Why Pittsburgh won: Sidney Crosby. Evgeni Malkin. Kris Letang. Jarome Iginla. Chris Kunitz. The skill of this quintet allowed the Pens to come out on top of a game in which they were outplayed, badly at times. Pittsburgh took advantage of the few openings afforded to it – including scoring twice on the power play after falling behind 2-0 and once more in OT, where they were pinned in their own end for long stretches.
Why New York lost: Because the Islanders did the one thing they couldn't do after a near-perfect start: get into penalty trouble. New York came out with a physical edge and activated the 'D' with success, but the back-to-back penalties drained all of the early momentum and allowed the Pens the offensive-zone time they couldn't generate 5-on-5. The Islanders deserve kudos for coming back to tie the game and force OT, but disciplined play would have allowed them to control this contest from start to finish.
Play of the game: Though there were prettier goals in regulation, how can we not recognize the overtime winner – a pretty snapshot from Kunitz off a perfect Crosby feed.
1. Chris Kunitz: a pair of power play goals, including the OT-winner, and an assist; more TOI than any Pens forward not named Crosby or Malkin.
2. Michael Grabner: just an assist on the scoresheet, but used his speed to generate several opportunities and had the Pens looking over their shoulders thanks to his physical play.
3. Sidney Crosby: not as good as he was in Game 2, but still great with a trio of assists and several scoring chances. No. 3 could have also gone to Kyle Okposo, who was a great pest/producer in this one.
What's next: Which Marc-Andre Fleury will we see in Game 4, the calm, solid version from the opener or the shaky version from the following two contents? Yes, much of Fleury's struggles are a result of the men in front of him, but he's done himself no favors with poor positioning and puck control. Had the Penguins lost Game 3, a switch to Tomas Vokoun, who played well against the Isles in the regular season, wouldn't have been unwarranted. – Edward Fraser
Why Minnesota won: The Wild played rambunctious, physical hockey from the get-go, with everyone from Ryan Suter to Devin Setoguchi to Justin Falk getting involved. The Minnesota forecheck was particularly effective, punishing the Chicago defense corps. In fact, Charlie Coyle pushed big Michal Roszival off the puck to directly set up the Wild’s second goal of the afternoon.
Why Chicago lost: The Hawks were outclassed in the faceoff circle and outworked in many other aspects of the game. Chicago was able to push it into overtime thanks to an ill-advised trap set up by the Wild for the last 10 minutes of regulation, which ultimately failed when Duncan Keith scored late. Otherwise, the Hawks were lucky to get into the extra frame.
Play of the game: With momentum surely on Chicago’s side heading into overtime, Minnesota nonetheless pulled out the crucial home win thanks to a nifty sharp-angle shot from the speedy Jason Zucker.
1. Pierre-Marc Bouchard: Though his two points (including an assist on the OT winner) were pretty stellar on their own, Bouchard can also accept this honor on behalf of linemates Cal Clutterbuck and Kyle Brodziak. The shift-disturbing trio were difference-makers all game long.
2. Ryan Suter: Logging more than 32 minutes of ice time, Suter was once again the workhorse and the leader on Minnesota’s blueline. He blew up Jonathan Toews with a great hit early in the game and also blocked two shots.
3. Patrick Kane: The Wizard from Western New York was again at his dangerous best, setting up both Chicago goals on the afternoon.
What’s next: When Keith sent the game into extra time, it seemed as if Minnesota had wasted its best effort of the series and its only shot at prolonging the round. But now the Wild have a template for success and it’s the Blackhawks who must evaluate where to go from here. Game 4 now becomes pivotal, since a Hawks victory means a chance to finish things at home – and the Wild will not want to confront that crowd on Madison with elimination looming. – Ryan Kennedy
Why Ottawa won: The Sens are at their best winning ugly and imposing their gritty style of play on their opponents and that’s what they did tonight. Their forwards blasted Montreal’s defensemen from the opening whistle. They frustrated the likes of P.K. Subban, slowed the game down and lured the Habs into an ugly, chippy affair in which the harder-working team beat the more talented team.
