Return of Stuart and Lucic sparks Bruins

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Return of Stuart and Lucic sparks Bruins

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- A goal certainly takes the pressure off a player's return from injury.

In the case of Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart and forward Milan Lucic, each put a puck into the net within the first 10 minutes of Monday afternoon's game against the Carolina Hurricanes at the TD Garden.

However, Stuart's was the only one that counted.

The B's defenseman played in his first game since Dec. 7 after missing more than month because of a broken right hand. His slap shot from the left point, eight minutes into the first period, got through a Michael Ryder screen and past Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward, into the top-left corner of the net.

Lucic had missed the previous three games because of an undisclosed injury, and beat Ward with a hard snap shot from the high slot, less than minutes after Stuart gave the Bruins an early 1-0 lead.

The goal horn sounded, and Lucic celebrated his first goal since Dec. 16.

Problem was, the officials had called a delayed penalty on the Bruins, and for some reason didn't blow the whistle until after Lucic had put the puck in the net.

"I have to build off it," said a smiling Lucic. "It was a little disheartening. A good, quick shot for myself, and I thought, 'Oh, here we go, get it going again.' But unfortunately it was called back."

Lucic has now gone 12 games without a goal.

For Stuart, Saturday's blast from the point was his first goal of the season. Both made their returns to the lineup, but Stuart's injury was much more severe than Lucic's.

"It felt good," said Stuart. "You're a little nervous beforehand, just because you don't really know what to expect. But I was fortunate enough to get that goal early, and it kind of helped me relax, I think."

Stuart finished Boston's 7-0 win as a plus-3 in 16:04 of ice time. His coaches and teammates didn't see a player who missed over a month with a hand injury.

"It was good, I thought, for his first game back," said coach Claude Julien. "We talked, before the game, that he only had one real, full practice with the team. He had been out for five, six weeks, and when you come back and play a pretty solid game like he did, you've got to be pleased.

"It was nice to see him get that goal," added Julien. "The first chance he got at shooting the puck, he scored. The rest of it, he kept his game pretty simple. And when he kept it simple, he moved the puck well. I thought he was good."

"He was very good, especially for being out for a while," said goaltender Tim Thomas. "He didn't have the shakiness that sometimes can happen when you haven't played in a while. He was really calm with the puck, and made good plays, and he was very strong. A lot of times, when you come back from injury, too, it seems like you're a step behind, and was definitely not that. He stepped right in and played with mid-season form."

So much so, that Stuart nearly got in a fight with Hurricanes forward Troy Bodie in the final minutes of the game. But just before the gloves came off, fellow defenseman Adam McQuaid sprinted over and dropped the gloves with Bodie himself.

By rule, no player can fight while wearing protective equipment on their hands. And Stuart played Saturday's game with a protective brace on his right hand, which he said he plans on wearing for a "couple more weeks."

McQuaid knew that, and didn't want Stuart to re-injure the hand, so he stepped in.

"We all know Stuey's not going to back down, so it was just kind of something I needed to do," said McQuaid. "The brace kind of puts him in a tough spot, so like I said, someone had to jump in there for him."

"I felt bad, because I didn't want to put Adam in that situation," said Stuart. "You kind of forget sometimes, in the heat of the battle, that you can't do it."

Stuart didn't have to drop the gloves. All that mattered, on Saturday, was that he and Lucic were back in that heat of the battle. And it's a pair of returns that's more than welcomed in the Bruins locker room.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on his streaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from 9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

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.