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PHT Morning Skate: Caps face elimination; Sweden claims gold at Worlds

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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.

• It’s do-or-die time for the Washington Capitals tonight in Game 6. [NHL.com]

• It’s not going to be another Capitals choke job, is it? [National Post]

• How missing the playoffs last spring helped the Tampa Bay Lightning make another trip to the Eastern Conference Final. [Tampa Bay Times]

Ryan Callahan had quite a performance for the Lightning in Game 5. [Sportsnet]

• George McPhee believed in his Vegas Golden Knights all along. [Review-Journal]

Paul Stastny knew he made the right choice to waive his no-trade clause to come to the Winnipeg Jets. He enjoyed his time there so much he’s open to re-signing. [Winnipeg Free Press]

Filip Forsberg‘s shootout goal helped Sweden has capture gold at the IIHF World Championship for the second straight year. [IIHF]

Jaden Schwartz of the St. Louis Blues saw his time at the World Championship end early with a shoulder injury. He should be fine for training camp, the Blues say. [Post-Dispatch]

• The Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets will play in next season’s Kraft Hockeyville preseason game in Clinton, New York. [Buffalo Hockey Beat]

• Will giving states the option to legalize gambling in the U.S. mean the end of “upper/lower-body injury” distinctions? [USA Today]

• Rick Tocchet is determined to get his Arizona Coyotes into the playoffs next season. [Arizona Sports]

• Daniel Alfredsson talks about his new life now as a hockey dad. [Sportsnet]

• A look at the future of the Carolina Hurricanes up front. [Section 328]

• Congrats to the Fargo Force for winning the 2018 USHL Clark Cup. [USHL]

• Interesting interview with former NHL ref Rob Martell about the officating in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. [Weiss Hockey]

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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.

Swiss stun Canada, Sweden crushes U.S. in ice hockey semis

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Switzerland stunned title favorite Canada 3-2 to reach only its third final of the world ice hockey championship on Saturday.

The Swiss will play the gold medal game on Sunday against defending champion Sweden, which strode into the final by crushing the United States 6-0.

Canada and the U.S. will play for bronze.

”We obviously got motivated a lot playing them,” Switzerland defenseman Mirco Muller said. ”They’re the best country in the world, hockey-wise, and they have a great team here. It was a great battle for us.”

Canada goaltender Darcy Kuemper made some fine saves in the first period before Tristan Scherwey scored the go-ahead goal for Switzerland with 1:19 remaining in the first period.

Bo Horvat tied it in the second but Switzerland proved resilient, and Gregory Hofmann restored the Swiss lead on a power play.

Gaetan Haas struck again on a power play in the third, redirecting into the net a shot by Sven Andrighetto from the point.

Colton Parayko blasted a slap shot past Swiss goaltender Leonardo Genoni to reduce the lead with 2:07 left in the final period as Canada pulled Kuemper for an extra attacker in vain.

”Switzerland played an unbelievable game,” Canada defenseman Aaron Ekblad said. ”From the drop of the puck they came at us hard in every facet.”

Genoni stopped 43 shots.

”It’s important that we win the last game,” Canada captain Connor McDavid said. ”We’re up to do it.”

Switzerland’s best results have been runner-up in 1935 and 2013. Sweden is going for a third world title in six years, and 11th overall.

”We’re the big underdogs (against Sweden),” Swiss forward Reto Schaeppi said. ”We have a chance if we play a really good game.”

Sweden beat Switzerland 5-3 in the preliminary round.

The Swedes set up their victory over the Americans with three goals in a 3:07 span midway through the second period.

”We didn’t play our best game but we put up a lot of goals,” forward Patric Hornqvist said. ”We still have some improvement to do for the game tomorrow.”

Viktor Arvidsson led Sweden with two goals and goalie Anders Nielsen made 41 saves for the shutout.

Trailing 1-0 in the second, the U.S. had a four-minute power play but allowed a short-handed goal by Magnus Paajarvi, who scored on a rebound after goaltender Keith Kinkaid stopped Mikael Backlund on a breakaway.

Hornqvist stretched the lead to 3-0 on a power play, and Sweden underlined its control when Mattias Janmark made it 4-0 just 11 seconds later.

Arvidsson added his second into an empty net in the final period, and Adrian Kempe finished it off with the sixth. Sweden earned its ninth win from nine games in this championship.

The U.S. pressured in the opening period, outshooting Sweden 16-8 and 41-19 overall. But it was the Swedes who went ahead. Arvidsson knocked in a loose puck in the crease following a shot from above the right circle by Filip Forsberg.

U.S. captain Patrick Kane, the overall scoring leader, failed to register a point for the first time in the championship.

”We just made too many mistakes and they capitalized,” Kane said. ”They’ve got a lot of good players over there and made us pay for those mistakes.

”It’s gonna be tough to regroup (for the bronze medal game) … but we have to do it.”

Kane leads U.S. into semis, Canada knocks out Russia

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HERNING, Denmark (AP) — Captain Patrick Kane scored two goals to lift the United States to a 3-2 win over the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals of the ice hockey world championship on Thursday while Canada beat Russia 5-4 in overtime.

