Jake Guentzel’s scoring touch is back

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PITTSBURGH — When the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup a year ago they received major contributions from rookies Matt Murray and Conor Sheary.

It is happening again this season with another impact rookie. That rookie: Jake Guentzel.

After scoring the game-winning goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night, helping the Penguins escape with a win in one of the crazier playoff games in recent memory, he played the role of hero again on Wednesday in the Penguins’ 4-1 Game 2 win by scoring two more goals, including another game-winner.

He now leads the NHL with 12 goals this postseason (three more than any other player) and an almost unbelievable five game-winning goals.

His first goal on Monday was the result of some good fortune as he able to jam a loose puck through the slimmest of openings along the goal line, a play that Guentzel described as just trying to put the puck on net and seeing what happens.

Later, he opened the floodgates to start the third period just 10 seconds in when he pounced on a fat rebound in the slot and drilled it into an empty net, kicking off a wild four-minute stretch where the Penguins scored three goals to put the game away and send them to Nashville with a 2-0 series lead.

For Guentzel, this latest goal-scoring outburst couldn’t have come at a better time for both him and the Penguins.

After starting the playoffs with 10 goals in his first 11 games, he went through an eight-game goal-scoring drought that nearly made him a healthy scratch heading into Game 1 of this series when Patric Hornqvist was ready to return to the lineup.

Instead, coach Mike Sullivan opted to stick with him while also praising his overall play even without the goals.

On Wednesday, Sullivan talked about the discussions he had with Guentzel were like during that drought, and how he wanted Guentzel to focus on things other than just scoring goals.

“He is a conscientious kid,” said Sullivan. “He is a pleasure to coach, and we just talked about just playing the game the right way. Focussing on details shift after shift. Not being concerned on scoring goals and making plays. If he plays the game the right way, winning puck battles, the wall plays, gaining lines, taking what the game gives you, then when the play is there his instincts will take over because he is a real talented kid.”

Sullivan also talked about wanting to limit Guentzel’s minutes given that this this season his first taste of pro hockey coming out of college and not being used to the demands of an NHL schedule.

“We just shifted the focus a little bit, trying to cut his minutes,” said Sullivan. “He was playing a lot of minutes. This is his first year pro, coming out of college where he is not used to playing the NHL schedule and the demands of that, particularly a long playoff run. So we just thought if we cut his minutes we would get more productive minutes.

“He seems to be getting a second wind, he is getting his legs back, I think his confidence is there. You can see how good of a player he is, we can move him up and down the lineup. He had a good game tonight so we moved him up with Sid.”

All of that seems to have worked and Guentzel is not only a huge reason the Penguins are up 2-0 in the series, but he is also starting to insert himself into the Conn Smythe discussion.

Because Guentzel was a third-round draft pick four years ago, and is a smaller, undersized player and didn’t start the year in the NHL he is going to get looked at as “coming out of nowhere” this postseason. But including his time in the American Hockey League to start the year, his time with the big club in the regular season and the playoffs to this point he has now scored 49 goals in 94 games this season.

He has already proven to be an impact player. One more for a team that is already loaded with them.

The Buzzer: MacKinnon the hero; Lundqvist gives up zero

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Players of the night:

Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes:

Teravainen picked up two goals and an assist in Carolina’s 4-2 win over the New York Islanders, while Aho had a goal and two helpers. It was a positive weekend for the ‘Canes as they were able to pick up victories over Buffalo and New York on Saturday and Sunday.

William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights:

The Golden Knights, who are currently second in the Pacific Division, took down the division-leading Kings, 4-2, thanks to a pair of goals from Karlsson in the first period.

Just a hunch, but Kings goalie Jonathan Quick is probably going to want this one back:

Highlights of the night: 

The Hurricanes may have come up with the victory, but it was Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy that scored the most impressive goal of the game, as he split two players before beating Cam Ward.

Nathan MacKinnon was up to his old tricks, as he helped the Avs come back to beat the Red Wings. MacKinnon registered the primary assist on Carl Soderberg‘s game-tying goal with under a minute remaining in regulation. He also added this incredible goal in overtime:

Who knew that Ducks defenseman Josh Manson had these kind of moves?

