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Bruins force Game 7 with, 4-2, win in Toronto

For the second time in as many years, the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs are going to a Game 7 at TD Garden after the Bruins defeated the Leafs, 4-2, on Sunday afternoon at Scotiabank Arena.

Jake DeBrusk scored the defacto game-winning goal midway through the second period, while Tuukka Rask (3-3-0 record, 2.54 goals against average, .921 save percentage in six games this postseason) made 22 saves on 24 shots against (.917 SV%) in the win for Boston.

Maple Leafs goaltender, Frederik Andersen (3-3-0, 2.70 GAA, .925 SV% in six games this postseason) stopped 37 out of 40 shots faced (.925 SV%) in the loss.

The two franchises are just the third pair in NHL history to require a Game 7 in three consecutive head-to-head postseason matchups (2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, 2018 First Round and 2019 First Round).

Additionally, Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara, is set to take part in his 13th career Game 7 appearance, tying Scott Stevens for the most all-time.

Boston has won the last five postseason series matchups against Toronto. The Maple Leafs last defeated the Bruins in the 1959 Stanley Cup Playoffs Semifinal– yes, back when the league had six economically stable franchises.

Connor Clifton (upper body) and Kevan Miller (lower body) remained out of the lineup due to injury for Game 6, while Bruce Cassidy juggled his bottom-six forwards– inserting Karson Kuhlman on the third line right wing and moving Sean Kuraly to center on the fourth line, with Joakim Nordstrom back in the lineup on the left wing after being a healthy scratch for Game 5.

Noel Acciari slid over to the right wing on the fourth line, with David Backes and Chris Wagner joining Paul Carey, Steven Kampfer and Dan Vladar as the healthy scratches for the Bruins in Game 6.

Early in the first period, Chara sent the puck over the glass and out of play for an automatic delay of game minor penalty at 5:21.

Toronto did not convert on the ensuing power play.

Moments later, after the Maple Leafs kept the puck in the attacking zone on a turnover by the Bruins, Morgan Rielly (1) blasted a shot from the point past Rask as the Boston goaltender was screened by Leafs forward, Connor Brown, at 9:42 of the first period.

William Nylander (2) and Patrick Marleau (2) tallied the assists on Rielly’s first goal of the postseason and Toronto led, 1-0.

Less than a minute later, Tyler Ennis took a trip to the penalty box for holding at 10:25 of the first period.

Almost a minute into the resulting skater advantage for Boston, Patrice Bergeron won a face-off to the right of Andersen and squibbed the puck over to Brad Marchand (3) for the shot on goal that deflected off of Toronto defender, Ron Hainsey, and slid through the five-hole of Andersen.

Bergeron (2) had the only assist on Marchand’s power play goal at 11:23 of the first period and the game was tied, 1-1.

While being brought down in the corner over a minute later, Nordstrom got a stick up high on Travis Dermott and was assessed a high-sticking infraction at 12:37.

The B’s managed to kill off the penalty with ease and resumed even strength action without difficulty.

About a minute after their power play, Toronto found themselves going down a skater thanks to Dermott’s tripping infraction against DeBrusk at 15:36.

Late in the power play, Boston worked the puck around the horn and back across the ice to Torey Krug (1) for the one-timer rocket that beat Andersen for the game’s first lead change.

The Bruins led, 2-1, with David Pastrnak (3) and Marchand (5) earning the assists on Krug’s power play goal at 17:02.

After one period of play, Boston led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 14-6, in shots on goal. The B’s also led in hits (13-9) and face-off win percentage (57-44), while the Maple Leafs led in takeaways (4-3) and giveaways (5-4).

Both clubs managed seven blocked shots aside entering the first intermission, while Toronto was 0/2 on the power play and Boston was 2/2 on the skater advantage heading into the middle frame.

Almost midway through the second period, after a hairy couple of minutes in their own zone, the Bruins went back the other way on the attack with DeBrusk sending the puck across to David Krejci for the give-and-go back to DeBrusk (1) for the redirection into the twine.

Krejci (2) and Pastrnak (4) notched the assists on DeBrusk’s goal at 7:57 of the second period and Boston led, 3-1.

Almost a minute later, Charlie Coyle tripped up Frederik Gauthier at 8:47, but the Leafs were not able to capitalize on the ensuing power play opportunity.

Through 40 minutes of play the Bruins led, 3-1, on the scoreboard and outshot the Maple Leafs, 2:1, with a, 30-15, advantage in shots on goal.

Toronto maintained an advantage in blocked shots (17-11) and hits (29-22), while Boston led in face-off win% (58-43). Both teams amassed seven takeaways each and ten giveaways aside.

The Leafs entered the third period 0/3 on the power play, while the B’s were 2/2 on the skater advantage.

After returning to the ice for the final frame of regulation with an extra skip and a jump in their step, the Maple Leafs won a face-off in the offensive zone and worked the puck around to Auston Matthews (5) for the wrist shot goal– off the far post and in– to cut Boston’s lead to one-goal.

Jake Gardiner (2) and Dermott (2) had the assists on Matthews’ goal at 4:15 of the third period and Toronto trailed, 3-2.

Save after save was made all night by both goaltenders, leaving Maple Leafs head coach, Mike Babcock, with no choice but to pull his goaltender for an extra attacker.

Perhaps, though, pulling Andersen with 2:04 remaining in regulation left too much time for those pesky, Big Bad Bruins.

After jumping on a puck in his own zone, Marchand (4) worked it loose and fired away from the neutral zone to pocket the empty net goal to seal the deal on the, 4-2, victory for Boston at 18:06 of the third period.

Chara (1) and Charlie McAvoy (2) tallied the assists on the goal as the B’s assured themselves of a Game 7 on Tuesday.

Andersen vacated the crease once more with about 1:42 to go in the game, but Toronto could not find a way to score two quick goals to tie and force overtime.

At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 4-2, and finished the afternoon leading in shots on goal (41-24) and face-off win% (52-48). The Maple Leafs wrapped up Sunday afternoon with the advantage in blocked shots (19-15), giveaways (19-16) and hits (40-34).

There were no penalties called in the final frame, leaving Toronto 0/3 on the power play for the day and Boston, 2/2, on the skater advantage.

For the third time in their last three series matchups against each other, Boston and Toronto will square off in a decisive Game 7 at TD Garden. Puck drop is expected a little after 7 p.m. on Tuesday and viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBCSN.

Canadian residents can watch the game on CBC, SN or TVAS.

Leafs can advance in Game 6 after, 2-1, win in Boston

For the first time since the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Toronto Maple Leafs can advance to another round of postseason play after their, 2-1, victory on road ice against the Boston Bruins.

The TD Garden crowd was silenced Friday night after the Leafs took the, 3-2, series lead with them out the “exit” doors.

Frederik Andersen (3-2-0 record, 2.62 goals against average, .925 save percentage in five games played this postseason) made 28 saves on 29 shots against for a .966 SV% in the win for Toronto.

Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (2-3-0, 2.65 GAA, .922 SV% in five games played this postseason) stopped 25 out of 27 shots faced (.926 SV%) in the loss.

Auston Matthews and Kasperi Kapanen had the goals for Toronto, while David Krejci scored the lone goal for the Bruins.

Connor Clifton (upper body) and Kevan Miller (lower body) remain out of the lineup for the Bruins due to injury, while Sean Kuraly (fractured right hand) was back in action for Boston in Game 5 after missing the last 12 games.

Kuraly was placed on the fourth line left wing with Noel Acciari at center and Chris Wagner on the opposite wing.

B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, kept his lines the same otherwise, with Joakim Nordstrom joining Paul Carey, Steven Kampfer, Jakub Zboril, Dan Vladar and Karson Kuhlman as Boston’s healthy scratches on Friday.

The first period started with a heavy defensive presence from both clubs as the players trailed up and down the ice.

Toronto dominated the first half of the period, but missed wide of the net more than a few times before Boston started to kick into gear in the latter end of the opening frame.

Late in the period, Zach Hyman tripped up Charlie McAvoy and sent the Bruins on their first power play of the night at 17:00 of the first period. The B’s did not convert on the resulting skater advantage.

After one period of play, the score was tied, 0-0, while Toronto led in shots on goal, 7-6. The Maple Leafs also led in takeaways (10-5) and face-off win percentage (64-36), while the Bruins led in blocked shots (8-1), giveaways (5-2) and hits (14-11).

Entering the first intermission, the Leafs had yet to see any time on the power play and Boston was 0/1.

Early in the second period, Patrick Marleau hooked Krejci and was assessed a minor penalty at 4:13.

The Bruins didn’t convert on the ensuing power play, but had another chance on the skater advantage when Mitch Marner sent the puck over the glass for the automatic delay of game penalty at 8:24 of the second period.

Once again, Boston failed to capitalize on the power play for the third time of the night.

There was no scoring in the second period, as the second intermission commenced with the score still tied, 0-0.

Through 40 minutes of play, Toronto maintained the advantage in shots on goal (16-15) and takeaways (14-5), while the B’s led in blocked shots (10-2), giveaways (8-4) and face-off win% (57-43).

Both teams had 21 hits aside through two periods, while the Maple Leafs had yet to see any time on the skater advantage.

Boston was 0/3 on the power play entering the third period.

Almost midway through the third period, the Bruins were caught with too many skaters on the ice and Boston was charged with a bench minor. Marcus Johansson served the penalty at 7:14 of the third period.

Despite killing off the infraction, the B’s were caught up behind the pace of play and lagging in the aftereffects of the vulnerable minute.

That’s when Toronto pounced.

Jake Muzzin sent a pass across the ice to Matthews (4) for the one-timer past Rask at 11:33 of the third period to give the Leafs the lead, 1-0.

Muzzin (2) and Kapanen (1) tallied the assists on the game’s first goal.

The Bruins used their coach’s challenge arguing that Hyman had interfered with Rask in the crease prior to the shot on goal, thereby inhibiting Rask’s ability to play the puck and make a save across the crease.

After review, had the call on the ice been reversed, it likely would’ve been the softest goaltender interference call in the history of the coach’s challenge.

Regular season? You might get that one.

In the playoffs? Not a chance. The absolute right call has to be made and it was made.

As a result of losing the challenge, Boston lost their timeout. That would’ve come in handy later…

A little over two minutes later, the Maple Leafs caught the Bruins on a rush the other way and waltzed into the attacking zone with the chance to convert on another one-timer– and convert they did.

Kapanen (1) scored his first goal of the postseason and perhaps the most important goal of the series so far at 13:45 of the third period to give Toronto the two-goal lead.

Andreas Johnsson (3) and Morgan Rielly (4) notched the assists on and the Leafs led, 2-0.

