The NHL Playoff Recap gives you our 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 and kept track of each day in our Playoff Game Day Preview. 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.
THN’s Take: The old saying goes that a team isn’t truly in trouble until it loses a game on home ice, so the Buffalo Sabres are in trouble for that and a whole host of other reasons. The Flyers seem to have shaken off the late-season malaise that plagued them down the stretch and the Sabres, who were red-hot down the stretch to get into the playoffs, have spent the past two games going in completely the opposite direction. The Sabres power play was powerless and their play in the defensive zone was not good. The Flyers, meanwhile, aren’t letting injuries or controversy get in the way.
1. Brian Boucher – The Flyers were outshot 16-6 in the first period and 11-5 in the third and Boucher, who stepped in for the shaky Sergei Bobrovsky, stood tall against the Sabres in the Philadelphia net.
2. Braydon Coburn – The Sabres went 1-for-6 on the power play, including one four-minute man advantage in the second period and a 5-on-3 in the third, and Coburn was a beast on the penalty-kill.
3. Nathan Gerbe – He was all over the ice and in addition to scoring the Sabres second goal, he was a three-zone player who brought a surprising level of physicality to the game.
The Black Hole
Buffalo’s defense corps – Sabres defenseman Chris Butler played the puck like it was a hand grenade behind the net on the Flyers’ second goal, which led to an easy can of corn for Daniel Briere, one of the most dangerous players in the slot in the game. Sabres goalie Ryan Miller has had a rough enough series without the kinds of gaffes and questionable decisions with the puck the Sabres are making in their own end of the ice.
THN’s Take: The home teams are without a win as Boston went up 3-0 in 22 minutes and then weathered a 38-minute storm by Montreal to hold on for a 4-2 victory. The Canadiens looked flat to begin the game and it cost them. They rode the tide of the Habs faithful the rest of the way, but despite out-shooting the Bruins 28-16 in the final two periods, Rich Peverley’s goal at 2:02 of the second held up.
1. Zdeno Chara – Boston’s captain was a physical force all night long. Hospitalized for dehydration Saturday, Chara was back to his old self, playing 26-plus minutes. He was beaten on Montreal’s opening goal by Andrei Kostitsyn, but accepted every challenge and acquitted himself as well as any Bruin.
2. Tim Thomas – Looked to be fighting the puck most of the night, but made a number of big saves late as the Canadiens pushed frantically for the tying goal; a big bounce-back from two substandard performances to begin the post-season.
3. Brian Gionta – The most consistent Canadien all series played in all situations and had more ice time than any forward on either team. He was dangerous and responsible at the same time.
The Black Hole
Carey Price – Allowed more goals than he had the first two games. Despite some important saves, gets the nod here for bungling a clearing attempt that ended with the puck on Peverley’s stick and a yawning cage for the winner.
THN’s Take: This hard-hitting series moved to the next level as the Sidney Crosby-less Penguins continued their lunch-pail approach, banging bodies and taking advantage of odd-man breaks in beating the Lightning in their own building. Grinders Max Talbot and Aaron Asham (with his second of the series) scored first-period goals and Tyler Kennedy broke a tie in the third period. Expect a couple of suspensions from this game. Tampa Bay’s Steve Downie took a flying leap at Ben Lovejoy into the boards and Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz delivered a vicious elbow on Simon Gagne, both in the first period.
1. Marc-Andre Fleury – Made key saves at crucial times, especially in the dying seconds. Couldn’t be blamed for two power-play goals.
2. Martin St-Louis – Crafty finisher scored his second and third goals of the series as Tampa has four power-play goals in two games.
3. Kris Letang – Known for offensive prowess, but was a reliable, minute-munching shutdown artist against Tampa’s top stars.
The Black Hole
Steve Downie – It’s a good thing it’s the playoffs or Downie would be facing a multi-game suspension as he left his skates to drill a rival into the end boards. On the ensuing turnover, Talbot opened the scoring. Technically, Downie didn’t get a penalty on the play, but he’ll surely hear from the league’s disciplinary board sometime on Tuesday.
THN’s Take: For whatever reason, the Coyotes insist on playing from behind against the world class Red Wings. Phoenix nearly came back from a 4-0 deficit in Game 2 and surrendered two goals less than three minutes into Game 3 that later became a three-goal lead. Ilya Bryzgalov again proved to be weak on point shots with traffic in front and allowed four goals for the third time in this series. The Yotes stopped passing so much and keyed in on taking shots, which is what allowed them to post a 2-for-3 power play. However, it still wasn’t enough to give them any even strength momentum against Detroit’s tight, persistent checking.
1. Jimmy Howard – His 28 saves were still two fewer than Bryzgalov, but Howard kept the Coyotes off the board through some solid chances in the first and even better chances in the second.
2. Niklas Kronwall – Plus-3, four hits and two first period assists. Kronwall is a force on the back end and a big reason why Phoenix’s offense never settled down.
3. Kyle Turris – Was buzzing all over and finished with an assist. When the Coyotes were in the early hole and in need of some pushback, Turris led the charge, but one man cannot topple the Wings.
The Black Hole
Ilya Bryzgalov – No question about it the Phoenix goalie did nothing to help his team in Game 3. Two terrible early goals got him off on the wrong foot and put the Yotes behind the eight-ball. He hasn’t had a save percentage better than .889 in any game this series; Bryzgalov had to play as an MVP, but has turned into the weak link.
The NHL Game Night Recap will get you caught up with all the playoff action. THN will name our Three Stars for each game and tabulate the results after each series. First Star = three points, Second Star = two points, Third Star = one point.