Lightning’s Palat has knack for delivering in playoffs

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TAMPA, Fla. — Ondrej Palat’s role in the success of the Tampa Bay Lightning doesn’t garner a lot of attention.

However the star-laden, two-time defending Stanley Cup champions reject the notion that he’s not one of their top players.

A quiet, reserved forward who’s part of the core of a team that’s in the Eastern Conference final for the sixth time in eight years, the native of the Czech Republic has a knack for rising to the occasion when the Lightning need it most.

The 31-year-old’s goal with 42 seconds remaining in Game 3 beat the New York Rangers 3-2 and trimmed Tampa Bay’s deficit to 2-1 in the best-of-seven series that continues Tuesday night at Amalie Arena.

It was the 10th playoff game-winning goal of Palat’s career, breaking the franchise record he previously shared with Tyler Johnson. The only active NHL players with more are Joe Pavelski (14), Evgeni Malkin (13), Jonathan Toews (11) and Patrick Kane (11).

Peruse the Lightning roster and you’ll find bigger names in Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Ryan McDonagh and Corey Perry. However Palat repeatedly has proved his worth to the Lightning over the past decade.

“We’ve seen this for years. He is a great kid. He doesn’t say anything. All he does is give you everything he has on every shift,” coach Jon Cooper said.

“He’s played up and down the lineup, but he’s got the ability to play that blue collar game with white collar players and that’s a great trait to have,” Cooper added. “He’s been doing it … and he’s usually the third guy talked about on the lines he plays on. But he comes through.”

In a game where Kucherov became the first Tampa Bay player to reach 50 postseason goals, Palat scored his 43rd off a slick backhand pass from his more heralded teammate, who also had an assist on Stamkos’ tying goal early in the third period.

Kucherov, Stamkos and Palat, who increased his point total to 83 in 129 playoff games, share the team lead in goals this postseason with six.

“After the second period, we were pretty calm in the room and we know we were playing pretty good 5-on-5 and we just wanted to keep going, shoot the puck and eventually we knew we’re going to score, and we did,” said Palat, who beat Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin from the low right circle.

“He’s a great goalie, and the first two games we didn’t shoot enough,” Palat said. “So the message was, we need to shoot more. We need to get in front of his eyes a little bit more, and I think we did that.”

The Lightning outshot the Rangers 52-30, playing with a sense of desperation after losing the first two games of the series on the road.

Cooper said it would be a mistake, though, to assume winning Game 3 has turned the series around.

The Rangers still hold a 2-1 lead and a win Tuesday night would move them within one victory of their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 2014.

“That game had overtime probably written all over it,” and who knows what happens then,” Cooper said.

New York has a pretty good idea of how the Lightning are feeling heading into Game 4.

The Rangers rallied from a 3-1 deficit to eliminate the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. They lost the first two games to Carolina and trailed 3-2 before rebounding to oust the Hurricanes in seven games to reach the East final.

“You’ve got to get ready one game at a time,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said, confident his team will be bounce back.

Gallant shrugged off a question about whether New York could draw on anything from its experience the past two rounds to prevent the Lightning from storming all the way back against the Rangers.

“You’d like to, but Tampa’s a good team. They were down 2-0 coming home, so we knew they were going to bring their best game, and they did. They competed real hard. They had 50 shots. They won a lot of loose puck battles and played a gritty game,” Gallant said.

“We still had an opportunity to win that game, but we didn’t,” the New York coach added. “Again, we know they’re not going to give you anything for nothing. They’ve won, what, 10 series in a row? We’re going to have to be a real good team and take it from them.”

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    Sharks goalie James Reimer declines to wear Pride jersey

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    San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer won’t take part in pregame warmups Saturday night, saying the team’s decision to wear Pride-themed jerseys in support of the LGBTQ community runs counter to his religious beliefs.

    Reimer said in a statement Saturday that he made the decision based on his Christian beliefs, adding that he “always strived to treat everyone with respect” and that members of the LGBTQ community should be welcome in hockey.

    “In this specific instance, I am choosing not to endorse something that is counter to my personal convictions, which are based on the Bible, the highest authority in life,” Reimer said.

    Reimer is the second NHL player this season to refuse to take part in warmups with Pride-themed jerseys, with Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov declining to in January. Reimer was not slated to start in Saturday night’s home game against the New York Islanders, which is Pride night.

    Additionally, the New York Rangers opted not to wear Pride jerseys or use Pride stick tape as part of their night in January despite previously advertising that plan.

    The Sharks said in a statement that they are proud to host Pride Night, saying the event reinforces the team’s commitment to inclusiveness.

    “As we promote these standards, we also acknowledge and accept the rights of individuals to express themselves, including how or whether they choose to express their beliefs, regardless of the cause or topic,” the team said in a statement. “As an organization, we will not waver in our support of the LGBTQIA+ community and continue to encourage others to engage in active allyship.”

    The You Can Play Project, which works to promote inclusiveness in sports, said the organization was disappointed in Reimer’s actions.

    “Religion and respect are not in conflict with each other, and we are certainly disappointed when religion is used as a reason to not support our community,” the organization said. “Wearing pride jerseys, like any celebration jersey worn, is not about the personal feelings of an athlete; rather the communication from the team that a community is welcome in the arena and the sport.”

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    Panarin, Shesterkin lead Rangers to 6-0 rout of Penguins

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    NEW YORK (AP) Mika Zibanejad had a goal and two assists, Artemi Panarin scored twice and Igor Shesterkin made 33 saves as the New York Rangers routed Pittsburgh 6-0 on Saturday night for their second win over the Penguins in three days.

