Pittsburgh at Washington – Game 2 – Letang and Murray lead Pens to Game 2 victory

Pittsburgh Penguins LogoWashington Capitals Logo

Behind some incredible defensive play, the Pittsburgh Penguins stole home ice from the Capitals with a 2-1 Game 2 victory.

Ex-Penguin Brooks Orpik certainly doesn’t have any love for his old club, as he caused the first power play of the game at the 4:13 mark with a serious interference penalty against Olli Maatta.  The hit seemed to be directed towards Maatta’s head and was severe enough to leave him dazed and require a Pittsburgh trainer to help him to the dressing room, but he only served two minutes in the box, which the Capitals‘ penalty kill easily neutralized.  Maatta did not return to the ice.

The other infraction of the period belonged to Ben Lovejoy, as he was found guilty of a slashing penalty on Evgeny Kuznetsov with 3:31 remaining in the frame.  Just like Washington, the Penguins‘ penalty kill was up to the task and kept the game scoreless.

Although they were unable to score, the Pens seemed to win the first period, as they almost tripled Washington‘s shot production (14 to five, respectively).  That being said, the Capitals absolutely owned the face-off dot, winning 70% of restarts.

1:20 after returning to the ice, Kuznetsov was caught holding Matt Cullen, but once again the Penguins‘ power play yielded nothing.

Carl Hagelin finally scored the first goal of Game 2 at the 7:08 mark.  His wrister, which he fired from point blank over First Star of the Game Braden Holtby’s glove hand, was assisted by Nick Bonino from behind the net (his seventh of the postseason) and Ian Cole.

Not only was it the first goal of the game, but it was also the lone tally of the frame.  Once again, the Pens led the Caps in shots, 14 to five, but they still had yet to connect on any of their five power plays.  Washington still maintained the lead in hits (23 to 14), as well as face-off wins (25 to 20).

2:56 after returning to the ice, Kris Letang earned a trip to the penalty box for tripping Nicklas Backstrom.  1:12 later, Washington leveled with a Marcus Johansson power play wrister, assisted by John Carlson (his fifth playoff helper) and Kuznetsov.

With 4:28 remaining in regulation, Second Star Eric Fehr, an ex-Capital, gave the Penguins the go-ahead goal on a tip-in of Evgeni Malkin’s initial shot.  He was also assisted by Chris Kunitz.

Washington‘s most significant offensive threats occurred in the third period, but Matt Murray stood tall to level the series at one-all.  Letang deserves special credit for the victory, as his five blocks led a team that held Washington to only 24 shots on goal.

Murray earns the victory after saving 23 of 24 shots faced (95.8%), while Holtby takes the loss after saving 33 of 35 (94.3%).

Game 3 will be Monday at 8 p.m. eastern in Pittsburgh.  It can be viewed on CBC, NBCSN or TVAS.

Sharks Score 5 in the 3rd for 5-2 Win in Game 1

By: Nick Lanciani

UnknownThe San Jose Sharks rallied in the third period on Friday night to defeat the Nashville Predators 5-2 on home ice in Game 1 at the SAP Center in San Jose, California. Martin Jones made 29 saves on 31 shots against for a .935 SV% en route to the win, while Pekka Rinne made 33 saves on 36 shots against for a .917 SV% in the loss.

Friday night began just the third postseason meeting between the Sharks and the Predators in Stanley Cup Playoff history. San Jose defeated Nashville in five games in the first round in both the 2006 and 2007 Western Conference Quarterfinals. Heading into Game 1, Nashville defeated San Jose two out of the three times they played one another during the regular season.

Craig Smith was out of the lineup for Nashville and Eric Nystrom was in his place instead.

Almost five minutes into the first period, Melker Karlsson shot the puck wide of the goal that had just been dismounted by a crashing Predators defenseman. The play was reviewed to determine if the puck would have gone in the net, had it not been knocked off of its moorings. After some deliberation, the refs determined there was no conclusive evidence to overturn the call on the ice, which was no goal, and thus the game remained scoreless.

Karlsson would be involved yet another situation with a ref when he was called for tripping Nashville’s Filip Forsberg at 10:52 of the first period. The Preds were unable to convert on their first power play opportunity of the night.

After twenty minutes of play, the Predators were leading in shots on goal (12-11) and giveaways (5-4), while the Sharks led in hits (18-14), takeaways (7-4) and blocked shots (7-3). Both teams won nine faceoffs in the first period.

Matt Nieto put Nashville on the power play early in the second period when he was given a minor penalty for tripping Colin Wilson 2:45 into the 2nd.

Just as the power play was about to expire, Mike Fisher capitalized on the man advantage with his 2nd goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Fisher’s goal was assisted by Ryan Johansen (3) and Mattias Ekholm (1) at 4:33 of the 2nd period and gave the Predators a 1-0 lead on the scoreboard.

