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Health of Nashville defenceman Ryan Ellis still in question

11 June 2017

These Penguins have displayed nearly every positive attribute possible this spring.

In theory, yes. But not always in practice.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will have an opportunity to end the Stanley Cup Final on Sunday and claim the NHL's first repeat title since the Detroit Red Wings won back-to-back championships in 1997-98. He took over. And he led.

Nothing is more desperate than a team on the brink of elimination, especially one that has never won a title.

Entering Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the series was tied at two games apiece. Ellis missed most of the second and third periods in Thursday night's 6-0 loss in the Stanley Cup Final. This time, he was talking about Sidney Crosby. Instead, Crosby and Subban got matching two-minute minors, because Subban, when he was finally was able to get up, shoved Crosby.

There was the slick blind backhand pass to Conor Sheary just 1:19 into the second period that made it 4-0.

On the ensuing power play, Crosby set up Justin Schultz for a 1-0 lead, and the tone for the game was set. He insists it was accidental.

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Of the three, it's the latter that seems the most plausible. He was a force in Game 4, playing with the skilled desperation that renders him electric, separate. Guentzel has not been almost as reliable as Crosby or other veterans at the forefront of the Pens' deep offense, but for the role he has played, he has done more than enough to warrant the spotlight in the playoffs.

"He's the same every day", Laviolette said of Rinne. "He doesn't just show up to the rink and put his equipment on. We all draw on those experiences to do our very best moving forward".

Crosby wasn't done being a bad guy there.

"We had a great start", he said.

What made Josi's performance even more impressive was that he logged almost 25 minutes, often matching up against Crosby, and was missing his defence partner Ryan Ellis for most of the second and all of the third period. The two-time MVP ended up on top of a stickless Subban and attempted to get up only to have Subban refuse to let go of Crosby's right leg.

Now Rinne goes into the biggest game of his career Sunday night needing yet another home victory to force both the defending champs and the Stanley Cup Final to a deciding seventh game back in Pittsburgh. "But that's what a leader does". Goalie Pekka Rinne lasted one period, undone by poor defense in front of him and the relentless Penguins attack. Mattias Ekholm, Subban's blueline partner, took a swing with his stick at Chris Kunitz deep in the Penguins' end. If there has been one constant in these playoffs - in addition to spotty officiating - it's that there is no consistency within games and within series. His three assists on Thursday moved him within one point of teammate Evgeni Malkin for the National Hockey League lead in playoff points and very much into the conversation for a second straight Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. If Rinne can again be the wall he was in Games 3 and 4 in Nashville, where he yielded only two goals in 52 shots, there will be a Game 7 at Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Crosby, perhaps more than anyone else, is well aware the job is not yet finished.

Health of Nashville defenceman Ryan Ellis still in question