NHL on NBCSN: Can Flyers handle Lightning’s overwhelming attack?

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NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the Philadelphia Flyers host the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Wells Fargo Center at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Going into the season, the Philadelphia Flyers’ and Tampa Bay Lightning’s biggest question mark was their goaltending and defense. In the case of Philadelphia, that hasn’t been the major issue so far while the jury is still out on Tampa Bay Lightning netminder Anders Lindback.

And yet, it’s the Lightning that lead their division while the Flyers sit near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have overwhelmed opponents this season between the two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner Steven Stamkos, well established elite forwards Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, and 23-year-old rookie sensation Cory Conacher. When it comes to their core of forwards this season, everyone on the Lightning has been either meeting or surpassing expectations.

Philadelphia saw that first hand in its 5-1 loss to the Lightning on Jan. 27.

They weren’t able to match them blow-for-blow and a general lack of offense has been an ongoing problem for the Flyers this season. After recording 93 points last season, Claude Giroux has just six points in nine games and that still makes him one of the Flyers’ top contributors. On the Lightning that’d put him in a tie for sixth place with former Flyers defenseman Matt Carle.

The Flyers managed to stop the bleeding on Saturday when they beat the Carolina Hurricanes, but they are still in a 3-6-0 hole. That represents just under 19% of the shortened season gone without much to show for it. They need to get on a winning streak, but the Lightning will not be an easy adversary.

Probable goaltenders: PHI – Ilya Bryzgalov (3-5-0, 2.40 GAA, .920 SV%) | TBL – Anders Lindback (2-1-0, 2.41 GAA, .919 SV%)

Top scorers: PHI – Matt Read (3-4-7, 9 GP) | TBL – Steven Stamkos (7-9-16, 8 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Philadelphia – Forwards: Wayne Simmonds (concussion), Scott Hartnell (foot) Defensemen: Marc-Andre Bourdon (concussion), Andrej Meszaros (shoulder), Chris Pronger (concussion)
Tampa Bay – Defensemen: Brendan Mikkelson (upper body), Mattias Ohlund (knee)

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.