Almost a minute later, Eric Nystrom provided San Jose with their first power play of the night when he was sent to the penalty box for interfering with Brenden Dillon. The Sharks first attempt on the power play was unsuccessful and yielded no results.

With 40 minutes in the books, Nashville led 1-0 and led in blocked shots 15-11. But for not having played since April 22nd in Game 5 against Los Angeles, the Sharks were beginning to find their legs and led in shots on goal (25-22), hits (36-20), faceoff wins (23-19), giveaways (14-8) and takeaways (11-4) after two periods. Nashville had last played in Game 7 against Anaheim on Wednesday night and began to show signs of fatigue compared to the well-rested Sharks by the end of two.

UnknownJust 50 seconds into the 3rd period Ryan Johansen took a holding penalty for tying up Sharks captain, Joe Pavelski, sending San Jose on their second power play of the game.

Tomas Hertl beat Rinne with a wrist shot at 2:37 of the third period on the power play for his 2nd goal of the playoffs and tied the game at 1. Joel Ward (5) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (2) picked up the primary and secondary assists on Hertl’s PPG.

With a clear swing in momentum, Ward led a breakout a little past halfway in the third period that resulted in a breakaway and a dangle that led to a backhand goal past Rinne and 2-1 lead for San Jose. Ward’s first goal of the postseason was assisted by Joonas Donskoi (2) and Norris Trophy finalist, Brent Burns (7), at 11:49 of the 3rd.

Calle Jarnkrok was sent to the sin bin for catching Donskoi with a high stick at 15:20 of the third period and the Sharks went to work once again on the ensuing power play. Twenty seconds on the man advantage was all it took for Logan Couture to receive a pass from Pavelski and fire a backhand behind Pekka Rinne. Couture’s 2nd goal of the playoffs gave San Jose a 3-1 lead with under five minutes remaining in regulation. Pavelski (2) and Burns (8) picked up the assists.

When there was less than three minutes remaining in the game, Nashville head coach, Peter Laviolette motioned for Rinne to abandon his net in exchange for an extra attacker. It almost worked in the short run, as Johansen took a puck off his face that deflected past Martin Jones and pulled the Preds to within one at 18:11 of the third period.

The Predators trailed 3-2 with Johansen’s 2nd goal of the 2016 postseason, assisted by Roman Josi (4) and Colin Wilson (4), however they could not keep the Sharks away from pressing in the closing minutes.

Logan Couture found the back of the empty twine just 20 seconds after Johansen scored to put the Sharks back up by two goals. Couture’s 2nd goal of the night and 3rd of the playoffs was unassisted at 18:31 of the period. Tommy Wingels added another empty net goal at 19:10 of the third period to cement the 5-2 victory for San Jose in Game 1. The goal was unassisted and was Wingels first goal of the playoffs.

For the last 50 seconds of the game, Carter Hutton replaced Rinne in net for Nashville in a message that Laviolette was clearly trying to send to his team that they can’t allow five goals in the third period and expect to win (or over rely on their netminder, for that matter).

San Jose tied a franchise playoff record for most goals in a period with their five goal outburst in the third on Friday night. They had also scored five goals in the 2nd period of a 2011 Western Conference Quarterfinal game at Los Angeles.

After the final horn, nearly every skater on the ice participated in some face washing, resulting in numerous penalties to be handed out, officially at 20 minutes of the third period. Roman Polak picked up two roughing minors, while Barret Jackman notched a 10 minute misconduct and two roughing minors himself. As well, Colton Sissons was handed two roughing minor penalties of his own at the conclusion of the game.

With their pleasantries exchanged, the Sharks went on to celebrate their win in Game 1, while the Predators sulked off the ice, soundly beaten.

San Jose finished the night leading in shots on goal (38-31), hits (42-32), faceoff wins (34-29), giveaways (18-13) and takeaways (15-6), while Nashville ended the night leading in blocked shots (25-15). The Predators were 1/2 on the power play in Game 1 and the Sharks finished 2/3 on the man advantage.

Game 2 is on Sunday night at 8 PM EST at the SAP Center in San Jose, California and can be seen on NBCSN in the United States and on CBC and TVA Sports in Canada.

St. Louis at Dallas – Game 1 – Lehtonen leads Stars to 2-1 victory

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No, this is not the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals.  Just because Ken Hitchcock, Brett Hull and Lindy Ruff are involved doesn’t mean we’re going to be concerned with skates in the crease.  That being said, that game from almost 17 years ago may have been in the back of Ruff’s mind, as he exacted revenge in a 2-1 victory.

There wasn’t much to talk about in the first period.  Only 20 shots were fired between the two teams and none of them found the back of the net, even though there were four minutes played of uneven hockey.

