Marcus Semien beats Guardians with two homers; Cleveland falls 6-3 to Rangers in doubleheader nightcap

CLEVELAND, Ohio — It turns out the cure for a collapsing Marcus Semien is a doubleheader in Cleveland. The $175 million Texas infielder accumulated three homers among his six hits on the day, including two solo shots in the nightcap as the Rangers earned a split by giving the Guardians a 6-3 loss at Progressive Field. After tonight their record win in Tuesday's opener, the Guardians slipped... (Author: Gardener)

Marcus SemienCLEVELAND, Ohio — It turns out the cure for a collapsing Marcus Semien is a doubleheader in Cleveland. The $175 million Texas infielder accumulated three homers among his six hits on the day, including two solo shots in the nightcap as the Rangers earned a split by giving the Guardians a 6-3 loss at Progressive Field. Texas Rangers catcher Jonah Heim is congratulated in the dugout after hitting a solo homer in front of Cleveland Guardians starter Kirk McCarty in the fourth inning during Game 2 of a doubleheader June 7, 2022 at progressive field. Cleveland is 5-3 in four doubleheaders this season. Semien, who showed signs of breaking out of an earlier season slump on Texas' arrival, set a team record for hitting in a doubleheader and has scored in nine of his last 12 games to lift his average from .177 to .221 . Texas Rangers midfielder Eli White makes a sliding catch of a line drive off the bat from Cleveland Guardians third baseman Jose Ramirez in the fourth inning during game 2 of a doubleheader, June 7, 2022, at progressive field. Guardians manager Terry Francona said one of Cleveland's biggest concerns with a good hitter is that the dips will eventually even out. "You've heard me tell me all along about our guys, they're getting their level and it's fun to watch," Francona said. Semien capitalized on Guardians rookie left-hander Kirk McCarty, who made his first career start after joining the club as the 27th man for the twinbill. McCarty, who allowed four runs, including two homers, in three innings in his first major league appearance on April 24 against the Yankees, gave Cleveland more of the same in his second game. He worked around a leadoff hit by Semien in the first but ran into trouble in the second when Ezequiel Duran and Nathaniel Lowe hit base with an out. McCarty tricked Charlie Culberson into sending a potential double play grounder to third, which José Ramírez set up and threw to second to force Lowe. But Ernie Clement's relay shot initially skipped Owen Miller for a mistake that allowed Duran to score from second place to a 1-0 lead. Francona admitted that Cleveland asked a lot of McCarty in his first big league start, especially against a Texas team that ranked third in the AL in slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers (.435). "He made some mistakes with changes that he gave up and he had some deeper counts," Francona said. Cleveland Guardians left fielder Oscar Mercado runs down a long fly ball off Texas Rangers Corey Seager's bat at progressive field June 7, 2022 in the first inning during Game 2 of a double header. Texas added a run in the second on Semien's second home run of the day. The infielder, who signed a seven-year deal during the offseason, has hit six home runs in his last 11 games after a drought early in the 43-game season. Texas Rangers midfielder Eli White holds up his glove for the umpires after scoring for a line drive in front of the bat of Cleveland Guardians third baseman Jose in the first inning during game 2 of a doubleheader, June 7, 2022, at progressive field Ramirez, dived. McCarty (L, 0-1, 10.29 ERA) fell victim to the longball again in the fourth when Jonah Helm went deep to open the frame for his seventh and Lowe fired a two-barrel shot into the stands for his sixth. He suffered the loss after playing four innings and allowing five runs (four earned) on eight hits with no walks and two strikeouts. Meanwhile, Rangers left-hander Taylor Hearn (4-4, 5.40) was dominant through 5 2/3 innings, scattering four Guardians hits while dodging five of the first seven batters he faced vacated. He got help from his defense, including a couple of dive catches from midfielder Eli White that robbed Ramírez of extra bases in the first and fourth. Texas Rangers starting pitcher Taylor Hearn throws the first inning against the Cleveland Guardians during Game 2 of a doubleheader, June 7, 2022, at progressive field. "(Ramírez) hit the ball four or five times, he could have been 5-on-8 with five doubles or a treble," Francona said. White also robbed pinch hitter Andrés Giménez of extra bases with a catch against the midfield wall in the ninth game. Cleveland reached Hearn in sixth with an RBI single from Amed Rosario and a two-run single that saw Oscar Gonzalez load Texas reliever Dennis Santana with the bases, cutting the deficit to 5-3. Gonzalez, who is playing in his 11th career game, reached base due to an error in the second and hits .372 with five RBI after winning a pair of doubles in Tuesday's first contest. Texas Rangers midfielder Eli White bounces back on the warning lane and starts in the first inning during Game 2 of a doubleheader, 7. Semien opened the eighth place with a solo home run against Anthony Gose. It was Gose's third allowed home run in 13 appearances. He continued hitting the side to finish the inning. Cleveland Guardians relief pitcher Anthony Gose looks over the outfield where Texas Rangers second baseman Marcus Semien hit a solo homer in the eighth inning during game 2 of a doubleheader, June 7, 2022, in progressive field. Next: The streak concludes on Wednesday when the Guardians send right-hander Shane Bieber (3-3, 12/3) to the mound against Texas and right-hander Dane Dunning (1-3, 11/4). The first pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. at Progressive Field.


