Bruins spread holiday cheer despite lockout disappointment

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Bruins spread holiday cheer despite lockout disappointment

Bruins President Cam Neely and head coach Claude Julien areno different than the rest of the NHL-loving public. Just as the fans andplayers want to get back on the ice as soon as possible, executive and membersof NHL coaching staffs are chomping at the bit for a resolution to a lockoutthat passed 80 days in length last week.

So when it appeared things were close to a resolution duringthe meeting between the group of six owners and players last week duringmeetings at the Westin Hotel in New York City, naturally Neely and Julien gotexcited that theyd be headed back to work soon.

Like everybody else, emotions run high and then they go lowdepending on how everything turns out, said Neely. I think everybody wasfeeling cautiously optimistic at the Board of Governors meeting that we weregoing to get something done. Unfortunately it didnt happen. Ive been a glasshalf-full guy this whole time and Im going to stay half-full.

Im not going to lie. Its difficult to keep morale up whenwere not out doing what were supposed to be doing. I know people are going tobe upset that were not playing. Thats a given. But its days like this when wereally want to get staff out and show everyone what this organization is trulyall about. You try and make sure that everybody stays as positive as possible.

Instead things fell apart in spectacularly ridiculousfashion last Thursday with dueling Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman pressconferences. Then the NHL announced that all scheduled games through Dec. 30have now been cancelled as the two sides continue their war of labor attrition.

So it was refreshing that Neely and Julien were among agroup of Bruins employees, front office staff, coaches and media personalitiesthat spent Monday morning shopping for thousands of dollars in toys at theTarget in Woburn. The carriages full of toys, games and stocking stuffers are beingpurchased to be donated to kids stranded in local hospitals during the holidayseason in the coming days.

I certainly enjoy this. It puts all in perspective, and noteven because of the hockey things, said Julien. But to see the smiles onthose kids faces in the hospitals in the next few days or the next week willbe a very special day for me. Those kids are what its all about. It not onlyputs you in the Christmas spirit, but its about spreading joy and happiness.Weve got an opportunity to do that.

Its an outstanding Bruins tradition that started back in1990 by Ray Bourque, was passed to P.J. Axelsson in the early seasons in thisdecade, and has been organized by Zdeno Chara in recent years.

Everybody isnt happy with the lockout situation that wereinvolved in. But that doesnt mean we cant help others out around theholidays. Its fantastic to be involved with this, said Neely. To havechildren that arent able to be home for Christmas and you can shed a littlelight on them. I think its important for the organization to do that whetherits the front office and coaches, or its the players.

Regardless of how other athletes feel, were in a positionto give back and were obligated to do just that. Were fortunate to be able todo what we do for a living. For us to get out and get involved in thecommunity, in various ways, is something we should be doing."

Neely, Julien, assistant GMs Jim Benning and Don Sweeney andassistant coaches Doug Houda, Doug Jarvis and Geoff Ward were among thefriendly faces that lent their time and shopping acumen. They replaced theBruins players that normally organize the toy drive, and insured that someneedy Boston area children will have a joyful Christmas.

The event is just part of an ongoing excellent job theBoston BruinsTD Garden staff has done staying active in the community even ifthe hockey season is in limbo.

Weve always maintained a strong relationship with thecommunity in a number of ways and were always going to continue to do that,said Neely. The lockout doesnt mean that we cant keep getting involved asan organization like we always have.

Of course the Bs executives and coaches are looking forwardto handing the charitable endeavors back to the players eventually. The returnof the NHL players would mean that the business of the NHL is back up to fullefficiency, and that the fans are cheering instead of berating both the NHL andNHLPA.

Bruins officials clearly expect the fans to return in ahockey hotbed like Boston with a Stanley Cup-caliber hockey club, but they alsoknow that it might be as easy for places like Florida, Dallas, Anaheim,Carolina, Phoenix and Nashville among others.

Were bystanders just like everybody else. I can just tellyou that Im looking forward to getting back to work. I know that everybody inthere negotiating feels that same way, said Julien. Recovering from thelockout depends on the areas. Some areas bounced back more quickly than othersin 2004-05. We know hardly any Canadian cities have the NBA or Major LeagueBaseball, so hockey is the famous Canadian sport.

There were also some traditional cities in the US that hadtheir fans back. But there were some cities that had a struggle to get theirfans back, and I dont think its going to be any different this time around.We just hope that it will get resolved quickly, that the fans understand it andthat theres a real positive message there at the end.

Collateral damage from the lockout is a sad reality of thislatest work stoppage in an NHL thats had too far many of them over the last 20years.

But Monday was not about that at all. It was about a Bruinsorganization doing something tangible to improve the lives of kids looking fora lift around the holiday season just as theyve done for years.

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.

Posey stays out of the fray during Strickland-Harper brawl

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Posey stays out of the fray during Strickland-Harper brawl

SAN FRANCISCO  — As an irate Bryce Harper charged toward the mound, Buster Posey just stood and watched from behind home plate.

And when the Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants cleared their benches Monday and punches flew both ways, the All-Star catcher did his best to remain just outside the fray.

Not where some expected to find the Giants team leader with his pitcher, Hunter Strickland, exchanging head shots with Harper.

“Posey did NOTHING to stop Harper from getting to his pitcher,” former major league pitcher Dontrelle Willis wrote on Twitter. “I’ve never seen that before in my life.”

Posey declined to enter the fracas, instead remaining around its edges and watching as the players scuffled in “a pretty good pile,” as Giants manager Bruce Bochy called it.

Posey dealt with a concussion in April after being struck in the head by a pitch, but did not say he held back because of concerns related to that. He did say he was wary about the risk of injury.

“There were some big guys tumbling around out there,” Posey said. “You see Mike Morse and Jeff Samardzija are about as big as they come and he was getting knocked around like a pinball. So it was a little dangerous to get in there.”

Still, social media was abuzz at the sight of Posey not sticking up for his teammate.

“Strickland must have told @BusterPosey he was hitting him and let him come cause he didn’t even give a soft jog,” Willis wrote.

“Says all you need to know that Buster Posey didn’t bother to hold back Harper,” tweeted Fox broadcaster Kevin Burkhardt . “Let him go get his pitcher.”

Also absent from the fight: hard-nosed Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. As his teammates flew over the dugout railing, Bumgarner stayed put, perhaps because the left-hander is still recovering after injuring his pitching shoulder and ribs in a dirt biking accident in April.