Why Toronto won: The Leafs turned the tables on the Bruins by playing essentially the same opportunistic type of game Boston used to win three of the first four games of this series: Toronto leaned on goalie James Reimer all night, capitalized on a couple of the home team’s mistakes and held on for dear life in a third period that saw the trailing team furiously assault the leading team with a flurry of shots on net. Boston came close to tying it late in the third, but Reimer held the fort and extended the series.
Why Boston lost: The Bruins outshot Toronto 19-4 in the final period and 44-33 on the night, but only Zdeno Chara managed to beat Reimer. Tyler Seguin continued to be frustrated by Reimer and still is looking for his first goal and point of the series; and Patrice Bergeron and Jaromir Jagr combined for 13 shots on net, but were held off the scoresheet completely. The Bruins pushed on Toronto’s defense with increasing might as the night went on, but simply couldn’t finish.
Play of the game: The score was knotted at zeros midway through the second period when a Bruins shot from the point redirected to Bergeron, who had a wide-open net at which to shoot. But when Bergeron tried to fire the puck past the goal line, Reimer’s fully-extended right leg stopped it. OK, it was actually his toe that got a piece of the puck and prevented it from going in. A minute later, Tyler Bozak scored the game’s first goal and got the momentum in Toronto’s direction.
1. James Reimer: The Leafs needed Reimer to steal a game for them at some point in the series and this game turned out to be it. In addition to his stunning save on Bergeron, Reimer made another big-time game-saver late in the third when he got the knob of his stick on a point-blank shot by Jagr. Reimer now leads all NHL playoff goalies in saves with 192 and will need to be just as sharp if Toronto is to win in Game 6.
2. Dion Phaneuf: Two days after his glaring gaffe cost the Leafs Game 4, Phaneuf responded with a solid, if unspectacular showing in a high-pressure situation where all eyes were on him. Coach Randy Carlyle eased up on his ice time – Phaneuf played 21:28, while rookie Jake Gardiner logged 24:05 – and Toronto’s captain finished tied with teammate Matt Frattin and Boston’s Milan Lucic with a game-high seven hits and a pair of blocks. If it’s fair to rip Phaneuf for screwing up, it’s just as fair to praise him for smart play.
3. Zdeno Chara: Boston’s captain once again led all players in ice time (28:06) and shots (eight), and didn’t have a single turnover. If all Bruins were as consistent as the hulking blueliner, this series would be over already.
What's Next: The two teams square off again Sunday night at Air Canada Centre and the Leafs need their first home win of the series to force a Game 7 the following night in Boston. The Bruins will prefer to take what undoubtedly will be a raucous Leafs crowd out of it early, but expect them to return to that patient approach that brought them three games worth of success thus far. Meanwhile, Toronto will need another virtually mistake-free effort to remain alive. – Adam Proteau
Why Washington won: Because the Capitals beat the Rangers at their own game. They were patient, far too patient at times, blocked shots and dug in for the long haul in a game where every inch of the ice was contested. The Capitals are not playing a perfect game, far from it actually, but they don’t have to against a team as offensively unproductive as the Rangers were in Game 5. The line of Mathieu Perreault between Joel Ward and Jason Chimera was the best for the Capitals. Alex Ovechkin was certainly quiet. Anyone else think he might be injured?
Why New York lost: Because safe is death. Rangers coach John Tortorella used to say that himself when he was coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the dead-puck era, but now that the game has opened up and he has access to offensive talents such as Rick Nash and Brad Richards, he guides a team that often goes entire games without generating anything. Four shots in the third period of a playoff game? Seriously? And speaking of Nash and Richards, someone might want to let those guys know the playoffs have started. Losing Ryane Clowe in the first five minutes of the game certainly hurt, but not as much as the Rangers perplexing decision to basically sit back until overtime. This is a team that won the previous two games by scoring four goals in each one. You’d think they’d take the hint.
Play of the game: Midway through the first overtime period, Derrick Brassard couldn’t clear the puck and after a point shot was blocked by Anton Stralman’s skate, Mike Ribeiro was rewarded for gaining position on John Moore and had the puck on his stick in front of an open net.
1. Joel Ward: Ward is one of those unique players who is better in the playoffs than he is in the regular season. Not only did he tie the score on the power play, he was a beast along the boards, in the corners and on the forecheck.
2. Mike Green: A player who has been maligned for being a playoff dud has been anything but in this series. He did not hit the scoreboard, but was on the ice for both Capital goals and was a dangerous player all night.
3. Henrik Lundqvist: King Henrik stopped 33 of 35 shots and couldn’t be faulted on the overtime winner. Had that puck made it to him in the first place, he probably would have stopped it.