Antoine Roussel finally scored the first goal of the series at the 9:36 mark of the second period, as his slap shot was assisted by First Star of the Game Radek Faksa and John Klingberg (his third helper of the postseason).  It was a coast-to-coast play, beginning with Roussel advancing the puck through all three zones.  From the right face-off circle, he passed cross-ice to Klingberg, who immediately centered the puck for a Faksa wrister that was blocked by Second Star Brian Elliott.  Roussel collected the rebound and fired his slap shot over the diving Elliott to give Dallas a lead they would not yield through the remainder of the frame.

Kevin Shattenkirk and the Blues leveled with 8:28 remaining in regulation on a pure slap shot, assisted by Colton Parayko and Patrik Berglund.  3:44 later, Faksa earned his second point of the night with the game-winning goal, a wrister assisted by Ales Hemsky (his third helper of the playoffs) and Alex Goligoski.  Once again, it was another rebound off an Elliott block, as after Hemsky advanced the puck into the offensive zone, he passed to Goligoski who attempted a wrister that was stopped, but not covered by Elliott.  Faksa quickly advanced on the puck and slid it past Elliott’s left skate before he could seal the crease, giving the Stars their winner.

Dallas certainly deserved to win this one, as they led in shots (42-32; led by Colton Sceviour’s five shots) and blocks (22-11; led by Goligoski’s four blocks).  Additionally, they beat the Blues at their own game, as they threw six more hits to impose their will.

Third Star Kari Lehtonen earns the win after saving 31 of 32 shots faced (96.9%), while Elliott, who saved 40 of 42 (95.2%), takes the loss.

Game 2 will occur at 3 p.m. eastern on May Day, two days from now.  That contest may be viewed on NBC, SN or TVAS.

Pittsburgh at Washington – Game 1 – Oshie’s hat trick gives Capitals one game lead

Pittsburgh Penguins LogoWashington Capitals LogoT.J. Oshie scored the final three Capitals goals, including the overtime winner, to lead Washington to a 4-3 Game 1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

A little over 10 minutes into the game (10:13, to be exact), Andre Burakovsky fired a writer after assists from Jason Chimera and John Carlson (his fourth helper of the playoffs) to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead, which held into the first intermission.

Washington certainly deserved the lead after one period, as they fired 15 shots to the Penguins‘ nine.  In addition, they were also more physical along the boards, notching 10 more hits than the visitors.

Ben Lovejoy leveled the game 40 seconds after the midway point with a wrist shot of his own, assisted by Second Star of the Game Nick Bonino (his sixth helper of the playoffs) and Carl Hagelin.  57 seconds later, an Evgeni Malkin backhander, assisted by Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang (his fifth helper of the playoffs), gave Pittsburgh their first lead of the series.  It wouldn’t last long though, as First Star Oshie scored an unassisted wrister at the 12:10 mark to level the game at two-all.

Just as Washington statistically dominated the first period, Pittsburgh returned serve in the second, as they fired 17 shots to the Caps‘ seven.  Pittsburgh also outhit Washington 14-12.

Oshie turned his second period goal into a scoring streak for himself and the Capitals, as 3:23 after returning to the ice he scored on a backhander assisted by Alex Ovechkin.  Bonino leveled 5:19 later on a wrister, assisted by Hagelin and Kessel (his fourth helper of the postseason) to set the score at three-all, which held to the end of regulation.

Overtime was a back-and-forth affair, with both teams firing at least six shots, but it lasted only 9:33 before Oshie completed his hat trick with a wrap-around winner, his fourth tally of the postseason.

Braden Holtby earns the win after saving 42 of 45 shots faced (93.3%), while Matt Murray takes the loss, saving 31 of 35 (88.6%).

These squads will be back at it this Saturday at 8 p.m. eastern.  That contest can be viewed on CBC, NBC or TVAS.

Nashville at Anaheim – Game 7 – Rinne stands tall, Preds advance

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Pekka Rinne saved all but one of his shots faced to lead his Predators to a Game 7 2-1 victory in Anaheim.

Colin Wilson scored the first goal of the night at the 6:19 mark on an unassisted backhander.  Mattias Ekholm started the play in Nashville‘s defensive zone.  After collecting the puck along the near boards, he flipped it through the neutral zone to Wilson at the far blue line.  Mike Fisher entered the zone with him and split the defensemen while trying to collect a pass from Wilson, but the trio ended up skating past, leaving Wilson the opportunity to collect, advance towards the crease and score over Frederik Andersen’s glove hand.

Probably the most impressive feat of the period was actually Anaheim‘s defense, as they held the Predators off the board even through two overlapping penalties that caused a 40 second 5-on-3.

