Rinne: ‘You just have to bury these two games and move ahead’

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PITTSBURGH — He came into the Stanley Cup Final as the Conn Smythe Trophy favorite.

But Pekka Rinne isn’t the favorite anymore. If anything, his struggles the past two games — Wednesday night in particular — are the single biggest reason the Predators are going back to Nashville trailing the Pittsburgh Penguins, 2-0.

Rinne allowed four goals on 25 shots in Game 2, a 4-1 Nashville loss. The first goal, Jake Guentzel slipped the puck past Rinne, who normally would’ve been able to seal the side of the net. The second goal, coming just 10 seconds into the third, Rinne kicked out a juicy rebound to Guentzel, who fired it home to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead.

Then, moments after the Predators’ second own goal in as many games, Evgeni Malkin ended Rinne’s night with a top-shelf snipe. Backup Juuse Saros came in at the 3:28 mark of the third, making his first appearance of the playoffs. But by that point, the game was all but over.

“I felt we played a strong game, created a lot of chances, the first two periods especially,” Rinne said afterwards. “Come the third period, a quick goal. After that, two odd-man rushes in a row.”

This is not the first time the Penguins have made a well-regarded goalie look bad this postseason. They did it to Vezina Trophy favorite Sergei Bobrovsky in the first round. They did it to the reigning Vezina winner, Braden Holtby, in the second round. Pittsburgh is an opportunistic team with the talent to convert on its chances.

In the dressing room after Game 2, Rinne’s teammates took their share of the responsibility for the result.

“It’s not his fault by any means,” said captain Mike Fisher. “We need to be better in front of him.”

“He’s been unbelievable for us in the playoffs. We wouldn’t be here without him,” said defenseman Roman Josi, whose failed pinch at the start of the third period led to Guentzel’s game-winner. “We’ve got to do a much better job in front of him.”

Head coach Peter Laviolette sang a similar tune.

“Pekka’s been terrific through these entire playoffs,” said Laviolette. “I think there’s things that we can do better. All three goals in the third period, we could’ve done something better. I believe all of them were odd-man rushes.”

Still, Rinne had been so good the first three rounds. He was 12-4 with a .945 save percentage entering the Cup final. His teammates were calling him the backbone of the Preds.

Against the Penguins, it’s been such a different story. The defending champs have eight goals on just 36 shots against the 34-year-old Finn. That’s a save percentage of .778.

“You have to put it behind you,” said Rinne. “I treat this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I played a long time for a chance to play for the Cup. You just have to bury these two games and move ahead.”

Game 3 goes Saturday in Nashville.

Canucks name new head coach of AHL affiliate

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The Vancouver Canucks have finally settled on a head coach for their AHL affiliate.

Today, Trent Cull was named new bench boss of the Utica Comets.

Cull replaces Travis Green, the new head coach of the Canucks.

“Trent is a passionate head coach with significant AHL experience,” Canucks GM Jim Benning said in a release. “He understands the development path of a young player, including the challenges they face, and has been a part of many successful organizations. Trent is a teacher with a positive, energetic work ethic. We’re excited to welcome him and his family to our organization.”

The past four seasons, Cull has been an assistant coach for AHL Syracuse. The Crunch made it all the way to the 2017 Calder Cup Final, where they lost to Grand Rapids.

Cull, 43, has never been a head coach in the AHL, though he did hold that role for three years with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves from 2010-13.

It’s believed the Canucks’ first choice for the Utica job was Rocky Thompson. However, Thompson chose instead to become head coach of Vegas’ AHL affiliate in Chicago.

Construction worker dies after fall at Detroit arena

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DETROIT (AP) A worker has died after falling 75 feet at the Little Caesars Arena worksite north of downtown Detroit.

Deputy Detroit Fire Commissioner David Fornell says the 46-year-old man was in cardiac arrest when paramedics arrived about 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Other workers had started cardiopulmonary resuscitation which first responders continued. The man was taken to a Detroit hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Fornell says officials were told the man was an electrical worker and may have fallen from a catwalk. He says the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration likely will investigate.

The arena will be home to the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings and the NBA’s Pistons. It is scheduled to open this fall.

More on the story from the Detroit Free Press

Habs extend De La Rose — one year, $725,000

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Montreal secured some forward depth on Wednesday, agreeing to terms with Jacob De La Rose.

De La Rose, 22, was taken 34th overall at the 2013 draft and has appeared in 64 games for Montreal over the last three seasons. He had a nice debut for the club in ’14-15 — appearing in 33 regular-season contests, and 12 playoff games — but has since spent the majority of his time in AHL St. John’s.

That might not be the case moving forward, however.

De La Rose’s deal is worth $725,000 (per TSN) and, importantly, is of the one-way variety. There could be more opportunities at forward next season. Montreal has already said it’ll pass on bringing back UFAs Brian Flynn and Dwight King, and it’s unclear if the club will get a deal done with Alexander Radulov.

It’s also unclear what GM Marc Bergevin plans to do with Alex Galchenyuk, who’s been the subject of numerous trade rumors.

Even after bad season in Buffalo, Kulikov generating strong interest as UFA

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Dmitry Kulikov had a bad season in Buffalo. There’s no debating that.

Not only did the defenseman struggle statistically, finishing minus-26 with just two goals and three assists, he also had trouble staying healthy, appearing in just 47 games for the Sabres.

But despite all that, Kulikov seems to be generating plenty of interest as an unrestricted free agent. Presumably, the hope among his many suitors is that he can bounce back, so long as he’s put in a better situation.

Kulikov is still just 26. And before he was traded to Buffalo a year ago, he’d had a number of respectable seasons with the Florida Panthers.

It’s why the Sabres were so happy to get him.

“He’s a good player,” then-GM Tim Murray said last June, per NHL.com. “I like guys that are honest, I like guys that are hard to play against, I certainly like guys that can make a tape-to-tape pass, and with our forwards, I think if he can make a tape-to-tape pass, good things are going to happen in transition with the skill and speed we already have here, so he’s just a great fit.”

Of course, it wasn’t a great fit, and Murray is no longer the GM.

As for Kulikov, there’s “about a dozen” interested teams, according to his agent. Ottawa and Winnipeg are believed to be among them.