How the Rangers-Lightning series went 2-2 and what's next

It's now a best-of-three as teams return to New York. Here are five key takeaways from the first four games. (Author: Gardener)

2The Tampa Bay Lightning won Games 3 and 4 at home to end their Eastern Conference Finals series 2-2 against the New York Rangers. In doing so, they looked a lot like back-to-back Stanley Cup champions: controlling the game, prevailing in the clutch and delivering superstar performances from winger Nikita Kucherov, center Steven Stamkos and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. Game 3 was a 3-2 madness, winger Ondrej Palat scoring the winning goal 42 seconds before overtime. Game 4 was a more dominant performance, with Lightning defense and forecheck stalling Rangers in a 4-1 win. "We're one of three teams left here. And we want to show we can beat the best,” Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba said. “We believe we are a rising team. We want to play those games.” With the series moving back to New York, here are five takeaways from the Eastern Conference Finals: Lightning coach Jon Cooper felt Vasilevskiy was affected by the team's nine-day hiatus between beating the Florida Panthers and Game 1 vs. the Rangers. The much-anticipated goalkeeper duel between former Russian national team-mates got off to a rather lopsided start. In Games 1 and 2, Vasilevskiy, the Lightning's 2021 playoff MVP, recorded a .826 percent save with an average of 4.80 clean sheets and minus 3.86 goals that held up better-than-expected at 5-on-5 became. Shesterkin, who is expected to win the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender this season, had an excellent .964 save percentage in Rangers' 5-on-5 opening win. The script turned around in Tampa Bay. Vasilevskiy didn't allow an equal goal, posting a combined save rate of .953 in his two wins. Shesterkin, no slouch, had a .933 percent save in 5-on-5 and a .926 percent save overall in Tampa Bay. "He's getting his mojo back," Cooper said. "Now that he's played a few games and looks great." However, Rangers felt they hadn't challenged him enough in Games 3 and 4. In fact, there was too much hesitation in their game. "It didn't give second or third chances in its first two home games, it moved east to west, across the ice and got the puck off the stick in under half a second. Every goalie in the world struggles with a puck that going east/west has to fight through traffic and then when it gets published on the web they can't anticipate it. It gives us our best chance," said forward Chris Kreider. "To a man, I think we can say we all got a pass tonight, got it, put our heads up and tried to find a point rather than give it away quickly. Even if he makes a save, the rebound will be hard to control a pass like that. We've had such success in the first couple of games," he said. What motivated Cooper to drop Anthony CIrelli off their top line and slot him between wingers Brandon Hagel and Alex Killorn for Game 3? "You stop," he said. Power goals during Rangers' two wins at Madison Square Garden. The Lightning had the last change at home. In Game 3, the Cirelli line was plus 19 on shot attempts; In Game 4 the shot attempts were even 15-15. But in both games, they kept Rangers' top scorers off the board 5-5. "It's a good line. We're playing," said Zibanejad. Killorn credited Cirelli, one of the NHL's top defensive centers, as a key factor in Zibanejad's slowdown. "As a line, we keep it pretty simple. We do our best to get pucks behind their defenders, cliche as it sounds. In situations like this, all three of us are pretty good at protecting the puck deep. As a line, if we get them defending a good third of the game, that's successful for us in what we're trying to do," said Killorn. Rangers need to find a way to get their top line away from this pesky trio in Game 5. The Rangers power play continues to be at an all-time high. Artemi Panarin's Game 4 power play goal was her 17th postseason on 53 occasions - her 32.1% conversion rate is the best in the Stanley Cup playoffs in 18 games. Rangers have now scored a power-play goal in eight of their last nine postseason games. It begins with Adam Fox at the blue line, joining the Colorado Avalanche's Cale Makar - not coincidentally the second best powerplay team in the world's Stanley Cup Playoffs - as the NHL's top young quarterbacks. “He's cunning and extremely deceptive. You have to defend him differently than other guys," Cooper said. "He doesn't have the hardest shot in the world but he knows how to put it through and that can be even more dangerous. He knows what he's shooting at - he's not necessarily trying to score, but he knows he will position a puck for someone to score. He keeps pucks inside. And he always seems to be in the right place. He's a prototypical quarterback up there. "Rather than trying to take down Fox, Lightning is focusing on disrupting two other players on the Rangers' power play: Panarin, who skillfully distributes the puck, and Zibanejad, who loves to one-timer in the 'Ovi Spot' on the power play "We can keep the puck a little less out of Panarin's hands and a pass or two down goes to Zibanejad," Cooper said. The Lightning coach believes they can hold their own against this strong unit. "It's a tricky one power play. But in the end there's no one better against us than they've been all year," he said. "They've been 25% [in the regular season], which is a hell of a power play. But we're hoping to keep them on less than in the regular season. But who matters? Rangers picked up a serious injury breaks in the first two rounds -- just ask any Pittsburgh Penguins or Carolina Hurricanes fan and they'll give it emphatic acknowledgment by Rangers coach Gerard Gallant kept saying he expected center Ryan Strome, who suffered a lower body injury in Game 3, to be available for Game 4. He wasn't, and Gallant now calls him "daily," with center Filip Chytil arguably the most important Player in Rangers' dynamic 'kid line', left Game 4 in the second half with an upper-body injury Gallant said Chytil "should be fine, but we'll have to wait and see." Center Barclay Goodrow, who blocked a shot with his foot in G Ame 3, managed to play in Game 4. At least one Rangers player appears to be working his way back: forward Sammy Blais, who has been out since November 14, 2021 with a cruciate ligament rupture. He ran in a regular jersey during practice before Game 4. Gallant still calls him a long shot to play in the conference finals. “Every team struggles with injuries. We like the depth in our team. I think we can do it and overcome injuries," Trouba said. But we need to be able to play without them. "Meanwhile, the Lightning are still waiting for star center Brayden Point to return after winning Game 7 left the first round against the Maple Leafs with a lower body injury. He's been skating regularly and there's still hope he'll return this round. "When it's seven, the optimism lingers. When it's five, it gets a little dicey," Cooper said. Well, it's going to be at least six. Finally, no stopping — or panicking — in N.Y. Game 5 is back Thursday at the Madison Square Garden, with the series tied 2-2."We have to be positive. It will be nice to see her again," Panarin said. The Rangers winger said the losses in Tampa would make his team "hungrier and angrier" heading home. I don't think we've lost our confidence, hungrier next game," Panarin said. You should be confident: Rangers are on an eight-game winning streak in New York, with their only post-season home loss in three-game overtime 1 came about against the Penguins in the opening round.They were simply a different team home and away in their Stanley Cup playoff run.At Madison Square Garden, they average 4.22 goals per game and give 2.22 goals per Playing on; Away, Rangers are averaging 2.44 goals per game and conceding 3.67 goals per game."I'm hoping it's going to be a homer streak. That's how it looks so far. We're pretty good in our building, they are pretty good in their build," Gallant said. Like his players, Gallant believes Rangers can go home confident. Just don't be overconfident. "They'd better stay calm, but they'd better go out there and play harder," he said. We have the home ice cream. But we have to play better."


