Tomas Holmstrom

Staying Alive: Red Wings roar back in third, beat Sharks 4-3 to force Game 6

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When the Sharks got out to a 3-0 series lead on the Red Wings, they hoped for a sweep. Hoping and doing it are two different things and the Wings went out and won Game 4 for pride’s sake. The Sharks hoped they’d recreate last year’s formula for making the Western Conference finals by beating Detroit in Game 5 at home and ending the series to prepare for either Nashville or Vancouver.

Turns out that plan didn’t work out well either as the Red Wings stormed back from a 3-1 deficit in the third period to beat the Sharks 4-3 and force a Game 6 on Tuesday night in Detroit.

The game played out similarly to others in this series. San Jose dominated the first 40 minutes of the game getting stellar, pressure-filled play from everyone. The Sharks forced the Wings into mistakes and capitalized on any and all errors getting out to a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Devin Setoguchi in the first period and Joe Pavelski with a great tally in the second. Just a minute after Pavelski seemed to start putting the stake in the Wings’ heart, Niklas Kronwall would strike back.

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With the Sharks up 2-1 going into the third, Logan Couture would make it 3-1 less than a minute into the final period. That goal was not the start the Wings were looking for when trying to get back into the game. After all, this goal was the example of the Wings being slow to react on defense and Couture taking advantage of that.

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For San Jose, however, that would be the last bit of good news they’d get the rest of the period. Jimmy Howard stood tall all game long saving 39 shots and outdueled Antti Niemi (18 saves). The Wings turned up the pressure down by two goals and the Sharks seemed resigned to sit on the lead. Against Detroit, that’s a very bad move.

Less than three minutes after Couture’s goal, Jonathan Ericsson jumped into the play and stuffed home a rebound to make it 3-2. A minute and a half after that, Dan Cleary would battle at the side of the net and squeeze one through Niemi to tie the game at 3-3. With the Sharks officially on the ropes, the Wings controlled the pace of the game. With just over six minutes to play, Pavel Datsyuk (three assists) and Nicklas Lidstrom made their presence felt connecting with Tomas Holmstrom to put Detroit in the lead.

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With Detroit in the lead for the first time, San Jose would pressure back but come up empty. For the Sharks, their effort at the end of the game was non-existent and while they played outstanding for two periods, one awful third period ruined the game for them. As we’ve seen in other games in this series, not playing a complete game will cost you. That kind of effort is alarming because it’s unlike what we’ve seen from the Sharks for most of the series and given their proclivity to psychological downers, you have to wonder what happens to the Sharks should they get down early against the Wings in Game 6 in Detroit.

For Detroit, despite all their errors and getting grossly outshot in the game it was their stars that stepped up for them along with their role players. Datsyuk playing with a sore wrist gets three assists. Niklas Kronwall who’s been outstanding throughout the playoffs comes up with a goal and an assist as well as a big hit on Ryane Clowe. Getting a goal from Ericsson on a night where he was playing abysmal on defense is a great way to make up for some poor play in his own end. Those kinds of plays make differences for the team. Expect Detroit to be even more invigorated heading home with a chance to tie the series and force a Game 7 where all bets are off.

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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.