LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 03: Singer Pia Toscano sings the United States national anthem before the Los Angeles Kings take on the St. Louis Blues in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center on May 3, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

NHL on NBC: Kings look to sweep Blues

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During the regular season, Brian Elliott never gave up more than six goals over the span of back-to-back starts. He only surrendered four goals in a single game three times and he never did worse than that. Then he came up against one of the most anemic offenses during the regular season and everything began to change.

Suddenly Elliott is looking like a playoff goat after allowing nine goals in his last two starts and with Jaroslav Halak unavailable, the St. Louis Blues’ goaltending has suddenly become a problem going into Sunday’s game (3:00 pm ET, NBC). They need this issue fixed and fast, because if they don’t win all of their next four games, then their playoff run is over.

This is the second time the Los Angeles Kings have taken a 3-0 series lead. That’s a momentous feat for an eighth seed, but at this point they’ve proven that they’re no underdog.

On paper they’ve always had a good team. Los Angeles has an elite goaltender in Jonathan Quick, some great offensive threats in Dustin Brown, Mike Richards, Anze Kopitar, and Jeff Carter. Throw in Drew Doughty and some nice defensive blueliners in Matt Greene, Willie Mitchell, and Rob Scuderi and it’s not hard to see why they are competing.

All those pieces didn’t really come together as advertised during the regular season, but they’ve improved significantly since Darryl Sutter took over as the team’s head coach.

The challenge for the St. Louis Blues is to succeed where the Vancouver Canucks – and most other teams for that matter – have previously failed. They still have a young core complimented by experienced veterans and a great defense. They’re the type of team you could see going on a long run when they’re hot. But they have to get hot immediately, because they have run out of room for error.

Game 4 Notes:

— Elliott’s current three-game losing streak matches his longest slump during the regular season.
— The Los Angeles Kings have a perfect 5-0 road record, but they have lost one playoff game in the Staples Center.
— Mike Richards had a Gordie Howe hat trick on Thursday.
— St. Louis has been outscored 4-7 in the first period of 2012 playoff games.

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.