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Crosby and Malkin look forward to going head-to-head

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PITTSBURGH (AP) Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are a decade into partnership that has helped guide the Pittsburgh Penguins to a pair of Stanley Cups, three combined MVP awards, four scoring titles and a seemingly endless wave of GIF-worthy goals.

It hasn’t always been easy. There was the language barrier when Malkin first arrived from Russia in 2006 to join Crosby as the linchpins of a franchise trying to restore itself to its former glory. The natural growing pains that come when two supremely talented players try to figure things out. The giddy celebration in Detroit in 2009 that ended with Crosby raising the Cup, a triumph that seemed destined to be the launching point of a dynasty.

When it didn’t happen thanks to six years of good but never consistently great hockey, the two remained committed to each other. The payoff came during Pittsburgh’s renaissance under coach Mike Sullivan last spring, when the Penguins sprinted to a championship with their two cornerstone players leading the way.

“At the end of the day we both chose to be here and want to play together and that’s not always the case on every team,” Crosby said Tuesday. “I think there’s a lot of respect there.”

A sentiment that will be put to the test – at least briefly – when Crosby and Team Canada face Malkin and Team Russia in a World Cup of Hockey exhibition on Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center, the final tuneup before both squads before the tournament opens later this week in Toronto.

It’s not the first time the Crosby and Malkin have been on opposite sides during international play. Six years ago, Crosby and Canada torched Malkin and the Russians 7-3 in the Olympic quarterfinals on the way to gold. Yet Wednesday will mark the first time when both stars will be at “home,” even if Malkin will end up getting dressed in the visiting locker room.

Yes, Malkin knows the way.

“It’s weird,” Malkin said. “But I don’t know how the fans feel, but I hope they support us.”

That won’t be in question. The curious sight of Crosby’s No. 87 and Malkin’s No. 71 in different hued sweaters on Pittsburgh’s home ice will be jarring. Not nearly as jarring, though, as the prospect of both of them chasing after a loose puck in the corner with different agendas.

Seeing two of the best players in the game getting after it would make for great theater, which is exactly what the NHL had in mind when it brought the World Cup back. Yet it may also produce a dash of anxiety for the front office that pays Crosby and Malkin millions to line the rafters at Consol with banners.

It’s a danger both are well aware of, and they’re hardly the only pair of teammates who will find themselves putting country before NHL team chemistry during the tournament. While Crosby allows there’s always the risk of running into each other, at some point you’ve got to just let that part go and focus on playing the game.

“You’re not necessarily thinking `That’s my teammate,’ in a split second,” Crosby said. “Sometimes you might not even know who has the puck.”

Even if Crosby and Malkin are unmistakable with a stick in their hands. Crosby anticipates the smack talk to be kept at a minimum, but didn’t rule out making a run at Malkin if the moment requires it.

“If we do, it’ll be in good fun,” Crosby said with a laugh. “We’re both pretty intense so it could happen. You never know.”

Malkin expects there to be a little chirping, too, but for an entirely different reason. Turns out Crosby is such a motormouth on the ice Malkin doesn’t even bother trying to keep up.

“Sid talks too much every game,” Malkin said. “He talks too quick for me. Actually, when he’s mad, I don’t understand. But he’s funny.”

All kidding aside, the two find themselves with vastly different missions heading to Toronto. The two-time defending Olympic champions are heavy favorites to stand atop the podium on the same soil where the sport was invented.

The Russians, meanwhile, will try to erase the memory of a forgettable 2014 Olympics in Sochi when they were knocked out in the quarterfinals at home. The pressure will be firmly on Canada, giving Russia a chance to play the role of underdog, if a team that includes Malkin and Washington Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin can be considered one.

“We lost the last two Olympics before,” Malkin said. “It’s a new challenge for the national team and we have a great team right now … it’s an amazing time to be here in my second `home’ town playing for the national team.”

Bubble crankiness ratchets up the nasty for Stars-Lightning

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EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Pat Maroon shot a puck into the Dallas bench, nailing an opponent in the face. Victor Hedman tripped Corey Perry before a faceoff. Perry put Tampa Bay’s Cedric Paquette into a headlock before getting flipped over.

The dislike is building quickly for the Stars and Lightning in this Stanley Cup Final, which is knotted at 1-1 going into Wednesday night’s game. While nastiness typically develops in a lot of series this deep in the playoffs, it’s happening even earlier in this one because players have grown cranky after eight weeks in the NHL bubble.

