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Sid-sational Penguins Mash Nashville, Grab Series Lead – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Sid-sational Penguins Mash Nashville, Grab Series Lead

“He’s done three things tonight I’ve never seen him do before.”

Those words were uttered by good friend and Wright’s Gym member Dave Karpinski, shortly after Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby narrowly missed cashing in last night with an improbable, corkscrewing effort.

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I readily agreed. It seemed to me Crosby was inventing a new move nearly every shift.

In fact, I’ve pretty much run out of superlatives to describe our captain.

Talk about a general leading his troops. In what pretty much amounted to a must-win Game Five for the Pens, Crosby set the tone with an impassioned performance unlike any I’ve ever seen. And I’ve watched a lot of hockey over the years.

With little choice but to follow Sid’s exemplary lead, his teammates poured out an equally inspired effort to power a 6-0 pasting of the thoroughly outmatched Predators.

Number 87 served notice of what was in store on the very first shift. Splitting Preds defensemen Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi like a human torpedo, Sid nearly beat Pekka Rinne with a backhander that rang off the post.

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Equally determined, his linemates swarmed like bees around a hive, forcing Ellis to take a penalty. Moments later, Justin Schultz uncorked a seeing-eye blast from center point that rocketed between the legs of penalty killer Austin Watson and Rinne.

The roof nearly blew off PPG Paints Arena in celebration.

The Pens quickly padded their lead. Channeling former black-and-gold great Larry Murphy, Trevor Daley found Chris Kunitz with a beautiful bounce pass off the glass. “Kuny” slipped the puck to Bryan Rust, who buried a top-shelf backhander to make the score 2-0.

In a pattern reminiscent of Game Three, the momentum slowly began to swing in favor of the Preds. James Neal flattened Ian Cole near the eight-minute mark and promptly tested Matt Murray twice from in tight. The Pens’ goalie held firm.

The period appeared to be drawing to an uneventful conclusion when Evgeni Malkin struck for a lightning bolt of a goal with 10 seconds left. Ron Hainsey, who earned a well-deserved third star, sprang Phil Kessel with a long lead pass. Toying with the puck in one-on-one fashion against Preds forward Viktor Arvidsson, “Phil the Thrill” bought time and space for an onrushing Malkin at the left faceoff dot. On a shot eerily reminiscent of his goal in Game Two, “Geno” beat Rinne with a blistering drive to send the shell-shocked Preds to the locker room down 3-0.

His club clearly in distress, Nashville coach Peter Laviolette elected to replace Rinne with Juuse Saros to begin the second period. The 22-year-old Finn was afforded the same rough treatment as his countryman. Barely a minute into the frame, “Sid and the Kids” scored off a classic figure-eight cycle, with Conor Sheary doing the honors.

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That, ladies and gents, was pretty much all she wrote. Kessel converted midway through the period off a beautiful set up from defenseman Olli Maatta, his first goal in seven games. Hainsey capped off a gorgeous passing sequence with Malkin and Kessel at 16:40 to close out the scoring.

Displaying a surprisingly feisty edge, the Pens withstood a predictable physical assault by the Preds and even dished out some lumps of their own. Kunitz destroyed Mattias Ekholm with a bristling body check behind the Nashville net seven minutes into the second period and fought Yannick Weber late in the game. Malkin flexed his muscles, too, pile driving Josi into the ice during a third-period scuffle.

As the final seconds of a delicious victory drained from the clock, the faithful stood in unison and chanted “We Want the Cup.”

Gave me goosebumps just watching it.

Stand by Your Man

In the wake of a pair of tough losses in Nashville, Pens coach Mike Sullivan elected to stand by his man. Resisting the urge to switch to Marc-Andre Fleury, who’d sparkled earlier in the playoffs, “Sully” named Murray as his Game Five starter.

His faith was duly rewarded. “Muzz” made 24 saves in a redemptive performance. The Thunder Bay native became only the third rookie goalie in NHL history to record a shutout in the Stanley Cup Final, behind Patrick Roy and Cam Ward.

Sid Settles a Score

In addition to his sterling three-point effort, Crosby extracted a pound of flesh from noted thorn P.K. Subban. After the two collided behind the Pens’ net late in the first period, Sid fell to the ice atop his tormentor.

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Stick wedged beneath the mouthy defenseman, Crosby took advantage of the opportunity to deliver a little frontier justice, forcefully grinding Subban’s head into the ice. As the antagonists clambered to their skates, the Nashville defender returned the favor by applying a headlock. Both landed in the sin bin.

