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The Oilers hang around long enough to make it interesting in St. Louis but ultimately fall 2-1 – Edmonton Journal

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The Oilers came within a post of a point in St. Louis Wednesday, on a night when the Blues were the better team on-balance.

Both Mikko Koskinen and the Oilers penalty kill were terrific. But the Edmonton power play had the game on it’s collective stick no less than 4 times and came up empty…including a 6-4 man advantage that continued right down to the final buzzer.

The Blues dominated in the 2nd frame in particular. But an 18-8 Oilers advantage in shots down the stretch sure made this one interesting.

Ultimately, make the final 2-1 Blues. Here’s the tale of the tape:

Edmonton Oilers Player Grades

MIKKO KOSKINEN. 8. Mikko Koskinen was nothing short of tremendous versus the Blues, stopping 42 of 44 shots. Stoned former Oiler David Perron on an excellent 1st Period chance and then denied him yet again with a spectacular blocker save in the 2nd. A late save short-side on Schenn in the 3rd kept the game close. Koskinen was not picked as a star by the St. Louis media. Shame on them. We may be seeing him claim the 1st job from between he and Mike Smith.

CONNOR McDAVID. 5. Frustrated all night long up against Ryan O’Reilly (played nearly half of his TOI against 97) and the Blues shutdown pair of Colton Parayko and Jay Boumeester. That’s different than McDavid not playing well offensively. He did manage 3 shots in 22:19. And set up Draisaitl for a good 2nd Period chance. However McDavid was also one of the players principally responsible for the 2-0 goal when he let the late man drift unchecked into the slot.

JOAKIM NYGARD. 4. Often over-matched by the far more physical Blues. Managed 1 shot in 13:24…a lot of that alongside McDavid. Yes, he can skate and forecheck. But he’s miscast in the Top 6.

ZACK KASSIAN. 5. Played a key role in the 2-1 goal as Kassian led the forecheck into the zone and then created a large diversion that took the St. Louis goaltender out of the play. Awarded with an assist for his efforts. Kassian was also guilty of failing to get the puck deep into the offensive zone in what turned out to be the 2-0. Leveled a crushing hit on Oskar Sundquist. His 500th career NHL game deserves a nod as well.

DARNELL NURSE. 6. Failed to shoulder check at the offensive blueline as Ethan Bear was changing behind him on the 1-0. But to be fair, even if he had I’m not sure he would have had a chance to catch Brayden Schenn. 2 shots and a block in 21:21 including 3:31 shorthanded. Probably the Oilers best 2-way D-man tonight.

ETHAN BEAR. 4. Drew a 1st Period PP. A big clear in the slot mid-way through the 2nd. Was he a little slow getting off the ice on the change that handed St. Louis a breakaway? I say yes, although I certainly don’t hang the goal solely on him. Did lose his check below the goal line on the 2-0 though. A dangerous shot on a 2nd Period PP. Played 20:29. Generally played well but a couple of his mistakes were costly.

LEON DRAISAITL. 7. Centered the Oilers best line over the first 2 periods in between Gagner and Neal and was the Oilers best skater. Re-united with McDavid and Kassian for most of the 3rd. Hit the post with 19.3 seconds left. Assisted on the Neal goal to draw within a point of league-leading McDavid in the scoring race. Had 8 shots and fought through a really tough physical battle against the Blues in order to do so. A terrific stick broke up a 2nd Period PP effort by St. Louis and turned into a short-handed chance. Didn’t stop in front on the 2-0 but I thought he was supporting the D-man on the play. Played 23:41. 50% in the faceoff circle.

SAM GAGNER. 6. All 3 players on the 2nd line were well above 50% in CF% on the night, Gagner 14-8, 63%. 2 shots in 11:53 as well as a post. Set up Neal for a very good 1st Period opportunity. Next shift he set up Draaisaitl for another. But he and James Neal also had a malfunction just inside the St. Louis blueline that turned into a breakaway in the other direction for the 1-0. But the puck was headed in the right direction for a majority of his shifts.

