2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 2: Flyers, Blackhawks aim for improvement

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Blackhawks2.jpgChicago Blackhawks vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Stanley Cup Finals, Game 2

Blackhawks
lead series 1-0

Live on NBC, 8 p.m. EDT

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Generally the NHL playoffs are defensive battles, close
affairs with both teams fighting not to make mistakes as each goal
allowed becomes more and more devastating the deeper into the playoffs
they go. There will always be breakdowns, but generally the games become
intense and low scoring scoring games as every single player on both
teams raises the level of their play to levels they’ve never reached
before. Teams that fail to keep up with the intensity and drive of the
other becomes a footnote in the annals of the Stanley Cup finals.

Game 1 resembled none of this. A sloppy, yet ultimately
entertaining game that saw ten goals scored in the first two periods was
like nothing anyone expected. After all, the backbone of both the
Blackhawks and the Flyers is their defense and while the goaltending was
never exactly a strength of both teams it had been a while since we had
witnessed breakdowns of this level.

That it happened
to both teams, in the same game, is nothing short of extraordinary.

The Blackhawks, despite the win, realized that they were
lucky. They allowed a less talented team to come out and get confidence,
surprising everyone when the Flyers grabbed a 3-2 lead headed into the
first intermission. The Blackhawks fought back in the second and the
third, yet walked away knowing that if they hope to hoist the Stanley
Cup at the end of the series they’ll need to play much, much better than
they did on home ice against the Flyers.

For the
Flyers, they should feel confident in themselves after playing the
Blackhawks so close. Yet just like Chicago, they know they were nowhere
near their best and they paid for it with a tough loss. Despite coming
out so energetic and so determined to begin the game, they were
undisciplined defensively and allowed the Blackhawks to tie the game and
take three different leads after holding a 3-2 lead themselves after 20
minutes.

Was it just jitters for two teams that
overall are lacking Stanley Cup experience? The Blackhawks have Marian
Hossa and the Flyers have Chris Pronger, but overall these are two
generally young and inexperienced teams when it comes to playing with so
much on the line.

I don’t expect to see another game
like we witnessed on Saturday, and I’m certain that both the coaches
and players are determined to have their teams get back to what had been
so successful for them leading up to this point.

For
the Flyers, that means a more physical approach as they work to keep
not only the Hawks’ top line off the scoreboard but also the rest of the
team as well. The Flyers were duped into a run and gun game that is far
from the style they employ so well, and they need to find a way to
limit the attack of the Blackhawks. Keeping the Hawks to the perimeter,
forcing them to fight for the puck along the boards and using the
physicality that the Flyers are so good at is exactly the approach this
team needs; not some haphazard, up and down game that exposes every
weakness the Flyers have.

The Blackhawks were
surprisingly undisciplined on defense, allowing the Flyers all sorts of
space in the first half of the game. What was more amazing was how the
Hawks walked away with a win despite Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and
Dustin Byfuglien having their worst games of the postseason. They
weren’t just ineffective, they were horrible.

The
scoring depth of the Hawks won’t be there every game, and if the Flyers
are able to consistently lock down that top line they they’ll have a
damn good chance at walking away with the Cup after all is said and
done.

Game 1 was entertaining but for hockey purists
it was one ugly performance by each team. Both sides will lock things
down, and I expect to see a much more disciplined game by both teams
tonight — disciplined in the actual play, that is. I fully expect to
see the Flyers and the Blackhawks get more physical, more undisciplined
along the boards and in scrums as they settle into the series and look
to get the upperhand in any way possible.

Thompson nets 4 in 1st, 5 overall, as Buffalo tops Columbus

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Russell LaBounty/USA TODAY Sports
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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tage Thompson matched an NHL record by scoring four times in the first period and finished with five goals and an assist as the Buffalo Sabres won their third straight road game, 9-4 over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night.

Thompson is the second U.S.-born player to score five goals in a game. He is the fourth player in NHL history to record four goals in the first period of a regular-season game, joining Peter Bondra (1994), Grant Mulvey (1982) and Joe Malone (1921). He is also the fourth active player to score five goals in a game, joining Timo Meier (Jan. 17, 2022), Mika Zibanejad (March 5, 2020) and Patrik Laine (Nov. 24, 2018).

“It’s definitely a rewarding feeling,” Thompson said. “You’ve spent a lot of years working to get to this point and to be rewarded for it is a pretty good feeling and it just leaves you hungrier.”

Thompson’s outburst helped Buffalo score six times in the first 16:40.

“That was an amazing performance by Tage, and really, the whole group set the table,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “I thought the energy, the collective effort, the focus to start was really good and enabled that to happen.”

Alex Tuch had a goal and three assists, Dylan Cozens added a power-play goal and two assists and Rasmus Dahlin finished with a goal and two assists. Peyton Krebs also scored. Jeff Skinner picked up four assists and Jacob Bryson had two. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 20 shots.

Patrik Laine and Gustav Nyquist each scored twice for Columbus.

Joonas Korpisalo stopped two shots before being pulled in the first in favor of Elvis Merzlikins, who stopped 15 shots through the second period. Korpisalo returned in the third and finished with six saves.

Columbus has lost six straight home games and five of its last six overall.

“We didn’t have an answer for that one line,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “Tage Thompson just tore us up tonight.”

Buffalo dominated from the puck drop, scoring four goals on its first six shots.

