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Canadiens @ Flyers Game 5 recap: Bloodbath – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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With their backs against the wall, the Montreal Canadiens rolled into Game 5 against the Philadelphia Flyers riding a goalless drought that spanned nearly 130 minutes. Despite Carey Price being nearly flawless, Montreal trailed 3-1 in the series, and their shocking playoff run seemed to be at its end.

Kirk Muller had the line blender kicked into overdrive in Tuesday to try and find some sort of combination to spark the suddenly anemic offence. When the Habs took the ice for their pre-game warmup, a more familiar top line of Brendan Gallagher, Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar was reunited, and in an offence-first move, Charles Hudon replaced Alex Belzile on the fourth line. The Flyers kept their lineup the same following their run of wins, and between the pipes it was Carey Price versus Carter Hart in what was turning out to be an epic goaltending battle.

The Canadiens came out with aggression, trying to break down the Flyers’ defence early on, including Gallagher launching himself at Ivan Provorov before challenging him to a fight. Then it was Ben Chiarot trying to drive the net, but ended up taking a goaltender interference penalty.

The Flyers’ power play proved to be exactly what Montreal’s offence needed. Xavier Ouellet skated the puck out, turning a dump-in to a hard pass off the end boards. Joel Armia caught the Flyers sleeping and snuck in to grab the loose puck, and broke in alone on Carter Hart, snapping a shot past him to end Montreal’s goal drought and grab the all-important first goal.

The game’s physical tone continued from there, with plenty of hits being dished out and likely plenty of words exchanged between the teams as well. That physicality eventually caught up with Gallagher, as he was called for high-sticking Robert Hagg, giving the Flyers another man advantage. That power play didn’t last long, as a Jakub Voracek double-minor gave Montreal a slightly extended advantage to work with.

To say that the Canadiens power play was bad is underselling it, as the best chance of the nearly three-minute man advantage fell to Kevin Hayes. Hayes broke in alone on a poor pass by Max Domi, but it was again the glove of Price that denied the Philadelphia forward a goal.

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Neither side really made much of a push as the final moments of the period approached, but a Joel Farabee tripping penalty gave Montreal one more crack on the power play before it ended. Naturally the power play failed to make much noise at the end of the first or the beginning of the second period, and the Habs held on to their one-goal lead.

After the power play expired, Jesperi Kotkaniemi drilled Travis Sanheim as he turned away following a dump-in, and for his trouble was given a major penalty, along with a game misconduct for causing a visible injury. To rub salt in the wound, the Flyers’ power play finally scored, tying the game early in the second period. Grinding that salt in even deeper, the Flyers added one more just seconds before the major penalty ended, putting the Habs down by a goal and now without one of their best offensive weapons to climb out of it.

Then it was Joel Armia’s world and the Flyers had to live in it as the big Finn blistered a shot off the crossbar right after the end of the Flyers’ power play. On his following shift, it was Armia again who found a way to step up in the absence of Kotkaniemi. He broke in close, then fired what looked like a harmless shot, but Hart, down to protect the bottom of the net, left a small gap that Armia slipped his shot through for a tying goal.

The penalty parade continued, this time for the Flyers, with Philippe Myers throwing a crosscheck to the face of Jake Evans. It didn’t take long for a resurgent Canadiens team to make him pay for his transgression. Nick Suzuki worked off the wall, cutting to the net and fluttering a saucer pass across to Gallagher. The feisty forward’s check-swing got just enough of the puck to get it by a sprawling Hart and put Montreal back into the lead. Suzuki was even sure to give Hart a pat on the head as he skated by, no doubt drawing the ire of the Flyers’ bench.

Suzuki went back out there and added a fourth goal to chase Hart from the net. He rocketed into the Flyers end, and snapped a simple shot right through Hart that drew Brian Elliott into the game. However, an offside challenge by Alain Vigneault caught Jonathan Drouin ahead of the play, wiping out Suzuki’s goal, and strangely granting Hart a reprieve as he retook his crease.

Montreal didn’t let an overturned goal slow them down. Their maksehift lines continued to pile up chances as the end of the period approached, but another goal was not in the cards for the second period.

The third started as a whirlwind of controlled chaos so to speak. The Canadiens pushed early for a fourth goal and nearly found one thanks to a tipped Shea Weber shot. Then it was the Flyers pushing hard for another goal, but had to settle for Voracek drawing a tripping call by stepping on Artturi Lehkonen’s stick. Even with one of their leading penalty-killers in the box, the Habs fended off the Flyers, including some standout work from Paul Byron and Evans to force the play to even strength.

The Flyers got another chance to prove their worth, as Kevin Hayes took a blocked shot and sped off on a breakaway, where he was dragged down by a pair of Habs defenders. It did not take long for the Flyers to convert on the advantage, as Farabee got the puck past Carey Price to tie the game at three goals each.

Twenty-two seconds later, the Canadiens decided to put themselves back on top. Drouin fed a sublime no-look pass to Suzuki. Wanting to get his goal back, Suzuki rounded Hart and neatly tucked his shot around the sprawling Flyers goalie, putting Montreal back into the lead.

