Monday's NHL: Lightning sweep Panthers in Game 4; Kadri scores hat trick for Avs
Tampa, Fla. — Andrei Vasilevskiy had 49 saves and the Tampa Bay Lightning completed a four-game sweep of the Florida Panthers with a 2-0 victory Monday night that sent the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions back to the Eastern Conference final for the sixth time in eight years.
Pat Maroon snapped a scoreless tie, batting Zach Bogosian’s shot down behind Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky before the puck trickled into the net a little over six minutes into the third period. Ondrej Palat added an empty-net goal with 22 seconds left.
Vasilevskiy won his sixth straight game, a streak that began with the Lightning facing a 3-2 series deficit in the opening round. It was his sixth shutout in his last seven series-clinching wins.
The reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner limited the high-scoring Panthers, who averaged a NHL-best 4.11 goals while compiling the league’s best record during the regular season, to just three goals in four games.
The Lightning joined the New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens as the only franchises to win at least 10 consecutive playoff series. Their bid to become the first team in 40 years to capture three straight Stanley Cup titles will continue in the East final against either the Carolina Hurricanes or New York Rangers.
The defending champs persevered Monday night despite having goals by Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov waved off within a 48-second span of the second period – the first after Florida coach Andrew Brunette challenged and a lengthy replay review determined Palat lifted the puck out of play along the boards before Mikhail Sergachev fired a shot that Killorn tipped past Bobrovsky.
Less than a minute later, Tampa Bay appeared to take the lead again only to have replay confirm Anthony Cirelli won a faceoff in the left circle with a hand pass that Kucherov rifled through Bobrovsky.
The Panthers became the first Presidents’ Trophy winners to be swept by a defending Stanley Cup champion in the playoffs since Edmonton breezed past Calgary on its way to another title in 1988.
Vasilevskiy, who entered Monday night having given up one goal in each of his previous four games, has allowed one goal total in his last seven series-clinching wins.
Colorado 6, (at) St. Louis 3: Nazem Kadri had the last laugh.
Kadri scored three goals, including two during a four-goal second period barrage, and the Colorado Avalanche beat the St. Louis Blues 6-3 on Monday night to take a 3-1 lead in their Western Conference series.
Kadri’s outburst came after he received racist death threats on social media following a first-period collision with Blues goalie Jordan Binnington in Game 3 on Saturday night.
“I wanted to come out tonight and really put a mark on this game, especially after what happened,” Kadri said. “I tried to do that as best as possible. Sometimes you’ve got to be patient and you’ve got to wait. I was able to strike early in the second period and was able to get the mojo going.”
Kadri, who was booed heavily every time he touched the puck, skated towards the glass and appeared to salute the Blues fans after each of his first two goals, inciting even more jeers. It was his first career playoff hat trick.
“I know that they’re booing me and what-not, but that’s what being a fan is,” Kadri said. “As a home team and a home player, you want the fans on your side and heckling the other team, as long as it’s within the guidelines.
"I’ve got no issues with that and I know what was said isn’t a reflection on every single fan in St. Louis. I understand that and I want to make that clear. But for those that wasted their time sending messages like that, I feel sorry for them.”
Kadri said he heard no racial taunts from the crowd on Monday.
“Naz’s focused, he’s a big boy, he’s a tough guy, and he’s a resilient guy,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “And we’re proud of him as a group and we have a task that we’re trying to complete and Naz understands that and it’s unfortunate he has to deal with it and he knows that we’re all with him and that’s what we care about.”
Erik Johnson and Devon Toews also scored and Mikko Rantanen added an empty netter for the Avalanche, while Darcy Kuemper made 17 saves.
David Perron scored twice and Pavel Buchnevich had a goal and an assist for the Blues. Ville Husso, making his first start since Game 3 of the first round against Minnesota, made 31 saves.
Game 5 is Wednesday in Colorado.