    Vladimir Tarasenko, Chris Kreider and Jacob Trouba also scored for the surging Rangers, who have won nine of their last 11 home games and are 12-4-0 in their past 16 at Madison Square Garden.

    Shesterkin won his fifth straight and posted his second shutout this season. He nimbly denied Pittsburgh forward Mikael Granland with a sprawling save five minutes into the third period to preserve the shutout, the 10th of his career. His other one this season was a 1-0 home win over Philadelphia on Nov. 1.

    “When you put in hard and honest work, miracles happen,” Shesterkin said through a translator. ”We played wonderfully today – scored many, many goals. Honestly, I hope the fans loved it. We’re playing for them.”

    The Penguins lost their third straight and trail the Rangers by 12 points for third place in the Metropolitan Division. Pittsburgh, still in wild-card position, is trying to reach the playoffs for the 17th straight time.

    “Tonight was a humbling experience for all of us,” coach Mike Sullivan said. ”At this time of year, you have to have a short memory. We still have control of our destiny.”

    Patrick Kane and defenseman K’Andre Miller also had two assists apiece as New York improved to 7-1-1 in its last nine home games against Pittsburgh. The Rangers are five points behind the second-place New Jersey Devils, who lost at Florida on Saturday.

    “This was a big game for our goalie and our team,” Panarin said. “If you work at playing the right way, you have opportunities for goals.”

    Since Dec. 5, when they turned around their season with a 6-4 comeback win at home over St. Louis, the Rangers are 29-9-5.

    As he did on Thursday when the Rangers beat the Penguins 4-2, Zibanejad opened the scoring. He got his team-leading 36th goal at 5:10 of the first, beating Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry. Trouba and Miller assisted.

    Panarin made it 2-0 at 19:49 on the power play, whipping the puck past Jarry from the left circle off a pass from Adam Fox.

    Tarasenko increased the lead at 3:54 of the second with his fifth goal since joining the Rangers in a trade with St. Louis on Feb. 9. Tarasenko has points in 10 of his first 18 games with the Rangers.

    Kreider made it 4-0 at 6:43 with his 31st goal and third in two games against the Penguins. Kane and Vincent Trocheck assisted on Kreider’s 260th career goal, which moved the Rangers forward within two of Vic Hadfield for fifth place on the franchise list.

    New York won Thursday when Kreider scored the go-ahead goal in the third and added an empty-netter.

    After Casey DeSmith replaced Jarry in net following Kreider’s goal, Trouba beat the replacement with a sharp-angle shot at 8:39 for his eighth to increase the margin to 5-0. Trouba has points in six of his last eight games.

    Panarin scored again at 16:38 of the second – his 22nd goal of the season – to make it 6-0, with assists to Kane and Filip Chytil.

    “We’re building chemistry, building every day and every game,” Kane said.

    Panarin has points in eight of his last 10 games and leads the Rangers with 77 points overall, while Kane has seven points in his last six games.

    “It’s nice to see that many great players on your team,” added Panarin, whose first two NHL seasons were played alongside Kane with the Chicago Blackhawks. “We’re happy tonight.”

    Zibanejad assisted on goals by Tarasenko and Trouba and has 25 points – including 14 goals – over his last 20 games.

    “It was just one of those nights when the puck goes in for us,” Zibanejad said. “And obviously Igor gives us a boost making all those saves.”

    NOTES: The Penguins were missing defenseman Jeff Petry after he was hit with an unpenalized elbow from Rangers forward Tyler Motte on Thursday. … Pittsburgh also scratched defenseman Jan Rutta and forward Dalton Heinen and played defenseman Mark Friedman for the first time since Feb. 11. … The Rangers were without injured defenseman Ryan Lindgren for the 10th straight game.


    Penguins: Host the Ottawa Senators on Monday.

    Rangers: Host the Nashville Predators on Sunday night.

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    Coyotes sign Shane Doan’s son to entry-level contract

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    TEMPE, Ariz. — Josh Doan is following his father’s footsteps into professional hockey.

    The Arizona Coyotes signed the 21-year-old forward to a three-year entry-level contract, beginning with the 2023-24 NHL season. He will report to the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL and play his first game against the Calgary Wranglers.

    Doan’s father, Shane, played 21 seasons with the franchise, many of those as captain, and followed it from Winnipeg to the desert in 1996. Shane Doan now serves as Arizona’s chief hockey development officer.

    The Coyotes drafted Josh Doan in the second round of the 2021, but he opted to play for the hometown Arizona State Sun Devils.

    Josh Doan set school records for goals (12) and assists (25) as a freshman last season. He had 16 goals and 22 assists in 39 games with Arizona State this season.

    The 6-foot-1, 183-pounder also played two seasons for the Chicago Steel of the USHL.

    Blackhawks forward Cole Guttman has shoulder surgery

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    CHICAGO — Chicago Blackhawks forward Cole Guttman had surgery on his right shoulder.

    The team said the operation was performed in Los Angeles. Team physician Michael Terry said the 23-year-old Guttman is expected “to be out of hockey activities for approximately four months.”

    Guttman had been a pleasant surprise for rebuilding Chicago. He made his NHL debut last month and finished the season with four goals and two assists in 14 games.

    Guttman was selected by Tampa Bay in the 2017 draft. He agreed to a two-year contract with Chicago in August 2022 that had a $950,000 salary cap hit.