- Jake Guentzel and Sean Couturier each had a five-point game in an offesive outburst that was Game 6. The Predators followed suit with a 5-0 win to move on to the Western Conference Semifinals.
There’s nothing quite like dueling hat tricks to finish off a series featuring an intra-state rivalry that runs deeper than all three of Pittsburgh’s rivers combined.
Jake Guentzel and Sean Couturier each notched a hat trick in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 8-5 Game 6 win that secured them a spot in the second round. But neither of these hat tricks were usual in any sense.
The Philadelphia Flyers had a 4-2 lead around the halfway point of the game, and for a minute, it seemed like a Game 7 was in Pennsylvania’s future. Patric Hornqvist cut the Flyers lead in half a minute after Scott Laughton notched Philly’s fourth goal, and Guentzel found the equalizer with less than a minute left in the second period.
Guentzel decided to keep his hot streak going with a goal 30 seconds into the third period. After picking up a Flyers turnover from Ivan Provorov, Phil Kessel passed the puck off to Guentzel for a one-timer to give the Pens a 5-4 lead. About 12 minutes later Guentzel secured the natural hat trick, but wasn’t quite finished yet. Ten seconds after celebrating his third straight goal, the 23 year old added a fourth to give the Penguins a comfortable 7-4 lead with seven minutes remaining.
Hot from his game-winning goal in Game 5, Couturier started off the scoring two minutes into the game and maintained his position as Philadelphia’s hero in this series. Couturier scored 40 seconds into the second and decided Guentzel wasn’t the only who got to celebrate a hatty when he gathered a rebound from netminder Matt Murray’s pads and sent it home.
Couturier revealed to reporters following the game that he played Games 5 and 6 with a torn MCL, an injury he said would have taken four weeks to heal if suffered during the regular season. The injury, which he said won’t require surgery, came after he collided with teammate Radko Gudas in practice before Game 4, which he did not play in.
Sidney Crosby and Hornqvist each had a goal and two assists for Pittsburgh, and the Pens played without Evgeni Malkin, who was out with a leg injury. Despite winning their ninth straight playoff series, Pittsburgh has a bit to clean up defensively before playing the winner of the Capitals-Blue Jackets series. Murray certainly didn’t have his best game, allowing five goals on just 26 shots, but luckily for him the offense was feeling quite supportive on Sunday.
Predators 5, Avalanche 0
Nashville was frustrated about not closing out its series on home ice in Game 5 and responded with a suffocating 5-0 win over the Avalanche. The Preds wasted no time in deciding Game 6 was theirs, and started off the scoring with a heavy blast from defenseman Mattias Ekholm that set the tone of Nashville was planning to play. Austin Watson made it 2-0 just a couple minutes later, and Nashville had goals from Filip Forsberg, Nick Bonino and Viktor Arvidsson to spread the wealth. The Predators will face off with the Winnipeg Jets in the second round for what is guaranteed to be a series you’ll want a lot of popcorn to excitedly eat while watching.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT
After tossing caps on the ice for Couturier’s hat trick, Philly fans decided they had more left in their pitching arms before heading home. When Bryan Rust scored an empty-net goal to secure the Pens’ spot in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, patrons figured it would be easier to all toss their garbage into one spot (the ice) instead of leaving it spread throughout the Wells Fargo Center.
And Crosby, Philly’s favorite visitor to heckle, didn’t approve of the Flyers’ treatment of such precious nectar.
Asked Sid about having all the beer cans thrown at him: "Those things were full. What a waste. Guess they have to be full to throw them that far."— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_PGH) April 22, 2018
- Sean Couturier, PHI — Couturier contributed on all five of the Flyers’ goals in Game 6, scoring three of them himself, all impressive in its own right. But he did that with a torn MCL that would have taken four weeks to heal in the regular season. Read as: hockey players still have super powers and the rest of us are weak.
- Jake Guentzel, PIT — In any other situation, Jake & Bake would be the first star of the night, considering he scored a natural hat trick and then decided to add a fourth goal 10 seconds later. But, his MCL was perfectly fine (that we know of) during that natty hatty, which made it so he has 19 career-playoff goals in just two seasons.
- Nick Bonino, NSH — Perhaps Bonino saw the offensive smashing his former squad had in Philly and was inspired. Bonino had a goal and two assists to make his presence felt against the Avalanche as the Predators march on to Round 2.
With four of five games going to overtime, no matchup has been more exhausting than the Caps and Blue Jackets. Yet we can’t stop watching. Washington has won four straight, and finally won in D.C. on Saturday, the first time the home team won in this anything-but-normal series. Columbus is hoping to even this series and force a Game 7 in search of its first series win in franchise history, while the Caps are trying to get this over with so they can move on to give us the Caps-Penguins matchup that would likely be as dramatic as this one. After starting the postseason on the bench, Braden Holtby has been the difference-maker for the Caps in their wins. Whether his benching was for punishment or motivation, Washington should probably treat it as the latter if it wants to prove they really are a playoff team worth committing to.
Apparently road teams are the formidable forces in these here Stanley Cup Playoffs and Toronto surprised many with a tough battle on Saturday in its 4-3 win in Boston. But if the Bruins play anything like they did in the third period in Game 5, the Maple Leafs need to do more than just protect any potential lead they might garner. In order to force a Game 7, Toronto needs to stay disciplined late in the game (#tbt to four players being stuffed into the penalty box at once in Game 5).