Jonathan Quick, Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell

Riding the Zamboni – Saturday, November 20th

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A busy night and if you’re a fan of the shootout, tonight was basically made for you. Doesn’t that make you feel special? You’re welcome. Anyhow, on with the recaps!

Los Angeles 4 – Boston 3 (F/SO)

The Kings blew a 3-0 lead but won thanks to Michal Handzus’ shootout winner and Jon Quick stopping 38 shots on the way to the win. Handzus’ goal was the only one in the six-round shootout. Handzus also had a regulation goal to get one that counts on the stat sheets. Tim Thomas may have stopped only 23 shots but many of them were dazzling saves. Don’t be too surprised if you see him show up in our “save of the night.” The win snaps the Kings’ mini-funk of three straight losses.

Tampa Bay 2 – Buffalo 1

It wasn’t pretty by any means and it wasn’t all that fun to watch, but the Lightning got one over on the Sabres with a little (a lot?) of help by Patrick Lalime. Lalime’s goaltending boner allowing Adam Hall to score the eventual game-winning goal was the lowlight of the game. As for good goaltending, Mike Smith stopped 29 shots for Tampa Bay. Thomas Vanek and Teddy Purcell also had goals in this one.

Montreal 2 – Toronto 0

Carey Price’s hot season continues as he stopped 30 shots en route to his fourth shutout of the season. Jeff Halpern and Mike Cammalleri had the goals for the Habs while they kept Jonas Gustavsson busy all night long throwing 39 shots on goal at him. Gustavsson did what he could to keep the Leafs in the game saving 37 shots. Highlight of the night came when the Habs paid tribute to former coach Pat Burns before the game with a beautiful tribute.

Florida 4 – NY Islanders 1

There’s only one real way we can sum things up for the Islanders after losing their 12th straight game.  Take it away Sesame Street.

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Mike Santorelli had two goals for the Panthers while Tomas Vokoun saved 39 shots. Good luck getting that song out of your heads though.

Philadelphia 5 – Washington 4 (F/SO)

A wild, back and forth game between these rivals was decided, sadly, in the shootout. Daniel Briere scored the lone goal in the shootout to give Philly the win. Meanwhile, Brian Boucher held strong in getting a rare start of late stopping 33 shots. Mike Richards stayed hot for Philly with a goal and an assist while Jason Chimera led the way for Washington with a goal and an assist himself.

Nashville 2 – Carolina 1 (F/SO)

Jared Smithson and Joni Pitkanen scored for their respective teams in regulation while Martin Erat had the winning goal in the shootout for Nashville. Cam Ward made 26 saves for Carolina while Pekka Rinne had a quiet night stopping just 21. The win makes four wins in the last five games for Nashville.

St. Louis 3 – New Jersey 2

The Blues took advantage of some good luck and good bounces tonight spoiling the NHL debut of Devils goalie Mike McKenna. The former St. Lawrence Universty standout and one-time Twitter superstar played strong despite the loss. Matt D’Agostini may not have scored a goal for St. Louis, but the team’s leading goal-scorer added two assists in the win. Lost in the game is the fact that Jaroslav Halak played outstanding in the win saving 35 shots in the victory to help the Blues snap out of their defensive funk.

NY Rangers 5 – Minnesota 2

The homecoming for Marian Gaborik ended with plenty of boos as was predicted and Gaborik netting just one assist and fellow former Wild favorite Derek Boogaard managed to help set up a goal with a crushing hit in the first period. An unusually sloppy game from Minnesota helped get Dan Girardi the first star of the night with two assists. Meanwhile Martin Biron stopped 26 shots in the win. Brandon Dubinsky scored his team-leading 12th goal, meanwhile Martin Havlat and Matt Cullen had a goal each for Minnesota.

Colorado 4 – Dallas 3 (F/SO)

Milan Hejduk’s two goals and Kevin Porter’s shootout winner helped pace the Avalanche past the Stars. Dallas overcame a 3-0 deficit early on to storm back and tie things up to get the loser point going to overtime, but Kari Lehtonen wasn’t able to pull out all the stops in the shootout to get the win. Brenden Morrow and James Neal each scored their eighth goal of the season in tying things up. Peter Budaj made 26 saves in getting the surprise start over Craig Anderson.

