Canucks win special teams battle

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Canucks win special teams battle

BOSTON -- The bottom line when it was all said and done for the Bruins: the Canucks are going to win a special teams battle against Boston nearly every single time.

The Bruins were whistled for 15 penalties and 55 minutes worth of infractions, and handed the Vancouver Canucks 11 power play chances in the 4-3 loss to Vancouver on home ice. The Canucks entered the Saturday matinee leading the NHL with a power play thats been successful 23.6 percent of the time, and its their bread and butter.

Draw penalties by any means necessary, get the Sedins and Co. on the man advantage and then rinse and repeat. A combination of undisciplined mistakes by a slightly overhyped Bruins team and some very questionable whistles from referees struggling to maintain control led to four power play goals for Vancouver.

The Canucks went 4-for-11 on the man advantage and the Bruins went 0-for-7, and that was the ballgame just as it was during the Cup Finals. Vancouver is searching for a special teams fiesta and thats what they found at TD Garden courtesy of Dan ORourke and Don VanMassenhoven raising their hands early and often.

Our job is not to assess or comment on referees. Im not stupid enough to stand up here and criticize them. What I can tell you is that Vancouver scored four power play goals, so we gave them an opportunity to score on their bread and butter, said Claude Julien. Instead of criticizing the referees, I would much prefer criticizing us for the penalties whether theyre worthy or not, take the responsibility.

We knew before the game started that they have a good power play, and I thought two of them, two of the goals they scored, were nice power play goals, and youve got to give them credit. The other two, I thought we could have done a better job on them.

It was apparently early on when the Canucks earned a 5-on-3 advantage out of their prison yard-style attack on Shawn Thornton that special teams would be a factor in the game. The Bruins nearly killed off that power play, but finally broke down when Sami Salo found Ryan Kesler open for a scorched one-timer.

Sure there was also an Alex Burrows power play tip off a Cory Hodgson shot courtesy of a Tyler Seguin tripping penalty in the second period, but the real backbreaker was Brad Marchands five minute major and game misconduct for clipping near the end of the second period.

The Canucks scored two goals during those next five minutes a Henrik Sedin tip from the high slot off an Alex Edler shot and a Hodgson sniper shot to start the third period and the Bruins simply werent able to come back. Kevin Bieksa tried to paint Marchands actions as the reason his squad was ultimately successful, and took a few shots at the Bs after it was all over.

We play hard, but we are a disciplined team. Thats what separates us from the Bruins. They obviously play hard, but they tend to do stupid things, said Bieksa. The Marchand hit was a pretty stupid thing and Im sure hell be getting a phone call for that one. There is no reason for that. But we made them pay for that. We got to score two goals on that power play and thats the game. Marchand has got to live with that.

It might have been a different story if the power play had been able to do some damage against the Cory Schneider and the Canucks, but sadly their PP performance was yet another flashback to last years Finals with an empty 0-for-7 showing.

Combine that with the loss of Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand to game misconducts by midway through the second period, and it wasnt exactly a banner evening for the Bs and their penalties.

We had some pretty big obstacles to overcome, and some of it was losing two real good players out of your lineup and having a short bench. That didnt help, but had we stayed out of the box -- and not given them the power plays that we gave them -- I really felt, five-on-five, we controlled the play, said Julien. Thats where our strength is, and unfortunately, when you give up four power play goals in a game, youve got to look at yourself and take the blame. Its as simple as that.

The Canucks won the special teams battle and this days war, and thats one thing that cant really be argued.

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

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STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel beat Nashville's Pekka Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a 5-3 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in finals history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37:09 at one point without a shot.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions.

All the guys from the place dubbed "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

It temporarily deflated Nashville and gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge.

Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Nick Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa, when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead they rallied.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second. Though Nashville didn't get another one by Murray, they also kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

Morning Skate: No surprise cheap-shot artists are running wild

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Morning Skate: No surprise cheap-shot artists are running wild

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while hoping everybody on this Memorial Day takes some time to appreciate all of those that made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. We should also take a moment to say thanks to people like the three heroes in Oregon that stood up to a hateful bigot earlier this week, and in doing so reaffirmed what the majority of people living in the US believe we are all about while trying to live up to that ideal every day.
 
-- A number of NHL legends are shaking their heads at the dirty play that we’re seeing in these playoffs, particularly those plays targeting the superstars that people pay big money to see in the postseason. Why should anybody be shocked by this? The rooting out of enforcers, and fighting, has taken accountability out of the game for the cheap-shot artists and dirty players, and leaves little real deterrant for players looking to take out opponents with dangerous plays. I wrote about this a couple of years ago when the NHL threw the book at Shawn Thornton for going after Brooks Orpik, and in doing so chose to protect somebody trying to hurt opponents (Orpik) and punish somebody trying to protect his teammates (Thornton). It was a sea change for the league, and something players didn’t forget as more and more enforcers were quickly weeded out of the NHL. This is what the rule-makers and legislators wanted, and now it’s what they’re getting just a couple of years later with dangerous stick-work, cheap shots and a general lack of respect for fellow players.
 
-- Here's why the Tampa Bay Lightning would consider trading a player like Jonathan Drouin, and the major impact that could have on the offseason trade market.
 
-- Down Goes Brown has a Stanley Cup Final rooting guide for the other 28 other fan bases now that Nashville and Pittsburgh are in the final series.

-- So which goaltender has the edge in the Stanley Cup Final: Nashville's Pekka Rinne, or Pittsburgh's two-headed monster of Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury?
 
-- Scotty Bowman says winning back-to-back Stanley Cup titles has become monumentally difficult since the advent of the salary cap.
 
-- Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are pushing each other to be betters, and showing exactly how a team should be led by its superstars in the salary-cap era for the league.
 
-- For something completely different: We can confirm through this report that a lot of hot dogs are eaten in the summertime. So glad we have people to research these kinds of things.