Penguins losing streak reaches six games after Sharks shutout Flyers ahead
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Panic time? Penguins staying patient during unexpected slide

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PITTSBURGH — Mike Sullivan’s voice was calm as he urged patience and understanding, qualities that tend to be in short supply around the NHL when the calendar flips to March and the number of regular-season games dwindles.

They’re traits the Pittsburgh Penguins coach hasn’t had to rely on much during his four-plus years on the bench, which include back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. Yet with the Penguins mired in their longest losing streak since 2012 – a six-game skid that’s rendered their appearance at the top of the Metropolitan Division two weeks ago a mere cameo – the typically fiery Sullivan has taken a more muted approach.

”There’s no easy stretch,” Sullivan said Monday. ”That’s just the nature of the league.”

It’s a nature the Penguins have largely been immune to for years. Yet they have looked decidedly vulnerable while getting outscored 24-8 against a schedule littered with teams basically playing out the season. A winless road swing through California last week culminated with a 5-0 loss to San Jose that led captain Sidney Crosby to place the blame squarely on his shoulders.

Though Crosby – who has just one point since a 5-2 romp over Toronto on Feb. 18 pushed Pittsburgh into first place in the Metropolitan – hasn’t quite looked like himself of late, neither has the 19 other guys in the lineup on a given night. Asked if there was any one common thread for a swoon no one saw coming, Crosby shrugged.

”It’s hard to point the finger at one specific thing, but I think putting the puck in the net a little more would give us some breathing room,” he said.

Of course, for the puck to go into the net, the Penguins actually need to shoot it. It’s something one of the league’s most talented offensive teams has struggled to do lately. While on the surface Pittsburgh’s average of 33 shots per game during the losing streak looks healthy, the reality is that the Penguins have fallen into the habit of trying to make the pretty play instead of the right one.

”Sometimes the ESPN highlight reel kind of gets in your mind,” forward Jared McCann said. ”But I feel like sometimes, especially with the way things are going right now, we’ve just got to throw pucks on net. We’ve got to throw it at a goalie’s feet. We’ve got to make the easy shot, sometimes it’ll go in.”

McCann attributed Pittsburgh’s scoring issues partly to bad ”puck luck,” that inexplicable phenomenon associated with the whims of a one-inch piece of vulcanized rubber. Though the Penguins have had the lead just once at the end of their last 24 periods, McCann insists the players aren’t frustrated. There are times when they feel they’ve played well for extended stretches only to have nothing to show for it thanks to a bounce here or a bounce there.

”You’ve got to laugh at it,” McCann said. ”What are you going to do? Sit there and mope? And you’ll just dig yourself deeper and make it worse. I’m trying to stay positive with it.”

Having the NHL’s longest active playoff streak helps. Pittsburgh hasn’t missed the postseason since 2006 and despite its current funk is still in relatively good shape. The Penguins are third in the Metropolitan Division and have three games in hand over Columbus, which currently holds the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The schedule also is division heavy over the final month, giving Pittsburgh opportunity make up lost ground.

”We have the ability to control our own destiny,” forward Bryan Rust said.

Also, the Penguins, who have been ravaged by injuries for much of the season, are close to having some familiar faces back on the ice.

Defensemen Brian Dumoulin – out since Nov. 30 with an ankle injury – and John Marino – out since Feb. 6 after taking a puck to the face – are both game-time decisions on Tuesday night when Pittsburgh hosts Ottawa. Forward Nick Bjugstad has been cleared for full contact and is close to playing for the first time since mid-November. While forward Dominik Simon is week to week with an upper-body injury and All-Star forward Jake Guentzel won’t be ready until late April at the earliest as he recovers from shoulder surgery, new arrivals Patrick Marleau, Connor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues give Pittsburgh versatility, speed and, in the 40-year-old Marleau, another veteran voice.

There’s no need to panic yet. Still, the wiggle room Pittsburgh enjoyed during its torrid play through December and January is gone. Team owner Mario Lemieux took in practice on Monday with president David Morehouse and general manager Jim Rutherford. Sullivan’s voice – unlike the tone he used while addressing the media – boomed through PPG Paints Arena as he tried to steer his club back on track.

”A team goes through points in the season where it comes a little easier than other points,” Crosby said. ”We’re facing some adversity right now. We’ve faced it all year long with different things. It’s a good test and a good challenge for us.”

Blackhawks-Golden Knights stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup First Round

Blackhawks-Golden Knights stream
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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with Thursday’s First Round matchup between the Blackhawks and Golden Knights. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Blackhawks-Golden Knights stream at 5:30 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

While it was still unclear in the lead up which Vegas goalie would start Game 1, Robin Lehner ended up getting the nod against his former club, and was nearly perfect – letting in just one goal to remain undefeated since joining the Golden Knights at the February trade deadline (six wins).

