EDMONTON – The St. Louis Blues didn’t quite have their Stanley Cup lineup Sunday, but they had their championship game.
They were fast, relentless, physical and punished the Vancouver Canucks for their mistakes. The Blues also had a goalie who could match Jacob Markstrom, as St. Louis coach Craig Berube played his ace card and replaced struggling starter Jordan Binnington with Jake Allen.
Brayden Schenn’s breakaway goal at 15:06 of overtime gave the Blues a 3-2 win and a rocket-boost back into their first-round NHL playoff series against the Canucks. Now trailing only 2-1, the Blues are suddenly a more dangerous team. They now remember what winning is like.
After scuffling disinterested through the hub-city round-robin, then losing their first two games against the Canucks, the Blues hadn’t won a hockey game since the NHL shut down for the novel coronavirus in March.
“We knew they were going to come,” Canucks captain Bo Horvat said. “They’re the defending Cup champs for a reason. They know what it takes to win and they definitely weren’t going to shy away from a fight.”
That fight continues with a pivotal Game 4 on Monday night.
“They’re going to push again and we’ve got to be ready for it,” Horvat said. “I think if we can come at them right off the start and get on them early and just play our game … a couple of times I think we were shying away from who we are, our identity. I think if we get back to that we’re going to have a lot of success.”
The Canucks’ failure to look after the puck and safely get it deep against the Blues led indirectly to the first two St. Louis goals. On Schenn’s winner, Vancouver defenceman Quinn Hughes followed the puck behind the St. Louis net and then got caught, as did fellow blue-liner Troy Stecher, who didn’t move toward Schenn soon enough.
Schenn buried a top-corner shot over Markstrom’s catching glove to win it.
Any Canuck looking for an extra half-second to make a play wasn’t finding it Sunday. Anything complicated is fraught with risk against a Blues’ team that is unyielding in its pressure and pursuit of the puck, and deadly on the counter-attack.
“They were good,” Canucks defenceman Alex Edler said. “They played with desperation, obviously. I think we’ve just got to get some rest here, get back at it tomorrow, and get back to our game: play quick, try to get in on the forecheck and get some zone time that way. I think they were good, but I don’t think we were at our best.”
If the Blues are now fully engaged – and are going to get more goaltending like Allen offered them Sunday – even the Canucks’ best may not be enough against the Stanley Cup winners. Less than Vancouver’s best will be hopelessly inadequate.
The Canucks’ sizzling power play continued to scald St. Louis, opening the scoring at 1:19 of the second period when the Blues were fooled by a breakout wrinkle by Vancouver. Instead of hanging back for a neutral-zone drop, J.T. Miller bolted up ice and was hit in stride by Elias Pettersson. Behind the St. Louis defence, Miller picked the top corner on Allen to make it 1-0.
After the Canucks failed to double their lead on a couple of outstanding scoring chances, the Blues tied it at 8:16 when Stecher’s turnover ended with Robert Thomas hitting Justin Faulk with a goal-mouth pass the defenceman converted behind Markstrom.
Ryan O’Reilly, who has been dominant territorially, was allowed to attack the Canucks 2-on-2 after Vancouver turned the puck over at the St. Louis blue line. O’Reilly crossed with David Perron before dishing to his teammate, who beat Markstrom from a sharp angle to the far corner at 18:02.
But the Blues’ first lead of the series lasted only 37 seconds, as Pettersson tied it 2-2 at 18:39, scoring short-side from a sharp angle after St. Louis defencemen Colton Parayko and Marco Scandella skated into one another, leaving the puck for the Canuck to collect. It was Pettersson’s second even-strength shot of the series.
The goal was like a 5-on-5 life raft for Vancouver’s top line, which has been badly outplayed by O’Reilly’s unit at even strength. Brock Boeser, guilty several times of overhandling the puck Sunday, didn’t register his first shot on goal in the series until overtime of Game 3.
Pettersson, Boeser and Miller have been outstanding on the power play, but those opportunities already are becoming scarce. Pettersson said the trio needs to be better at even strength.
“For sure,” he said. “Our first two games weren’t good at all 5-on-5. I think it was a little better today 5-on-5 but, still, all three of us want to be better and spend more time in the offensive zone.”
NOTES: The Canucks played without second-pairing defenceman Tyler Myers, who suffered a suspected shoulder injury when shoved from behind into the boards by Schenn in Game 2 on Friday. He was replaced by Jordie Benn. The Blues were without top winger Vladimir Tarasenko, who was injured for most of the season and came out of the St. Louis lineup for the second time in six post-season games.
Lightning-Stars stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final – NHL
NBC’s coverage of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with Saturday’s Stanley Cup Final matchup between the Lightning and Stars. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. Watch the Lightning-Stars stream on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
Boosted by the long-awaited and “inspirational” return of Steven Stamkos, the Tampa Bay Lightning got goals from all three of their first-line forwards, their top defenseman and their captain in a threee-goal win to move within two wins of the franchise’s second Stanley Cup. For the second straight game, Tampa jumped out to a multi-goal first-period lead before the Stars got on the board. The Dallas Stars cut the deficit to one entering the second period, but the middle frame was all Lightning, outscoring Dallas 3-0 in large part thanks to a 21-4 shot differential.
After Game 2, Kevin Shattenkirk said, “when we play our best game it’s hard for teams to win.” In Game 3, Tampa played one of its best games this postseason, getting major contributions from its usual suspects in the top line trio and Hedman and also a quantifiable (one goal from Stamkos) and unquantifiable lift from the return of its captain.
The top line of Palat, Point and Kucherov carried the day once again, combining for three goals and six points in Game 3, their second straight game with four-plus points. Point leads all players this postseason with 11 goals and with Palat and Hedman also reaching double-digit goals in Game 3, the trio make Tampa the first team in a decade to have three players with 10-plus goals in the same postseason.
Tyler Seguin has struggled mightily in the 2020 playoffs. The 28-year-old has now gone 12 consecutive games without a goal and has just one assist over that span (which was six games ago). His last goal came in Game 3 of the Second Round vs. Colorado
Along with Seguin, some of Dallas’ other forwards have been quiet recently as well:
▪ Jamie Benn: Zero points this series after ending West Final on a three-game goal streak
▪ Denis Gurianov: Zero points, three shots this series (OT goal and assist in series-clincher vs. Vegas)
▪ Alex Radulov: Zero goals, three assists this series
Tampa can become the first team in the NHL expansion era (1967-present) to win the Stanley Cup the season after being swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
WHAT: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton
WHEN: Saturday, September 26, 8 p.m. ET
ON THE CALL: Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, Brian Boucher
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Lightning-Stars stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 3-1)
Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Lighting 5, Stars 4 [OT] (recap)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
Stars have no choice but to believe after gut-wrenching OT loss in Game 4 – Sportsnet.ca
EDMONTON — It was what so many Game 4s turn out to be. The fact was, the Tampa Bay Lightning could lose and still win the series. The Dallas Stars could not.
If the Stars couldn’t turn this Stanley Cup their way in Game 4 on Friday, in a game that meant everything to their Cup dreams, then they wouldn’t be able to turn it at all.
You can’t lose three of four against a team like Tampa, look yourself in the mirror the next day and say, “you’re going to beat the Lightning three games in a row,” and believe the guy talking to you.
Well, that’s where the Stars find themselves after a game in which everyone played as hard as they could play — they scored four times, yet lost 5-4 on a Kevin Shattenkirk power-play goal in overtime.
“I think we’ve got more,” said a defiant Tyler Seguin, who was simply fantastic for the full 66:34. “We would have won if we got everything out of everybody.
“I believe in the team, believe in the boys. We’ve got another level here.”
What choice does he have? What choice do any of them have?
“We’ll bounce back,” said head coach Rick Bowness, roughly 20 hours before puck drop in Game 5 on a rare set of back-to-back games in this COVID Cup. “I have full faith in our hockey club. We will fight back. We will bounce back and we’re going to play (Saturday) like we played tonight.”
This was, undoubtedly, a fine effort wasted by Dallas. Perhaps their finest in this Final.
On how many nights are they going to pin a minus-3 on stud defenceman Victor Hedman? Or pump three of their first nine shots past annual Vezina candidate Andrei Vasilevskiy?
How many more times can the Stars ask 36-year-old Joe Pavelski for two goals? Or get as stunning an effort by Seguin, who had two assists, three shots on goal and was an amazing 70 per cent in the circle?
“That’s his best game of the playoffs,” Bowness said of Seguin, whose lack of production has been rightly criticized up ’til now.
As playoff games go, this surely was not one of those nights when you walk out of the rink wondering who officiated the game, as the zebra tandem of Kelly Sutherland and Francis Charron had a bit of an adventure for three periods and overtime.
The pair missed some calls on Tampa early, including an inadvertent trip by Tyler Johnson that sent Roope Hintz into the boards so hard that he did not return. Then, with 29 seconds left in regulation, Corey Perry jabbed his stick into Brayden Point’s private parts, and somehow Sutherland called Perry for interference and Point for embellishment.
Seguin drew a legit penalty early in OT when he drove the net for a scoring chance, and the Lightning managed to kill a lengthy 4-on-3 and the remaining 5-on-4 disadvantage. Then Benn got a tad overzealous in a battle with Johnson 5:10 in overtime, and he gave Charron a chance to raise his arm.
Shattenkirk would score on the ensuing power play, and that might just be it for the Stars, who went down with their captain in the box.
“I see it. It’s in front of Kelly (Sutherland),” replayed Pavelski. “He’s got a great look at it, and the back ref (Charron) calls it.
“I don’t have a ton of time for a play where Tyler Johnson steps in front of Jamie Benn and has no real effect on the play,” the veteran continued. “There’s a battle going on there. It’s playoffs. It’s overtime. We expect 5-on-5, to battle it out.”
You hear it every year. All a hockey player asks for is a chance to decide it for themselves, but by taking the penalty, perhaps that’s exactly what Benn did.