What’s next: Well, the home team has won every game in the series so far, so there’s no reason to believe it won’t shift back to Washington next Monday night for Game 7. It won’t however, unless the Rangers get it in their heads that they can’t score in the first minute of the game and then basically do nothing for the next 59 minutes. The Capitals have to be much sharper in their own end and would have paid dearly had the Rangers capitalized on their mistakes. – Ken Campbell
Why Detroit won: The Wings again weren’t perfect, but came through in the clutch with their third overtime win of the series. Jimmy Howard made a few incredible saves that kept the Ducks behind for a long while before two quick, late goals (one of which should have been annulled by a Corey Perry trip). At that point Detroit looked primed for a blown game, but they’ve been rope-a-doping Anaheim all series long and now find themselves in a winner-take-all finale. Given how they’ve been overmatched for much of this series, that’s about the best place they could put themselves in to pull off an upset.
Why Anaheim lost: Unfinished opportunities and not enough from the top line in a game that could have ended the series. Ryan Getzlaf won only 29 percent of his draws and even though Corey Perry assisted on the game-tying goal, he’s been mostly lackadaisical. The Ducks did not come close to dominating the Wings physically as they did in Game 5 and, once again, weren’t able to carry over a strong effort to their next game. They were lucky to get this one to OT.
Play of the game: Henrik Zetterberg hadn’t scored yet in this series before Game 6 and picked a great time to start. He posted two goals in this game, with the second one coming in overtime, sending this series back to California once more.
1. Henrik Zetterberg: Electric at both ends of the ice with great backchecking efforts that prevented scoring opportunities and three points – two goals – at the other end that proved to be the difference.
2. Pavel Datsyuk: Won 60 percent of his faceoffs and his slick backhand goal was a wizardry clinic. Datsyuk added two assists and gave the Ducks a hard time, picking off passes and stealing pucks.
3. Jimmy Howard: Even though this one nearly got away from him, Howard was large as the shot totals he faced increased each period from seven to 14 to 16. His cross-crease robbery of Teemu Selanne is must-see TV.
What’s next: There is no excuse for Anaheim to be in this situation and their up-and-down intensity does not bode well for later rounds – if they get that far. The Wings just need to keep plugging away, staying close and striking when the chances present themselves. When Anaheim’s top line settles into its cycle game Detroit has a hard time handling it, but too often this series the Ducks’ Big Three haven’t had enough fight. Detroit will come to play – if Anaheim doesn’t this unconscionable upset will be complete. – Rory Boylen
Why Los Angeles won: Scoreboard aside, for probably the fourth or fifth time in this six-game series, the Kings were not the top team if you were to dissect the game tape and make evaluations. But they won the series because of opportune goal-scoring, a suffocating modified neutral-zone trap and stonewall goaltending. That was again the case in Game 6. The St. Louis Blues, to their credit, pushed it to the metal leaving it all on the ice. They go home for the summer with the engine room completely empty.
Why St. Louis lost: First a proviso. The Blues truly are one of the top five or six teams in the league. A balanced lineup has completely bought into coach Ken Hitchcock's system and had the edge in play this game and series. The defense corps is as deep and balanced as they get and the goaltending is strong. But if there's one thing holding the team back it's that it doesn't have the one or two offensive game-breakers who can be counted on to punch St. Louis' ticket. That not so much a criticism as it is an observation.
Play of the game: With the clock winding down in a tight second period, L.A.'s Dustin Penner fired a slapshot from just inside the St. Louis blueline that grazed the stick of Roman Polak, changing it's trajectory and sneaking over the shoulder of Blues goalie Brian Elliott. It clanged in off the post just before the second-period buzzer. Replays showed it crossed the goalline with 0.2 seconds remaining.
1. Jonathan Quick: With the Kings holding a 2-1 lead in the third period, Quick made terrific saves on Jaden Schwartz and Patrick Berglund from point-black range. For as well as both teams played in this series, exchange goalies and it would be the Blues advancing to the second round.
2. Adam Cracknell: The Blues pride themselves on having a well-constructed cast of forward lines and that includes a fourth unit that bangs and crashes like no other in the NHL's first round this year. Chris Porter centers Ryan Reaves and Cracknell and on this night it was Cracknell who was the poster boy on every aggressive forecheck. He even generated a few scoring chances that almost resulted in goals.
3. Drew Doughty: Part of the Blues' game plan was to take to the body of L.A.'s Norris Trophy finalist and they did from the outset. But there are fewer smarter and craftier players in the game. On the game's opening goal, Doughty faked a slapshot, then wristed a howitzer between the legs of defender Polak and past goalie Elliott in the first period. It was a calculated move that changed the shooting angle off his stick.
What's Next: The Kings advance to a California showdown in Round 2. If Anaheim beats Detroit in upcoming Game 7, the Kings meet the Ducks with Anaheim holding home-ice advantage. If the Red Wings come out on top in in Game 7, the Kings have home-ice advantage in the next round against the San Jose Sharks. In that scenario, Chicago would play Detroit. As for the Blues, they'll have some restricted free agents to sign in the off-season with some salary cap issues to deal with. The game-breaker they really need will have to come from within. Vladimir Tarasenko, it's your time. – Brian Costello