Newly formed Bruins lines look promising

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Newly formed Bruins lines look promising

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

RALEIGH The final outcome was underwhelming and undesirable, but it wasnt a complete washout for the Bruins, either.

Sure, they fell behind 2-0 before truly getting things going and dropped to 1-3 on the season with a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Hurricanes in their RBC Center home. But Tyler Seguin did snag his first goal of the season, and manned the center position adeptly between Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton while helping to spur on their best games of the season to date.

Both Lucic and Horton had multiple Grade A scoring chances, all three forwards topped 20 minutes of ice time for the first time this season, teamed up for a goal and unloaded 10 shots on net in a positive step in the right direction. Seguin played a career-high 20:08 of ice time against the Hurricanes, and his linemates liked what they saw in the second-year package of hockey skills.

Seguin played pretty well, said Lucic. Especially on that second shift in the first period where we got on them and there was an unlucky bounce for me when I hit the side of the net. He was skating well, he was getting open and he was in the right spot. Thats something he learned last year as a player was where to go, and hes able to get himself open.

For me and Horton, that was probably our most effective game where we were creating opportunities and we had lots of time in the offensive zone. Thats good, and the one goal we created was also good, but we had a lot of offensive chances and weve got to bear down on more of them.

The straw that really stirred the drink was the 19-year-old Seguin, however, as he glided through the Carolina defense with speed and precision looking to make plays and then turned into a stone cold goal-scorer when allowed a sliver of space in the third period. The 'Canes had just scored their second goal of the game an Anthony Stewart hard-hat special in front of the net and thats when the Bs top line started showing the urgency and snarl thats been missing in the early going.

Adam McQuaid wound the puck up the ice with speed, found Horton as he criss-crossed through the neutral zone with Seguin and then Horton fed the teenager a pass while in strong skating stride. Seguin simply used his speed to create separation with the defenseman, and then snapped a top shelf wrist shot over Cam Wards glove hand after watching the goalie begin to cheat away from the near post.

I went wide, saw Looch going hard to the net and at the last minute decided to go short side when he was sliding over a little bit, said Seguin.

The goal was a thing of beauty for Seguin, a sign of life for the Bruins, Hortons first point of the season and exactly the kind of promising sign Claude Julien was hoping for when he slotted Seguin with his two bookend power forwards.

The Bs coach isnt expecting miracles and wasnt doing handstands in a game that the Bruins lost, but he admitted hes seeing improvement in the No. 1 line that carried them so much last year.

They had some great opportunities, said Julien of the top line, thrown together Wednesday due to David Krejcis injury. We just didnt seem to be at the top of our game. Youre seeing the effects of some players that havent found their game, and its frustrating because everybody is coming hard at us. Seguin was one of the guys that scored a goal for us. It was his first game skating with Lucic and Horton and I think he did a good job for us.

Its not about one guy, though. If the whole line finds a way to play better as a whole, then theyll be more effective.

The Patrice BergeronBrad MarchandRich Peverley line wasnt as good as theyve been in the first three games, but they accounted for the teams second goal. Bergeron executed an impressive spin-o-rama cross-ice pass to Marchand for a successful one-timer, and a pass that Marchand will be raving about for years to come.

That was about it for observations about the newly configured forward lines aside from a Jordan Caron turnover in the slot area that turned into the third periods eventual game-winner for Jiri Tlusty during an otherwise non-descript 7:29 of ice time.

The big lesson learned while plugging in holes among the top 12 forwards: The Bruins have themselves a versatile commodity in Seguin, who has already moved between center and wing on the first and third line for the Bruins. The 19-year-old has four points (1 goal, 3 assists) in four games thus far and appears comfortable and functional in whichever spot hes dropped into moving forward.

The Bs boy wonder passed his first big exam of the season with flying colors, but there will be more difficult ones to come.

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.