Mon Apr 21 01:01am EDT
No. 1 Star: Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks
Pavelski had a three-point night in the Sharks 7-2 rout of the Los Angeles Kings, picking up a second assist on the Justin Braun goal that stood as the game-winner, then adding a goal and another assist once the Kings fell apart in the third. The Sharks scored four in the final frame:
No. 2 Star: Brendan Gallagher, Montreal Canadiens
Gallagher capped off a massive momentum shift for the Canadiens versus the home Tampa Bay Lightning in the second period, scoring the go-ahead goal not long after Ryan Callahan has his go-ahead goal disallowed. Then in the third, he helped orchestrate a Tomas Plekanec goal which would stand as the game-winner in a 3-2 victory for the Canadiens. Game 4 now becomes our first elimination game of the playoffs.
No. 3 Star: Ray Emery, Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers were outshot 33 to 24, but Emery shut the door, making 31 saves to give the Flyers a 4-2 win over the New York Rangers, their first victory as Madison Square Garden in nine tries... Perhaps inspired by the incredible opening sequence at the Bell Centre, Rene Bourque scored just 11 seconds in:
Honorable mention: Steven Stamkos did his best, assisting on both Lightning goals in the loss, the second of which came after he returned from a nasty head hit by Alexei Emelin... Tuukka Rask made 34 saves as the Boston Bruins topped the Detroit Red Wings, 4-1, and tied their series at one win apiece.
Did You Know? Jonathan Quick has had a rough start to these playoffs:
Dishonorable mention: It's got to be the LA Kings. Quick hasn't been good, but the rest of his team has been overmatched as well. Seven goals allowed in Game 2. Fortunately, now they go home to the Staples Center, where they're usually better. It's hard to imagine them being much worse... This is some rough stuff from Jimmy Howard and Brenden Smith:
Sun Apr 20 09:31pm EDT
You're not going to see many momentum swings as drastic as the one that turned the Tampa Bay Lightning's 2-1 lead versus the Montreal Canadiens into a 2-1 deficit in Sunday night's Game 3.
Originally, it looked like the Lightning had scored the all-important go-ahead goal. After a scramble in front of the Montreal net, with Alex Killorn spilling into the crease, Carey Price flopping all over, and the puck moving side to side before Ryan Callahan put the puck in.
But the goal was waved off by the officials, presumably because of goaltender interference.
On its face, that's a terrible call. Price wasn't interfered with at all. Sure, Killorn was briefly where the puck would eventually wind up, but he didn't touch Price. The only contact between the Lightning forward and the Canadiens defender came when Price attempted to re-establish position moving to his left and inadvertently stepped on the back of the fleeing Killorn's skate.
Price fell, and never quite got set after that, moving back across the ice to chase the puck and flopping at Callahan's shot, which deflected off his body and in.
But according to the NHL rulebook, that's enough. Rule 69.3 makes allowances for calling off goals based on exactly this type of contact:
69.3 Contact Inside the Goal Crease - If an attacking player initiates contact with a goalkeeper, incidental or otherwise, while the goalkeeper is in his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.
If a goalkeeper, in the act of establishing his position within his goal crease, initiates contact with an attacking player who is in the goal crease, and this results in an impairment of the goalkeeper’s ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.
You could argue, and referee Francis Charron seemed to feel this way (yes, he's Quebec-born, so fire up your conspiracy theories), that Price was impaired in his ability to establish position and defend his goal by stepping on Killorn's skate. And because it happened in his crease, well, that's enough.
My opinion: Price knew what he was doing, flopping down to the ice after the contact, and even in weakly attempting to get back into position for Callahan's shot. He played Charron like a fiddle.
But even so, by the rule of the law, the call was correct. Argue the call was terrible all you want -- seems to me it's the rule, which makes room for disallowing a goal under these exact circumstances, is the truly terrible part of this play.