Cozens put the Sabres on the board at 3:21 of the first, 53 seconds into a Blue Jackets penalty, and Thompson made it 2-0 just 2:09 later. Dahlin scored Buffalo’s third goal at 7:28 of the first, driving Korpisalo from the net in favor of Merzlikins, who gave up Buffalo goal No. 4 to Thompson 32 seconds later.

Thompson’s third career hat trick and second of the season came on a power-play goal at 12:22 of the first. He followed with his fourth goal, also on the power play, at 16:40.

Columbus scored two goals in just over a minute, with Laine at 10:49 and Nyquist at 12:04, before Buffalo reeled off three straight in just over three minutes to end the period, including Thompson’s fifth, and goals by Krebs and Tuch.

Laine and Nyquist scored in the third period for Columbus.

STREAKING

Cozens has 12 points in his last five games and is riding a career-best, five-game point streak. Thompson has eight goals and five assists in his last five games and 10 multi-point games. Dahlin has a five-game point and assist streak, and Gaudreau stretched his points streak to six games.

NOTES: The Sabres joined the Kraken as the second team this season to score nine goals in a game. … Thompson is the second player in Buffalo history to have five goals in a game, joining Dave Andreychuk, who had five goals and an assist on Feb. 6, 1986.

UP NEXT

Buffalo: Hosts Pittsburgh on Friday.

Columbus: Hosts Calgary on Friday.

Ovechkin, Strome lead Capitals past struggling Flyers 4-1

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Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports
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PHILADELPHIA — Alex Ovechkin scored two empty-net goals, Dylan Strome had a goal and an assist and the Washington Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 on Wednesday night.

T.J. Oshie also scored for the Capitals, who finished 3-3 on a six-game trip. Charlie Lindgren made 29 saves.

Kevin Hayes scored for Philadelphia, which has lost 13 of 15 games. Carter Hart made 23 stops.

Strome broke a 1-all tie with 10:41 remaining when he deflected John Carlson‘s shot from long range past Hart.

Hayes had a golden opportunity to tie it on a Philadelphia power play, but Lindgren made a great right pad save on a try from close range with 8:20 remaining.

Ovechkin iced it, scoring into an empty net with 1:35 left and adding another empty-netter with 8.2 seconds left for his 15th of the season. Ovechkin has 795 career goals, good for third all-time. He is six goals away from tying Gordie Howe for second place. Wayne Gretzky, with 894 goals, tops the list.

Hayes scored his ninth goal of the season for his team-leading 28th point with 4:14 left in the first period to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Hayes rushed to the bench after breaking his stick on a slap shot attempt, and scored on a wrist shot from the high slot with his new stick.

The Flyers had a power-play goal for the third straight game and have four overall in that stretch. Philadelphia, which began play ranked 30th in the NHL in scoring on the man advantage, now has converted 16.7% (14 of 84) of its chances.

Oshie tied it 3:51 into the second on the Capitals’ fourth power play as the Flyers continued to take sloppy penalties. This time, James van Riemsdyk committed Philadelphia’s third tripping minor of the game. Oshie made them pay with his fifth goal of the season when he finished a nifty passing sequence with Strome and Evgeny Kuznetsov with a perfectly placed one-timer over Hart’s left shoulder.

NOTES: Van Riemsdyk returned after missing the last 20 games due to a broken right index finger. . Flyers forward Tanner Laczynski was placed on injured reserve after departing midway through the third period of Monday’s 5-3 win over Colorado with what looked like an injury to his left leg. . Washington was without several injured players, including starting goalie Darcy Kuemper (upper body). Kuemper was with the team, but missed his second in a row. . Carlson had two assists. . Philadelphia’s Cam Atkinson, out all season with an upper body injury, has been practicing and is close to returning.

UP NEXT

Capitals: Host Seattle on Friday night.

Flyers: Open four-game trip at Vegas on Friday night.

Penguins prospect Sam Poulin taking leave of absence

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Jeanine Leech/Getty Images
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PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins forward prospect Sam Poulin is taking a leave of absence from the club’s American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Penguins general manager Ron Hextall announced on Wednesday that the 21-year-old Poulin, Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in the 2019 draft, is stepping away due to “personal reasons.”

“The Penguins support Sam’s decision to take time away from hockey to focus on himself,” Hextall said in a release. “As with all of our players, our priority is them as individuals first. We look forward to having him back with the team when he is ready.”

Hextall said Poulin will return home to Quebec and continue to work out on his own.

Poulin made his NHL debut in October and had one assist in three games before heading back to the AHL. Poulin had four goals in 13 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at the time of his decision.

Nathan MacKinnon sidelined about a month with upper-body injury

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DENVER — The injury-riddled Colorado Avalanche will be without leading scorer Nathan MacKinnon for about a month after he suffered an upper-body injury in a loss to Philadelphia.

The team announced the news on social media.

MacKinnon has eight goals and 26 assists for a team-best 34 points this season for the defending Stanley Cup champions. He joins a long list of banged-up players, including Valeri Nichushkin, Evan Rodrigues, Bowen Byram, Kurtis MacDermid, Josh Manson, Darren Helm and captain Gabriel Landeskog. Forward Artturi Lehkonen also missed the game in Philadelphia.

The 27-year-old MacKinnon signed an eight-year extension in August. He was coming off a postseason in which he tied for the league lead with 13 goals, helping the Avalanche raise their third Stanley Cup in franchise history.