- Carolina held on to an early lead to even its series with Washington, while the Blues scored three unanswered goals to stun the Jets and the Sharks force a Game 6.
The Hurricanes didn’t dominate possession the way they did in their first home playoff game in nearly a decade, but the same heroes came through to set PNC Arena ablaze. Warren Foegele scored early and Petr Mrazek shined late to secure Carolina’s 2–1 Game 4 win over the Capitals that will send the series back to D.C. level at two games apiece.
Foegele picked up right where he left off from his two-goal effort in Monday night’s 5–0 win, flicking home the game’s first goal 17 seconds in after a timely rush down the middle of the ice by Jaccob Slavin drew the attention of a scrambling Caps’ defense. From there, the Hurricanes fed off their home crowd’s energy and stepped up the physicality, allowing Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom little room to operate in the early going.
The Capitals tied the score after finally gaining a foothold on the power play, with Ovechkin blasting home a one-timer at 10:35 of the second period, and the game leveled out, with both teams trading chances and nervous moments on ice that appeared to leave both offenses a little choppy. But then a marquee Carolina line that had been held largely in check broke the tie, as Sebastian Aho and Nino Niederreiter drew the attention of three Capitals near the blue line and Teuvo Teravainen snuck in behind Brooks Orpik for a breakaway goal, with a vital assist from Niederreiter. That line had been an early target of Washington’s stars, who dictated the first two games with their physicality and opportunistic playmaking; now it seems to be getting its legs, while Ovechkin & Co. have been getting finished off more often along the boards.
The Hurricanes may have made this a series, but they are getting thinner and thinner up front. Andrei Svechnikov (concussion) and Micheal Ferland (upper body) were held out of Game 4, and physical winger Jordan Martinook suffered a lower-body injury in the first period while finishing a check and wasn’t able to continue. The Capitals suffered a concerning injury of their own when Foegele sent T.J. Oshie awkwardly into the boards with a dangerous cross-check with just over five minutes left. Washington coach Todd Reirden told reporters after the game that Oshie won't be playing "anytime soon" and expects the league to review the play. The ensuing power play was uneventful until the dying seconds, when Evgeny Kuznetsov broke free in the slot but was denied point-blank by Mrazek.
That proved to be the last real chance Washington had, and the Hurricanes fought their way through to the buzzer to send another message and confirm that there will at least be one more game in Raleigh.
BLUES 3, JETS 2
A series defined by comebacks got its wildest rally yet as Jaden Schwartz’s goal with 15 seconds left capped a three-goal third period that lifted the Blues to a 3–2 win in Game 5. Schwartz batted a centering pass from Tyler Bozak out of mid-air, off Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck and in to stun the crowd at Bell MTS Place.
After the St. Louis offense spent the first 40 minutes mired in the same rut that doomed it in Game 4’s 2–1 overtime loss, Ryan O’Reilly’s power-play goal at 1:29 of the third period gave the visitors new life. The Blues’ second goal came with no small amount of controversy: Oskar Sundqvist drove the net hard and passed the puck off to Brayden Schenn, who shoveled it across the line at the exact moment the net came off its moorings. After a video review, St. Louis was awarded the game-tying goal because the posts were still just barely connected with their pegs. That set up Schwartz’s stunner during a stretch in which both teams would have been forgiven for looking ahead to overtime.
On a night of quick strikes in all three games, the Jets only needed 12 seconds to get on the board, as Adam Lowry had the puck slide to him in front and beat Jordan Binnington. Kevin Hayes doubled the Jets’ lead with his second goal of the playoffs—and could have made it a three-goal lead later on if he had not pulled a loose puck trickling through the crease back off the red line in his attempt to jam it home. Instead, the Jets were left to rue the refs and their own bad bounces. For just the fourth time in playoff history, the road team has won each of the first five games of the series. Winnipeg can only hope the pattern continues.
SHARKS 5, GOLDEN KNIGHTS 2
A redemptive 30-save performance by goalie Martin Jones and two goals from Tomas Hertl, including the clincher with 5:15 to play, stopped San Jose’s three-game skid and sent the series back to Vegas for a Game 6 on Sunday with a 5–2 win over the defending Western Conference champion. The Golden Knights went 2-for-2 on the power play but were otherwise playing catch-up against a Sharks team that looked like it did not want to be the first Western Conference team sent home. Jones had given up 11 goals on 54 shots in his last three games but stopped all but two of the 32 shots sent his way on Thursday, getting across his crease just in time to stonewall Reilly Smith on a two-on-one to preserve a one-goal lead in the third period.
After being shut out by Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 4, San Jose needed a night like this to reestablish itself in a series in which each game’s winner has scored at least five goals. From Timo Meier’s undressing of Deryk Engelland on a net drive that set up Logan Couture’s putback goal to Barclay Goodrow’s perfect redirection on what proved to be the deciding tally, everything was clicking for the Sharks on Thursday.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT
The skill it took for Schwartz to even make contact with this floating Tyler Bozak pass, let alone steer it toward the the net and through the frame of the 6’4” Hellebuyck with time winding down, is impossible to grasp without trying out a swing like that yourself.
1. Tomas Hertl, SJS — Three of the four players with at least four goals through the first eight days of the playoffs are part of the San Jose–Vegas series still in progress now that Hertl has broken through. His tone-setting opening goal was an absolute snipe.
2. Petr Mrazek, CAR — There were low rumblings about seeing what backup netminder Curtis McElhinney had to offer after Carolina lost the first two games of the series, but Mrazek has vindicated coach Rod Brind’Amour’s faith with 48 saves on 49 shots over two games in Raleigh.
3. Jaden Schwartz, STL — On a night of right-place, right-time goals in Winnipeg, Schwartz didn’t hesitate.