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Diamond D: Canada’s blueline ‘what we’ve relied on the whole tournament’

In the case of Canada at the Sochi Olympics, the best offense is a good defense.

Sunday’s 2-1 OT win over Finland was the latest example of this trend, as Drew Doughty scored both Canadian markers to move into the team goalscoring lead and draw even with Phil Kessel for second-most (four) in the tournament. Doughty’s first goal was assisted by Shea Weber, who now has four points in three games; all told, the defense has combined to score six of Canada’s 11 goals and 11 of the team’s 29 points.

“It’s been what we’ve relied on the whole tournament so far,” John Tavares said after the Finland game. “The first three games, they’ve carried the offense for us.”

While impressive, this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Depth of talent set Canada apart from other nations when Olympic rosters were announced in early January; the Canadian blueline was loaded to the point where the reigning Norris winner, P.K. Subban, was a bubble selection (and he’s only dressed once in the three games).

The Canadian defense also expects plenty from itself. Case in point: Doughty felt he actually played poorly in the tournament-opening win over Norway, which he finished with a goal and an assist.

“My first game, I thought I struggled a little bit especially in the first period, but ever since then, I’ve been comfortable,” he said, per the Olympic News Service. “I’m ready to go. I’m used to the ice sheet. I’m used to playing with these guys. I’m just excited now. I forget about everything that’s going on around me and I’m just focused on my game and having fun.”

These contributions are vitally important, especially  given how Canada’s opponents tend to play. Finland did all it could to keep the Canadian forwards to the perimeter on Sunday, packing the middle of the ice — a strategy which opens up avenues/lanes for defensemen to make something happen. It’s soemthing Canada figures it’ll see more of it as the tournament progresses.

For Doughty and company, that’s just fine. He says the defense needs to keep penetrating the opposition.

“That’s what we’ve got to do, especially when they’re just sitting back like that,” Doughty said, per ONS. “We have to make sure we have speed because a lot of times, our forwards are going to be stopped up at the far blue line.

“As much as we can jump in and help out the guys on offense, that’s what we need to do.”

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.