Penalties swung back in favour of the Canadiens, as Voracek got his stick in between Gallagher’s legs and pitchforked him to the ice, creating a late Habs man advantage. Matt Niskanen left Gallagher bloody after a crosscheck to the face, but without a call, and definitely without forcing the gritty forward to back down.

Montreal held fast, grabbing a late empty-net goal from Phillip Danault to close out the win and survive one more night. Then Sean Couturier threw a late, blindside hit at Artturi Lehkonen as the goal horn sounded, kicking off a massive kerfuffle. It continued as Nate Thompson tried to fight anyone in a Montreal sweater at the final horn.

Game 6 is on Friday evening, and tensions are sure to be running high after a contentious affair on Wednesday.

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Marcus Smart Heard Yelling At Teammates Following Game 2 Loss – RealGM.com

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Marcus Smart reportedly yelled at his teammates in the locker room following the Boston Celtics’ 106-101 loss to the Miami Heat in game 2, according to Malika Andrews of ESPN.

The Celtics, who blew their second straight lead in the second half, are now down 2-0 in the series.

“Y’all on some bulls—,” Smart yelled while leaving the locker room. Several other teammates were also reportedly heard yelling following the game.

Smart did not talk to reporters after the game.

Brad Stevens, Kemba Walker, and Jayson Tatum all downplayed the situation, chalking it up to the emotion of the loss.

“It really just, a lot of emotions just flying around. Obviously we feel like we could have won, we should have won, but we didn’t. So just a lot of emotions flying around. That’s it,” said Jaylen Brown. 

The Celtics were outscored 37-17 in the third quarter.

Walker added that the Celtics were simply outplayed during the third. 

“Man, they outplayed us. They outplayed us. It’s really unacceptable on our behalf. It was just a really bad quarter for us. We didn’t continue to do the things that we did to get us up and get us that lead. I think we got kind of comfortable and those guys, they took great advantage of it. They played hard. They played really hard. They played a lot harder than us. They wanted it.”

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Lightning cherishing every moment of opportunity for Cup Final redemption – Sportsnet.ca

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EDMONTON — What I’ll remember most was the pure guttural scream.

It echoed up through Rogers Place when the Tampa Bay Lightning gathered 48 of the 52 members of their travelling party on the ice with the Prince of Wales Trophy to take a photo here Thursday night.

You’d never know that a celebration could be so emotional in an empty building because, until three days ago with the Dallas Stars, this was completely unprecedented.

The Lightning left their hearts out there. This was a moment six years in the making, or more, for so many members of this organization. And it was clear that booking a trip to the Stanley Cup Final was no less rewarding under these circumstances than it would have been before any of us had ever heard of COVID-19.

“It is so hard to explain, because regardless if there’s fans in the building or not, the exuberance and relief, it’s unparalleled how you feel inside,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “When you look back at this — and it’s not over — but we’ve been in a hotel for 54 straight days. And when people said this might be one of the hardest Cups to win, it might be one of the hardest Cups ever to win. There’s two of us left standing, they’re going through the exact same thing we are.

“You want your fans there, but it’s not about the fans, it’s about the players and the effort and dedication and perseverance they’ve put into this. And they’re the ones that deserve this, because they’ve done all the work.”

For the Lightning, it was also about Steven Stamkos, even though the captain hasn’t played a game since late February. He’s been rehabbing an undisclosed injury inside the NHL bubble without playing a game and was called out to join Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Alex Killorn for the trophy presentation with deputy commissioner Bill Daly.

The pride on Stamkos’s face was unmistakable. He let Hedman and the others who played in the six-game series victory over the New York Islanders touch the trophy — at least until Hedman skated it over to him with instructions to carry it into the team’s dressing room.

“It was obviously a great feeling,” said Hedman. “Even though Stammer’s not playing, he’s still the leader of this team and he’s such a good influence on the room. During practices and morning skates. He’s still a big reason that he’s here where we are.

“I’m just so happy for the whole group obviously to once again — you know, a few of us went there in 2015. To go back in the Final with the Lightning again is an unreal experience.”

They had good reason to believe this would have happened sooner. It was a young team that lost the 2015 Stanley Cup Final to Chicago in six games.

Tampa has been the NHL’s top team in basically every measurable category since that happened but they’ve experienced nothing but heartbreak. A Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference Final in 2016 and 2018, and then a record-breaking 62-win season last year followed by a sweep at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Losing this would have been the ultimate gut punch.

The Lightning were the better team against New York, but there’s a price to be paid against the Islanders. Brayden Point was in and out of the series, Ondrej Palat took a shot off the foot during Thursday’s series-clinching 2-1 victory and Anthony Cirelli left for a time after an accidental knee-on-knee collision with Anders Lee.

It was Cirelli who finally froze the clock in overtime with his first goal and first point of the season.

The celebration was incredible. These guys understood on a fundamental level what this meant.

“You have to cherish these moments and try your best to take advantage of them,” said Cooper. “We’ve been knocking at the door and it can get frustrating. It can make the summers, time-wise they’re so short, but mentality-wise they’re long. You just have to believe in your process and you have to believe in what you’re doing and you have to have players that jump on board.

