Getty

Shaky starts overshadow Stanley Cup rematch between Penguins, Predators

1 Comment

PITTSBURGH (AP) Four months ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators spent six games trading shots and momentum in a spirited tug-of-war for the Stanley Cup that ended with the Penguins skating away with their second straight title.

A rematch looms Saturday night, though don’t expect either team to get nostalgic. The new season is three days old and both teams appear to be struggling to emerge from a Cup hangover.

The Penguins? Sidney Crosby and company have allowed 15 goals in two games, including the franchise’s worst loss of the Crosby era in a 10-1 meltdown in Chicago on Thursday night that the NHL’s biggest star called “embarrassing.”

Time to table the talk of a “three-peat.” At this point, Pittsburgh would settle for playing three periods of competent hockey.

“It’s a tough lesson but we got to take something from it,” Crosby said. “Hopefully it’s a wakeup call from us.”

Read more: Penguins look to bounce back from early season wake-up call

Nashville didn’t create quite as big of a mess during a 4-3 setback in Boston on Thursday night. Still, the Predators never led and needed a pair of goals in the final 108 seconds to make the final score more competitive than their play.

“We need to be a lot better in a lot of areas,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “I think our entire group needs to be better.”

The last time the Predators played at PPG Paints Arena, they arrived with the Cup finals tied at 2. Any chance of upsetting the defending champions evaporated in the first period of Game 5, when the Penguins poured in three goals past Pekka Rinne on their way to a 6-0 victory to reclaim control of the series. Pittsburgh clinched its first Cup back in “Smashville” with a taut 2-0 triumph in Game 6, the series decided on Patric Hornqvist‘s goal with just 1:25 left in the third period.

“You have all those things, those memories in your head and I’m sure you think about them before the game,” Rinne said. “But still, it is a huge game right now for us – we are down 0-1 this season so we have to get back on track.”

Maybe, but not nearly as much as the Penguins. Pittsburgh raised its Cup banner Wednesday night but ended up falling to St. Louis 5-4 in overtime thanks in large part to a defense that surrendered wide swaths of the ice to the Blues. A night later, the Penguins were even worse against the Blackhawks. Chicago scored five goals in the first period alone and it only seemed to get worse.

Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray said his team only needed to “tighten up a bit.” Rather than practice Friday morning, the Penguins spent it reviewing the carnage of their worst defensive performance since allowing 10 goals to San Jose in 1996.

“Right now, more so than results, our coaching staff is concerned or focused on just the mindset or the commitment level to play the game the right way,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “When this team starts there, we’re competitive, we can play with anybody. Sometimes we get in certain modes where we’re trying to outscore teams instead of play the game the right way.”

In some ways Pittsburgh is still adjusting to a considerable roster makeover that saw the departure of a handful of key components to their historic run to consecutive titles, including center Nick Bonino, who signed a four-year deal with the Predators in the offseason.

Bonino admitted it’s going to be a little weird getting ready in the visitor’s dressing room and facing so many familiar faces.

“It’s always fun to try and beat them,” Bonino said. “I’m not dreading it. It should be a fun night. I’m glad it’s over early, there’s no build up for it.”

The Buzzer: Pacioretty continues hot streak

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Players of the Night:

Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens: Here’s a name you haven’t seen often in these parts this season. But Pacioretty had two goals tonight, the opener for the Canadiens and the game-winner with 1:18 left in the third period to give the Canadiens a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals. He also added an assist on Montreal’s other goal. Truth be told, Pacioretty has been sizzling lately with six goals and an assist in his past six games.

John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks: Gibson had a quiet night for the most part until the third period, but he was stellar when called upon and made 23 saves, including a second-period beauty (which you will see below) to help his team to a 2-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings.

Highlights of the Night:

James Neal had all the moves to help the Vegas Golden Knights secure a point on the road in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers.

John Gibson got just enough on this puck to redirect it off the post and out for quite the save:

Factoid of the Night:

MISC:

Scores:

Panthers 4, Golden Knights 3 (OT)

Canadiens 3, Capitals 2

Ducks 2, Kings 1


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

Henrique, Kesler too much for Quick, Kings in 2-1 Ducks win

1 Comment

Jonathan Quick did all he could.

The posts behind him helped on a couple occasions, but Quick was everything the Los Angeles Kings needed to break out of their five-game losing streak, which they entered Friday wearing like a ball and chain.

But while Quick was solid in the crease, making 29 saves, the men in front of him couldn’t replicate their goalie’s performance in a 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.

The Kings have now lost six straight and just two of their past 10 and are tied with four teams, including the Ducks, who sit on 53 points and just outside the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference.

The Ducks-Kings rivalry has become quite the grind ’em out slugfest over time, and despite their recent downward spiral, the Kings weren’t going to roll over and die when the puck dropped, even if they played 24 hours earlier.

This rivalry doesn’t allow for one team to not show up, despite whatever mitigating circumstances may be available.

And neither team was giving the other any allowances, evidenced by a 0-0 scoreline after 40 minutes.

The Ducks struck first in the third frame as Adam Henrique finally willed a puck behind Quick, who had puzzled Anaheim’s offense for 42 minutes and change.

Henrique’s individual effort on the goal began a few seconds earlier as he won a foot race to the puck to get it into the Ducks’ zone, dove to make sure it stayed there and they got up and went to the net, where he picked up a loose puck that and put it in the back of the net for a 1-0 lead at the 17:55 mark.

That lead was shortlived, however.

The Kings struck back two-and-a-half minutes later as some extended offensive zone time by the Kings resulted in Alex Iafallo flicking a puck up and over John Gibson off a rebound to ruin his shutout bid at 4:48.

The Ducks would get the final say.

Jakob Silfverberg‘s excellent forecheck kept the Kings from clearing the puck out of their zone.

The puck found its way to the point, where Francois Beauchemin unleashed a high point shot that was redirected down and under Quick by Ryan Kesler for the eventual game-winner.

Gibson’s night may have been a little quieter than his counterpart 200-feet away, but he was on point when he needed to be, making 23 of 24 saves, including getting just enough on Iafallo’s second-period shot to steer it off the post and out to keep the game 0-0 at that point.


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

WATCH LIVE: Los Angeles Kings vs Anaheim Ducks

Getty Images
Leave a comment

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

PROJECTED LINES

Los Angeles Kings

Adrian KempeAnze KopitarDustin Brown

Tanner PearsonTrevor LewisTyler Toffoli

Alex IafalloNick ShoreMarian Gaborik

Kyle CliffordTorrey MitchellAndy Andreoff

Derek ForbortDrew Doughty

Jake MuzzinAlec Martinez

Kevin Gravel– Christian Folin

Starting Goalie: Darcy Kuemper

NHL on NBCSN: Kings look to end losing streak vs. Ducks

Anaheim Ducks

Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Andrew CoglianoRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase

Chris WagnerAntoine VermetteJ.T. Brown

Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour

Starting Goalie: John Gibson

Red Fisher, as told by those who knew him

The Canadian Press
Leave a comment

Red Fisher is a mythical name in sports journalism.

Fisher’s death on Friday at 91 sent shockwaves through the National Hockey League community, and stories upon stories — snippets of Fisher and his life — began circulation around the Internet, many on Twitter by those who worked alongside him and those who had the pleasure to speak with the man.

Fisher’s life will be immortalized in print in the coming days. Michael Farber wrote this beautifully done piece for the Montreal Gazette already today. A must-read.

Here’s what his contemporary’s are saying, those that revere him and the people who Fisher made an impact on in so many ways: