Paoletti: A Rally of joy

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Paoletti: A Rally of joy

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com Staff ReporterFollow @mary_paoletti
BOSTON -- It was strange to see Causeway shut down.

Instead of cars, the street was lined with lawn chairs.

The sun shone without much warmth, but it was only 8:30 in the morning and felt like one of those June days that held the promise of heat. The Cup wouldn't emerge for another 2 12 hours.

In the meantime, they poured in from the subway, great waves of black and gold spilling out and spreading over the parade route. Those who couldn't walk were wheeled, "BELIEVE IN BOSTON" banners waving from the backs of their chairs. Some stood in triplets of generations, the well-worn Sanderson, Samsanov, Oates and Orr jerseys mixing in with those Recchi, Bergeron, Krejci and Seguin sweaters, tags still on. Somebody's mother wore a Milan Lucic "Ass Kicker" t-shirt.

It was estimated that over 1 million people would gather by the TD Garden that Saturday. The Bruins had won the Cup -- that much fans knew and celebrated-- but now they needed to see it.

Tinfoil and inflatable copycats were everywhere. As a four-foot silver masterpiece was carried by the Harp, a group of twenty-something guys whooped their approval. All five patrons raised nearly-empty Sam Adamses in salute, and one leaned out the large bar window.

"I want to kiss that Cup!" he crowed. "Bring it over here!"

Even the cops were calm. MBTA shuttles dropped Boston officers off by the busload to infiltrate the crowd, but the work day was casual considering the numbers. It was a mob scene only by volume, not intentions. Young troublemakers got their Poland Spring bottles of vodka confiscated and dumped into storm drains. Getting arrested would be pointless -- can't see the Cup from the back of a squad car. No, a winner's unity kept Boston on its best behavior Saturday.

And they were smug in that knowledge. More than a few signs poked a sharp elbow at the already-bruised Canucks fan base.

"Vancouver Riots. Boston rallies!" one sign read. "Visit Vancouver: I hear it's a riot!" read another.

The little jabs were irresistible, but the majority of that million couldn't care less about the Canucks. Rolling Rallies are about one thing: The start of a fresh obsession or the climax of a long-standing love.

As the clock ticked closer to the Cup, anticipation swelled and fell away. "LET'S GO BRUINS!" that most classic game chant, began in earnest at 11. Fans rose up on tiptoes, craning necks in the direction of the idling duck boats promised to carry their champions. The most important party possible wasn't starting on time, but today the fans were happily impatient.

They waited 39 years. What's 10 more minutes?

It was all worth it.

It started with a rumbling bass line. Those first familiar strains of "Shipping Up to Boston" followed like shots of adrenaline directly to the heart. Women and children were boosted up onto strong shoulders, cameras and cellphones were raised blindly overhead as that first boat rolled between the barriers.

The Stanley Cup was hoisted high in the arms of its guardian, their captain, Zdeno Chara.

Spectacular.

Someone sprayed champagne, cheap beer or both. Chara lofted the Cup again, then pretended to toss it to the fans. They jumped up, fingers stretched forward and chests tight. Beside him, Tim Thomas gripped his Conn Smyth. Neither stopped smiling for a full minute and probably couldn't have on a dare.

The Nature Boy's iconic "Woo!" kicked off "We are the Champions" on Cambridge Street. Bagpipers held off to let it play. Shawn Thornton held his right index finger in the air and twirled silver beads around the left.

"McQUAID! McQUAID! THE MULLET!"

He smiled and pulled off his hat. They will love him for years for that; Adam McQuaid can buzz his head for the rest of his career and they would remember the mullet.

Patrice Bergeron looked unflappable as ever. His joy was tightly radiant. One lift of his arms and a slow smile sent them swooning. On one stop, a small group of fans screaming silently from high on a rooftop caught Bergeron's eye. He pointed up to their perch with both hands.

You -- yes, you -- thank you for being here.

Behind Cup sightings, Nathan Horton got the loudest cheers. Every time his boat rolled around a different corner and Bruins fans caught his million-watt smile they were sent into a frenzy. Nathan Horton: happy-go-lucky hero turned shutdown symbol for The Good Fight. At Center 1 Plaza he grasped hold of his young sons' wrists and lifted the boys' arms in victory.

Three days after Game 7, Tuukka Rask still wore Horton's helmet. He may never have taken it off since the postgame locker room celebration.

All the while, black-and-gold confetti shot into the air. Fans lifted their faces as it floated gently down like a November flurry.

Those who imagined this day had no idea how brightly the Stanley Cup really shined. When the sun broke free and burned off the clouds, it was overwhelming. Some chased it down, following that lead float as far as they could, not wanting the day to end.

It had to.

Eventually, the lawn chairs gave way to discarded signs ("Never forget Savvy 91"), streamers and incoming street sweepers. The crowd walked back to where it all began, TD Garden, and the trains that brought them in. But this time, for the first in a long time, they walked away from hockey season satisfied.

A moment of immortality, one sunny Saturday in Boston. Nothing left to say.

"Now just do it again!"

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

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.