Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy 12 hrs ago
The Pittsburgh Penguins are one loss away from elimination in the Eastern Conference Final. They’re also two wins away from making the Stanley Cup Final, but that level of optimism and appreciation of their accomplishments is soooooo very Game 3.
As a result, captain Sidney Crosby is getting called out for the team’s lack of success and his own struggles, having turned in a poor effort in Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. That’s three games after Crosby’s overtime game-winner earned accolades from media and his teammates, but again, that’s sooooo very Game 2.
We’ve decided to spotlight three sizzling hot takes on Crosby and the Penguins’ star players that were published in the wake of their Game 5 loss to the Lightning. There were no doubt more of them, but these three actually singed our eyelashes as we read them because the takes were so hot.
Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy 14 hrs ago
TAMPA, Fla. – Evgeni Malkin said it, on the eve of Game 6 in the Eastern Conference Final: “I believe in my team. I believe in myself. We can come back to Pittsburgh for sure.”
You might need a taffy pull to stretch that to a Game 6 guarantee, but that’s still one of the Pittsburgh Penguins veteran leaders saying the series could surely go seven games.
“Let’s be honest: What’s he supposed to say? ‘Oh, we’re done, we’re just going down there for a formality?’” asked Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper, moments after his team stepped off their plane onto home terra firma Monday morning.
“Of course they’re going to say they’re going to win. They’re a good team and a confident group. But we feel the same way. Look, you gotta win four. We’re a little bit closer to four than they are, but you gotta win four. And that’s all our group is thinking about.”
The Lightning had a chance to win that fourth game in Game 6 last season too, against the New York Rangers at Amalie Arena. Instead, the Rangers blew the doors off them, winning 7-3 after taking a 5-1 lead by the 7:13 mark of the third period.
Cooper said there was a bit of a premature victory lap last season for the Lightning.
Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy 17 hrs ago
Team USA was embarrassed in the bronze medal game of the IIHF world championships, 7-2, at the hands of host Russia. Well, as embarrassed as a nation can be that’s made getting dominated in the consolation game of an international hockey tournament a basic trait in the last few years ...
But embarrassing doesn’t quite describe whatever it is we’re watching here, in what’s either an extremely well-produced video stunt (probable, given the audio editing) or an extraordinary breach of security protocols, etiquette and general decency.
The video, originally uploaded by someone named Scott Edwards, shows a portly fan named Mike in a Matt Hendricks jersey (although he doesn’t wear No. 26 for the U.S.) dancing a Russian locker room around with a giant emoji featuring an Uncle Sam hat painted on his chest.
UPDATE: Reader Duncan A. offers some debunking:
I believe this is a hoax:
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Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy 19 hrs ago
PITTSBURGH – The Heartbreak Kid was the story in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final, his star-power and influence undeniable in its outcome.
No, not Shawn Michaels – the other one . The Russian one, with the bolt of electricity on his chest.
It’s easy to forget that Kucherov is effectively a kid in hockey terms: 22 years old, having completed his third full season in the NHL. It’s impossible to miss the impact he’s had on this series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the playoffs as a whole: His 11 goals lead all scorers in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and his three-point night in Tampa Bay’s Game 5 victory was a superstar turn on a night when the Penguins’ biggest names were silent.
It was all there for Pittsburgh: Home ice, rabid fans, a returning Marc-Andre Fleury, a chance to push the Lightning to the brink.
Kucherov broke their hearts.
“Whenever we need a big goal, we look to him. He’s always in the right place and he’s got a knack to score those big goals,” said winger Alex Killorn.
PITTSBURGH – The measure of a champion is how they react when adversity hits.
Like when a star player is lost to surgery, or a starting goaltender is lost to injury. Like when there’s a series deficit, or a deficit in the series’ most critical game. Like when you’re on the road, facing an opponent energized by an old friend’s return to the lineup and facing the prospect of being one loss from elimination.
So, all that said after their Game 5 overtime victory at the Pittsburgh Penguins to take a 3-2 Eastern Conference Final lead: How does one measure the Tampa Bay Lightning?
“Let's pump the brakes a little bit here,” said coach, realist and party pooper Jon Cooper. “There's still more series left. We feel good and fortunate that we're up 3-2 and going home, but we still have to win another game.”
He continued. “But in saying that, the more times you get put in these situations and you're behind the wheel navigating what's going on out there, the better you are [equipped] to handle them.”
What they didn’t do, however, was panic, freak out or do anything dramatically out of character.
But they kept pushing. Confidently.
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PITTSBURGH – The Tampa Bay Lightning are one win away from another chance at hockey’s Holy Grail.
The Lightning rallied twice and finally outlasted the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-3, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final on Sunday. Jason Garrison’s shot 53 seconds into overtime deflected off Tyler Johnson's back past Marc-Andre Fleury to win the game.
Goalie Andre Vasilevskiy made 33 saves while Nikita Kucherov had two goals, becoming the NHL’s leading goal-scorer in the postseason with 11. Vasilevskiy kept the Lightning in the game with a strong third period, making two tough saves on Chris Kunitz.
It was a valorous performance from the Lightning. They overcame the expected jolt for the Penguins with the return of Marc-Andre Fleury, who was making his first start since March 30 after having taken the crease back from rookie Matt Murray in Game 4. They overcame deficits of 2-0 and 3-2. And in the third period, they overcame the referees’ decision to swallow their whistles on several questionable calls.
They also overcame their own mistakes, as the Lightning gave up goals in the final minute of each of the first two periods.
PITTSBURGH – When the Pittsburgh Penguins scored their first goal in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final on Sunday night, there was much revelry. Andrew W.K. blared from the arena speakers. Fans cheered and waved their rally towels.
And, of course, an adult woman dressed like the Stanley Cup was hoisted into the air by two male friends.
“This was on my bucket list,” said Brittany Quinn, a Penguins fan sitting in one of the lower bowl end zones at CONSOL Energy Center.
Quinn, Evan Eggert and Steve Rittenhouse were Jumbotron stars each time the Penguins scored in Game 5, as she was lifted to the rafters in celebration.
Eggert said they train together at Fitness 19 in Greentree.
“She was like, ‘We should do a workout where you lift me.’ And we were like, ‘Wait a second. Pens game. The Stanley Cup.’ It all just cued up,” he said.
Quinn said she designed and created her silver Stanley Cup ensemble beginning at 8 a.m. on Sunday, and finished about four hours before puck drop.
What was it like being a human Stanley Cup?
It was bittersweet night, as Quinn is moving to Chicago on Tuesday. But she vows to return if the Penguins advance.
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PITTSBURGH – The HBK Line has been a sensation for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Named for forwards Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel, it’s a line that’s inspired T-shirts; a Game 5 visit from the line’s namesake, pro wrestling icon “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels; and, in perhaps the highest honor ever bestowed to a Pittsburgh sports legend, a sandwich at Primanti Bros., those food artists who specialize in putting carbs on carbs on carbs.
This is the ‘HBK’ sandwich. We met around 4:30 EST on Sunday, or roughly three and a half hours before faceoff.
What you’re seeing here are some Primanti Bros. staples:
- Two giant slices of white bread
- Cole slaw, of the dry variety, rather than the slop at your summer BBQ that looks like someone dropped a cabbage in baby vomit.
- French fries, because you absolutely hate yourself.
The ‘HBK’ in the HBK sandwich was fried ham and fried kielbasa. The ‘B’ is allegedly bacon, but I’m fairly certain that’s to throw everyone off from the fact that it’s actually for ‘bypass.’
… and finished it.
PITTSBURGH – Sidney Crosby smiled widely as the memories flooded back.
Growing up, the Pittsburgh Penguins captain was a fan of Shawn Michaels, the WWE wrestling legend who headlined main events from 1989 through 2010.
“Yeah, I was. I liked Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart but I was also a Shawn Michaels fan," remembered Crosby, in a bit of Canadian sacrilege. "That would have been right around the time when I was following it. He was in his prime,”
He was known as the Heartbreak Kid, or HBK, a moniker that’s taken on some unexpected relevance in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Penguins’ outstanding line of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel has been christened the HBK Line by fans and media. And, thanks to those fans and an invitation from Brett Keisel of the Steelers, Michaels will be in the building for Game 5 of the Penguins’ Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“It’s kinda cool,” said Crosby. “These things kind of evolve out of nowhere, but that line has been playing great.”
5. CM Punk, Blackhawks Enforcer
PITTSBURGH – Defenseman Trevor Daley has played his last game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said that Daley suffered a broken ankle in their Game 4 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning and will miss “the remainder of the season.”
It’s a significant blow to the Penguins’ blue line as they enter Sundays Game 5, as Daley was second on the team in ice time at 22:08 per game, and played on both the power play and the penalty kill.
Daley had six points in 15 games, and had a 49.52 Corsi rating at 5-on-5.
“You never want to see a guy like that go down, especially a guy who eats a lot of minutes like that. He’s a good guy on the ice and off the ice. Everybody loves him in the dressing room. He brings that calmness. That veteran presence,” said Kris Letang, who played with Daley throughout the regular season.
“But depth has been one of our strengths all year long.”
So all eyes are now on defenseman Olli Maatta, who is expected to be slotted with Letang on the top pairing. Brian Dumoulin should pair with Ben Lovejoy, and Justin Schultz should play with Ian Cole.
Sullivan’s advice to Maatta before Game 5?
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