No, it continued to be the even-strength goal chances that bit the Ducks.  With 4:07 remaining in the frame, Paul Gaustad scored his first goal of the playoffs after assists from Shea Weber and Viktor Arvidsson.  As Anaheim was unable to score in the remainder of the frame, Nashville took a two-goal lead into the dressing room.

Arguably the strongest measure of Nashville‘s early success is the face-off dot, as they were victorious on 63% of puck drops.

The first real opportunity of the second period was for the Ducks on a delayed penalty against Roman Josi, but David Perron was unable to both corral the puck and put it past First Star of the Game Rinne.  The ensuing power play only yielded three shots, including a Jamie McGinn attempt that ricocheted off the crossbar of a wide open net.  Nashville actually committed three penalties during the frame, but the Ducks were not able to capitalize.

Once again, it was the Predators defense that stood tall.  Through two periods, Nashville had 18 blocks to their credit to Anaheim‘s nine, meaning that Rinne had faced only 22 shots.  In total, Josi had a game-leading seven blocks by the time the clock read zero.

Second Star Ryan Kesler finally got the Ducks on the board at the 1:45 on a carryover power play from the second.  His slap shot was assisted by Jakob Silfverberg and Hampus Lindholm.  It was a tic-tac-toe play, as Lindholm passed to Silfverberg behind the net, who immediately centered the puck into the crease for Kesler to score, but that was all the Ducks had in them as they lost 2-1.

It didn’t help that they didn’t play very aggressively.  The game almost effectively ended on a delayed penalty against the Ducks, as the Predators worked the clock for almost an entire minute before the play was ruled dead.  Although they put up a good fight during the remaining minute or so, Rinne continued his stellar night to secure the win.

Rinne ended the night saving 36 of 37 shots faced (97.3%), while Andersen takes the loss, saving 18 of 20 (90%).

With that win, Nashville earns a spot in the Western Conference Semifinals and a date with the San Jose Sharks.  That series will begin at 10:30 p.m. eastern on Friday, April 29.  Those games can be watched on NBCSN, SN or TVAS.

Prince Nets 2, Bishop Chased, Islanders Win 5-3 in Game 1

By: Nick Lanciani

New York Islanders LogoThe New York Islanders defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 at Amalie Arena in Game 1 of the Second Round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday night.

Thomas Greiss made 33 saves on 36 shots against for a .917 SV% in the win, while Ben Bishop made 9 saves on 13 shots faced and was replaced by Andrei Vasilevskiy with a .692 SV% on the night. Vasilevskiy made 8 saves on 8 shots faced in 29:40 TOI in the loss.

Josh Bailey was out of the lineup for the Islanders on Wednesday night after leaving Game 6 versus the Florida Panthers with an upper body injury. With Bailey out, Ryan Strome was inserted into the lineup for New York.

Ondrej Palat opened up the scoring in the first period for Tampa a little over three minutes into the opening frame. Palat’s goal was his 2nd of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and was assisted by Jonathan Drouin (5) and Vladislav Namestnikov (1) and gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead.

Travis Hamonic answered back in a hurry at 5:44 of the first period with a goal of his own for New York. Hamonic’s first goal of the postseason was assisted by Alan Quine (3) and John Tavares (5) and tied the game at 1 for the Islanders.

Both teams settled into a little rhythm after swapping goals early in the first. Lightning forward, Tyler Johnson received a minor penalty for hooking New York forward, Cal Clutterbuck, at 9:06 of the first period. The Islanders were unable to convert on their first power play opportunity of the night. They subsequently failed on their next power play opportunity when Alex Killorn went to the box for kneeing Calvin de Haan. Actually, Killorn’s penalty was served by Jonathan Drouin, but anyway…

At 17:28 of the first period, Shane Prince potted one at the back of the net. Ryan Strome (2) and Brock Nelson (3) assisted on Prince’s 2nd goal of the postseaon. A little more than two minutes later, Prince, Strome and Nelson connected for another Islanders goal to give New York a 3-1 lead. The goal was Prince’s second goal of the game and his 3rd of the postseason. Strome picked up his 3rd assist of the playoffs and Nelson picked up his 4th assist of the postseason.

After twenty minutes of play, the Islanders were leading 3-1 and led in shots on goal (12-8), faceoff wins (10-9) and takeaways (3-2). The Lightning led in hits (18-12), giveaways (5-3) and blocked shots (6-3). New York went 0/2 on the power play, while Tampa had yet to see time on the power play entering the first intermission.

Marek Zidlicky served a minor penalty for interference 2:21 into the 2nd period, which gave Tampa their first power play of the night. The Lightning were unsuccessful on the man advantage.

Unknown-1Jonathan Marchessault hooked John Tavares at 8:12 of the 2nd period, resulting in an Islanders power play.

