NHL playoffs 2017: Colton Sissons plays hero as Predators party on into first-ever Cup Final

Nashville knows a good party, but it’s never thrown one quite like this before.

Riding an unlikely run unseen in this newfound hockey town, the Predators will play for the Stanley Cup for the first time in the franchise’s 18 seasons after defeating the Ducks 6-3 Monday to win the Western Conference finals in six games.

Colton Sissons, a sparsely played role contributor thrust onto Nashville’s top line due to injuries, scored a hat trick, the first of his career. In the absence of Ryan Johansen, lost for the balance of the playoffs, the 23-year-old took over to center Filip Forsberg and Pontus Aberg and the three contributed four goals and combined for seven points.

An onslaught of injuries rendered Anaheim sitting ducks. Jonathan Bernier, starting in net for the first time in his playoff career in place of No. 1 goalie John Gibson, surrendered four goals on 16 shots. Top forward Rickard Rakell and Patrick Eaves didn’t make the trip to Nashville.

The deficiencies were exploited early on by an opportunistic Predators offense, which needed just three shots on net to open a 2-0 lead.

The Knights flipped the No. 24 overall pick to Winnipeg in exchange for the No. 13 overall pick and a third-rounder in 2019, allowing the Jets to keep 22-year-old forward Marko Dano and defenseman Tobias Enstrom. Thorburn is a pending unrestricted free agent.

Through his fair share of postseason struggles, Washington’s prized rental defenseman all but redeemed himself by scoring the biggest goal of the Caps’ season 3:13 into the extra frame for a 3-2 win. The power-play goal, a seeing-eye wrister from the point, throws the second-round series between the NHL’s top two teams into flux.

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NHL playoffs 2017: Ducks buck Game 7 choker label, eliminate Oilers

At least one serial NHL choke artist wasn’t interested in conforming to history.

First of all I’m so proud of Paul’s career also, Selanne, considered a lock in his first year of eligibility, told reporters on a conference call Monday, making a point to deflect credit to his longtime running mate. I had the pleasure to play with him for so many years. I played my best years of hockey with Paul. The chemistry we had was magical.

I learned so much from him as a player and a human being. It’s also a big honor to share this weekend with Paul. We’re still great friends; we have totally opposite personalities, but that’s a great thing. I had a lot of great times, great years with him and I’m so proud.

Niederreiter was sixth among Wild forwards in five-on-five ice time in 2016-17, and eighth among Minnesota forwards in total time-on-ice per game. But Niederreiter also led Minnesota in even-strength points per-60 minutes, effectively navigating his shifts when his name was called.

I have to do the best with the ice time I get and always prepare myself to get more minutes this year, Niederreiter said. If that’s the case then great, and if not, I’ll do whatever I can to be great in the minutes again.

The Jets’ goaltending under head coach Paul Maurice, and really since the team relocated from Atlanta in 2011, has been bad. Over the past six years, the Jets finished in the bottom nine in the NHL in 5-on-5 save percentage five times. In 2014-15, Jets goaltenders combined to go .927 at evens, good for ninth-best in the NHL, and that also happened to coincide with their one playoff appearance since the Canadian move.

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Eberle may soon meet Rinne should Edmonton finish the job in Wednesday’s Game 7.

Chris Kreider’s second goal of the playoffs was the back-breaker for the Senators. The pesky power forward struggled in the first round against the Canadiens but now has two goals in three games as the Rangers surge back.

Game 5: Predators at Blues, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN (Predators lead series 3-1) Nashville is one win from its first Western Conference finals in franchise history. If St. Louis is to live to fight another day, it will have to find a way to get pucks past Pekka Rinne, whose .953 save percentage leads all playoff goalies.

Nashville never before has come so close to the Stanley Cup in nine previous postseason tries. This one has the feel of a team of destiny after sneaking in and pulling off a sweep of the top-seeded Blackhawks in the first round. In winning a war of attrition with the Blues, it’s clear there isn’t a contender remaining playing more complete hockey at this juncture, from the top line down to the bottom defense pair.

And Rinne. The 34-year-old is putting up stellar numbers 1.37 goals-against average, .951 save percentage to lead all playoff goalies. Rinne made 23 saves and assisted on Calle Jarnkrok’s empty-net goal that sealed Game 6, the netminder’s third point of the playoffs.

The three points place Rinne in a tie for 98th among playoff scorers, more than forwards such as the much-maligned Jordan Eberle, who still has just two points in 12 games despite the Oilers putting up a touchdown on the Ducks during a 7-1 blowout in Game 6.

Eberle may soon meet Rinne should Edmonton finish the job in Wednesday’s Game 7.

In that scenario would come the inevitable mercy for one of the two long-suffering franchises at long last.

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Jets’ Christian Hackenberg deflects criticism: I will get better and continue to grow

Christian Hackenberg isn’t paying attention to the negative media hype he received during the Jets’ minicamp.

The young quarterback has reportedly been missing his targets in OTAs, which was documented thoroughly. The indication was that journeyman quarterback Josh McCown was the shoo-in for the starting position.

Hechavarria, who is due $4.35 million this season but has not played since May 9, is batting .277 this season with one home run and six RBIs. Known more as a defensive stopper, Hechavarria likely will not play every day in Tampa with Tim Beckham currently having a breakout season at the same position.