“We got outskated for most of the game 5-on-5,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “It’s pretty simple. I don’t know why. We got outskated. They outskated us. Got to every loose puck. Lost a lot of puck battles.”
Police probe threats to Kadri
The NHL said Monday that St. Louis police are investigating threats made toward Colorado Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri, who has been the subject of racist social media posts since he was involved in a collision that knocked Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington out for the rest of the series.
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press by email that the league and police looking into the situation.
“We take threats made to any of our players or other club personnel seriously,” Daly said. “We are in touch with St. Louis Police Department and they are employing enhanced security procedures both at the arena and in the hotel.”
The team said Sunday night it was aware of threats against Kadri and was working with local law enforcement to investigate. Kadri collided with Binnington during Game 3 of their second-round playoff series Saturday night; Kadri said a Blues player threw a water bottle at him during a postgame interview.
The AP verified the existence of Twitter posts sent to the official Avalanche team account and to Kadri’s calling him “Arab scum” and referencing terrorism. Other posts, some of which have since been deleted, included death threats. One was still up hours before Game 4 in St. Louis, with Colorado leading the best-of-seven series 2-1.
It was not clear if the social media posts were the subject of league, team or police investigation or if there were other threats made toward Kadri, who is of Lebanese descent.
After Colorado's morning skate in St. Louis, coach Jared Bednar called the threats “unnecessary.” Captain Gabriel Landeskog added that they were sad and a function of being in the public eye.
“Unfortunately people think they have the freedom to say and do whatever they want," Landeskog said. "But we always have security and this is no different.”
Blues winger David Perron called it unfortunate.
“We don’t want that to happen, obviously,” Perron said. "Hopefully it’s been taken care of. I’ll just leave it at that. You don’t want to see that happen to anybody for any reason.”
Former NHL player Akim Aliu told The AP by text message he has been in constant communication with Kadri and added, “All we can really do is support him morally.”
“Naz has been subject to so many racist attacks and threats since last night that police had to be brought in,” tweeted Aliu, who is Nigerian-Canadian. “Racist attacks like this have no place in hockey and should be investigated and reported on.”
Aliu and Kadri are members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, which works toward eradicating systemic racism and intolerance in hockey, and help in making the sport more accessible to minorities and underprivileged youth.
The NHL has several layers of security in place, including club personnel and additional services provided by the home team that are in constant communication with the league's security department. That department activates in situations such as this one and can work with federal and local law enforcement, when necessary.
The league, with input from the NHL Players' Association established a confidential hotline to which players can report harassment, discrimination or other serious misconduct. It's operated by a third party, with the ability to make reports by phone, email or online anonymously or with attribution.
Denmark stuns Canada at hockey worlds, Czechs beat US
Tampere, Finland — Denmark beat Canada for the first time in a 3-2 upset win at the world ice hockey championship on Monday, while the United States slumped in a loss to the Czech Republic.
Sebastian Dahm's 29 saves helped Denmark to hold on to stun Canada and move into contention for a place in the quarterfinals.
Canada can no longer qualify as the top seeded team in Group A and will need to beat France on Tuesday to be sure of reaching the last eight.
Denmark plays Slovakia needing to avoid a loss in regulation.
The United States must wait to qualify for the quarterfinals after a bruising 1-0 loss to the Czechs in both teams' second-to-last game of group play.
Matej Blümel scored on a breakaway at 7:53 of the first period and goaltender Karel Vejmelka stopped 24 shots as the Czechs held on for their first shutout in the championship. Jeremy Swayman saved 15 of 16 for the U.S.
The loss meant the U.S. players could miss the quarterfinals in the unlikely event they lose to Norway on Tuesday and Latvia beats Sweden.
The U.S. was coming off an overtime win over Sweden and is 4-2 in group play, with the other loss coming against Olympic champion Finland.
Austria scored five third-period goals in a dramatic comeback to win 5-3 over Britain, which is relegated from the world championship division for 2023.
Kazakhstan beat Italy 5-2 to stay in the world championship for next year at the winless Italians' expense.