- The Maple Leafs maintained their early lead, though not without a third-period challenge from the Bruins. The Lightning moved on to round two, while the Capitals won their third straight heading into Game 6.
With a chance to clinch the series and move on to the second round in Game 5, Boston didn’t look like the formidable force it proved to be on home ice in the first two games. The Bruins fell behind 2-0 before many fans inside TD Garden finished their first choice of beverages in what was ultimately a 4-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The first period came to a close with the B’s still trailing by two. Boston outshot the Maple Leafs 15-6 in the first frame but had nothing to show for it. Unfortunately for the home team, that fate foreshadowed what was to come the rest of the way. Toronto’s Frederik Andersen played as if he were possessed for much of the game, turning away almost everything the Bruins threw at him.
David Backes needed a lucky bounce to beat Andersen and get Boston on the board. The Bruins’ initial attempt on net sailed high and wide, but the puck bounced off the boards to Backes on the other side. He shoveled it in with ease to ignite the building, but the Maple Leafs quickly countered with two more back-to-back tallies to stretch their lead to three. Just when Boston showed signs of life, Toronto managed to exhibit impressive playoff composure on the road—or so it seemed. After taking their biggest lead of the series, the Leafs took four straight penalties late in the second period. Boston had another chance to sneak back into the game, but Andersen wouldn’t allow it and the Leafs killed off all four minors.
Still, Sean Kuraly found some open ice in front of Andersen and fired in a one-timer off of Matt Grzelcyk’s slick back-handed feed with less than three minutes to go in the second. Even though they didn’t make use of their plentiful power-play time, the Bruins entered the second intermission with a more manageable deficit. Noel Acciari cleaned up some trash and buried a rebound with the Bruins buzzing early in the third, and suddenly Boston found itself just one goal behind. But once again, Andersen took over. Boston peppered the Danish netminder with 20 shots in the third, and Acciari’s was the only one that got through.
Saturday marked Andersen’s second 40-plus save performance of the series, the other coming in the Leafs' 4-2 win in Game 3. Andersen struggled mightily in the first two games against Boston, allowing five goals in Game 1 and three goals on five shots before being taken off the ice in Game 2. With his woes apparently behind him, Andersen has another opportunity to come up big as the series shifts back to Toronto for Game 6.
LIGHTNING 3, DEVILS 1
The Devils were outmatched and outclassed all series long. Game 5 was no different. The Lightning took an early lead that they never relinquished, and things could have been a lot worse. New Jersey took five penalties in the second period, but Tampa Bay couldn’t capitalize on any of them. Despite being outshot 18-4 in the middle frame, the Devils entered the third period trailing by one. Devils goalie Cory Schneider kept his team in the game with 35 saves by the time the buzzer sounded, but his teammates did little to force an equalizer. Nikita Kucherov scored his fifth goal of the playoffs late in the third to make it 2-0. Patrick Maroon fired back with exactly three minutes remaining, but it was too little too late for the Devils. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh came through with a hard-working play to clear the zone and dump the puck down the ice, and Ryan Callahan scooped up the trash and buried it in the bin to send Tampa Bay to the second round.
CAPITALS 4, BLUE JACKETS 3 (OT)
Nothing has come easy in this series and Saturday’s matinee matchup followed suit. The first period of Game 5 was a microcosm of the first four games of the series. Columbus jumped out to an unexpected 1-0 lead on the strength of Matt Calvert’s shorthanded goal. The stop should have been routine for Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, but he let it through on the blocker side anyway. Holtby’s first goal allowed was bizarre, but Columbus netminder Sergei Bobrovsky’s was even stranger as a pass from Nicklas Backstrom ricocheted off a Columbus defenseman skate and Bobrovsky’s stick before climbing the goalie’s back and falling into the net behind him. The Caps took a 2-1 lead early in the second period, but Calvert found himself barreling toward Holtby on a breakaway two minutes later. Calvert tried to pick his spot and shoot, but whiffed miserably. Then he improvised with a spin-o-rama and turned a would-be laugher into one of the more impressive goals of the playoffs thus far.
To the surprise of none, the two teams traded tallies once more and entered crunch time tied at three goals apiece, and sent the game to overtime for the fourth time this series. With a bit of luck, the Caps secured the win when Backstrom deflected a shot from the point and the crowd was finally allowed to erupt in relief. Washington, now winners of three straight, has a chance to eliminate the Blue Jackets in six games.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT
It wasn’t how he drew it up, but Matt Calvert made it work anyway. Jumping out to a breakaway in the second period, Calvert initially tried to snipe one past Braden Holtby but completely fanned on the shot. Then he did THIS to score his second goal of the game:
1. Frederik Andersen, TOR — Andersen’s 42 saves helped guide the Maple Leafs back to Toronto for Game 6. Some of his biggest stops came in the latter stages of the third period with his team clinging to a one-goal lead.
2. Nicklas Backstrom, WSH — Backstrom bookended the scoring for the Capitals with the team’s first and fourth goals of the night. He added an assist on T.J. Oshie’s power-play goal in the second period.
3. Braden Holtby, WSH — Like Andersen, Holtby recorded a plethora of saves (39) in a game in which his team heavily relied on him. Though he let a lazy one through in the first, Holtby was solid down the stretch.
Sunday’s action features two series that many expected each to finish in five games. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators had opportunities to move on to the second round on home ice, but both teams faltered in close contests.
In a triumphant return from injury, Sean Couturier lifted the Flyers to victory over the Penguins with a goal with 1:15 left in the game. An empty netter polished it off. The two teams finally engaged in a competitive affair after blowing each other out in the four previous games, each decided by four goals or more, but Game 5 went down to the wire. Philadelphia now heads home with a chance to even the series and send it to Pittsburgh for Game 7. The Penguins made easy work of the Flyers in Games 3 and 4 in Philly, winning both by a combined score of 10-1. If the Flyers find a way to show up and win at home, though, everyone knows that anything can happen in Game 7.
Nashville appeared to be on its way to a 1-0 suffocation of the Avalanche and a berth in the second round. Then things snowballed—or rather, avalanched. Colorado scored two goals in the final five minutes to shock the Predators in the Music City. The series shifts back to Mile High with a different outlook. The Avalanche have proven to be competitive, and like the Flyers, all the Avs need is a strong showing at home to make it really interesting. Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog said after the Game 5 win that his team is a “special group.” We’ll see just how special they are on Sunday.