Hechavarria remains on the 10-day DL (lt oblique strain), retro to 5/10. To make room, RH Diego Moreno was transferred to the 60-day DL.

Miami will continue to start rookie JT Riddle at shortstop. The 25-year-old got off to a nice start with his big-league club this season, but has not recorded a hit in his last six starts.

The Marlins have been linked with trade rumors for a couple seasons now. Word spread earlier this season that outfielders Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich were for sale.

As the Marlins fall further down the ladder in the NL East currently 10 1/2 games behind the Nationals more players could get dealt before the July 31 trade deadline.

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Marlins draw tiny crowd even by their standards

Remember, folks, in the major leagues it’s tickets sold, not total in the ballpark, when it comes to attendance figures. Otherwise, each of the bodies inside Marlins Park on Wednesday represented 10 people.

The official count for Miami’s 1:10 p.m. game against the Phillies was 15,197. Based on media observations (per The Washington Post), that middle 1 was unnecessary.

That shot is reminiscent of the scene at the Marlins’ old yard, Sun Life Stadium, six years ago when the Marlins and Reds played a doubleheader in late August ahead of Hurricane Irene. A reported 347 fans were in the stands for the start of that twinbill. The stated attendance that day was 22,505.

This will not help counter the argument that big league baseball in Florida won’t ever work. The Marlins are dead last in the National League in average attendance, checking in at 20,970 per contest heading into Wednesday. They were 27th in the majors, behind the White Sox, the A’s . . . and the Rays four hours away in St. Petersburg.

While we don’t yet know the teams heading to Omaha, we do know that college baseball will have a new national champion in 2017; Coastal Carolina failed to make the postseason this year after winning the title in Omaha last June.

Here are the top eight seeds entering the regionals: 1. Oregon St. (49-4), 2. North Carolina (47-12), 3. Florida (42-16), 4. LSU (43-17), 5. Texas Tech (43-15), 6. TCU (42-16), 7. Louisville (47-10), 8. Stanford (40-14).

The SEC brought the most teams into regional play with eight: Florida, LSU, Kentucky, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Auburn and Texas A&M. Seven teams hail from the ACC and Big-12 conferences.

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Meet the woman who’ll pitch in one of North America’s top collegiate summer leagues

Eighty-eight players with WCL experience were selected in the MLB Draft last June, and recent alumni of the league include the Orioles’ Chris Davis, Rays’ Matt Duffy and Matt Andriese, Tigers’ Matt Boyd and Mariners’ James Paxton.

I’m obviously not going to be the fastest pitcher in the league, but I have some good off-speed pitches that will keep hitters on their toes, said Eccles, who is listed at 5-8, 125 pounds as one of the top pitchers on the Canadian women’s national team.

She also plays softball for the University of British Columbia, which congratulated her on Twitter.

A disrespectful fan threw a bag of peanuts at me, Jones told USA Today. I was called the N-word a handful of times tonight. Thanks. Pretty awesome.

Schilling still isn’t buying it.

If he wants to maintain the lie he made here, that’s fine, Schilling told Boston’s WEEI in a text message. No one denies racism exists, but when people like him lie about an incident and others just take him at his word, it perpetuates a mythical level of racism.

The former ESPN baseball analyst continued, And for some reason, it appears blacks believe only blacks can talk about racism and only whites can be racists. I promise you if some scumbag yelled the N-word at Adam Jones in Fenway, it would have been on Twitter, Facebook and every other social media site asap, like every other ’incident.’ Not to mention the liberal Boston media would have broken its neck to identify the racist. But just taking him at his word means there are a bunch of white cowards and racists living here, because no one stood up to the guy. Adam has an agenda and one needs to only look at his past commentary on race and racism to see it. But see, when you question fake hate crimes in this day and age it somehow makes you a racist.

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Joe Maddon to Cubs fans: ’Go ahead and freak out’

Maddon said earlier this month the Cubs hitters were too focused on hitting. He said Sunday his team is trying to hit home runs instead of being more efficient at the plate. The Cubs were 0 for 14 with runners in scoring position against the Dodgers and are now hitting a National League-worst .127 with runners at second or third.

We have to score the runner from third with less than two outs with something other than a home run, Maddon said. We’re just hitting home runs to score runs. We have to become more efficient moving the baseball. I’ve been talking about it for three years now.

You have to get to the point where you move the ball and make adjustments, Maddon added. Middle of the field, opposite field, get the home run out of your head. If it happens, it happens. We just got too big there.

The Cubs did hit three home runs off Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, but Cubs pitchers allowed four homers in a 9-4 loss.

Just when you thought you’ve seen it all, the baseball gods manage to give us something new.

Juan Nieves remains the only member in Milwaukee’s no-hit club.

Brewers pitcher Chase Anderson took a no-hitter into the eighth inning Saturday, but saw it come to an end when Arizona’s Nick Ahmed led off the eighth with a single back up the middle. Anderson was at 111 pitches after seven innings, but recorded his 11th strikeout of the game for the second out of the inning. The 11 strikeouts are a career high for Anderson, who is in his fourth MLB season.

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