2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 4: Mike Richards finally steps up

Richards2.jpgPhiladelphia Flyers 5, Chicago Blackhawks 3

Series tied 2-2

Despite how the rest of the team has been playing, if the
Philadelphia Flyers had any hope of tying this series and eventually
going on to win the Stanley Cup, then they would need their captain to
step up and raise the level of his game.

All series long Mike Richards has struggled, whether it’s because of
the Chicago defense or the health of his linemates or just the ebb and
flow of the post, there’s been no doubt that this team needed him to be
better. Coach Peter Laviolette said before the game that he felt that
Richards and the line with Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne was ready to
break out, and while they had just two goals between the three — with
one being an empty-netter — yet Richards set the tone early for his
team and never backed off.

After the game, the rest of the team acknowledged just how big of
difference he made tonight.

“[Richards] always finds a way to step up when it’s time,” said
Claude Giroux. “Obviously, his goal was huge. He just always finds a
way to get that big goal for us.”

That big goal came off an incredible individual effort by Mike
Richards on the power play, who chased down the puck along the boards.
He stole the puck from an unsuspecting Niklas Hjalmarsson and a quick
backhand surprised Antti Niemi. It opened the scoring and set the tone
for what would be a great first period by the Flyers.

It wasn’t just that goal though, as Richards and his line
continuously put the pressure on the Hawks. In the past, the Hawks had
been able to easily shut down the top line yet was burned by the second
and third lines of the Flyers. Tonight, with Richards playing so well,
it opened up the game for the Flyers in all areas as they completely
controlled the flow and the energy for the first two periods.

Mike Richards says the key for him was easy: keep it simple.

“I think sometimes when you try to do too much, you almost go the
opposite way and not do enough,” the Flyers captain said after the game.

“Just keep it simple, try to relax, play hockey, and at the end of
the day, just don’t try to do too much with the puck, or don’t try to do
too much without the puck. Then you just dig yourself in the corners.”

Richards provided the leadership on the ice tonight that we’ve been
waiting for all series long, as the rest of the team has made up for the
top line’s shortcomings. It’s not just about scoring goals, and in the
first three games Mike Richards was nearly invisible. Not so tonight, as
he stood out on every single shift. It seemed as if the Hawks just
weren’t ready for his energy and the pressure he was putting on their
defense.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Blackhawks and Flyers game if one team
didn’t come roaring back in the third period. This time around, it was
the Hawks who had the big third period, getting within 4-3 with two late
goals. It seems in this series that holding onto a lead for any amount
of time is nearly impossible to do, and Richards says that turnovers
certainly don’t help when you’re playing a team like the Hawks.

“We know they’re great on transition,” Richards said. “I mean, to
lead to your next question, that’s when we kind of caused some problems
for ourselves, was turning the puck over.”

“We got the puck in
deep. When we hit their defense, we had success. When we didn’t do
that, they came back fast the other way. Not the greatest way that we
wanted to finish the game. But I think we have confidence in ourselves
with a one-goal lead. Closed it out when we needed to.”

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    Video: Max Domi hurt after big hit, fight with Garnet Hathaway

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    Dave Tippett insists that, even though he suffered an upper-body injury, Max Domi has to play with the sort of edge he showed tonight.

    But, yeah, that edge left him bleeding this time around.

    As you can see from the video above, Domi and Garnet Hathaway engaged in a fierce fight after a hit by Domi. The Arizona Coyotes forward left the game and didn’t return with an upper-body injury, and is now considered day-to-day. The price of doing business?

    Domi grabbed an assist during the game, so maybe this will be the sort of thing that helps him get back on track.

    Speaking of back on track, the Flames are now on a five-game winning streak while the Coyotes dropped their sixth in a row as Calgary won 2-1 in overtime. Chad Johnson remains brilliant, Mike Smith keeps getting Arizona points (they may or may not actually want in the long run) and, hey, Dougie Hamilton is still a Flame:

    Penguins keep pace with Rangers on top of Metro

    SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 08: Bryan Rust #17 of the Pittsburgh Penguins takes a shot on Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers during a game  at BB&T Center on December 8, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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    SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) Sidney Crosby is tied for the NHL goal-scoring lead, and the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins are tied atop the division.

    They certainly impressed the struggling Florida Panthers and their new coach.

    Sidney Crosby got his 18th goal and added an assist to lead the Penguins over the Panthers 5-1 on Thursday night.

    Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, Matt Cullen and Carl Hagelin also scored for Pittsburgh. Matt Murray made 28 saves.

    The Penguins have won four straight, scoring 24 goals in the process. Pittsburgh had a 3-0 lead on five shots less than eight minutes in.

    “It was nice to start with the lead. It was kind of weird the way things worked out,” Crosby said. “We didn’t have many shots, but we had a few goals right off the bat.”

    Jaromir Jagr scored his 755th career goal, and Roberto Luongo stopped 25 shots for the Panthers.

    Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe, who replaced Gerard Gallant on Nov. 28, made his home debut. The Panthers have lost five of six under Rowe, but managed a point in three of those losses.

    “I thought we showed them way too much respect in the beginning of the game. We were back on our heels a little bit,” Rowe said. “Obviously, they’ve got two of the best players in the world and I think it could have intimidated some of our younger guys a little bit.”

    The Panthers have lost six of seven.

    “It’s a work in progress, I guess,” Rowe said. “We’ve still got a lot of young guys in the lineup.”

    Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead on Crosby’s goal 3:06 in. Crosby snapped a wrist shot from above the right circle that got through several Florida defenders and past Luongo.

    Crosby is tied with Boston’s David Pastrnak for the NHL lead in goals.

    “With us, we knew that they were going to be motivated,” Crosby said. “They’ve played a lot of close games lately, a lot of overtime games. When you get a new coach, everybody is trying to prove themselves. I think we expected a pretty tough game. It was just nice to get that kind of start.”

    The Penguins extended their lead to 2-0 on Sheary’s tally. The initial shot by Sheary missed the net, but the puck came off the end boards and into the crease and was inadvertently kicked across the goal line by Luongo at 4:51. Crosby had an assist on the goal.

    “(Crosby) is always the guy that takes the lead,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “His line gets us a couple goals early on and gets us the lead and speaks volumes for the leadership he displays night in and night out.”

    Pittsburgh stretched the score to 3-0 when Scott Wilson‘s shot from the right circle deflected off Kuhnhackl and into the net at 7:34. The Panthers unsuccessfully challenged the goal, claiming Kuhnhackl interfered with Luongo.

    The Panthers closed to 3-1 on Jagr’s power-play goal. Aleksander Barkov passed from below the right circle to Jagr in the slot, and his one-timer beat Murray at 6:17 of the second.

    Cullen gave the Penguins a 4-1 lead at 5:48 of the third when he grabbed a rebound in front and put the puck between the pads of Luongo.

    Hagelin added an empty-net goal with 32.9 seconds left to make the score 5-1.

    Notes: The Penguins have gone 6-0-2 in their past eight games against the Panthers. … The Penguins sent LW Jake Guentzel and D Derrick Pouliot to AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. … Jagr has 1,882 points, putting him six behind Mark Messier for second place on the career list. … Panthers C Jonathan Marchessault missed his third game with a lower-body injury. … Former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield attended the game.

    UP NEXT:

    Penguins: Visit Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.

    Panthers: Host Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.

    It’s probably too early for Predators to worry about Rinne, right?

    ANAHEIM, CA - OCTOBER 26:  Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators looks on during the first period of a game against the Anaheim Ducks  at Honda Center on October 26, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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    December hasn’t been kind to November’s player of the month so far.

    Pekka Rinne helped hold the Nashville Predators together when they struggled early and then was there for their recent ascent, but coming into this season, many expected him to be a weakness for his team.

    Especially worried types might wonder if “that” Rinne is returning after a tough Thursday performance in the Dallas Stars’ eventual 5-2 win against the Predators.

    Rinne allowed four goals on 18 shots before being taken out of the game about six minutes into the second period. One of his best moments was this bit of unintentional comedy:

    All kidding aside, it’s been a rough run lately, even if the sample size is small enough that it would be silly to panic.

    While he did grab a win during this span, Rinne’s now allowed 12 goals in his last four games. That’s happened on 68 shots on goal, so he’d have a .823 save percentage for this span.

    During his magnificent month of November, he generated an awe-inspiring .949 save percentage over 12 games.

    Such a staggering disparity shows how wildly a goalie’s stats can swing thanks to an off night or two.

    It would be foolish to overreact, but it’s a situation to watch as the Predators hope to round into a legitimate contender out West.

    Max Pacioretty had a good, painful reason for his goal slump

    MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 12:  Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens takes a shot during the warmup prior to the NHL game against the Detroit Red Wings at the Bell Centre on November 12, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Detroit Red Wings 5-0.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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    If your reaction to Max Pacioretty‘s relative struggles in November was to call him “soft,” you might want to backtrack right about now.

    Sportsnet’s Eric Engels reported and Michel Therrien later confirmed that Pacioretty had been playing through the previous month with a broken foot (hairline fracture to be precise). That foot is healed up, allegedly.

    It’s easy to look at his split stats and say, “Yeah, that explains it.”

    October: two goals, seven points in nine games
    November: three goals, eight points in 14 games
    December: three goals, four points in four games, including a tally in Thursday’s 5-2 win against the Devils.

    Either way, with Greg Pateryn added to an injury list that includes David Desharnais and Alex Galchenyuk, the Habs have to commend their captain for gritting his teeth through what must have been an agonizing month.

    Then again, with his “Wolverine” healing powers, maybe it wasn’t as bad as it sounds …