Penguins need a bounceback from their top guns

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan maintained a calm veneer as he answered the question, but there was an edge inside his words Saturday night when asked about being outplayed for most of the first three games of the Stanley Cup Finals by the Nashville Predators.

“We’ve been outplayed in stretches, you know,” he said. “But I don’t think anyone should discount the goals we’ve scored, the counterattack game that we have.”

That counterattack game wasn’t quite as effective Saturday night, though, as Nashville fed off its raucous crowd in Bridgestone Arena for a 5-1 win that cut its series deficit to 2-1. Five different Predators scored goals and Pekka Rinne made 27 saves in his first win over Pittsburgh.

Worse yet from a Penguins perspective, they got no shots on goal from either of their star centers — Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. It’s believed to be the first playoff game during the duo’s careers that neither one got a shot to net.

Related: After so-so regular season, Preds playing much better defense in playoffs

If Pittsburgh is to become the first road team to win in the Cup Finals in Game 4 on Monday night, it can’t have another zero-shot game from its cornerstone players.

“I thought they had some looks,” Sullivan said. “They had some attempts. They didn’t hit the net, obviously. Those are important guys for us. We want them to get pucks on the net because they obviously have the ability to score.”

Sullivan said one way to get Crosby and Malkin going is to start doing more with the power play. It was powerless in Game 3, failing in three chances. At times, it appeared Nashville had more zone time and chances while short-handed.

Read more: Crosby denies chirp, says Subban just ‘likes the attention’

The Predators were certainly the better team in even-strength play, as has been the case for most of the series. When they finally stayed out of the penalty box during most of the last two periods of Game 3 and buried their chances, they scored three times in the second period and twice more in the third.

Nashville also got the benefit of puck luck that worked for the Penguins in the first two games. Roman Josi‘s tying goal in the second period hit Carter Rowney‘s stick before beating Matt Murray. James Neal‘s goal late in the second period caromed off Murray’s left ankle from a bad angle.

“I don’t want to blame the first two losses on puck luck,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said, “but it didn’t bounce our way all the time. Today it bounced our way a little more. We found looks we liked. Just a good game offensively.”

One of those looks was Frederick Gaudreau‘s second goal of the Finals, 42 seconds after Josi’s equalizer. Gaudreau, who landed a spot in the lineup after Ryan Johansen (thigh) was declared out of the playoffs during the Western Conference Finals, didn’t score in nine regular-season games.

But Gaudreau has displayed the scoring touch of his namesake in Calgary, Johnny, during the Finals. His one-timer in the third period tied Game 1 and his wrister to Murray’s glove side unlocked a tie for good Saturday night.

“We saw that he had great skill,” Neal said. “I think he’s surprising everybody how good he is. He’s calm and collected.”

Related: From Calder Cup to Stanley Cup Final, Gaudreau’s had a wild ride

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.