Savard feels no ill effects in his return

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Savard feels no ill effects in his return

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- It was his first shift since last May, and Marc Savard had water in his eyes.

He wasn't crying, of course. It was his own sweat that had dripped down from his helmet, clouding his vision and causing him to jump the gun early on his very first faceoff of the season, prompting the referee to boot him from the draw.

The TD Garden crowd didn't like it one bit and they made sure they were heard from, with boos ringing down from the bleachers.

But nobody was truly upset on Thursday night. The Bruins trounced the Tampa Bay Lightning 8-1, and Savard, who is arguably the team's top-line centerman when completely healthy, was back on the ice.

Savard, who has recovered from post-concussion syndrome, saw 15:45 of ice time in the win. To put that into perspective, center David Krejci had 16:40 and Patrice Bergeron 15:58.

Savard and Bergeron were the only two Bruins to finish the win with both an even plusminus rating and zero points, but Thursday night wasn't about what Savard would finish with on the score sheet. It was about taking the next big step in his recovery from a concussion that he suffered last March.

"I mean, it's been six months, so it's been a long time," said Savard after the game. "I was shaking off a bit of rust, but I felt like I made some good plays. I felt like there's stuff I can build off of, some things I can work on still, obviously. On battles, I had a little trouble as the shift wore on in our own zone a couple times. But I felt good, I felt strong. I got in there a couple times, tried to bang around, didn't really move anybody, but it was a lot of fun tonight.

"It's been a long road, that's for sure, and I owe a lot of thanks to a lot of people, and I've said that before," added Savard. "Everybody who's helped me out along the way, they don't understand how much they've helped me. The fans, too. Just tonight, to top it all off, they were wonderful, and that was one of the reasons I chose to stay here, and hopefully we can reward the fans back with a long playoff run."

Savard first found out he was playing in a meeting with Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien after Thursday's morning skate.

"I was told that everybody seemed positive about him, and OK with him playing," said Julien. "I think it was important to have everybody on board."

"I felt no effects tonight," said Savard, who believes everything was handled "perfectly" during his recovery. "Everything was great. Obviously, like I said, the longer shifts I got a little tired, but I really enjoyed myself tonight. I had a smile on the bench, had a lot of fun.

"I obviously didn't sleep much today," he added. "I tried not to walk around the room when I got here, but I felt like I was just flying around the room, kind of burning energy that I didn't want to burn, but I was just so excited. I felt like a little kid again. It was great."

He also felt like he was playing with a former linemate, and he wasn't talking about Michael Ryder. Ryder was on Savard's wing, but so was rookie Tyler Seguin, and Savard felt an immediate connection with the top draft pick.

Savard compared Seguin to former Bruin Phil Kessel . . . the same Kessel whose trade to Toronto opened the door for Seguin's arrival in Boston.

Needless to say, he liked what he saw.

"I can use his speed," said Savard. "He kind of reminds me of Phil over there, with his speed, so once I get used to it a bit, playing together . . .

"Like I said, I was a little rusty, a couple passes I got in the middle that I wish I would have got over there, but same sense, I feel like I made some good plays. My hands felt fine. My head felt fine. Obviously, just stamina, being out there for 45 seconds, I just have to work on that a bit."

Julien said Savard didn't look like he missed a beat on Thursday. He saw a player whose hands were still there, and whose skating was strong. And there was also one more thing that returned to the Bruins' bench: his mouth.

"He usually leads the way, when it comes to chirping," said Julien. "So he's good on the bench. He really is. He talks a lot, and I know, that when he comes to the bench, and anybody who's played on his line will tell you, he's always talking about different plays . . . that's what makes him such a good playmaker. He does talk a lot on the bench, and that's what you want. You want guys that are in the game, whether they're on the ice, or on the bench."

Savard got his first game out of the way. He still has some things to work on, nobody's denying that. But everyone's happy he's working on those things while helping them win, even if it doesn't show up on the score sheet.

"He is a big playmaker," said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara after the win. "He can make things happen on the rushes. He can find people and give the puck to them. Obviously, on the power play, he sees the puck very well. He brings a lot of patience and is an offensive threat to the other team. You always have to be aware of him. You never know what you are going to get. Sometimes it is a beautiful pass, and sometimes it is a great play. It sure is nice to have him back."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comdannypicard

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.