As we get deeper into the first round, pictures get clearer and series get closer to ending. There was the potential for four teams to be pushed to the brink of elimination by the end of Wednesday. We only have three games on Thursday because the Canucks have already been sent home. Where does everybody stand? Allow me to provide you with the necessary information.
The Leafs had one more chance to win in front of their Toronto fans. Well, they could always be back for game six, but this was their last guaranteed opportunity. Could they take advantage of the home ice? They did strike first, with a goal from Joffrey Lupul. Later in the first period, Cody Franson added another goal to make it 2-0. A good start for the Leafs. Then, less than a minute into the second Patrice Bergeron lit the lamp on the power-play. This was followed by a goal from David Krejci, and then Krejci scored again with the extra man. Suddenly, the Bruins had the lead. However, Clarke McArthur replied with a tying goal. There was no scoring in the third, so we headed into overtime tied 3-3. In overtime, Krejci scored once again, giving himself the hat trick and giving the Bruins the victory.
Well, that was quite the back-and-forth game. Both goalies were busy, as Tuukka Rask made 45 saves, while James Reimer made 41. Zdeno Chara had a whopping four assists, while Nathan Horton had two assists. Jake Gardiner also had two helpers. Now, the Bruins are up three games to one as they head back to Boston. This series seems likely to go in Boston’s favor. The Leafs have played well. During the season, they were greatly outshot, but that hasn’t been the case in the playoffs. Still, playing tough doesn’t necessarily lead to wins, especially with how well guys like Krejci, the (very, comically) early favorite for the Conn Smythe.
The Capitals won the first two games against the Rangers, but New York took game three at home. Would they hold serve? They did score first, with a goal from Brad Richards. Then, in the second, Carl Hagelin added another score. Then, Mathieu Perreault and Troy Brouwer both lit the lamp to tie the game after two periods. Early in the third, Dan Girardi scored with the extra man, and that was followed by a goal from Derek Stepan. Karl Alzner made it a one goal game, and the Capitals had a lot of time left to tie things up. However, the Rangers held fast, and they won the game 4-3.
Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves, while Braden Holtby stopped 30 shots. Hagelin had two assists to go with his goal, and Derick Brassard had two assists as well. Joel Ward had two helpers for the Caps. We have a tied series. This isn’t surprising. Sure, Washington won the first two games, but they were close, and they were at home. The two games in New York were also close, and the Rangers won. This series feels like it will go seven. I wonder if Rick Nash will finally score. It’s not that he’s played poorly, in fact that’s partially why it seems likely he will eventually light the lamp. Of course, the Capitals always have Alex Ovechkin lurking. Good stuff.
The Blues and Kings are already back in St. Louis for game five, with the series all tied up. There was no scoring in the first period. A mere 14 seconds into the second, Jeff Carter lit the lamp. This was followed by a goal from Alexander Steen. Early in the third, Carter added another goal, this time an easy power-play tally. It looked like the Kings would hold on, but the Blues rallied and Alex Pietrangelo tied the game to send it into overtime. There, Slava Voynov drove down on the net and managed to put a puck past Brian Elliott. The Kings got the road win 3-2.
Jonathan Quick made 34 saves while Elliott only made 22 stops. Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar each had two assists. Los Angeles’ big name, big money players coming up, well, big. Now, the defending champs have the 3-2 series lead. Kopitar had some struggles late in the season, but he’s played well the past two games. Quick and Elliott both had issues early in the regular season, but they found their form late. However, Quick has the better track record, and has been the better goalie in this series. Now, the Kings are headed back home with the chance to win the series. Can the Blues force a game seven?
The Ducks and Wings were in Anaheim with their series tied. Who would grab the advantage? The Wings lit the lamp first, as Johan Franzen tucked a puck past Jonas Hiller on the power-play. Then, the Ducks answered late in the first with a shot through traffic by Kyle Palmieri. In the second, Mikael Samuelsson gave the Wings the lead. Then, Daniel Winnik took a boarding major, giving the Wings a five minute power-play. However, they couldn’t get anything going. Then, they took a penalty of their own later in their man advantage. After Winnik’s penalty ended, seemingly seconds later Ryan Getzlaf scored to tie the game. There was no scoring in the third period, so we were headed to overtime for the third time in this series. However, this time the Wings wouldn’t win in overtime, as Nick Bonino scored to give the Ducks the win.
It sure feels like Detroit blew a chance here. Not scoring on a five minute power-play and then immediately letting up a goal is a major turn of events. Hiller made 29 saves while Jimmy Howard made 31. Both goalies had to make big saves, although Howard certainly seemed to face more difficult shots. I’m not saying the Wings outplayed the Ducks. In fact, I’d probably say the opposite. Still, Detroit was so close to a win. They had a chance, and they could not seize it. Now, they have to win two in a row to move on.
There are three games Thursday, and the Sharks and Canucks can sit back and watch some hockey as well. Vancouver may not be up for that, however. At 7:00 Eastern on CNBC, Montreal and Ottawa face off in game five. The two teams are back in Montreal, and the Canadiens are facing elimination. However, they will be without Carey Price, having to turn to Peter Budaj. On the surface, this feels concerning, but Price wasn’t very good this season, or this postseason. Still, the Senators have to like their chances of, if not winning this game, winning this series.
Also at 7:00, but on NBC Sports, the Penguins and Islanders are back in Pittsburgh, the series surprisingly tied at two games apiece. Pittsburgh is also making a goalie chance, but not because of injury. They are just tired of Marc-Andre Fleury, so they are turning to Tomas Vokoun. Last year, Fleury was awful in the playoffs, and they had nobody to turn to. Now, they have a very good veteran they can use. The Pens are still the better team, and I still think they will take the series, probably in six games. Still, things have gotten interesting. Less interesting is the game between the Blackhawks and Wild at 9:30 on NBC Sports. Chicago is back at home up three games to one. I think this series ends tonight.
There is no NBA action tonight. Parks and Recreation’s season finale was last week. That gives you less options to watch opposite hockey, so just tune into some NHL. C’mon.