The more things change...

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The more things change...

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

Went to my first Celtics game last night since January 10.

The core crew was there -- Ray Ray, P-Twice, KG, Ray-jhonRah-jhon Rondo -- but, aside from Glen Davis (WHO SHOULD NEVER TAKE THAT SHOT AGAIN), the supporting cast looked a lot different.

When the Rockets visited Boston two months ago the box score included Nate Robinson, Jermaine O'Neal, Luke Harangody, Marquis Daniels, Von Wafer, Semih Erden (DNP) and Shaquille O'Neal.

None of those guys played for the Green Team last night, in thanks to trades or old age.

Wednesday's Celtics loss included Jeff Green (Georgetown Hoya -- I am not over it), Delonte West (He get his donuts yet?), Troy Murphy, Avery Bradley (DNP vs. Houston) and Sasha Pavlovic. I've had time to get used to all the transactions, but to realize the difference in my two game nights was jarring.

Maybe that's why I was so relieved that other things about the Celtics experience hadn't changed.

A GUY BEHIND ME SCREAMS STUFF ALL GAME
It's always some middle-aged dude who gets to escape the fam for one night a year to hang out with his other don't-get-out-much buddies: Goatee, glasses, button down shirt. You know.

Broski would have done Tommy Heinsohn proud with his ripping on the refs last night. "Hey! HEY. TRY CALLING ONE ON NUMBER 50 FOR A CHANGE. YOU'RE TERRIBLE. WHAT GAME YOU WATCHING?"

He also raised his voice at Tony Allen and Leon Powe whenever the former Celtics touched the ball, hollering 'TRAITOOOOOOOR!" Funny, considering that Powe wanted to come back and TA said "I'm a Celtic. Unfortunately, I'm wearing a Grizzlies uniform now," after the game. Minor details that Screaming Goatee Guy can't be bothered with. He had like, four beers! Oh, man, the wife's gonna be pissed, but he doesn't care-- nuh-uh! Tonight he's his own man. His own, loud man.

A KID THINKS HE WON'T SURVIVE THE MBTA
I was underground at North Station waiting in the crowd to go through the gate when I overheard a dad comforting his young son.

"You're not going to die!" The dad reassured his eight-year old.

"I'm going to get SMOOSHED!" The kid wailed, overlooking the mob of drunk basketball fans with dinner plate-sized eyes.

He didn't get smooshed as far as I know. But I didn't actually see them get on the train because a gate malfunction caused me to get held back for a solid 10 minutes and miss a few trains; BS, but typical.

So the kid is actually pretty perceptive. Even at eight, he was able to recognize that the T is the Electric Passenger Railway of Evil. It may not smoosh actual people that often, but it crushes souls on the daily.
TANGER IS STILL CHEERING FOR THE GREEN TEAM

Ayy! Gar-Bear made it on the jumbotron! And that's a nice Paul Pierce jersey no matter what Felger says.

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.

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

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Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

SAN FRANCISCO - An enraged Bryce Harper charged the mound, fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a fastball, setting off a wild brawl Monday during the Washington Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants.

Drilled in the right hip by a 98 mph heater on Strickland's first pitch in the eighth inning with two outs, none on and Washington ahead 2-0, Harper didn't hesitate. The slugger pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. His eyes were wide as he flung his helmet - it sailed way wide of Strickland, it might've slipped - and they started swinging away. The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters. Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected. They have some history between them - in the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland, and the All-Star outfielder glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases after the second shot in Game 4.