”

Bettman praises the Kings franchise
and ownership, which I’m certain will only add to the notion that the
NHL wants the Kings to succeed, but he’s not pulling these complements
out of nowhere. The Kings are a hockey team that is working in Los
Angeles, they’ll have the draft there next summer and it’s a testament
to how with good ownership, leadership and a winning product the sport
can work anywhere.

While he’s certainly gushing in his praise of
the Kings, he wasn’t so keen on the prospect of a Winter Classic being
held in LA.

Could you put out a sheet of ice and make
ice? The answer’s probably yes
— but would it be satisfactory for a competitive game, one that counts
in the standings? I mean, we take two teams and put them outdoors  but
the points in that game matter. And when you look at the way our regular
season ended, we have to make sure all of our games are played under as
close to ideal conditions as possible.

It’s a
legitimate question and no matter how much air conditioning the outdoor
rink may have underneath, the sun and the warm air are likely to play
hell with the ice surface. Still, how great would it be to see the Kings
take on an East coast team with a backdrop of the Pacific ocean, palm
trees and thong-clad ladies on roller blades? Doesn’t exactly scream 
‘traditional pond hockey’ to me, but neither did singing Sweet
Caroline
at Fenway. So anything is possible.

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

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The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

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The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

***

Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.