Colorado Avalanche won the Western Conference and bettors conceded

NHL Betting: Colorado Avalanche won the Western Conference and bettors cashed (Author: Gardener)

Colorado AvalancheThe Colorado Avalanche ended their win over the Edmonton Oilers Monday night in the Western Conference Finals when Artturi Lehkonen scored a 1-19 into overtime. Winning the conference is certainly an achievement for any team. Colorado is in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 2001. Colorado has been the Stanley Cup favorite since preseason, which of course means they were also favored to win in the West. Throughout the season at BetMGM bettors have been chalking up and now they're raking in the Avalanche. Colorado winning the conference was a bad result for sports betting, and if it wins the Stanley Cup, it will be even worse. The Avalanche are currently -200 to win everything. The Avalanche opened the season as a short +220 favorite to win the Western Conference. They were -250 favorites to win the conference finals. At BetMGM, nearly 42% of bets placed this season helped Colorado win the Western Conference. Edmonton received just over 19% of the bets. Calgary, St. Louis and Minnesota received between 7 and 10% of the bets. It's even more amazing when you look at the season-long bets based on the amount of money wagered. Almost 62% of the money bets were in Colorado. Only Edmonton, Calgary and Minnesota received more than five percent of the bets. Artturi Lehkonen's Game 4 overtime winner sent the Colorado Avalanche to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Avalanche did a lot for their bettors in the Conference Finals. Colorado has a 12-2 record in these playoffs, winning two of their first three series. They will also be considered big favorites in the Stanley Cup finals. Colorado has been considered one of the best teams in the league for a number of seasons, but it often takes a few years of playoff disappointment to get them over the hill. Tampa Bay lost in the 2015 Cup Finals and then lost in the 2016 and 2018 Conference Finals before eventually winning the Cup in 2020. Avalanche fans and bettors are hoping this is the year Colorado conquers its own demons. The Eastern Conference is yet to be decided as the New York Rangers have a 2-1 lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Conference Finals. However, the Lightning are -175 favorites for Tuesday night's series. Still, Rangers are currently -150 favorites to win the series. Both Tampa Bay and New York were the two most popular bets to win the conference in the futures market, both in terms of the number of bets and money wagered. The Rangers got more singles bets, but the Lightning got more money. New York opened 12-1 to win the conference while Lightning were just +350. The Rangers had better odds than the Lightning at every step, including early in that series where Tampa Bay opened as a -175 favorite. Rangers will have a tough time as long as Igor Shesterkin plays the way he is currently playing. In this series, Shesterkin has a saving percentage of .943. Goalies are king in the NHL playoffs, and no one is currently playing at the level of the Rangers goalie. No matter who comes from the East, the Colorado Avalanche will be favorites in the Stanley Cup Finals. Currently, Colorado is -200 to lift Lord Stanley's trophy. Over the course of the season, the Avalanche received 26% of the bets and 32% of the bets to win the cup. Tampa Bay is second in both categories, taking 9.6% of the bets and 11.5% of the money. The Avalanche are big favorites to make it and they get a lot of support from the betting public. The Rangers currently have +375 to win everything while the Lightning are +450. No matter who Colorado's opponents are in the finals, the odds makers will be rooting for them as the Avalanche is currently the biggest drag on sports betting at BetMGM.


Colorado Avalanche wins attrition and reaches Stanley Cup finals

The final is at least a week away, which could allow the Avalanche to get their starting goaltender and other players healthy. (Author: Gardener)

ColoradoAfter Nazem Kadri was out with an injury, Colorado's Mikko Rantanen moved into the middle to take his place and took a couple of hits on the backs of his legs from Edmonton's Duncan Keith, who sent him onto the ice. He later scored the go-ahead goal in a back-and-forth Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, which the Avalanche won to sweep the Oilers out of the playoffs and play for the Stanley Cup. The Avalanche didn't come out of the series unscathed, but with Edmonton star Leon Draisaitl running on one good leg and defenseman Darnell Nurse recovering from a hip injury, they face the New York Rangers or defend backs Back champions Tampa Bay Lightning in next week's cup final. "It's a battle of attrition," said Jared Bednar in his fifth season as Colorado's coach. "No one gets through without going through a few ups and downs and ebbs and flows to streaks, injuries and adversity, and it seems like the teams that get through it best are usually the ones that end up -- or at least get into it Finals are coming.” After defeating Connor McDavid and the Oilers in four games, the start of this Finals is at least a week away, if not more. While Kadri's left thumb injury makes him a long shot at returning, the extra time-out could allow the Avalanche to mend starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper and other players before they face their biggest playoff task yet. The west final, spanning five or more games, would have risked more injuries for Colorado after winger Andre Burakovsky missed time to block a shock and each shift provided another opportunity for an extra shot in areas without padding was. "A week off will help us with the battered players we have," Rantanen said. We also had a week off after the first round so it's nothing new for us.” Being in the final is new for this core of Nathan MacKinnon, captain Gabriel Landeskog, Rantanen, Norris Trophy finalist and defender Cale Makar and the gray-haired blue liner Erik Johnson. Captaining the '96 and '01 championship teams was Joe Sakic, now in his eighth season as general manager and ninth as head of front office, Landeskog assembled the Avalanche to field them around, and he and MacKinnon both put hands on but didn't lead them across the ice. We're making our own history here," Makar said. "Whatever these guys, the leadership group on our team, have decided, I know it was the right decision is." There was no toothless smile in the team picture with the trophy and NHL Assistant Commissioner Bill Daly, and celebrations for the Avalanche were muted.” Everyone is obviously excited about the opportunity ahead, but I don't get the feeling that everyone is happy," said Bednar. "Everyone is happy and it's good, but that's not why we started the season. That wasn't our approach at the beginning and it's certainly very difficult to get here to come, but our guys are already kind of focused and we'll be itching to go here soon.” First, Rangers and Lightning need to settle the Eastern Conference Finals to see who's next for Colorado, which already has home field advantage "It doesn't matter at all from this series," Rantanen said.


