Why Washington won: Because the Capitals are clearly the faster, more talented, hungrier and superior team in this series and, for the second straight game, did not allow a lack of offensive success to waylay them. And they fully deserved to win. They did an outstanding job of controlling the puck in the offensive zone and were utterly dominant in overtime, getting chances when they were shorthanded and on the power play. The Capitals gave up only 24 shots, including a grand total of zero in eight minutes of OT, not because they were great defensively, but because they had the puck on their sticks so much.
Why New York lost: Because there are no shootouts in the playoffs and you can’t play not to lose games in the post-season. The lack of offensive thrust for the Rangers was startling at times and they simply don’t have an answer for the Capitals huge advantage in talent. Kudos to coach John Tortorella for moving Rick Nash off the line with Brad Richards and onto a unit with Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan, but one good line is not going to beat the Capitals.
Play of the game: After each team took a minor for delay of game for putting the puck over the glass, the Capitals showed enormous patience on the power play and were rewarded when Green pounded the puck past four collapsing Rangers and Lundqvist. The Capitals had only two power plays in the game, but sometimes that’s all the best power play in the league needs.
1. Henrik Lundqvist: After being outplayed by Brayden Holtby in Game 1, Lundqvist was all-world for the Rangers and was the only reason why the game even got to overtime.
2. Alex Ovechkin: Mike Green provided the ultimate heroics, but it was Ovechkin who put an enormous stamp on the game in all zones. He had seven shots and seven hits in 20 minutes of ice time and was a threat every time he was out there.
3. Brayden Holtby: When the guy at the other end is playing as well as Lundqvist did, it’s incumbent on the goalie to be stellar and solid, which Holtby was.
What’s next: The series shifts to New York with the Rangers needing to find a way to create offense and score goals. Holtby has been a major reason for that, but the Rangers are going to have to be a lot better on the forecheck. The Capitals have obviously identified that as a Ranger strength and have neutralized it by moving the puck quickly out of their end. – Ken Campbell
Why Toronto won: The Leafs came out of the gates looking entirely different than the shell-shocked group that scrambled around the ice during Game 1. Their defense was calm, their forwards aggressive and their goaltending was solid when it needed to be. More importantly, Toronto showed the ability to come back from an early deficit – Boston went up 1-0 in the second, but the Buds stormed back with three straight – and also to hang on to a late-game one-goal lead. Coach Randy Carlyle showed throughout the regular season he was able to get the Leafs re-focused after a bad loss; that they were able to do so again in the post-season is an encouraging sign for a young squad that still will be in tough to win the series.
Why Boston lost: The Bruins couldn’t contain the Leafs as they did in the opening matchup (Toronto got 32 shots on Tuukka Rask after managing only 20 in Game 1) and their first goal came off of Nathan Horton’s skate (and Cody Franson’s leg). Offense was a real problem, just as it was late in the regular season. Once again, Boston was the less physical team (the Leafs outhit them 44-35) and Bruins captain Zdeno Chara took a pair of penalties, one of which resulted in Toronto’s first goal of the game. Rask held the team in the game early on, but even when the Bruins pulled within a goal halfway through the third period, a sloppy turnover by Jaromir Jagr in the offensive zone led to James van Riemsdyk’s highlight-reel goal to put the game away for the visitors.
Play of the game: Phil Kessel erased all talk of his lack of success against his former team with the eventual game-winner, which came after Nazem Kadri sprung him on a breakaway with a pass from the Toronto zone. Kessel snapped a shot between Rask’s legs for the Leafs’ third goal and you could hear the monkey leaping off Kessel’s back.
1. Joffrey Lupul: Once again, when Lupul is successful, the Leafs are quick to follow. He scored Toronto’s first two goals and was tied with Tyler Seguin for a game-high eight shots on net.
2. Phil Kessel: Yes, it was just one goal and he’ll have to do more for the Leafs to move to the second round, but make no mistake – after being hunted by Chara all night, Kessel made a big statement at a time all eyes were on him. Leafs don’t need him to be quotable – they just need him to score when it counts. In Game 2, he did that.
3. James Reimer: He doesn’t always win pretty, but James Reimer showed the resilience after a loss that allowed him to claim Toronto’s starter job down the stretch. He stopped 39 of 41 Bruins shots for a sterling .951 save percentage and frustrated the Bruins all night long with his scrambly style.