Toronto scored two goals in a span of 2:12 and took a stronghold on the eventual outcome.

With about 2:49 remaining in regulation, the Bruins pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker.

Boston continued to hold onto the puck for too long trying to set up the “perfect” play, but caught a break after entering the zone and setting up Krejci (2) for a one-timer to cut the lead in half and make it a, 2-1, game.

David Pastrnak (2) and Torey Krug (3) were credited with the assists on Krejci’s goal at 19:16 of the third period.

After sending the goal through video review to confirm that the Bruins had not entered the zone offside, Boston pulled Rask again for an extra skater with about 30 seconds left in regulation.

Hyman iced the puck for the Leads with 13.2 seconds to go.

Boston couldn’t convert.

Toronto iced the puck again with 1.2 seconds remaining.

Boston couldn’t get a next to impossible shot into the back of the twine as time expired.

At the sound of the final horn, Toronto had won, 2-1, and finished the night trailing in shots on goal, 29-27.

The B’s finished Friday night with the advantage in blocked shots (13-9), giveaways (13-5), hits (29-26) and face-off win% (65-36), while both clubs failed to record a power play goal.

Toronto went 0/1 on the skater advantage and Boston went 0/3.

The Maple Leafs enter Game 6 back on home ice at Scotiabank Arena on Sunday with the chance to eliminate the Bruins and punch their ticket to the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Puck drop is set for 3 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune in on NBC. Canadian residents can catch the action on CBC, SN or TVAS.

Bruins hold on for, 6-4, win in Game 4, tie series, 2-2

Ten combined goals in 60 minutes of action tipped the way of the Boston Bruins, 6-4, over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 4 of their 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round matchup at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday.

With the win for the Bruins, the series is now tied, 2-2.

David Pastrnak had a pair of goals Boston, while Auston Matthews matched Pastrnak’s effort and had a pair of goals for Toronto.

Tuukka Rask (2-2-0 record, 2.77 goals against average, .921 save percentage in four games this postseason) made 38 saves on 42 shots against (.905 SV%) in the win for the B’s.

Maple Leafs goaltender, Frederik Andersen (2-2-0, 3.03 GAA, .917 SV% in four games this postseason) stopped 25 out of 30 shots faced (.833 SV%) in the loss.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, re-inserted John Moore and Marcus Johansson into his lineup after Moore (upper body) missed the first three games of the series and Johansson (illness) missed Games 2 and 3.

Cassidy also juggled his lines, starting Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Danton Heinen on the first line and dropped Pastrnak to the second line right wing with Jake DeBrusk at his usual spot at left wing and David Krejci in his usual role as the center.

Johansson suited up on the left side of the third line with Charlie Coyle at center and David Backes on the right wing.

The fourth line trio of Joakim Nordstrom, Noel Acciari and Chris Wagner was left alone, as were the top-four defenders.

On the third defensive pairing, Matt Grzelcyk was partnered with Moore in Moore’s first game back from injury.

As a result of the returning players to Boston’s lineup, forward Karson Kuhlman and defender Steven Kampfer joined Paul Carey, Jakub Zboril and Dan Vladar as the healthy scratches for the Bruins, while Sean Kuraly (fractured right hand), Connor Clifton (upper body) and Kevan Miller (lower body) remained out of the action.

Early in the action, Connor Brown held Nordstrom and was assessed a minor infraction at 1:08 of the first period.

Late on the ensuing power play, the B’s sent the puck around the horn as Charlie McAvoy (1) snuck into the slot to receive a pass and one-timed a shot past Andersen to give the Bruins the lead, 1-0.

Coyle (1) and Grzelcyk (3) tallied the assists on McAvoy’s power play goal at 3:03 of the first period.

Moments later, Marchand (2) capitalized on the momentum swing as Boston again maintained tremendous pressure in the offensive zone, yielding the two-goal lead from Marchand.

McAvoy (1) and Heinen (2) notched the assists on the goal that made it, 2-0, for the Bruins at 6:38 of the first period as the B’s pocketed a pair of goals in a span of 3:35.

Midway through the opening frame, Bergeron tied up Mitch Marner and was penalized for interference at 13:29.

Boston managed to kill off their first shorthanded bid of the evening, but was not as successful in the vulnerable minute after McAvoy was also penalized for interference at 15:44.

Just 11 seconds after making the kill on McAvoy’s minor infraction, the Bruins failed to clear the zone and the Maple Leafs pounced.

Morgan Rielly fired a shot from the point that Zach Hyman (1) tipped past Rask and cut the lead in half, 2-1, as Toronto got on the scoreboard for the first time of the night at 17:55 of the first period.

Rielly (2) and John Tavares (3) were credited with the assists on Hyman’s first goal of the postseason.

Entering the first intermission, Boston led on the scoreboard, 2-1, and in shots on goal, 14-12.

The Bruins also held the advantage in blocked shots (6-5), while the Maple Leafs led in takeaways (3-1), giveaways (4-3), hits (15-13) and face-off win percentage (53-47).

Heading into the second period, Toronto was 0/2 on the power play and Boston was 1/1 on the skater advantage.

Despite trailing by a goal at the end of the first period, Toronto emerged rejuvenated for the second period with a stretch pass off the boards that yielded a break-in for Matthews about a minute into the middle frame.

Matthews (2) scored as the Bruins bungled a line change and tied the game, 2-2, at 1:07 of the second period.

Andreas Johnsson (2) and Ron Hainsey (1) collected the primary and secondary assists, respectively, on the goal as the Leafs surged.

A couple minutes later, Marchand entered the attacking zone for Boston with Pastrnak (1) speeding to the net to redirect the pass in front of the crease past Andersen– reminiscent of the days of Mark Recchi scoring grungy goals in an NHL rink– to give the Bruins the lead once again, 3-2, at 3:16 of the second period.

The game was tied for a span of 2:09 before Boston pulled back into the lead.

A little over a minute later, Matthews caught McAvoy with a high-stick in front of the Bruins net and was penalized at 4:37, yielding a Boston power play for the second time of the night.

Less than 20 seconds into the resulting power play, Marchand worked a pass through the low slot for the one-timer goal from Pastrnak (2) as No. 88 for the black-and-gold acted as a bumper and gave Boston a two-goal lead, 4-2, at 4:51 of the second period.

Marchand (4) had the only assist on the goal and collected the primary assist on back-to-back goals from Pastrnak for his third point of the game.

Through 40 minutes of play, Boston led, 4-2, on the scoreboard.

Toronto held the advantage in shots on goal (26-22) after two periods– including a, 14-8, advantage in the second period alone. The Maple Leafs also led in takeaways (6-2) and hits (30-24), while the Bruins led in blocked shots (20-8) and face-off win% (54-46) entering the second intermission.

Both clubs had nine giveaways each as the Leafs were 0/2 and the B’s were 2/2 on the power play heading into the third period.

Early in the third period, after keeping the puck in the zone, Zdeno Chara (1) rocketed a shot from the point that beat Andersen as Bergeron screened the Maple Leafs goaltender.

Chara’s goal was unassisted at 5:39 of the third period and gave the Bruins a three-goal lead, 5-2.

With the goal, Chara (42 years, 30 days), became the second-oldest defender in NHL history to score a goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, trailing Chris Chelios (45 years, 86 days) for the record.

Midway through the period, McAvoy’s stick rode up Hyman’s shaft and caught the Maple Leafs forward in the face, yielding a high-sticking infraction and presenting Toronto with their third power play of the night at 11:42.

Ten seconds into the ensuing skater advantage, after working the puck around the zone, Marner floated the puck through the low slot for the redirection from Matthews (3) past Rask for the power play goal and Matthews’ second goal of the game.

Marner (2) and Rielly (3) tallied the assists as the Leafs pulled to within two-goals, 5-3, at 11:52 of the third period.

With momentum on their side, Travis Dermott (1) unloaded a shot from the point past the Bruins goaltender to make it a one-goal game at 13:27.

Jake Gardiner (1) and Brown (1) notched the assists as Boston’s lead was cut to one, 5-4, after Toronto scored a pair of goals in a span of 1:35.

Maple Leafs head coach, Mike Babcock, pulled his goaltender for the extra attacker with 1:55 remaining in regulation.

Despite every last effort by the Leafs, Boston held the line and mustered the puck out of the zone, including the final drive initiated by Krejci up to Nordstrom (1) for the empty net goal at 19:58 of the third period to put the game away, 6-4, on the road.

Krejci (1) had the only assist on the goal– Nordstrom’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal.

At the final horn, the Bruins had secured the victory, despite trailing in shots on goal, 42-31.

Boston finished the night leading in blocked shots (25-12) and face-off win% (59-41), while Toronto led in giveaways (14-13) and hits (37-35).

The Maple Leafs finished 1/3 on the power play on Wednesday and the B’s finished 2/2 on the skater advantage.

With his ninth and tenth career postseason goals in 22 career Stanley Cup Playoff games (all with Boston), Pastrnak trails only Gregg Sheppard (14 games), Barry Pederson (15 games) and Derek Sanderson (19 games) for the fastest to reach 10 career postseason goals.

The two clubs square off in Game 5 at TD Garden in Boston on Friday night with the series tied, 2-2. Viewers in the United States can tune in for puck drop at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN, while Canadian fans can catch the action on CBC, SN, or TVAS.

Maple Leafs edge out Bruins, 3-2, in Game 3

Some nights it’s a 60-minute effort. Other nights all of the scoring occurs in the second period, en route to a, 3-2, victory by the Toronto Maple Leafs over the Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Arena in Game 3 of their 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round matchup.

Oh and Toronto still produced a 60-minute effort.

Frederik Andersen (2-1-0 record, 2.33 goals against average, .947 save percentage in three games played this postseason) made 34 saves on 36 shots faced (.944 SV%) in the win for Toronto.

Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (1-2-0, 2.36 GAA, .928 SV% in three games played this postseason) stopped 31 out of 34 shots faced (.912 SV%) in the loss.

The Maple Leafs hold a, 2-1, series lead for the third time in the last 15 years. Toronto led the Ottawa Senators, 2-1, in the 2004 Eastern Conference Quaterfinals and the Washington Capitals, 2-1, in the 2017 First Round.

After winning, 4-1, in Game 2 at TD Garden on Saturday, the Bruins tied the series, 1-1. Charlie Coyle, Brad Marchand, Danton Heinen and Patrice Bergeron had goals for Boston in Saturday night’s win.

Toronto’s Nazem Kadri scored the only goal for the Leafs in Game 2, but was suspended for the remainder of the First Round for cross-checking Jake DeBrusk in the head.

