Tampa Bay Lightning at Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m. ET: NBCSN, SN360, TVAS, SUN, FS-O): The Lightning, down 2-0 in the best-of-7 series, will play their biggest game of the season without leading scorer Nikita Kucherov, who is out because of suspension. The Blue Jackets led the Capitals 2-0 in the first round last season and lost in six games.
Winnipeg Jets at St. Louis Blues (7:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, CBC, SN, TVAS, FS-MW): The Jets, who are down 2-0 in the series, will look to break a six-game postseason losing streak dating back to last season’s Western Conference Final. This is the fourth time the Blues have won the first two road games of a best-of-7 series. They won the previous three series.
San Jose Sharks at Vegas Golden Knights (10 p.m. ET: NBCSN, SN, SN360, TVAS, ATTSN-RM, NBCSCA): The Golden Knights play their first home playoff game since losing the clinching Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final to the Capitals last season. With the series tied 1-1 they will look to take the lead on a Sharks team that went 1-2 at T-Mobile Arena in last season’s Western Conference Second Round.
About Last Night
Washington Capitals 4, Carolina Hurricanes 3 (OT): Brooks Orpik scored 1:48 into overtime to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference First Round. It was Orpik’s fourth goal in 151 NHL playoff games; three have been game-winners, including two in overtime. Carolina erased a 2-0 first-period deficit and a 3-2 deficit in the third period. Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek made 29 saves, including against John Carlson with one second remaining in the third period.
Nashville Predators 2, Dallas Stars 1 (OT): Craig Smith scored 5:00 into overtime to help the Predators even the best-of-7 series 1-1. Smith scored off a bouncing puck inside the left face-off circle after a shot hit Stars defenseman Roman Polak. Ben Bishop made 40 saves for the Stars, who were 0-for-6 on the power play and outshot 42-23.
Boston Bruins 4, Toronto Maple Leafs 1: Tuukka Rask made 30 saves, and the Boston Bruins evened the best-of-7 series 1-1. Charlie Coyle, Brad Marchand, Danton Heinen and Patrice Bergeron scored for the Bruins. Nazem Kadri scored for the Maple Leafs and later received a major penalty and game misconduct for cross checking Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk with 5:57 left in the third period.
Colorado Avalanche 3, Calgary Flames 2 (OT): Nathan MacKinnon scored at 8:27 of overtime to help the Avalanche, the second wild card from the West, even the series 1-1. Calgary was 2:39 away from taking a 2-0 series lead, but Colorado’s J.T. Compher scored to send it to overtime.
What we learned
Here are some takeaways from Day 4 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:
Hurricanes won’t give up
Although the Hurricanes trail the Capitals 2-0 in the Eastern Conference First Round after losing the first two games in Washington, they have already shown that they are not easily deterred. They fell behind 3-0 in the first period of Game 1 on Thursday and made it 3-2 in the third period before losing 4-2. In Game 2 on Saturday, they fell behind 2-0 in the first period and 3-2 in the third period and battled back to tie it each time before losing 4-3 in overtime. With the series shifting to PNC Arena for Game 3 on Monday, the Hurricanes will have the support of a charged-up crowd excited to see their first Stanley Cup Playoff home game since 2009. Maybe that will be the extra boost the Hurricanes need to help them get over the hump against the Capitals and get back in the series with a win.
Ovechkin can dominate for Capitals without scoring a goal
Alex Ovechkin was one of the Capitals best players in Game 2 without scoring goal. Washington’s all-time leader with 62 playoff goals, Oevechkin contributed with his two-way play, passing and physicality. One of his game-high seven hits was a crunching check on Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce in the Capitals end that preceded his right wing rush up ice and pass to Nicklas Backstrom for the game’s opening goal at 3:37 of the first period. Ovechkin’s hard backcheck and hit on Hurricanes forward Nino Niederreiter caused a turnover and preceded his rush up ice to set up Tom Wilson‘s goal that put Washington ahead 3-2 at 8:55 of the third period.