Chicago 7 – Vancouver 1

Remember when I said during the goalie preview that Roberto Luongo would have to get over his Chicago problem sometime? Yeah… That wasn’t tonight. The Hawks ran Luongo out of the game after getting up 4-0 and Cory Schneider didn’t provide much in relief. Fernando Pisani was the secret star of the game scoring two goals. Patrick Kane had a goal and two assists while Marian Hossa quietly added three assists. Corey Crawford had his shutout bid spoiled in the third when Mikael Samuelsson scored on the power play. After the game, the Canucks were upset that the Blackhawks were putting out their top power play unit while up 6-0 and on a 5-on-3 power play. Our advice to Vancouver: Suck it up and learn how to finally beat the Blackhawks. After all, we didn’t read about any complaining from Chicago after they were thumped 7-2 the night before in Calgary.

Columbus 3 – San Jose 0

Not a bad night for the Blue Jackets. Mathieu Garon stops 35 shots in earning his third shutout of the year and team captain and superstar Rick Nash scores a hat trick. This feels like a thesis paper kind of game wherein we finally get a shutout and a hat trick in the same game. Now I know how Pigman in the movie “PCU” felt when doing his thesis on the Michael Caine-Gene Hackman theory. The Blue Jackets might want to play the rest of their games on the road as they’ve now got a 6-1-0 record there this year and have beaten the Sharks twice.

‘We love him’ — Bolts heap praise on Stamkos as uncertain future awaits

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 26:  Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning looks on against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 26, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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This may have been Steve Stamkos‘ last game in a Tampa Bay uniform.

If it was, it didn’t go according to script.

But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t special.

Stamkos stunned the hockey world on Friday night by making his playoff debut in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, returning from a two-month absence due to a blood clotting issue.

After undergoing vascular surgery and spending weeks on blood thinners, the captain was cleared to return for his team’s most crucial game of the season — one the Bolts lost, 2-1, the narrowest of margins.

The outcome didn’t take away from how Tampa’s players and coaches felt about Stamkos’ return

“He’s an extremely important player on our team, and we weren’t quite sure when this was going to happen, but a decision was made that he could play for Game 7,” head coach Jon Cooper said. “It was an emotional boost for all of us. The guys were really excited to have him back, and I thought he did a great job.”

By the boxscore, Stamkos’ impact on the game was minimal. He received less than 12 minutes of ice time and finished minus-1. But he did have two shots on net — one of them showing just how dangerous, even in a limited capacity, No. 91 can be:

“I thought I beat him,” Stamkos told NHL.com. “It just went through him and out the other side.”

The focus for Stamkos and the Bolts now shifts to his contract situation. Slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, the former 60-goal scorer projects to be the biggest star to hit the market since Zach Parise and Ryan Suter became UFAs in 2012.

Those two, you may recall, cashed in quite nicely, signing identical 13-year, $98 million deals.

So you can see why Stamkos’ future is of great interest across the league.

Of course, nobody has officially ruled out the 26-year-old’s return to Tampa Bay, and tonight’s drama probably strengthened some pretty serious emotional ties. Remember, this is the only team he’s ever known. The Lightning made Stamkos the first overall pick in 2008 and, six years later, the 10th captain in franchise history. He won two Rocket Richard trophies with the Bolts, and played in a pair of Eastern Conference Finals and one Stanley Cup Final.

He’s the team’s leader and face of the franchise. That’s not small stuff.

But in the end, it might not matter. It’s important to remember the Lightning got to this point without Stamkos because they’ve got incredible depth and some really good young players. Those young players will need to be paid too, and there might not be enough money under the cap for GM Steve Yzerman to make Stamkos an offer he can’t refuse.

Which is why it was hard not to listen to comments the Bolts made tonight, and wonder if they’re aware of what the future probably holds.

“We hope we can stick together, but you just never know,” Boyle said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “Thought we were destined for some pretty special things.”

Here’s your Stanley Cup Final TV schedule

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 21: Patrick Marleau #12 of the San Jose Sharks skates on the ice against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on November 19, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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From the NHL:

The National Hockey League announced today the schedule for the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, which begins Monday, May 30, in Pittsburgh.