Why Montreal lost: The Habs stopped skating. Their attackers seriously lacked jump aside from Rene Bourque and they were too busy taking retaliation penalties, diving (Prust, Brandon) and even jawing at each other (P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty after the latter’s suicide pass) to focus on winning. Despite their 34 shots, they didn’t test Sens netminder Craig Anderson with many quality chances after buzzing his net in Games 1 and 2. Montreal played Ottawa’s physical, grinding game and isn’t built to do so.
Play of the game: Early in the first period, Subban looked to continue his assault on Ottawa’s forwards and had Erik Condra in his sights. Right before Subban could clobber him, Condra raised his hands and clubbed Subban in the face with a nasty crosscheck. Dirty? Absolutely. But it sent the message the Sens would not be bullied in Game 3. It also sent Subban into an emotional tailspin from which he never recovered. He took 23 minutes in penalties, some coming from a slash on Ottawa’s second goal when he knocked Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s tooth out.
1. Jean- Gabriel Pageau: Three goals from the 20-year-old center went above and beyond what Ottawa needed from him. He was also 12-5 on faceoffs.
2. Chris Neil: One of the league’s best, most consistent hitters really threw his weight around, notching a game-high six hits. He was plus-2 and made a great cross-ice pass to start the rush on Pageau’s second goal
3. Daniel Alfredsson: Showed vintage jump tonight, potting Ottawa’s first goal, adding two assists and generally looking creative and dangerous, especially on the power play.
What’s next: The Habs’ bodies – especially those of their forwards – aren’t constructed to handle a war like this. Montreal has to get back to playing fast, feisty yet disciplined hockey. This team lost focus in Game 3 and if it continues to let Ottawa bait it into ugly, chippy play, this series will slip into the underdog’s hands. – Matt Larkin
Why the Sharks won: They continued their up-tempo pace and pressure from all lines. Joe Pavelski’s third line got the Sharks on the board and it was the top lines that took it from there. San Jose is doing a terrific job keeping the Canucks cycle on the boards and their offence off the board.
Why the Canucks lost: The implosion of this team since their Stanley Cup final appearance in 2011 continues. Including that series against the Bruins, the Canucks have scored 21 goals in their past 15 playoffs games. In their first three series of 2011 they managed 50 goals in 18 games, including 20 in five games against the Sharks in the West final. Outcast Roberto Luongo has by far contributed the most to this futile effort, which will make this summer all the more interesting.
Play of the game: Logan Couture’s first power play goal wasn’t anything special, which is what made it so influential in this game. The weak tally gave the Sharks a 3-1 lead and was followed up nine seconds later by another softy from Patrick Marleau. Less than three minutes later Couture scored another to cap off a bizarre meltdown and suddenly Cory Schneider was being replaced by Roberto Luongo.
1. Logan Couture: He’s been phenomenal all series long and led the way with two goals and four points along with three blocked shots.
2. Joe Pavelski: While the Sharks’ top lines outplay Vancouver’s top lines, Pavelski, an above average third-liner to say the least, does his part to keep the bottom half of the depth chart in control. He scored San Jose’s first two goals and added an assist.
3. Tommy Wingels: He’s had a good overall series, providing energy from the bottom six and earned an assist and three hits in limited minutes. He does his job.
What’s next: This is the question the Canucks have to be asking themselves about the future of their team. What’s next? The season’s 19th-ranked offense has again gone into hiding in the playoffs, continuing a now three-year trend, dating back to the Boston series. Vancouver is 1-7 in its past eight playoff games and in a world of hurt. At this point, it doesn’t even matter who starts Game 4: this is not a series about goaltending for Vancouver; it’s about a disappearing offense. The Sharks can keep themselves rested if they end this one in four, which is where it seems to be headed. – Rory Boylen