Predators penalty kill thrives
Special teams continue to play a big part in this series, and the Predators couldn’t have asked for a better performance from their penalty kill. Nashville killed off all six of the Stars’ power-play chances and they were especially good after forward Mattias Ekholm was called for interference and unsportsmanlike penalties at 10:55 of the first period, leaving the Predators shorthanded for four minutes. Nashville is 8-for-9 on the penalty kill in two playoff games, continuing its success from the regular season when the Predators were sixth in the NHL on the penalty kill (82.1 percent).
Ben Bishop needs some help from Stars
Stars players and coach Jim Montgomery said Ben Bishop was their best player in Game 1, and there’s no doubt he was again in Game 2. Bishop saved 40 of 42 shots and gave the Stars a chance to win. The problem is the Stars didn’t give him much in return. They didn’t do much on their power play (six shots on six opportunities). They had 23 shots against Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne, but outside of Jamie Benn‘s goal off a pass from Tyler Seguin at 1:59 of the second period, few were quality scoring chances.
The Bruins can still be big and bad
The Bruins scratched veteran forward David Backes in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round, figuring that they would need more speed and skill against the high-flying Toronto Maple Leafs. They flubbed the game badly. Backes returned in Game 2, pushing the team to a physical, gritty style that flummoxed the Maple Leafs and got the Bruins back to their roots and identity. Backes is no longer the player who was the captain of the St. Louis Blues, but he was crucial on Saturday. He led the Bruins with seven hits, picked up an assist and was a big reason why the Bruins evened the best-of-7 series against the Maple Leafs at 1-1.
Maple Leafs remain vulnerable to physical forecheck
Toronto has been exposed whenever opponents pound them with a physical forecheck. That has been a weakness of the Maple Leafs for much of the season and was again in Game 2. In particular, the defense pair of Jake Muzzin and Nikita Zaitsev, which was so efficient in quieting the Bruins top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak in Game 1, was consistently forced into coughing up pucks all night long. While that didn’t necessarily lead to Bruins goals all the time, it allowed Boston to maintain significant zone time on the cycle and eventually wore the Maple Leafs defensemen down. “They were on us quickly and we didn’t have much time back there,” Toronto defenseman Morgan Rielly said. Expect the Bruins to continue to do that in Game 3 Monday.
Flames quicker on the draw, more sore in the shins
For the second consecutive game, the Flames dominated the Avalanche on face-offs, their 65-35 percent Game 2 edge exactly what it was in Game 1. Controlling face-offs is vital. Seizing the dropped puck in the defensive zone leads to an easier breakout; winning the draw in the offensive zone can promote a scoring chance. Flames center Derek Ryan played just 12:12 on Saturday but won 10 face-offs while losing only two (83 percent). Elias Lindholm went 9-for-13 (69 percent) and Sean Monahan went 9-for-14 (64 percent). When they are not controlling the puck, the Flames are accumulating welts and bruises for goalie Mike Smith, blocking 29 Avalanche shots on Saturday after having blocked 19 in Game 1. Defenseman Travis Hamonic had six blocks in Game 2, the same as in the series opener. “Anything at this time of the year to help the team win,” Hamonic said.
Avalanche goalie Grubauer delivers – big-time
Avalanche goalie Philipp Grubauer turned in a glittering 35-save performance in Game 2 to send the series back to Denver tied 1-1 and stealing the spotlight, at least for now, from Smith. Grubauer faced 10 shots in each of the three periods but was at his best beyond regulation time. He was perfect on all seven shots he faced in overtime and quite literally stole the game for his team with a stunning save on Michael Frolik just seconds before Nathan MacKinnon’s game-winner for Colorado. “I would say I’m pretty happy with (Grubauer’s) game, but I think we’ve seen better from him and we’re probably going to need a little better from him,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said on Friday. Grubauer delivered the next night, big-time.
Originally published at https://www.nhl.com/news/stanley-cup-playoff-buzz-april-14/c-306748920