Michael Leighton, Andrej Meszaros

Sabres exploit disastrous first period by Michael Leighton, take 3-1 lead

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The story practically writes itself: the Philadelphia Flyers made a questionable, reactionary move with their starting goalie and find themselves in a self-inflicted 3-1 hole. Despite carrying much of the play and creating a nice amount of scoring chances, Michael Leighton has been downright bad in what might end up being a fatal first period.

Buffalo 3, Philadelphia 1; Sabres currently lead series 3-2

Then again, let’s be fair to Leighton. Last year’s playoff hero is playing in his second game and getting his first full-fledged start since the 2010 playoffs. There are many times when people critique the Flyers’ goalie decisions while ignoring their long track record of putting quality teams on the ice, but on this day, there’s simply no denying that their hubris has gotten the best of them.

While it’s never safe to assume you know what direction the Flyers will go in with their goalies, Leighton isn’t likely to play in the second period after allowing three abysmal goals on just eight shots. All three of those tallies should have been stopped as Rob Niedermayer scored on his short side while Thomas Vanek found the twine twice on the power play. Vanek made a great between-the-legs adjustment for his second power-play goal, but Darren Pang points out that Leighton should have had his paddle down.

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The most stomach-turning part for Philadelphia is that they generally out-played Buffalo in the first period, but only one out of their 17 shots beat Sabres star goalie Ryan Miller. Danny Briere scored a nice rebound goal for his fourth tally of the playoffs, proving why he’s the leading playoff scorer of the post-lockout era (according to James Mirtle).

Chris Pronger is “playing” in today’s game, although his ice time (2:29 so far) has been limited to the Flyers’ man advantage situations. The hulking defenseman still made an impact on the game … but it was a negative, one. He received a penalty after getting into it with the Sabres’ own over-sized blueliner Tyler Myers. Both defensemen probably deserved a penalty, but only Pronger got one.

When you add that Pronger penalty to an Andrej Meszaros high-sticking infraction shortly thereafter, a short Philly 5-on-3 quickly turned to a 4-on-3 for Buffalo.

Ultimately, the Flyers showed plenty of energy in the opening period, yet keep self-destructing, whether it be on defense, in net or in the penalty box. If they want to stage another improbable comeback, they’ll need to match their desperation with some intelligence.

Click here to watch Game 6 with us on NHL Extra

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.

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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.