Sharks on the cusp of Stanley Cup final berth with big Game 5 victory

Chris Tierney celebrates with Joe Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)

The San Jose Sharks had never been closer than two wins away from the Stanley Cup final. That was until following Game 5 of the Western Conference final.

With the chance to take a 3-2 series lead and push the St. Louis Blues to the brink of elimination, the Sharks saw their opportunity and took it. And as it has been for much of the post-season, it was the Sharks’ deadly power play that took over and captain Joe Pavelski who made his presence felt when the Sharks needed someone to step up.

Less than three minutes into the second frame, with St. Louis leading 2-1, Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was whistled for roughing Tommy Wingels. Letting the Sharks power play go to work was the Blues’ first mistake, and San Jose got the game-tying goal from Joel Ward on their first man advantage opportunity of the night. And though the Blues would again pull ahead on a power play of their own, their inability to stay out of the penalty box would cost them in a big way.

Shattenkirk again headed to the box, this time late in the second period for hooking, and the Sharks top power play unit made the opportunity count. After working the puck around the Blues’ zone for what felt like an eternity, the Sharks got the puck below the goal line to Joe Thornton who spotted Pavelski sneaking in from the blueline. ‘Little Joe’ connected with a one-timer: Read more

Facing goaltending decision again, Sullivan says starter won’t be named until Tuesday

Jared Clinton
Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final was the first game Marc-Andre Fleury had started this post-season and the first time he had been in goal since the final day of March. After a rocky performance in the late stages of Sunday’s game, though, Fleury could find himself back on the sidelines.

Fleury allowed four goals against on 25 shots Sunday evening, which included a questionable game-tying goal following some poor rebound control and an overtime winner that came before fans could even get settled in their seats for the extra frame. And though Tyler Johnson’s backside was in the right place to deflect home Jason Garrison’s shot for that winning goal, it’s arguable the game shouldn’t have even made it to overtime. Even Penguins coach Mike Sullivan admitted Fleury didn’t look as great as the game wore on.

“I thought Marc made some big saves for us, especially early in the game,” Sullivan said. “I thought he really settled into the game in the first period and made some real big saves. He might have got away from it a little bit as the game went on. And to Marc’s defense, it’s a tough situation when you haven’t played in a long time and you get thrown into a high stakes environment like that.” Read more

Backes, Fabbri will take warmup, but Blues hush on their Game 5 status

Jared Clinton
David Backes (Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images)

The Blues may have won Game 4 of the Western Conference final, but the victory didn’t come without a cost. Both David Backes and Robby Fabbri were knocked out of the contest and finished the game watching from the sideline, and Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is doing his best to dance around confirming whether one, both or neither will be St. Louis’ Game 5 lineup.

When Hitchcock was asked about the status of Backes and Fabbri for Monday’s game, he would offer only that the Blues’ warmup lineup will be the same as it was during the previous game’s warmup, which is to say Backes and Fabbri will take part in the brief pre-game skate but there’s no answer beyond that.

“We’re going to dress the same lineup for warmup that we did the last game,” Hitchcock said, precisely wording his response. “We had two extra forwards, one extra D. No changes. All those players are there. They’ll dress for warmup and then we’ll run a further evaluation after warmup. Same 23 guys are dressing.” Read more

Russian coach slams Yakupov, says his absence helped Russia medal at World Championship

Jared Clinton
Nail Yakupov (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Life in Edmonton hasn’t been easy on winger Nail Yakupov over the past few seasons, and he can’t even catch a break at home in Russia.

Following Russia’s 7-2 thumping of Team USA in the bronze medal game at the World Championship, Russian coach Oleg Znarok let it be known that Yakupov’s absence from the team didn’t have any impact on the nation’s inability to capture its first gold medal at the tournament since 2014. In fact, Znarok said the lack of Yakupov on the Russian roster was beneficial to the team, calling it “addition by subtraction,” according to Slava Malamud.

That’s an unpleasant way for a national team coach to describe one of his potential players and almost assuredly means Yakupov won’t be suiting up for any of Znarok’s teams in the future, which includes the upcoming World Cup.

The situation between Znarok and Yakupov had been bubbling since the 22-year-old was left off the team. Malamud had reported there was a public blowup between Znarok and Yakupov after he wasn’t named to the squad, and Yakupov said the claims he was fighting an injury were “bogus.” Znarok fired back saying Yakupov was denying his injuries in order to facilitate a new contract or trade, though Yakupov said he was cleared by NHL doctors to play at the World Championship. Read more

Panthers’ off-season shakeup continues with firing of director of scouting Scott Luce

Jared Clinton
Scott Luce (right) with Aleksander Barkov during the 2013 draft (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Coming off of arguably the most successful season in franchise history, the Florida Panthers surprised some by shuffling the deck in their front office and the changes keep coming.

Last week, the Panthers officially announced they had moved GM Dale Tallon from his position in the front office to an expanded role as the president of hockey operations and had filled Tallon’s former post with Tom Rowe, who had been acting as the team’s associate GM. To replace Rowe, the Panthers then moved Eric Joyce and Steve Werier to assistant GM roles. And though some would have expected that to be the end of the movement for the Panthers, that’s not the case.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Sunday that the Panthers had let go of longtime director of scouting Scott Luce, which was confirmed Monday by the Miami Herald’s George Richards. According to Richards, Rowe said the Panthers “wanted a different voice” as the team’s head of scouting, but that seems bizarre given the crop of current players and prospects Luce has helped build. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Would trading Nash open up Stamkos possibility for Rangers?

Rick Nash (Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

Could the New York Rangers trade left winger Rick Nash this summer? Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggests it’s possible. He thinks the Rangers have been asked about the 31-year-old forward, speculating they could move him under the right circumstances.

Friedman points out Nash’s $7.8-million cap hit over the next two seasons and partial no-trade clause as potential stumbling blocks. He also notes the Blueshirts defended the struggling winger this season, who played through injury.

This isn’t the first time Nash has surfaced up in the rumor mill this month. On May 1, the New York Daily News’ Pat Leonard suggested the Rangers used the big winger as trade bait to pry defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk away from the St. Louis Blues. However, the New York Post’s Larry Brooks doubts the Blues will look at Nash as the missing piece to their championship puzzle. Read more

Former NHLer Laraque turns amateur crimefighter, helps detain suspect in attempted kidnapping

Jared Clinton
(Al Bello/Getty Images)

During his NHL career, some would have said Georges Laraque’s job as an NHL enforcer was to police the ice, but this past Saturday, Laraque tried his hand at some amateur police work, if you will.

According to CBC, The 39-year-old, who played more than 700 games in the NHL over his 12-year career, was taking part in a celebrity baseball game at Montreal’s Jeanne-Mance Park when a man allegedly grabbed a seven-year-old girl and attempted to walk away with her. After hearing screams, a group of the players from the baseball game ran over to help. Read more

Watch Alex Killorn jumpstart Lightning offense with perfect shot past Marc-Andre Fleury

Jared Clinton
Alex Killorn (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Players from the Tampa Bay Lightning would have been the first to tell you that they started Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final flat. Late in the first period they surrendered the opening goal to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and midway through the first frame they trailed 2-0 in Sunday’s game.

With less than seven minutes left, however, the Lightning found their first goal of the contest, and it came on an absolutely gorgeous shot by winger Alex Killorn on what appeared to be a nothing play.

Lightning defenseman Andrej Sustr won a board battle on the half wall of the Penguins’ zone and, with seemingly no offensive options, he simply played it in behind the Pittsburgh goal. His pass ricocheted off the back wall and around the left wing boards onto the tape of Killorn, who picked up the puck, took a look towards the goal and fired a seeing-eye shot that found the mere inches of daylight over the shoulder of Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. It might be the most perfect shot of the post-season: Read more