Nathan Horton returns to the ice for first time since Cup final concussion

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It’s been 112 days since Nathan Horton lay motionless on the TD Garden ice during Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final. Since then the Bruins came roaring back to win their first Cup in 39 years, the Stanley Cup has toured the globe with the B’s, and Horton has slowly but surely recovered from his severe concussion. Sunday night’s preseason game against the Montreal Canadiens provided Horton his first opportunity to get back on the ice and find out exactly where his recovery stood. If his game against the Habs is any indication, Horton will be just fine when the Bruins open up their season against the Flyers on October 6.

Nathan Horton admitted there were butterflies flowing before the Bruins “home” game in Halifax:

“I was a little nervous coming in, just from what happened. I was just trying not to think too much — just work hard and do the little things. I didn’t feel too bad, to tell you the truth. It felt a little bit different being on the ice, but it felt OK.”

Maybe he should feel nervous more often. Horton posted two assists in the third period and looked good overall as the Bruins laid the hammer on the Canadiens to the tune of 7-3. Putting up points in one thing—but showing that he could withstand the physical part of the game was just as important as any goals or assists. Joe Haggerty from CSN New England shared his thoughts as Horton took the ice for the first time since the brutal hit that ended his season in the Cup Finals last year:

“Good first test run for Nathan Horton tonight. Got a few bumps and bruises, but didn’t seem hesitant or jumpy with the puck at all. Horton also looked very good with Seguin skating on the line with him both in practice and in tonight’s game.”

To say Horton’s line with Tyler Seguin and Jordan Caron looked good all night would be an incredible understatement. Then again, when a team drops a touchdown and wins by four goals, it’s safe to say that just about the entire team looked good. Still, it was an important first step for a guy who the Bruins will depend upon this season for scoring and physical play this season. For an organization that is still coming to grips with Marc Savard’s questionable future, any positive news on the concussion front should be greeted with cheers of optimism.

Remember, this isn’t that will be satisfied with another playoff appearance or a series win. If the Bruins want to repeat their success from the 2010-11 season, they’ll need all of their horses playing at the top of the game. Horton’s first game back showed that he’s well on his way to making a quick and relatively speedy recovery.

For anyone who saw the hit he took last June, his return is encouraging news in the aftermath of a very scary incident. Here’s to hoping we see more players recover and return from their concussions in the near future.

Predators eliminate Ducks, reach first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history

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Colton Sissons made a serious argument that the Nashville Predators do, indeed, still have a No. 1 center.

At least, he certainly played that way on Monday, generating a hat trick as the Predators eliminated the Anaheim Ducks via a 6-3 win, taking the series 4-2.

In doing so, the Predators advanced to their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

That 6-3 score is very misleading. While Nashville managed 2-0 and 3-1 leads, there was plenty of drama in this one, as the Ducks did not go down easily. Cam Fowler tied it up 3-3 in the third period, briefly stunning a rowdy crowd in Nashville.

Sissons was up to the task, however, settling down a bouncing puck on an otherwise stupendous Calle Jarnkrok pass to score the game-winner, notching a hat trick in the process. Sissons continues to be an unlikely hero for a Predators team dealing with the absence of Ryan Johansen (not to mention Mike Fisher, Craig Smith, and others).

Two empty-netters inflated the score, and they also sapped drama from the closing moments, which must have been quite the relief considering how much resolve Anaheim showed.

Peter Laviolette distinguishes himself as one of the NHL’s most underrated bench bosses, becoming just the fourth coach in league history to take three different teams to a Stanley Cup Final. He couldn’t win it all with the Philadelphia Flyers, but he does have a ring thanks to his time with the Carolina Hurricanes. Perhaps he’ll take another one this spring?

It’s quite the moment for GM David Poile, too, after trading Shea Weber for P.K. Subban and Seth Jones for Johansen, among other pivotal moves.

The Ducks might wonder what could have been if John Gibson played instead of Jonathan Bernier. Bernier struggled early, allowing two goals on the first three shots he faced and generally having a tough Game 6. Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, maintained his mostly great run in the playoffs; he protected a Predators lead even when the Ducks dominated long stretches of play.

Now the Predators get a nice rest, as the Eastern Conference Final continues with a Game 6 on Tuesday (and possibly a Game 7 on Thursday).

They’ll limp a bit toward that final round, but the Predators seem to be embracing new territory. And sometimes new heroes.

Video: Ducks’ 3-3 goal survives goalie interference review

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When the Nashville Predators went up 3-1 in the third period, it seemed like they might finally put the Anaheim Ducks away in Game 6. The Ducks quickly responded with “Not yet.”

Two minutes after that 3-1 goal, Chris Wagner kept Anaheim’s hopes alive with a surprising tally. Corey Perry then bumped Pekka Rinne, but he was able to reset before Cam Fowler scored the 3-3 goal 8:52 into the final frame (of regulation).

In less than six minutes of game time, the tone of the contest changed rapidly. Now we’ll see if either team can get the next tally in the remaining minutes of the third or if the Stanley Cup Playoffs will see yet another overtime contest.

Here’s the Wagner goal:

You can see the 3-3 goal in the video above. Hold onto your seats.

Update: Moments after this was published, Colton Sissons‘ hat-trick goal made it 4-3. Could there be even more drama? We’ll see …

Game 6 is airing on NBCSN. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream link.

Coyotes’ Dylan Strome breaks Memorial Cup record with 7 points in game

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Dylan Strome’s journey to becoming a full-timer at the NHL level might be a little bumpy, but he continues to distinguish himself at other levels.

In the case of Monday, it was setting a new Memorial Cup record. With four goals and three assists, Strome’s seven-point game set a new record as he helped the Eerie Otters pummel the Saint John Sea Dogs 12-5.

They’ll face the Windsor Spitfires on Wednesday to determine which team goes to the tournament’s final round.

The performance wasn’t lost on his brother Ryan Strome.

Ducks dominate, but Predators enter third up 2-1

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So far, it seems like Jonathan Bernier playing instead of John Gibson for the Anaheim Ducks in Game 6 has indeed been a pretty big deal.

Bernier allowed two goals on the first three shots he faced against to start Game 6, putting the Ducks in an early hole. The Ducks have been absolutely dominating the contest since then, but only Ondrej Kase could get a puck beyond Pekka Rinne through the first 40 minutes.

Seriously, the play’s been lopsided. Nashville managed a few shots after this tweet, yet it still tells much of the story.