Predators take loss with grace and optimism

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NASHVILLE — They could’ve been angry.

They certainly had the right.

Instead, the Nashville Predators chose grace and optimism after getting robbed of a goal and losing Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.

“It’s tough, but that’s sports,” said Preds captain Mike Fisher. “There’s human error in every sport. That’s the way it goes sometimes. We can’t control that, unfortunately. That happens and I’m sure the ref feels bad about it. But what do you do? It wasn’t on purpose.”

The referee was Kevin Pollock, and the error was a big one. Early in the second period, Colton Sissons appeared to make it 1-0 for Nashville. But Pollock had lost sight of the puck and blown the play dead. The goal was waved off as a result.

If the goal had counted, the Preds might have forced Game 7. But it didn’t, and now their season is over. The Penguins beat them, 2-0, Sunday at Bridgestone Arena. The winning goal was a fluky one that bounced off Pekka Rinne‘s back. The other was an empty-netter.

Tough to take.

“I was treating this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Rinne, who turns 35 in November. “You never know when you’re gonna get another opportunity. The only thing I was thinking about was that Cup. Dreaming about that. Playing for that.”

P.K. Subban echoed that sentiment.

“When you dream about lifting the Stanley Cup as a young kid, and the dreams happen probably a million times for most of us, being that close, being two games away from lifting the Stanley Cup, it sucks,” Subban said.

But then came the optimism, and for good reason. Save for Fisher and Rinne, the Preds’ key players are all under 30, and a lot of them are under 25.

“We have such a young team,” Subban said. “I think we gained a ton of experience from this run.”

He mentioned Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau, two young centers who were forced to step up when Ryan Johansen went down. Sissons could’ve been the hero in Game 6. But first came the blown call. Then a missed breakaway. Finally, he hit the post.

It’s going to sting for a while. And in a league with so much parity, it won’t be easy for the Predators to get so close again.

That being said, there’s no glaring reason they can’t. And if they can, they’ll bring this year’s experience with them.

“There are so many good things that we learned as a group,” said Fisher. “How to play. How to come together as a team and believe in each other. I think there’s only positives that can come out of this. Obviously, losing is never easy, but I think we learned a lot of lessons that guys will carry forward, for sure.”

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.