Switzerland pulled off a surprise by eliminating Finland 3-2 and defending champion Sweden edged out Latvia 3-2.

Kane claimed the third-period winner to take the outright lead in the scoring table on 19 points, a U.S. record, with eight goals and 11 assists and set up a semifinal against Sweden on Saturday.

”It’s my job to produce,” Kane said. ”It’s always nice to contribute offensively.”

The U.S. is looking for its first medal since picking up bronze in 2015.

”We came here to put ourselves in a position to try to win the gold,” Kane said. “We’re on the right path.”

The U.S. took control with a couple of goals in the span of 1:43 midway through the first period in Herning.

Kane beat goaltender Pavel Francouz from the right circle before Nick Bonino fed Cam Atkinson in front of the net to stretch the lead with a backhand shot.

The Czechs hit back in the second period. Michal Repik reduced the advantage on a slap shot and Martin Necas netted the tying goal on a power play.

”It’s a pity,” Czech forward Tomas Plekanec said. ”We created enough chances to win.”

In Copenhagen, Ryan O'Reilly scored 4:57 into overtime to knock out Russia while captain Connor McDavid had three assists, including on the winning goal.

Hunting its third title in four years, Canada will face Switzerland in the semis.

”Canada are a great team, they always are,” defenseman Roman Josi said after his Switzerland team beat Finland for the first time since 1972.

Defenseman Colton Parayko blasted a slap shot past goaltender Igor Shestyorkin on a power play to give Canada a 1-0 lead in the first period before Ryan Nugent-Hopkins doubled the advantage on another power play.

But Alexander Barabanov and Ilya Mikheyev scored in the second period to tie the game.

Kyle Turris made it 3-2 to Canada in the third before Sergei Andronov leveled. Pierre-Luc Dubois put Canada ahead again but Russia answered with a goal from Artyom Anisimov.

Finland looked to be heading for victory after Markus Nutivaara‘s first-period goal, but Switzerland rallied with goals from Enzo Corvi, Joel Vermin and Gregory Hofmann in less than four minutes midway through the second.

”We didn’t start the way we wanted but we reacted in the second period and played very well from then on,” Josi said.

Mikko Rantanen cut the deficit to one goal in the third period.

”This wasn’t what we were looking for,” Finland captain Mikael Granlund said. ”They had the momentum in the second period and we were not able to turn it around.”

Sweden, which won all seven of its preliminary round games, beat Latvia thanks to goals from Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Teodors Blugers and Rudolfs Balcers replied.

Preds, Jets lean heavily on Rinne, Hellebuyck in Game 7

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Predators goalie Pekka Rinne has years of postseason experience, including a couple Game 7s and a Stanley Cup Final.

Connor Hellebuyck has the Winnipeg Jets on the verge of their first Western Conference final in his first playoff appearance, and the best comparison he can make to the looming Game 7 in Nashville is playing for Hockey East championships back in college.

“I have yet to be scored on in one, so I like those odds,” Hellebuyck said. “This has nothing to do with that. This is whole new level and you’ve just got to get into the game as much as you can.”

Nobody has reflected the roller-coaster ride of this thrilling Western Conference semifinal between the NHL’s top two teams in the regular season than their Vezina Trophy finalists. Rinne has been pulled from not one but two games – both on his own ice – before staving off elimination in Game 6 with his second shutout this postseason.

“When you think about Game 7, as a team, as an individual, you’re just going to give it all and do your best and do it as a team and trust your teammates,” Rinne said Wednesday. “I think that’s the best formula and focus on your own team.”

Hellebuyck’s stats include a 2-1 record in Nashville in this series, which ends Thursday night (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN) in the only Game 7 of the second round this postseason. Hellebuyck gave up three goals in a 4-0 home loss Monday night , turning this into a winner-take-all game for the right to play Vegas in the conference final.

“We know it’s all on the line, and nothing in the past is going to bother us,” Hellebuyck said. “We can’t let it. This is going to be the most fun game we’re going to play and I think a lot of us are going to enjoy ourselves.”

RESTED RINNE

A Justin Timberlake concert Wednesday night pushed Game 7 to Thursday night, giving the 35-year-old Rinne two days of rest. During the regular season, the Predators goalie went 11-3 with a 1.99 goals-against average and .936 save percentage during the season when he got two days to rest between games. “It’s nice to have that extra day,” Rinne said.

EDGE IN EXPERIENCE

The eventual Stanley Cup champion in each of the past five seasons has won a Game 7 along the way. This is the Predators’ third Game 7. The Jets will become the 29th active NHL franchise to play a Game 7 on Thursday night. Nashville is among both the 14 teams to win their first Game 7 and the 10 who did that on the road, beating Anaheim in 2016 to clinch a first-round series.

Nashville coach Peter Laviolette, 5-2 in Game 7s, is one of only four NHL coaches to win a Game 7 in each of four different playoff rounds (Pat Burns, Mike Keenan and John Tortorella). He also has 19 Predators who have at least one Game 7 on their resume. Jets coach Paul Maurice is 2-0 himself, though only seven of his Jets have played in a Game 7.