JAMES NEAL. 6. His 18th of the season drew the game close at 2-1. It was a terrific shot as most of Neal’s body was behind the goal line but he still found twine with Jake Allen down and out in front. That was one of 4 shots for Neal. But he and Sam Gagner were also partially at fault on the 1-0.

OSCAR KLEFBOM. 6. Good clear on a 1st Period PK. A terrific steal and clear in a 2nd Period PK. His line at the end of the night included 2 shots, 2 blocks, 2 giveaways and a healthy 26:02 TOI. However, he was also part of a power play that came up empty over 4 opportunities and 6:33 of ice-time.

ADAM LARSSON. 7. His best play of the game was a shot block with the net wide open. Larsson managed to get his heel on it and direct it wide. Played a hard-working 19:49 including a close-to-perfect 5:40 shorthanded. Has really found his game of late.

RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS. 5. Had 5 shots on net. Did set up 97 for a chance on a 1st Period deflection-pass. Good clear on a 2nd period PK. The effort was there but not a lot went his way. The best example of that was a 2nd Period back-check that likely saved a goal only to inadvertently tick the puck over the glass to put his club on the PK.

JUJHAR KHAIRA. 5. A good D-zone takeaway in the 1st. A very good block and clear on a 2nd Period PK. Contributed to the penalty kill in a meaningful way overall, logging 2:42 TOI with St. Louis on the man advantage. 2 shots, 3 hits and a block.

ALEX CHIASSON. 4. 2 shots and a hit in 12:14. I didn’t mark him with a single defensive miscue but in a physical game against a big team I thought Chiasson did not make the impact they need him to.

KRIS RUSSELL. 5. A 1st Period giveaway. A good clear on a 2nd Period PK. Over-all played a pretty low-event 12:50.

CALEB JONES. 5. Battled hard, if not always successfully. But the majority of the time the kid bent but did not break. Unfairly nicked with a -1 as he was just coming onto the ice when the 1-0 was going in. A Dangerous shot from the point was 1 of 2 on the night.

RILEY SHEAHAN. 5. This line was hammered in possession at 5×5. Sheahan was 3-11, 21% CF. 5×4 was a different story, though, where Sheahan and crew sparkled in 3:12 worth of shorthanded work. Great clear on a 1st Period PK. Being just 22% on face-offs contributed to the puck chase that too often ensued on his watch.

GAETAN HAAS. 4. Did draw a 1st Period PP. And he and Nygard had a very effective 2nd Period 4×4 shift. But Haas spent too much effort trying to go through that St. Louis D rather than dump & go around. 0 shots in 8:34.

JOSH ARCHIBALD. 4. Very effective on the PK with a clean slate over 2:58 of work. But crushed 5×5 and managed a lone hit in just 9:38. Not the spunky Archibald we’ve seen the past couple.

The Oilers sit 3rd in the Pacific at 19-14-4. They host the Penguins Friday.

Follow me on Twitter @KurtLeavins

Cult of Hockey David Staples

Recently, at The Cult…

STAPLES: Tippett finally running with the hot hand in Koskinen

McCURDY: Oilers hang on to beat the Stars 

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Lightning’s Stamkos returns, scores in Game 3 of Cup Final vs. Stars – Sportsnet.ca

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Steven Stamkos is back.

The Tampa Bay Lightning captain is playing his first NHL game since February as he returns to the ice for Game 3 of the team’s Stanley Cup Final matchup with the Dallas Stars on Wednesday.

And in his third shift of the game, Stamkos buried a goal over the blocker of Stars goalie Anton Khudobin. Stamkos took a pass in the neutral zone from Victor Hedman, glided into the Stars’ zone and sniped a shot past Khudobin to lift Tampa Bay to a 2-0 lead in the first period.

Stamkos had yet to suit up in the 2020 post-season, suffering an injury before the Lightning reconvened from the season pause to begin training. The centreman’s last game came on Feb. 25 — amid a 15-game, 22-point scoring streak — after having core muscle surgery. 210 days have passed since then. The 30-year-old finished the campaign with 66 points across 57 games.

The Cup Final is level at one game apiece after the Lightning’s 3-2 win over the Stars on Monday.

Watch Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars at 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT on Sportsnet and SN NOW.

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Craig Anderson’s time in Ottawa comes to an end – TSN

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A few minutes into Wednesday’s video conference call with reporters, Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion mentioned the club would not be offering a contract extension to veteran goalie Craig Anderson.

It was a low-key, modest announcement – almost a throwaway nugget of information in a session dominated by talk of the upcoming NHL Draft and the opening of free agency.

But in a strange twist, it was the perfect exit for the netminder who never sought the limelight of the No. 1 goalie job in a Canadian market. The 39-year-old would not have wanted a splashy farewell press conference or an emotional goodbye with fans and media.

At some point, Anderson should get an opportunity to re-connect with the Ottawa fan base for an emotional evening. His Senators resume, which boasts more than 400 games and 200 wins, has certainly etched his name as a future addition to the club’s Ring of Honour inside Canadian Tire Centre.

But beyond the dominating statistical profile – which includes virtually every meaningful goalie record in franchise history – Anderson singlehandedly transformed the way Ottawa fans viewed the position in their own market

Prior to Anderson’s arrival, Senators fans often felt nervous about their situation in the crease. Ottawa had earned the reputation of being a goalie graveyard – a place where netminders melted under the pressure of playing in a hockey-mad market.

There was Patrick Lalime’s infamous Game 7 meltdown against Toronto.

The ill-advised, splashy free agent signing of Martin Gerber.

The tumultuous tenure of Ray Emery.

The injury-plagued career of Pascal Leclaire.

Even Stanley Cup-winning goalies such as Tom Barrasso and Dominik Hasek couldn’t seem to shake the curse.

Ottawa was a place that offered job security for public service workers, not goaltenders.

But when Bryan Murray pulled off a trade in February of 2011, sending Brian Elliott – himself a victim of Ottawa’s haunted crease – to Colorado for Anderson, all of that changed. 

In many ways, Anderson’s departure from Ottawa was as understated as his arrival.

Murray brought in Anderson for a test drive – hoping that he could convince the pending free agent to sign with the Senators before hitting the market in the summer of 2011.

Anderson immediately endeared himself to Ottawa fans, posting a 47-save shutout in Toronto on a Saturday night in his first start in a Senators jersey.

Anderson sparkled in his first stint with the Senators down the stretch of the 2010-11 campaign, with an 11-5-1 record and a .939 save percentage. Some fans grumbled that Anderson’s stellar play in that run cost the club the first-overall draft pick – ultimately dropping them down to the sixth spot.

But in hindsight, that was a small price to pay to land a franchise goalie.

For almost a decade, Anderson was the epitome of cool and calm in a tumultuous environment that would have tested the mental resolve of any netminder. While the roster was overhauled around him multiple times, Anderson never once publicly demanded a trade to a better situation, even as veteran teammates were being jettisoned all around him.

Anderson was at his best in the playoffs, establishing himself as a reliable postseason netminder. In 41 career playoff games with Ottawa, he boasted a .928 save percentage – a metric that should have earned him more than just one trip to the conference final.

He held his own in playoff series against the likes of Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist – goalies with Hall of Fame resumes who made nearly double what Anderson was being paid.

Even when his team would lose a playoff series with Anderson in net – and they did on four different occasions – nobody pointed a finger at the goaltending position. It was a stark departure from the previous playoff meltdowns in Ottawa, where the No. 1 goalie was often the prime culprit.

But when Ottawa fans think of Anderson’s signature performance with the club, their minds don’t immediately jump to a high-stakes playoff game.

Instead, most Ottawa fans remember the night of Oct. 30, 2016, when Anderson posted a 37-save shutout against the Edmonton Oilers. With the hockey world aware that his wife, Nicholle, was battling cancer, Anderson turned aside every Edmonton shot during the game – then had to turn aside tears as he was feted by the Edmonton crowd afterwards.

The image of his Oilers counterpart Cam Talbot cheering him on the bench remains one of the most powerful moments in Senators history.

Anderson authored so many memorable moments in the blue paint in Ottawa, but none come close to having the impact of that singular start in Edmonton four years ago.

In the months that followed, Anderson cemented his status as a fan favourite – ultimately taking the Senators to double-overtime in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final against Pittsburgh that spring.

You would be hard-pressed to find a Senators fan who put any blame on Anderson for the Chris Kunitz game-winning goal, which serves as a firm reminder of how far the pendulum has swung when it comes to goaltending in Ottawa.

Before Anderson came along, it would have been unfathomable for the Senators to suffer a crippling Game 7 loss without a significant share of the blame landing on the goaltender’s shoulders.

But over the course of a decade Anderson managed to change the narrative on goaltending in Ottawa –  a feat that is more impressive than anything on his goaltending resume.

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Lightning, Stars resume punishing Stanley Cup Final as Stamkos nears return – Sportsnet.ca

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Steven Stamkos has been out so long, there’s probably a “believe it when I see it” element to his potential return for fans of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The coach of the Dallas Stars, however, is operating on the assumption No. 91 could be cocking his stick from the top of the circle any moment now.

“I bumped into him the other day in the hallway,” Stars bench boss Rick Bowness said with a chuckle before Wednesday night’s Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. “When I see him walking out to the ice surface in full gear, I know where he’s going and he can’t be that far away [from playing]. We’re prepared.”

From the Stanley Cup Qualifiers to the Stanley Cup Final, livestream every game of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, blackout-free, on Sportsnet NOW.

Tampa coach Jon Cooper said his team’s captain is “inching closer” to skating in his first NHL game since Feb. 25. While acknowledging a lot would go into Stamkos’s return in terms of shaking the rust, Cooper also emphasized the obvious: Put a two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner back in the lineup and it’s bound to move the needle.

“He’s a threat,” Cooper said. “So he’s just another thing for a team to think about when he’s out there. Whether that’s on the power play or five-on-five, you get another player who, if the puck gets on his stick in the offensive zone, it might go in the net.”

Preventing the Bolts from scoring in Game 3 could actually get easier for the Stars. Regardless of whether or not Stamkos comes back, Dallas will be the home team for the first time in the 1-1 series, giving Bowness the last-change advantage of lining up his preferred defence pair against whoever Tampa is throwing at him.

“We’ve always put more emphasis on getting the right D out there [compared to matching forward lines],” Bowness said. “Some of these matchup decisions are based on score, time on the clock, if you need a goal you put your offensive guys out. A lot of factors come into play, but the constant one will be getting the right ‘D’ out there against the top lines.”

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One person Bowness hopes can become a tougher defensive matchup for the other squad is his leading goal-scorer from the regular season, Denis Gurianov. The 23-year-old Russian — though still second on the team with nine playoff goals — has hit the net just once in his past 10 outings. He played fewer than 11 minutes in Game 1 and just over 13 in Game 2.

“Nervous,” is how Bowness assessed Gurianov’s play from the most recent contest. “He was nervous.”

When people aren’t speculating about the possibility of a Stamkos sighting, much of the talk through two games has been on how punishing the series has been as both games featured over 100 hits apiece. Early in Game 2, superstar Tampa right winger Nikita Kucherov took a couple of serious knocks before setting up a pair of goals in his side’s 3-2 win. Dallas’s Blake Comeau was rocked by Ryan McDonagh in the second period and did not return. Bowness said Comeau is a game-time decision for Wednesday’s tilt.

Tampa’s Tyler Johnson was asked if the suppressed existence everyone is experiencing with bubble life could be contributing to the nastier scene once the puck drops, as the teams kick off a particularly gruelling stretch of three games in four nights.

“I think everyone is [feeling] couped up a little bit, so you let your anger out on the ice,” Johnson said, perhaps only slightly kidding. “Going into this, I think a lot of people [were wondering] what the playoff hockey would be like: I think the questions have been answered that the guys are competing and working hard and it’s been physical and guys are doing everything they can to win.”

Few in the league have a longer history of mixing it up when it matters most than Dallas veteran Corey Perry. Back in the Final for the first time since winning a ring with the Ducks in 2007, Perry had no trouble identifying the root of the acrimony.

“We’re battling for the Stanley Cup — plain and simple,” he said. “Nobody is going to give you any room on the ice, you’re going to have to earn it. They’ve been here before and we have some guys in our room who have been here before, so we know what it takes as well.”

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