47 seconds into the man advantage Tavares made the Lightning pay with his 6th goal of the 2016 playoffs on the power play at 8:59 of the 2nd. Kyle Okposo (6) and Frans Nielsen (2) picked up the primary and secondary assists on the goal that made it 4-1, Islanders.

Tampa Bay head coach, Jon Cooper, replaced his starting goaltender, Ben Bishop, with Andrei Vasilevskiy after the Tavares power play goal.

Ryan Callahan took a holding penalty with under three minutes left in the second period. New York was unable to convert on the ensuing power play. After forty minutes of play, the Islanders had a commanding 4-1 lead over the Lightning, despite trailing in shots on goal (19-17), hits (22-19) and blocked shots (8-6).

Nikita Kucherov kicked things off in the third period for the Lightning with his 6th goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at 7:41 of the period. Kucherov’s goal was assisted by Mathieu Carle (2) and Victor Hedman (2) and cut the Islanders lead to two.

The final penalty of the night was called at 15:20 of the 3rd period, when Casey Cizikas sent the puck over the glass for a delay of game minor. Eight seconds after the conclusion of the power play, Tampa scored to trail by one. The goal was Valtteri Filppula’s first of the playoffs and was assisted by Killorn (3) and Jason Garrison (3) at 17:28 of the period.

With 1:39 to go in regulation, Vasilevskiy deserted the net for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail as Cal Clutterbuck notched one in the empty net at 19:05 of the third. Cizikas (1) and de Haan (2) picked up the assists on Clutterbuck’s first goal of the postseason and ensured that the Islanders would pick up the 5-3 victory in Game 1.

Tampa led in shots on goal (36-22), hits (33-29) and giveaways (13-7) at the end of the game, while New York led in faceoff wins (32-21), takeaways (4-2) and blocked shots (15-10). The Islanders were 1/4 on the power play on the night while the Lightning were 0/2.

The Isles won two out of the three regular season games against the Bolts and took Game 1 convincingly, despite being outworked in the final twenty minutes. More rest proved to be sloppy for the Lightning out of the gate, however more work caught up to New York by the end of sixty minutes of play.

For the first time since 1983 two playoffs occurred on the same day, with the Tampa Bay vs. New York game opening the Second Round on Wednesday night, while the Anaheim Ducks and the Nashville Predators closed out their First Round series in Game 7 at the Honda Center.

The Lightning play host to the Islanders once again for Game 2 on Saturday afternoon at 3:00 PM EST on home ice at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. The game can be seen on NBC in the United States and on Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada. The Islanders lead the series 1-0 with their 5-3 victory on Wednesday night.

Predators Force First Game 7 in Franchise History

By: Nick Lanciani

UnknownPekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators forced a Game 7 with a 3-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night at Bridgestone Arena. Rinne stopped 26 shots on 27 shots faced for a .963 SV% en route to the win, while Frederik Andersen made 23 saves on 25 shots against for a .920 SV% in the Anaheim loss.

Entering Monday night, Nashville had a 0-5 record in all-time Game 6 situations where they were facing elimination. Craig Smith returned to the lineup for the Predators, but not without a price in the eyes of the hockey gods, as Cody Bass left the game after the first period and did not return for the night with an injury.

After a scoreless first period, in which the Predators and the Ducks swapped power play opportunities only three minutes into the game, Nashville was leading 8-7 in shots on goal. The Preds were also leading in hits (12-11), giveaways (3-1), takeaways (3-2) and blocked shots (5-2), while Anaheim led in faceoff wins (10-7) after twenty minutes of play.

Mattias Ekholm scored the game’s first goal at 8:10 of the second period to give Nashville a 1-0 lead. The goal was Ekholm’s 2nd of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and was assisted by Calle Jarnkrok (1) and Ryan Ellis (2). Almost ten minutes later, James Neal put the Predators up by two with his 2nd goal of the series, assisted by Ryan Johansen (2) at 17:45 of the period.

Ekholm then served a minor penalty for holding Anaheim skater, Hampus Lindholm, at 19:17 of the 2nd. The Ducks forced their way into the front of the net during the ensuing power play opportunity and Ryan Kesler picked up a rebound before shoving it home for his 3rd goal of the postseason, thereby cutting Nashville’s lead in half on the man advantage. Kesler’s goal was assisted by Corey Perry (4) and Cam Fowler (2) at 19:46 of the 2nd period.

After forty minutes of play, the Predators led 2-1 on the scoreboard and 20-18 in shots on goal. Nashville also led in giveaways (3-2) and blocked shots (12-6), while the Ducks led in hits (23-20) and faceoff wins (19-17). Both teams had 4 takeaways after two frames and Anaheim was 1/2 on the power play, while Nashville was 0/1.