It got worse for Tampa Bay. Shortly after having its goal taken away, Steven Stamkos took a knee to the back of the head on a freaky collision with Alexei Emelin and left the game:
He returned for the third period, but when he did, the Canadiens led 2-1 on a Brendan Gallagher goal, and even that was another bit of bad fortune for the Lightning. P.K. Subban found himself wide open to make the pass to Gallagher after Ondrej Palat somehow got his stick caught in the net as he chased Subban around it and wound up pole-vaulting into the wall.
That's the sort of thing that will knock the wind out of the guy, and considering everything else that led up to it, it's little wonder that it knocked the wind out of the rest of the Lighting as well.
Early in the third, the Canadiens made it 3-1. The Lighting would cut the lead in half thanks to a Matt Carle goal set up by the returning Stamkos, but it's as close as they could come, falling 3-2 and falling down 3-0 in the first-round series.
Game 4, the first elimination game of the 2014 playoffs, goes Tuesday night in Montreal.
Sun Apr 20 05:31pm EDT
If you've read the New Testament, you probably know by now that Jesus is a big fan of gardens. The last place he went before his arrest was the Garden of Gethsemane. And most recently, he was spotted at the TD Garden, where the Bruins and Red Wings duked it out for Game 2 of their first-round series.
In other words, if you skipped Easter Sunday service to attend this one, you're not alone: so did the Lord.
"Jesus", in this case, is a guy named Thor, who knew just how to get invited to the game. Ask if someone had a minute for the guy that died for their sins:
Apparently, Jesus is a fan of the World Series.
Anyway, it worked.
The condition, of course, was that Thor come to the game dressed not, as his name implies, as the crown prince of Asgard, but as the Saviour of mankind. And of course he obliged.
In the first period, he was spotted on the JumboTron, blessing the hometown team, and he received the warm reception the real Jesus received early in his ministry:
But if you know the story of Jesus, you know eventually the people turn on him. That happened here as well. In the second period, Jesus was escorted out of the Garden in some horrible deja vu. To a smattering of boos.
Let us pause for a second. Bruins fans -- not all, but some -- booed Jesus. ON EASTER. Not cool, Boston. If you lose this series, you can probably point to the negative karma accrued by booing the Christ on his big day. (Additionally, you no longer get to make fun of Philadelphia for booing Santa.)
Some argue that they were booing the security guard escorting him out, although he sure doesn't seem to think so, and really, everybody knows the real way to protest Jesus being taking away would have been to cut off that guy's ear.
So what did Jesus do to get escorted out? Did he attempt to heal the sick on the Sabbath? Did he chastise the Pharisees (i.e. the Boston media) for their false righteousness?
Not to our knowledge. Looks like he tried to smoke:
Who knows how accurate this is, but if he was, of course he was. He just went to Hell, to fight the devil for the rights to our souls. It's hot down there. It's also stressful. Sometimes you just need a cigarette.
Jesus could not be reached for comment. Or maybe he could. Who really knows if prayer works or not?
Fortunately, this is Jesus we're talking about. The man can't keep him down. In true Messianic fashion, Jesus was back for the third day -- day, in this case, being period.
You're gosh darn right he was fan of the game. At least some Bruins fans know the true meaning of Easter.
Sun Apr 20 03:15pm EDT
Heading back to Chicago trailing their first-round series with the St. Louis Blues two games to none, the Chicago Blackhawks were already in trouble. But now their uphill climb has gotten even steeper, as the long arm of the law has come down on Brent Seabrook for his nasty hit on David Backes in Game 2.
[Puck Daddy: Seabrook ejected after hit to head of David Backes]
Fittingly for this Easter Sunday, it will be three game days before Seabrook can rise again. Here's Patrick Burke to explain why:
Three games is a big suspension, but it seems justified, in this case.
The argument in defense of Seabrook could be that he didn't know Backes had failed to gain control of the puck, but the Department doesn't seem convinced. "While it is possible," Burke says, "the onus is still on Seabrook to ensure that he does not hit an ineligible opponent."
But he does, and he does so illegally, at that: "This is both interference and charging."
