Three Stars: Elliott, Hickey, Athanasiou lead way on Sunday
The playoff drama continued on Sunday with another batch of close games. The Blues showed resilience, bouncing back from a disappointing Game 2 loss with a 3–2 comeback win over the Blackhawks in Game 3. Over in Detroit, the Red Wings finally found life against the Lightning to cut the series deficit to 2–1, while the Islanders fought back against the Panthers in Brooklyn to take a 2–1 series lead. And in Anaheim, the Ducks stumbled yet again, falling into an 0–2 series deficit against the Predators.
Here are the players who stood out to me on Sunday:
1. Brian Elliott, St. Louis Blues
The way Blues coach Ken Hitchcock saw it, the only thing missing from Sunday's St. Louis-Chicago game was the United Center organist playing “Sweet Georgia Brown.”
“We looked like the Washington Generals a few times,” he said of his team's struggles to contain the explosive Blackhawks. “We need to find a different way to defend.”
It looked like Elliott was in for a night as rough as his teammates when he allowed a goal on the first shot he faced. But the Blues keeper was brilliant the rest of the way, stopping 44 of 45 shots, including 24 in the second period alone, to lead the Blues to a 3–2 victory in Game 3.
After struggling in previous playoff appearances, Elliott is finally living up to the occasion. Through his first three appearances this spring, the 31-year-old has a 1.28 GAA and a .963 save percentage.
2. Thomas Hickey, New York Islanders
Nothing goes together quite like playoff hockey and unlikely heroes. Sunday night was Hickey's turn to take a twirl in the spotlight after his goal at 12:31 of overtime capped a come-from-behind 4–3 win over the Panthers. The low-scoring defender slipped away from Jaromir Jagr and dashed into the low slot, where he took a nifty backhand pass from Brock Nelson and buried a wrister behind a helpless Roberto Luongo.
3. Andreas Athanasiou, Detroit Red Wings
His first career playoff goal stood up as the game-winner in Detroit's 2–0 victory over the Lightning, but it was the chance he missed that's going to go viral. The rookie winger spun twice to baffle veteran blueliner Jason Garrison on a one-on-one break, and though he failed to convert, his speed and creativity energized the home crowd and amazed his teammates. "That spin move was nice," said coach Jeff Blashill. “When he wants to own the moment, he's real good.”