- Winnipeg struck early and often to earn its first series win in franchise history. The Flyers and the Avalanche avoided elimination with close games decided in the third periods.
A whiteout quickly turned into a whitewash in Winnipeg on Friday.
In front of a packed Bell MTS Place, the Jets struck early and often in a 5-0 win, sending the punchless Minnesota Wild packing in five games. It was the first series win in the history of the franchise.
Hockey coaches say they love when their teams get out to fast starts. If that’s the case, Paul Maurice ought to be ecstatic. Just 31 seconds into the contest, Mark Scheifele dug the puck along the left wall, shimmied through the center of the zone and laid off for Jacob Trouba, who slid a wrister from the right faceoff dot under Devan Dubnyk’s pads for an early 1-0 lead.
It did not stop there. Five minutes later Dustin Byfuglien released a high wrister from the right point, and Bryan Little came in from the right wall, reached out and redirected it past a sliding Dubnyk. Later in the first, Matt Dumba’s pass caught his defense partner Jonas Brodin in the skates, and Brandon Tanev was there to pick up the loose change and whistle it past Brodin and under Dubnyk’s glove. And just 49 seconds after that, Joel Armia did the hard work to get the puck back into the zone and was eventually rewarded when another Byfuglien blast bounced off Armia’s body and in for a 4-0 lead.
Winnipeg scored four goals on 10 shots against Dubnyk, who had a .930 save percentage in the first four games of the series. Bruce Boudreau knew he had to do something to provide a spark for his team, so Dubnyk was sent to the bench in favor of Alex Stalock. As soon as Dubnyk sat down near the gate, captain Mikko Koivu moved down to him and gave him a tap—Minnesota’s offense scored just nine goals in the five-game series, and none since the second period of Game 3.
With Stalock in, the scoring died down for a while—he robbed Scheifele with his blocker on a one-timer in the second—but the Jets alternate got his revenge in the third when he capped off a tic-tac-toe play set up by Blake Wheeler and Paul Statsny 32 seconds into the third. His fourth goal of the series was Winnipeg’s fifth of the game. Meanwhile, Connor Hellebuyck continued to dominate since he was yanked in Game 3, making 30 saves to secure his second consecutive shutout and clinch Winnipeg’s first-ever series win.
FLYERS 4, PENGUINS 2
When Sean Couturier was injured in a practice collision with teammate Radko Gudas earlier this week, the Flyers were purposely tight-lipped about how severe the injury might be. The top-line center missed Game 4, but in his return in Philadelphia’s must-win Game 5, Couturier was the difference maker, literally, scoring the eventual game-winning goal with 1:15 on the clock in the third period to lift the Flyers to a 4-2 victory.
With the Flyers facing elimination, the Keystone State rivals battled in the closest match of the series so far—every other game has been decided by at least four goals. Philadelphia broke through first in the first as Valtteri Filppula went in on the forecheck, Jakub Voracek dug out the puck from below the goal line and fed a wide open Claude Giroux in the slot for a one-time blast over the glove of Matt Murray for a 1-0 Philadelphia lead.
After Brian Elliott was pulled in Game 4 in favor of Michal Neuvirth, Flyers coach Dave Hakstol decided to go with his backup for Game 5, and he was rewarded. In his first full game since February 16, Neuvirth turned in a solid outing, but the Penguins finally solved him in the second. First Bryan Rust beat him past the left skate on a wraparound exactly 12 minutes into the frame, and then Jake Guentzel beat him low with 3:15 showing.
They wouldn’t beat him again. A shorty from Filppula tied the game, and the third period was a back-and-forth affair until Couturier’s long-range wrister redirected off Brian Dumoulin and past Murray to put the Flyers ahead with 1:15 to go. A Matt Read empty-netter with 18 seconds left sealed the 4-2 Flyers win.
AVALANCHE 2, PREDATORS 1
Andrew Hammond hadn’t started a playoff game since 2015, but you wouldn’t know that from his play in Game 5. Locked in a duel with Pekka Rinne with his team facing elimination, the Hamburglar stopped 44 of Nashville’s 45 shots to steal a 2-1 Avalanche win and stave off elimination.
A defensive battle for the first 50 minutes, the game finally opened up when Nashville beat Hammond just over 10 minutes into the final frame when Mattias Ekholm fed a pass across that Nick Bonino redirected in off his skate to score on his 30th birthday. Colorado wasted little time in its response. Nathan MacKinnon picked up a Mikko Rantanen pass between the dots, out-waited both Nashville defensemen and Rinne and laid it off for a wide-open Gabriel Landeskog in front of the net to tie the game. Three minutes later, Nashville turned the puck over the offensive zone and Colorado turned it into an odd-man rush. J.T. Compher was defended well by Ryan Ellis, so he wisely shot it from the right circle off Rinne’s right pad for a rebound goal for Sven Andrighetto with 1:28 to go. Nashville pressured for the tying goal, but Hammond held firm for a 2-1 Colorado victory.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT
Michal Neuvirth was strong with 30 saves in his Game 5 start, but this one was by far the best. The Flyers had just taken the lead on Sean Couturier’s long-range goal, and the Pens cycled in looking for the equalizer. They say pucks find the sticks of good players, and this time the puck magically appeared on Sidney Crosby’s tape by the left post, but Neuvirth slid across and absolutely robbed him with the glove.
Considering the situation and the opposition, this might be the save of the playoffs so far.
- Andrew Hammond, COL - They don’t call him the Hamburglar for nothing. In Hammond’s first playoff start since 2015, he turned aside 44 of Nashville’s 45 shots to steal a win for the Avs and extend their series.
- Sean Couturier, PHI - He missed Game 4 and wasn’t 100% for Game 5, and all he did was score the Flyers’ game-winning goal with under two minutes to go to keep their series going.
- Dustin Byfuglien, WPG - Big Buff has a history of contributing in the playoffs, and he did a bit of everything to help the Jets see off the Wild in Game 5: how’s two assists, three SOG, four hits and two blocks in a 5-0 shutout win sound?
Kyle Palmieri staked the Devils to an early lead Wednesday night, but a three-point night from Nikita Kucherov and another great performance from Andrei Vasilevskiy lifted the Lightning to a 3-1 win and an identical series advantage. Taylor Hall continues to be the conductor throwing the coal into the engine that is the New Jersey offense and Cory Schneider has been solid since regaining his starting job, but Tampa Bay has looked great overall in its three wins and will get a chance to close out the series at home.
You never know what to expect from the Washington Capitals. They lose Games 1 and 2 on home ice, both in overtime, and then they go on the road and win Game 3 in overtime and Game 4 fairly convincingly. Now the series is all tied up. Can Columbus regain its form from the start of the series? Or can a resurgent Braden Holtby carry the Caps through? Washington will surely miss Andre Burakovsky, who has been ruled out for the rest of this series after the team announced he will have a minor surgery.
The Boston Bruins were thoroughly dominant throughout most of Games 1 and 2 with the Maple Leafs, but the tightly contested Games 3 and 4 looked a lot more like what many people expected when they predicted the series might go the distance. After Toronto did the work to take Game 3, Tuukka Rask led the Patrice Bergeron-less Bruins to an impressive bounce-back win in Game 4, and they can now clinch the series at home. Bergeron’s status is still up in the air, though Riley Nash, as he has done already this season, filled in admirably for him on Boston’s top line.