Heading into Game 3 on Monday, Bruce Cassidy indicated Torey Krug and DeBrusk would be good to go in Toronto (despite both players looking as though they would need to remain in concussion protocol– Krug left Saturday night’s action and DeBrusk looked “off” according to most beat reporters after the game).

Steven Kampfer was inserted on the third defensive pairing with Connor Clifton (upper body) out of commission for Monday night as a result of an injury sustained in Game 2.

As a result, Kampfer made his Stanley Cup Playoff debut for the first time after spending parts of seven seasons in the NHL. Originally drafted 93rd overall in the 2007 NHL Draft by the Anaheim Ducks, Kampfer was previously acquired by the Bruins and made his NHL debut in the 2010-11 season.

After suiting up in 10 games for Boston in 2011-12, he was traded to the Minnesota Wild where he went on to play in 13 games before resurfacing at the NHL level with the Florida Panthers in the 2014-15 season.

In 2016-17, Kampfer was traded from the Panthers to the New York Rangers, where he spent time as a depth defender until Sept. 11, 2018, when he was reacquired by the B’s in the Adam McQuaid trade.

The 30-year-old blue liner has 13-19–32 totals in 201 career regular season games in the NHL.

Joining Clifton in the press box at Scotiabank Arena on Monday were John Moore (upper body), Sean Kuraly (fractured right hand) and Dan Vladar (healthy scratch).

Moore participated in morning skate in a full-contact jersey, but was not ready to return to game action.

Kevan Miller (upper body) and Marcus Johansson (illness) did not travel with the club for Game 3, but Johansson may return for Game 4 and should likely join the team by Wednesday.

Cassidy kept Marchand, Bergeron and David Pastrnak as his first line with DeBrusk, David Krejci and Karson Kuhlman filling out the remainder of his top-six forwards.

With Johansson still out of the lineup, Heinen suited up to the left of Coyle with David Backes on the right wing of the third line and Joakim Nordstrom, Noel Acciari and Chris Wagner comprising of the fourth line trio.

On defense, Zdeno Chara remained paired with Charlie McAvoy, while Krug and Brandon Carlo filled out the top-four blue liners.

Matt Grzelcyk played alongside Kampfer on the third pairing.

Late in the first period, Ron Hainsey was penalized for interference at 16:36, resulting in the first power play of the game for Boston.

The Bruins did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage and took a penalty of their own at 19:21 of the first period, as McAvoy was assessed a holding the stick infraction against Frederik Gauthier.

Toronto failed to capitalize on their first power play opportunity.

Entering the first intermission, the score remained tied, 0-0, as Boston led in shots on goal, 15-10.

The B’s also held the advantage in blocked shots (8-4), takeaways (2-1) and giveaways (4-2), while the Maple Leafs led in hits (19-16) and face-off win percentage (56-44).

Both clubs were 0/1 on the power play heading into the second period.

Early in the middle frame, the Leafs fired a shot on goal that squeaked through Rask and was left sitting in the crease behind the Boston goaltender, while Krug was out of position on defense.

Trevor Moore (1) pounced on the loose puck and picked up his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal to give Toronto the lead, 1-0, at 2:38 of the second period.

Morgan Rielly (1) and Tyler Ennis (1) tabbed the assists on the goal.

Despite allowing the game’s first goal, the Bruins rallied and tied the game 52 seconds later after working the puck down low, then back into the slot for DeBrusk to keep the play alive and generate a rebound.

Upon finding the puck in the low slot, Krejci (1) pocketed it into the twine at 3:30 of the second period.

DeBrusk (1) and Kuhlman (1) had the assists on the goal and the game was tied, 1-1. With the secondary assist on the goal, Kuhlman picked up the first career point in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Shortly thereafter, while attempting to clearJohn Tavares from the slot, McAvoy checked the Maple Leafs forward into his own goaltender– leaving Rask slow to get up, but the Bruins netminder did not come out of the game.

Right at the midpoint of the period, Backes caught Kasperi Kapanen with a high-stick and served a two-minute minor in the penalty box at 10:00 of the second period.

Toronto’s ensuing power play only needed 12 seconds to convert on the skater advantage as the Maple Leafs won the ensuing offensive zone face-off, sent the puck around the boards and quickly back through the slot from Andreas Johnsson to Auston Matthews (1) for the power play goal.

Johnsson (1) and Mitch Marner (1) were credited with the assists on the goal at 10:12 and the Leafs led, 2-1.

Moments later, Grzelcyk cut a rut to the sin bin for hooking Patrick Marleau at 15:59.

Late on the resulting power play, Johnsson (1) sent a backhanded shot over Rask’s glove side after sneaking in on a loose puck while Kampfer left his post as the sole defender responsible for the front of Boston’s net while his partner was off fighting for the puck in the corner.

Johnsson’s power play goal made it, 3-1, Toronto at 17:12 and was assisted by Tavares (2) and Matthews (1).

Less than a minute later, Jake Muzzin was penalized for holding Heinen at 17:45 and the Bruins went on the power play.

Boston was sure to convert on the resulting skater advantage, thanks to Coyle’s (2) effort on a rebound– with Andersen down and out of position– in the lot slot to cut the Maple Leafs lead to one-goal.

Heinen (1) and Grzelcyk (2) notched the assists on Coyle’s power play goal– his second goal in two games– at 19:22 of the second period.

Toronto led, 3-2, entering the second intermission as both teams were even in shots on goal, 26-26.

The Maple Leafs held the advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone (16-11), as well as the lead in hits (34-27) and face-off win% (60-40) through two periods of action.

After 40 minutes of play, Boston led in blocked shots (10-6) and giveaways (6-5), while both teams had three takeaways aside.

The Leafs were 2/3 on the power play and the B’s were 1/2 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame of regulation.

There were no goals scored in the third period, but Nikita Zaitsev sent the puck over the glass and out of play for an automatic delay of game penalty at 5:01.

Boston did not convert on the ensuing power play.

With about 90 seconds remaining in regulation, Cassidy pulled his goaltender for the extra attacker and even used his only timeout after a stoppage with 65 seconds remaining on the clock.

The Bruins were not able to utilize their skater advantage and tie the game as Toronto ate up every chance Boston put forward and time expired in the action.

At the sound of the final horn on Monday, the Maple Leafs had won, 3-2, and finished the night leading in blocked shots (16-14), hits (42-33) and face-off win% (56-44). Toronto went 2/3 on the power play.

Across the sheet of ice at Scotiabank Arena, the Bruins wrapped up Monday night’s action leading in shots on goal (36-34) and giveaways (14-11) and finished 1/3 on the power play.

Toronto leads the series, 2-1, heading into Game 4 at home on Wednesday, while Boston fell to 0-2-0 when trailing after two periods this postseason.

Puck drop on Wednesday is scheduled for a little after 7:00 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune into the action on NBCSN, while Canadian viewers can tune to CBC or TVAS.

Maple Leafs jump out to, 1-0, series lead in Boston

Mitch Marner had a pair of goals in the Toronto Maple Leafs’, 4-1, victory over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden in Game 1 of their 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round matchup on Thursday.

Frederik Andersen (1-0-0 record, 1.00 goals against average, .974 save percentage in one game played this postseason) made 37 saves on 38 shots against in the win for Maple Leafs.

Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (0-1-0, 3.05 GAA, .906 SV% in one GP this postseason) stopped 29 out of 32 shots faced in the loss.

Toronto leads the series, 1-0, and is 1-0 this postseason, while Boston is 0-1.

The two clubs are meeting in the playoffs for the 3rd time since 2013, Bruins prevailing in seven games in 2013 and 2018 over the Leafs.

Boston re-assigned Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic, Jeremy Lauzon and Zach Senyshyn to the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Sunday ahead of their 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round matchup after utilizing the group of forwards to rest their veteran players for the series against the Leafs.

Sean Kuraly (fractured right hand) and John Moore (upper body) remain day-to-day, but continue to skate on their own after practice. Kevan Miller (lower body) remains unavailable and inactive.

Bruce Cassidy revealed his lines for the B’s ahead of Thursday’s game, leaving Karson Kuhlman on the second line right wing with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci, while moving Danton Heinen to the third line with Marcus Johansson and Charlie Coyle.

Cassidy also kept Joakim Nordstrom, Noel Acciari and Chris Wagner together on his fourth line, while scratching David Backes.

On defense, with Miller and Moore out of the lineup, Cassidy inserted Connor Clifton on the right side of the third pair with Matt Grzelcyk.

Steven Kampfer was the only defender that was a healthy scratch for the B’s.

Midway through the opening frame, William Nylander caught Clifton with a high-stick and was assessed a two-minute minor penalty at 8:55 of the first period.

Less than a minute into the ensuing power play, Boston worked the puck around the offensive zone as Brad Marchand connected with Patrice Bergeron (1) to give the Bruins the lead, 1-0, at 9:31 of the first period.

Marchand (1) and Torey Krug (1) collected the assists on Bergeron’s power play goal as Marchand faked a shot and slid a pass across the ice to a wide-open Bergeron, forcing Andersen to play catch up.

With the goal, the current longest-tenured alternate captain in the NHL (Bergeron) now has four goals and eight assists (12 points) in his last eight playoff games against Toronto.

Late in the period, Marner (1) tied the game, 1-1, as the Maple Leafs pounced on an erratic face-off in the attacking zone, first tipping the puck off the near post, then banking it off a body in front of the Bruins net and into the twine.

Jake Muzzin (1) and John Tavares (1) were credited with the primary and secondary assists, respectively, at 16:44.

After 20 minutes of play, the score was tied, 1-1, with the Maple Leafs leading in shots on goal (10-8), as well as takeaways (7-5), giveaways (6-5), hits (17-14) and face-off win percentage (58-42).

Boston led in blocked shots (4-2) and was 1/1 on the power play entering the first intermission. Toronto had yet to see any time on the skater advantage heading into the second period.

Early in the middle frame, Kasperi Kapanen caught DeBrusk with a high-stick and took a trip to the penalty box with a minor penalty at 2:16 of the second period.

The B’s failed to convert on the resulting skater advantage and allowed a shorthanded breakaway that nearly resulted in a goal for Marner.

Instead, DeBrusk tripped Marner as the Leafs winger reached the crease and rewarded Marner with a penalty shot at 2:47.

Marner (2) scored his second goal of the game– a shorthanded penalty shot goal– after getting Rask to commit to the poke check, pulling the puck around the Boston netminder and pocketing it into the mostly open twine.

No. 16 in blue-and-white became just the 5th player in NHL history to score a shorthanded penalty shot goal in the playoffs and the first Toronto player to convert on the penalty shot since Mats Sundin did so against the Buffalo Sabres in Game 4 of the 1999 Eastern Conference Final on May 29, 1999.

