Crosby on Penguins’ push for another title: ‘Nobody gives you anything’


PITTSBURGH (AP) The chance to make history doesn’t come up in the Pittsburgh Penguins dressing room. It doesn’t have to.

Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and company understand the stakes: that no team since the New York Islanders of the early 1980s has won three straight Stanley Cups, something the Penguins can do if they can navigate the next nine months with the combination of grit and talent they’ve mustered each of the last two springs.

Yet it’s not that opportunity that is providing the fuel for what the Penguins hope is another short summer in 2018 following another parade through downtown Pittsburgh. They want to win the Cup every year. Thinking this winter might be different just because their names take up a significant portion of their league’s most cherished piece of hardware is silly.

“I think you have to prove it every year,” Crosby said. “Nobody gives you anything. Just because you were able to do something before it doesn’t guarantee anything for next year. We have to have that mindset and we did lose a number of guys.”

Beloved goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, the franchise’s all-time leader in wins, is now with expansion Vegas. Center Matt Cullen, nicknamed “Dad” for the 40-year-old’s paternal presence, is playing one final season back home in Minnesota. Chris Kunitz, who carved out a niche for his ability to create havoc around the net, is in Florida. Third-line center Nick Bonino and his intelligent two-way play is in Nashville. Defenseman Trevor Daley, whose steadiness helped keep the blue line together after Kris Letang was forced to miss the second half of last season with health issues, is in Detroit.

The Penguins doubled down in the summer of 2016, bringing back nearly every piece of a championship team. Not this time.

“Yes, we’ve lost a ton of great guys on and off the ice personality wise,” defenseman Ian Cole said. “But the ability to bring young guys in and assimilate them quickly I think is very key for our team culture and we’ve done that and we’ll continue to do that.”

Jake Guentzel was a revelation as a rookie last season, leading the NHL in playoff goals while developing an immediate chemistry with Crosby. Conor Sheary has won it all twice. So have defensemen Olli Matta and Justin Schultz, all of them 26 or younger.

Keeping the edge needed to navigate the grind of 82 regular-season games and up to another two dozen in the playoffs can be difficult. That’s what Penguins coach Mike Sullivan believes separates his group from others.

“I think the fact this team has won two championships back-to-back should just fuel our passion even more to do it again,” he said.

Some things to look for as the Penguins eye the NHL’s first three-peat of Crosby’s lifetime.


Pittsburgh brought in forward Ryan Reaves from St. Louis in an effort to provide a physical presence the team hopes deters opponents from making runs at Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. While Malkin pointed out he can fend for himself, Reaves understands his job, one he intends to do with a sense of humor. Asked what he brings to the table, Reaves – who had 27 goals and 695 penalty minutes in seven seasons in St. Louis – couldn’t resist.

“They’re excited there’s definitely going to be a lot more goals scored, I know (they) were struggling with that,” he said with a laugh.


Fleury’s departure leaves Murray as the team’s fully entrenched No. 1 goaltender since he made his debut during the 2015-16 season. Murray considers Crosby and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady role models in terms of mental preparation and focus.

“(Brady) is so much more than a quarterback and I want to be so much more than a goalie,” Murray said.

Antti Niemi will serve as the backup following a bumpy season in Dallas last year when he finished just 12-12-4 with a 3.30 goals against average.


Letang watched Pittsburgh’s Cup run from the press box after undergoing neck surgery in April. He’s missed at least 10 games in each of the last six seasons. If he’s able to stay on the ice, the Penguins have one of the league’s elite defenders who has the speed and hockey IQ to make a massive impact on both ends of the ice.


Bonino’s exit leaves a hole at third-line center, one general manager Jim Rutherford is in no hurry to fill. Given Sullivan’s penchant for frequently tinkering with lines in an effort to find a spark, whoever gets the nod probably shouldn’t get comfortable. Given the firepower on the top two lines, Pittsburgh can get by in the short term and give Rutherford time to find an answer on the open market if necessary.

More AP NHL:

The Buzzer: Kopitar scores four, McDavid’s four-point night and Olczyk cancer-free

Associated Press
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Players of the Night:

Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings: Two words: career night. Kopitar scored four goals, becoming the first Kings player in 25 years to do so, and thus, setting his own career-high in the process. The Kings decimated the Colorado Avalanche 7-1 in the process.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets: Bobrovsky made 33 saves en route to a shutout victory, the Blue Jackets’ 10th in a row in a 4-0 win against the Florida Panthers, who have been red-hot themselves.

Philipp Grubauer, Washington Capitals: Grubauer has been solid in relief of Braden Holtby down the stretch as the Capitals’ No. 1 gets some rest before a playoff push. He won his fourth start out of his past five since March 10, stopping all 39 shots that came his way in the shutout.

Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers: He’s not playing for a playoff spot, and he shouldn’t get too many votes for the Hart Trophy. But McDavid still has his eyes set on Mr. Art Ross. McDavid had two goals and two assists in a 6-2 win for the Oilers over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. McDavid’s 94 points  (36 goals, 58 assists) are now just one shy of Nikita Kucherov for the NHL lead.