Reilly Smith scored his first goals this postseason in Game 1 after netting a career-high 27 during the regular season. Smith is Vegas’ all-time leader in postseason points (33 in 31 games played) after leading the team in that category in the 2018 playoffs when the Golden Knights reached the Stanley Cup Final.

The Blackhawks averaged 4.00 goals in their four-game series against Edmonton but could not get things going on Tuesday as Kane (127 career playoff points) and Toews (117 career playoff points) combined for three shots and zero points. Calder Trophy finalist Dominik Kubalik led the team with five shots. David Kampf, playing in his first postseason, had Chicago’s lone goal, his first playoff tally.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

WHAT: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Vegas Golden Knights
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton
WHEN: Thursday, August 13, 5:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
ON THE CALL: Brendan Burke, AJ Mleczko, Pierre McGuire
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Blackhawks-Golden Knights stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 8 Chicago Blackhawks (VGK leads 1-0)

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Golden Knights 4, Blackhawks 1 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 13: Chicago at Vegas, 5:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Saturday, Aug. 15: Vegas at Chicago, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
Sunday, Aug. 16: Vegas at Chicago, 6:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Tuesday, Aug. 18: Chicago at Vegas – TBD
*Thursday, Aug. 20: Vegas at Chicago – TBD
*Saturday, Aug. 22: Chicago at Vegas – TBD

*if necessary

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• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule

NHL schedule for First Round of 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs

2020 nhl playoff schedule
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The Stanley Cup Playoffs continue on Tuesday, Aug. 11 in the hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto. The league has released the 2020 NHL playoff schedule for the First Round.

The top four teams during the regular season in both conferences played a three-game round robin for seeding in the First Round. The eight winners of the best-of-5 Qualifying Round advanced to the First Round. The losing teams from the Qualifying Round have been entered into Phase 2 of the NHL Draft Lottery.

Below is the 2020 NHL playoff schedule.

Note: Teams are re-seeded after each round.

EASTERN CONFERENCE (Scotiabank Arena)

No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers vs. No. 8 Montreal Canadiens (PHI leads 1-0)

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Philadelphia 2, Montreal 1 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 14: Montreal at Philadelphia, 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Sunday, Aug. 16: Philadelphia at Montreal, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
Tuesday, Aug. 18: Philadelphia at Montreal, 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Montreal at Philadelphia – TBD
*Friday, Aug. 21: Philadelphia at Montreal – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: Montreal at Philadelphia – TBD

No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 7 Columbus Blue Jackets (TB leads 1-0)

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Lightning 3, Blue Jackets 2 (5OT) (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 13: Columbus at Tampa Bay, 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Saturday, Aug. 15: Tampa Bay at Columbus, 7:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Monday, Aug. 17: Tampa Bay at Columbus, 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Columbus at Tampa Bay – TBD
*Friday, Aug. 21: Tampa Bay at Columbus – TBD
*Saturday, Aug. 22: Columbus at Tampa Bay – TBD

No. 3 Washington Capitals vs. No. 6 New York Islanders (NYI lead 1-0)

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Islanders 4, Capitals 2 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 14: NY Islanders at Washington, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Sunday, Aug. 16: Washington at NY Islanders, 12 p.m. ET – USA Network
Tuesday, Aug. 18: Washington at NY Islanders, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Thursday, Aug. 20: NY Islanders at Washington – TBD
*Saturday, Aug. 22: Washington at NY Islanders – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: NY Islanders at Washington – TBD

No. 4 Boston Bruins vs. No. 5 Carolina Hurricanes (BOS leads 1-0)

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Bruins 4, Hurricanes 3 (2OT) (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 13: Carolina at Boston, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Saturday, Aug. 15: Boston at Carolina, 12 p.m ET – NBC
Monday, Aug. 17: Boston at Carolina, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Carolina at Boston – TBD
*Thursday, Aug. 20: Boston at Carolina – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: Carolina at Boston – TBD

*if necessary

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

WESTERN CONFERENCE (Rogers Place)

No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 8 Chicago Blackhawks (VGK leads 1-0)

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Golden Knights 4, Blackhawks 1 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 13: Chicago at Vegas, 5:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Saturday, Aug. 15: Vegas at Chicago, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
Sunday, Aug. 16: Vegas at Chicago, 6:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Tuesday, Aug. 18: Chicago at Vegas – TBD
*Thursday, Aug. 20: Vegas at Chicago – TBD
*Saturday, Aug. 22: Chicago at Vegas – TBD

No. 2 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 7 Arizona Coyotes (COL leads 1-0)

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Colorado 3, Arizona 0 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 14: Arizona at Colorado, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Saturday, Aug. 15: Colorado at Arizona, 3 p.m. ET – CNBC
Monday, Aug. 17: Colorado at Arizona, 5:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Arizona at Colorado – TBD
*Friday, Aug. 21: Colorado at Arizona – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: Arizona at Colorado – TBD

No. 3 Dallas Stars vs. No. 6 Calgary Flames (CGY leads 1-0)

