Lightning defeat Penguins to tie Eastern Conference Final. Details and more in this morning’s collection of NHL headlines.
TAMPA BAY TIMES/TRIBLIVE.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning held off a third-period surge by the Pittsburgh Penguins to win Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final by a score of 4-3, tying the best-of-seven series at two games apiece. Victor Hedman, Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov had two assists each. Tyler Johnson took a puck to the face during warmup but returned and scored a goal.
Marc-Andre Fleury replaced Matt Murray in the Penguins goal for the third period, which seemed to spark his teammates. Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz scored in the period but the Pens fell just short of tying the game. They also lost defenseman Trevor Daley to a left-leg injury. His status for Game 5 on Sunday is unknown.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A big win for the Lightning, who couldn’t afford to fall behind 3-1 in the series heading back to Pittsburgh for Game 5. They played very well through two periods but seemed to sag in the third period, providing the Pens with an opportunity to pull within a goal of tying the game. Fleury appearance in the third period is sparking speculation he’ll be the starter in Game 5, though Penguins coach Mike Sullivan was noncommittal. I believe Murray should get the start in that game, as he’s helped the Penguins get this far. However, if Sullivan is to give Fleury a start in this series, Game 5 would be the right opportunity to do it.
STLTODAY.COM: Jake Allen will take over for Brian Elliott in goal for the St. Louis Blues in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock seeks a spark for his club, as they struggled in the previous two games against the San Jose Sharks, who hold a 2-1 series lead.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Elliott didn’t look sharp in those two losses to the Sharks, but he’s not the main reason behind the Blues’ struggles of late. As a team, they’ve had difficulty containing the Sharks’ offensive attack, plus their power play’s been stymied by San Jose’s penalty killers. Speaking of which…
THE MERCURY NEWS: Credit the San Jose Sharks’ strong penalty kill for shutting down the Blues thus far in the Western Conference Final.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Agent Dan Milstein, who represents Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk, dismissed a Russian report claiming his client signed a two-year deal with KHL team SKA St. Petersburg. “It’s definitely not true,” Milstein said. “Pavel hasn’t spoken to anybody, hasn’t spoken to any team, and he hasn’t spoken any media other than talking about the (world championship) tournament. There’s nothing to it (the report).”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Though it’s widely assumed Datsyuk will in fact return to Russia to finish his playing career after this season, he’s said he won’t make any decision about his plans until after the World Championships. He has one year remaining on his contract with the Red Wings.
THE TENNESSEAN: Nashville Predators GM David Poile said his intention is to retain center Mike Ribeiro, whose production declined this season. However, Poile expects the 36-year-old to “have the summer of his life” to improve his conditioning if he’s to maintain his spot among the Preds’ top-six forwards.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That might be asking too much of Ribeiro’s 36-year-old body. Even if he indeed works hard during the offseason, he’s at the age where the legs begin to go.