Jake Guentzel scored four straight goals to help send the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins into the next round with an 8-5 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 6 on Sunday.
The Penguins play the winner of the Washington-Columbus series in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Washington leads that series 3-2.
Sean Couturier also had a hat trick for the Flyers, who haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1975.
Guentzel, not Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel or the injured Evgeni Malkin, won the game for the Penguins with goals off costly Flyers turnovers, leading them to their ninth straight playoff series win.
He tied the game at 4 with 54 seconds left in the second period off a Flyers turnover. He scored 30 seconds into the third for the lead off another giveaway, and sealed one more lopsided win over the Flyers with two goals 10 seconds apart late in the period.
It was 2-2 after one period, 4-4 after two, and nothing was decided in the fiercest game of the series between the longstanding rivals until Guentzel took control.
The Flyers lost all three games at home and not even a solid start could help them get out of the first round for the first time since 2012.
Couturier had been the Flyers’ postseason savior, returning from a serious leg injury to score the Game 5 winner and then open Game 6 with his third goal of the series just 2:15 into the game.
The Penguins, who won Games 3 and 4 in Philly, took aim on the road sweep with two straight goals. Crosby, naturally, tied the game when he knocked in a rebound off Kris Letang’s point shot for his whopping sixth goal of the series. His goal was still being announced when Carl Hagelin made it 2-1 when he was left all alone in front of the net for the easy goal.
Philly’s defense was nonexistent and the Flyers had no bodies on Crosby and especially Hagelin on the gimme goals against Michal Neuvirth.
Andrew MacDonald tied it 2-all on a sizzling shot. The defenseman briefly gave his team the spark needed to go toe-to-toe with the Penguins. Couturier scored his second of the game on a beautiful breakaway to open the second period and Scott Laughton scored on a long wrister and nearly pulled off a Lambeau Leap over the boards in celebration.
Matt Murray should have stopped the goal — the kind of bad goal usually allowed by the Flyers — and the crowd derisively chanted his name.
Patric Hornqvist scored his second of the series to pull the Penguins to 4-3.
Nashville 5, at Colorado 0: Mattias Ekholm ignited the offense early with the first goal by a Nashville defenseman in the series, Pekka Rinne stopped 22 shots and the top-seeded Predators advanced to the second round with a 5-0 victory over the host Avalance in Game 6 on Sunday night.
Austin Watson , Filip Forsberg , Nick Bonino and Viktor Arvidsson also scored to help Nashville move on to face Winnipeg. They were 3-1-1 against the Jets in the regular season.
Nashville removed any sort of drama with two goals in the opening period and two more in the second to hush the capacity crowd. Rinne was on his game in notching his fourth career postseason shutout.
Andrew Hammond ran out of magic in net, allowing five goals. The third-string goaltender nicknamed “Hamburglar” had 44 saves during a Game 5 win in Nashville to extend the series. But he couldn’t turn back a formidable Nashville offense that won a second straight playoff contest in Denver. Before this, the Avalanche hadn’t lost two straight at the Pepsi Center since early December.
Watson tormented Colorado with four goals and seven points in the series. In all, 11 of Nashville’s forwards had at least a point over six games.
The one thing missing was contributions from a blue line that tied a franchise record for goals during the regular season. The Predators `D’ was held scoreless until Ekholm’s slap shot at 7:20.
Forsberg scored 38 seconds into the second period to give Nashville a 3-0 lead and drain the arena’s energy.