Friday’s NHL playoffs: Flyers force Game 6 with Penguins
Pittsburgh — Sean Couturier did what he could to deal with the pain in his left leg, then hopped over the boards and let the adrenaline that comes with playoff hockey take care of the rest.
The Philadelphia Flyers are still alive as a result.
Barely 72 hours removed from a frightening collision with a teammate in practice threatened to end his season, Couturier returned for Game 5 and threaded a shot through traffic that slipped past Matt Murray and into the net with 1:15 left to lift the Flyers to a 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night to send the series back to Philadelphia.
“I think it might have hit one of their guys,” Couturier said. “Lucky bounce, but we’ll take them.”
The Flyers certainly need them. They still trail 3-2 heading into Game 6 on Sunday but counterpunched effectively against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.
Valtteri Filppula’s short-handed goal tied it late in the second period shortly after the Penguins had taken the lead and Couturier’s second goal of the playoffs was a knuckler that deflected off Pittsburgh defenseman Brian Dumoulin and by a surprised Murray.
Claude Giroux picked up his first goal of the series and Matt Read added an empty-netter. Michal Neuvirth stopped 30 shots, including a diving stop on the doorstep to deny Penguins star Sidney Crosby with 50 seconds left.
“I like playing in the playoffs, like facing the pressure,” Neuvirth said after making his first start in more than two months in place of struggling Brian Elliott. “But it’s only one game and we came here to win a hockey game. We did that. Now we have to win the next one.”
Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust scored for the Penguins. Murray made 21 saves but Pittsburgh missed a chance to close out the Flyers thanks in part to a slow start and a power play that was the best in the league during the regular season went 0 for 5.
“I thought the second and third (periods) we were much better,” Crosby said. “We ended up making a couple mistakes that ended up in our net.”
Mistakes that injected some actual tension into a series devoid of it coming in. The first four games were blowouts on the scoreboard if not always on the ice, three of them ending with the Flyers skating off the ice wondering what they needed to do to keep pace with cross-state rivals.
Philadelphia coach Dave Hakstol, perhaps fighting for his job, made his first significant change in an effort to keep his team’s season alive, giving Neuvirth his first playoff start in nearly two years after Elliott couldn’t shake out of a funk that saw him pulled in Game 1 and again in Game 4.
The Flyers also Couturier back to center the third line just three days after teammate Radko Gudas accidentally took him out during a drill in practice that forced Couturier to watch Pittsburgh’s clinical 5-0 Game 4 romp from the press box.
There was no need for change in Pittsburgh, which has developed a killer instinct under coach Mike Sullivan it lacked at times earlier in the Crosby/Evgeni Malkin era. The Penguins came in 8-5 in potential close-out games since Sullivan took over in December 2015, including a 5-2 mark at home.
Make it 5-3.
Giroux, a non-factor through much of the series, gave Philadelphia the lead 17:29 into the first when he found some space in the slot and took a pretty feed from behind the Pittsburgh net by Jakub Voracek to pump a shot by Murray.
The Penguins replied with two goals in a 4:45 span in the second for the first lead change of the series. Bryan Rust beat Neuvirth with a wrap around 12 minutes into the second for his ninth career goal in a potential elimination game. Guentzel then took a feed from Crosby and slipped it between Neuvirth’s legs to put Pittsburgh in front.
The Flyers, for the first time since Game 2, responded. Now Philadelphia has to do it again at home, a place where the Penguins outscored the Flyers 10-1 while rolling in Games 3 and 4.
“We have to keep battling next game and play the with same kind of mentality,” Couturier said. “It was a road game. We didn’t put a show on, but we kept it tight and found a way to win.”
(At) Winnipeg 5, Minnesota 0: Jacob Trouba, Bryan Little, Brandon Tanev and Joel Armia scored in the first 11:59 to chase Minnesota goalie Devan Dubynk and the Winnipeg Jets beat the Wild to win a playoff series for the first time in franchise history.
Connor Hellebuyck made 30 saves for his second shutout of the series, and Mark Scheifele added a goal in the third to help the Jets finish off the Wild in five games. Winnipeg will face the winner of the Nashville-Colorado series in the second round.
The white-clad crowd of 15,321 at Bell MTS Place stood and began cheering and waving white towels with just over two minutes remaining. A similar-size crowd was outside watching on giant screens at a “whiteout” street party.
Winnipeg’s previous post-season appearance was a sweep by Anaheim in 2015. The franchise moved from Atlanta in 2011. The Thrashers started in 1999-2000, with their only playoff series ending in four straight losses to the New York Rangers in 2007. The series came 31 years after the original Jets last won a series before the team moved to Arizona.
The Jets attacked the Wild quickly, scoring four goals on their first 10 shots.
Trouba scored 31 seconds in, and Little, Tanev and Armia followed quickly.
Alex Stalock stopped 15 of the 16 shots in relief of Dubynk.
Scheifele scored his fourth goal of the series 32 seconds into the third with a one-timer on the power play.
The Wild were making their sixth straight appearance in the postseason. They only got as far as the second round in 2014 and ‘15, when Chicago knocked them out both years.
Colorado 2, (at) Nashville 1: Sven Andrighetto scored with 1:28 left to give the Avalanche a victory, sending the first-round series back to Denver for Game 6.
This is the third time the Avalanche had trailed 3-1 in a series since the franchise relocated to Colorado. They lost the first two, but will have a chance Sunday to push this series to a seventh game after rallying with two goals in the final 4:11.
Gabriel Landeskog started the rally with his goal into an empty net with Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne caught outside the crease with his own teammate Ryan Ellis in his lap. Then Andrighetto gave the Avs the lead off a rebound of a shot by J.T. Compher that stunned a sold-out Nashville crowd that had expected to celebrate advancing to the second round.
Andrew Hammond made a career-high 44 saves for his first postseason victory in his first playoff start since April 17, 2015, with Ottawa and just the third of his career.
“It’s one of those things I’ve learned in my career: You never know when you’re going to get a second chance,” Hammond said. “I’ve played two games basically since the start of January – at times it felt as though that day would never come again when you’re going to play again. You keep battling in practice, you stick to the process, when you get your chance, you’re ready.”
The series winner will face Winnipeg in the second round.
Nick Bonino scored for Nashville.