Net gains: Andersen, Grubauer, Rinne stepping up in playoffs

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DENVER (AP) — This classifies as fun for Frederik Andersen: Protecting a late lead in the third period by leaping out of his net to stop a shot with the handle of his stick.

Sticky situation handled.

”Doing whatever it takes to save it,” the Toronto goaltender explained after the 3-2 win Monday over Boston. ”Fun one.”

Going into the postseason, there were some reservations concerning such goaltenders as Andersen, Philipp Grubauer of Colorado and even Pekka Rinne of Nashville. They have each responded in a big way with Andersen, Grubauer, Rinne helping stake their teams to 2-1 leads in their first-round series.

All three look to come up clutch yet again in Game 4 on Wednesday night.

Like Andersen, Rinne turned in a huge save in a 3-2 win Monday over Dallas – sliding over from his knees to stop left winger Jamie Benn‘s attempt with his left goalie pad.

”Every once in a while he makes one like that where you roll your eyes and say, ‘How did he do that?”’ Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban said. ”He’s been doing that for a long time, though.”

Rinne, the reigning Vezina winner, wasn’t exactly vintage Rinne a season ago in the postseason, allowing 21 goals in a second-round series loss to Winnipeg that was extended to seven games. So far this season, Rinne has a 1.98 goals-against average against Dallas and a .936 save percentage.

Now that’s more like Rinne, who led the Predators to the Stanley Cup Final in ’17.

”Peks made a couple unbelievable saves in the third there,” Filip Forsberg said. ”It’s what the playoffs is all about.”

Andersen entered the postseason on the heels of a bad stretch to end the season, when he allowed 35 goals over his last 10 appearances.

Against Boston, he’s made 108 saves and none bigger than his stop of center David Krejci on Monday. Andersen lunged out of his net as Krejci made a move to the backhand. He kept his goalie stick close to the ice and had the puck deflect off the end.

The chants of his name by the fans only intensified.

”Playoff time, this building comes alive. It’s a special place to play,” Andersen said. ”It makes you want to play even harder.”

A year ago, Grubauer started the first two games of the Stanley Cup title run for the Washington Capitals before surrendering the net to Braden Holtby. Grubauer was dealt to Colorado in the offseason and he began as the backup to Semyon Varlamov. But Grubauer took over late and went 7-0-2 down the stretch help the Avalanche earn the No. 8 seed. He’s allowed seven goals and made 90 saves against the Flames, the top seed in the Western Conference.

”We have to be in the moment and I think we’re doing the right things right now,” Grubauer said after a 6-2 win, the second in a row for the Avs.

Holtby appreciates the grit of Grubauer.

”He’s too good of a goalie to not have success over time,” Holtby said. ”It’s great for him. Obviously he’s had an adjustment to a different situation, adversity he’s grinded through. He’s a strong guy mentally, so it doesn’t come as a surprise to any of us.”

BOSTON at TORONTO (7 p.m. EDT, NBCSN)

Boston forward Patrice Bergeron remains confident his line will crank up the production.

Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand have combined for three goals in three games against the Maple Leafs after a regular season in which they had 106. One of the reasons is the defensive work of Toronto’s offensive line of John Tavares, Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman.

”It’s tight right now. There’s not much space,” Bergeron said. ”We believe in ourselves and know we’re playing a good team and a good line.”

NASHVILLE at DALLAS (8 p.m. EDT, USA)

At 5-foot-6, Predators center Rocco Grimaldi is one of the shortest players in the NHL. He’s certainly coming up big in this series, scoring in consecutive games.

After going into the lineup for Game 2 – filling in when 6-6 center Brian Boyle had an appendix issue following Game 1 – Grimaldi had his first career playoff goal Saturday with a stick coincidentally named ”Frankie” – on the three-year anniversary of the death of his grandfather Frank. He added another goal, with a different stick, in Game 3.

CALGARY at COLORADO (10 p.m. EDT, NBCSN)

The Flames watched film as a group in lieu of practice Tuesday. Among the topics discussed was getting back to playing the way they played in amassing a Western Conference-best 107 points. Johnny Gaudreau has been held in check, with just one assist in the series. He had 99 points in the regular season.