“The players want to play 5-on-5 and let’s see what happens. The players are right,” said a disappointed Bowness. “I saw two guys going after a loose puck. Their guy hooking our guy and our guy trying to fight through the hook. That’s a hockey play. Two guys, in the playoffs, going for a loose puck.”
What Bowness also saw was his own power-play unit with a chance to end the game earlier in OT, and it failed.
“We had the 4-on-3. You have to put the puck in the net — simple as that,” he admitted. “Our power play had a chance to end the game and they didn’t get it done.”
They didn’t get it done.
Every year, whether in spring or fall, we say that about one of the teams fortunate enough to make it this far.
The guy in the Stars’ mirror Saturday morning is telling them they can still get it done. That being down 3-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning isn’t a death sentence.
It says here, fat chance.
Celtics use second-half surge to beat Heat, hold off elimination – TSN
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Their season saved for at least two more days, Boston coach Brad Stevens offered the most succinct assessment of his Celtics.
“We’re prideful,” Stevens said.
Celtic Pride. It was on display Friday night — when Jayson Tatum and his teammates announced very loudly that they’re not ready to see the world that exists outside the NBA’s restart bubble quite yet.
Tatum had 31 points and 10 rebounds, Jaylen Brown added 28 points and the Celtics shook off a slow first half to top the Miami Heat 121-108 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals and stave off elimination.
“Our deal was to come out and play, come out and compete, give it our best shot and I thought we played pretty well in the second half,” Stevens said. “But we’re going to have to do it again and again because of the position we’re in.”
The Heat lead the series 3-2, with Game 6 on Sunday.
Daniel Theis had 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Celtics, who trailed by 12 early but outscored Miami 41-25 in the third quarter and never looked back. Kemba Walker scored 15 points, Marcus Smart had a 12-point, eight-rebound, eight-assist night and Gordon Hayward scored 10 for the Celtics.
Goran Dragic scored 23 points before fouling out with 4:27 left for Miami, which got 20 from Duncan Robinson.
“It’s certainly not going to be easy,” Robinson said. “We’ve got to band together to do difficult things.”
Jimmy Butler scored 17, Tyler Herro and Jae Crowder each had 14 and Bam Adebayo 13 for the Heat — which could get nothing to fall from 3-point range.
Miami was 7 for 36 from beyond the arc, now shooting 24.8% on 3’s in its last 13 quarters — after shooting 38.3% on those in the playoffs before that drought.
“Boston played great in that second half,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They deserved and earned what they got. We understand how tough it is to win in the playoffs. We did not compete hard enough defensively and we paid the price for that. But you do have to credit Boston. They played with great force.”
Brown made back-to-back 3’s in the fourth quarter to turn an eight-point lead into a 103-89 margin with 8:05 left, and things weren’t in doubt again. He turned a blew a kiss to the Heat bench after the second of those 3’s, reminiscent of something Herro did during his 37-point barrage in Game 4.
Game on. Series on.
“It’s not going to be perfect,” Tatum said. “You just want to give yourself a chance.”
The opening minutes didn’t go according to plan for Boston, which missed 11 of its first 12 shots, committed four turnovers in that dismal stretch to make matters even worse, and got into a 17-5 hole very early.
But they weathered all that and, even after shooting only 40% in the first half, Boston trailed 58-51 at the break — never leading, but never letting Miami get too far removed from view.
The Heat scored the first basket of the third quarter. The next few minutes were all Celtics.
They went on a 13-0 run over a stretch of only 3:06 to turn a nine-point deficit into a 64-60 lead, and the game changed just that fast. A separate 7-0 burst followed, Walker connected on a 3-pointer with 4:26 left for a 77-67 edge — Boston’s first double-digit cushion of the night.
“In all sincerity, first time I’ve seen Celtics basketball in the last few games,” Stevens told his team during a time-out.
And it was good enough to ensure that Friday wouldn’t be the last time he’d see Celtics basketball this season.
Heat: Adding to the woes of the third quarter was this — Miami was outrebounded 16-5 in those 12 minutes. … With their fourth 3-pointer Friday, by Robinson with 47 seconds left in the first half, the Heat passed the 2017-18 Golden State Warriors (1,161) for 14th place on the single-season 3’s list. Next up: The 2016-17 Warriors, who had 1,198.
Celtics: Not that any of this should count on a neutral floor, but Boston ended what officially goes down as a five-game “home” losing streak. … The Celtics are 2-0 when facing elimination games this season. The last time Boston won multiple elimination games in the same season was 2008, when it prevailed in first- and second-round Game 7’s and going on to win the NBA title.
This was the 18th playoff game in Celtics history where they scored at least 41 points in a quarter — and probably not surprisingly, they’re 18-0 in those games. It has happened in 20 different quarters; they did it in three separate quarters in a 157-128 win over the Knicks on April 28, 1990.
The only other time Miami allowed 41 points in a post-season quarter was June 10, 2014, when the Heat were outscored 41-25 in the first quarter of Game 3 of that season’s NBA Finals against San Antonio. Coincidentally, Friday’s third-quarter debacle had the same score: 41-25.
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