UnknownThe third period saw a 9-6 shots on goal advantage in favor of Anaheim, but the Ducks last ditched effort was matched by the cool, calm and collected goaltending by Rinne.

With ten seconds left in regulation, Shea Weber fired the puck down the frozen river and into the empty net that had been vacated by Andersen with about 90 seconds to go in the period. Weber’s goal, his 2nd of the postseason, gave he Predators a 3-1 lead and was his 12th career playoff goal. As well, James Neal picked up an assist on the empty net goal.

Weber is now one goal shy of tying David Legwand’s franchise record of 13 career playoff goals.

Nashville finished the night leading in hits (30-25), giveaways (8-5) and blocked shots (21-11), while Anaheim finished the night leading in faceoff wins (28-26) and takeaways (5-4). With the win, the Predators tied the series at 3-3, thereby forcing a Game 7 on Wednesday night at 10:00 PM EST at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. It will be the first Game 7 in franchise history for the Predators and can be viewed on NBCSN in the United States and on Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada.

In rare NHL form, Round Two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs kicks off on Wednesday night before Round One will have even concluded, as the Tampa Bay Lightning square off with the New York Islanders at Amalie Arena.

Chicago at St. Louis – Game 7 – Brouwer and the Blues advance

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With a 3-2 win in the Scottrade Center Monday night, the Blues are off to Dallas after eliminating the arch-rival Chicago Blackhawks.

Exactly a minute into the game, Jori Lehtera redirected a Jay Bouwmeester shot into the back of Corey Crawford’s net to give the Blues a one-goal lead.  Bouwmeester’s initial shot from the blue line was assisted by Jaden Schwartz.

The Notes doubled their lead with 6:17 remaining in the opening period with a slap shot from Colton Parayko, assisted by Patrik Berglund and Alexander Steen.  Steen dug the puck out of the corner and passed to Berglund at the near face-off dot.  Berglund dumped off to the rookie, who fired from almost on the blue line to give the Blues their second goal.

Marian Hossa pulled the Blackhawks back within a goal with a slap shot with 1:30 remaining in the frame.  His third goal of the series was assisted by Richard Panik.  The offensive threat began in the Hawks‘ defensive zone when Schwartz blows an edge and ends up on his back.  Panik collected the puck in the neutral zone and made the cross-ice pass to Hossa just before he crossed the blue line.  Hossa fired his slapper from just outside the right face-off circle.

Just like they have all series, St. Louis made certain to make their presence along the boards known, as they led the Hawks in hits, 20 to seven.

Thanks to a Kevin Shattenkirk hooking penalty causing the first power play of the game, Andrew Shaw leveled the game with a wrister assisted by Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith, the only tally of the period.  Keith started the play at the blue line, passing to Toews who quickly dumped to Shaw along the goal line to Second Star of the Game Brian Elliott’s stick side.  In what was probably an attempted pass to Patrick Kane on the opposite side of the crease, Shaw’s puck hit Bouwmeester’s leg as he was sprawled on the ice and trickled past Elliott’s left skate.

Just as Chicago had the only goal in the second, St. Louis had the lone tally of the third to break the tie and win the series.  The series-clinching goal belongs to First Star Troy Brouwer, his first of this postseason, assisted by Third Star Robby Fabbri and Paul Stastny.  The play starts on Erik Gustafsson’s stick, as he is working to advance the puck into the neutral zone before Fabbri throws a full body check to break possession.  Alex Pietrangelo collected the puck and dumped it back into the offensive zone, where Stastny collected.  Working hard to maintain possession, he finally finds Fabbri in the far face-off circle, who dumps to Brouwer waiting in the crease.  Brouwer’s initial shot finds the right post, and the second was a fan, but the third time was indeed the charm, finding the back of Crawford’s net.

Elliott earns his first Game 7 win in his first Game 7 appearance, saving 31 of 33 shots faced (93.9%), while Crawford takes the loss, saving 23 of 26 (88.5%).

As the lower seed, a maximum of only three games will be played in St. Louis next round when they face the Dallas Stars.  No date or time has been released for when that series will begin in North Texas.

Dallas Ends Minnesota’s Season in Game 6

The Dallas Stars defeated the Minnesota Wild by the score of 5-4 to win the series and advance into the next round. Jamie Benn had a strong game as he posted a goal and 2 assists leading his team into the next round. Minnesota’s four-goal third period wasn’t enough to beat the Stars and keep their season alive. Unknown-2

Coming into game 6, it was a question of who would get the start for Dallas, as Antti Niemi lost game 5. The Stars went back to Kari Lehtonen, who started games 1-3. The game started with rough stuff and it was not a surprise as the penalties started to fly. Five minutes into the game, Dallas found themselves on a 5-on-3 and it only took a little bit before they had the breakthrough.

