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. 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 Tampa Bay Lighting have now won six straight playoff games. If they make it seven Wednesday night, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau will likely be looking for work by the weekend. He’s in that position because his supposed stars such as Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Semin and Mike Green are nowhere to be found. Meanwhile, you can’t miss the buy-in from all of Tampa’s players, from the elite talents scoring when it counts, to wily vets Mattias Ohlund and Eric Brewer getting it done on the back end, to the relentless hounding of the Bolts’ lunch-bucket gang. Whether sitting back in their lanes or attacking when they smell blood, everyone on Tampa is embracing the role assigned to him by coach Guy Boucher. With the Caps down to their last strike and facing a stifling defensive system, will frustration overcome them? Tampa still hasn’t outshot an opponent in 10 playoff games and the Washington power play required a 5-on-3 advantage to connect for the first time in the series.
1. Sean Bergenheim – Opened the scoring for Tampa, could have had two more in the third and was all over the ice with linemates Dominic Moore and Steve Downie. Boucher had Bergenheim on in the final seconds protecting the one-goal advantage.
2. Steven Stamkos – Did what stars are supposed to do; took advantage of a small crack to crank a perfect shot past Michal Neuvirth and pull his team even in the third. Ryan Malone bagged the winner 24 seconds later.
3. Alex Ovechkin – If the Caps go down, it won’t be due to a lack of effort on the part of their captain, who had a goal and an assist in this one. He still needs to learn there’s a time to get the puck deep, though.
The Black Hole
Nicklas Backstrom – Is playing with such little fire he’s starting to make Semin look engaged. Instead of making a difference on the positive side of the equation with his creativity and passing ability, Backstrom is taking dumb holding-the-stick penalties in the offensive zone and committing crippling turnovers in the defensive end. Mike Green barely saw the ice in the third period.
THN’s Take: Once again the Sedins were an ineffective duo for Vancouver, but when Ryan Kesler is your second line center you have a pretty reliable safety net. While the twins went a combined minus-4, Kesler finally scored not just his first goal of the post-season, but his second as well. The American Olympian didn’t stop there either, providing defense and a heck of a lot of spirit for the road team. Who’s that drawing a Nashville penalty in OT? Ryan Kesler. Who’s that getting in Pekka Rinne’s face? Ryan Kesler. Who’s that mucking in the corner and coming out with possession? Ryan Kesler. Who has been Vancouver’s MVP up to this point? No doubt, it’s been Mr. Kesler. Far from having to keep the Sedins in check to win this series, the Predators better figure out Kesler quickly…oh, and find some offense of their own, too.
1. Ryan Kesler – Vancouver’s heart and soul for so many different reasons. He effectively has become the top line center as he logged the most ice time among Vancouver forwards, scored two goals including the game-winner, added an assist and recorded six shots. Phew.
2. Chris Higgins – Max Lapierre, Tanner Glass and Jannik Hansen have provided key support from the depth lines these playoffs and Higgins made his presence felt in a big way in Game 3. Higgins was a spark plug and scored what looked like the winning goal until another Nashville tally that originated from behind the goal line.
3. Pekka Rinne – It’s the same story every game with this guy, but we can’t take him off our three stars list just because the storyline might be getting a little stale. Rinne is the Predators and his 44 saves were the reason, once again, this game wasn’t over at the halfway mark.
The Black Hole
Sergei Kostitsyn – Today’s struggling offense poster boy is the Belarussian, who recorded a grand total of zero shots in a little more than 21 minutes of ice time. Watching the Predators in this series, you’d be forgiven if you forgot Andrei’s little brother was even on this team. The entire offense has been a miserable black hole this series and Game 3’s four-shot second period was the low point.
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.