It's never a good sign when there are two ways to approach the rationate for your suspension, and really, there are three. The most interesting thing about this suspension video is that the DOPS doesn't mention the hit to the head at all. It's also never a good sign when you can be justify a three-game suspension without even touching on the head contact. (Hell, Blackhawks fans should be grateful. It's almost as though the DOPS cops just forgot there was a third problem with the hit. Had they brought it up, they could have defended giving Seabrook 4, or even 5 games.)
But you can see why it's hardly the issue here. Seabrook's hit would have been illegal two times over regardless of where the contact was. As Burke explains, "Seabrook skates some distance before making this hit, so he has time to avoid this check completely. Instead, he skates into the hit, and drives up with his right shoulder, delivering a violent blow that causes an injury."
Seabrook will be unavailable for the Blackhawks until Game 6, provided this series gets that far. The way things are going for Chicago, it's hardly a guarantee.
Sun Apr 20 10:30am EDT
The Philadelphia Flyers were the NHL's most penalized team during the regular season, so it was almost no surprise to see that a penalty -- a double minor, to be specific -- helped doom them in Game 1 Thursday night against the New York Rangers.
New York kept their discipline in tact, only giving Philadelphia a single power play on a Ryan McDonagh high-stick early in the third period. A similar infraction seven minutes later by Flyers forward Jason Akeson drew blood on Carl Hagelin and opened the door for two power play goals, giving the Rangers the lead for good.
“We’ve been whistle to whistle all year long," said Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault regarding his team's post-whistle discipline. "Nothing’s changed for us."
Special teams always play a big role in how series develop. The Rangers took advantage in Game 1. How will the Flyers respond Sunday afternoon in Game 2?
"It's something we've battled all year," said Flyers forward Matt Read. "If we don't smarten up it's going to cost us like it did last game.
"You can talk about it as much as you want, but if it doesn't correlate to the ice it doesn't matter what you say."
Adding to the Flyers' Game 1 frustrations, the Rangers dominated the possession game (59.3-percent even strength Corsi, via Extra Skater) and won the shot battle (36-15). The controlling of the puck kept Philadelphia's top line of Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek and Scott Hartnell in check, limiting them to two combined shots.
"If you don't shoot the puck, you don't have faceoffs in the offensive zone, that's the first problem,"said Flyers head coach Craig Berube. "The Rangers did that to us. They shot the puck from everywhere so we had a lot of faceoffs in our end, too many."
Steve Mason, who was aiming to play Game 2, will once again be sidelined as he recovers from an upper-body injury. Ray Emery will get the call in net for the Flyers and will play in consecutive games for the first time this season.
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Sun Apr 20 10:03am EDT
After Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook freight-trained him with a charge to the head in Game 2 on Saturday, St. Louis Blues captain David Backes struggled to his skates and attempted to confront his assailant. He wobbled, his legs buckling. In our age of concussion awareness, it was a disturbing scene.
Or, alternately, a hilarious one for someone watching the play with Blackhawks allegiances. Check out the audio here, around the 45-second mark, as someone exclaims, “Wakey Wakey, Backey, Wakey Wakey!”
So the conventional wisdom since the end of the game is that it was Duncan Keith that uttered this mockery, because his lips are moving and he’s nearby and it sorta sounds like Duncan Keith and he’s the kinda guy that would say it.
I couldn’t confirm it from the clip – hell, it could have been one of those glass-banging Blackhawks fans watching the action for all we know – but I guess that’s what we’re going with.
No, it’s never cool to mock someone that might have a brain injury. But I this is another case of word policing at an NHL game, where the mics happen to pick up that 1 percent of nastiness shared between both teams. (And no, I don’t believe a team that has Max Lapierre and Steve Ott in its employ has its hands clean in that regard.)
So Duncan Keith (maybe) says this, and then our outrage culture online gets outraged about it, and then everybody takes their eye off the really deplorable thing that happened here, which was someone delivering a blow to the head to a defenseless player and then smiling like an idiot about it.
Sun Apr 20 09:28am EDT
It may have been a bit of a circus on the ice for the AHL's last place Portland Pirates this season, but having an actual Big Top alter your schedule's end wasn't something many saw coming.
