Friday's NHL: Rangers, Stars earn Game 6 victories; Panthers advance
Pittsburgh — Chris Kreider’s long slap shot bounced over Louis Domingue and into the net with 1:28 left and the New York Rangers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-3 on Friday night to push their thrilling first-round series to a deciding Game 7.
Kreider’s second of the game and fourth of the playoffs sent the series back to New York. Andrew Copp added an empty netter for good measure in the waning seconds. Game 7 is Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
Mike Zibanejad had two goals and two assists and Adam Fox had four assists. Igor Shesterkin stopped 31 shots to win at PPG Paints Arena for the first time this series after getting chased by Pittsburgh in Games 3 and 4.
Bryan Rust, Evgeni Malkin and Jeff Carter scored for Pittsburgh. Domingue, who has become a local folk hero while filling in for injured Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith, made 33 saves but couldn’t get a handle on Kreider’s shot, which seemed to hit him high then popped up into the air and behind him before rolling into the net.
Pittsburgh played without captain Sidney Crosby, who sat out while dealing with an upper-body injury. His status going forward is uncertain.
Florida 4, (at) Washington 3 (OT): Carter Verhaeghe scored 2:46 into overtime to send the Florida Panthers to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since they reached the Stanley Cup Final in 1996.
The Panthers will have home-ice advantage for their next series against either the cross-state rival Tampa Bay Lightning or the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Florida looked to be on the verge of a regulation victory when Gustav Forsling tripped Nicklas Backstrom with 1:09 left. T.J. Oshie scored 6 seconds into the Washington power play to send the sellout crowd of over 18,000 into a frenzy.
Trade-deadline acquisition Claude Giroux and captain Aleksander Barkov scored in the third period to put the Panthers ahead. Ryan Lomberg scored Florida’s first goal, tying it 2:29 after Nic Dowd got the Capitals on the board. Nicklas Backstrom gave Washington a 2-1 lead early in the third period.
(At) Dallas 4, Calgary 2: Miro Heiskanen scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period for and Dallas recovered after blowing an early two-goal lead to force a deciding Game 7 in their first-round Western Conference series.
Roope Hintz and Michael Raffl also scored for the wild-card Stars, and Tyler Seguin added an empty-netter in the final minute. Jake Oettinger stopped 36 shots.
Mikael Backlund and Michael Stone scored for Calgary, which tied the score 2-2 with 8:01 left in the second. Jacob Markstrom also had 36 saves.
The series wraps up Sunday night in Calgary, where the Flames last hosted a Game 7 in 2006 and lost their first-round series to Anaheim.
Canucks' Boudreau to return
Bruce Boudreau will return as coach of the Vancouver Canucks next season after helping to turn the struggling NHL club around as a midyear replacement.
Speaking Friday afternoon after completing a “rough round” of golf, the 67-year-old Boudreau said “we have some unfinished business in Vancouver and I want to complete the task.”
Boudreau took over behind the bench on Dec. 5, after the Canucks cleaned house following a disastrous 8-15-2 start, resulting in the dismissal of head coach Travis Green and general manager Jim Benning.
Boudreau’s hiring made an immediate impact as he became just the third coach in NHL history to win his first seven games with a new team. The Canucks went 32-15-10 the remainder of the season and went from last place in the Pacific Division to finish five points out of a playoff berth.
Boudreau coached his 1,000th regular-season game on Jan. 23, and is one victory shy of the 600-win milestone.
“We just ran out of time this season,” said Boudreau, who said he reached a “family decision” Thursday to honor his two-year deal with the Canucks.
“I was really nervous and I didn’t like to keep the Canucks waiting for my decision,” he said. “I believed we were a playoff team for the last 56 games of the season, and I am really excited to see what we can do next season with this group.”
Boudreau has a career coaching record of 599-317-125 in 1,024 regular-season games with the Canucks, Minnesota Wild and Anaheim Ducks. He won the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year in 2008.
“We are pleased to see Bruce’s commitment to return to the Canucks next season,” Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said in a release. “He has done a great job since arriving in Vancouver and we are eager to see the team continue to perform under his leadership as they did during the second half of the season.”
Crosby to miss Game 6
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby will not play in Game 6 Friday night against the New York Rangers.
Coach Mike Sullivan ruled out Crosby following the team’s morning skate. Sullivan said Crosby was on the ice earlier with skating and skills development coach Ty Hennes.
Crosby departed after a high hit from New York’s Jacob Trouba in Game 5 on Wednesday and did not return. The team has said only that Crosby, who has a history of concussions, has an upper-body injury.
The Penguins have played only two playoff games without Crosby since he entered the NHL. They’re 2-0 in those games, with Evgeni Malkin recording three assists.
Pittsburgh leads the series 3-2.
With Crosby out, Drew O’Connor is expected to slide into the lineup. Evan Rodrigues skated in Crosby’s old spot between Danton Heinen and Kasperi Kapanen on Friday morning.
With nine points, Crosby leads all scorers in the series and is tied for fourth in the playoffs. Missing Crosby for more than half the game, the Penguins lost at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday with the chance to eliminate the Rangers and move on to the second round.
Game 7 tripleheader
Boston — The players dream of it. The fans look forward to it.
And on Saturday, there will be three of them.
The NHL is wrapping up the first round of the playoffs with a rare treat: back-to-back-to-back seventh games that will go a long way toward shaping the conference semifinals.
The Carolina Hurricanes will host Boston in a matinee, followed by the two-time defending champion Lightning at Toronto and the Kings in Edmonton. It’s the first Game 7 tripleheader since 2014.
“It’s going to be juicy,” Oilers forward Evander Kane said after scoring twice in a 4-2 win that forced Game 7 against the Kings.
There could be more Game 7s on Sunday, with three other series at 3-2 heading into Friday night. The most Game 7s ever in a single round was six in 1992.
“It’s what’s at stake, is the biggest thing. Everything’s on the line,” Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron said Friday. “It brings back memories of why you play the game.”
Bruins at Hurricanes
(Series tied 3-3, 4:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN)
The Bruins and Hurricanes are loaded with Game 7 experience – everyplace but in goal.
Boston rookie Jeremy Swayman is expected to be back in net on Saturday. He made his first career postseason start in Game 3, after Linus Ullmark gave up eight goals in the first two games.
“It’s a dream come true. I can’t wait,” the 23-year-old Alaska native said. “It’s no bigger or smaller than any game I’ve played before. I want to make sure I’m coming with that mentality. We want to win. We’re going to do everything we can and I can’t wait to get on the ice.”
Carolina’s Antti Raanta had never started a postseason game before this year.
Elsewhere, experience abounds.
Ten players remain from the Boston roster that beat Toronto in seven games in the first round of the 2019 playoffs (and lost in seven to the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Final that year). A victory would be the franchise’s 16th Game 7 win – an NHL record the team currently shares with Montreal.
“I’ve played in a lot of them,” said Bergeron, who is 6-7 in winner-take-all games in his career. “The ones that sting the most are the not-so-good ones. … You try to see the glass half full and reminisce on the good ones, but it makes you hungrier when you think about the other ones as well.”
For Carolina, it would be a sixth straight victory in a seventh game.
Raanta, who arrived this year as part of the Hurricanes’ overhaul of the goaltender position, has played well in the lead role with No. 1 goaltender Frederik Andersen sidelined by a lower-body injury since mid-April. Raanta has started five games, leaving one early due to injury, and won two with a 2.46 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.
“I think I’ve found a good consistent level,” Raanta said Friday.
Carolina won the first two games before Boston leveled the series. Carolina won Game 5 to retake momentum but was unable to eliminate the Bruins on Thursday night.
“Everyone’s bitter and mad and frustrated,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “That was not the kind of game we expected to play. Come tomorrow it’s all old news and it’s what’s in front of you that matters.”
The series is the second in playoff history in which the home team won each of the first six games by multiple goals, according to ESPN Stats & Info. The other was the 1955 Cup finals, with Detroit beating Montreal by two goals at home in Game 7.
Lightning at Maple Leafs
(Series tied 3-3, 7 p.m. EDT, TNT)
The Lightning won 4-3 in overtime in Game 6 to keep their hopes of a three-peat alive, but it’s another streak on the minds of the Maple Leafs as they host their winner-take-all series finale.
Toronto has lost nine straight potential clinchers, including Thursday night against Tampa Bay and three in a row after taking a 3-1 series lead against Montreal last year.
“We had plenty of opportunities to finish the game and finish the series,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “It didn’t go our way, but (there’s) lots of belief in our group, and we’re excited to play Game 7 on home ice in front of our fans.”
The Original Six franchise, which is going on 55 years since it last put its name on the Stanley Cup, hasn’t won a playoff series since 2004. Included in that span are some colossal collapses, including a 2013 Game 7 loss to Boston in which the Leafs blew a 4-1 lead with 11 minutes left in regulation.
Center John Tavares tried to maintain a positive outlook.
“We worked hard all year to earn home ice, and we’ve got a great opportunity going home in front of our fans to try to close this thing out,” he said. “Look forward to the opportunity. It’s what the game’s all about.”
The Lightning are trying to become the first team to capture three consecutive Stanley Cup titles since the New York Islanders won four in a row from 1980-83. That quest could end early.
“It all comes down to one game,” Lightning center Anthony Cirelli said. “Those are fun ones to play in.”
Kings at Oilers
(Series tied 2-2, 10 p.m. EDT, ESPN)
Kane kicked off the Game 7 hype by holding up seven fingers after his empty-net clincher on Thursday night. But he also could have been referring to his seven playoff goals this year, tied with Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov and Pittsburgh’s Jake Guentzel for the league lead.
“I didn’t even realize that,” he said with a laugh.
Kane is the seventh Edmonton player to score at least seven times in a series and the first since Esa Tikkanen in 1991. He trails only Jari Kurri and Mark Messier for the most in a series in franchise history.
The Oilers are 6-4 in Game 7s, including 3-1 at home. The Kings are 7-4, with a 5-3 mark on the road.
“The older guys haven’t been there in a few years, and we have a few guys that haven’t experienced this at all,” Kings forward Anze Kopitar said. “But if you told us that we’ve got to win one game to advance, we’d certainly take the opportunity. So it’s not all that bad.”