“He had it coming,” said NBC analyst Mike Milbury, noting that Subban had needled Sid mercilessly in Games Three and Four.

To his credit, Subban took his comeuppance in stride. When questioned about the incident, he replied, “It’s hockey, man.”

Oh Ye of Little Faith

Three days ago, an anonymous commenter to PenguinPoop chided me for expressing doubts about our Pens. I snapped off a rather churlish reply, stating that I had every right to be concerned.

Well, Anonymous, I’m happy to admit that you were absolutely right about our guys and I was wrong. Displaying a ton of character, the Pens came up with a huge, big-time effort, just as you said they would.

I tip my hat.

Still, being a soul of caution, I’m compelled to mention that back in ’09, the Red Wings blasted us, 5-0, in Game Five to take a 3-2 series lead.

Call it a warning. Don’t count your Cups before they’re won.

Puckpourri

Nashville held the edge in most statistical categories, including shot attempts (50-37), faceoffs (28-27) and hits (41-37). Each team registered 24 shots on goal.

Kessel (a goal and two assists) and Crosby (three assists) paced the Pens’ attack with three points apiece. Malkin and Hainsey each registered a goal and an assist. Geno, the No. 2 star behind Sid, led all black-and-gold skaters with five hits.

The Pens’ defense collected five points on the evening, including goals by Hainsey and Schultz. Nashville played much of the game with five defensemen after Ellis suffered an apparent hip injury.

Scott Wilson returned to the lineup following a one-game absence, replacing Josh Archibald. Nick Bonino sat out his third game in a row with an ankle injury.

*Be sure to check out Rick Buker’s books,
 
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30 Comments

  1. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    June 9, 2017 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Hi Rick,
    What a great win. The defense scored. Schultz’s goal surprised me. With his upper body injury I did not expect that.Just perfect. Then later Hainsey’s tip in was a thing of beauty. He played very well last night, almost like a man possessed on a mission. A good feeling Raymond Bourque story all over again. Maatta as well. His best game to date.
    Of course we can not forget Phil. He picked the right game to come alive.
    I am so glad he scored last night but for me and I have said this before, I think he is a better play maker than goal scorer. That set up pass on Geno’s goal was special, timing was perfect, soft touch, and then the shot from Geno.!!
    Where did that come from. Shades of Mario. A cannon of a shot. Game over.
    Then the subtle adjustments that Sullivan did with his d corps and using the soft bounce passes off the boards to exit the zone. Well done.
    Sidney, well words can not describe his efforts last night. I kind a wished he scored on his first rush, but did that ever get the team motivated. Follow the leader…. and the team did. Even his little tussle with PK where he gave him about 3 shots to the head while on the ice when the refs were not looking was priceless. PK’s breathe may not stink but his head sure hurts !!
    Isn’t hockey a great game !
    My neighbor said today that he thought Sidney was supposed to be a gentleman and a non violent player, and I answered his is, then I added so was Maurice Richard( Rocket) except when he played Gordie Howe.They were both so competitive they tried to kill each other to win the game. Last night just showed the competitive side of Sidney. This PK-Sidney story will be told for a long, long time on the legend and exploits of Sidney Crosby.
    Finally the play of Matt Murray. Sullivan once again made the right decision and I too wanted to see MAF play last night. That is why he gets paid the big bucks.. I was wrong…again. Great job Matt.
    Let us all hope for a repeat performance on Sunday night.

    Lets Go Pen’s…

    * since this could very well be the last game of our season,I want to change my vote from Geno to Sidney for the Conn Smythe. This is stuff of legend being made before our eyes and the NHL will give the Conn Smythe to the greatest player and savior of the game since the lock out. He has already earned the Rocket Richard Trophy and he will get the Hart Trophy ( MVP) for the league as well. Maybe even the Lindsay ?? At almost 30 years old, when most NHL careers are finished or in great decline. One of a kind !!

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      June 9, 2017 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      Hey Jim,

      Great thoughts and reflections. Thanks for sharing your insights … 🙂

      Rick

      PS–Agree 100 percent about Kessel. He’s a terrific playmaker.

      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        June 9, 2017 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

        About Kessell, the top 4 scorers in the Playoffs this year are Malkin, Crosby, Kessel, and Guentzel. Of those 4 players, Kessel has the best +/- followed by Malkin.

        Lost in the shadow of Malkin and Crosby.