They are taking it out on the ice.

”That would probably play a big part of it,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. ”The things that you normally do to relax between games, whether it’s going out for dinner with your wife or go for a drive or going to the driving range to hit golf balls – anything you can do to relax between games is not there, so everyone’s a little edgy.”

The championship will ultimately be decided by which team can dictate its game to the other in what has become a best three out of five series. Those extra pushes, shoves and facewashes are part of it – and they only ratchet up the intensity, even without fans to cheer or boo it all.

”It seems like in this setting with no fans, it’s even more competitive out there with just you and the other team,” Dallas forward Andrew Cogliano said. ”Both teams are going to fight for every inch. As the series goes on, it’s just going to get more competitive.”

It’s competitive and chippy after the teams split the first two games and combined for 50 penalty minutes. Fourteen of those belong to Maroon, who got a 10-minute misconduct for flipping a puck into the bench and two minutes for roughing it up with Jamie Oleksiak in Game 1, then another two in Game 2 for running Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin.

”You know what happened,” Maroon said when asked about the puck incident. Stars veteran Joe Pavelski wasn’t thrilled the puck hit rookie Joel Kiviranta in the face, but said the referees handled it.

”That’s all you can do,” Pavelski said. ”It doesn’t take us off our game.”

After Maroon ran into Khudobin and incited a skirmish that qualifies as modern hockey’s line brawl, it was clear he has not endeared himself to the Stars.

”Why’s Maroon still out there?” a Dallas player yelled, easily heard in the empty arena. ”Put him in the box already!”

By the time Maroon, Hedman and Paquette got to the box, it was so crowded all three couldn’t sit down. Each team wants to avoid unnecessary penalties like that, but players know what’s at stake and they are not surprised by all the post-whistle extracurriculars.

”You’re not trying to give anyone an inch out there,” Tampa Bay center Anthony Cirelli said. ”You’re trying to finish every check when you can, it’s going to be physical, the emotions are going to be high. I think that’s just what comes with the entire playoffs, and that’s what playoff hockey is all about.”

This is also playoff hockey in the most unnatural of circumstances. As Bowness pointed out, players and coaches usually would be able to clear their minds and blow off steam between games.

That’s not possible right now.

”You’re just finding other ways,” Bowness said. ”The grind, the Groundhog Day, that is tough, and the normal things you would do to help you relax are just not there, so you adapt.”

Most players started this postseason healthy, and of course the injuries built up, but the struggle the Stars and Lightning are enduring right now is as much mental as anything. And it’s different playing playoff games without the usual transition from an 82-game regular season.

”The teams are so good that what separates you sometimes is whoever wants it more,” Cogliano said. ”Physically and mentally, it’s hard, but that’s the point at this time of the year and that’s the point of playing in the playoffs. It’s supposed to be hard and you have to enjoy it and want to be out there.”

Dallas played this style of game throughout the first three rounds, ousting high-scoring Colorado and Vegas along the way. Tampa Bay, after adding Maroon in free agency and Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman in trades, isn’t just a skill team and is more than happy to mix it up.

”I think we have some skill, we have some speed and we also bring that physical aspect to the game,” Cirelli said. ”But we’re not trying to be goons out there. We’re trying to win hockey games.”

The Wraparound: Lightning look to build off Game 2 win vs. Stars

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down Wednesday’s Stanley Cup Final game with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

• A look at how the Lightning built one of the best lines in the playoffs.

• Bob Bougher has been named head coach of the Sharks. He held the interim role after Peter DeBoer’s dismissal in December.

WEDNESDAY’S STANLEY CUP FINAL GAME

Game 3: Stars vs. Lightning (Series tied 1-1) – 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN (livestream): Tampa scored three goals in the first 15:16 minutes of the game, including two on the power play, and held off a late push by Dallas to win 3-2 and even the Stanley Cup Final at 1 game apiece. Brayden Point opened the scoring by netting his 10th of the postseason and Ondrej Palat and Kevin Shattenkirk each scored to give the Lightning a three-goal lead they would not relinquish.

Tampa’s power play was 0-for-14 in their previous four games and scored once in 18 opportunities before Point and Palat scored 2:59 apart in the first period. The Stars helped the Lightning power play wake up by taking three penalties in the opening 13 minutes of the game.