What's Next: The series shifts to Air Canada Centre for Games 3 and 4 Monday and Wednesday, but Leafs fans shouldn’t take the home ice advantage their team now enjoys as a sign the Buds are in control. Toronto once again went into a shell in the third period (managing just six shots on net in the final 20 minutes for the second straight game) and Bruins coach Claude Julien is just as good at making adjustments as Carlyle is. Still, for one night at least, the Leafs showed that, if they were disciplined and opportunistic, they could give the Bruins a taste of their own medicine. – Adam Proteau
Why Anaheim won: After no one took advantage of a penalty-filled first, in which both teams had two-man advantages, the Ducks were the first to strike on special teams in the second and never looked back. They continued the momentum they picked up late in a frantic Game 2 comeback attempt and smothered the Wings with their speed/strength combo.
Why Detroit lost: They were in it early, but it again comes back to a lack of secondary production. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were kept in check most of the game and that froze the Red Wings in place. Both teams took bad penalties, but Justin Abdelkader’s charge on Toni Lydman was the moment that tipped the scales and gave the Ducks the edge they needed to wake up.
Play of the game: Unfortunately, the play of the game has no place in hockey at all. Abdelkader had an option of staying low and driving through Lydman with his shoulder, but he instead decided to jump and launch himself, knocking Lydman out of the game. Though both teams had struggled on special teams to that point, the five-minute penalty allowed the Ducks to take the lead. Whether or not you think the principle point of contact was the head, this check was a clear charge and the type of hit that needs to be exterminated. A suspension would be welcomed.
1. Ryan Getzlaf – The Ducks MVP has been a force down low for much of this series and, after getting an assist on the game-winning goal, scored the insurance marker shorthanded on a strong forecheck.
2. Jonas Hiller – Especially in the first, Hiller made some big saves. When the Wings were still in the game Hiller was making a case to be first star, but his workload waned late in the game.
3. Emerson Etem – You could pick Selanne for his beautiful assist, Saku Koivu for his continued great checking efforts or Nick Bonino for his goal and energy. But rookie Emerson Etem and his 10:17 of ice get the nod for the explosive breakaway he created and, later, the sweet goal he scored.
What’s next: The common denominator for the Wings so far is that they win when Dastyuk and Zetterberg can roam, but they wither when their stars are suffocated. Getting a consistent secondary effort is crucial because it was the difference in their only win this series. Obviously the absence of Nicklas Lidstrom is being felt against the Ducks forecheck, as the Wings had more and more trouble getting out of their zone as the game went on. Anaheim seems to have this one figured out and appear to outmatch Detroit, but it's a matter of them keeping up the pace and constant checking as they did in this one, especially late. They let their foot off the gas in Game 2 and lost. – Rory Boylen
Why the Kings won: It’s not that they played any different or any better than the Blues – in fact, St. Louis was dictating the play down the stretch – but Los Angeles was the only team that capitalized on one of the crazy crashes to the net that made up most of the close offense in this game. It was kind of a fluke that the last two games ended after Jonathan Quick allowed bad goals and he did what we all expect in Game 3 by barring the door and stymying a third period Blues charge.
Why the Blues lost: They just could not find that one goal to extend the game. It turned from a war of attrition in the first two periods to a struggle for survival in the third, when the Blues put on tons of pressure. They matched the Kings hit for hit, stride for stride, but the difference was a lucky mad scramble and a well-placed shot. Great game for the Blues. Great game all around.
Play of the game: The third period in Game 3 looked almost the same as the third period in Game 2. The Blues put the attack into a higher gear in the last frame and had piles of opportunities to tie it up. The closest they came was either Jordan Leopold being robbed by a diving Justin Williams, or this spectacular reactionary save off a deflection by Jonathan Quick.
1. Jonathan Quick: The lights-out playoff netminder has his team in this series even though they’ve scored only one even strength goal. As St. Louis’ opportunities picked up in frequency, Quick got better.
2. Drew Doughty: Logged a game-high 27:05 and showed a two-way influence that only a handful of defensemen have. His double-minor should only have been a two-minute coincidental with David Perron, though. With that incentive, goalies could become more enticing targets – and that’s not what you want in a close and very physical series.
3. David Backes: His style is a perfect fit for this series, which is why Backes is in the thick of it. He logged six hits and a game-high six shots, three of which were glorious opportunities.
What’s next: More of the same. This has been the most physical first round series with no room for error. The Blues played exactly how they needed to in L.A. and have to walk away from this one with their heads high. The Kings are still in a position where they’re the team that “should” win, given how they had the best home record in the league and are still in a 2-1 series hole. The Blues just need to come back for another day of work and hope for a couple better bounces. – Rory Boylen