The Pirates lost their season finale Saturday night 5-4 to the St. John's IceCaps at MHG IceCentre. If you're thinking that name sounds like some sort of local practice rink, well, you'd be correct.
A scheduling conflict at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston, Maine saw the Kora Shrine Circus win out, forcing the Pirates to play in front of 550 fans at their practice facility, not the 2,000-plus on average they're use to.
Here's what it looked like:
Earlier this week, the Pirates announced that due to the venue change all tickets would be refunded and season ticket holders could use it toward a 2014-15 subscription. Separate tickets were made available for Saturday night's game with proceeds benefiting the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital.
The scheduling conflict arose earlier in the hockey season. Originally, the Pirates, an affiliate of the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes, were slated to play the first 12 to 15 home games of the season at the Colisee while the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland was renovated. A dispute over a lease agreement between the Pirates and the Civic Center's board of trustees erupted late in the summer, and in September, the team announced it would play its full slate of games at the Colisee.
That schedule included a three-games-in-three-nights, season-ending home stand April 18-20.
The Shrine Circus had already booked its dates in Lewiston as part of an agreement with the Colisee.
Portland's games originally scheduled for Friday and Sunday were moved and negotiations to have the game and circus remain on the same day failed.
Now that their season is over the Pirates still need to work out an extension on their agreement with the Phoenix Coyotes.
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Sun Apr 20 01:31am EDT
No. 1 Star: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
MacKinnon’s ankle-breaking goal tied the game. He assisted on Gabriel Landeskog’s two goals to grab the lead, and on Paul Stastny’s empty netter to end it. The Avalanche won 4-2 taking a 2-0 series lead over the Wild as MacKinnon had a 4-point night. He now has seven points in two games, tying the NHL record for most pts in first 2 playoff games of an NHL career.
No. 2 Star: Matt Calvert, Columbus Blue Jackets
Calvert scored a key shorthanded goal to close the Pittsburgh Penguins’ lead to 3-2 and then, in double OT, scored the game-winning goal to give the Jackets their first ever playoff win. Columbus knotted the series at 1-1.
No. 3 Star: Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
With due respect to overtime hero Barret Jackman, it was Tarasenko’s power-play goal with six seconds left that propelled the Blues into OT where they eventually won over the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3, taking a 2-0 series lead.
Honorable mention: Paul Stastny had a 4-point night as well for the Avs, building his on Conn Smythe resume after his Game 1 heroics. … Brent Seabrook had a goal and an assist and something you’ll read about in dishonorable mentions. … Kevin Shattenkirk had a goal and two assists. … Ryan Johansen had a goal and an assist. … Brian Gibbons of the Penguins scored two goals in just 2:26 of ice time, leaving the Penguins game after a collision behind the net with a Jackets player. … Sergei Bobrovsky made 27 saves after giving up three goals on 15 shots in the first.
Did You Know? Pittsburgh center Sidney Crosby earned two assists in the first, moving him into third on the franchise's all-time postseason points list with 108. (NHL.com)
Dishonorable mention: Fedor Tyutin was injured for the Jackets, playing less than seven minutes. … Ilya Bryzgalov was pulled after giving up three goals on 14 shots. … Blake Comeau had three minor penalties vs. Pittsburgh. … The Penguins were 1-for-8 on the power play. … Finally, Brent Seabrook will have a hearing over the phone with the NHL after this head-shot on David Backes.
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Sat Apr 19 11:42pm EDT
Since their inaugural season in 2000-01, the Columbus Blue Jackets have played in 1,037 games. That includes five in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, all of them losses.
Game No. 1,038 was Saturday night.
Three periods and two overtimes later, and the Columbus Blue Jackets finally received a stamp of validation as an NHL franchise.
The first playoff win. The first time a Columbus Blue Jackets player was mobbed by his teammates as a postseason hero. The first time a series shifts back to Nationwide Arena with the Blue Jackets not facing a deficit. The first time a Columbus Blue Jackets fan wakes up the following morning – Easter Sunday, of course, because the “coming back from the dead of Game 1” allegories couldn’t be more on-the-nose – with that insatiable notion that creeps into the minds of every hockey fan in the Stanley Cup Playoffs:
“We might actually do this.”