        Last year with HBK, the discussion was 3 headed monster, mainly on the strength of his goal production. This year he has joined Malkin and Crosby in Playmaking, and with Malkin, they have the best +/- among forwards.

        What a year, what a play-off run these guys have treated us to.

        • Jim's Gravatar Jim
          June 9, 2017 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

          Hi Coach,
          Glad to read your posts again. Hard to believe we could be 1 game away from making history and the 2017 season being put in the history books.
          I know we still need win one more game but I am bombarded by several local media sources now talking about the up coming Hockey Draft in 2 weeks.
          Hard to believe Coach.
          There is going roster changes between winning the Cup and the draft on June 23/24. Plus all the free agents need to be dealt with as well.
          Exciting times.

          Cheers

          • The Other Rick's Gravatar The Other Rick
            June 10, 2017 at 8:54 am | Permalink

            Hey Jim,

            If the Pens play like the did in game 5 it should be over tomorrow and with only 1 more game needed to end this thing, there is no reason to hold back any reserve. It is time for the boys of winter to leave it all on the ice and end it; it is time to end the marathon and sprint for the finish line.

            After the trade dead-line there was little for JR to do to help the team this year, but there has always been a lot he could be doing for next year. I hope he has been using this time wisely to line up all of his ducks so all he has to do is pull the trigger once the Cup is hoisted.

            With the Expansion Draft, the Knights being allowed to raid the UFA and RFA players first (absolutely ridiculous) and then the regular draft, there could be lots of roster changes. If the Pens do repeat and want to line themselves up for a threepeat, it won’t happen unless JR is working a little magic. With the rise of teams like Edmonton and Toronto trying to threepeat by trying to keep the roster intact just won’t work again.

            Even after the season, I can see these boards still bristling all the way through until camp in September.

            • Jim's Gravatar Jim
              June 10, 2017 at 9:22 am | Permalink

              Hey Coach
              All true…Very true.
              I am trying hard not to look past the next game, the on ice celebrations, all the speeches and self congratulations, the out pouring of emotions and the inevitable question…Is this the best Pen’s a team ever?
              Trying hard not to spoil the moment …however my friend we both know all to well that once that Cup is hoisted our REAL problems begin. That makes me sad and a little worried Coach because no matter how I run the financial numbers, no matter how much I want to keep certain players there is no way to do it without making major personnel changes.
              So while I want so much to scream at the top of my lungs when the final buzzer sounds,we won, we won,
              I will be sad as well.
              I will be interested to hear your thoughts when your ready.
              Jim

  2. pen's 4ever's Gravatar pen's 4ever
    June 9, 2017 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    An awesome effort from the team.. just what we needed. And Kessel and Kunitz both had great games.
    Now we need that same energy and effort Sunday!!

    Bring it home boy’s

    LET’S GO PEN’S!!!

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      June 9, 2017 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

      I hear ya, Pen’s 4ever.

      Man, has Kunitz ever picked up his game. He’s playing like he’s 27, not 37.

      I really hope we can win it on Sunday. Hope the Bridgestone Arena ice isn’t a slush pond …

      Rick

      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        June 9, 2017 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

        It’s like “Deju all over again” Last year during the regulas season everone was about to write Kunitz off. Once as the play-offs wore on, the talk was “He may just have another good season in him”.

        This year, several times people called for his removal from the line up, but as the play offs draw to their natural conclusion, he is playing his best hockey again.

        His no look pass to set Sheary up for a goal several games back is still on the replay loop in my mind.

  3. June 9, 2017 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Hey Rick,

    I said the same thing after the game.

    I texted this to a bunch of hockey buddies: “this is one of the greatest all around efforts I have ever seen. Definitely shows why (Crosby) is the best player/captain/leader in the world.”

    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      June 9, 2017 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Hey Phil,

      That is why I mentioned Sid a couple days back as still in the running for the Conn Smyth! He is now only 1 point below Malkin. Granted Malkin still has a large edge in Pts 60min, but Sid has been drawing the best D and enduring tons of cheap play from Subban and Methot and so many others (let’s not forget Ovie and Niskannen)

      • June 9, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        Hey tOR,

        Glad to see you noticed the pts 60min. That’s why I love talking to the people here, very smart about their hockey!

        I do believe that Sid has now easily earned the Conn smythe this year if the Pens win, still not sure about last year. As for Malkin, have you ever seen anyone so passed over by the press/media and NHL? Not in the top 100 and here he is leading the NHL playoffs in scoring for the second time in his career!