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Flames 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 13: Calgary at Dallas, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Friday, Aug. 14: Dallas at Calgary, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Sunday, Aug. 16: Dallas at Calgary, 2 p.m. ET – CNBC
*Tuesday, Aug. 18: Calgary at Dallas – TBD
*Thursday, Aug. 20: Dallas at Calgary – TBD
*Saturday, Aug. 22: Dallas at Calgary – TBD

No. 4 St. Louis Blues vs. No. 5 Vancouver Canucks (VAN leads 1-0)

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Vancouver 5, Blues 2 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 14: Vancouver at St. Louis, 6:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Sunday, Aug. 16: St. Louis at Vancouver, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Monday, Aug. 17: St. Louis at Vancouver, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Vancouver at St. Louis – TBD
*Friday, Aug. 21: St. Louis at Vancouver – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: Vancouver at St. Louis – TBD

*if necessary

2020 nhl playoff schedule

————

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.

Hurricanes coach Brind’Amour ‘moving on’ after NHL fine

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TORONTO — Rod Brind’Amour wasn’t going to risk another $25,000 fine from the NHL.

The Carolina Hurricanes coach provided a short, four-word answer, Thursday, when asked if he had anything more to add a day after being fined for calling the league ”a joke” in criticizing an officials’ ruling on a goal challenge.

”Fortunately, nope. Moving on,” Brind’Amour said, during a Zoom conference call from his team’s Toronto hotel hours before the Hurricanes played Game 2 of their first-round series against the Boston Bruins.

Brind’Amour caused a stir a day earlier following a 4-3 double-overtime loss, after which the NHL fined him $25,000 for his comments, and issued him a conditional $25,000 fine for any similar comments he might make over the next calendar year.

Initially upset he wasn’t asked about the officials’ ruling during a post-game news conference, Brind’Amour later voiced his complaints to several publications which cover the Hurricanes.

At issue was how officials dealt with the Hurricanes challenging Charlie Coyle‘s second-period goal, which put Boston up 2-1.

The puck was batted by a Bruins’ player’s hand and fell into the crease, where Carolina goalie Petr Mrazek made an attempt to smother it. Coyle poked the puck loose and scored.

Brind’Amour told the Raleigh News & Observer that in preparing to make his challenge, referees Chris Lee and Francis Charron declined to reveal their on-ice ruling regarding the goal. That left Brind’Amour with having to make a decision over whether to challenge goalie interference or whether play should have stopped because of an illegal hand pass.

Brind’Amour’s challenge of an illegal hand pass was denied because Lee ruled Mrazek had possession of the puck even though play wasn’t stopped, leading to the possibility of goalie interference. Teams are only allowed one challenge per goal.

”They wouldn’t tell you. It makes no sense,” he was quoted telling the newspaper. ”This is why the league’s a joke, in my opinion, on these things. … That one is a crime scene.”

Though the Hurricanes were penalized for delay of game following the failed challenge, Brock McGinn scored a short-handed goal 11 seconds later to tie the game.

Blue Jackets-Lightning stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup First Round

Blue Jackets-Lightning stream
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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with Thursday’s First Round matchup between the Blue Jackets and Lightning. Coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Blue Jackets-Lightning stream on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Game 1’s five-overtime thriller went down as the second-longest game in the modern era, and the fourth-longest game in NHL history (150:27 total game time). After Yanni Gourde tied things up at 2-2 just 23 seconds into the third period, it took over 110 minutes before Brayden Point beat Joonas Korpisalo midway through the fifth overtime.

Point’s 5OT winner was his second goal of the game – he also scored Tampa’s first goal, 6:27 into the game. There were 144 minutes of game play between Point’s two goals.

Last season, Columbus became the first team in NHL history to sweep a Presidents’ Trophy winner in the opening round when they beat Tampa Bay in four games in the First Round. In last year’s Game 1, Tampa led 3-0 in the first period before the Blue Jackets stormed back, scoring four unanswered goals (three in the 3rd period) to win. This year’s Game 1 went much differently for Tampa Bay, who persevered through Korpisalo’s 85 saves to win.

WHAT: Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
WHERE: Scotiabank Arena – Toronto
WHEN: Thursday, August 13, 3 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
ON THE CALL: Gord Miller, Mike Milbury, Brian Boucher
HOW TO WATCH: You can watch the Blue Jackets-Lightning stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 7 Columbus Blue Jackets (TB leads 1-0)

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Lighting 3, Blue Jackets 2 (5OT) (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 13: Columbus at Tampa Bay, 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Saturday, Aug. 15: Tampa Bay at Columbus, 7:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Monday, Aug. 17: Tampa Bay at Columbus, 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Columbus at Tampa Bay – TBD
*Friday, Aug. 21: Tampa Bay at Columbus – TBD
*Saturday, Aug. 22: Columbus at Tampa Bay – TBD

*if necessary

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule