Pittsburgh Pirates' Adam Frazier (26) watches the flight of a three-run home run as Atlanta Braves catcher Tyler Flowers (25) looks on in the second inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 24, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
ATLANTA -- Clint Hurdle was managing to get one run in the 10th inning.
His Pittsburgh Pirates got it, then smacked three straight homers and added six more runs, leaving their manager struggling for an explanation.
After Ngoepe's double, the Pirates put the game away with Harrison's two-run single, followed by homers from David Freese, Osuna and Jordy Mercer -- all offJosh Collmenter (0-2). Freese's homer was a two-run shot.
"You can't figure it out, you can't draw it up," Hurdle said. "It's fun to watch."
McCutchen snapped a 0-for-15 slump with a pinch-hit single to lead off the 10th.
The last time the Pirates hit three straight homers was Sept. 13, 2013, against the Cubs.
With two on and no outs in the ninth, Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte protected the lead with his leaping catch of Harrison's fly ball at the wall. Ramirez struck out Josh Bell before walking Freese, and then Ngoepe and Frazier scored on Osuna's single to left.
"We just couldn't get that last out in the ninth," said Braves manager Brian Snitker. "That last out in the ninth is tough to come by."
The Braves took the lead with four runs in the sixth and added a run in the eighth for a 5-3 lead. Jace Peterson hit a two-run double in the four-run sixth.
Julio Teheran allowed no earned runs in six innings. He entered the game with a 10.50 ERA in five home starts, compared to a 0.71 ERA in four road starts. He gave up Frazier's homer, but the runs were unearned.
Pirates: OF Gregory Polanco (strained left hamstring) ran the bases with no apparent problem before the game. He is eligible to come off the disabled list Thursday.
Braves: 3B Adonis Garcia (left Achilles tendinitis) will report to Triple-A Gwinnett for a rehab assignment this weekend. Snitker says the team wants Garcia to test the injury in three games "to make sure he's good when we get him back."
A fan was ejected after leaning over the wall down the right-field line to scoop upRio Ruiz's double in the eighth. Ruiz scored on pinch hitter Danny Santana's ground-rule double that bounced over the left-field wall. Santana ended his 0-for-18 skid with the hit.
Frazier had two hits, including the homer , and a career-high four walks. He reached base six times, also a career high.
The Braves rested overworked closer Jim Johnson and setup man Arodys Vizcaino, leaving Ramirez and Collmenter to pitch late with the game on the line. The two combined to give up nine runs and nine hits. Ramirez blew the chance for his first save.
"It is a little different to be honest," Ramirez said. "I was just trying to execute the pitches but they weren't going my way."
Pirates: RHP Ivan Nova (4-3) has not allowed an earned run over 13 innings in two career starts against the Braves. His only decision against Atlanta came in a 5-4 win in the Pirates' home opener on April 7.
Braves: RHP Bartolo Colon (2-4) will start one day after celebrating his 44th birthday. Colon is 5-2 with a 1.94 ERA in nine career starts against Pittsburgh. Colon has struggled this season and will take a 6.38 ERA into the game.
Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with teammates Evgeni Malkin #71 and Sidney Crosby #87 after scoring a goal against Mike Condon #1 of the Ottawa Senators during the third period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena on May 21, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
OTTAWA—Before Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final, a handful of Pittsburgh Penguins were playing soccer: Bryan Rust, Nick Bonino, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby. The game was keep the ball in the air, and if it hit the ground on your watch, you’re out. Crosby and Malkin, in particular, loved the game. Malkin would interrupt the more friendly parabolas with sharpish headers, directed at specific teammates, and laugh and laugh. Crosby would dig out the ball, determined. It kept coming down to the two of them; Crosby won the last game before the actual game.
The Penguins and the Ottawa Senators will play Game 7 on Thursday night. In four of the six games in this series, the Penguins have been held to a total of four goals, all scored by their best three players, and Ottawa won three of those; in two games, the Penguins have scored a total of 10 goals, and won them both. Ottawa survived a Game 6 because their goaltender was the best player in the game. Hockey.
And now it’s Game 7, and the main dynamic of the series is clear: Pittsburgh can explode; Ottawa tries to avoid that, any way it can. As Ottawa’s Clarke MacArthur puts it, “We want to bore them out of the building.”
But Crosby and Malkin — and Phil Kessel, riding along — are two of the defining players of this era, even if Malkin is so often overshadowed, especially in Canada. The list of active players who have averaged at least a point per game in the playoffs in at least 20 games: Crosby (1.11), Malkin, (1.08), and Mike Cammalleri, who had 32 very productive playoff games between 2008 and 2011. There are six active players who have produced at least a point per game in the regular season: Crosby is No. 1 at 1.31 per game, Malkin is No. 2 at 1.18. (The other four: Connor McDavid, 1.17, Jaromir Jagr and Alex Ovechkin, 1.12, and Patrick Kane, 1.02.)
These are the guys you want to have, and if you don’t, these are the guys you want to stop. And now, Ottawa’s task is to hold them under wraps one more time, and the task of Crosby and Malkin is to break through. When the Penguins were down 2-1 in this series and had three goals in three games, I asked Malkin: With the top-heavy nature of this team, do you and Sid feel extra pressure?
“I think me and Sid, we always feel pressure, like every game,” Malkin said. “I mean, it doesn’t matter, you play against Ottawa or Washington . . . we like that, like it’s our life, our hockey life. We come to the rink. We work every practice to score and to help the team to win . . . We need to play better, like don’t listen to noise, don’t listen to like everything, like forget everything and play how we can, like we have good group, good leadership, and just show our game.”
Their hockey life: that’s a good way to put it. One of hockey’s central challenges is that you can play a great game, dominate, and the puck can simply refuse to go in. The puck can hit the goaltender, a defender, a teammate, a stick, a post. Malkin scored a goal in Game 6 that was as close to a one-man show as it gets. He was angry at himself for not doing more.
Dominance is hard. In six career Game 7s, Crosby has two goals and two assists; Malkin has six assists, no goals. It’s a small sample size, and Game 7s tend to be low-scoring affairs anyway. Of course, Crosby’s two biggest games ever, the two Olympic finals, he scored the overtime game-winner in one, and the second goal in the other. And as Olympic coach Mike Babcock said in Sochi, “Everyone evaluates Sid on scoring and I evaluate Sid on winning.”
“(Crosby) in particular has played in arguably the most high-stakes environments in all different venues — whether it be the NHL, the Olympics, the World Cup,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “He has such a wealth of experience to draw on, and I think he’s a fierce competitor.”
“They’re so competitive,” said Penguins winger Carter Rowney. “You see them practise, they’ll be staying out last, working on stuff. They’re both eager to win, and you can see how competitive they are, you can see it in their play. I think that’s something they take pride in, and I think it’s something that’s contagious — it’s cool how much those guys want to win, and in practice they’re still willing to get better. I think that’s pretty cool. They’re two of the best in the game, and they’re still out there working.”
They can work all they like, but it guarantees nothing. The Senators can absolutely win this game, and this series. As Clarke MacArthur put it, “I remember coming home after we lost 7-0. I was driving back talking to Dion (Phaneuf), and he was like, ‘We’re going to get this series.’ And I was thinking the same thing . . . I know when we play our game, and if we’re on, we can beat any team in the league.”
The odds are that better players — even ones facing the constant assaults that Crosby in particular endured in Game 5 — will produce. But Ottawa may hold them down one more time, too. Game 7. Hockey. Drop the puck, and see where it goes.
Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins takes a shot on Craig Anderson #41 of the Ottawa Senators during the second period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Canadian Tire Centre on May 23, 2017 in Ottawa, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH -- Those who have experienced it say it goes in phases. After you win a Stanley Cup, it's a summer of celebration. Then comes a regular season in which an inevitable rough patch emerges when exhaustion kicks in.
"You crash sometime in November, December or January," said former Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, who led the Penguins to a Stanley Cup in 2009. "You don't have any energy. You're walking zombies."
But the best champs persevere and then the playoffs arrive -- another phase and a new life.
"I remember thinking that no team is going to be able to beat us," said forwardDan Cleary, part of the most recent team to advance to consecutive Stanley Cup finals when the Detroit Red Wings did it in 2008 and 2009. "I wasn't so much worried about rest or fatigue or energy. Your tank fills up immediately."
The long playoff run has a way of being unforgiving about draining that tank. Since Cleary's Red Wings fell short of winning the 2009 Stanley Cup, no reigning champion has made it back to the finals.
But Sidney Crosby and the Penguins are tantalizingly close. If they beat theOttawa Senators in Thursday's (8 p.m. ET) Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, they will take on the Nashville Predators with the Stanley Cup in the balance. And if they make it, as they advance through a mix of sheer will and star power, through a treacherous schedule and loaded injury report, this might go down as Crosby's and the Penguins' most impressive accomplishment.
Factor in two long playoff runs plus World Cup action and he has played in more than 200 games the past two seasons, many at the highest level of competition.
Add it up and this is turning into Crosby's defining playoff run. He and the Penguins just need one more win to give themselves a chance.
"This one would have a lot of Sid's fingerprints, of him willing his team to a Stanley Cup and winning again -- if he did do it," Bylsma said. "There have been injuries and you see him step up and play big in big games. You've seen him step up and answer the bell and lead his team and get it done."
Well, nearly done.
The Penguins missed out on a chance to close out the Senators in Ottawa during a Game 6 in which they controlled play for long stretches.
It was just another reminder that it never comes easy. This is the second consecutive seven-game series for the Penguins, a run of playoff games in which they've needed just about every player on their roster to step in at different times.
"I would say this entire playoff has given us all an appreciation of what a challenge it is to get back on top," Penguins forward Matt Cullen said Wednesday. "A lot of good players, a lot of good teams. But it's awfully tight. It's always tight. It seems like every series is such a challenge."
Yet they've found a way to persevere. Crosby is at the heart of it, but he's getting major help from Evgeni Malkin, who transformed into beast mode at times in Game 6, one of the few players in hockey who can physically take over a game. Phil Kessel continues to play with a heightened intensity. Matt Murray has been strong since taking over in goal.
Along with the star power, the advantage this group has is its success in Game 7s. They know exactly what to expect and what it takes to win.
"They won a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup final on the road," Cleary said. "This Game 7 at home isn't going to faze those guys."
Cleary believes the same can't be said for the Senators.
"After you play three or four Game 7s, you know how it is," he said. "You don't have any nerves, you just have excitement."
Crosby registered an assist in Game 7 against the Washington Capitals in the conference semifinals, finishing that series with three points in the final three games. He entered Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals with a three-game goal streak against the Senators, one that was snapped. He has five points in his past four playoff games.
He has been up to the challenge as the games have gotten bigger. His teammates expect it. So do those who know him best.
"You watch him play now, they're trying to take his head off and he's having no part of it. He's leading the way," Bylsma said. "If he were able to win another Stanley Cup and have three Stanley Cups, he would automatically be in the conversation to which there is maybe one or two other people in the conversation."
He'd be in the conversation with the greats. One more win puts him that much closer.
Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Marc Methot #3 of the Ottawa Senators fall to the ice after colliding during the second period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Canadian Tire Centre on May 23, 2017 in Ottawa, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
No matter what NHL spokesmen disguised as media say, the caliber of hockey in these playoffs is laughably bad. Unless you like face-offs and icing.
Speed and skill give way to no-calls and more attrition than Omaha Beach. Whack it out, whack it in, whack it toward the goal and try to whack it again. Clog the neutral zone. Clog the “house.” Commit penalties secure in the knowledge that 90 percent of them won’t get called. Hit foes in the head all you want. The NHL doesn’t protect its best player, or anybody else.
The triumphant moment comes when the puck randomly ricochets into the net off one of the half-dozen or so people gathered at the blue paint. It’s the stuff dreams and highlight reels are made of.
Hockey is played one way for an 82-game regular season. Then its championship is decided by playing a totally different, less compelling version of the game. It’s ludicrous. Like Jimmy Page bowing a ukulele.
Apply the same lack of logic to the NFL. The playoffs arrive, and it’s OK to tackle Antonio Brown while he’s running his pattern.
Sidney Crosby got his eyes raked, got popped in the head and got squirted with water during Tuesday’s Game 6. (Regarding Mike Hoffman doing the latter: Are you 11 years old?) No call on any of the above.
Crosby gets beat on like a piñata, but the NHL keeps expecting him to spit out candy. To be the poster boy. The face of the game. Next time the NHL wants Crosby to beat their drum, he should tell them to call Marc Methot.
If the rules are properly applied (not perfectly, but like they are during the regular season), the Penguins are long since in the Stanley Cup Final.
As it is, the NHL is a game away from getting its just desserts: A final that pits America’s No. 29 media market (without a star in sight) against a bunch of grit guys who play in small-town Canada. (Every Canadian city but Toronto is “small-town Canada.”) The “Amazing Abs” infomercial will get higher TV ratings. The No. 16 seed vs. the No. 12 seed. Mediocrity on parade.
That’s not to blame the NHL’s farcical product for the Penguins’ Game 6 loss. Blame Craig Anderson. Pointing fingers elsewhere is silly.
The Ottawa goalie stopped 45 shots, including a fistful of excellent chances. He didn’t wither under a constant pounding, or under the specter of having been chased from Game 5 after allowing four goals in less than 19 minutes.
The Penguins were the better team Tuesday. They will still be the better team Thursday night. But will the game play out that way?
The Penguins have gone through the playoffs in backward fashion. They deleted the No. 4 and No. 1 seeds in the first two rounds. Now they’re battling the No. 12 seed, and would play the No. 16 seed in the final.
Many complained about a format that forced the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds to play in the second round.
But the NHL playoffs are just too long. That’s the real problem. Too many games, and those games are crammed into a window that’s too brief. That leads to too many injuries, which further dilutes a product that’s badly mismanaged. There no solution that doesn’t sacrifice revenue. So live with it.
I watch out of rote. Rare is the occasion when I’m entertained.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).
Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins scores a goal on Craig Anderson #41 of the Ottawa Senators during the second period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Canadian Tire Centre on May 23, 2017 in Ottawa, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)
The Penguins had so many chances to clinch this Eastern Conference final, to return home to play Nashville and begin their bid to become the first back-to-back Stanley Cup champions in almost two decades.
So many chances and so many misses.
“I thought we played a real good game,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “We dominated zone time. We had lots of chances. We didn't score. The puck didn't go in the net, but if we continue to play the game that way then I believe we'll get the result.”
The Penguins outplayed the Ottawa Senators for the better part of two periods thanks to a 15-shot edge and a magnificent goal by Evgeni Malkin that took the air out of Canadian Tire Centre. But they didn't get the result.
At least, not the one they wanted.
Bobby Ryan pumped up that flat with a one-timer from the left circle over the outstretched stick of defenseman Olli Maatta, and it was the start of a sensational comeback by the Senators in a 2-1 victory in Game 6 on Tuesday night.
This was supposed to be the end of the Senators, who instead took heed in the words of Guy Boucher: “I think there's two types of people: People that see difficulties in opportunities and people that see opportunities in difficulties.”
Where we saw this as an elimination game, Boucher saw it as a great opportunity for Ottawa to push the Penguins to a deciding seventh game just as his Tampa Bay Lightning did to them in the first round of the 2011 playoffs.
“I think we're in that position right now where it's a great day for our group to show what we got in front of our fans,” Boucher said beforehand, “and I think our fans have seen what this team has done all year through adversity and how many times we've bounced back and how many times the guys have showed, not just their individual character, but I think the team character.”
The Penguins found difficult in those opportunities, especially with the odds against them.
The Senators got a big break when a Trevor Daley goal was disallowed after a coach's challenge. After video review, it was determined that Daley had interfered with goalie Craig Anderson. That wiped out the Penguins' chance at a lead at 3 minutes, 4 seconds of the second, but Malkin made it 1-0 at 4:51, slipping a backhand behind Anderson.
The Penguins drew two penalties in a span of 1:03, and Ryan took advantage of a five-on-three to tie the game at 1-1 at 13:15. That was the score to start the third, and the Penguins suddenly were in a tight game despite outshooting the Senators, 34-19, including 23-10 in the second.
Problem was, the puck wasn't finding the net. The Penguins couldn't put another past Anderson, who was pulled in Game 5 after allowing four first-period goals in a 7-0 loss.
“We did have some good chances,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said of outshooting the Senators, 46-30. “This is the time of the year where you've got to put them, but the chances were there.”
The Penguins missed theirs, but Mike Hoffman took advantage of a three-on-two chase and hit his one-timer for the winner at 1:34 of the third.
It marked the third consecutive series the Penguins failed to win with a chance to close out, dropping Sullivan's record to 6-6 in games with a chance to clinch, including 2-4 on the road.
The Penguins lost Game 4 at Columbus, Games 5 and 6 against Washington and now Game 6 at Ottawa. Both previous times, the Penguins persevered to clinch the series and advance.
They're down to one more chance, when they host the Senators in Game 7 on Thursday at PPG Paints Arena. It's a great opportunity begging for a great moment.
Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins takes a shot on Craig Anderson #41 of the Ottawa Senators during the first period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Canadian Tire Centre on May 23, 2017 in Ottawa, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)
OTTAWA, Ontario -- Just when the Ottawa Senators look as if they're done, they find a way to keep going. They've plowed through injuries, deficits and blowouts just to keep their season alive another day.
Facing elimination, they did it once again in beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 to force a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals, this time wiping out an early deficit to push the Penguins to their second elimination game of the postseason.
How it happened: A monster shot from forward Mike Hoffman gave the Senators their first lead of the game, ripping a shot just 1 minute, 34 seconds into the third period that beat Penguins goalie Matt Murray.
The only reason the score was tied at that point was because Senators goalie Craig Anderson turned in his best performance of the series. He made 45 saves, including a number on Sidney Crosby, who had a few good looks that Anderson turned aside. The only goal Anderson gave up was an incredible individual effort from Evgeni Malkin, who grabbed his own rebound and then went to the backhand to beat Anderson. Otherwise, Anderson was perfect, more than making up for the struggles in Game 5 that led to his early exit.
Power-play breakthrough: It took a two-man advantage, but the Senators finally scored a power-play goal, their first of the series. Bobby Ryan's quick release on a one-timer beat Murray in the second period and gave the Senators their first power-play goal since Game 1 against the New York Rangers on April 27.
Controversy: For a few minutes, it looked as if a Penguins defenseman would open the scoring for the third consecutive game when Trevor Daley banged the puck past Anderson following a scramble in front of the net without a whistle. Daley was wrestling in the crease with Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson and made contact with Anderson before scoring the goal. Senators coach Guy Boucher wisely challenged, putting the call in the hands of the referee and Toronto video room. It was determined that Daley interfered with Anderson, a borderline call but enough to wipe out an early Penguins lead.
What's next: Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals is Thursday at 8 p.m. ET in Pittsburgh.
