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Sutter ties Murray for most wins as Kings coach

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DENVER (AP) Just like his goaltender, Darryl Sutter proved good at deflecting.

Sutter sidestepped questions about moving into a tie for most wins as coach of the Los Angeles Kings following a 2-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.

He’d rather the spotlight shine on his players (Trevor Lewis scored the go-ahead goal with a slick move in the second period) and his goaltender (Peter Budaj stopped 24 shots) than any personal accomplishment.

“That’s good,” Sutter said after capturing his 215th win as L.A.’s coach to draw even with Andy Murray.

Pressed if that sort of milestone says anything, he simply responded: “Good teams. Lots of good teams. Good players.”

Sutter singled out defenseman Drew Doughty, who committed a costly turnover that led to Mikko Rantanen‘s second-period goal, only to atone with a pinpoint backhanded pass that set up Tyler Toffoli‘s equalizer moments later.

“Just tells you how good of a player Drew is – he makes that mistake on their goal and comes right back and evens it up,” said Sutter, whose team snapped a three-game skid. “Tells you how good he is, how passionate he is about it.”

Budaj was solid against his former team, especially in the third period when he stopped all 11 shots he faced. Budaj picked up victory No. 27 this season, his most since winning 31 with Colorado in 2006-07.

He also had some assistance from the posts.

“Four or five times,” Budaj said. “A couple times pretty heavy. … Sometimes you get the bounces, so it’s great.”

The Avalanche pulled goaltender Calvin Pickard with around 1:55 remaining but couldn’t capitalize, dropping to 1-6-1 over their last eight games. Tyson Barrie hit the post with about seven minutes remaining in the third period.

“We just weren’t sharp enough around the net and it ended up costing us,” Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said.

Another close encounter with a team fighting for a playoff spot.

“It’s a fun challenge for us to try and play a spoiler role,” Landeskog said. “At the same time we’re trying to polish up our game and our systems coming into next year, because that’s really what we’re preparing for, making sure we’re bettering ourselves for next year.”

Rantanen gave the Avalanche a 1-0 lead 32 seconds into the second period when he stole the puck from Doughty at the blue line and beat Budaj with a shot into the upper corner. Rantanen has goals in three straight games.

Los Angeles responded by scoring twice in a span of 6:14. Toffoli scored on a nifty pass from Doughty just before being shoved into the net and knocking the goal all the way into the boards.

After an Avalanche turnover, Lewis glided down the left side, cut toward the middle with Barrie chasing him and pushed the puck past Pickard to make it 2-1.

“We were talking before the game we need to win some games and kind of get a streak going so we can get in the playoffs here, and be comfortable and not be waiting until the last game of the season,” Toffoli said. “It was a big game for us tonight.”

Los Angeles was called for two penalties in the first period, leading to a pair of quality scoring chances for Colorado. On one, Landeskog kept poking at the puck down low as Budaj turned him away repeatedly until the net finally dislodged. On another, Rantanen had an open net, but Budaj slid over to deflect the shot away.

“It’s always fun to play here,” Budaj said. “It’s a great building, too. I enjoy coming back here.”

NOTES: Sutter tied Jacques Lemaire (1,262) for 13th on the all-time games coached list. … Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick (lower-body injury) faced some shots during the morning skate. He’s been sidelined since being injured in the season opener. … Colorado will be without hard-hitting defenseman Nikita Zadorov for the rest of the season after he broke his ankle Monday at practice. … D Erik Johnson is nearing a return after being sidelined since early December with a broken leg.

UP NEXT

Kings: Host Boston on Thursday.

Avalanche: At Nashville on Thursday.

Ducks forward Sorensen signs in Swedish League

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Nick Sorensen, the forward taken 45th overall by Anaheim in 2013, has opted to return to Europe and sign a two-year pact with SHL club Linkoping, the team announced on Tuesday.

Sorensen, 22, returned to North America this season after spending ’14-15 and ’15-16 in Sweden (the latter with Linkoping, so this is a homecoming of sorts).

A former Quebec League standout, Sorensen impressed during training camp and made the Ducks’ opening-night roster, appearing in five games before being dispatched to AHL San Diego.

“Every game, every practice, every day for me, it’s a look to try to stay here,” Sorensen said back in October, per the Daily News. “Even if I play zero, one, five or 20 games, I’m not going to get comfortable up here. It’s the best league in the world.

“I’m just going to try to prove to them every day I want to be here.”

With the Gulls, Sorensen had 10 goals and 22 points in 48 games. He also chipped in with another four in eight playoff contests, but did suffer an injury during the postseason.

Sorensen was a pending RFA, having just wrapped the last year of his entry-level deal.

 

Sens owner: ‘very disturbing’ that tonight’s game may not sell out

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Entire rows in the upper deck of the Canadian Tire Centre still haven’t been sold for tonight’s Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final between the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Not surprisingly, the specter of a non-sellout for one of the biggest home games in franchise history has the Senators’ owner rather concerned.

“It’s very disturbing,” Eugene Melnyk told Postmedia, “however, knowing the players and coaches they will be trying their hardest for Ottawa.”