“In the end, it’s a player’s game.”

The players celebrated this one together. The Lightning brought every extra skater they have here on the ice for this Eastern Conference Championships photo. There was Mathieu Joseph and his wonderful hair, Braydon Coburn and his thick playoff beard, Stamkos and his ever-present smile.

“Definitely a special moment for that group and then to get the whole team involved,” said veteran defenceman Ryan McDonagh. “Great moment.”

Hedman is always the last player on the ice after a Tampa victory and had to wait out a four-question Killorn interview with NBC after they eliminated the Islanders. You could hear him banging his stick while Killorn spoke with Pierre McGuire inside this empty building.

He knew his teammates were celebrating without them but still wouldn’t skate off.

What a cool scene, all of it.

The Lightning will be back out here against the Dallas Stars in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night and they didn’t shy away from the fact they may have emptied a couple veins just to get the opportunity.

“As for gas in the tank, I guess we’ll see,” said Cooper. “This is unlike any other Stanley Cup Final where we’d get days rest. If you don’t go seven, you usually get days rest. We’re not here, but if you were going to tell me, ‘Hey Coop, you get to play in the Stanley Cup Final.

“You’re only going to get 45 hours to rest before the game but you’re going to get to play in it,’ I’m taking that all day.”

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Toronto Maple Leafs add Manny Malhotra to coaching staff – TSN

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It’s been a whirlwind few days for Manny Malhotra, who on Thursday officially left the Vancouver Canucks organization to become the Maple Leafs’ newest assistant coach.

“I had a lot of conversations with [Canucks’ head coach Travis Green] here and then after talking with [Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe], I was left with about two days to make the decision,” Malhotra told TSN on Thursday.

“For me, it came down to [the fact] this is an opportunity to advance my coaching career and be a part of a really good organization with a lot of good talent to work with. So I’m very happy at the conclusion of this whole process, but it was a very hectic four or five days.”

Malhotra comes to the Leafs after a three-year stint as an assistant coach in Vancouver, joining Dave Hakstol in rounding out Keefe’s staff. A native of Mississauga, Ont., Malhotra’s French-Canadian and South Asian background make him one of the few visible minority coaches in the NHL.

He replaces the recently departed Paul McFarland, who became general manager and head coach of the Ontario Hockey League’s Kingston Frontenacs in August.

TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun reported that the Leafs also spoke with Rocky Thompson and Bruce Boudreau about the job before landing on Malhotra. Thompson had been the head coach of the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves and is now joining the San Jose Sharks’ staff for next season, while Boudreau has been a free agent since the Minnesota Wild relieved him of head coaching duties in February.

Malhotra, 40, will bring plenty of experience with him to the Leafs’ post, having segued into roles behind the bench after his 16-year playing career ended in 2016.

Originally selected seventh overall by the New York Rangers in the 1998 draft, Malhotra developed into a strong two-way centre over his 991-game tenure with seven different teams. He retired with 295 points (116 goals, 179 assists) and an impressive winning percentage in the faceoff circle (56.4), making a quick transition from there to a one-season development coach role with the Canucks. Malhotra became a full-fledged assistant in 2017.

“The work ethic, character, intelligence and attention to detail that made Manny the ultimate teammate when he played are all assets that have translated to his coaching. That, combined with his charisma and communication skills, make us really excited to have him join the organization,” said Keefe in a press release.

Malhotra hopes to help Toronto’s top offensive players, like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, become stronger two-way players.

“First and foremost I’m really looking to just get to know those guys and try to understand their make-up and what makes them tick, what motivates them,” Malhotra said. “I think it’s most important to find out who they are as a player, and then find out their mindset and where they are in their career, and then just try to relay some of those messages on the details of your game and sharpening up the small, finer points that everybody always harps on from a young age. It’s a matter of putting those into play on a regular basis that separates guys and allows guys to grow in your career.”

Malhotra learned the benefits of focusing on those little things from Green – not just with individual players, but in coaching as a whole.

“He really likes to analyze things, overanalyze, overcook,” Malhotra said. “And initially you think it’s probably a little bit of overkill, but you realize when you put that type of thought into decisions, into systems, into lineups, that it shows you care. It shows that you’re putting the proper time in to make those key decisions.”

Malhotra can apply all that while taking over the duties vacated by McFarland, who spent one season in Toronto primarily running the Leafs’ power play.

McFarland and Hakstol were hired under former head coach Mike Babcock in May 2019, but remained on with Keefe after Babcock’s firing in mid-November and Keefe’s subsequent promotion into the role.

Malhotra is now the second coaching appointment Toronto has made under Keefe’s direction. The club had parted ways with another of Babcock’s hires – video coach Andrew Brewer – in August, and brought in Samuel Kim as his replacement on Sept. 1.

Malhotra said the opportunity to work with Keefe was a driving force behind his choice to change coasts.

“His credentials and his accomplishments as a coach speak for themselves,” he said of Keefe. “There’s nothing but complimentary things said about him and his character and his personality and his knowledge of the game, so I’m excited to work with [Keefe and Hakstol].”

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