Trevor Daley #6 of the Pittsburgh Penguins battles for a loose puck with Erik Karlsson #65, Zack Smith #15 and Derick Brassard #19 of the Ottawa Senators in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final. Daley's goal on the play was waved off. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)
OTTAWA - There will be a tomorrow for the Ottawa Senators.
The Senators have forced a dramatic Game 7 to decide which team will represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup final after they scored a clutch 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night, sending the crowd of 18,111 — just short of a sellout — at Canadian Tire Centre into hysterics.
Yes, the East final will go the distance.
With the Senators trying to get to the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 2007, Mike Hoffman scored the winner early in the third period and goaltender Craig Anderson came up big, sending the series to Game 7 on Thursday night at Pittsburgh’s PPG Paints Arena. The victor will will face the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup final, starting Monday.
“We wanted to force Game 7 and that’s what we did — especially in the second period,” forward Zack Smith said. “Andy was huge tonight again. He’s the difference.”
Smith said he knew people thought they were finished.
“That’s fine with us. I feel it’s been that way for most of the year and playoffs. That’s fine, we’ll play that role,” Smith said.
Much was made of the fact the building wasn’t full, but the crowd had lots to cheer about as Bobby Ryan also scored for the Senators on Matt Murray. Only Evgeni Malkin was able to score for the Penguins.
Hoffman’s second goal of the series at 1:34 of the third was a blast Murray never stood a chance on as the puck went off the post and into the net.
“I wouldn’t say I closed my eyes. I was shooting for that side of the net,” Hoffman said. “I was just waiting for (Fred) Claesson, he did a good job kicking it out to me and driving through their (defence), I paused for a second to give a little more time to clear that lane on the far side and (Murray) didn’t see it.”
Had it not been for Anderson, the Senators wouldn’t have stood a chance going into the third. Despite being outshot 23-10 in the second period and 34-19 overall, they were tied 1-1 with the Penguins after finally scoring with the man advantage.
“The moment I got yanked in that game. It’s gone. You can’t change what’s happened in the past,” said Anderson, asked when he put the last game behind him. “From that moment on, you have to look forward and get ready for the next one.”
The Senators credited a team meeting Monday where they talked as a group about the fact they had a great opportunity and they shouldn’t let it slip away.
“We got together and aired some stuff out,” defenceman Marc Methot said. “It was honestly just a good, positive talk. It just kind of put everything into perspective that it takes eight exhibition games and 82 games to get into the playoffs, let alone get to the third round and this isn’t an opportunity that we want to waste.”
The Senators tied it up at 13:51 of the second with their first power-play goal in 11 games, ending an 0-for-29 slump. Ryan scored during a two-man advantage, firing the puck by Murray on the stick side.
“I don’t want to say it was a turning point, but it was a building point for our offensive side of things,” Ryan said. “It’s amazing what not holding on the puck will do. You just try to find a lane, try to find a lucky goal. To see it go in I think we, and the Sens community, took a collective breath there.”
Malkin, one of the best players in this series, opened the scoring at 4:51 of the second period. He was able to pick up his own rebound to beat Anderson with a backhand on the glove side to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead.
Just before that, Penguins defenceman Trevor Daley had a goal called back after he stuffed the puck underneath Anderson. With the Penguins celebrating at their bench, Boucher used his challenge to argue for a goalie-interference call and, after a lengthy review, it was determined that Anderson had been pushed into the net.
“Daley prevented Anderson from doing his job in his crease,” the NHL said in a statement.
The Senators and Penguins were scoreless through the first period. Pittsburgh had the edge on the shot clock at 11-9 while both Anderson and Murray looked sharp. Both had the benefit shots that went off the post but the Senators were able to dodge trouble by killing off two Pittsburgh power plays.
This likely wasn’t the kind of start the Senators wanted in a game with the season on the line.
The Penguins had lots of early pressure in the Ottawa zone and were able to survive whatever push Ottawa tried to muster.