Opening night of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs saw heroes emerge. Here's who stood out most.
Just one night into the the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and we've had plenty of excitement already. The Lighting edged past the Red Wings, Patric Hornqvist helped the Penguins roll over the Rangers and the Blues won a goalie duel in OT against the Blackhawks.
Here's who stood out most on opening night:
1. Jeff Zatkoff, Pittsburgh Penguins
Sorry, Patric Hornqvist. Your first career playoff hat trick might dominate the highlights, but it was Zatkoff's emergency start in place of Marc-André Fleury (lingering concussion symptoms) that paved the way for Pittsburgh's 5–2 Game 1 win over the Rangers (highlights).
The 28-year-old journeyman was tested early while the Rangers held a clear edge in play, but was at his absolute best during a second-period penalty kill, making two crucial saves on Mats Zuccarello and Keith Yandle to preserve the Penguins' 1–0 lead.
He finished with 35 saves on the night, becoming the first Pittsburgh netminder to win his playoff debut since Frank Pietrangelo on April 13, 1991.
2. Brian Elliott, St. Louis Blues
Despite leading the league in save percentage and finishing second in goals-against during the regular season, Elliott entered this series dogged by previous playoff failures with just six wins in 17 starts and a .897 postseason save percentage. That perception won't change overnight, but he took his first step toward redemption with a brilliant 35-save effort to power St. Louis to a 1–0 victory over the Blackhawks in Game 1 (highlights). He had Jonathan Toews’s number all night, frustrating Chicago's captain seven times, but made his best stop late in the third when he denied Artemi Panarin on a partial breakaway.
3. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
Kucherov, who finished one point behind Chicago’s Patrick Kane and teammate Tyler Johnson for the playoff scoring lead last spring, picked up right where he left off, factoring in each of the Bolts goals in a 3–2 Game 1 win over the Red Wings (highlights). Kucherov scored twice—the first on a one-timer, the second on a rebound—then set up Alex Killorn for the clincher.