Colorado Avalanche defeats the Edmonton Oilers to reach the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 2001

The Colorado Avalanche made a furious comeback in the third period, winning in overtime to defeat the Edmonton Oilers in a 6-5 Game 4 win. (Author: Gardener)

the Edmonton OilersThe Colorado Avalanche reached the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since winning the 2001 championship on Monday, shattering their reputation as a highly talented team that failed in the playoffs. They made a furious third-half comeback, winning in overtime with a goal from Artturi Lehkonen who defeated the Edmonton Oilers in a 6-5 Game 4 win. Lehkonen, then with Montreal, also put the Canadiens last in the finals of the season with an overtime goal. The Colorado Avalanche celebrate after the Edmonton Oilers won 6-5 with Artturi Lehkonen's overtime goal in Game 4. The Avalanche meet the Tampa Bay Lightning-New York Rangers series winner. The Rangers lead the Eastern Conference best-of-seven finals Tuesday (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN) in Tampa 2-1 in Game 4. From NFL games to college sports scores, all the top sports news you need to know every day. Colorado overcame deficits of 3-1 and 4-2 with goals from Devon Toews, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen to take the lead before Zack Kassian forced overtime. Cale Makar, who scored in the first period, had four assists including Lehkonen's winner. Although the Avalanche stars dominated in settling Game 4, it was the moves made at the close that helped make Colorado the Western Conference champion. General manager Joe Sakic, the team's 2001 captain, brought in defender Josh Manson to bolster the blue line and brought in forwards Lehkonen, Nico Sturm and Andrew Cogliano to help with penalties. Lehkonen had two assists ahead of his winner. Cogliano had a key lockout on Monday night but appeared to injure his hand while playing. The newcomers, along with stars MacKinnon, Makar, Landeskog and Rantanen, formed a powerhouse that took 14 games to get past the Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and Oilers. Defenseman Sam Girard was injured in the second round and No. 2 center Nazem Kadri missed Game 4 after being pushed onto the boards in Game 3, costing Oilers Forward a one-game suspension. TSN reported that Kadri has had thumb surgery and his status for the cup final is uncertain. "Naz has been one of our best players all season, clutch guy," MacKinnon told TNT. Rangers came out of Sunday's 3-2 Game 3 loss with a battered center depth, but head coach Gerard Gallant is hoping neither Barclay Goodrow nor Ryan Strome will ever be absent. Strome's lower body injury came in his first shift of the second period when he was bumped slightly from behind by Lightning forward Ondrej Palat and appeared to plant awkwardly on his right leg. He came out for another 36-second shift but couldn't continue beyond that. Goodrow was injured during the third period when he blocked a shot by Victor Hedman. "It hurt a little but Barclay is a competitor," said Gallant. Winnipeg Jets forward Kyle Connor has won the Lady Byng Trophy, awarded to the NHL's finest player. The league announced the honor Monday night before Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. Connor had the second-lowest number of minor penalties in the regular season. He was only penalized twice in more than 1,700 minutes of ice time that included regular shorthanded changes and matchups against top offensive opponents. It's his first time winning the Lady Byng. Last year's winner, Carolina defenseman Jaccob Slavin, was voted second by the Professional Hockey Writers Association. This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Colorado Avalanche conquers the Edmonton Oilers to reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 2001


Avalanche rushes back to oust the Edmonton Oilers in overtime and returns to the Stanley Cup Finals

EDMONTON, Alberta – 14 games, 12 wins. Western Conference champions with just two losses along the way. The Avalanche rallied Monday to complete their second win in three best-of-seven series. They defeated the Edmonton Oilers 6-5 in overtime and advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since winning in 2001. "I'm proud of the boys," said Avs coach Jared Bednar. "It is ... (Author: Gardener)

AvalancheThe Avalanche rallied Monday to complete their second win in three best-of-seven series. They defeated the Edmonton Oilers 6-5 in overtime and advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since winning in 2001. "I'm proud of the boys," said Avs coach Jared Bednar. "It's just resilience, faith, guys just wanting to win." Winger Artturi Lehkonen hit OT with a 1:19 rebound in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals to cap a furious rally. "When I saw the puck go in I was just so happy and now we have a chance to play for the trophy every kid dreams of," said Avs defender Erik Johnson, 34, the oldest member of a franchise. which ended with a league-low 22 wins in 2016–17. “To have this opportunity – so we're excited. I'm excited. So excited." Lehkonen batted a high shot from defender Cale Makar and the puck hit goalie Mike Smith. Smith's contact negated a possible whistle for a high stick and Lehkonen smacked the rebound into an open net. Makar was involved in five goals and scored that first."We had really good resilience in that third period," said left wing and team captain Gabe Landeskog, who hit the Avs 4-3 in a back-and-forth stretch section similar to Game 1. Colorado will face each other face winners from the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals The Avs could take another week-long break between games like they did after beating Nashville in the first round."It's great," said Center Nathan MacKinnon, who pared it 4-4. Also after the third, we went into the dressing room before overtime and just said, 'Hey guys, we're reporting s for this great comeback. In the 4-4 tie, Avalanche center Mikko Rantanen scored a 5-13 power play goal in the third period, Colorado's first lead since going 1-0. But less than two minutes later, Oilers winger Zach Kassian lunged at a loose puck in the crease to forge another tie. Landeskog and MacKinnon put pucks behind Smith at 8:58 and 1:30 to tie it 4-4. Landeskog netted the puck in a moment of chaos in the crease and MacKinnon defeated Smith with a superb wrist shot. The Avs held a 1-0 lead and dominated the game early in the second half before the Oilers equalized with a Zach Hyman goal and then scored twice 1:57 late in the frame to give a 3-1 lead enter the third. Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins both backhanded goaltender Pavel Francouz at the breakaway. Leon Draisaitl passed Hyman with a diagonal pass through the neutral zone and Nugent-Hopkins benefited from a defensive end turnover from Avs defender Devon Toews. Just over a minute after Nugent-Hopkins scored, Colorado forward Alex Newhook shot the puck from the defensive end for a minor delay in play. And 52 seconds later, Connor McDavid defeated Francouz with a wrist shot on the power play. In the first minute of the third period, Toews made up for his costly turnover by scoring to put Colorado on goal. His shot from the high slot ricocheted off Edmonton defenseman Cody Ceci and behind Smith. But Edmonton reclaimed a two-goal lead by capitalizing on a 3-on-2 onslaught, with McDavid dropping the puck for Draisaitl and Draisaitl hitting Hyman for a one-off smash. Makar opened the scorer. It came during the game's first power play as a result of Kassian's slashing at Avs defender Jack Johnson. Lehkonen sent the puck low too high to Makar, who found a lane and smashed the puck high over Smith's glove-side shoulder. I'm really proud of them for what they've achieved so far," Bednar said. “Our first goal was the regular season and then rounds 1, 2 and 3, sort of a five-step process so we can be the best team we can be. To get our habits through the regular season and find a way to move forward and keep trying to get better — that's what we did.” Goalie Darcy Kuemper, who injured himself early in Game 1 of this series, was called for the game released and supported Francouz. ... Mikko Rantanen, a natural right winger, replaced the injured Nazem Kadri as the Avs' second-line center. Edmonton again started with 11 forwards and an additional defender (Kris Russell).


Colorado Avalanche defeats Oilers and advances to Stanley Cup Finals

Artturi Lehkonen scored a 1:19 in overtime as Colorado capped a four-game win over Edmonton in the Western Conference Finals (Author: Gardener)

Colorado AvalancheArtturi Lehkonen sends a team to the Stanley Cup final for the second year in a row. Lehkonen scored a 1-19 goal in overtime and Colorado rallied to beat the Edmonton Oilers 6-5 on Monday night, ending a four-game win in the Western Conference Finals and promoting the Avalanche for the first time since 2001 again in the Stanley Cup final. Colorado meets the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals between the New York Rangers and two-time Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning. Game 4 takes place in Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Lehkonen repeated his performance from last season when he scored in OT in Game 6 to send the Montreal Canadiens to the finals against eventual repeat champion Tampa Bay. "Cale (Makar) took the shot," said Lehkonen. Lehkonen is the second player in NHL history and the first in 83 years to score in overtime to send his club to the championship series more than once in his career. "Everyone knows how good he is, how resilient he is," said Mikko Rantanen of his colleague Finn Lehkonen, who was acquired from Colorado at the close. “He checks, he defends hard, he kills penalties, plays on the power play, he scores big goals, goes in the hard areas. It's fun to watch and I'm really glad we got him and he showed why we gave so much for him.” Cale Makar, Devon Toews, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Rantanen also scored for Colorado . "Our main thing is just trying to be resilient and making sure we play the same game every night," Makar said. Zach Hyman scored twice for the Oilers. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Connor McDavid and Zack Kassian also scored for Edmonton. "I don't think anyone necessarily expected us to be here," said Draisaitl. “With that in mind, we expected to be here, we want to be here and we want to be further. McDavid sees the Oilers' playoff run as a step in the right direction. "It feels like footsteps," McDavid said. You become a playoff team, then most years you get there and they go a little bit away. They learn that lesson and then it's their time to win. You're looking at a Colorado team that's been in this situation many, many times, and obviously they're knocking on the door right now. The teams scored six goals combined in the third half -- four by Colorado, who came back from a 2-4 deficit despite going 15-13 up. "It was definitely a great comeback win," said Lehkonen. "We talked at the second break about how we just need to find our game and pull through with it." Rantanen looked to complete Colorado's comeback, scoring a power-play goal with just over five minutes remaining to give the Avalanche a 5-4 advantage. But the Oilers stormed back and forced overtime when Kassian scored at 16:38 to level it to 5-all. Lehkonen scored 1:19 into overtime, a goal that stood for a high stick after checking. The Avalanche improved to 11-2 in the playoffs, including a perfect 7-0 away. Only six other teams in NHL history have strung together at least seven straight road wins in a postseason. "I've been waiting for a chance to play a trophy for a long time," said veteran defender Erik Johnson. "I saw the puck in, I was just so happy that it went in and we went through and now we have a chance to take the trophy." Colorado opened the scoring at 3:46 on a power play, as Lehkonen Hyman stole the puck and fed Makar before firing a shot through traffic and hitting Smith's left post to score his fifth goal of the playoffs. Trailing 1-0 after the first period, the Oilers got underway at 7:39 of the second period when Hyman took a pass from Draisaitl out of the rush and backhanded Francouz past the glove for his 10th goal in the to make the playoffs. Nugent-Hopkins gave Edmonton its first lead at 4:57 p.m. when Toews and MacKinnon crossed their signals. The Oilers center jumped on the turnover and hit Francouz with another backhand pull - this time to the blocker side - with his sixth as Draisaitl, who was playing with an injured leg, was treated after limping onto the bench. Colorado rookie Alex Newhook was booed for delaying the game for shooting the puck over the glass late in the period, and Edmonton made the visitors pay as McDavid scored his 10th goal of the postseason and 31st point and Francouz defeated by another Draisaitl feed for a 3-1 lead at 1:06 in the semifinals. McDavid and Draisaitl become the eighth pair of teammates in NHL history to each score 30 points in a playoff. Colorado came back 31 seconds after the third when Toews' shot hit Oilers defenseman Cody Ceci up front as he struggled with MacKinnon. Hyman scored his second goal of the night and 11th overall in a 4-on-2 onslaught, sending an ankle shot off a Draisaitl setup at 3:55 past Francouz for a 4-2 lead. Landeskog brought Colorado back to the front at 8:58 a.m. in a mad scramble after Smith flipped the puck. Edmonton got a power play with less than nine minutes left and wanted to catch up by two, but Draisaitl's shot off the side of Francouz's goal was as close as the Oilers would come. MacKinnon equalized on his 11th with a high shot. Smith had 6:30 left in regulation, setting the stage for Rantanen's opening goal, his fifth of the playoffs. But Kassian scored his second goal, putting a puck in the crease after Draisaitl's first shot at 3:22 to the left. Colorado got past the Oilers in four straight games despite losing Game 1 goaltender Darcy Kuemper and winger Andre Burakovsky to injuries before Kadri went down on Saturday. To make that happen, you've done some good things and I think we can't lose sight of that, but it takes a lot more to find a way to reach the Stanley Cup Finals," Edmonton -Coach Jay Woodcroft said.


