Three Stars: John Tavares’s late heroics help Islanders advance
Sunday night’s playoff games featured some high drama. The Islanders eliminated the Panthers in Game 6 on John Tavares’s goal in double overtime, the Stars survived a late comeback attempt from the Wild to advance to the next round and the Capitals shut out the Flyers in Game 6 to finish their series.
Here is who stood out on Sunday:
1. John Tavares, Islanders
The captain just willed the Islanders into their first appearance in the second round in 23 years. Tavares provided the equalizer in the game’s final minute, driving the net to bury the free bunny that was laying beside a prone Roberto Luongo. Then he finished the Panthers off in double overtime, burying a wraparound that beat Luongo to the far side. It was the capper to a magnificent series, possibly the finest stretch of his pro career.
2. Jason Spezza, Stars
Lost in all the excitement of Minnesota’s thrilling third-period comeback attempt was a pretty spectacular individual effort from Spezza. The big center had a hand in four of Dallas’s five tallies, including his fourth goal of the postseason to stake the Stars to a 2–0 lead midway through the first period.
But Spezza being Spezza, he was at his best when he was helping others. He sent a sweet pass to John Klingberg as the Stars took advantage of an early 5-on-3 power play, started the breakout that led to Jamie Benn’s second-period goal and then won the draw that set up Alex Goligoski’s game-winner.
3. Braden Holtby, Capitals
A tip o’ the cap to Philadelphia’s Michal Neuvirth, who did everything but “Hasek” this thing to Game 7. That guy was flat out heroic, but it was Holtby who put up the goose egg and secured Washington’s invite to the second round.
He made 26 saves, including a pair of doorstep stops on Nick Cousins and Jake Voracek in the third to seal his fourth career playoff shutout. In the process, he pushed his series save percentage to .968 and dropped his goals-against average to 0.84. That’s a great start, but Holtby might need to be even better when the Caps take on the Pittsburgh Penguins next week.