Wednesday’s NHL playoffs: Penguins take 3-1 lead on Flyers
Philadelphia — Sidney Crosby passed Mario Lemieux in Pittsburgh’s record book and pushed the Philadelphia Flyers to the brink of elimination.
Flyers fans booed the goal – and the ones that stuck around for the end belted a familiar refrain: “Fire Hakstol! Fire Hakstol!”
Crosby scored his fifth goal of the series and became the Penguins’ career postseason points leader in a 5-0 win over the Flyers on Wednesday night.
The Penguins lead the first-round playoff series, 3-1, as its shifts to Pittsburgh for Game 5 on Friday. Crosby and the Penguins followed a 7-0 Game 1 win and a 5-1 Game 3 victory with another dominant outing.
Matt Murray stopped 26 shots for his second shutout of the series and the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins are a win away from playing in the second round for the 11th time in the last 12 seasons.
Crosby scored in the second period for a 4-0 lead and topped the team owner and Hall of Famer in Lemieux for most playoff points with 173.
“A lot of his records aren’t going to be touched,” Crosby said. “The fact I can be close to him and around that one, I guess I’ve been fortunate to play in a number of playoff games helps a lot.”
The Flyers were already on their second goalie by the time Crosby scored. The Penguins chased Brian Elliott early in the period after the maligned goalie allowed his 14th goal of the series. Michal Neuvirth relived Elliott and it didn’t matter. Neuvirth lost track of the puck behind the net and had his head turned to the right when Crosby found it and snapped it under the goalie’s left skate.
“I was in a good spot. The puck ended up right on my stick,” Crosby said.
The Flyers were confused. The Penguins were composed.
And it so it goes in Philly, the Flyers are a loss away from another empty season without the Stanley Cup.
“Somehow, we need to get our confidence back and go from there,” team captain Claude Giroux said.
Disgruntled Flyers fans chanted from the balcony to the concourse for the Flyers to fire third-year coach Dave Hakstol.
Both teams played without key cogs in their lineup: Sean Couturier (who had career highs with 31 goals and 76 points) was injured Tuesday at practice in a vicious collision with teammate Radko Gudas; the Pens played without top-line forward Patric Hornqvist because of an undisclosed injury.
Giroux, who scored 102 points during the season, has not scored a posteason goal since 2014.
“One game away for the season to be over,” Giroux said. “You can expect this team to have some fight the next game.”
The Flyers pulled out all their good-luck charms.
The national champion Villanova Wildcats were in the house and star guard Phil Booth screamed “Are you ready for some hockey?”
Flyers fans heard the usual stirring rendition of “God Bless America,” live by Lauren Hart and on video by the late Kate Smith. The song has been a rallying anthem for the Flyers since Smith began singing it in the mid 1970s. Hart started the song, then looked up to the big screen and passed it off to Smith. They finished in a split-screen duet.
Once the pageantry settled down, the Penguins poured it on.
Crosby’s on-point pass on the power play led to Evgeni Malkin’s third goal of the playoff just 4:33 into the game. Phil Kessel scored his first of the postseason midway through the period. Kris Letang made it 3-0 in the second and that was all for Elliott.
Riley Sheahan made it 5-0 late in the third. Neuvirth stopped 11 of 13 shots in relief.
“We won in their building on the second game so that’s the attitude we’re going to take,” Neuvirth said.
Murray was solid again, and stoned Travis Konency on a breakaway out of the penalty box in the second that had the second-year center slam his stick on the ice in anger.
“They had their chances, at times,” Murray said. “But we got the job done.”
MORE EASTERN CONFERENCE
Tampa Bay 3, (at) New Jersey 1: A feisty Nikita Kucherov scored two goals, set up another and knocked New Jersey’s top defenseman out of the game with a big hit, and the Lightning moved within a game of making the Devils’ first trip to the playoffs in six years a short one.
J.T. Miller also scored and had two assists, and Vezina Trophy finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped three breakaways in making 27 saves as the Lightning bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to tale a 3-1 lead in the first-round series.
Tampa Bay can wrap up the best-of-seven series in Game 5 at home on Saturday.
Kyle Palmieri scored on a 5-on-3 advantage for the Devils, who are back in the playoffs for the first time since reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2012. It was the only time they beat Vasilevskiy, whose 44 wins in the regular season shared the league lead with Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck. Cory Schneider made 34 saves for New Nersey in starting his second straight game.
This game might have been the roughest of the series, especially in the first period when the Lightning took a 2-1 lead in a session with a lot of scrums.
The play everyone is going to talk about and the NHL probably will look at is Kucherov’s hit on Sami Vatanen late in the first. No penalty was called but the league’s No. 3 scorer appeared to jump before hitting Vatanen in the shoulder and head area. Devils coach coach John Hynes screamed at the officials after the play. Vatanen did not return.
The Lightning were leading 2-1 at that point and the score didn’t change until Kucherov’s empty net goal with 1:08 to play iced the game.
(At) San Jose 2, Anaheim 1: Tomas Hertl scored the tiebreaking goal 9:09 into the third period, Martin Jones was spectacular in goal yet again, and the Sharks completed a first-round sweep of the rival Ducks.
Hertl scored just 1:16 after the Ducks finally got a puck past Jones when he deflected a point shot from Marc-Edouard Vlasic past John Gibson. San Jose then held on to advance to the second round against the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.
Fourth-line winger Marcus Sorensen scored for the third straight game to open the scoring for San Jose and Jones did most of the rest of the work with 30 saves. He robbed Corey Perry several times and got help from a replay review that negated an apparent tying goal early in the third.
Andrew Cogliano scored the lone goal for the Ducks, who were outscored 16-4 in the series and swept for the first time since 1999 against Detroit. Gibson finished with 22 saves.
Gibson was unable to match the play of Jones, who had a shutout in Game 1, set a San Jose playoff record with 45 regulation saves in Game 3 and then might have been even better in the clincher that gave the Sharks their second sweep in franchise history after also doing it in the first round in 2013 against Vancouver.
Jones robbed Perry with a pad stop early in the second and then again twice in one sequence later in the period. Anaheim looked poised to capitalize on a late power play in the period but Jones stopped Perry once again with a sprawling pad save and then Ryan Getzlaf finally got a puck past Jones, although it came a fraction of a second after the final buzzer.
Referee Eric Furlatt emphatically waved the goal off on the ice and Getzlaf could only lean on the goal in frustration over the failed opportunity.
That frustration only grew as the power play continued into the third period. Rickard Rakell appeared to tie the game with a one-timer but the Sharks challenged the zone entry and the officials ruled Perry and Rakell were offside after video review.
Cogliano finally scored for Anaheim off a feed from Ryan Kesler but the good feeling didn’t last long before Hertl responded.
Nashville 3, (at) Colorado 2: Filip Forsberg scored another creative goal, Pekka Rinne rebounded from a rocky performance with 31 saves, and the Predators withstood a furious rally by the Avalanche to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round series.
Colton Sissons and Craig Smith also added goals for the Predators, who can close out the series Friday when it shifts back to Nashville for Game 5.
Rinne was solid early after being pulled from the last game. Cruising along and up 3-0, the Vezina Trophy finalist allowed Gabriel Landeskog’s 5-on-3 power-play goal in the third and another on Alexander Kerfoot’s tap-in off a rebound.
Colin Wilson nearly tied with about 2 minutes left when his shot appeared to hit the post. The Avalanche pulled backup goalie Andrew Hammond late, but couldn’t get the tying goal.
Forsberg worked his puck-handling magic in the first period by dancing around defenseman Duncan Siemens and juking Jonathan Bernier for his third goal of the series. The ever-creative Forsberg had an artistic goal in Game 1 as well, when he sent the puck through the defenseman’s legs before scoring.
Bernier allowed three goals on 26 shots before being replaced by Hammond to start the third period due to a lower body injury. Hammond had eight saves.