Haggerty: It ain't braggin' if it's true

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Haggerty: It ain't braggin' if it's true

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Theres no doubt Tim Thomas talked the talk after Saturday afternoons epic collapse in Tampa Bay, guaranteeing the Bruins -- reeling after blowing a 3-0 lead and finding themselves in a 2-2 series tie with Tampa Bay -- would beat the Lightning.

And everybody saw him walk the walk Monday night in a legendary Game 5 performance.

The 37-year-old was shaky on Saturday, surrendering a pair of five-hole goals and showing no real ability to stop the bleeding once things got rolling for Tampa Bay. He could have stepped up and stifled the Lightning's second-period rally, but it just didnt happen.

But Thomas perhaps in a fit of frustration, inspiration or just plain old self-reliant belief said after the game the Bruins would win the conference finals in a brazen way that echoed through the dressing room like a Mark Messier guarantee of the Rangers run through the playoffs.

Thomas didnt badmouth the Lightning and he didnt dismiss the worthiness of his opponent. But he did guarantee the Bruins would prevail in Game 5 and, subsequently, the series.

He proved to be hockeys version of Nostradamus, at least as far as Game 5 was concerned. And he was the main reason why.

Thomas withstood an early Tampa Bay onslaught -- at one point, the Lightning had a 20-7 edge in shots on goal -- made 33 saves overall and never wavered after allowing a quick goal on a defensive breakdown 69 seconds into the game. He led the way to a 3-1 victory that gives the Bruins a 3-2 series edge heading back to Tampa for Wednesday night's Game 6.

Hes a great goalie, and when you look at the great goalies of the past they have that confident swagger about them, said Chris Kelly. Its not an arrogance, but a confident swagger. Timmy definitely has that. Thats part of what makes him great."

Thomas saved the Bruins bacon as he turned away several Tampa Bay scoring bids in the first period just as his team struggled mightily to find its bearings.

But that was just the beginning. No, the best work for Thomas came in the final 20 minutes.

The save of the game -- and probably the save of this years playoffs -- came midway through the third period when the Bs were clinging to a 2-1 lead. An Eric Brewer shot caromed hard off the back boards and directly to the opposite side of the net from where Thomas had been standing guard.

Troublemaker extraordinaire Steve Downie was waiting by the left post ready to hammer home the loose puck, and he flipped the it right back at the bottom of the open net. But Thomas refused to give up on the puck, just as hes obstinately refused to give in on his career so many times.

Thomas somehow threw his paddle wildly at the shot and knocked it harmlessly away from the crease.

That save on Downie is a game-saver," said Kelly. "It was unbelievable.

Thomas had protected the one-goal lead with the most breathtaking of his 33 saves, and he left Downie in an apoplectic state of shock once the Lightning forward realized he hadnt scored.

Thomas might have just taught the same important lesson to all of the young goaltenders that watching him put on a show when his team needed him most in the conference finals: dont ever give up on play and battle to the end.

Heres Thomas recollection of the Downie shot, and the save that was among his best of all times:

First I want to say that my recollection might not be exactly what the video is, thats happened on a couple of goals lately. The way I remember, I got it out to the point and there were a couple of different sets of screens. There was one set of our forwards and their guy up top and one set of their guys and our guy down closer to me. So I saw him getting ready to take the shot but I couldnt see the puck and thats probably why he had to shoot wide, is our guy was taking away the shooting lanes.

I picked it up somewhere about half way to me but I saw it was going wide. I was out toward the top of the crease so I didnt have time to get my whole body back. With the way the new boards are nowadays in all the arenas, you got to be on your toes with the big bounces. The big bounce came out and, you know, it was just a reaction and desperation. Ill admit I got a little bit lucky there.

The stop on Downie was downright marvelous, but Thomas had had another doozy of a save earlier in the third period.

Blair Jones was coming at the Boston net with a head of steam and the puck on his stick, but was pretty tight to the net and didn't have a lot of ice to operate. Jones shot ticked off Thomas shoulder -- when it did, Jones raised his stick in the air in triumph -- before it bounced hard off the right piping of the net, and a giant ding sound that pretty much always tells the story.

Thomas showed a combination of guts, guile and a little bit of healthy swagger in predicting the Bruins would win the series following one of the worst losses in the playoffs, and its worked out well for both the team and player.

Makes you wonder what the otherworldly goaltender has in mind to try closing out Tampa Bay this week, doesnt it?

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

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.