Avalanche into the cup final for the first time since 2001

The Colorado Avalanche worked overtime but managed to outlast the Edmonton Oilers in a rollercoaster Game 4 on Monday night, securing their second win of the postseason and a long-awaited berth in the Stanley Cup Finals. (Author: Gardener)

AvalancheEDMONTON, Alberta — The Colorado Avalanche is heading into its first Stanley Cup final since 2001 after beating the Edmonton Oilers 6-5 in overtime in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals on Monday. And that place in the cup final really felt like it had been a long time coming. After shaking hands with the Oilers, the Avs had their on-ice moment with the Clarence S. Captain Gabriel Landeskog, who was drafted runner-up by Colorado in 2011 and has been with the Avalanche ever since, didn't want to miss out on any of the accumulated experience considering how far the team has come in its career. "I would probably be lying if I told you that one day we would be here in the 2016-17 season," Landeskog said, referring to the last year Colorado didn't make the playoffs. The job isn't done yet and it's going to be another tough streak, but we'll get some rest here and get ready to go the longest-tenured players. Johnson remembers well the lean years Colorado fought to finally reach that peak. "The last time I came to Colorado was that the team was dead," Johnson said. You never know when that opportunity will come along. It's "I've played [857] games, 15 years. I've been waiting a long time to get the opportunity to play a trophy. I checked the puck, I was just so happy. Landeskog also shared that emotion, recounting the bond he and Johnson have formed over the years. "He's been there since my first training camp," said Landeskog. And now, eleven years later, we're sitting here going to the [Finals]." There was no guarantee Colorado would get the job done in Game 4. Edmonton had two multigoal leads Monday, including a 4-2 lead in the third period.It was in that last frame that the Avalanche really got rolling, however, with three unanswered goals - from Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen.When the Avs led 5-4, Zack Kassian grabbed another for the Oilers to switch Once there, Artturi Lehkonen needed just 1:19 to end Edmonton's hopes of reaching the cup final with his first goal and third point of the night team into a cup final (he did the same thing last year when the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in the conference finals) made Lehkonen one of only two NHL players of all time made the feat (along with Gordie Drillon, who made it twice with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1938 and 1939). Lehkonen has been a key addition to the Avalanche lineup since being acquired from Montreal at close for potential Justin Barron and a second-round pick. On Monday, MacKinnon said that was a fraction of what Lehkonen was worth. Cale Makar had five points in Game 4, including an assist for Lehkonen's winner, and it felt like the game had taken ages to develop. "When I saw him with the puck up front, I said [Lehkonen] it felt like a minute when he had it on his racquet," Makar said. I'm like, 'Will this go online?' That was a bit interesting, but definitely exciting. The third-half deficit could have been enough to shake Colorado's confidence in finishing off the Oilers. But the Avalanche were a resilient team throughout the playoffs. "We had a couple of goals going into the third game and we're going to keep going," said Rantanen. We just have to get through the second quarter and get over it and we know if we play our game we can create chances and get back into games. However, the Oilers gave Colorado everything it could take. And Leon Draisaitl played a big part in that, despite being far less than 100 percent healthy. Draisaitl has struggled with various ailments throughout the postseason, which have evidently limited his mobility on the ice. And then Edmonton's top line skater was injured again in the second half of Game 4 as he squirmed onto the bench in apparent agony but refused to leave the game. He barely missed a shift before adding an assist for Connor McDavid's goal, one of Draisaitl's four points that night. Draisaitl now trails Wayne Gretzky by three plus points (seven) in most playoff games. "There are a lot of guys who go through painful things like this," Draisaitl said of his health. "I'm not going to do this about myself. There are a lot of guys who play through injury." Draisaitl and McDavid combined for seven points in Game 4 and finished the postseason with 32 and 33 points, respectively. Despite their efforts, Edmonton fell short of its ultimate goal. "It feels like footsteps," McDavid said. They become a playoff team. They get there most years and do some running, and they learn that lesson, and then it becomes their time to gain hip flexors. Colorado has also grappled with injuries, including Nazem Kadri. It's unclear if Kadri can return in the cup final, but at least the Avs now have time to heal the various bumps and bruises in their lineup because what comes next will be the Avalanche's biggest challenge and the wait will be well worth it , although it may be a week or more before the Eastern Conference Finals where the New York Rangers lead the Tampa Bay Lightning 2 -1 -- to conclude "It's important to try to get some rest and try getting some guys back to health," said Colorado coach Jared Bednar. Our boys should be really happy and enjoy it for a few days. It wasn't our approach in the beginning and it's certainly very difficult to get married; but our boys are already quite focused and we'll be itching to get here soon in a few days."