John Klingberg’s one-timer from the point beat Devan Dubnyk on the powerplay. Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza picked up the assists on Klingberg’s first goal of the playoffs. Dallas wasn’t done there, however, as three minutes later Jason Spezza converted a rebound off a Patrick Eaves slapshot.

Things seemed to slow down a little bit, but questions were being asked of Minnesota and people were wondering if they were going to show up. With just under two minutes left in the 1st period, Patrick Sharp scored 2-on-1 as he lasered the puck past Devan Dubnyk, putting the Stars up 3-0 going into the break. Jamie Benn picked up his second assist of the night along with Cody Eakin on the Sharp goal. CJhyiLmK

The 2nd period was little more balanced and Minnesota seemed to get more into the game. Dallas also seemed content on defending a 3-goal lead. Minnesota got a powerplay as Vernon Fiddler took a tripping penalty. Minnesota didn’t get anything going from it. Then the boos started coming from the Minnesota fans as the home team didn’t look a threat. It got worse for the fans as Jamie Benn got his 4th of the playoff, as he sniped one past Dubnyk with just under 30 seconds left in the period. Patrick Sharp picked up his second point of the night on the assist along with Jason Spezza picking up his 3rd point.

The 3rd period saw goals on goals on goals. After a holding penalty on Dallas, Minnesota got their first goal of the game as Jared Sprugeon jammed one past Lehtonen to spark his team. 16 seconds after the goal, Jonas Brodin scored on a backhand to really get the place rocking. This forced Dallas to take a timeout and try to regroup.

 Minnesota wasn’t done there, though, as 4 minutes later, Jared Spurgeon scored his second powerplay goal of the game after a high sticking call on Stephen Johns. Dallas was able to slow the scoring down and get one of their own as Alex Golgoski bounced one off 3 Minnesota players and past Devan Dubnky. However, Minnesota wouldn’t go away, as Jason Pominville scored his 4th of the playoffs to cut the lead back down to 1 goal. Minnesota pulled Dubnyk for the extra attacker and they began throwing the kitchen sink at the Stars. Dallas was able to hold on for the win, thus winning the series.

Dallas will play the winner of Chicago and St. Louis in the conference semi-finals.

Another Strong Game from Braden Holtby Helps the Capitals win 1-0 and Advance to Round 2.

The Washington Capitals took care of the pesky Philadelphia Flyers by a score of 1-0 on Sunday afternoon . Washington officially won the seven game series 4-2 and did not allow the Flyers to force another game. The Capitals were led by their stellar goaltender Braden Holtby who picked up the win in a 29 save shutout, his second shutout of the playoffs.

The Philadelphia Flyers looked to pull of another miracle win against the Washington Capitals in Game 6 this afternoon in Philly at an electric Wells Fargo Center. Again the Flyers went with goalie Michal Neuvirth who has been sensational in his past two games going 2-0 with a .987 SV% and a .50 GAA and with one shutout. While the Capitals are hoping goaltender Braden Holtby can turn in another shutout like his Game 1 performance.

Washington Capitals Logo

Game 6 started just like Game 5 did, very physical. In Game 5 there was a fight just 10 seconds into the game. Well, Game 6 started the same way, but no fight was started. Instead, it was just hit after hit after hit from both teams, obviously trying to set the tone early in the game.

Just a couple examples of the physical play was Flyers winger Brayden Schenn absolutely LEVELING Caps center Nicklas Backstrom along the right side boards. As well as Flyers new guy, who was the captain of their AHL team, Colin McDonald CLOBBERING Capitals Andre Burakovsky in the corner of the Caps zone. Both these hits got the home crowd of the Flyers amped up and ready to go!

Now surprisingly there were no great scoring chances by both teams, just a couple outside shots here and there that were easily saved by both goalies. It took a while for the games first penalty to dawn upon us as well. At the 13:18 mark of the first-period Flyers superstar Claude Giroux got the call for hooking Caps winger T.J Oshie. This sent the Capitals to their deadly power play and their first of the game. Philly was up to the task and only let two shots reach Neuvirth and killed off the infraction with awesome shot blocking.

Washington would then go right back on the power play just 4:55 later when Flyers power forward Wayne Simmonds slashed Caps D-man Karl Alzner. The Caps would get a couple quick shots that were easily saved by Neuvirth. On a faceoff play just 45 seconds later Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald missed lifting the stick of Capitals Marcus Johansson and caught him up high with a hi-sticking call. Washington would then go on the 5 on 3 power play.

Then finally, with 31 seconds remaining in the period we get the games first scoring chance thanks to Washington vet Justin Williams. He received a pass in the high slot from center Nicklas Backstrom and fired a quick wrist shot that was turned away nicely by Neuvirth’s blocker. Washington would end the period still on the 5 on 3 PP.