”Everyone’s got to be better, not just one guy,” Gaudreau said. ”All of us are going to be better next game.”

Calgary is searching for a way to slow down MacKinnon, who has three goals, including an OT winner in Game 2.

”We’re going to have to make sure we eliminate some of that ice he’s had available through three games,” Flames coach Bill Peters said.

AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno and AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

WATCH LIVE: Blues look to clinch Stanley Cup Final berth in Game 6

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Game 6:  San Jose Sharks at St. Louis Blues, 8 p.m. ET (Blues lead series 3-2)
NBCSN
Call: Kenny Albert, Mike Milbury, Pierre McGuire
Series preview

Stream here

Pre-game coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET with NHL Live with host Liam McHugh alongside Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp. Kathryn Tappen and Jeremy Roenick will provide on-site reports throughout the game.

The Blues took a 3-2 Western Conference Final lead on Sunday with a 5-0 Game 5 blowout win over the Sharks at SAP Center in San Jose. Jordan Binnington made 21 saves for his first Stanley Cup Playoff shutout, Jaden Schwartz had a hat trick, and Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and two assists for the Blues. St. Louis is now 7-2 on the road and have set their single-season record with 11 playoff wins. The series moves to St. Louis tonight for Game 6 as the Blues attempt to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1970.

If the Sharks win tonight’s Game 6, they will force a decisive Game 7 in San Jose on Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN, with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final at stake.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Here is the complete schedule for the entire 2019 Stanley Cup Final series:

Game 1: Monday, May 27, 8 p.m.: San Jose/St. Louis at Bruins | NBC
Game 2: Wednesday, May 29, 8 p.m.: San Jose/St. Louis at Bruins | NBCSN
Game 3: Saturday, June 1, 8 p.m.: Bruins at San Jose/St. Louis | NBCSN
Game 4: Monday, June 3, 8 p.m.: Bruins at San Jose/St. Louis | NBC
*Game 5: Thursday, June 6, 8 p.m.: San Jose/St. Louis at Bruins | NBC
*Game 6: Sunday, June 9, 8 p.m.: Bruins at San Jose/St. Louis | NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, June 12, 8 p.m.: San Jose/St. Louis at Bruins | NBC
*If necessary
(All times ET, subject to change)

Blues face prime opportunity to return to Stanley Cup Final

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When you have your opponent looking down and out in a playoff series you do not want to let them get back up.

You do not even want to give them the chance to get back up.

You want to eliminate them when you have the opportunity and remove all doubt, avoiding what would be an all-or-nothing Game 7 on the road.

That is the position the St. Louis Blues find themselves in heading into Game 6 of the Western Conference Final on Tuesday night (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN; live stream) when they will host an injury-riddled San Jose Sharks team.

The Blues have won the past two games, including a thoroughly dominant performance on Sunday, they are at home, and they are facing a Sharks team that is without two of its best players and potentially a third that will almost certainly not be 100 percent if he does play.

Everything has fallen in the Blues’ favor for this game, and it is hard to imagine a better opportunity to close out a series than this.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Just look at everything that is sitting in the Blues’ corner for this game.

  • Their best player, Vladimir Tarasenko, has gone on a tear and is riding a five-game point streak heading into Tuesday’s game. He was always going to be one of the biggest factors in this series and has found his scoring touch at just the right time.
  • The Sharks will not have Erik Karlsson, one of their most important players and a defender that can single-handedly change a team and a game when he is in the lineup. This series started to shift in the Blues’ favor when Karlsson’s groin injury resurfaced, limiting his ability to make an impact. He was obviously less than 100 percent in the Blues’ Game 4 win and barely played in Game 5 on Sunday. The Blues have outscored the Sharks by a 7-1 margin in those two games. Even though the Sharks still have another Norris Trophy winner (and a Norris Trophy finalist this season) in Brent Burns in their lineup, they are definitely a weaker team when one of them is out of the lineup.
  • The Sharks will also be without Tomas Hertl, currently their second-leading goal-scorer. With Hertl and Karlsson out it means the Sharks will be playing a must-win game without two of the top-six scorers in the playoffs and two players that have been involved in an overwhelming majority of their offense. At least one of Hertl or Karlsson has been on the ice for 39 of the Sharks’ 57 goals, while one of them has scored or assisted on 25 of them. When neither one is on the ice the Sharks have averaged just 2.22 goals per 60 minutes (all situations) in the playoffs. Not a great number.

So, yeah, this is a huge opportunity for the Blues and a game where it would probably be in their best interest to take care of business.

A loss on Tuesday night not only sends them to a Game 7 in San Jose where anything can happen, it also leaves open the possibility that one of those two key Sharks players (or even both of them) could be available. Yes, the Blues have been great on the road in these playoffs, but there is no guarantee that continues, especially in a win-or-go-home situation.

Even without Hertl and Karlsson the Sharks still have plenty of talent on their roster, so this game is far from a cake-walk for the Blues. But this is definitely the weakest lineup they are going to face in this matchup and there is never going to be a better opportunity to end a 49 year Stanley Cup Final drought than this night.

If they are going to do it, this seems like the game for it to happen.

MORE: Stanley Cup Final 2019 schedule, TV info

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.

Karlsson, Hertl out for Game 6; Pavelski game-time decision

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If the San Jose Sharks are going to force a Game 7 in the Western Conference Final against the St. Louis Blues they are going to have to do it on Tuesday night (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN; Live Stream) without a couple of their most important players.

Coach Pete DeBoer announced after the morning skate that defender Erik Karlsson and forward Tomas Hertl are not available for Game 6 against and that they did not even accompany the team on the road trip to St. Louis.

Both players exited the Sharks’ Game 5 loss on Sunday due to injury.

Karlsson has been hampered by a nagging groin injury that has resurfaced in the playoffs, while Hertl had to leave the game after he was on the receiving end of a high hit from Blues forward Ivan Barbashev. There was no penalty called on the play and Barbashev was not disciplined by the league.

Captain Joe Pavelski also exited Sunday’s game with an injury and did not take part in the morning skate on Tuesday but is a game-time decision according to DeBoer.

Pavelski had previously missed the first six games of the Sharks’ Round 2 series against the Colorado Avalanche after he was injured in their Game 7 win against the Vegas Golden Knights. He has five points (two goals, three assists) since returning to the lineup.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

While Pavelski at least seems like a possibility to play, the losses of Karlsson and Hertl are going to be significant for the Sharks.

Even though Karlsson has been limited by injury for much of the season he has still been an impact player and played a huge role in the team’s Round 1 comeback against the Golden Knights. He has 16 total points in 19 games and is the league’s fifth-leading scorer in the playoffs. It was obvious he was struggling in the Sharks’ Game 4 loss but still attempted to play in Game 5. It did not go well as he was clearly unable to play up to his normal level and logged just 10 minutes of ice time, with only three of those minutes coming after the first period.

Hertl, meanwhile, has been one of the Sharks’ most dynamic forwards and has scored some of their biggest goals this postseason, including a game-winning shorthanded goal in double overtime to help the team fight off elimination in Round 1, and one of the power play goals in their come-from-behind Game 7 win against the Golden Knights.

He has 10 goals (third among all players in the playoffs) and 15 total points.

MORE: Stanley Cup Final 2019 schedule, TV info

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.

Canes’ Martinook, de Haan have offseason surgeries

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Carolina Hurricanes forward Jordan Martinook and defenseman Calvin de Haan have had offseason surgeries.

General manager Don Waddell said Tuesday that Martinook had a procedure on a core muscle while de Haan’s surgery was on his right shoulder.

Martinook is expected to recover in 4-6 weeks while de Haan will be out 4-6 months.

The 26-year-old Martinook had a career-best 15 goals with five game-winners, and was in and out of the lineup during the playoffs due to injuries. The 28-year-old de Haan injured his shoulder against Pittsburgh on March 31 but returned for Game 4 of the first-round playoff series against Washington.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NH and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports