Pregame chat, unique stick help O’Reilly deliver dominant Game 4 performance

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ST. LOUIS — Ryan O'Reilly‘s traditional pre-game chat with his dad hammered home a simple message: Leave it all out there, stop overthinking the game, and trust yourself more.

Brian O’Reilly’s words on Monday afternoon resonated as his son’s two goals helped the St. Louis Blues top the Boston Bruins 4-2 in Game 4 to even the Stanley Cup Final at two games apiece. Game 5 is Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC) at TD Garden.

O’Reilly opened the scoring 43 seconds into game — a play he started by winning an offensive zone face-off. Vince Dunn‘s shot was tipped by Zach Sanford in front and stopped by Tuukka Rask‘s right pad. Unfortunately for the goaltender, the rebound went right to O’Reilly’s stick as he was spinning off Bruins defenseman Torey Krug. The wraparound was converted with help from his incredibly unique blade.

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“It’s obviously a weird stick,” O’Reilly told the “31 Thoughts” podcast back in October.

Because O’Reilly likes to make plays with the heel, he uses a straight blade that features a hooked toe. He says it gives him more control of the puck, and it certainly showed as he avoided Rask’s skate and tucked home the first goal of the game.

Teammates have tried out O’Reilly’s stick, but the reviews aren’t positive. Some like to joke that the toe is like that because he stuck it in a door. But Warrior actually sent him a plastic blade, and after using a heat gun he was able to find a curve to his liking.

“I don’t dare touch his sticks,” said linemate Zach Sanford. “I let him do his thing. Those are his.”

“He makes it work,” said Patrick Maroon.

The game-winning goal, which O’Reilly delivered with 9:22 left in the third period, was the result of Alex Pietrangelo’s awareness that the Bruins were changing and O’Reilly’s decision to drive to the net and hope for a rebound. 

The “pass off pads” play is something the Blues work on in practice. The idea is to create havoc in front of goal, and with a player driving to net they often lead to dangerous scoring chances.

“The way it developed we knew we were going to have something to the net with Petro coming down there,” said O’Reilly, who hadn’t scored since Game 1 of the Western Conference Final. “I’m just trying to do what I can to get to that back side and it was a great bounce. It happens sometimes and you just try and throw it on the net. Sometimes you get those bounces. [I] was just lucky to be on that end of it.”

The feeling many had heading into Game 4 was the same as it was when Game 2 approached. The Bruins had dominated the previous game and there was a feeling that they would continue to build off that victory. Instead, as they’ve done so many times this season, the Blues reset and bounced back. 

Game 4 was the most consistent game of the series for St. Louis thus far. They were relentless in establishing their forecheck, delivered 44 hits, remained disciplined and gave Boston only two power plays. There were a few extended periods of time Monday night when they had the Bruins hemmed into their own zone keeping the pressure on, much to the delight of the 18,805 fans in attendance inside of the sold-out Enterprise Center.

Now it’s a best-of-three series and the next time the Blues play at home — Game 6 on Sunday — the Stanley Cup could be awarded that evening. Two more efforts like what they executed in Game 4 and St. Louis will be yelling “Play Gloria!” for years to come.

“From start to finish, guys kept playing, and when they made a push [we] responded well and we kept going one shift at a time,” said O’Reilly. “As a group we brought that and it worked tonight.”

Game 5 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final airs on NBC at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday (stream here).

MORE BLUES-BRUINS GAME 3:
Blues even Stanley Cup Final vs. Bruins in Game 4
Stanley Cup Buzzer: O’Reilly makes difference for Blues
Bruins’ Chara to be re-evaluated, status for Game 5 unknown

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Cirelli, Lightning cruise past Jets; Crosby tallies OT winner

Anthony Cirelli #71 of the Tampa Bay Lightning
Getty Images
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Three Stars

1) Anthony Cirelli, Tampa Bay Lightning

Cirelli recorded his first NHL hat trick as the Lightning steamrolled the Winnipeg Jets Friday evening. The 22-year-old scored twice in the opening period as the Bolts jumped out to a 3-0 lead and never looked back. Cirelli hammered a feed from Ondrej Palat 9:27 into the game and then converted a nifty forehand-backhand maneuver to close out the first 20 minutes. Cirelli would complete the hat trick midway through the third period.

2) Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Malkin recorded two power-play assists to set up Pittsburgh’s two goals in its 2-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings. Sidney Crosby has received a lot of attention since returning from a 28-game absence earlier this week and added the game-winning goal Friday. However, it was Malkin who looked off the defender and delivered a perfect pass to set up the Penguins captain. Malkin has recorded 10 points in the previous six games.

3) Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

The 26-year-old winger scored twice in Tampa Bay’s 7-1 win. Cirelli and Kucherov alternated goals as Tampa Bay jumped out to a 4-0 lead, including three in the opening period. Kucherov buried two tap-in opportunities to record goals 21 and 22 on the season. The Russian winger has five goals in his previous three games and the Lightning improved to 12-2-0 in the previous 14 games.

Highlights of the Night

Crosby extended his goal-scoring streak to three games when he buried a pretty feed from Malkin to propel the Penguins in overtime.

Sam Steel fired the OT winner after Andrei Svechnikov‘s costly turnover.

Stats of the Night

Scores

Pittsburgh Penguins 2, Detroit Red Wings 1 (OT)

Anaheim Ducks 2, Carolina Hurricanes 1 (OT)

Tampa Bay Lightning 7, Winnipeg Jets 1

NHL ALL-STAR GAME COVERAGE:
• All-Star Game rosters
• Rosters for Elite Women’s 3-on-3 Revealed
• Pass or Fail: 2020 All-Star Game jerseys
• Alex Ovechkin will not play in 2020 All-Star Game
• NHL Skills Competition to feature women’s 3-on-3, pucks shot from stands

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.

Predators’ Arvidsson fined $2,000 under NHL diving policy

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NEW YORK (AP) — Nashville Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson has been fined $2,000 by the NHL under the league’s rules regarding diving and embellishment.

NHL Rule 64 was designed to penalize players who repeatedly dive and embellish in an attempt to draw penalties. A player gets a warning for a first citation and a $2,000 fine for the second citation.

League officials said Arvidsson received a warning following an incident Dec. 27 against Pittsburgh. His second citation occurred during an incident in the first period of a Jan. 7 game with Boston that resulted in coincidental minor penalties on Arvidsson and Bruins forward Brad Marchand.

Fine proceeds go to the players’ emergency assistance fund.

Fans troll with Tkachuk billboard, charities end up the big winners

Tkachuk billboard Kassian Flames Oilers
via CJAY 92
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Matthew Tkachuk‘s trolling made a great impact, and not just by earning the Flames a power play. Thanks to enterprising Flames and Oilers fans, a drive to put up a Tkachuk billboard in Edmonton morphed into something much more, raising a ton of money – more than $50K overall, it seems – for charitable causes.

It’s the sort of thing that might even make Zack Kassian smile.

[Catch up on the feud: Kassian threatens Tkachuk after suspension; witness the carnage]

This began with a modest Tkachuk billboard meant to gently torment

The ball really got (t)rolling when Mohamed Elsaghir (self-proclaimed “second most-hated man in Edmonton after Matthew Tkachuk) started a GoFundMe drive to put up Tkachuk billboards to torment Oilers fans.

CTV’s Glenn Campbell chronicles how that amusing idea morphed into something much bigger. Not only are Tkachuk billboards going up, but the process looks like it will raise at least $20K for ALS research.

The viral sensation drew the attention of Calgary radio station CJAY 92, which is owned by Bell Media. That connection made the billboards happen, and oh are the designs ever glorious:

With the billboards taken care of by CJAY 92/Bell Media, Elsaghir instead shifted the focus of that $10K donation drive to combating ALS. Elsaghir noted that proceeds will be donated to Snowy Strong for ALS in honor of Flames assistant GM Chris Snow’s battle with the disease. To make it even better, entrepreneur W. Brett Wilson pledged to match that $10K, pushing the money raised to $20K and counting.

Oh, and even that doesn’t cover the extent of the money raised by the raised ire between Tkachuk and Kassian.

Oilers fans get into the charitable, trolling spirit, too

Edmonton resident Samantha Costa made about a $25 donation to Calgary charity Brown Bagging It “in honor of Kassian.” That charity seeks to serve needy children with lunches. With that in mind, Costa ended her tweet with a nice barb:I chose @BrownBaggingIt so that kids can get a proper meal and grow up to be tougher than Tkachuk.”

Well, Costa’s tweet went viral, too.

To make this all more delightful, Brown Bagging It has been sharing updates that indicate this side of “The Charitable Battle of Alberta” will be competitive, too.

Wow.

Flames and Oilers meet again soon, and will get to see the Tkachuk billboard

Other NHL trash-talkers need to step their games up now, to be frank. Brad Marchand needs to lick this one now, is what I’m saying.

The Tkachuk billboard notes that the Flames – Oilers “the friendship tour” continues in Edmonton on Jan. 29. After that, the two teams meet in Calgary on Feb. 1. They also close out the regular season in Calgary on April 4.

Kassian vs. Tkachuk Part II already ranked as must-watch hockey, and a potential mess for the NHL. Following this inspiring charitable drive, it’s even more exciting. Honestly, “The Battle of Alberta” just keeps piling on reasons to cross our fingers for a playoff series.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Pass or Fail: LA Kings’ 2020 Stadium Series jerseys

adidas / Kings
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One day after the Colorado Avalanche showed off their jerseys for next month’s Stadium Series game, the Los Angeles Kings revealed what they will wear when they hit the ice at at Falcon Stadium on Feb. 15 (8 p.m. ET; NBC).

As is tradition for Stadium Series games, the design is very unique and out there. The black, white, and silver is there along with the LA from their regular jerseys “taking flight” since the game will take place on the campus of the Air Force Academy.

adidas / Kings

Now while you’re maybe distracted by the black and white of the jerseys and the sweet white gloves, do not overlook one neat feature: the shiny silver helmets.

adidas / Kings

Some additional notes from adidas:

Crest: A new L.A. crest takes flight on diagonal bisected blocking, inspired by aircraft battle stripes.

Design: The architecture of the venue’s Air Force Academy, coupled with a pilot’s ambition to push to the edge, inspired the oblique angles used to shape the jersey’s typography and numbering. A checkerboard design graphic is implemented along the neckline.

What do you think? The black, white, and silver against the burgundy, blue, and white will be an interesting look on the ice.

MORE: Avalanche reveal 2020 Stadium Series jersey

The 2020 Stadium Series game between the Avalanche and Kings will take place Feb. 15 at Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo.. The game will air on NBC at 8 p.m. ET.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.