Late in the period, Nylander (1) scored off the paddle of Rask’s stick and through the Bruins goaltender’s five-hole after receiving a stretch pass from Nazem Kadri and breaking into the zone all alone.

Kadri (1) and Patrick Marleau (1) notched the assists on Nylander’s goal and the Maple Leafs led, 3-1, at 18:25.

Through two periods of play, Toronto led, 3-1, on the scoreboard and in blocked shots (8-7), takeaways (12-6), giveaways (9-5) and hits (25-21).

Boston led in shots on goal (29-24– including a, 21-14, advantage in the second period alone) and face-off win% (52-48) entering the third period.

The B’s were also 1/2 on the power play after 40 minutes of action.

Midway through the final frame, Zdeno Chara was penalized for interference against Marleau to the displeasure of the Boston crowd– despite the obvious infraction– at 11:45 of the third period.

Toronto did not convert on their only power play opportunity of the night.

With 2:37 remaining in regulation, Cassidy pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker. About a minute later, after a stoppage in play, Cassidy used his timeout to draw up a plan to score at least one goal and cut into Toronto’s two-goal lead.

Things didn’t go as planned for the Bruins.

After winning a face-off in the neutral zone, Boston bungled a pass that was quickly intercepted by Tavares (1) as the Leafs center went on to bury the puck in the empty goal frame, icing the win, 4-1, for Toronto at 18:41 of the third period.

Tavares’ first postseason goal as a Maple Leaf was unassisted.

At the final horn, Toronto took the, 1-0, series lead with a, 4-1, victory on road ice, despite finishing the night trailing in shots on goal, 38-33.

The Maple Leafs finished Thursday night leading in blocked shots (14-11), giveaways (12-7) and hits (33-31), while both teams were 50-50 in face-off win%.

Boston went 1/2 on the power play and Toronto went 0/1 on the skater advantage.

In their four regular season meetings, the team that scored the game’s first goal went on to win all four games. On Thursday, the team that scored the game’s first goal lost.

Welcome to the postseason. It’s a whole new [hockey] game.

Game 2 is Saturday night at TD Garden with puck drop expected shortly after 8 p.m. ET. Viewers can tune into NBC, CBC or TVAS.

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Preview: Western Conference

In continuation with Monday’s Eastern Conference preview, here’s the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round preview many of you have been waiting for.

In the past, Down the Frozen River has covered every game of every series. This year, DtFR is changing things up a bit with a preview of every round and continued excellence in analysis on the DTFR Podcast as well as some Instagram Live sporadic thoughts throughout the playoffs.

P1 Calgary Flames (50-25-7, 107 points) vs WWC2 Colorado Avalanche (38-30-14, 90 points)

The Calgary Flames reached the 50-win plateau for the first time since the 1988-89 season (and just the second time in franchise history). For those of you who might be younger than 30-years-old, that’s also the last time the Flames won the Stanley Cup.

Yes, the Flames won a Cup. Also, it’s been 15 years since Calgary’s appearance in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final or as it’s known to Johnny Gaudreau, “ten years before [his] birth.”

Only kidding.

Scotiabank Saddledome is ready to rock again as the Flames are fiery hot this season. So hot, they’re going to wear their throwback sweaters at home to rekindle the 1989 Cup run flame that burns deep inside the heart and soul of the C of Red.

Anyway, puns aside, Calgary is good. Very good.

Head coach, Bill Peters, has gotten the most out of his goaltenders, Mike Smith (23-16-2 record, 2.73 goals against average, .898 save percentage in 42 games played) and David Rittich (27-9-5, 2.61 GAA, .911 SV% in 45 GP), as they’ve racked up the wins.

Led by Gaudreau (36-63–99 totals in 82 games played), Sean Monahan (34-48–82 totals in 78 GP), Elias Lindholm (78 points), Matt Tkachuk (77 points) and potential 2018-19 Norris Trophy finalist, Mark Giordano (74 points), the Flames rose to the top and stayed there, laying claim to home ice all the way through the Western Conference Final– if not Stanley Cup Final, should the Tampa Bay Lightning be eliminated prior to then.

For Jared Bednar and the Colorado Avalanche, the Avs head coach rode the rollercoaster of injuries, out-of-this-world performances and pedestrian play as Colorado reached the top of the Central Division, fell to 6th place and resurfaced to playoff contention, snagging the 2nd wild card spot in the Western Conference.

Nathan MacKinnon finished one-point shy of the 100-point plateau with 41 goals and 58 assists (99 points) in 82 games this season, centering captain, Gabriel Landeskog (34-41–75 totals in 73 GP), and Mikko Rantanen (31-56–78 totals in 74 GP) on one of the best lines in hockey throughout the year.

Rantanen, of course, has been out of commission since March 22nd with an upper body injury, and remains a question mark for Game 1 against Calgary.

Back to MacKinnon for a moment, the 23-year-old sensation became the third 40-goal scorer since the Quebec Nordiques relocated to Colorado, joining current General Manager, Joe Sakic, and Milan Hejduk as the only players to do so.

Tyson Barrie led the Avs defenders with 59 points from the blue line.

In net, Semyon Varlamov (20-19-9, 2.87 GAA, .909 SV% in 49 GP) stole most of the games this season from Philipp Grubauer (18-9-5, 2.64 GAA, .917 SV% in 37 GP), who– despite getting off to a slow start– has really turned his play around as of late, notching three wins in his last five appearances.

Calgary swept the season series, 3-0-0, but the Avalanche kept every game close.

Both teams have hot hands and solid defenses, but there’s one common theme for each club– goaltending. Who’s going to get the starts? Who will rise above? And who’s going to flounder in the First Round?

Because of this, Calgary will likely get stretched to taking the series in six games, with or without a return of Rantanen to Colorado’s lineup.

Regular season outcomes:

5-3 CGY at Scotiabank Saddledome on Jan. 9th, 6-5 CGY at Scotiabank Saddledome on Nov. 1st, 3-2 F/OT CGY at Pepsi Center on Oct. 13th

Schedule:

4/11- Game 1 COL @ CGY 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/13- Game 2 COL @ CGY 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/15- Game 3 CGY @ COL 10 PM ET on CNBC, CBC, TVAS2

4/17- Game 4 CGY @ COL 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS

4/19- Game 5 COL @ CGY*

4/21- Game 6 CGY @ COL*

4/23- Game 7 COL @ CGY*

*If necessary

P2 San Jose Sharks (46-27-9, 101 points) vs P3 Vegas Golden Knights (43-32-7, 93 points)

The San Jose Sharks quietly lurked the waters working their way diligently to 2nd place in the Pacific Division this season after acquiring Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators and not destroying teams out of the gate as everyone expected.

Still, San Jose was led by Brent Burns (83 points) in what was yet another Norris Trophy worthy performance this season. The Sharks leading scorer among forwards was 25-year-old Tomas Hertl (35-39–74 totals in 77 GP), while Logan Couture (27-43–70 totals in 81 GP) continued to be a presence in the lineup.

There’s no question surrounding San Jose’s explosive offense and their world class defense. Rather, the Sharks goaltending seems to be the club’s only weakness.

Martin Jones (36-19-5, 2.94 GAA, .896 SV% in 62 GP) posted career-worsts in goals against average and save percentage, while backup goaltender, Aaron Dell (10-8-4, 3.17 GAA, .886 SV% in 25 GP) didn’t look so hot either.

For the Vegas Golden Knights, a slow start and a lot of injuries almost decimated their inaugural season success, but in true Golden Knights fashion, the comeback got rolling and Vegas stormed into a divisional spot for the postseason.

Granted, it doesn’t come with home ice, but still.

Vegas didn’t have a 40-goal scorer like last season, but Jonathan Marchessault still led the way with 59 points (25 goals, 34 assists), while his teammate, William Karlsson amassed 24-32–56 totals in 82 GP.

Reilly Smith put up 53 points in a “down” season, but Alex Tuch (20-32–52 totals) had a breakout year, so everything evens out in the end.

In the crease, Marc-Andre Fleury (35-21-5, 2.51 GAA, .913 SV% in 61 GP) remained in control of the Golden Knights starting job, but fell victim to the increased scoring around the league– notching his worst GAA and SV% in a season where he was the starting goaltender since his 2.65 GAA and .905 SV% in 67 games played with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009-10.

For Malcolm Subban (8-10-2, 2.93 GAA, .902 SV% in 21 GP) it was a season to forget for the backup goalie. The sophomore slump is real.

The Sharks lost to the Golden Knights in the Second Round last year and it’s not hard to imagine Vegas pulling out another improbable postseason run.

But this time around feels different.

San Jose split the season series, 2-2-0, but was outscored by Vegas, 18-10, in that span. Though the Sharks should be able to batten down the hatches and outlast the Golden Knights in what’s sure to be quite the entertaining matchup in the First Round, there’s no way it won’t go seven games.

Regular season outcomes:

4-3 F/OT SJS at SAP Center on March 30th, 7-3 VGK at SAP Center on March 18th, 3-2 SJS at T-Mobile Arena on Jan. 10th, 6-0 VGK at T-Mobile Arena on Nov. 24th

Schedule:

4/10- Game 1 VGK @ SJS 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS2

4/12- Game 2 VGK @ SJS 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2

4/14- Game 3 SJS @ VGK 10 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, SN360, TVAS

4/16- Game 4 SJS @ VGK 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2

4/18- Game 5 VGK @ SJS*

4/21- Game 6 SJS @ VGK*

4/23- Game 7 VGK @ SJS*

*If necessary

C1 Nashville Predators (47-29-6, 100 points) vs WWC1 Dallas Stars (43-32-7, 93 points)

A year removed from winning the President’s Trophy, the Nashville Predators entered the final day of the regular season with the chance to grab the 1st seed in the Central Division. The Preds did just that, of course, and will promptly hold a banner ceremony worthy of AFC Finalists.

It’s fine for the local fan base to take pride in their team. It’s also fine for others in the league to poke a little fun at other organization’s unique quirks.

For Nashville, it’s catfish (see, this classic moment from Puck Soup animated— fair warning, language) and banners (see, “Regular Season Western Conference Champions 2017-18”).

Anyway, real talk, the Preds are a legitimate team.

Their defense is still a colossal stronghold with Roman Josi (2nd in points on the roster, 15-41–56 totals in 82 GP), Mattias Ekholm (44 points and a team leading, plus-27 rating), Ryan Ellis and P.K. Subban.

