Simmonds sparks Flyers' win to force Game 7

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Simmonds sparks Flyers' win to force Game 7

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They talked about a different attitude. One with a little vim and vinegar.

They talked about making Henrik Lundqvist do some work. Make some saves. Move for some rebounds.

They talked about playing the kind of Flyers hockey they played in the second half of the regular season to earn a playoff berth but hadn’t been seen yet in these playoffs.

“The passion and skating and tenacity was really good tonight,” coach Craig Berube said.

Everything came together Tuesday night in Game 6, as the Flyers thumped the Rangers 5-2 at Wells Fargo Center to set up Wednesday’s Game 7 in New York at Madison Square Garden (see Instant Replay).

“I’ve been to one in junior but never in the NHL,” Jakub Voracek said. “It’s do or die like it was today for us, just got to go and see what happens.”

The Rangers could have closed the Flyers out. Now the Flyers can close them out.

Wayne Simmonds had a big Game 6 with his first career playoff hat trick (see story). No player in the NHL had ever scored a playoff hat trick on Lundqvist until now (see video).

Who knows what’s in store for Wednesday?

“We take the positives from this and keep it rolling into [Wednesday] night,” Simmonds said. “It’s great that we’re having it back to back. The other games, we had a couple days off.

“That’s why you saw the series go one, one, one, one. Teams had time to regroup. Now we've got the momentum and can keep our foot on the pedal.”

He didn’t do it alone. Actually, the guy who carried the bulk of the load was goalie Steve Mason, who faced 36 shots and was nothing short of spectacular (see highlights).

Mason had two point-blank saves on Rick Nash and Anton Stralman. Plus, he added one enormous momentum save on Benoit Pouliot during a Rangers power play that ended seconds later with Erik Gustafsson bursting out of the penalty box for a breakaway goal that made it 3-0 and pretty much ended the game in the second period (see story).

Gustafsson was the replacement for Hal Gill who was the replacement for Nick Grossmann (ankle surgery).

“The whole game he was great and he has to be,” Berube said. “Our whole team did a much better job in the first period. We were more aggressive and got that [power-play] goal, which was huge and it put us in a good spot the rest of the game.”

He said the Flyers displayed more “passion” in this game.

“A more aggressive mindset that brings it out,” Berube added. “Our guys want to win. They brought a little more tonight, more tenacity in staying in the battles for loose pucks and blocking shots. You need that in the playoffs.”

Berube pushed the right buttons in this one with the addition of Gustafsson on defense and line changes that saw Michael Raffl on Claude Giroux’s line with Voracek and Scott Hartnell playing with Brayden Schenn and Simmonds (see 10 observations).

All those players combined for five goals and five assists for 10 points in the victory.

This win likely puts a little element of doubt in the Rangers’ minds.

This will be the Rangers' fourth Game 7 over the past three playoffs.

“Game 7s are what brings the best out in people,” the Rangers’ Brad Richards said. “It’ll be a hard-fought battle. We’re going home. We’ve had success in Game 7s, especially a lot of these guys in this room. That’s why we battled hard right to the end to get home ice.”

The Flyers feel since they won Game 2 up there, and have staked their claim all season as a team that plays best with its backs to the wall, they can do just that once again on Wednesday.

“We have a lot of character in this room and when we play a team game and the chemistry is doing very good on the ice, I think that’s when we’re successful,” Giroux said.

“Going back to the start of the year I think that’s what we were missing -- just playing as a team, everybody getting in the zone of the game and moving the puck. I think tonight was our best game of the series and hopefully it keeps going for Game 7.”

NHL Playoffs: Predators down Ducks to reach 1st Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Predators down Ducks to reach 1st Stanley Cup Final

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Different players just keep stepping up for the Nashville Predators, and now their magical postseason run has an even bigger destination: the franchise's first trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

Colton Sissons scored his third goal with 6:00 left, and the Predators eliminated the Anaheim Ducks with a 6-3 win in Game 6 on Monday night in the Western Conference finals.

"In the back of your head, you've been thinking about the Finals and then when the buzzer goes off, it's an amazing feeling," Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne said.

The Predators, who've never won even a division title in their 19-year history, came in with the fewest points of any team in these playoffs. They lost their top center, Ryan Johansen, for the playoffs after Game 4 because of emergency surgery on his left thigh. Captain Mike Fisher has missed two games with an upper-body injury.

"We went through a tremendous amount of adversity the last 72 hours losing two key guys in our lineup," Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban said. "I mean, I said it before earlier in the playoffs that this team's got tremendous amount of composure. There is so much confidence in this dressing room what we can accomplish together if we play the right way."

They've swept the West's No. 1 seed in Chicago, downed St. Louis in six in the second round and now the Pacific Division champs. Peter Laviolette is the fourth coach to take three different teams to the Final, and the first since the playoffs split into conference play in 1994.

Laviolette joked that probably means he's been fired a lot.

"Our guys know the big picture," Laviolette said of his Predators. "They understand what it is that we're trying to do here. And when that time comes, we'll be ready."

The Predators will play either defending champion Pittsburgh or Ottawa for the Stanley Cup. Game 1 is Monday.

Anaheim lost in the conference finals for the second time in three years.

"Our effort was there and we were a desperate hockey club right from the opening faceoff, and we didn't quit until they scored the second empty-net goal," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said.

Cam Fowler tied it 3-3 at 8:52 of the third for Anaheim as the Ducks tried to rally for the fifth time this season when trailing by multiple goals.

But Sissons, who scored on the third shot of the game, scored twice in a wild third period to give the Predators a 3-2 lead at 3:00 and then 4-3 three minutes later.

"I don't think I even dreamt of this moment, scoring a hat trick in the Western Conference clinching game, but I can't speak enough for just our whole group," Sissons said. "We've been through some challenges together and we stuck together no matter what, just always believed and here we are."

Austin Watson scored on Nashville's first shot and had an empty-netter with 1:34 to go. Filip Forsberg also had an empty-net goal.

Rinne made 38 saves to improve to 12-4.

Ondrej Kase scored his second career goal -- both in this series -- giving Anaheim a chance to tie the NHL record with a fifth rally when trailing by multiple goals. Chris Wagner banked the puck off Rinne's head for a goal at 5:00 of the third to keep the Ducks close.

But this has been the best postseason ever for Rinne, a three-time Vezina Trophy finalist, a stretch ranking among the NHL's best. And the 6-foot-5 Finn used his big body to turn away shot after shot even with the Ducks trying to crash the net every opportunity.

Music City buzzed all day leading up to the puck drop waiting for one of the biggest sports parties this town has ever seen.

Superstar Garth Brooks spoiled the usual mystery of who would sing the national anthem with Twitter hints hours before the game. Sure enough, his wife Trisha Yearwood became the latest to handle the honors. Former Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George waved the rally towel to crank up the fans.

That didn't even include the throngs packing the plaza outside the arena's front doors and the park across the street.

The Ducks, who came in 2-1 when facing elimination this postseason, peppered Rinne with pucks.

But they had goalie Jonathan Bernier making his first career playoff start after John Gibson was scratched with a hamstring injury. Caryle said Gibson, who went out after the first period of Game 5, was expected to play before telling them he was unavailable after skating Monday morning. Jhonas Enroth dressed as Bernier's backup.

Watson's third this postseason deflected off the left skate of Anaheim defenseman Brandon Montour just 81 seconds into the game. Sissons skated on the top line in place of Johansen. He finished a game-high plus-5.

"This one is going to sting for a while," Ducks forward Corey Perry said.

Notes
Laviolette won the Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006 and coached Philadelphia to the Final in 2010. Laviolette joins Scotty Bowman (St. Louis, Montreal, Pittsburgh and Detroit), Dick Irvin (Chicago, Toronto and Montreal) and Mike Keenan (Flyers, Chicago, Rangers) taking at least three teams to the Final. ... Sissons' hat trick was the first in a conference final clincher since Chicago's Patrick Kane in 2013 against Los Angeles. His hat trick is the second in Nashville playoff history.

NHL Notes: Desperate Senators hoping to avoid elimination

NHL Notes: Desperate Senators hoping to avoid elimination

OTTAWA, Ontario -- Guy Boucher has typically kept his team off the ice on off-days during the postseason. Not Monday.

The Ottawa coach opted for a half-hour practice ahead of Game 6 on Tuesday night to help his team "refresh" and "reload" after a 7-0 beating by Pittsburgh, one of the worst losses in team playoff history. Players thought the practice, as well as an encouraging chat beforehand, helped wipe the slate clean as they prepare for an elimination game. The Penguins lead the Eastern Conference final 3-2 and can return to the Stanley Cup Final with a win.

"We can't be sitting in our mud puddle," Boucher told The Canadian Press after practice. "We've got to get up and go."

Reloading against an opponent vying for back-to-back Stanley Cups means reverting back to strengths of the club. In Sunday's blowout loss, Boucher said, he thought his team tried to trade goals with the high-scoring Penguins -- an odd choice for a Senators team that thrives on shutting down opponents.

"If we stay away from our strengths there's no chance," Boucher said on Monday. "We're aware of that. We got slapped -- hard enough. The reality sets back in" (see full story).

NHL: Former All-Star Bill White dies at 77
CHICAGO -- Bill White, a former Chicago Blackhawks all-star defenseman and a member of Canada's 1972 Summit Series team, has died. He was 77.

The Blackhawks announced White's death Monday.

White, a Toronto native, started his career with the Los Angeles Kings in 1967 before being traded to Chicago during the 1969-70 season. He formed an imposing tandem on the Blackhawks' blue line with Pat Stapleton and helped the team reach the playoffs in all seven of his seasons in Chicago.

He appeared in six consecutive All-Star games between 1969 and 1974 and briefly served as head coach of the Blackhawks for the final 46 games of the 1976-77 season.

White finished his career with 50 goals, 215 assists and 495 penalty minutes in 604 NHL games with Los Angeles and Chicago, adding seven goals and 32 assists in 91 playoff appearances.

"The Chicago Blackhawks organization extends its thoughts and heartfelt condolences to Bill White's family as we mourn his loss," the team said. "He will be remembered as a leader, generous teammate and tough player to play against. His energetic style helped the Blackhawks see great success during his tenure with the team."

He joined Canada's squad for the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union after Game 1, finishing with a series-best plus-7 defensive rating while acting as a key part of Canada's penalty-killing unit.