Author: Mike Halford

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Two

Sharp apologetic, takes responsibility for costly third-period penalties


TAMPA — For Patrick Sharp, Saturday was a night to forget.

Or more specifically, a third period to forget.

The veteran forward took two crucial penalties in the final frame of tonight’s Game 2 loss of the Stanley Cup Final, with the second paving the way for Jason Garrison to score the Bolts’ game-winner.

“It was something I don’t think I’ve ever done before,” Sharp said of taking back-to-back penalties. “It happened. You move on from it.

“I take responsibility and apologize to our penalty killers for putting them under such stress.”

Sharp’s first infraction, a slash on Anton Stralman, was called shortly after Marian Hossa got away with interference on Ben Bishop for Chicago’s 3-3 goal early in the third period. While the ‘Hawks were able to kill that one off, they had no such luck with Sharp’s second infraction — a high-stick on Ryan Callahan.

“We were battling and I guess my stick came up and clipped him,” he explained. “I didn’t mean to do it. It happens. I’ll take responsibility.

“It’s tough to put your penalty kill in a situation like that.”

The Garrison goal was Tampa’s first on the power play in this series, after the Bolts went 0-for-2 with the man advantage in Game 1.

Chicago has, for the most part, done a good job of staying out of the box this postseason — averaging the fourth-fewest PIM per game of all 16 teams to make the dance — and that’s probably a good thing; the ‘Hawks are only killing penalties at a 75.9 percent clip in the playoffs, down from 83.4 in the regular season.

As for the legitimacy of his penalties — Stralman did go down somewhat easy on the slashing call — Sharp took the high road, and didn’t go anywhere near criticizing the officials.

“They made the calls,” he said. “I guess I gotta be less careless with my stick. I didn’t think I made too much contact on the first one.”

“But I’m not arguing with the call.”

Tampa Tough: Bolts overcome adversity to draw even in Cup Final


TAMPA — Well, that was interesting.

In a game with so many compelling storylines — tons of offense, multiple lead changes and a bizarre situation with Ben Bishop twice exiting the contest — the Tampa Bay Lightning wrote the biggest and most important one by defeating the Blackhawks 4-3 on Saturday night, evening up the Stanley Cup Final at one game apiece.

For the Bolts, it was a gutsy victory. Though they refused to call it a must-win, tonight’s game was pretty much that — Since the Stanley Cup Final went to best-of-7 in 1939, teams that go down 0-2 have lost 44 of 49 times.

And getting this series to 1-1 wasn’t easy.

The Lightning had a legitimate beef with Chicago’s 3-3 goal in the third period, as Marian Hossa clearly interfered with Ben Bishop’s pad prior to the puck crossing the line. The officials convened briefly to discuss the incident but — with video replay and coach’s challenges not coming into effect until next season — there was nothing to be done; the goal stood, and the Blackhawks erased a one-goal Tampa lead for the second time on the night.

Shortly thereafter, things got weird.

Bishop left the game briefly midway through the frame, paving the way for 20-year-old Russian rookie Andrei Vasilevskiy to make his series debut. Vasilevskiy then proceeded to stand in net, not face any shots, yet end up the goalie of record as he was in when Jason Garrison scored at 8:49 for what proved to be the game-winner.

Immediately after Garrison scored, Bishop came back in — only to exit again minutes later, forcing Vasilevskiy to go back in goal and finish out the game.

The netminder drama and interference goal overshadowed one of the night’s major themes — that Game 2 was, as many will point out, a showcase of the hockey most expected but failed to witness in the series opener. It was fast, skilled and filled with scoring chances — a far cry from Game 1, which featured just three goals and a third period where Tampa went 13 minutes without a shot.

Tonight, Chicago and Tampa combined to score seven goals on nearly 65 shots. Sixteen different players scored at least a point, with the high-octane “Triplets” line of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov combining for three.

It set the stage nicely for what promises to be an entertaining Game 3, when the two teams switch locations to the United Center in Chicago.


Bolts rookie Jonathan Drouin made his series debut and had two shots in 7:52 of ice-time… Nine different players had single points for Chicago, with Teuvo Teravainen scoring his second goal in as many games… Patrick Sharp wore the goat horns in the third period, taking back-to-back penalties, the second of which Garrison converted for the GWG… Vasilevskiy finished with five saves on five shots, Bishop with 21 on 24… Corey Crawford finished with four goals allowed on 24 shots.

Rutherford: Pittsburgh ‘very appealing’ for free agents, even with ownership situation

Jim Rutherford

Penguins GM Jim Rutherford says the big news of this week — that owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle are exploring a possible sale — won’t affect how the club works free agency.

“Nothing changes as far as how we run hockey operations,” Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We have a great city to play in and the best facilities of anyone in the league with the opening of our new practice facility.

“That should be very appealing to a free agent.”

Just prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, TSN broke news that Lemieux and Burkle hired Morgan Stanley “to explore the possibility of selling some or all of the NHL franchise.”

Shortly thereafter, the Pens released a statement:

“We conduct periodic reviews of our business and, because we have received several inquiries about the franchise in recent years, we decided to engage Morgan Stanley for their insight and counsel.

“After buying the team out of bankruptcy, ensuring its long-term future in Pittsburgh and creating a strong foundation for continued success, we believe it is time to explore our options.”

Before the club can begin exploring free agents, it needs to reach decisions on the eight players set to become UFAs: Daniel Winnik, Maxim Lapierre, Steve Downie, Blake Comeau, Paul Martin, Thomas Greiss, Christian Ehrhoff and Craig Adams. One decision has already been made — Adams has been told he won’t be brought back — and Ehrhoff’s agent recently suggested his client will go to July 1.

The club also needs a new deal for RFA forward Beau Bennett, and RFA d-men Ian Cole and Brian Dumoulin.