Penguins didn’t lose Game 4 because of goaltending, says Sullivan

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First, it was Pekka Rinne under the microscope.

Now, it’s Matt Murray.

The Stanley Cup Final returns to Pittsburgh for a pivotal Game 5 on Thursday, with the goaltending performances of Rinne and Murray providing plenty of fodder. In the last two games, Pittsburgh’s 23-year-old puck stopper has allowed eight goals against, which is the same amount Nashville’s goalie allowed in the opening two games in Pittsburgh.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan was asked Monday evening if Murray was his starter for Game 5. On Tuesday, the same subject was approached yet again, when he was asked if there was any reason to consider a change.

Sullivan has, in each of his two postseasons as coach in Pittsburgh, made some notable lineup changes in net, including this year when he decided to give Murray the start in Game 4 versus the Senators and put Marc-Andre Fleury on the bench. Fleury had, for the most part, provided great goaltending for the Penguins throughout the playoffs while Murray battled back from an earlier injury.

But after Fleury’s struggles in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final, Sullivan once again gambled, and it paid off.

As for any changes at that position, Sullivan wasn’t tipping his hand.

“We haven’t lost games because of our goaltending,” said Sullivan. “Like anything, we make our lineup decisions on a game-by-game basis. The one comment I will make is that we didn’t lose the game last night because of our goaltending.”

Following Monday’s game, Murray said it wasn’t his decision and that he would prepare just the same for the next contest.

After two difficult outings in Pittsburgh, Rinne found success in Nashville, allowing one goal in each of the last two games. He was sensational in Game 4, making 23 saves, none more spectacular than a flurry of saves he made in one sequence, starting with a pad stop on a Sidney Crosby breakaway chance and finishing with a desperation diving stop on the red-hot Jake Guentzel on the ensuing scramble.

“Certainly I thought last night, you know, it was a case we felt as though Matt had a solid game, but Pekka Rinne had a tremendous game,” said Sullivan.

“I think maybe early in the series, you could probably point in the other direction. These guys do have an impact on their team’s ability to have success. I think that’s the nature of playoff hockey.”

The Buzzer: Kempe, Schwartz record hat tricks; Leafs honor Gord Downie

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Players of the night: Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues / Adrian Kempe, Los Angeles Kings

The Blues forward tallied his third career hat trick during a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Schwartz scored the game’s first two goals before completing his hat trick with a late empty-net goal to stave off a Chicago comeback.

Wednesday’s feat for Schwartz came three years to the day of his first career three-goal game.

Kempe, meanwhile, tallied his first NHL hat trick and finished with four points during LA’s 5-1 rout of the Montreal Canadiens. Two of his three goals were assisted by Mike Cammalleri, who also finished the night with four points.

Highlight of the night:

Eddie Olczyk returned to the NBC broadcast booth as he continues his battle against colon cancer. Olczyk, along with Doc Emrick, called the Blues-Blackhawks game from Scottrade Center Wednesday night.

MISC:

Auston Matthews recorded the 20th multi-point game of his career. He now has six goals and 10 points on the season.

Patrick Marleau became the 18th NHL player to reach the 1,500-game mark.

Jake Allen kept his shutout bid alive with this great stick save on Patrick Kane late:

-The Kings are off their best start in franchise history at 5-0-1. They’ve allowed only 10 goals against through six games.

Jeff Carter left the game in the first period and did not return after tangling with Jeff Petry. Afterward, Kings head coach John Stevens said the forward will miss some time.

-Finally, The Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie passed away from cancer at age 53 on Wednesday. The Maple Leafs paid tribute before their game against the Red Wings.

Factoid of the night:

Scores:

Maple Leafs 6, Red Wings 3

Blues 5, Blackhawks 2

Kings 5, Canadiens 1

Cammalleri, Kempe power Kings over Canadiens

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Adrian Kempe recorded his first career NHL hat trick and Mike Cammalleri added two goals as the Los Angeles Kings beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-1.

After Paul Byron opened the scoring for Montreal midway through the first period, the Kings responded with five unanswered goals to hand the Habs their sixth straight defeat.

Cammalleri, who inked a one-year deal over the summer to return to the Kings, had a hand in four of LA’s five goals. He started the scoring for the Kings in the first period by celebrating the Dodgers’ playoff run with his own special kind of baseball swing.

Kempe, who finished with four points as well, scored his three goals over a span of 10:50 in the third period to help the Kings to their best start in franchise history (5-0-1).

LA remains the only NHL team yet to lose in regulation this season.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Jaden Schwartz’s hat trick leads Blues over Blackhawks

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Jaden Schwartz‘s third career hat trick helped power the St. Louis Blues over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in a Central Division clash Wednesday night at Scottrade Center.

Schwartz’s eventful evening began with a goal 4:46 into the first period. It was nearly ended minutes later after a scary crash into the end boards following a scoring chance.

After missing some time, Schwartz returned in the second period and doubled the Blues’ lead with his fourth of a season, thanks to a great outlet pass from Allen.

As the Blues built up a 4-0 lead, the Blackhawks spoiled Allen’s shutout bid with a pair of late power play goals 80 seconds apart. The furious rally was stopped, however, and Schwartz capped off his hat trick with an empty netter to put the game out of reach.

St. Louis dominated the first two periods, outshooting the Blackhawks 26-8 as they built up their 2-0 lead. The Blackhawks’ power play failed them early in the game, missing out on five chances to capitalize with the extra man through 40 minutes.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Canadiens at Kings

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The Montreal Canadiens play their second game of a three-game west coast trip Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

It hasn’t been the best start for the Habs, who sit tied for last in the Eastern Conference with a 1-4-1 record. They’re winless since an opening night win over the Buffalo Sabres. On the other side of things, the Kings are the only NHL team that has yet to lose in regulation. Their 4-0-1 start puts them a point behind the Vegas Golden Knights, and their game in-hand gives them the opportunity to leap into first place in the Pacific Division with a victory.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (10:30 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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