Penguins blast Predators in Game 5, move within one win of Stanley Cup

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PITTSBURGH — The dominant theme of the Stanley Cup Final played out again on Thursday night:

It’s good to be at home.

Very good.

For the fifth straight game, the home team emerged victorious — only this time it was in a rout, as Pittsburgh whipped Nashville 6-0 at PPG Paints to take a three games to two series lead.

Pittsburgh can now win its second consecutive Stanley Cup on Sunday, when Game 6 goes in Nashville.

It was a dominant, balanced and thorough effort from the Penguins, who got their six goals from six different skaters: Justin Schultz, Bryan Rust, Evgeni Malkin, Conor Sheary, Phil Kessel and Ron Hainsey. Twelve different skaters registered at least one point, with Sidney Crosby leading the way with three.

It was a virtuoso performance the captain.

Crosby dominated from the opening shift, drawing a penalty 50 seconds in, then had a hand in nearly everything that transpired. He was a catalyst in chasing Preds starting netminder Pekka Rinne, assisting on Schultz’s power-play goal, one of three to beat Rinne in the opening frame.

Crosby set up Sheary for the fourth goal, and Kessel for the fifth. He also tangled with nemesis P.K. Subban — punching Subban in the back of the head repeatedly during a late first period skirmish — and even tossed a water bottle onto the playing surface (it was an accident, apparently.)

And if it wasn’t Crosby influencing things, it was one of his teammates. Pretty much everything went Pittsburgh’s way on the night, which was fitting. It’s been that way at PPG Paints all series long.

The Pens have now outscored Nashville 15-4 at home, with the majority of that damage coming at Rinne’s expense. The beleaguered netminder — who’d redeemed himself so well in Games 3 and 4 — now owns some absolutely horrific road numbers: 0-3 record, 5.41 GAA, and a .756 save percentage.

Rinne’s performance was just one in a series of Nashville lowlights. The Preds were shut out for the first time this series, looked discombobulated defensively and, to add injury to insult, lost defenseman Ryan Ellis to an apparent lower-body ailment in the second period.

If there’s a silver lining for the Preds, it’s what we mentioned at the top. Home teams have held serve throughout this series — a perfect 5-0 — and the next game is back in the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena.

Of course, that won’t mean a thing if Nashville plays like it did tonight.

Notes…

Matt Murray recorded his second shutout of the postseason and first in this series, stopping all 24 shots faced… Juuse Saros made 12 saves in relief of Rinne, allowing three goals… Things boiled over in the third period with a series of fights and questionable hits. As a result, the teams finished with a combined 98 penalty minutes… Colton Sissons received a match penalty late in the tilt for a crosscheck to the face of Pens d-man Olli Maatta… The team that has won Game 5 after a split of the opening four contests of the Stanley Cup Final has gone on to win it 17 of 24 times (70.8 percent) since the series adopted the best-of-seven format in 1939… The club that has lost Game 5 has rebounded to win the series in four of the past eight such occasions. All have been since 2001: Colorado Avalanche (2001), Tampa Bay Lightning (2004), Pittsburgh Penguins (2009) and Boston Bruins (2011).

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.