Pre-game reading: The Panthers are back home and feeling good

— Up top, Kelsey DiClaudio from Pittsburgh is defying expectations as the first woman to compete with the U.S. Development Sled Hockey Team. “As long as I can play hockey, I’m fine,” she says.

— The Florida Panthers, after winning all five games of a season-defining road trip, return home to face the Edmonton Oilers tomorrow. Last night, they beat the Blues on a Vincent Trocheck goal with just 4.6 seconds remaining in regulation. “It felt like we won the Stanley Cup for just a second,” Trocheck told reporters afterward. “I think to do it with four seconds on the clock, we showed a lot of poise there in the third period.” (Miami Herald)

— As the finally-healthy Panthers surge, their Atlantic Division rivals, the Ottawa Senators, are being forced to endure an injury nightmare. “I don’t remember, to be honest, seeing that many (injuries), in so little time. These are some of your better players too,” coach Guy Boucher said. “We’re not talking about our 12th or 13th forward, we’re talking about high-end players.” Perhaps Eugene Melnyk spoke too soon about his team making a deep playoff run. The way things are trending, the Sens are in danger of dropping out of the postseason picture altogether. (Ottawa Sun)

— A pending unrestricted free agent on a team currently outside the playoff picture, Flyers d-man Michael Del Zotto knows he could be traded before March 1. “It happens every year. It’s not like it’s the first time. I’ve been traded before. It is what it is. It’s a business. You realize that pretty early in your career. I understand where I’m at as far as my contract, being a UFA this summer.” (CSN Philly)

Jarome Iginla is another pending UFA, and his Colorado Avalanche are definitely not going to make the playoffs. The 39-year-old winger would like to be traded, but with just seven goals in 57 games, it remains to be seen if there will be much of a market. “I’m not playing bad, but I still think I can get better,” he says. “There’s so many things that go into it and there are chances you’d like back, but I believe I’m going to get on a roll here in the next little bit to help us win some.” (Denver Post)

— A list of the best trade-deadline additions in NHL history, starting with Ron Francis, who joined the Penguins from the Hartford Whalers late in the 1990-91 season and then proceeded to put up 17 points in 24 playoff games to help Pittsburgh to its first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Francis then stuck around to win another title in 1992, so that trade turned out OK for the Pens. (Sportsnet)

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    NHL Bubble Wrap: Lightning get through to Stanley Cup Final

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    • The Tampa Bay Lightning are going to the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in franchise history.
    • Anthony Cirelli helped them making history by winning another series with an overtime winner.
    • Brayden Point returned for Game 6 after missing Game 5 on Tuesday.

    Tampa Bay Lightning 2, New York Islanders 1 (OT) (Lightning win series 4-2)

    It was starting to look like it was not going to happen for them, but the Tampa Bay Lightning finally broke through in overtime on an Anthony Cirelli goal to win Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final and punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final. For the Lightning it will be their third trip to the final and the first since 2014-15 when they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games. They previously won the Stanley Cup Final during the 2003-04 season. For the second game in a row the Lightning failed to convert on an extended power play that carried over into overtime. This time, though, they were on the right end of a 2-1 decision. Victor Hedman scored the other goal for Tampa Bay, continuing what has been a magnificent postseason. The Lightning also had Brayden Point back in the lineup after he missed Game 5 due to injury. The Islanders played Thursday’s game without one of their top defenseman, Adam Pelech, who will need surgery according to coach Barry Trotz.

    [NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

    Three Stars

    1. Anthony Cirelli, Tampa Bay Lightning. When you score the goal that sends your team to the Stanley Cup Final, you get top star honors for the night. Cirelli is one of the Lightning’s most underrated players, but remains a key part of their lineup. He is already one of the league’s best defensive forwards and is developing into a strong offensive player. He is the perfect complement to the superstar talent at the top of the roster.

    2. Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders. Yeah, his team lost. But he is the only reason his team made it to overtime and the only reason it had a chance. He stopped 46 out of 48 shots on the night and did everything he could to single handedly keep the series going. The only other thing he could have done was actually score a goal himself.

    3. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning. He only had to face 27 shots, but he made an absolutely massive save in overtime to stop Brock Nelson on a breakaway that could have sent the series to a decisive seventh game.

    Highlights of the Night

    Anthony Cirelli scores the game-winning goal.

    Hedman’s goal to tie the game for the Lightning in the first period.

    Devon Toews scored the only goal for the Islanders.

    Factoids

    • Tampa Bay’s win on Thursday is already its sixth overtime win of the postseason. [NHL PR]
    • This is the sixth time in NHL history that both Stanley Cup Final teams advanced to that round with overtime wins. [NHL PR]
    • No team has played more overtime hockey in a single postseason than this year’s Lightning team. [NHL PR]

    Stanley Cup Final Schedule

    Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars

    Game 1: Saturday, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m. ET – NBC
    Game 2: Monday, Sept. 21, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
    Game 3: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
    Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
    *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

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    Cirelli’s overtime goal sends Lightning to Stanley Cup Final

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    Thanks to Anthony Cirelli‘s goal at the 13:18 mark of overtime, the Lightning are on their way back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since the 2014-15 season.

    It is there that they will play the Stars. Game 1 of the series takes place on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC) in Edmonton.

    Cirelli’s goal ended a slugfest of a game that saw the Lightning pepper Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov with 48 shots and completely dominate territorially.

    His goal had to be a massive relief for Lightning fans, not only because it sent their team to the Cup Final, but because this game was starting to take on an eerily similar feel.

    One of the biggest issues the Lightning have had in the playoffs in recent years has been finishing series because of a slumping offense that could not convert on its chances. It happened to them in the 2015 Cup Final, and it happened to them in the 2016 and 2018 Eastern Conference Finals.

    After scoring one goal in Game 5 and only one goal through 70 minutes of hockey on Thursday it looked like it might be happening again.

    [NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

    It was also the second game in a row that the Lightning were given a four-minute power play at the end of regulation — this time due to an Andy Greene high-sticking call — that would carry over into overtime with a chance to clinch the series.

    For the second game in a row they failed to capitalize on that opportunity.

    Not only did they fail to score on that power play on Thursday, but Brock Nelson nearly ended the game for the Islanders on a breakaway only to have Andrei Vasilevskiy make his biggest save of the night.

    Later in the period the Lightning were guilty of a too many men on the ice penalty that gave the Islanders a power play, but Tampa successfully killed the penalty by not allowing a single shot on goal. That successful kill set the stage for Cirelli’s overtime goal.

    Cirelli had briefly exited the game in the second period after a collision at the blue line with Islanders captain Anders Lee.

    Every series win for the Lightning this postseason has ended with an overtime goal.

    2020 STANLEY CUP FINAL (Rogers Place – Edmonton)

    Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars

    Game 1: Saturday, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m. ET – NBC
    Game 2: Monday, Sept. 21, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
    Game 3: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
    Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
    *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

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    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

    Game 1: Saturday, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m. ET – NBC
    Game 2: Monday, Sept. 21, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
    Game 3: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
    Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
    *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)

    Lightning get Brayden Point back for Game 6; Islanders lose Pelech

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    The Tampa Bay are getting major a lift for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final as they attempt to punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final.

    Brayden Point will be back in the lineup against the New York Islanders on Thursday after missing the Lightning’s Game 5 loss on Tuesday.

    It was the second game he missed this series, with those two being the only games the Lightning have lost in the series.

    He will skate in his usual spot on the top line between Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat.

    [NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

    Point has been the Lightning’s best overall player this postseason and has emerged as one of the leading contenders for the Conn Smythe Trophy. He enters Thursday’s game with 25 points in 16 games, including at least one point in 14 of those games. He has seven points in the Eastern Conference Final alone even though he has only played in two-and-a-half games in the series.

    But while the Lightning are getting one of their most important players back, the Islanders are losing one of their top players.

    Defenseman Adam Pelech will not be available for Game 6, a development that will leave a significant hole on their blue line.

    Pelech’s absence during the regular season was one of the biggest factors behind their second half slide. Losing him on the same night that Tampa Bay gets Point back is going to be a major issue for the Islanders.

    Noah Dobson will be in the lineup for the Islanders in Pelech’s place.

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.