Matt Calvert played the hero, scoring two goals in the game including the definitive one at 1:10 of the second overtime on Saturday night at the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Here's his shorthanded goal that cut it to 3-2, a goal Coach Todd Richards said was "the difference maker in the game. It gave hope to our guys."
And here's the OT game winner at 1:10 of the second extra session.
"It’s unbelievable. I think every year of my life I’ve watched NHL playoffs and you always dream about being the hero in OT," Calvert told Aaron Portzline.
Three Penguins to the right of Marc-Andre Fleury and one behind him, and no one could prevent Calvert from taking his own rebound and elevating it home for the game winner. But that was symbolic of the game: The Jackets pushing just a little harder in the offensive zone, doing just a little more on every shift to make a difference.
Look no further than Brandon Dubinsky, who set up the goal. He continued to hound Sidney Crosby, throw his body around and pepper the opposing net with nine shots. He was one of several Jackets that were wrecking balls in the offensive zone; the young duo of Ryan Johansen and Boone Jenner, for example, were terrors in the corners and behind the net.
Dubinsky and Mark Letestu were also essential in another facet of this one: Versus the Penguins power play, which won Game 1 but went 1-for-8 in Game 2, including two missed chances in overtime. Dubinsky was 6-for-11 on defensive zone draws for the game, including 4-for-4 against Evgeni Malkin. Letestu was 10-for-12 on draws overall and 6-for-8 in the defensive zone, including 4-for-5 against Crosby.
You can’t score if you don’t have the puck. The Penguins have 11 shots in 14:59 of power play time, but was a dismal 3-for-14 on power play faceoffs. Meanwhile, Columbus went 2-for-5 on their power plays.
The Penguins can’t be happy with this one, knowing that a knockout blow could have been landed here. They had power play chances. They had a Columbus defense that lost Fedor Tyutin to injury after just 6:55 of ice time. They had another above average performance from Marc-Andre Fleury. They had Sergei Bobrovsky shaky in the first 20 minutes, and they twice had 2-goal leads over the Jackets on their home ice.
But now, thanks to Calvert, they have a series.
And Columbus, for the first time in franchise history, has a playoff win.
With the expected mix of Penguins fan invaders and Blue Jackets loyalists, the atmosphere at Nationwide Arena is going to be unprecedented chaos for Columbus. It’s going to be loud, angsty and tense.
It’s going to feel like playoff hockey.
And it only took 1,038 games to get there.
Sat Apr 19 11:30pm EDT
Nathan MacKinnon is going to win the Calder trophy. He stands alone as the NHL's best rookie, and one of the reasons for that is that he never really looked like one. Heading into the playoffs, you had to wonder if his first NHL postseason was the moment he started to look his age.
In the parlance of most kids his age: LOL nope. On Saturday, MacKinnon scored his first career NHL playoff goal, and my lord if it isn't an incredible piece of business.
The NBA postseason kicked off Saturday, but I submit that you won't see finer playoff ankle breakage than this today. Unbelievable.
You knew the Wild were in trouble the moment MacKinnon received this pass. The only guy near him was Mikko Koivu, and MacKinnon blows by him with ease, leaving him most of the neutral zone to pick up speed, because this is no longer Jacques Lemaire's Wild, and the middle of the ice is wiiiiiiide open. By the time he hits the Minnesota blueline, he's a flux capacitor away from going back to 1955.
That's when Jared Spurgeon gets blown right up. At first, MacKinnon looks like he's going to go right up the middle, but the moment Spurgeon turns to his right, MacKinnon turns to his right. Spurgeon is basically reduced to a pile of offal without skin, so inside out is he.
After unlocking "playoff mode", MacKinnon remained in it for the second period, setting up Gabriel Landeskog for two more goals that were almost as beautiful. Ilya Bryzgalov got the hook after the third goal, but it seems downright unfair to blame him for MacKinnon going super-saiyan.
Terrifying thought: what if he stays in this mode... forever? What if this is who he is now? God help us all.