Highlights of the Night:

Above all else, this:

Hard work pays off:

Kopitar’s fourth:

Not everything is pretty when it comes to the Canucks. This is though:

Factoids of the Night:

Things you don’t see very often:

Poor Cam Ward:


Blue Jackets 4, Panthers 0

Hurricanes 6, Coyotes 5

Flyers 4, Rangers 3

Lightning 7, Islanders 6

Capitals 1, Red Wings 0

Maple Leafs 5, Predators 2

Oilers 6, Senators 2

Canucks 5, Blackhawks 2

Kings 7, Avalanche 1

Sharks 2, Golden Knights 1 (OT)

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Sharks drop Golden Knights 2-1 in overtime

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If the San Jose Sharks and the Vegas Golden Knights meet in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s fixing to be one hell of a series,

Thursday’s meeting cemented that. The game had all the ingredients that make up that playoff feel — tight play, tight checking, great goaltending and low scoring. There was urgency from both teams, despite both being near locks to make the postseason.

And it came right down to the last shot of the game.

Logan Couture scored 39 seconds (ironically, Couture’s jersey number) into overtime to clinch a 2-1 win for the Sharks on Thursday night.

The Sharks gained a single point on the Golden Knights and are seven points back of Vegas for first in the Pacific Division with eight games remaining. Perhaps most important, they remained four points clear of the Los Angeles Kings, who leapfrogged the Anaheim Ducks with a 7-1 win against Colorado. San Jose owns a game in hand on L.A.

Catching up to Vegas seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened. The two teams play each other for the last time next week.

The loss was bittersweet for the Golden Knights, who set record No. 2321778 for a club in their inaugural season.

Malcolm Subban made 42 saves, a career-high after being thrust into action following an injury to Marc-Andre Fleury.

Tomas Tartar got the ball rolling in the game 3:47 into the first period to give the Golden Knights an early lead.

That lead lasted for roughly a period.

Brent Burns tied the game 1-1 at 3:27 of the second period with the slickest of wrist shots from the point.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Eddie Olczyk declares he’s cancer-free


It’s the news every hockey fan wanted to hear.

On Thursday night’s Chicago Blackhawks broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago, Eddie Olczyk, who was diagnosed last summer with colon cancer, told the hockey world some great news.

“I got the call on March 14 at 5:07 p.m. letting me know my scans were clear,” an emotional Olczyk said as he stood next to long-time broadcast partner Pat Foley. “I’ve never heard a better phrase in my life. I’m now 10 days on with the rest of my life.”

Olczyk, 51, had surgery after his diagnosis and had his last chemotherapy treatment on Feb. 21.

“All the cancer is gone – we beat this thing,” Olczyk said, thanking a handful of people, from colleagues at NBC to the Chicago Blackhawks and the NHL to his family members, wife and four kids. “And I say ‘we’ because it has been a team effort. We all beat this and I’m so thankful for all the support and prayers. They worked. I’m proud to stand here before everybody and say we beat this thing.”

Foley called Olczyk’s battle with cancer, “heroic.”

Olczyk was scheduled to have a scan in April to see how his chemo treatments had gone, but that scan was moved up due to emergency hernia surgery, according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.

“I’ve had enough crying to last me a lifetime,” Olczyk said. “I can’t emphasize enough just the support out there… just the texts, the email, the letters. I’ve received thousands and thousands of mail. I won’t be able to thank everybody, but I just want everybody to know on behalf of Eddie Olczyk and his family, we’re forever grateful for the support and the prayers and well wishes we received over the past seven months.”

Olczyk said one thing he realized through his battle is that he found out he was way tougher than he thought he ever was.

“If I can inspire one person to stay away from this, then I guess it was well worth it going through it,” he said.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Grubauer, Capitals shut out Red Wings

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If you were looking for a barn-burner, this game wasn’t that.

While the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders combined for 13 goals, and the Carolina Hurricanes and Arizona Coyotes scored 11 in total, the Washington Capitals and their hosts, the Detroit Red Wings, played 60 minutes with just one goal between them.

It wasn’t nearly as exciting in the goal-scoring department, but the win for the Washington Capitals put a bit of separation between themselves and the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets, who the Caps (93 points) lead by four points now.

Brett Conolly’s third-period marker at 6:41 was all the Capitals needed for their

Andreas Athanasiou appeared to make it 1-0 in the first period on a nice wrister, but a goaltender interference challenge by Washington was successful after Tyler Bertuzzi was judged to have made contact with Grubauer. This one was pretty cut and dry, as far as GI calls go.

The loss for the Red Wings meant they were officially eliminated from playoff contention, something that had been known for a while but hadn’t happened in the mathematical department.

Grubauer was solid, making 39 saves for his third shutout of the season. At the other end of the rink, Jimmy Howard wasn’t too shabby either, stopping 25-of-26. All he needed was a bit of run support.

Prior to puck drop, the Red Wings announced that defenseman Mike Green, who was hampered by a neck injury back in February, will go under the knife, ending his season.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck