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: Buffalo entered Game 4 needing better goaltending from its franchise cornerstone and that’s exactly what the Sabres got. Just as he did in Game 1, Ryan Miller slammed the door shut on the Flyers, after allowing eight goals in the two contests in between. Buffalo looked to be bobbling the game away when it failed to cash on a five-minute major to Philly captain Mike Richards at the start of the third period, but the Flyers weren’t able to parlay the momentum of that kill into the tying goal. Philadelphia played most of the game without versatile forward Jeff Carter, who appeared to injure his knee after an inadvertent first-period collision with Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers
1. Ryan Miller – Made 32 saves overall and stoned former Sabre Danny Briere when he was all by himself in front of the net in the third.
2. Brian Boucher – Only bested by one save in the puckstopper showdown. Boucher made a couple big stops to keep Philly within one, including an incredible effort on a breakaway Tyler Ennis created by flipping the puck up over Flyers defenseman Andrej Meszaros just before the red line and darting past him to pick it up on the bounce a couple strides inside the blueline. Full marks to Ennis for creativity, but Boucher turned him away.
3. Tyler Myers – Made a huge sprawling block on James van Riemsdyk when Miller was down and out, rung one off the post, was plus-1 and led Buffalo with five hits. Honorable mention to Myers’ partner Chris Butler, who saw a game-high 27:45 of ice.
The Black Hole
James van Riemsdyk – We’re bending the definition of the category by putting van Riemsdyk here. The youngster had another strong game for the Flyers, leading the club with six shots. Unfortunately, Miller stopped five of them and one, as mentioned, was turned aside by Myers’ shin pad when JVR had the yawning cage. Creating chances is step one; cashing them in a one-goal game is the all-important step two.
THN’s Take: James Neal scored the winner in double overtime on a quick shot from the side boards to give the Penguins a commanding 3-1 series lead. Someone forgot to tell the hometown Lightning there was a 7 p.m. start in Game 4. Most of the Tampa Bay players didn’t show up until well after 8 p.m., or so it seemed. The Penguins came out strong and were out-shooting the hosts by a three-to-one ratio by the halfway point of the game and led 2-0 on goals by Tyler Kennedy and Arron Asham. But the Bolts turned up the heat in the third period forcing overtime with a late goal.
1. Kris Letang – The steady two-way Pens defenseman continues to raise his game to new levels with the absence of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. He again showed tremendous poise on the breakout, was tough and rugged defending his zone and oozes winning leadership.
2. Martin St-Louis – The ageless and tireless St-Louis made things happen on every shift. He opened the scoring for Tampa in the third period and assisted on Sean Bergenheim’s tying goal with 3:17 remaining.
3. Arron Asham – How early did this dude go in the office pool? Answer: unless your pool was 20 rounds or so, probably not at all. Asham was his typical pesky self leading Pittsburgh’s fourth line. He’s the only player in the NHL playoffs to have at least one point in every game.
The Black Hole
Dwayne Roloson – The 41-year-old stopper was either going to be one of the stars or the goat in this game. He was the leading candidate for The Black Hole midway through the contest after letting in two softies. But two mistakes aside, Roloson was brilliant the rest of the night making more than 50 saves – until letting in his third softie in double OT.
THN’s Take: The ghosts of playoffs past would not come back to haunt the Washington Capitals on this night, although they seemed to be lurking around after the first two periods. But that was before the Capitals talent and depth took the game over and in the third period and overtime, it wasn’t even close. The Rangers need a miracle to salvage this series now, something that looks like a remote chance against a Capitals team that is far less fragile than it has been in previous playoffs.
1. Marcus Johansson – The Capitals rookie scored twice in the third period to lead Washington’s comeback after going down 3-0 after two periods. He’s one of the Capital forwards who is not the least bit afraid to go to the net.
2. Alex Semin – After pulling one of the all-time greatest fold jobs in NHL history in last year’s playoffs, Semin has been the Capitals most dynamic and dangerous forward all series. He got Washington on the board with his goal early in the third period and was an offensive threat all game.
3. Dan Girardi – The Rangers defenseman led all players from both teams with 39:45 of ice time and blocked a total of nine shots. He and partner Marc Staal were spent by the end of the game.
The Black Hole
The Rangers power play – It went 0-for-7 on the night and accounted for just four of the Rangers 39 shots on the night. It’s hard to believe coach John Tortorella once lived by the words “Safe is Death” when he coached the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Rangers are playing it very safe and are near playoff death.
THN’s Take: What else do the Predators need? With their crowd in full throat and the motivation of creeping closer to the second round for the first time in franchise history front of mind, Nashville came with no energy out of the gates and again to start the third. The results? Two-zip and 6-3 holes and a lot of questions heading into Game 5 back in Anaheim. Nashville’s solid ‘D’ was nowhere to be found and the top-notch goaltending was spotty. Although the Preds offense has been better than expected in this series, much of that can be chalked up to poor play in the Ducks crease (Ray Emery’s positioning was poor and he was caught guessing several times). Nashville can’t win a shootout against the skilled Ducks.
1. Corey Perry – Game-winner, three points and nearly 27 minutes of ice time. He’s the best player on the planet right now.
2. Ryan Getzlaf – His insurance goal (a top-corner frozen rope) was a beaut. He and Perry are giving Nashville’s back end fits.
3. Pekka Rinne – Crumbled late and looked foolish on Perry’s winner (stay with me here), but made a plethora of big saves early on to give his team a chance. Otherwise it’s 4-0 or 5-0. He was hung out to dry most of the night.
The Black Hole
Jarkko Ruutu – His late hit on Martin Erat, which knocked the Preds regular season leading scorer out of the game, was dirty pool. But, hey, if you can knock out the other team’s star and only get a one-game suspension (maybe not even that), why not?
THN’s Take: The Coyotes fell behind early again, but this time showed some immediate bounce back to take a 2-1 lead halfway through the first and resume control 3-2 early in the second after Detroit tied it late in the first. But from then on the Detroit forecheck was in full force, causing turnovers and bad plays by the frustrated Coyotes defensemen. Patrick Eaves and Darren Helm were giving the Yotes fits from the fourth line and was the type of fight Phoenix never quite found in this series. Coyotes captain Shane Doan was dejected in a post-game TV interview and clearly wasn’t pleased with the lack of fight in his team. The Wings started pulling away in the final six minutes of the third and there was a cloud of sadness hanging over the game as the final seconds ticked off the clock. Will the Coyotes be in Phoenix next season? If not, their fans sang them out with a prideful “Let’s Go Coyotes” chant.
1. Dan Cleary – If this is the historic game it felt like, Cleary scored the game-winning goal that sealed the Coyotes fate, adding two assists and five shots along the way.
2. Shane Doan – You really had to feel for the captain, who scored his team’s second goal of the game to give them their first lead. Doan did everything he could to keep his team alive, taking three shots and registering 11 hits in 22:39 of ice time.
3. Valtteri Filppula – Assists on the two dagger goals that put this series to rest, Filppula was heavy on forechecking and was a plus-2 with 20:47 of ice time.
The Black Hole
Ilya Bryzgalov – Once again it’s the netminder who was supposed to be the MVP. Bryzgalov allowed at least four goals in each game this series and the game-winner in Game 4 was a bad angle shot. Bryzgalov had little fight all series long and hindered more than helped. How much will his subpar post-season affect his UFA value?
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.