The adage is that to win the Stanley Cup, you have to be lucky as well as good, and in a 5-3 game one victory last night, the Pittsburgh Penguins appeared to be more the former than the latter.
The Penguins put just 12 shots on goal all night against 26 by the Nashville Predators. The Predators scored first but the goal was taken away on a video review which showed that maybe, by a hair's breadth, the skate of Filip Forsberg was in the air and not on the ice on the safe side of the blue line before he collected the puck and sent a pass to P.K. Subban, who wristed it past Matt Murray for what would have been a 1-0 Nashville lead in the days before video replay, and they were not that long ago.
Then the Penguins benefited from some questionable officiating when two penalties were called simultaneously on two Nashville players, one a legitimate interference in front of the net, the other what looked like a common shove to a Pittsburgh player who flopped to the ice in a performance that would have required a number of retakes if it were being filmed for an action movie. In any event, Pittsburgh had a 5 on 3 power play and Evgeni Malkin cashed in.
The Pens went up 2-0 and then just before the end of the period they were up 3 when the puck was redirected off the stick of goalie Pekka Rinne into his own defenseman's knee and into the goal. Lucky indeed.
But Pittsburgh seemed not to appreciate all that good fortune and went a full 37 minutes without putting a single shot on goal, and the Predators came back to tie the game on goals by Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau. The way the game was going it looked like Nashville would steal one on Pittsburgh's home ice. But, again, you do have to be good, and rookie Jake Guentzel is. He scored the game winner with just over three minutes left in regulation and the Penguins added an empty netter to seal the 5-3 win. But if the Penguins keep playing the way they did, their luck may well run out. I'm still sticking by my call of Predators in six.
To Major League Baseball, and the long-awaited season debut of Red Sox pitcher David Price was a bit like a Clint Eastwood movie. There was the good: Price lasted five innings and gave up just two hits. The bad: He walked two, and hit two batters, and the ugly: One of the two hits he gave up was a three-run homer to Melky Cabrera in a ultimate 5-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox. The best news is that Price didn't report any of the elbow soreness that kept him out the first two months of the season. But the Red Sox may have traded one injury concern for another when 2nd baseman Dustin Pedroia had to leave the game after landing awkwardly on his wrist when he tumbled over first baseman Jose Abreu trying to beat out a hit. Pedroia was sent back to Boston for tests, never a good sign, as the Red Sox can ill afford to lose Pedroia for any great length of time.
The Red Sox battled back from a 3-1 deficit and went ahead 4-3 before Matt Barnes gave up an RBI double to Kevan Smith in the 7th that tied the game. The White Sox went ahead for good when Smith scored from second when a relay throw that would have nailed him at the plate skittered away from catcher Christian Vazquez. The Red Sox will try to even the series tonight with former Pale Hose ace Chris Sale on the mound facing his old team for the first tie since he was traded to Boston. The White Sox will have a very good lefty of their own opposing him in Jose Quintana.
The Red Sox did get some help from the Baltimore Orioles, who snapped a seven game losing skid by cooling off the lava hot NY Yankees 3-2 at Camden Yards. Dylan Bundy pitched a dandy for Baltimore, giving up just two runs over seven innings. Jonathan Schoop had a big two run double off Jordan Montgomery to put the Birds up 3-1. Aaron Judge got the Yankees closer with his league leading 17th home run of the year but the O's hung on for the win, keeping Boston three games behind New York for the division lead, while the Orioles, even with that seven game losing streak, are just 3 1/2 back.
Robert Gsellman gave up just three hits over seven innings and helped his own cause by driving in the eventual game winning run with a sacrifice fly as the NY Mets beat the Milwaukee brewers 4-2. Rene Rivera and Michael Conforto each had an RBI double during a three-run fifth.
The Toronto Blue Jays have been eager to get their all star short stop Troy Tulowitzki back in the lineup, and it's easy to see why. Tulo hit a grand slam as part of a massive Blue Jays hit parade in the team's 17-2 laugher over the Cincinnati Reds last night.
And if you like fisticuffs with your baseball, check out the melee that occurred yesterday when Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals got drilled in the leg by San Francisco Giants reliever Hunter Strickland in the Nats 3-0 win. Harper charged the mound, threw down his helmet and then started throwing punches at Strickland, who responded in kind before both benches spilled out onto the field and chaos ensued. There's history here, and while Harper looked like a hot-head in refusing to turn the other cheek, Strickland is the guy who needs to take a page out the Disney movie Frozen and just let it go. Three years ago in the playoffs Harper hit two loud home runs off Strickland and this was some not too well-disguised payback for Harper just doing what he's paid rather handsomely to do. Best you can say for Strickland is at least he didn't throw at Harper's head.