The Senators’ attendance has been a big story throughout these playoffs. In the second round, a crowd of just 16,744 was announced for Game 1 against the New York Rangers.

It was thought the story would go away once the conference final started. And for Games 3 and 4, capacity crowds were, indeed, announced.

But with no opportunity for the Sens to advance to the Stanley Cup Final tonight, it’s possible the building may not be full.

Via Ticketmaster, the blue dots represent unsold seats, while the pink dots are tickets available for resale:

Flames d-man Smid signs in Czech League

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Ladislav Smid isn’t ready to call it a career yet.

Smid, the 31-year-old defenseman that missed all of last year with a neck injury, has signed with Czech League team Liberec, the club announced on Tuesday.

He just wrapped the last of a four-year, $14 million deal with a $3.5M average annual cap hit.

Smid’s last NHL action came in ’15-16, when he appeared in 22 games for the Flames. The end of his tenure in Calgary was marked largely by injury and lineup absences, this after being acquired from Edmonton in 2013 (and scoring eight points in 73 games in his first full season with the Flames).

At one point considered a high-end prospect — the Ducks took him ninth overall in 2004 — Smid is probably best known as one of the pieces Edmonton acquired in the infamous Chris Pronger-to-Anaheim trade. He leaves North America with over 500 NHL games on his resume, and represented the Czechs at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

‘Our guys know the big picture’: Preds aren’t satisfied with spot in Stanley Cup Final

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Nashville Predators, the final team into the NHL playoffs, are headed to the first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

Coach Peter Laviolette insists they won’t just be happy to be there either.

“Our guys know the big picture,” Laviolette said. “They understand what it is that we’re trying to do here. And when that time comes, we’ll be ready.”

Colton Sissons scored a hat trick with his third goal the game-winner with 6:00 left, and goalie Pekka Rinne made 38 saves as the Predators beat the Anaheim Ducks 6-3 on Monday night in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals.

Now the team no one outside of Nashville expected to be here is waiting to face either defending champion Pittsburgh or Ottawa for the Stanley Cup. Game 1 is Monday.

No matter what happens next, the Predators already have turned in a thrilling run this postseason as just the third franchise seeded last in its conference to reach the Final since the NHL went to the current conference-based playoff format in 1994. The Edmonton Oilers lost to Laviolette’s Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, while the Kings beat New Jersey in six in 2012.

They also are the eighth team in the past 15 seasons to reach the Stanley Cup Final after finishing the regular season outside the top 10 in the final standings.

Nashville’s magical run started by sweeping the West’s No. 1 seed in Chicago. The Predators downed St. Louis in six to reach their first conference finals, and now they’ve knocked off the Pacific Division champ in Anaheim, which lost for the second time in three years in the Western finals.

Goaltender Pekka Rinne, the Predators’ longest tenured-player at 34, called the victory an amazing feeling.

“It’s a funny thing though,” Rinne said. “Everything that is happening around us, you still feel hungry and now we have a chance to play for the Cup. It’s a pretty amazing feeling and you’re working for that for a long, long time. I feel like the last number of years, we’ve been going in that direction, building this team and having more depth.”

That depth has paid off, particularly the last two games after losing top center Ryan Johansen after Game 4 to emergency surgery on his left thigh. Captain Mike Fisher, the only player on the roster who has played in the Stanley Cup Final with Ottawa in 2007, also missed those two games with an upper-body injury.

Forward Kevin Fiala broke his left leg in the second round.

Laviolette simply tapped Nashville’s pipeline and has tied the NHL’s all-time mark using 18 forwards this postseason. Sissons is the latest to respond. The 23-year-old center was scoreless in the 2016 playoffs and had 10 points in 58 games during the regular season. Now he has 10 points this postseason.

“I don’t think I even dreamt of this moment, scoring a hat trick in the Western Conference clinching game, but I can’t speak enough for just our whole group,” Sissons said. “We’ve been through some challenges together and we stuck together no matter what, just always believed and here we are.”

Now Laviolette is the first coach since 1994 and the fourth overall to take three different teams to the Stanley Cup Final , joining Scotty Bowman, Dick Irvin and Mike Keenan.

“Probably means that I got fired a lot,” Laviolette said with a chuckle. “I’m fortunate to be here working and fortunate (general manager) David Poile gave me a job. And when you do that, you’re not thinking about things like that, you’re just thinking about coming to work.”

Now Music City stands ready to show the NHL how to chase hockey’s ultimate trophy in star-studded fashion.

The Predators have had a different national anthem singer for each playoff game ranging from Carrie Underwood and Luke Bryan to Trisha Yearwood. The singer’s identity is a well-guarded secret. NFL stars like Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, PGA golfer Brandt Snedeker and former Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George have revved up crowds for a raucous party each game.

Fans filled the plaza outside the arena and the park across the street during the game before pouring onto the street lined with honky-tonks to celebrate. Forward James Neal said the Predators’ fans are special and now everyone in the hockey world is getting to see them.

“It’s hard to describe and it’s an amazing feeling to win this, and we’re not done,” Neal said.