Why the Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Finals needs to be seen to be believed

The electrifying Avs looked dominant in all phases of the game as they defeated the Oilers. Here are five factors to keep in mind when making the finals. (Author: Gardener)

AvalancheAfter dominating three rounds of their postseason competition, the Colorado Avalanche are heading into the Stanley Cup Finals. The Avs superstars delivered as Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar both make strong arguments for Conn Smythe. But they've had an excellent performance from deep players as well, including a series-winning goal by Artturi Lehkonen in Game 4 against the Edmonton Oilers. With their second consecutive win of the postseason, it took the Avalanche just 14 games to defeat three opponents. As Colorado is one step closer to the cup, let's examine the key factors. Let's start with the facts: The elimination of Edmonton made the Avalanche only the sixth team in the last 20 seasons to win a Conference Finals series. That puts Colorado in elite company—but not necessarily on the fast track to a Stanley Cup win. Only two of those five teams—the 2009 Anaheim Ducks and the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks—won the trophy. The 2003 Ducks and 2019 Boston Bruins lost in Game 7 of their respective cup finals. The 2013 Bruins lost in Game 6. This Colorado team is a unique beast. The Avalanche swept their first-round series against the Nashville Predators without starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper being available for nearly half of it. They did the same thing in a conference final against the Oilers, relying on Pavel Francouz as seamlessly as they did Kuemper. Goaltenders can make or break a playoff run; Colorado rolled with whether Kuemper and Francouz were dominant or decent. When the Avalanche's top line didn't fire, their second and third units scored in time, or Colorado made a crucial contribution from an unlikely hero (for example, Darren Helm's goal with 5.6 seconds left in Game 6 vs. St. Louis to). punch Colorado's ticket to the conference finals). This is a team built to win. Yes, the Avalanche have impressive star-quality players. Check out the physical exertion of Andre Burakovsky, who has been injured once before in the series, early in Game 4 to get the puck out of Colorado's end. As Nathan MacKinnon so eloquently put it after Colorado's 4-2 Game 3 win over the Oilers, the Avalanche enjoy playing "boring and gross" defensive-heavy hockey as much as they enjoy scoring eight goals. When one area of ​​the team falters, another area comes through. Think back to Colorado's power play struggles early in the series against Edmonton. The Avalanche possessed the NHL's seventh-best power play in the regular season (24%), but in the first three games Colorado was 2-to-14 (14.3%) on power play, the lowest performance of any remaining team in the NHL postseason field . The Avalanche instead only dominated 5-on-5 and turned that into a real advantage, scoring 14 consistently strong goals and averaging over five goals per game in the streak. And their power play came alive in Game 4, scoring on both occasions. They don't get bogged down in thinking or playing too much, or straying from the basic structure that makes them a good team. It speaks to the confidence Colorado coach Jared Bednar clearly has in his group -- and the confidence his players have in each other -- that the Avalanche genuinely show no signs of panic, no matter how good or bad a game is going. The Tampa Bay Lightning had more than a week between their second-round win over the Florida Panthers and the start of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Rangers. The Lightning lost Game 1, 6-2. Then they lost Game 2, 3-2. The Rangers came hot after a Game 7 win over the Carolina Hurricanes and had all the momentum on their side. Will these early losses ultimately decide the fate of Tampa Bay? More importantly for Colorado, are the Avs heading into similarly choppy waters? Colorado could face several days of practice before playing another competitive game. It's not an ideal scenario, but it's one the Avalanche have already had experience in this postseason. Colorado threw Nashville overboard in Game 4 on May 9th. It didn't open the second-round series against St. Louis for eight days and still won Game 1, 3-2 in overtime. The Avalanche likely felt the effects of a layoff, but -- as mentioned above -- Colorado doesn't let adversity get bogged down. The waiting game can also be positive. As Tampa and New York rage, Nazem Kadri (with a broken thumb out) is getting closer to a potential cup final. The Avalanche doesn't need any hard exercise or workouts at this point. Colorado was 2-0 in the regular season against both Tampa Bay and New York (one of the wins against the Lightning came in a shootout). There's an argument for avoiding the Blitz just because they've been so resilient in the playoffs — overcoming a 2-0 deficit to start the Eastern Conference Finals would add to that narrative — and the psychological mojo they possess go for a three-peat. Beating the Hurricanes after losing their first two games in the second round has (rightly) given Rangers confidence. The Blueshirts shoved the Lightning around early in the conference finals and have barely lost an inch of ground since. Whichever team emerges from this series will be a formidable opponent for Colorado. And yet, with Igor Shesterkin from New York or Andrei Vasilevskiy from Tampa Bay, a world-class goalkeeper is waiting in the circle. All things being equal, Colorado can do well against either team as the Avalanche are adaptable and able to draw from different facets of their game as needed. Perhaps it comes down to avoiding Tampa Bay's mystique, which is why Colorado could — secretly — draw for the Rangers. New York's depth is strong, their goalkeeping is terrific, they're a physical group and solid defensively. Avs-Rangers would be a fantastic series. And - bonus - would give us all a new cup champion after two years of being on top for Lightning. The longer Colorado has before the next round starts, the better off Kadri will be. Broke his thumb when Evander Kane boarded it in Game 3 against Edmonton and Kadri will be motivated to take part in the first cup final of his career. Colorado will be just as hopeful of Kadri coming back. The forward has six goals and 14 points in the playoffs so far and excelled with Mikko Rantanen and Artturi Lehkonen against the Oilers. Andre Burakovsky has slipped into a second-line role for the Avalanche due to Kadri's absence and could be a good replacement there in the future. But if Colorado faces a completely healthy lineup in Tampa Bay or New York, Kadri's absence could be a bigger factor. He's also good on the faceoff circle (50.5% in the postseason), has earned big minutes on the power play (3:11 per game), and of course has a way of getting under everyone's skin. Intangibles often take center stage this time of year, and Kadri's can be especially helpful for Colorado. Jared Bednar has not commented on any player's health in the post-season, so it's unlikely he'll be providing any updates on Kadri any time soon. What we do know for sure is that Colorado is better with Kadri than without him.