Their offense was led by Ryan Johansen (14-50–64 totals in 80 GP) this season with Filip Forsberg chipping in 50 points and Viktor Arvidsson reaching the 30-goal plateau (he finished with 34).

Their goaltending… oh. Is this when Juuse Saros (17-10-2, 2.62 GAA, .915 SV% in 31 GP) takes over for Pekka Rinne (30-19-4, 2.42 GAA, .918 SV% in 56 GP) as the regular starter?

Oh. Again. Never mind.

While Rinne has had the better year, statistically speaking, his goals against average and save percentage rank 10th and 13th, respectively, among goaltenders who played at least 20 games this season.

In the same respect, there were only eight goaltenders with a goals against average below 2.40.

Saros ranked 21st in GAA (among goalies with 20 GP) and 20th in SV%.

This is only relevant in the head-to-head aspect with the Dallas Stars, which, let’s take a look at their organizational depth this season, shall we?

Dallas’s forwards went from being “f—ing horse—-” to… well, at least Tyler Seguin reached the 80-point plateau this season with 33 goals and 47 assists. Alexander Radulov still had 72 points and Jamie Benn ranked third on the team with 27-26–53 totals.

On the blue line, John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen made a case for Sergei Zubov to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and reached 10-35–45 and 12-21–33 totals, respectively as Klingberg continued to emerge as a veteran and Heiskanen made quite an impression in his rookie season.

Not to be outdone, Esa Lindell notched 32 points from the backend this season.

But in the crease, the Stars had two quality stars.

Starting goaltender, Ben Bishop (27-15-2, 1.98 GAA, .934 SV% in 46 GP) put up a career-best season while fighting a lower body injury at times and backup goaltender, Anton Khudobin (16-17-5, 2.57 GAA, .923 SV% in 41 GP) split time with Bishop– taking on more time while the starter was injured– and had almost a mirror image in wins (16) and goals against average from last season.

As long as Bishop (1st in the league in SV% and 2nd in GAA among goaltenders who played at least 20 games) is healthy, yeah, the Stars take home that advantage. Big time.

Nashville has never won the Cup. Dallas won it 20 years ago.

Both franchises have a thirst to quench for their respective markets. Both clubs split the series with two wins and two losses– never winning or losing by more than two goals.

It’s anybody’s guess, but the Stars should upset the Predators in a seven-game stunner.

Regular season outcomes:

5-3 NSH at American Airlines Center on Feb. 19th, 3-2 F/OT NSH at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 7th, 3-1 DAL at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 2nd, 2-0 DAL at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 27th

Schedule:

4/10- Game 1 DAL @ NSH 9:30 PM ET on USA, SN1, TVAS

4/13- Game 2 DAL @ NSH 6 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS2

4/15- Game 3 NSH @ DAL 9:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS

4/17- Game 4 NSH @ DAL 8 PM ET on USA, SN, TVAS2

4/20- Game 5 DAL @ NSH*

4/22- Game 6 NSH @ DAL*

4/24- Game 7 DAL @ NSH*

*If necessary

C2 Winnipeg Jets (47-30-5, 99 points) vs C3 St. Louis Blues (45-28-9, 99 points)

After a surprising run to the Western Conference Final last season, the Winnipeg Jets struggled at times to find scoring from their top-six forwards, as well as the mythical runway that let their goaltending soar beyond expectations.

This season, the Jets had their ups and downs, while coming back to Earth in other areas.

Blake Wheeler (20-71–91 totals) led Winnipeg in scoring and established a franchise record– dating back to their days as the Atlanta Thrashers– for most assists in a season, while Mark Scheifele (84 points) and Kyle Connor (66 points) rounded out the top-three scorers.

Despite a stretch of games without a goal, Patrik Laine still reached the 30-goal plateau and had 50 points on the season in 82 games played.

On defense, Jacob Trouba picked up the slack with 8-42–50 totals from the blue line while Dustin Byfuglien was limited to 42 games and 31 points due to injury.

In goal, Connor Hellebuyck (34-23-3, 2.90 GAA, .913 SV% in 63 GP) posted a career-worst goals against average (2.90) topping his previous worst 2.89 GAA in 2016-17 (56 GP).

Hellebuyck had his 2nd worst save percentage since his .907 SV% in 2016-17 as well.

Laurent Brossoit (13-6-2, 2.52 GAA, .925 SV% in 21 GP) posted decent numbers as a backup goaltender in his first season with the Jets, since joining the organization in free agency last July.

Winnipeg missed a major part of their defense for most of the season in Byfuglien and to some respects, that’s hampered their goaltending as a result. Tending the net is never solely about one person tending the crease, but rather a team keeping the puck out of their own zone.

However, Hellebuyck has shown signs of a “good year, bad year, good year, bad year” pattern in the past and might have just been victim to a bad year– statistically speaking.

The St. Louis Blues missed the playoffs last year, losing the final game of the regular season to the Colorado Avalanche and the last wild card spot in the process.

This year, the Blues redeemed themselves after almost completely embarrassing themselves. St. Louis was last in the Central Division, then they fired Mike Yeo and hired Craig Berube as interim head coach.

Berube began to right the ship, then Jordan Binnington (24-5-1, 1.89 GAA, .927 SV% in 32 GP) came along.

Binnington lifted the Blues to a franchise record 12-game winning streak and established the franchise record for most wins by a rookie goaltender (24)– surpassing the previous mark (22 wins) set by teammate and presumably the backup goaltender in the postseason, Jake Allen (19-17-8, 2.83 GAA, .905 SV% in 46 GP).

Don’t try to mess with what’s working.

Ryan O’Reilly led St. Louis in scoring with 28-49–77 totals in 82 games played. Meanwhile, Vladimir Tarasenko (68 points) and Brayden Schenn (54 points) compiled respectable totals in 76 and 72 games played, respectively.

Captain, Alex Pietrangelo, provided more than just leadership from the defensive zone. He added 13 goals and 28 assists (41 points) from the point to help guide St. Louis to a divisional playoff berth.

For the first time in franchise history, Winnipeg is making consecutive playoff appearances. Though they tied in points (99) in the standings, the Jets had the advantage in the regulation-plus-overtime wins tiebreaker, leading the Blues, 45-42, in that department.

Winnipeg won the season series 3-1-0, but is facing a Blues team that has completely shifted gears in the second half of the season. For that reason alone, it’s not impossible to predict St. Louis will be the series winner in five games as Binnington cements his status as a goaltender in the NHL– if not a Calder Memorial Trophy candidate at least.

Regular season outcomes:

1-0 STL at Bell MTS Place on Dec. 7th, 8-4 WPG at Enterprise Center on Nov. 24th, 5-4 F/OT WPG at Bell MTS Place on Oct. 22nd, 5-1 WPG at Enterprise Center on Oct. 4th

Schedule:

4/10- Game 1 STL @ WPG 8 PM ET on NHL Network, SN, TVAS3

4/12- Game 2 STL @ WPG 9:30 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS

4/14- Game 3 WPG @ STL 7:30 PM ET on CNBC, CBC, SN, TVAS2

4/16- Game 4 WPG @ STL 9:30 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS

4/18- Game 5 STL @ WPG*

4/20- Game 6 WPG @ STL*

4/22- Game 7 STL @ WPG*

*If necessary

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Preview: Eastern Conference

*cue Andy Williams*

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

The Stanley Cup Playoffs have returned and all is right with the world (unless your team missed the postseason).

In the past, we here at Down the Frozen River have covered every game of every series.

This year, we’re mixing it up a bit– starting with this preview of every First Round series in the Eastern Conference, continuing with a followup preview of every First Round series in the Western Conference and as much analysis as possible on the DTFR Podcast in addition to the blog.

Ch-ch-ch-changes are inevitable and yours truly cannot cover all 16 teams in the postseason alone.

A1 Tampa Bay Lightning (62-14-6, 128 points) vs EWC2 Columbus Blue Jackets (47-31-4, 98 points)

The Tampa Bay Lightning clinched the President’s Trophy (for the first time in franchise history) by mid-March and finished with the 4th most points in a season in NHL history, while star forward, Nikita Kucherov, amassed 128 points (the most by a Russian born player in a season) and Andrei Vasilevskiy (39-10-4 record, 2.40 goals against average, .925 save percentage in 53 games played) turned in a Vezina Trophy worthy performance in the crease.

Oh yeah and Steven Stamkos had 45 goals.

The Bolts also tied the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for most wins in a regular season (62).

Backup goaltender, Louis Domingue (21-5-0, 2.88 GAA, .908 SV% in 26 GP) posted respectable numbers as well in the Lightning’s thunderous run through the season.

Tampa has home ice throughout the playoffs and kicks things off with a First Round matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets, who punched their ticket to the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a, 3-2, shootout victory over the New York Rangers last Friday– eliminating the Montreal Canadiens from postseason contention in the process.

Columbus was all over the Metropolitan Division this season, but went all-in at the trade deadline, adding Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Adam McQuaid and Keith Kinkaid for the stretch run.

Duchene and Dzingel quickly fit in to their respective top-nine roles, while McQuaid struggled to find a suitor on the blue line at first in his return to the organization that originally drafted him 55th overall in the 2005 NHL Draft before he was traded to the Boston Bruins and broke into the league with the B’s in 2009-10.

Kinkaid was added solely for goaltending depth as pending-unrestricted free agent, Sergei Bobrovsky (37-24-1, 2.58 GAA, .913 SV% in 62 GP) led the league with nine shutouts on the season.

Blue Jackets backup goaltender, Joonas Korpisalo (10-7-3, 2.95 GAA, .897 SV% in 27 GP) hit some rough patches at times, but found a way to dig his team out from the backend when necessary.

In the grand scheme of things, the Bolts won the season series, 3-0-0, and outscored Columbus, 17-3, in that span.

While many consider Columbus as a Stanley Cup Playoffs pushover– given the franchise has never won a series– Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella always poses a tough challenge that can wear down his opponent.

Lightning head coach, Jon Cooper, earns his own merit in his ability to keep his players cool, calm, collected and always in comeback mode, but it’s not unfathomable to see the Blue Jackets pestering Tampa about as much– if not more than– Columbus did to Washington in last season’s First Round matchup.

After all, the Blue Jackets did lead that series, 2-0.

That said, this is Tampa’s year for a Cup run or bust. The Lightning should win the series in six games.

Regular season outcomes:

5-1 TBL at Nationwide Arena on Feb. 18th, 4-0 TBL at Amalie Arena on Jan. 8th, 8-2 TBL at Amalie Arena on Oct. 13th

Schedule:

4/10- Game 1 CBJ @ TBL 7 PM ET on USA , SN360, TVAS

4/12- Game 2 CBJ @ TBL 7 PM ET on CNBC, SN360, TVAS

4/14- Game 3 TBL @ CBJ 7 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS

4/16- Game 4 TBL @ CBJ 7 PM ET on CNBC, SN360, TVAS

4/19- Game 5 CBJ @ TBL*

4/21- Game 6 TBL @ CBJ*

4/23- Game 7 CBJ @ TBL*

*If necessary

A2 Boston Bruins (49-24-9, 107 points) vs A3 Toronto Maple Leafs (46-28-8, 100 points)

For the second season in a row, the Boston Bruins are hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs in the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Despite being without Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara at one point this season, the Bruins rallied from their 12th defenseman on up through the rest of the lineup to finish one win shy of consecutive 50-win seasons in Bruce Cassidy‘s third season (second full season) as head coach.

Speaking of Bergeron, however, the perfect two-way center finished the season with a career-high in points (79) and matched his career-high in goals (32) while battling injury early in the season. Bergeron’s 32-47–79 totals came in just 65 games. That’s only one more game played than last season for No. 37 in black-and-gold.

Meanwhile, his linemates, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak each reached milestones of their own. Marchand reached the 100-point plateau this season and became the first Bruin to do so since Joe Thornton recorded 101 points in 2002-03.

The “Little Ball of Hate” also set a career-high in assists (64) and was not suspended in 79 games played this season (he was rested for the final two games in the regular season and missed one game due to injury).

Pastrnak set a career-high in goals (38) and points (81) despite missing time due to a left thumb injury and being limited to 66 games played.

The B’s were led in net this season by Tuukka Rask (27-13-5, 2.48 GAA, .912 SV% in 46 GP) and Jaroslav Halak (22-11-4, 2.34 GAA, .922 SV% in 40 GP) in a 1A/1B scenario. For the first time since the 1989-90 season, Boston had two goaltenders with 20-plus wins.

Back north in Toronto, the Maple Leafs added a formidable center in John Tavares in free agency and his presence was immediate, notching career-highs in goals (47 ) and points (88) in 82 games.

Auston Matthews (37-36–73 totals in 68 games) and Mitch Marner (26-68–94 totals in 82 games) continued to their thing as the $11.634 million man (starting next season) and the soon to be at least $10.000 million boy wonder man.

Maple Leafs General Manager, Kyle Dubas, added Jake Muzzin in January in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings in effort to shore up his blue line, however, questions remain as to how head coach, Mike Babcock will limit time on ice for veterans, like Ron Hainsey, and mix in more opportunities for Morgan Rielly (20-52–72 totals in 82 games) in his breakout season.

Boston won the season series, 3-1-0, outscoring Toronto, 16-10, in that span.

Some experts are picking the Bruins in five games. They also said similar things in 2013 and 2018. This series is going six games (at least), with Boston overcoming the Maple Leafs defense in Game 7, once again.

To their credit, Toronto always makes things interesting in what’s likely to be the most unpredictable First Round matchup.

Regular season outcomes:

3-2 BOS at Scotiabank Arena on Jan. 12th, 6-3 BOS at TD Garden on Dec. 8th, 4-2 TOR at Scotiabank Arena on Nov. 26th, 5-1 BOS at TD Garden on Nov. 10th

Schedule:

4/11- Game 1 TOR @ BOS 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/13- Game 2 TOR @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, TVAS

4/15- Game 3 BOS @ TOR 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS

4/17- Game 4 BOS @ TOR 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS

4/19- Game 5 TOR @ BOS*

4/21- Game 6 BOS @ TOR*

4/23- Game 7 TOR @ BOS*

*If necessary

M1 Washington Capitals (48-26-8, 104 points) vs EWC1 Carolina Hurricanes (46-29-7, 99 points)

Just as everyone expected, the Washington Capitals led the Metropolitan Division with 104 points after Barry Trotz left for the head coaching job on Long Island. Did I mention the Capitals are the defending Stanley Cup champions?

Anyway, Alex Ovechkin scored 51 goals and collected his 8th career Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as a result– though Edmonton Oilers forward, Leon Draisaitl, was hot on his tail with 50 goals this season.

After the New York Islanders led the Metropolitan Division for what seemed like forever, it’s important to note the Metro was actually anybody’s game from puck drop in October. Here’s the thing, the Carolina Hurricanes were near the top of the division– they’ve been surging all season.

Speaking of surging, Carolina introduced their “Storm Surge” post-win celebration and the Caniacs loved it.

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention to the club in Raleigh, Brett Pesce is good. Also, Sebastian Aho (30-53–83 totals in 82 GP), Andrei Svechnikov (20-17–37 totals in 82 GP) and Teuvo Teravainen (21-55–76 totals in 82 games)– they’re pretty good too.

Washington was led by Braden Holtby (32-19-5, 2.82 GAA, .911 SV% in 59 GP) between the pipes this season and is comforted to know Pheonix Copley (16-7-3, 2.90 GAA, .905 SV% in 27 GP) is quite capable of playing this season’s role of Philipp Grubauer (since traded to the Colorado Avalanche after last season’s Cup celebrations).

The Canes were led by a duo of goaltenders who were once thought of as an after thought in Curtis McElhinney (20-11-2, 2.58 GAA, .912 SV% in 33 GP) and Petr Mrazek (23-14-3, 2.39 GAA, .914 SV% in 40 GP).

Though his record might not show it, Mrazek has been hitting his stride for the last month and is locked in. Ride that wave until it crests.

The Hurricanes had a league-leading ten skaters play in all 82 games. There’s no such thing as playing too much hockey– especially when it’s the first postseason appearance since 2009.

Last year, the Columbus Blue Jackets gave the Caps some interruptions coming out of the gate.

Despite Washington having swept the season series, 4-0-0, the Hurricanes kept things close in their most recent matchup with a, 3-2, loss at PNC Arena on March 28th.

Carolina almost pulled off the victory in a shootout on Dec. 14th, but lost, 6-5, on home ice to the Capitals.

Washington is beatable. Hurricanes head coach, Rod Brind’Amour knows that, his team just hasn’t done it yet. Caps head coach, Todd Reirden, is also making his postseason debut at the reigns behind the bench for his respective team.

Though they won the Cup last season– that was then. This is now.

This series is going seven games and the Hurricanes will make sure there’s no repeat Cup winner this year.

Regular season outcomes:

3-2 WSH at PNC Arena on March 28th, 4-1 WSH at Capital One Arena on March 26th, 3-1 WSH at Capital One Arena on Dec. 27th, 6-5 F/SO WSH at PNC Arena on Dec. 14th

Schedule:

4/11- Game 1 CAR @ WSH 7:30 PM ET on USA, SN360, TVAS2

4/13- Game 2 CAR @ WSH 3 PM ET on NBC, SN, TVAS

4/15- Game 3 WSH @ CAR 7 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS2

4/18- Game 4 WSH @ CAR 7 PM ET on TBD, SN360, TVAS

4/20- Game 5 CAR @ WSH*

4/22- Game 6 WSH @ CAR*

4/24- Game 7 CAR @ WSH*

*If necessary

M2 New York Islanders (48-27-7, 103 points) vs M3 Pittsburgh Penguins (44-26-12, 100 points)

Barry Trotz figured out how to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins last season with the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. Trotz is the key. Trotz knows the secret stuff to beat Mike Sullivan and his Penguins.

That’s why the William M. Jennings Trophy winning duo of Robin Lehner (25-13-5, 2.13 GAA, .930 SV% in 46 GP) and Thomas Greiss (23-14-2, 2.28 GAA, .927 SV% in 43 GP) will backstop the New York Islanders past Pittsburgh in their First Round matchup in six games.

Am I getting ahead of myself? Probably.

New York split the season series with the Pens, 2-1-1, with their most recent result against Pittsburgh coming in a, 2-1, shootout loss on Dec. 10th at NYCB Live (that’s the Nassau Coliseum, if you haven’t already heard. The Isles will host their First Round games there).

Islanders General Manager Lou Lamoriello put together a team without John Tavares. Trotz figured out how to get the most out of his players– guys like Matt Martin, Leo Komarov, Casey Cizikas and even Andrew Ladd (until Ladd got injured)– while playing the trap.

That same trap won the Cup last season.

This season, Trotz has Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee as his main attractions instead of names like Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Long Island residents have long memories– the Penguins are one of their greatest rivals– and the added energy of Tavares’ departure has only fueled more passion all season long.

Can New York flip the switch from their late season bumps in the road?

Obviously, Pittsburgh has Sidney Crosby. They also have Evgeni Malkin. Crosby and Malkin are ready to go for another deep postseason run after watching their biggest rival not only beat them in the Second Round last year, but go on to take the Cup out of the hands of the Penguins’ recent streak of dominance in 2016 and 2017.

Patric Hornqvist is also another silent killer option for Sullivan when his team needs a clutch goal– and that’s on top of Jake Guentzel and Phil Kessel throughout the rest of the lineup.

The Penguins were led in the crease by Matt Murray (29-14-6, 2.69 GAA, .919 SV% in 50 GP) this season with some helpful bailout backup goaltending from Casey DeSmith (15-11-5, 2.75 GAA, .916 SV% in 36 GP). If Murray shows any signs of wavering, Sullivan shouldn’t have a hard time going to DeSmith to push his team over the edge.

How will Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann play into the fold as Jim Rutherford‘s biggest prize acquisitions this season? Who might be the breakout star for Pittsburgh that outshines Crosby in the Conn Smythe Trophy vote?

Aren’t these questions supposed to be answered in an editorial preview? Sure.

Regular season outcomes:

2-1 F/SO PIT at NYCB Live on Dec. 10th, 6-2 PIT at PPG Paints Arena on Dec. 6th, 3-2 F/SO NYI at Barclays Center on Nov. 1st, 6-3 NYI at PPG Paints Arena on Oct. 30th

Schedule:

4/10- Game 1 PIT @ NYI 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2

4/12- Game 2 PIT @ NYI 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2

4/14- Game 3 NYI @ PIT 12 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/16- Game 4 NYI @ PIT 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2

4/18- Game 5 PIT @ NYI*

4/20- Game 6 NYI @ PIT*

4/22- Game 7 PIT @ NYI*

Other Washington Post helps Capitals secure 3-1 series lead (no Pentagon Papers necessary)

vegas_golden_knights_logoWashington Capitals Logo

 

 

 

 

After 3,700 total games played (regular season and playoffs) in franchise history, the Washington Capitals will have a chance to hoist the Cup in game #3,701 having defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 6-2 at Capital One Arena on Monday night.

Washington will take a 3-1 series lead heading into Game 5 in Vegas and the Stanley Cup will be in the building if the Capitals win Thursday.

Braden Holtby amassed 28 saves on 30 shots against for a .933 save percentage in the win for Washington, while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 17 out of 23 shots faced for a series low .739 SV% in the loss for the Golden Knights.

Early in the first period Washington defender, John Carlson, tripped up Vegas forward, Erik Haula, and was assessed a minor penalty.

On the ensuing Golden Knights power play, Vegas had the Capitals penalty killing unit scrambling, yielding an open net opportunity as Holtby was way out of position— caught up in the mass desperation.

James Neal hit the far right post on a one-timer from the low left slot.

The home crowd erupted as Washington killed off the penalty, despite the lively play of the Golden Knights, but the score remained 0-0.

Vegas blueliner, Colin Miller tripped Lars Eller almost midway through the first period, giving Washington their first power play opportunity of the night at 9:22.

It only took 32 seconds for the Washington to capitalize on the player advantage as T.J. Oshie (8) buried a rebound to open the scoring in Game 4.

Evgeny Kuznetsov (16) and Nicklas Backstrom (15) had the assists on the goal that only happened thanks to Kuznetsov’s initial shot rebounding off of Fleury and landing on the stick of Oshie as the Capitals winger was crashing the net. The goal was Oshie’s 6th power play goal of the postseason.

About five minutes later, Tom Wilson (5) made it a two-goal game for the Caps.

Washington fought to come away with the puck on an attacking zone faceoff to the right of the Vegas netminder, then worked a quick pass to Wilson in the low slot for a one-timer. Kuznetsov (17) notched his second assist of the night on Wilson’s goal at 16:26 of the first period.

Late in the closing minute of the opening frame, Devante Smith-Pelly (6) cashed in top shelf on a crazy carom and sent Capital One Arena on an ecstatic euphoria never seen before in D.C. hockey history.

Alex Ovechkin (12) and Matt Niskanen (8) collected the assists on Smith-Pelly’s goal at 19:39.

After one period, Washington led, 3-0, on the scoreboard, while the Golden Knights actually outshot the Capitals (11-10). The Caps also led in blocked shots (7-3), takeaways (5-4), giveaways (4-3) and faceoff win percentage (64-36), while both teams had 14 hits aside. Vegas was 0/1 on the power play and Washington was 1/1 on the skater advantage after 20 minutes.

John Carlson tripped William Karlsson (no relation) early in the second period and the Golden Knights had another chance on the power play. They did not convert.

Moments later, Wilson delivered a cross check up high to Nate Schmidt. Once again, Vegas failed to score a power play goal.

Late in the second period Neal slashed Holtby and the Capitals went on the power play at 14:45.

Carlson (5) sent a cannon of a slap shot past Fleury and gave Washington four unanswered goals to lead, 4-0. Kuznetsov (18) and Oshie (12) had the assists on Carlson’s power play goal at 15:23 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Capitals led, 4-0, on the scoreboard and trailed the Golden Knights, 22-15, in shots on goal. Washington held the advantage in blocked shots (16-6), takeaways (10-7), giveaways (13-4) and faceoff win percentage (54-46), while Vegas led in hits (26-22). The road team Golden Knights were 0/3 on the power play and the home team Capitals were a perfect 2/2 on the man advantage after two periods.

Haula slashed Ovechkin 93 seconds into the third period and handed Washington a power play out of the gate in the final frame, but the Caps misfired for the first time on their special teams play and could not convert on the power play.

Kuznetsov then tripped Haula shortly after the Golden Knights forward made his way out of the box, giving Vegas a power play at 3:42.

One second after the power play ended, Neal (6) brought the puck from the hashmarks to the goal and tucked a shot under the short side arm of Washington’s netminder, ending the shutout opportunity, and cutting the lead to three.

Haula (6) and Miller (3) were credited with the assists on Neal’s goal at 5:43 of the third period and the Golden Knights trailed, 4-1.

With a surge in momentum that came much too late, Reilly Smith (4) made it a two-goal game at 12:26 with his 4th goal of the postseason, assisted by linemate Jon Marchessault (12) and teammate Luca Sbisa (4). Vegas’s improbable comeback had brought them to a 4-2 deficit.

Less than a minute later, Ryan Reaves and Wilson went at each other, subsequently receiving roughing minors and yielding 4-on-4 play at 13:03 of the third period. 36 seconds later, Washington put an end to Vegas’s comeback attempt.

Michal Kempny (2) was left all alone for a one-timer past Fleury as Miller was back-checked by Oshie while the Capitals forward was entering the attacking zone and working the puck over to Backstrom.

Backstrom (16) and Oshie (13) notched the assists on Kempny’s goal at 13:39 and the Caps led, 5-2.

Brooks Orpik was on the receiving end of a reverse check from Vegas early in the series and now Oshie had done it to one of Vegas’s own.

After Nate Schmidt was called for tripping Kuznetsov at 16:57, Oshie was back on the ice for his shift on the power play. Brayden McNabb took liberties on the Washington veteran by delivering a cross check after a stoppage in play at 17:44 of the third.

Oshie and Golden Knights defender, Deryk Engelland, exchanged heated words and shoves, leaving the officials on the ice with no other choice but to start handing out 10-minute misconducts (and that’s just what they did).

Both players involved were sent to the showers a few minutes early.

Brett Connolly (6) made sure to cash in on the resulting 5-on-3 power play opportunity.

Kuznetsov sauced a pass across the low slot— deflecting off of Backstrom— to reach Connolly, where the Capitals clutch depth scoring forward held the puck for a second then fired a shot past Fleury on the short side.

Backstrom (17) and Kuznetsov (19) had the primary and secondary assists on the goal that made it 6-2 at 18:51 of the third period. Kuznetsov became the first player to record four assists in a Stanley Cup Final game since legendary Colorado Avalanche center (and current GM), Joe Sakic, recorded four assists against the Florida Panthers in Game 2 of the 1996 Stanley Cup Final.

Washington’s four-goal lead was enough to seal the deal on a Game 4 victory, but not without one more 10-minute misconduct handed to Reaves at 19:17 of the third.

At the end of 60 minutes, the Capitals had not only taken a 3-1 series lead with a chance to win the Cup in Game 5, but had finished their Game 4 effort leading in blocked shots (24-8) and giveaways (18-7). Vegas finished the night leading in shots on goal (30-23), hits (39-29) and faceoff win percentage (52-48) despite trailing in the faceoff dot for the first two periods.

The Golden Knights went 0/4 on the power play, while the Capitals went 3/5 on the power play in Game 4.

At the start of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, hockey fans were guaranteed a first-time Stanley Cup winner and we’re on the verge of seeing Ovechkin and Co. hoist the Cup for the first time in Washington’s franchise history. Unless Fleury and the Golden Knights can rebound and hold off elimination long enough for a Game 7 on home ice.

Fleury’s series save percentage has dipped below an .855, leading some to wonder why current Vegas backup Maxime Lagace wasn’t utilized just to shake things up in Game 4. But for now both Golden Knights and Caps fans will have to wait until Thursday night for all of their last minute Game 5 storylines and history in the making.

Puck drop in Game 5 is set for a little after 8:00 p.m. ET Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena and viewers can tune in on NBC, CBC, SN or TVAS (depending on your location/viewing preferences).

Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Caps depth dominates in Game 3 win

vegas_golden_knights_logoWashington Capitals Logo

 

 

 

 

For the first time in franchise history (43 years), the Washington Capitals have a series lead in the Stanley Cup Final— as a result of winning their first Stanley Cup Final victory on home ice in franchise history as well— Saturday night at Capital One Arena.

The Capitals defeated the Vegas Golden Knights, 3-1, and take a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4.

Braden Holtby stopped 21 out of 22 shots faced for a .955 save percentage en route to the win, while Vegas goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury replicated his Game 2 stats— 23 saves on 26 shots against for an .855 SV%— in the loss.

Fans rocking the red at Capital One Arena erupted in sheer joy only to be dismayed seconds later as the ref waved off what was thought to be a goal for the home team on account of goaltender interference. Instead of grabbing an early lead, Devante Smith-Pelly was heading to the penalty box at 5:04 of the first period.

Luckily for Washington, the Golden Knights could not convert on the ensuing power play.

Past the halfway mark of the first period, Reilly Smith was called for holding Capitals defender, Michal Kempny, and Washington went on their first player advantage of the evening at 11:21.

The Caps couldn’t muster anything on the power play and Vegas responded well to the successful penalty kill with Jon Marchessault ringing the far right post shortly after Smith reentered the playing surface.

After one period of play, the game was still tied, 0-0, with Washington leading in shots on goal, 7-5. Washington also led in blocked shots (15-5), hits (17-12), giveaways (7-6) and faceoff win percentage (72-28), while the Golden Knights led in takeaways (5-4) after 20 minutes of play. Both teams were 0/1 on the power play entering the first intermission.

While diving for a loose puck in a flurry of activity, Alex Ovechkin (14) buried the game’s first goal on the fifth attempt in Washington’s attacking zone possession, 70 seconds into the second period. John Carlson (14) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (15) notched the assists on the goal that made it 1-0 Capitals after Fleury made a couple of great desperation saves.

Ovechkin tied John Druce for the most goals (14) in a single postseason in Capitals franchise history. Druce set the franchise record in Washington’s 1990 run to the Eastern Conference Final.

Erik Haula tripped up Kempny at 9:58 of the second period and was sent to the sin bin, giving Washington their second chance on the power play Saturday night. Despite Carlson rocketing a slap shot that was tipped by T.J. Oshie, the right post once again came up big and preserved a one-goal deficit for the Golden Knights as the Capitals failed to score on the power play.

But in the vulnerable minute after the special teams opportunity, Washington capitalized on Vegas’s misfortune.

Vegas had amassed a couple quality chances that were turned aside by Holtby and his defenders. Then the puck went the other way down the ice thanks to Oshie, Jay Beagle and Kuznetsov.

Bursting with speed through the transition, Kuznetsov (12) sniped a shot past Fleury on the odd man breakout giving Washington a 2-0 lead at 12:50 of the second period. Beagle (5) and Oshie (11) were credited with the assists on the eventual de facto game winning goal.

Smith-Pelly was guilty of tripping Shea Theodore late in the second period. About a minute later, with Theodore well out of position, Fleury left his crease to do just about anything to stop Matt Niskanen from yielding a scoring chance. Left with no other option, the Golden Knights goalie tripped the Washington blueliner and Theodore was sent to the sin bin to serve Fleury’s minor infraction at 19:38.

Through 40 minutes of play the Capitals led, 2-0. Washington dominated in shots on goal (21-13), blocked shots (19-7), hits (29-24), takeaways (9-8), giveaways (13-6) and faceoff win percentage (67-33) after two periods. Both teams were 0/2 on the power play entering the second intermission and Vegas’s strong first line offense was nowhere to be found.

Holtby mishandled the puck early in the third period, inadvertently sending the puck off of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, right on to the stick blade of Tomas Nosek. Nosek (4) pocketed a goal on a mostly empty net as the Capitals netminder dove to try to make a last ditch effort save.

Vegas cut the lead in half, 2-1, thanks to Nosek’s goal. Bellemare (3) earned the only assist on the shutout breaker at 3:29 of the third.

Ghost penalties have been a hot topic this postseason and none have been more apparent than when Deryk Engelland was penalized for tripping Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom at 7:35.

There’s just one problem— Engelland never tripped Backstrom. Backstrom’s teammate, Chandler Stephenson, had gotten his stick caught up in the Capitals forward’s legs and video replay confirms it. The refs had made an error that nearly cost the Golden Knights, but thankfully for Vegas, neither team had any hot hands on the power play.

Over six minutes later, Smith-Pelly (5) redeemed himself for his early goaltending interference penalty that cost his team of a surefire goal. The prominent clutch depth scoring forward one-timed a shot past Fleury on a pass from Beagle at 13:53 of the third period, securing a two-goal lead.

Beagle (6) had the only assist on the goal and Washington led, 3-1.

Time continued to tick and the Golden Knights couldn’t generate the necessary offense to overcome the trap.

Gerard Gallant pulled his goaltender with 2:38 remaining in regulation. Vegas used their timeout with 39.5 seconds left in the game. Washington couldn’t secure an empty net goal, but they did secure the 2-1 series lead at the final horn.

The Capitals had won, 3-1, leading in shots on goal (26-22), blocked shots (26-9), hits (38-31), giveaways (21-7) and faceoff win percentage (63-37) after 60 minutes. Vegas finished the night 0/2 on the power play, while Washington went 0/4.

Washington can take a commanding 3-1 series lead with another win at home in Game 4 on Monday. Despite their 5-5 record at home this postseason, the Caps improved to 11-4 overall when scoring first.

Puck drop in Game 4 is set for a little after 8:00 p.m. ET Monday night on NBC, CBC, SN or TVAS (depending on your location/viewing preferences).

Holtby, Ovechkin and Co. pull off Game 2 heist in Vegas

vegas_golden_knights_logoWashington Capitals Logo

 

 

 

 

 

For the first time in their 43-year franchise history, the Washington Capitals have a Stanley Cup Final victory, having beaten the Vegas Golden Knights on the road 3-2 in Game 2 Wednesday night.

Of course, Vegas notched their first Stanley Cup Final win in their first Stanley Cup Final game in their inaugural season in Game 1, but for Caps fans— some of whom have waited their entire life— this moment has been a long time coming.

Braden Holtby made 37 saves on 39 shots against for Washington, amassing a .949 save percentage en route to the win. Meanwhile, Vegas goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 23 out of 26 shots faced for an .885 SV% in 58:01 time on ice.

T-Mobile Arena’s pregame show included string instruments and a performance by Imagine Dragons as a means of spicing things up for Game 2 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final— fully cranking the energy in the building to 11 (and by a non-expert account, 11 times more than Game 1’s pregame show).

James Neal (5) opened scoring almost halfway into the opening frame on a snapshot that he sniped past Holtby’s glove for the 1-0 lead. Luca Sbisa chipped the puck up ice to Neal who then took it in the attacking zone at full speed and got his shot off quickly.

Sbisa (3) and Colin Miller (2) had the assists on the goal at 7:58 of the first period.

Brayden McNabb caught Evgeny Kuznetsov with a high hit, leaving the Capitals forward hunched over, clutching his left arm. Kuznetsov (11-14—25 totals this postseason) did not return to the action in the first period.

The next stoppage in play brought forth a scrum that resulted in matching minor penalties for T.J. Oshie and Deryk Engelland— two minutes each for roughing at 16:43.

Instead of getting down as a result of losing one of their leading scorers this postseason, Washington pushed back. The Capitals broke in the offensive zone with speed during the 4-on-4 action and nearly tied the game if it weren’t for Alex Ovechkin having flubbed a pass across the ice to an open Nicklas Backstrom.

The puck bounced off of Fleury’s left leg pad with ease as the Golden Knights goaltender kicked it away from his crease. Shortly thereafter, though, Washington would get their second chance— a rare gift of second chances from the hockey gods.

After winning a faceoff in the offensive zone, the Capitals moved the puck quickly around the attacking zone, leading Michal Kempny to pinch in from the point, fake a shot and slide a pass over to a wide-open Lars Eller (6) as Fleury took the bait. Eller capitalized on the mostly empty net with a one-timed redirection and Washington tied the game, 1-1.

Kempny (3) and Andre Burakovsky (2) notched the assists at 17:27 of the first period.

Washington has scored 20 first period goals (the most in the league this postseason) and Vegas scored first in all nine home games this postseason, so it was no surprise heading into the first intermission tied, 1-1.

Similar to Game 1, shots on goal read 11-10, but unlike Game 1 the Capitals held the advantage. Statistically speaking, everything else pretty much read the same. Vegas led in takeaways (10-2), giveaways (7-1) and faceoff win percentage (63-35), while Washington led in blocked shots (3-2) and hits (22-16) after 20 minutes of play. There were no power play opportunities in the first period.

Washington met Vegas on the ice for the second period without Kuznetsov, as the Capitals PR department had informed beat reporters and fans alike that the forward was “questionable” to return to Wednesday night’s action in a tweet.

Brooks Orpik was handed a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head against Golden Knights superstar, James Neal (despite replay showing the Vegas forward might have caught himself in the face with his own arm). Regardless, Vegas went on the power play at 2:04 of the second period and failed to convert on the advantage.

Alex Tuch let emotions get the best of him, cross checking Capitals defender, John Carlson, shortly after the Golden Knights power play expired. Washington went on the power play at 5:13 of the second period and only needed 25 seconds worth of the ensuing advantage.

Quick puck movement back and forth across the ice leading to an eventual pass through the slot from Eller to Ovechkin led to Ovechkin (13) landing the power play goal for Washington, giving the Capitals a 2-1 lead in Game 2— their first lead of the night. Eller (10) and Backstrom (14) had the primary and secondary assist’s on the power play goal at 5:38 of the second period.

Backstrom then took down Vegas forward, Erik Haula, about a minute later with a hold, but both players were sent to the box as Haula picked up an embellishment minor for holding right back. This time, however, the resulting 4-on-4 play did not yield any goals.

Then the unthinkable happened. Brooks Orpik scored.

Jokes aside, it’s been a long time since Orpik last had a goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, let alone regular season and postseason combined. In fact, he broke a 146-game goal-less drought in the postseason and 220-game goal-less drought combined with his shot from the point that beat Fleury thanks to heavy net front traffic.

Orpik (1) made it a 3-1 game for the Capitals with his goal at 9:41 of the second period on just his third career Stanley Cup Playoff goal. Eller (11) and Burakovsky (3) notched the assists.

Ryan Reaves made his physical presence known— perhaps too known— when he was called for roughing against Tom Wilson just past the halfway point of the game. Washington’s power play was short lived, however, as Dmitry Orlov made a great defensive play at the cost of taking a penalty— a minor for hooking Ryan Carpenter as the Golden Knights forward was on a breakaway at 11:42 of the second period.

Vegas would have to wait out 28 seconds of 4-on-4 action until they’d go on the power play. The Golden Knights didn’t convert on the man advantage opportunity, but it wouldn’t be long before they’d get another chance.

After taking a hit in the corner from Miller, Oshie retaliated while the puck was far away from the Vegas blueliner. As a result, the Capitals forward was sent to the sin bin with an interference infraction at 17:27.

The Golden Knights responded on the scoreboard 20-seconds into the ensuing power play as Shea Theodore (3) wired a shot past Holtby with many skaters of both home and away clubs screening the Capitals netminder.

Reilly Smith (16) and William Karlsson (8) had the assists on Miller’s power play goal at 17:47 and the Golden Knights pulled to within one, 3-2.

Despite allowing a goal and giving up some momentum, Washington pushed back with a tremendous two-on-one scoring chance from Eller to Jakub Vrana that rang off the post and cast doubt in Vegas’s minds.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Capitals led, 3-2, on the scoreboard. The Golden Knights led in shots on goal (24-20), takeaways (16-4), giveaways (11-1) and faceoff win percentage (60-41), while Washington led in blocked shots (8-4) and hits (35-29) after two periods. The Caps were 1/2 on the power play and Vegas was 1/3 after two periods.

T-Mobile Arena was rocking, despite the home team emerging from the second intermission down, 3-2, for the third period and it looked like Washington was doing everything they could to throw away a solid effort.

Wilson hit McNabb away from the puck, racking up an interference minor at 3:13 of the third period. Shortly thereafter, Eller went to the box for hooking Miller and the Golden Knights wound up with a 5-on-3 advantage for 69 seconds at 4:05.

Vegas couldn’t score.

In fact, Vegas didn’t score for the rest of the game after Theodore’s power play goal late in the second period. Nobody scored.

Not even when— after Tuch elevated the puck on a largely empty net opportunity that was thwarted by a diving stick save made by Holtby with two minutes left in regulation— the Golden Knights pulled their goaltender for an extra skater.

Gerard Gallant used his timeout with 1:59 remaining after Tuch was denied by Holtby to shake it off and rally his players, but it was too little too late as time ticked down to the final horn.

After 60 minutes, the Capitals had evened the series, 1-1, with a 3-2 victory on the road in Game 2. Washington handed the Golden Knights just their third loss this postseason, their second at home and just their first in regulation in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Despite dominating offensive statistics, Vegas couldn’t muster enough high-quality scoring chances to score enough goals to overcome Washington’s lead and win.

Vegas finished the night leading in shots on goal (39-26), giveaways (12-4) and faceoff win percentage (59-42), but the Caps led in the final score (3-2), blocked shots (18-8) and hits (46-39). Both teams scored one power play goal Wednesday night, with Washington (1/2) having operated at a 50% success rate on the man advantage and Vegas (1/5) at 20%.

The series shifts to Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. for Game 3, where the Capitals will have a chance to win their first Stanley Cup Final victory on home ice. Likewise, the Golden Knights will have a chance to steal their first road victory in franchise history in the Stanley Cup Final.

Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 8:00 p.m. ET and viewers can tune in on NBCSN, CBC, SN or TVAS depending on their location (NBCSN in the United States, CBC, SN and TVAS in Canada).