Washington started the second period with the 5 on 3 power play. Nothing came from this two-man advantage as the Flyers were able to kill it off. The next penalty went to Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom as he was slapped with a double minor for hi-sticking Flyers grinder Ryan White. Then as the replays ensued it was really the stick of Philly winger Chris VandeVelde who caught him up high but the penalty didn’t change. Then just five seconds later the Capitals would take another penalty, this time, Washinton D-man Matt Niskanen got a two-minute infraction for hooking Philly winger Wayne Simmonds. This would send the Flyers to a crucial 5 on 3 power play in hope for a goal to break the 0-0 tie.

Philadelphia Flyers Logo

Unfortunately, the Flyers only managed three shots on goal and it was a terrible power play to go along with it. Then to put insult to injury of that awful power play, Flyers grinder Ryan White got called for holding the stick of Capitals defender Matt Niskanen just 6:55 into the second and it nullified the Flyers PP and made the game 4 on 4.When the 4 on 4 ended it sent the Caps to their fourth power play of the game, but only had 30 seconds to work with and blew their chance to strike first as the PP expired.

At 8:59 into the second period we got the games first goal courtesy of Caps center Nicklas Backstrom. Washington star Alex Ovechkin held the puck in at the right blue line, and spotted Caps Winger Marcus Johansson in the slot and hit him with a pass. Johansson settled the puck down and slid the puck over to the goal scorer, Nicklas Backstrom who was standing at the left side dot. Once the puck hit Backstrom’s stick he quickly fired a wrister up high that beat Neuvirth up high for the 1-0 lead.

This goal snapped Neuvirth’s shutout streak at 106:20, an outstanding mark that lasted a game and 2 periods. Washington also finally beat Neuvirth after he saved their previous 72 shot attempts. So clearly the Caps were relieved they were able to finally get a goal. The second period ended with the Capitals up 1-0, so if the Flyers want to keep their playoff hopes alive they better wake up in the third period.

Hey, look! You could have guessed it, the Flyers took ANOTHER penalty. This time is was Flyers winger Sam Gagner who hooked Caps center Evgeny Kuznetsov. Washington would then get their 5th man advantage of the game, but only had one shot on goal. Once again the Flyers were outstanding on the kill.

The rest of the third period was back and forth to say the lease. Each team had numerous scoring chances but were always denied by the goalies of Neuvirth and Holtby. The Flyers would then pull Neuvirth with 1:20 left in the game desperately trying for that tying goal. Sadly, the Flyers were not able to get one past Holtby in the dire minutes of the game and lost Game 6 by a score of 1-0. The last glimmer of hope on the Flyers “cinderella” type season was after that final buzzer rung, their fans immediately gave the team a standing ovation.

Holtby once again played a phenomenal game, saving all 29 shots thrown his way for his second shutout of the series. While Michal Neuvirth played outstanding again in the losing effort stopping 25 out of 26 shots for a .966 SV%.

The Washington Capitals final stat leaders for their first series are as followed. Their leading point getter was Nicklas Backstrom (2G, 5A), leading goal scorer was John Carlson and Alex Ovechkin both with 3 goals and assist leader was Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson both with 5 assists. While their goaltender Brenden Holtby finished the series with a marvelous  4-2 record, a .968 SV%, and a .84 GAA in 6 Games as well as two shutouts.

The Philadelphia Flyers leading point getter was a 4-way tie for first. Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Sam Gagner, and Shayne Gostisbehere all had 2 points (all players had 2 assists), leading goal scorer was a 6 way tie all with 1 goal (Shayne Gostisbehere, Jakub Voracek, Micheal Raffl, Andrew McDonald, Chris VandeVelde, and Ryan White), and leading assist getter were the same 4 people who lead in total points.

While Steve Mason finished his playoffs with a dreadful 0-3 record, a .852 SV%, and a 4.09 GAA in 3 Games (Games 1, 2, and 3) and Michal Neuvirth finished with a 2-1 record, a .981 SV%, and a .67 GAA in 3 Games (Games 4, 5, and 6). You can clearly tell that the Capitals were the better team overall and the Flyers offensive production was bad. A major key on why they got bounced in the first round.

Philadelphia lead in faceoffs (35-24), penalty minutes (10-6), hits (38-32), blocked shots (21-15), and giveaways (14-13). While the Capitals only lead in shots (29-26). Philly finished 0/3 on the power play and Washington finished 0/5.

Washington was able to finish off the Flyers and not allow them to force a Game 7. They won the series 4 games to 2. Philly will now pack their bags and begin the offseason earlier than they hoped for as they are officially eliminated from the playoffs. The Capitals will now take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs that will begin as soon as the other four series finish.