The converted Rangers are the model for the team that the Flyers could have been

After years of push, push, push and all attempts to win a Stanley Cup, the team would finish eighth of eight dead last in the NHL's Metropolitan Division and amass a meager 77 points. The team would fire Vigneault and figure out what to do next. At the beginning of February 2018, the new ... (Author: Gardener)

RangersThe Flyers' Scott Laughton checks out Rangers forward Artemi Panarin during a game in April. The team was coached by Alain Vigneault, and the team was going nowhere. After years of push, push, push and all attempts to win a Stanley Cup, the team would finish eighth of eight dead last in the NHL's Metropolitan Division and amass a meager 77 points. The team would fire Vigneault and figure out what to do next. In early February 2018, the New York Rangers therefore sent a letter to their fans, signed by then-President Glen Sather and then-General Manager Jeff Gorton. "The decisions we make going forward," Gorton later told reporters, "will be based on [the] long-term approach and not trying to salvage this season." More than four years later, the Rangers are in the Eastern Conference Finals and lead 2-1 in a row over two-time Stanley Cup champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning. In the regular season, they won 52 games and accumulated 110 points, which earned them fourth place in the conference. They have a collection of dynamic forwards, one of the best defenders in the league in Adam Fox and perhaps the best goalkeeper in the league in Igor Shesterkin. The Flyers don't have those things. They don't have a dynamic offensive player, let alone a collection of them. They have Ivan Provorov, who by now should be one of the best defenders in the league, but instead was a player whose quality of play completely depends on the quality of his blue line partner. They finished last in the Metropolitan this season, eighth out of eight, and it will likely be a long time before they climb out of those depths. The Flyers' Joel Farabee can't stop Rangers' Andrew Copp from scoring an empty goal in New York's 4-0 win at the Wells Fargo Center on April 13. No end in sight: Why the Flyers' 47-year drought isn't showing any signs of an end soon It might seem like a small gesture for a franchise to announce that it's rebuilding as the Rangers did with this letter . If anything, Sather and Gorton risked alienating the team's fans by saying, Hey, don't expect us to be good for a while. The Flyers have attempted to walk the line between rebuilding and competing, and they have suffered from their indecisiveness. In July 2016, the Rangers traded forward (and future Flyer) Derick Brassard and a seventh-round draft pick to the Ottawa Senators. In return, New York got a second-round pick and a player who has been a disappointment since the Senators drafted him No. 6 in the 2011 draft. That player was Mika Zibanejad, and that trade has proven to be one of the most one-sided in recent NHL history. Brassard, as he generally was throughout his career, was a solid player for the Senators, who advanced 16-17 to the Eastern Conference Finals, losing to the Penguins in seven games. But Zibanejad has become a star at Rangers. He's averaged 38 goals per 82 games over his last four seasons, and he has 10 goals and 24 points in his first 17 games this postseason. More importantly, Zibanejad was just 23 when the senators traded him for a player they believed could now help them win. Those kinds of moves -- abandoning long-term promises for potential short-term gains -- defined the Flyers for years, and they're still paying the price. They showed patience with a player they had invested in. After Rangers picked Chris Kreider as the No. 19 draft pick in the 2009 draft, they had to wait three years for him to join them while he remained at Boston College. They then waited until February 2020, four months before he was due to become an unrestricted free agent, to sign him to a seven-year contract with an affordable $6.5 million annual cap. Up until then, according to a longtime NHL observer, Kreider was "a good teammate, a guy who spurted on that he could be a star but could never pull it all together." However, he has the Rangers generous for their dedication and scored 52 goals this season - including 26 on the power play, the most in the league - and another 10 so far in these playoffs. The average game in 2021-22 featured 6.3 goals, the highest such number since 1995-96. "They do a great job of letting stars be stars," said AHL President and former NHL General Manager Scott Howson. "That's what people come for." Given these trends, it made sense for teams to risk players with top-notch offensive skills. With Kreider, Zibanejad, Fox (whom they acquired in a trade with Carolina) and Artemi Panarin (whom they signed as a free agent in 2019), the Rangers have made big strides... and bonded. The planes lack this firepower. Great players saw them as a worthwhile goal. He wasn't that excited about coming to Philadelphia. Y. wanted to play for Rangers and effectively forced the Hurricanes to trade him. Five players — Alexis Lafrenière, Filip Chytil, K'Andre Miller, Kaapo Kakko and Braden Schneider — who contributed to Rangers' postseason run were first-round picks by the team between 2017 and 2020. While New York has hoarded picks and hit on them traded the Flyers picks in the deals from Shayne Gostisbehere (a runner-up and a seventh) and Rasmus Ristolainen (a first and a runner-up), and they missed several draftees: Nolan Patrick, German Rubtsov, etc. One: With the 19th overall pick in 2018, the Flyers acquired center Jay O'Brien, who, now 22, has not yet signed with them and will remain at Boston University for one year. Three picks later, Rangers brought in defenseman K'Andre Miller, who has appeared in all 82 games this season and is averaging more than 25 minutes of ice time per game in the playoffs. Second: Shesterkin, the favorite for the Vezina Trophy, was a fourth-round pick in 2014. The Flyers had only four of their fourth-round picks in the last 11 drafts in the suit. These four players - Maksim Sushko, Connor Bunnaman, Mikhail Vorobyev and Taylor Leier - have played 146 games combined and scored five goals. None of the four are still with the Flyers organization.