The NHL Playoff Recap gives you THN’s take of what happened in each game of the night and what the consequences will be for the rest of the series.
We also provide our Three Stars of the night, which will be tabulated after each round. First Star is three points, Second Star is two points and Third Star is one point. Be sure to vote on who you think the first star was as well.
Of course there’s the other side of the coin: The Black Hole is a piece of the lineup that just couldn’t get it going on a given night and contributed to a difficult evening for the team.
RANGERS/CAPITALS, GAME 3: RANGERS 2, CAPITALS 1 (3OT) (RANGERS LEAD SERIES 2-1)
THN’s Take: How do you assess such a gruelling game? New York may have won the battle, but coach John Tortorella’s reliance on his top four defensemen could end up losing the war. Washington battered Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh (Michael Del Zotto went relatively unscathed) and with astronomic ice times to go with it, energy reserves will be strained for the rest of the series. Not to mention any accrued bumps and minor injuries accumulated over the slugfest.
On the other hand, this game was certainly a blown chance for the hometown Capitals, who carried much of the offensive play, but could only convert once. The mental letdown of the loss must be set aside, because otherwise the series will go pear-shaped for Washington just as quickly.
1. Marian Gaborik – When you score the winning goal at the end of triple overtime, you get the first star of the game. Gabbo also assisted on the Rangers’ opener, choosing a great time to break out of his offensive rut.
2. Ryan McDonagh – The sophomore standout played nearly an entire hockey game himself, logging an incredible 53:21 of ice time by the end of the marathon and doing so as one of the Blueshirts’ most effective players.
3. Matt Hendricks – The Washington ball of energy was a physical force all night long and his big collisions set the tone for the Caps. His levelling of McDonagh early in the first overtime may have a long-term effect on the effectiveness of the young D-man in the series.
The Black Hole: Marcus Johansson was just plain bad for most of the game. Countless rushes alongside Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin were squandered by the young Swede’s stick fumbles and misreads, while his errant pass on the power play killed all pressure. This game didn’t need to even get into overtime.
– Ryan Kennedy
COYOTES/PREDATORS, GAME 3: PREDATORS 2, COYOTES 0 (COYOTES LEAD SERIES 2-1)
THN’s Take: When Marc Bergevin spoke to the Montreal media Wednesday, he spoke of how he wasn’t the best player in his time, but he brought something to the table. The new Habs GM said he believes everybody has to bring something to the table for a team to be successful.
The Nashville Predators were the embodiment of that philosophy in Game 3 and Habs fans would only be too lucky to root for a franchise that runs as efficient as the Music City squad.
Bergevin may have been the big news story Wednesday, but the result of Tuesday’s headline expressed itself in the evening. How would the Predators fare without Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn, suspended by the team for missing curfew? They did just fine with the Sergei Kostitsyn-Mike Fisher-Martin Erat line (especially Erat) flying around the Coyotes all night. They did just fine with Pekka Rinne playing like Pekka Rinne for the first time this series and earning his first career playoff shutout. And they did just fine, somehow, with an 0-for-5 power play and two goals that could be classified as fortunate.
Now the attention turns toward Game 4 and the fate of the two suspended players. Conventional wisdom dictates if a specific group wins a crucial game, you stick with them in the follow up. But Radulov is the team’s leading point-getter and Andrei Kostitsyn is tied as its leading goal-scorer so can Nashville afford to sit them out in the long run? Can you turn your back on two players acquired late in the season for a playoff push when a loss would put you two games down and on the brink?
The commitment of the two is now in question and for a team whose motto is “together” that’s not an endearing trait. Radulov has looked pouty at times on the ice as well. But although Nashville won Game 3, one goal was a misplay by Mike Smith, the other an unfortunate bounce in off his stick (though Fisher and Sergei Kostitsyn were in 2-on-0). Goal scorers are still needed, so it’s not a cut and dry decision to stick with this winning formula.
1. Pekka Rinne – When the Coyotes had a 5-on-3 advantage in the third the door was still open for a comeback. Rinne put up a wall and made a stupendously desperate kick save you’ll see on a highlight reel near you.
2. David Legwand – It’s fitting that three career Preds make up the three stars on a night that was all about the team. Legwand was in the right place at the right time for his goal and logged the most minutes and shots amongst Preds forwards.
3. Martin Erat – With an honorable mentioned to Fisher, Erat stepped up for his team when it needed him most. He was getting in the faces of the Coyotes and using his speed in combination with his linemates to really control the puck. Tied for the forward lead in PPTOI.
The Black Hole: The power plays for both teams were terrible, but Phoenix couldn’t even convert on a stretch where they held a man advantage for 3:19. When the offense isn’t rolling, the power play has to pick it up.
– Rory Boylen