Penguins blast Predators in Game 5, move within one win of Stanley Cup

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PITTSBURGH — The dominant theme of the Stanley Cup Final played out again on Thursday night:

It’s good to be at home.

Very good.

For the fifth straight game, the home team emerged victorious — only this time it was in a rout, as Pittsburgh whipped Nashville 6-0 at PPG Paints to take a three games to two series lead.

Pittsburgh can now win its second consecutive Stanley Cup on Sunday, when Game 6 goes in Nashville.

It was a dominant, balanced and thorough effort from the Penguins, who got their six goals from six different skaters: Justin Schultz, Bryan Rust, Evgeni Malkin, Conor Sheary, Phil Kessel and Ron Hainsey. Twelve different skaters registered at least one point, with Sidney Crosby leading the way with three.

It was a virtuoso performance the captain.

Crosby dominated from the opening shift, drawing a penalty 50 seconds in, then had a hand in nearly everything that transpired. He was a catalyst in chasing Preds starting netminder Pekka Rinne, assisting on Schultz’s power-play goal, one of three to beat Rinne in the opening frame.

Crosby set up Sheary for the fourth goal, and Kessel for the fifth. He also tangled with nemesis P.K. Subban — punching Subban in the back of the head repeatedly during a late first period skirmish — and even tossed a water bottle onto the playing surface (it was an accident, apparently.)

And if it wasn’t Crosby influencing things, it was one of his teammates. Pretty much everything went Pittsburgh’s way on the night, which was fitting. It’s been that way at PPG Paints all series long.

The Pens have now outscored Nashville 15-4 at home, with the majority of that damage coming at Rinne’s expense. The beleaguered netminder — who’d redeemed himself so well in Games 3 and 4 — now owns some absolutely horrific road numbers: 0-3 record, 5.41 GAA, and a .756 save percentage.

Rinne’s performance was just one in a series of Nashville lowlights. The Preds were shut out for the first time this series, looked discombobulated defensively and, to add injury to insult, lost defenseman Ryan Ellis to an apparent lower-body ailment in the second period.

If there’s a silver lining for the Preds, it’s what we mentioned at the top. Home teams have held serve throughout this series — a perfect 5-0 — and the next game is back in the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena.

Of course, that won’t mean a thing if Nashville plays like it did tonight.

Notes…

Matt Murray recorded his second shutout of the postseason and first in this series, stopping all 24 shots faced… Juuse Saros made 12 saves in relief of Rinne, allowing three goals… Things boiled over in the third period with a series of fights and questionable hits. As a result, the teams finished with a combined 98 penalty minutes… Colton Sissons received a match penalty late in the tilt for a crosscheck to the face of Pens d-man Olli Maatta… The team that has won Game 5 after a split of the opening four contests of the Stanley Cup Final has gone on to win it 17 of 24 times (70.8 percent) since the series adopted the best-of-seven format in 1939… The club that has lost Game 5 has rebounded to win the series in four of the past eight such occasions. All have been since 2001: Colorado Avalanche (2001), Tampa Bay Lightning (2004), Pittsburgh Penguins (2009) and Boston Bruins (2011).

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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