Blues’ resiliency paid off with another bounce-back win

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The way that the Boston Bruins trampled over the St. Louis Blues in the second and third periods of Game 1 had some folks wondering.

Wondering, perhaps, if the Blues had finally met their match. Wondering if, maybe, their Cinderella run wasn’t going to have the happiest of endings.

This is Boston they’re facing, and this is the Stanley Cup Final where the stakes are the highest.

The Blues knew Game 1’s suboptimal performance wasn’t going to cut it. The players said it, the coach said it, the pundits said it. Everyone knew if that was all the Blues could muster, it’d likely be curtains on a fairytale season.

But St. Louis had their own trick up their sleeve. Again.

You see, the Blues entered Game 2 sporting a record of 5-2 on the heels of a loss in this postseason. Losing has seemingly elicited something extra from the Blues in these playoffs. They’re quick to make the right adjustments. They tinker with their setup to find that extra oomph.

In a different industry, the Blues might just be the best mechanics around.

The Blues added another tick to the win column after a loss — now 6-2 — after a 3-2 win to level the best-of-seven series 1-1 as it shifts back to St. Louis on Saturday.

“I just think we find ways just to challenge ourselves,” forward Patrick Maroon said. “It’s all mental. It’s all in the ears, it’s between the ears. You’ve just got to find ways to just grind through and stick with it, and when you do that, you’re going to get results and you find ways.”

The Blues trailed by a margin of a 1-0 and 2-1 in the first period, the fourth time they’ve been able to come back in a playoff game this season (Games 1, 2, and 5 vs. Winnipeg).

Leading the charge in these comebacks has been Jordan Binnington, the rookie goaltender that’s set the bar of what green goalies can accomplish in the NHL.

Binnington fought off 21 of the 23 shots he faced to improve to 6-2 following a loss in these playoffs, including a .935 save percentage. The ‘Iceman’ is now 12-2 in the regular season and playoffs combined following a defeat.

“Life of a goaltender,” Binnington said. “Just keep moving forward and regroup, just try to be there and give your team a chance to win. I keep that mindset.

Per NHL Public Relations, only five goaltenders in NHL history have posted more wins after defeat within a single postseason: Nikolai Khabibulin in 2004 (8-0), Ron Hextall in 1987 (8-2), Miikka Kiprusoff in 2004 (8-3), Marc-Andre Fleury in 2009 (7-2) and Henrik Lundqvist in 2014 (7-4).

“They’ve always responded to not a very good game,” said head coach Craig Berube. “Going into Game 2, I knew we’d be a hard team to play against tonight, and we were.”

Blues frustrated Boston’s power play

The Blues gave the Bruins another five looks on the power play throughout the course of the game, but limited the number of shots they got to just four, down six from the 10 they allowed in Game 1 over the same number of power-play opportunities.

It’s not ideal to give the best power play in the playoffs the time the Blues are offering them, but it’s manageable if they can hold the fort like they did on Wednesday.

Berube said his team won more faceoffs and were able to clear the puck on more occasions.

“Really do a good job with our gaps on their entries from their breakouts,” he said. “I thought we were really good there. We were tight. We forced them to turn pucks over in that area and got it down the ice. That was really important.”

Blues-Bruins Game 3 is Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET from Enterprise Center on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

NWHL buoyed over future after adding financial backers

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The National Women’s Hockey League announced Thursday it had added enough financial backing after a two-month capital campaign to ensure its viability beyond its fifth season this year.

The league declined to reveal specifics in noting its number of private investors has grown beyond 20 with the addition of insurance and technology entrepreneur Andy Scurto. In 2017, Scurto sold his firm for $160 million.

“This infusion of capital from Andy Scurto and our partners who believe in the power and value of professional women’s hockey is another important milestone for the NWHL, our players, supporters and fans,” NWHL Commissioner and founder Dani Rylan said. “This provides us with long-term viability.”

The league is a little over a month into its season with teams in Boston, Buffalo, New York, Connecticut, Minnesota and New Jersey.

The NWHL was able to add investors despite losing the backing of a majority of the world’s top players in the offseason. In May, more than 200 players – including members of the U.S. and Canadian national teams – pledged not to compete in North America this season following the collapse of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. The players formed the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association to push for establishing a league with what they said needed to have a viable, sustainable economic model.

The Buffalo Sabres relinquished ownership of the NWHL Buffalo Beauts, while the New Jersey Devils ended their agreement with the NWHL’s Metropolitan Riveters.

In September, Rylan vowed her league wasn’t going anywhere, and added the NWHL was proving it could be viable without the NHL.

The league said the new funding will be directed toward building the league’s infrastructure, enhancing player development and attracting more investors, including team owners. Two months ago, Miles Arnone led a group of investors to purchase the Boston Pride.

Arnone said the focus on infrastructure and adding owners will eventually lead to an increase in player salaries. The NWHL no longer reveals its salary scale, though players can now earn a bump in pay through a newly introduced 50-50 split of sponsorship and media right revenue.

In September, the NWHL announced players had already earned a 26% pay increase based on new agreements reached over the summer.

Disorderly conduct charge against Auston Matthews dismissed

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The disorderly conduct and disruptive behaviour charges against Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews have been dismissed.

Those charges were made against Matthews after an incident in Scottsdale, Arizona last May, when a female security guard at Matthews’ condo complex, Fayola Dozithee, filed a complaint against the 22-year-old for trying to break into her car while she was in it doing paperwork at 2 a.m.

According to the police report, Dozithee added that she was terrified by the actions of Matthews and the friends he was with at the time. Matthews was also accused of pulling down his pants and grabbing his buttocks (with his underwear on) sometime after the initial incident took place.

The two sides have now come to an agreement on a financial settlement that would simply dismiss the charges against Matthews.

“On Nov. 13 the matter was settled between the parties and the criminal matter was dismissed,” a spokesperson from the City of Scottsdale’s communications department said, per the Toronto Star.

Despite the fact that the incident occurred in May, it only came to light during Maple Leafs training in late September.

“It’s not something that I think any of us really wish we were talking about today. Unfortunately, it’s the situation we’re in,” Matthews told reporters during camp. “I regret any of my actions that would ever put a distraction on the team or distress any individual.

“I take a lot of pride in preparing myself for the season and representing the Toronto Maple Leafs as well as I can. Unfortunately due to the situation, I’m afraid I can’t really make any other comments.”

According to TSN’s Rick Westhead, Arizona prosecutors and Matthews’ lawyers were scheduled to meet at a trial readiness conference on Nov. 27. That will no longer be necessary.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

PHT Morning Skate: Makar’s incredible rookie season; Load management in NHL

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Capitals head coach Todd Reirden brought a few champions in to talk to his team about winning it all. (NBC Sports Washington)

• Why have the Devils’ bad players playing well and why are the good players playing bad? (All About the Jersey)

• How has Kevin Hayes looked in his first few games with the Flyers? (NBC Sports Philadelphia)

• Rod Brind’Amour is already the best coach in Hurricanes franchise history. (Cardiac Cane)

• Only Brendan Shanahan will be able to fire Mike Babcock. (Leafs Nation)

Noel Acciari has been an incredible steal for the Florida Panthers. (The Rat Trick)

Cale Makar is having a rookie season for the ages. (The Hockey News)

• The wives and girlfriends of Canadiens players are learning how to play hockey. (Sportsnet)

• We’re starting to see load management between the pipes in the NHL. (ESPN)

• This broadcast duo have been calling Red Wings games for 25 years. (Detroit News)

• The Golden Knights need to make sure that they don’t let their recent struggles frustrate them. (Sinbin.Vegas)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Buzzer: McDavid, Draisaitl stay red-hot; Lightning torch Rangers

Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers
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Three Stars

1. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers

There is a reason these two lead the NHL in points and a combined 11-point outing will certainly keep them there a bit longer. McDavid recorded his second hat trick in three games and his first career six-point outing. Draisaitl had five assists and extended his point streak to 11 games as the Oilers skated to a 6-2 victory against the Colorado Avalanche. If the Oilers feel that the rest of the lineup can provide enough support McDavid and Draisaitl can build on a dynamic partnership and help Edmonton return to the postseason.

2. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

A trip to Sweden was the perfect opportunity for the Lightning to find their form and in their first game back in North America, they proved they still are an elite offensive team. Kucherov capped off an explosive stretch when Tampa Bay scored three times in a span of 61 seconds and added three assists. It was the second time this season Kucherov recorded four points.

3. Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks

The Czech forward had two goals as the San Jose Sharks extended their winning streak to five with an important 5-3 victory against the Anaheim Ducks. Hertl was the beneficiary of a suspect call when he pushed John Gibson’s pad over the goal line in the opening period. But on his second of the night, the 26-year-old wired a wrister to even the score in the second period. After a slow start, the Sharks are hoping to climb their way back into the playoff race.

Highlights of the Night

McDavid doing McDavid things

Video game dekes are normally reserved for an alternate reality but Justin Dowling of the Dallas Stars showed his slick hands with an impressive toe drag.

Before a one-timer is launched, there are times you just know the player is going to connect. Lightning captain Steven Stamkos is one goal away from the 400-goal mark after this blistering slap shot.

Blooper of the Night

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins probably had a different plan for this celebration

Factoids

  • Connor McDavid became the fourth player in Oilers history to record two hat tricks in three games, joining Wayne Gretzy, Glen Anderson and Jari Kurri [NHL PR].
  • McDavid and Draisaitl are just the second Oilers teammates in the last 30 years to each record five points in a game [NHL PR]
  • The Hurricanes have not lost a game against the Sabres since March 22m 2016 and are one of five teams with an active win streak of 10+ games vs. one opponent [NHL PR]
  • Dougie Hamilton is the fastest defenseman in Hurricanes/Whalers franchise history to reach 20 points in a season (19 GP) [Sportsnet Stats]
  • The Lightning scored four goals in each of the first and second periods of a game for first time in franchise history [NHL PR]
  • Tampa Bay scored four goals in the first 6:42 of Thursday’s game. Only five teams have accomplished that feat faster in the last 25 years [NHL PR].

Scores

Lightning 9, Rangers 3

Hurricanes 5, Sabres 4 (OT)

Jets 4, Panthers 3

Wild 3, Coyotes 2

Oilers 6, Avalanche 2

Stars 4, Canucks 2

Sharks 5, Ducks 3

Kings 3, Red Wings 2

MORE:
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.