        The killer is the post Gazette poll:

        pg poll

        That is insane that he is not even considered. i’m starting to see a trend of the people of Pittsburgh not being big on players not from USA or Canada.

        • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
          June 9, 2017 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

          Hey Phil,

          I really don’t get it; I don’t get how Malkin gets treated like an ugly step-child. I can see people that don’t get a chance to watch him regularly but here in this city, I would think city pride, if nothing else would rally people to him.

          The team and the City had to suffer for several years in the early 2000s to get here, but how lucky is this team and town to have had the services of both Crosby, Malkin, and let’s not forget MAF, for all these years.

        • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
          June 9, 2017 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

          Hey Phil,

          To quote the immortal Roman Moroni from the movie Johnny Dangerously, “That’s a fargin’ trick question.”

          Or maybe Geno’s name translates into “Someone Else” in Russian.

          Seriously … that must be a mistake. Malkin’s been tremendous.

          Perhaps he suffers in comparison to Crosby, the greatest all-around player in the game, but only slightly. And maybe he’s a little more in and out on a game-to-game basis. But Malkin’s scored some huge, momentum-swinging goals. Just like last night.

          And, in terms of standing up for the team, verbally and physically, he’s become quite a leader in his own right. He’s right there with guys like Hornqvist and Kunitz in terms of being the heart and guts of the team.

          In fact, he almost reminds me of Kevin Stevens from the Mario era, guaranteeing wins and that sort of thing.

          No question Sid’s literally shifted his game into another stratosphere this season. But when he’s at the top of his game, Geno still reminds me more of Lemieux than anyone else.

          Rick

          PS–I thought Olli Maatta played a really strong game last night. What a pretty play he made on Kessel’s goal. Hopefully, he’ll be okay for Game Six.

          I thought Hainsey played really well, too. He’s been a bit inconsistent, but when he’s on he’s still a pretty capable guy. Given his size, I wish he were a bit more physical. But he handles the puck better than I would’ve thought, especially in open ice.

          • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
            June 9, 2017 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

            Hey Rick,

            Add this to your list of Malkin’s value to the team; He is 3rd in the playoffs in +/- among Cs. How often to I hear the absolutely insane comments about how he is a defensive liability. You can argue about +/- all you want when you are talking about the middle of the pack, but he is third in the league among centers.

            He also leads the league in Minor Penalties drawn per 60 min among Cs in the play-offs.

            I like your analogy to Artie and Mario and couldn’t agree more.

          • June 9, 2017 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

            Ha. Maybe they should have checked that top 100 for “Someone else” to see if he was in there also.

            I have been extremely impressed with the way Malkin has stood up for his team. Just about every scuffle and fight he has been in has been sticking up for his team mates.

            The cross check to Maata’s face looked to me like an accident. Their guy cross check Maatta go gain space, Maatta hooked him and cross checked him back. The guy wasn’t even looking at Maatta when Maatta threw his face into his stick.

            A big eye opener is the fact that the Letang-less beat up Penguins defense tied their offensive output from last year. Same amount of games.

            Like Malkin, Dumoulin & Maatta really deserve more credit than they are getting. They have almost identical #’s and have handled the biggest workloads against some of the best lines on the highest scoring teams in the NHL.

            • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
              June 9, 2017 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

              Hey Phil,

              I still think the Pens weakest link is their D, but particularly in this final series, I may not be willing to erect statues to any of them, they have been playing much, much better. The bad Corsi stats they collected at the beginning of the play-offs no doubt was, in part due to their competion. Let’s face it, CBJ and Was are pretty darn good offensive teams. In turn, their improve may be in part to lesser offenses.

              However, Maatta and Domoulin have upped their games, that can’t be denied. All of which means the off-season will be interesting.

            • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
              June 9, 2017 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

              Hey Phil,

              I’m going from memory, but I seem to recall Maatta lurching forward and lowering his head just as Sissons brought his stick up.

              I don’t think it was a deliberate intent to injure, either. Still, it does qualify as a careless use of the stick.

              Rick

        • Jayelene's Gravatar Jayelene
          June 10, 2017 at 10:31 am | Permalink

          I’m with you guys. The lack of respect given to Gino simply doesn’t make sense. Granted, he has to play in Sid’s shadow, but having the opportunity to see him play, day-in and day-out, is a real treat for anyone who understands hockey. I find it especially vexing that the fans in DC are all about erecting statues for his fellow Russian (who shall remain nameless here, and who has delivered a whopping total of zero Stanley Cups), while Gino doesn’t even make the home town paper poll for Conn Smythe. (Whoever put that together should be fired, by the way. At least he/she spelled Smythe correctly.)

