David Krejci, Nathan Horton

Report: Nathan Horton accused of throwing a water bottle at Lightning fans

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As endearing as it was to see the Tampa Bay Lightning win Game 6 with such a spirited effort, a lot of the good feelings were ruined by a dispiriting showing by fans. Lightning fans made a misguided show of affection by showering the St. Pete Times Forum ice with noise-making devices that were called “rally drums” but looked like some evil manipulation of tennis rackets. (Hopefully the Lightning brass will do away with that promotion if the Lightning make it to the Stanley Cup finals or the franchise could suffer further embarrassment.)

Apparently that already-ugly situation was even worse than it looked, at least if one report is correct. Mike Corcoran of Lightning Insider posted two videos that seemingly capture* Nathan Horton throwing a water bottle at Tampa Bay fans.

It’s unclear what the NHL would do if Horton did, indeed, throw a bottle at fans. While these situations are far from equal, it brings to mind a few situations in the past.

  • Rick Rypien received a six-game suspension for essentially grabbing a Minnesota Wild fan. Obviously, that offense was more serious than Horton’s alleged water bottle toss.
  • John Tortorella earned a one-game suspension for Game 6 of the New York Rangers’ 2009 series against the Washington Capitals for squirting a water bottle and throwing it at a Caps fan. Here is what Colin Campbell said about the incident at the time.

“While it is a difficult decision to suspend a coach at this point in a playoff series, it has been made clear to all of our players, coaches and other bench personnel that the National Hockey League cannot — and will not — tolerate any physical contact with fans,” league disciplinarian Colin Campbell said in a statement last night. “We do not take this action lightly.”

That stance could be referenced liberally if the Horton footage is given legitimate credence.

It seems like Horton’s situation is most similar to what happened with Tortorella, but there are some differences. Tortorella is a coach, so one could argue that he is held to a (slightly?) higher standard than a player. The footage of Torts having a problem with the fan was far more official than the patchwork video evidence as well. There also might be more concern about suspending a player versus suspending a coach, especially since that suspension would come during a game that would decide which team represents the East in the Stanley Cup finals instead of a first round match.

There’s no guarantee that the league will need to address this situation at all since the evidence might be deemed shaky, but we’ll let you know if something happens. It’s an ugly situation for both sides: players must keep their cool and fans need to at least have a modicum of respect for the opposing team.

If there’s one silver lining to this story, it’s the possible end of those dopey rally drums (or whatever they are called) in Tampa Bay. If this somehow leads to the demise of Thunderstix too, then Horton’s work might transition from an embarrassment to indirect public service.

* – I use the phrase “seemingly capture” because it’s difficult to make a lot of the action out in the grainy video.

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.