“That’s where we lost the game today,” Stars forward Mattias Janmark said after Game 1. “We don’t want to take penalties. We have taken way too many throughout the playoffs, but then I think when we get them, we’ve just got to go out and kill them, and we didn’t manage to do that today, and I think that’s where they won the game, so we’ve got to do a better job there.”

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Tyler Seguin, who is making his third appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, has struggled mightily in the 2020 playoffs. The 28- year-old has gone 11 consecutive games without a goal and has just one assist over that span. His last goal came in Game 3 of the Second Round vs. the Avalanche. He went 17 straight games during the regular season without scoring from Dec. 29 – Feb. 11.

“Feel like I’m playing a lot better as of late,” he said. “Definitely looking for that one bounce, but good things are happening when you’re getting chances and that’s the way you look at it.”

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (Series tied 1-1)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Game 3: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

Lightning-Stars stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with Wednesday’s Stanley Cup Final matchup between the Lightning and Stars. Pre-game coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Lightning-Stars stream on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Tampa scored three goals in the first 15:16 minutes of the game, including two on the power play, and held off a late push by Dallas to win 3-2 and even the Stanley Cup Final at one game apiece. Brayden Point opened the scoring by netting his 10th of the postseason and Ondrej Palat and Kevin Shattenkirk each scored to give the Lightning a three-goal lead they would not relinquish.

Since the beginning of their First Round series against Columbus, the Lightning are a perfect 5-0 following a loss this postseason. Tampa last lost consecutive games on March 8th and 10th – its final two games before the pause. Andrei Vasilevskiy has not lost consecutive starts since dropping three straight from Feb. 20-25.

After going 0/14 on the power play in their previous four games, the Lightning scored twice on the man-advantage in Game 2, with both tallies coming in the first period. Point and Palat scored power-play goals 2:59 apart in the first period in the win. Dallas took three penalties in the first 14 minutes of play and the Lightning were able to take control by scoring twice.

Tyler Seguin, who is making his third appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, has struggled mightily in the 2020 playoffs. The 28- year-old has gone 11 consecutive games without a goal and has just one assist over that span. His last goal came in Game 3 of the Second Round vs. Colorado.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

WHAT: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton
WHEN: Wednesday, September 23, 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
ON THE CALL: Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, Brian Boucher
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Lightning-Stars stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (Series tied 1-1)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Game 3: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

NHL schedule for 2020 Stanley Cup Final

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The Stanley Cup Playoffs continue on Saturday, Sept. 19 in the hub city of Edmonton. Now that we are through the conference finals, the full 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final schedule has been announced.  

The top four teams during the regular season in both conferences played a three-game round robin for seeding in the First Round. The eight winners of the best-of-5 Qualifying Round advanced to the First Round.  

Rogers Place in Edmonton will host 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final.  

Here is the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final schedule.

2020 STANLEY CUP FINAL (Rogers Place – Edmonton)

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (Series tied 1-1)

Game 1: Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Game 2: Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Game 3: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

CONFERENCE FINAL RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
Lightning beat Islanders (4-2)

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
Stars beat Golden Knights (4-1)

***

SECOND ROUND RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Lightning beat Bruins (4-1)
Islanders beat Flyers (4-3)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Golden Knights beat Canucks (4-3)
Stars beat Avalanche (4-3)

***

NHL QUALIFYING ROUND / ROUND-ROBIN RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Philadelphia Flyers (3-0-0, 6 points)
Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1-0, 4 points)
Washington Capitals (1-1-1, 3 points)
Boston Bruins (0-3-0, 0 points)

Canadiens beat Penguins (3-1)
Hurricanes beat Rangers (3-0)
Islanders beat Panthers (3-1)
Blue Jackets beat Maple Leafs (3-2)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Vegas Golden Knights (3-0-0, 6 points)
Colorado Avalanche (2-1-0, 4 points)
Dallas Stars (1-2-0, 2 points)
St. Louis Blues (0-2-1, 1 point)

Blackhawks beat Oilers (3-1)
Coyotes beat Predators (3-1)
Canucks beat Wild (3-1)
Flames beat Jets (3-1)

***

FIRST ROUND RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Flyers beat Canadiens (4-2)
Lightning beat Blue Jackets (4-1)
Islanders beat Capitals (4-1)
Bruins beat Hurricanes (4-1)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Golden Knights beat Blackhawks (4-1)
Avalanche beat Coyotes (4-1)
Stars beat Flames (4-2)
Canucks beat Blues (4-2)