          But on a more important note: GO PENS!
          😉

          PS – Any word on Olli or Ryan Ellis for Game 6? I was worried that maybe Olli’s nose was broken, the way he dropped to the ice and went right to it.

          • Jim's Gravatar Jim
            June 10, 2017 at 11:32 am | Permalink

            Hi Jaylene,
            FYI
            As of 11. 30 et today,the NHL has posted that Ellis status is a game day decision. But they noted he walked out on his own after the game in Pittsburgh.
            Waiting for an update from Nashville. If this report is correct he most likely will play in game 6.
            Jim

            • Jayelene's Gravatar Jayelene
              June 10, 2017 at 11:59 am | Permalink

              Thanks, Jim … I hope Olli’s ok, too.

  4. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    June 9, 2017 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Hey Rick,

    Sorry, I have been really busy at work and so were the Pens last night.

    Apparently lost in all of the hysteria of the Pens 2 losses in NSH is that Matt Murray has the second best sv% of goalies who played 10 or more games this play-off year at 0.931, the best EV Sv% at 0.938% and the best GAA 1.87 so it really was a no brainer for Sully to stay the course with Murray. MAF is a solid goalie, make no mistake about that, but in a do or die situation, Murray has to be the man. Every goalie this post season has been lit up a couple of times. In fact the Pens chased all of the starting goalies they faced from their nets at least once, and some of them have been chased more than once.

    I would have stayed the course with MAF back when Sully made the switch but now there is no reason to even ask that question.

    Kudos to Guentzel, didn’t I see he tied the NHL rookie record for Points in a playoff year?

    Nashville never really was in this game, they may have eventually caught the Pens in Shots but that was due to their desperate attempt to get at least one goal.

    The Pens have outscored Nashville 16 – 4 at home and have been outscored 9 – 2 on the road. But the Pens only needed 64 shots to score those 16 goals. I want to posture here, but superstition holds me back.

    You mentioned Murray’s SO, he is tied for the SO lead this post season and he has only played 10 of the games at 2.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      June 9, 2017 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      Hey Other Rick,

      I don’t have time for a long post. But good to have you back … 🙂

      I was probably guilty of pushing the panic button by suggesting the Pens go with Fleury. Thankfully, Murray was real solid last night.

      Hope we take ’em in six. I don’t think my nerves can stand another Game Seven … 🙁

      Rick

      PS–It is a lot of fun, isn’t it … 🙂

      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        June 9, 2017 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

        Amen to that Rick, as great as it would be to win the Cup at home, with the follow up party, I hope the boys get the job done now, in game 6. If it goes to game 7, we may end up in adjacent hospital rooms.

        • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
          June 9, 2017 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

          🙂 🙂 🙂

        • June 9, 2017 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

          I can’t even imagine another game seven. While you guys are in the ER i’m going to check myself into AA.

          • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
            June 9, 2017 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

            I have a Glenlivet 21yr old and a Laphroaig 18yr old. If you are going to want to check yourself into AA, you might as well come over and earn it.

            • June 9, 2017 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

              Wow! That is awesome, and I’m not worthy! I’ve been doing a Four Roses Small Batch Old Fashioned to start the second period of each away game. As you know, it hasn’t helped the team on away games but it sure helps me.

            • The Other Rick's Gravatar The Other Rick
              June 10, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

              My wife is the Scotch person and she has expensive tastes, that is why we have them. I am more of a Bourbon drinker when it comes to spirits. But to celebrate a Cup win, we can trot out the good stuff.

    • June 9, 2017 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

      Hey tOR,

      I said before last game if Murray is let’s in 3 goals or less and gets the win then I will fully accept him as goalie of the Pens future.

      I’m going to back track on that. I really think the Pens offense and defense took all of the pressure off of him. I’m going to make that statement one more time but this time for the game in Nashville.

      No matter how well the team plays in front of him, he has huge pressure on him next game. The loud place and the two losses earlier in the series to name a couple. If Murray shuts down (3 or less with the win) against Nashville in Nashville then I will have no worries about the Pens future in net.

      I want to emphasize that I truly believe Murray to be a great goaltender. It’s just really hard for me to part with the #15 all time winning-est goaltender in NHL history when he has so many years ahead of him.

      Can’t wait to here what all of your superstitions are when the season is over!


            

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