Based on their superior regular-season point total, the Eastern Conference champion Pittsburgh Penguins will host Games 1 and 2 of the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final, as well as Games 5 and 7, if necessary.

The Western Conference champion San Jose Sharks will host Games 3 and 4, as well as Game 6, if necessary.

In the U.S., NBC will televise Game 1 and, if necessary, Games 5-7. NBCSN will broadcast Game 2. Television information for Games 3 and 4 will be announced at a later date.

Game 1 Monday, May 30 8 p.m. San Jose at Pittsburgh NBC
Game 2 Wednesday, June 1 8 p.m. San Jose at Pittsburgh NBCSN
Game 3 Saturday, June 4 8 p.m. Pittsburgh at San Jose TBD
Game 4 Monday, June 6 8 p.m. Pittsburgh at San Jose TBD
Game 5* Thursday, June 9 8 p.m. San Jose at Pittsburgh NBC
Game 6* Sunday, June 12 8 p.m. Pittsburgh at San Jose NBC
Game 7* Wednesday, June 15 8 p.m. San Jose at Pittsburgh NBC

Media day will be on Sunday, May 29, time TBD. PHT will be on location for the entirety of the final, and a reminder that all games will also be broadcast on NBC Sports Radio.

PHT’s Mike Halford (that’s me) and Jason Brough will be providing analysis for both pre- and post-game shows.

Pens edge Bolts, advance to first Stanley Cup Final in seven years

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For one night, anyway, the Steel City loved it some Rust.

In a thrilling and drama-filled affair, the unlikeliest of heroes — Pens rookie Bryan Rust — stole the show, scoring both goals in a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Rust’s heroics sent Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2009.

Seven years ago against the Red Wings, it was depth forward Max Talbot that etched himself into Penguins lore, scoring both goals in the decisive Game 7.

Rust pretty much did the same on Friday.

The former Notre Dame standout opened the scoring in the second period, then took all of 30 seconds to wipe out Jonathan Drouin‘s equalizer. It was a performance that’ll long be remembered in Pittsburgh, as it was the organization’s first Game 7 victory since — you guessed it — 2009, when Talbot led the Pens to victory over Detroit.

As mentioned above, this contest was filled with drama. The theatrics actually began prior to puck drop, when Bolts captain Steve Stamkos was added to the lineup — his first game since being diagnosed with a blood clotting issue on Mar. 31.

Stamkos’ playoff debut was somewhat muted. He finished minus-1 with just 11:55 of ice time, though it’s tough to suggest much more could’ve been expected from a guy that hadn’t played in two months.

At times tonight, it seemed nothing, not even Stamkos’ presence, was going to slow Pittsburgh down. The Pens out-shot the Lightning 39-17 and had it not been for some terrific netminding from Andrei Vasilevskiy, the score could’ve been much worse.

That said, Tampa Bay did have its chances in the third period, and finished with a frantic flurry around Pens goalie Matt Murray (who wasn’t busy, but finished with 16 saves).

In the end, the Lightning will undoubtedly regret the missed opportunity to finish this series off in Game 6 at home.

The Penguins, meanwhile, have to be thrilled with the form shown over the final two games of this series. They’re playing some terrific hockey, getting contributions across the board and now staring at a Stanley Cup Final matchup with San Jose — which promises to be a fast, offensive and compelling series.

Game 1 gets underway at Consol on Monday. Have to imagine Pittsburgh can’t wait.

Video: Drouin equalizes, but Rust strikes again 30 seconds later

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Bryan Rust is really having himself a series.

After opening the scoring in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, Rust took matters into his own hands after Jonathan Drouin evened the score for Tampa Bay, notching his second goal of the game — just 30 seconds after Drouin scored — to put Pittsburgh back out in front, 2-1.

Before digging into the Rust goal (posted above), let’s take a moment to appreciate Drouin’s snipe, one that whizzed by Pittsburgh netminder Matt Murray:

Now, back to Rust.

With that second goal he’s now racked up eight points for the playoffs, just three back of the 11 he put up over the course of the entire regular season. The former Notre Dame standout has become a major storyline, and now sits tied with Patric Hornqvist for the team lead in even-strength playoff goals.

Not bad for a guy that spent a fair chunk of the year in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, eh?