Factoids of the Night:

King Henrik is moving up the all-time list:

Hey, shutouts are never easy, so the fact that King Henrik has 63 of them is pretty impressive. He had to make a key save on Mike Hoffman in the first period:

Ducks goalie John Gibson faced a lot of rubber. He turned away 50 of 52 shots in a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers.

Suspensions of the Night: 

Sunday was a big night for the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, as they handed out two suspensions.

The first one was given to Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas for his slash to the back of Jets forward Mathieu Perreault’s head. Gudas will sit for 10 games. He’ll also forfeit over $408,000 in salary. 

Predators forward Austin Watson was also disciplined for boarding Avalanche rookie Dominic Toninato. Watson, who isn’t a repeat offender, was suspended for two games. 

Hall of Fame Tribute of the Night: 

The Ducks players wore Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne’s jerseys during the pre-game warmup. As you probably remember, both players entered the Hockey Hall of Fame last week.

I prefer the white “Kariya” jersey, but that’s just me.

Scores:

Hurricanes 4, Islanders 2

Avalanche 4, Red Wings 3 (OT)

Rangers 3, Senators 0

Golden Knights 4, Kings 2

Ducks 3, Panthers 2

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Austin Watson suspended two games for boarding Dominic Toninato

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The NHL’s Department of Player Safety is working overtime on Sunday night, as they’ve handed out a pair of suspensions.

Moments after announcing Radko Gudas’ 10-game suspension, the league handed a two-game ban to Predators forward Austin Watson for boarding Avs rookie Dominic Toninato.

Unlike Gudas, Watson has no history of being fined or suspended during his NHL career.

Here’s the league’s full explanation of their decision to suspend Watson:

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Radko Gudas suspended 10 games for slashing Mathieu Perreault over the head

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We all knew that Radko Gudas would receive a suspension for his slash to the back of Jets forward Mathieu Perreault‘s head, but we didn’t know how long he’d be forced to sit out.

On Sunday, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced that Gudas has been suspended for 10 games for the incident.

The league confirmed that the fact that the Flyers defenseman is a repeat offender played against him in this case.

Check out the Department of Player Safety’s full explanation of the suspension:

The suspension will also cost him just over $408,000 in salary, per Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. Ouch!

“He got the meaty part of the neck,” Perreault said after the game, per TSN.ca  “It could have been worse, I guess.

“He apologized in the penalty box, but when you look at the replay, it looks like he did it on purpose. It wasn’t an accident. He’s been known for doing stuff like that, so I certainly don’t appreciate it. I’m sure the league will take care of it.”

Gudas served the first game of the suspension on Saturday. He’ll be eligible to return to the Flyers lineup on on Dec. 12 against Toronto.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Flyers will host Penguins in outdoor game at Lincoln Financial Field in 2019

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The battle of Pennsylvania will take a new twist, as the NHL announced that the Philadelphia Flyers will be hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at Lincoln Financial Field (home of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles) on Feb. 23, 2019.

This will be the second time that these two teams play each other in an outdoor game. Last season, the Penguins beat the Flyers, 4-2, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

“It’s always a special opportunity to take the game back to its roots and have NHL players skate outdoors,” Penguins president and CEO David Morehouse said in a release. “We competed against the Flyers outdoors at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh 2017 and look forward to completing the in-state ‘home-and-home’ series at Lincoln Financial Field in 2019. It should be a great atmosphere.”

This will be the fifth time that the Penguins are involved in an outdoor door since 2008. They won a shootout decision against Buffalo (2008), they lost a home game to Washington (2011), they lost in Chicago (2014) and they beat the Flyers earlier this year.

It’s the second time the Flyers host an outdoor game (the first one was at Citizens Bank Park baseball stadium). The game at Lincoln Financial Field will be the fourth outdoor game for the Flyers. They lost in Boston in overtime (2010), they dropped home decision to the Rangers (2012), and they had the loss to Pittsburgh last year.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.