- One critical bounce-back win, one comprehensive offensive performance and one captivating overtime affair—the third night of the Stanly Cup Playoffs had a bit of everything.
After the Philadelphia Flyers' 7-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1, the mission seemed clear to Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott.
“They beat us from pretty much every aspect tonight, starting from the net out,” Elliott said. “Everybody just has to be better.”
Well, mission accomplished. After Elliott surrendered five goals on 19 shots in Game 1 and got yanked in the second period, the veteran netminder turned aside all but one of Pittsburgh's 35 bids on cage, steering the Flyers to an impressive 5-1 victory to level the series at one game apiece.
Matt Murray was impregnable in the first contest, but the Flyers broke down his defenses often in the second one. On the power play with less than a minute to go in the first period, defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere let loose a long wrister that trickled through Murray's legs and into the net for Philadelphia's first tally of the series. It didn't take long for the lead to double. Less than a minute into the second period, Sean Couturier elevated the puck into the crease area from left goal-line extended, where it bounded off Kris Letang and into the cage for a 2-0 Flyers lead.
Sidney Crosby shined with a hat trick in Game 1 and tried to will his team back into Game 2, but Elliott would not allow a repeat performance. Crosby had a clean breakaway in the second, but Elliott robbed him by sliding over to his left and closing the door. Later in the period, Crosby had an opening on Elliott's left side, but sent a shot through the crease and wide before smashing his stick on the crossbar in frustration.
The Flyers continued to soar in the third when Travis Konecny blew past Chad Ruhwedel and beat Murray high glove to make it 3-0, before Couturier factored in again with a sweet no-look pass through his legs for an easy tap-in power play goal for rookie Nolan Patrick.
The Penguins scored exactly five goals in each of their first five meetings this season with Philly, but in meeting six, they might not have scored at all if not for a strong effort by one bruising forward. Patric Hornqvist spoiled Elliott's shutout bid by beating him cross-body to the blocker side 5:27 into the final frame, but it was too little, too late for Pittsburgh: Mike Sullivan pulled Murray with more than four minutes remaining to try to get Pittsburgh closer, but with 16 seconds showing, defenseman Andrew MacDonald rifled one all the way from near his own cage and into the empty net to ice a 5-1 Philadelphia win.
JETS 4, WILD 1
It's safe to say Bruce Boudreau won't be very wild about his team's offensive outputs through two games.
After the Minnesota Wild managed only 20 shots on goal, scoring on two of them, in a Game 1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, they managed just 17 on Connor Hellebuyck in Game 2, and didn't score until there were 45 seconds left in the game. The Jets, meanwhile, pelted Devan Dubnyk again, forcing him to make 40 saves two nights after he had to make 37 just to give his team a fighting chance.
Dubnyk kept the Jets off the board for the first period, but in the second Jack Roslovic created some separation with some nice cycle work before Tyler Myers stepped into a wrister that beat Dubnyk blocker side to open the scoring. The game remained close until the 7:42 mark of the third, when Dustin Byfuglien, in deep behind Dubnyk's goal line (not an unfamiliar locale for the former power forward) tossed the puck in front of the cage for Paul Statsny to redirect home for a 2-0 lead. Less than two minutes later Andrew Copp crashed the net to redirect a Bryan Little shot pass over Dubnyk's arm, and then Patrik Laine joined in on the fun with a one-timer from the top of the right circle to put the nail in the coffin.
Minnesota, meanwhile, didn't get its first shot of the third period until the clock read 4:53, and they finally spoiled Hellebuyck's bid for a perfect, if uneventful, night with a Zach Parise redirection on the power play with 45 seconds left.
GOLDEN KNIGHTS 2, KINGS 1 (2OT)
If you thought Game 1 of this series featured tight defense, timely offense and great goaltending, you were right. But you probably still weren't ready for Game 2. Both goaltenders were phenomenal until finally, in the longest game of the postseason so far, a hero emerged.
Vegas manufactured some pressure on the man advantage in the late stages of the first and ultimately cashed in as a Jonathan Marchessault blast from the blue line went wide past Jonathan Quick's left post, but Alex Tuch was there to bang home the rebound after a big bounce off the end boards to stake Vegas to a 1-0 lead. The Kings struggled to generate chances but finally solved Marc-Andre Fleury with four minutes left in the second as Paul LaDue, playing in his second career playoff game, took a long shot that bounced off and into the net to level the score.
From there, it was a goaltender showdown. Fleury kept things deadlocked in the third with a quick recovery save, shrugging his left shoulder skyward to parry a rising Anze Kopitar backhand. Soon after, Quick made a series of saves on Erik Haula and James Neal, aided by a critical block from Dion Phaneuf. Neither team could break through in the remainder of regulation, which resulted in overtime for the second night in a row.
Both goaltenders remained spectacular in the extra session. Quick made another 12 saves and Fleury had seven to keep the game deadlocked, sending the game into a fifth frame. Finally, an opportunity emerged. Thomas Nosek burst through the slot between Phaneuf and LaDue and sent a low shot on goal. Quick kicked it away, but Phaneuf hooked Nosek on the way to set up Vegas' fourth power play of the contest. The Golden Knights generated multiple good chances, but Quick and the rest of Los Angeles' makeshift defense held firm once again to preserve the tie.
And then finally, at 15:23 of the second overtime, Vegas hit the jackpot. Seizing the puck in the neutral zone, Neal cut into the center lane and drew defenders onto him, before he dropped it off for Haula, who then zipped in toward Quick's left side, put on a couple of moves and slid the puck under the belly of the sprawling shotstopper to seal the deal for the Golden Knights.
Highlight of the Night
Crosby was spectacular as usual in Game 1, but Friday proved to be a little frustrating. First, Elliott robbed Crosby who got in alone on a clean break.
Later in the second with only a few ticks left in the frame, Sid sent the puck through the blue paint and out the other side, and smashed his stick on the crossbar in frustration.
1. Jonathan Quick, LA — The epitome of a hard-luck loser, Quick was sensational through nearly 100 minutes, making a career-high 54 saves to keep the Kings alive as long as possible.
2. Erik Haula, VGK — All good stories need a hero, and Haula played the part beuatifully in Vegas, getting Quick to open up just enough to sneak the game-winner through.
3. Brian Elliott, PHI — Fans were calling for his head after a dismal Game 1 performance. But 34 saves on 35 shots is one heck of a way to rebound.
The Presidents' Trophy-winning Nashville Predators looked far from perfect for much of Game 1 against the Colorado Avalanche. Coach Jared Bednar said he thought his team played well, and they did—for 40 minutes. Then, Filip Forsberg scored twice, including once using a sweet move around Sam Girard to put the Preds ahead for good. The Avs will need a lot more periods like their first, and a lot fewer like their third, if they want to pull off the first round upset.
Where would the New Jersey Devils be this year without Taylor Hall? The probable Hart finalist kept New Jersey in Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning with a goal and an assist, but the depth of the Lightning's offense was on full display in their 5-2 win. Tampa's second and third lines each contributed two goals, led by a three-point effort from Ondrej Palat and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 29 saves. Keith Kinkaid said it wasn't the outcome his team wanted. No kidding.
Game 1 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins was a lot closer, for a time, than the final score indicates. The Leafs had all the momentum after Zach Hyman leveled the score in the second period, but David Backes's power-play goal helped turn the tide and send the Bruins on their way to a 5-1 win. Plenty of questions surround the Leafs now, the most pressing of which is how they will adjust to the absence of Nazem Kadri, who has been suspended for the next three games after a careless, avoidable hit on Tommy Wingels.
Think Evander Kane was excited to get his playoff career started? He scored two second period goals in his first-ever postseason game to lift the San Jose Sharks to a 3-0 win over inter-state rival Anaheim Ducks. For their part, the Ducks were not able to generate consistent pressure on Martin Jones, who made 25 saves, and instead committed seven minor penalties. John Gibson looked fairly healthy after he missed Anaheim's last few regular season games, but the team in front of him will have to be worlds better if the Ducks are to advance.