Boston Bruins

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Penguins crush Predators 6-0 to take 3-2 lead

penguins_celebrate_060817.jpg

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Penguins crush Predators 6-0 to take 3-2 lead

PITTSBURGH — The night started with a catfish throw.

It ended with haymaker after haymaker — both literal and proverbial — from the ever resilient Pittsburgh Penguins.

The defending champions provided an emphatic and repeated reminder of what makes them such a difficult out in a 6-0 demolition of the Nashville Predators in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final to take a 3-2 lead.

Pittsburgh will have a chance to become the first franchise in 19 years to win back to back championships when the series shifts back to Nashville for Game 6 on Sunday night.

“Understand that we’re going to play a desperate team,” said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby after collecting three assists. “Nothing’s done yet and we’ve got a lot of work ahead of ourselves.”

So do the Predators, who can’t get back to Smashville fast enough.

“I don’t know if anybody shakes off a game like that that quickly,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “Nobody feels good leaving the building playing the way we did.”

Justin Schultz, Bryan Rust and Evgeni Malkin scored during a first-period barrage against Pekka Rinne that sent the Nashville goaltender to the bench for the rest of the night, all the good mojo he created during a pair of wins in Games 3 and 4 gone.

Conor Sheary, Phil Kessel — just as linemate Malkin predicted — and 35-year-old playoff newbie Ron Hainsey also scored for the Penguins. Crosby’s eventful night included becoming the franchise’s all-time leading scorer in the Stanley Cup Final, a two-minute roughing penalty for trying to dribble Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban’s head on the ice near the end of the first period and an flip of a water bottle onto the ice during play.

“It’s just one of those things it slipped out of my hand,” Crosby said. “I had a gesture with my hand and before I knew it the thing was flying across the ice. I know you’re not allowed to do that, so I’m not going to start doing it in the Stanley Cup Final.”

Matt Murray bounced back from so-so performances during Pittsburgh’s lost weekend in Nashville to make 24 stops while also benefiting from a dominant performance by the guys in front of him.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, as he has for each of the last two springs when his team finds itself in a tight spot, pushed all the right buttons again. He stuck with Murray, reunited Sheary with Crosby and Jake Guentzel, and stressed his team needed to play with urgency but not desperation after the Predators rallied to tie the series by outscoring the Penguins 9-2 during two wins in Nashville.

It took all of 91 seconds for Pittsburgh to get its swagger back.

Just 91 seconds after a Nashville fan flipped a catfish onto the PPG Paints Arena ice — a move that came shortly before a three-goal outburst by Nashville in Game 1 — Schultz powered home a slapshot to end an 0-for-15 power-play skid.

“We were on our toes tonight,” Schultz said. “We were really jumping and playing our game, playing fast. It all started with that start and got us going for the rest of the game.”

Rust made it 2-0 just 6:43 into the game with a nasty backhand flip over Rinne’s glove.

Then things got chippy (and a little weird) for the game’s best player. Crosby and Subban became tangled up behind the Nashville net late in the first period, with Crosby ended up on top of Subban. Crosby then started hitting Subban in the head repeatedly, eventually drawing a roughing penalty while Subban — who quipped that Crosby was complaining about Subban’s bad breath during a Game 3 exchange — went off for holding.

“I’m not an official so I’m not going to judge what’s over the line and what’s not,” Subban said.

Malkin ripped a wrist shot over Rinne’s glove on the ensuing 4-on-4 to make it 3-0 with just 10 seconds left in the first. Rinne gave way to Juuse Saros at the start of the second period after stopping just six of nine shots, continuing his wildly uneven play. Rinne stopped 50 of 52 shots he faced back home in Games 3 and 4. He’s stopped just 34 of 45 in Pittsburgh during the series.

Saros hardly fared any better. Sheary took a pretty feed from Crosby and sent it by Saros 1:19 into the second to push Pittsburgh’s lead to four. Kessel ended a six-game goal drought 8:02 into the second. The score had been predicted by Malkin and it came just seconds after Crosby threw a water bottle onto the ice as the play went by Pittsburgh’s bench, a move he told referees was unintentional.

When Hainsey, who waited 907 regular-season games before reaching the playoffs for the first time this season, tapped in a pass from Malkin to make it 6-0, the stage was set for the Penguins to return to familiar territory.

The franchise has won all four of its Cups on the road. A shot at a fifth awaits Sunday, though it’ll hardly be easy.

The Predators are 9-1 at home in the playoffs, a place they will need to be a haven once again if they want to extend their improbable Cup run - and a flat-out odd final - back to Pittsburgh.

“The real hockey starts now,” Subban said. “You’re in the Cup final, this is what it’s all about. It’s about going back and forth.”

Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

bruins_brad_marchand_012417.jpg

Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

BOSTON – It was probably only a matter of time before it happened, but it looks like Boston’s favorite Little Ball of Hate is stepping up his game on social media.

Brad Marchand is known as much for his rabble-rousing and trash-talking on the ice as he is for massive offensive production while serving as Boston’s top scorer in each of the last few seasons. So Marchand has the perfect mixture of good humor and clout as a star NHL player, and that usually combines for a pretty powerful voice on Twitter.

Marchand has been noticeably more active on Twitter in recent days with a wide-ranging group of tweets, and the big winner is the hockey fan that gets a little more exposure to some classic Nose Face Killah wit. Some of the tweets have been as a Bruins team leader where he’s praising the talented young crop of B’s prospects that he’s watching during training camp:

Some have been about chirping the NHL for their decision to skip the Olympics this winter where Marchand most certainly would have been primed for a chance at a Gold Medal:

Some have been engaging with “fans” and dropping classic pop culture references from children’s books while showing the nasty edge that routinely drives opponents up a wall:

The Charlotte’s Web reference is a devastating classic from Marchand, a noted longtime fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sometimes it’s just telling a quick story in a tweet that gives you an inside look at the kind of chirping that goes on when Marchand is on the ice:

A social media platform like Twitter was made for a personality like Marchand, and a stepped-up presence is good for him and good for hockey fans. So why all of a sudden is No. 63 tweeting with greater frequency over the last few days?

It sounds like it’s a combination of training camp boredom and a genuine interest in amplifying his voice on all manner of subjects.

“I’ve just been kind of lying around with nothing to do and I jumped on [twitter]…thought it was kind of funny,” said Marchand. “I thought I’d get a little more involved. I don’t know if I’m going to have enough time to do it every day, but it’s fun.”

As fun as it’s been for Marchand, it’s no doubt even more fun for the fans that might get a chance to interact with him even if it’s as the unwitting foil for one of his well-placed chirps. 

CSNNE SCHEDULE

Cassidy: Khudobin 'has a leg up' on backup competition in Bruins camp

bruins_anton_khudobin_121516.jpg

Cassidy: Khudobin 'has a leg up' on backup competition in Bruins camp

BOSTON – Fresh off a strong performance allowing just a single goal on 31 shots in his preseason debut, Tuukka Rask looked close to the top of his game and exactly where he needs to be with the regular season a couple of weeks away. Nearly as important as Rask’s state as the regular season nears, the Bruins coaching staff has been keeping a keen eye through camp on the all-important backup goaltender position as well. 

It’s important that the Bruins have a quality backup goalie in place as they hope to start Rask in just 55-60 games this season, and manage the slender puck-stopper in a way where they can get the best out of him from beginning to end. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy indicated Anton Khudobin has the inside track on the backup job after finding his groove in the second half of last season, and it would appear he’s well on his way to retaining his job with a Malcolm Subban/Zane McIntyre tandem in Providence.

“Tuukka looks good, and looks good in practice and healthy. So that’s reassuring,” said Cassidy. “[Anton Khudobin] I thought played very well in his game. He had the one unfortunate goal, but I thought he was rock-solid the rest of the game. He’s in very good shape and he’s practiced well, so he’s got a leg up on the other [goalies] based on his experience.

“We know that going in, but he’s going to get pushed. Zane [McIntyre] was good in a game, and Malcolm let in a couple where he could have been more aggressive. But it was a first game, so right now they all look good. That’s a good problem to have if they all push each other, but to get direct to the point Anton has done nothing to lose that backup spot.”

At this point, it would likely be McIntyre rather than Subban that would challenge for the NHL backup job if Khudobin did stumble at all in training camp or early in the regular season as he did last year. There will be no backup controversy, however, if the 31-year-old plays like he did in stopping 20-of-22 shots in Tuesday night’s win vs. the Red Wings or as he did going 6-1-0 with a .922 save percentage after the All-Star break last season.  

CSNNE SCHEDULE