RAZOR-THIN SERIES

Nashville finished only three points (117) ahead of Winnipeg (114) for the Presidents’ Trophy, and this series has been about as close as possible. The Jets have more goals (22-18), while Nashville has more shots on goal (217-213). But even-strength shot attempts are 338 apiece with each team blocking 97 shots. The Predators have only three more hits (144-141).

TOP LINE MATTERS

Nashville’s JOFA line of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson combined for eight points in keeping the Predators alive with a 4-0 win in Game 6. Winnipeg’s top line of Blake Wheeler, Kyle Connor and Mark Scheifele had eight points in Game 5.

“It’s the final game for one team,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “So, there’s lot of emotion, lots of excitement. But there’s definitely a calmness to it. There’s a finality coming. It brings out the best I think.”

THE DREAM GAME

“Ever since I started playing hockey, I was five years old, you put yourself in that position where you play a Game 7 in the playoffs,” Jets forward Mathieu Perrault said. “This is what we play for. So this should be the most fun we’ve had all year.”

 

Forsberg continues scoring ‘unbelievable goals’ for Preds

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Filip Forsberg dropped his broken stick and raced to the bench for another just as the puck slid around the boards near his skates. He grabbed a new stick from the Predators’ equipment manager, fought off Jets defenseman Ben Chiarot and kept the puck onside.

Then he skated toward Connor Hellebuyck, holding off Chiarot as he scored, then slid into the net .

The man also known as Scoresberg or Filthy Fil then helped send the Western Conference semifinal back to Nashville for a deciding Game 7 with another highlight-reel worthy goal. Viktor Arvidsson found Forsberg and the Swede slipped the puck through his legs, a movement that prompted Hellebuyck to slide away from the post to cover the empty net to his left.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Forsberg immediately flipped the puck through the sliver of an opening, causing a GIF-frenzy on social media.

With the postseason that Forsberg is having, Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne can’t settle on the best goal he’s seen from his teammate.

“I feel like these two series that already at least three or four really unbelievable goals, and it’s hard to pick,” Rinne said. “I’m just a fan when I watch him play.”

Forsberg led the Predators with 64 points helping Nashville win the franchise’s first Presidents’ Trophy during the regular season. He now is the franchise’s all-time leading scorer in the playoffs with 15 points this postseason, bringing Nashville back for Game 7 on Thursday night against Winnipeg as the Predators seek a second straight berth in the West final. The winner of this series will host the Vegas Golden Knights for the first two games.

With Pittsburgh and Boston eliminated, Forsberg now is tied with Washington’s Alex Ovechkin for the most points scored this postseason with 15, and the Predators forward has a plus-4 rating that is a point ahead of Ovechkin with both having played 12 games each.

Forsberg looks just comfortable passing the puck through his own legs as those of a defenseman he’s undressing on his way to another goal or even just juggling the puck with his stick to give teammates time to get back onside. The 23-year-old forward from Ostervala, Sweden, said his stick skills are the result of lots of hard work.

“Natural is definitely not the word for it, but it just takes a lot of practice, takes a lot of you doing,” Forsberg said. “Just try to maybe do it in practice and stuff like that and once in a while you get time and space for it in a game, you try to pull it off.”

Some scorers tap into their natural talent, blessed with quick hands and eyes along with soft hands. Others spend hours and hours developing muscle memory. Forsberg counts himself among those who made themselves into scorers. He started as a young child using a shooting ramp his father built for Forsberg and his brother and lots of road hockey.

“I think that’s where it all started,” Forsberg said.

His skills grew as he led his junior team with 40 points in 2010-11 and helped Sweden win silver at the 2011 World Under-18 Championship. Forsberg was captain when Sweden won both the World Under-18 and World Junior championships in 2012.

The Washington Capitals made Forsberg their first-round pick at No. 11 overall in 2012. He never played a game for the Capitals before being traded April 3, 2013, to Nashville in exchange for Martin Erat and Martin Latta.

The Predators wasted no time getting Forsberg on the ice, playing him five games that same season. Forsberg spent only 13 games with Nashville in 2013-14, and he has been a fixture in the lineup since 2014-15. They signed him to a six-year, $36 million contract in June 2016.

Center Nick Bonino won two Stanley Cups with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh, and he’s gotten to watch Forsberg up close this season after signing as a free agent.

“He’s very skilled,” Bonino said. “He’s one of the most skilled sticks I’ve ever seen. Practice is fun with him. Games are fun with him.”

Forward Colton Sissons sees Forsberg as having a gift that helps him see how best to move the puck instantly to execute in high-pressure moments. Sissons also is pretty sure of what might happen if he tried to mimic some of Forsberg’s scoring moves.

“I might break my ankle or something bad might happen,” Sissons said. “I’d probably just jam it in the near post, but I’ll leave the through the legs stuff to Fil and some of those guys.”

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey