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: After taking a 1-0 first-period lead, the Coyotes put the game on a tee by making too many mistakes and the Red Wings knocked it out of the park. Detroit fans probably barely noticed injured Henrik Zetterberg’s absence because Pavel Datsyuk was his terrific two-way self. If the Wings continue to get more big saves from Jimmy Howard than Ilya Bryzgalov can provide for Phoenix, the Coyotes’ formula for winning goes right out the window.
1. Pavel Datsyuk – Pulled his team even after it fell behind and finished the night plus-2.
2. Jimmy Howard – Phoenix was pushing hard to increase its lead early in the second and Howard made a hat trick of five-star saves to keep Detroit close. Finished with 26 stops.
3. Brian Rafalski – Cool play with the man advantage led to him one-timing home the eventual game-winner.
The Black Hole
Keith Yandle – He earned a lot of praise for his play this year, but his first second-season game was forgettable. Yandle made a bad turnover at his own blueline that led to Johan Franzen putting what looked to be a stoppable shot past Bryzgalov. An honorable mention goes to the Coyotes power play, which had a chance to provide a much-needed offensive boost, but instead went 0-for-6.
THN’s Take: The Bolts came out with speed; the Penguins met them with force and ultimately that physical play from Pittsburgh wore Tampa down. Players such as James Neal, Mike Rupp and Brooks Orpik set the tone, while an overall grinding defensive style hampered the Tampa attack. The game turned on a 17 second span in the middle of the third period when a succession of miscues by the Tampa defense gave Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead and a 5-on-3 power play (albeit an unsuccessful one).
1. Marc-Andre Fleury – His 32 saves often came in bunches and with the game deadlocked early, the clutch goaltender kept his team in it with a series of acrobatic (and sometimes nerve-wracking) stops.
2. Dwayne Roloson – Even busier than his counterpart with 37 saves, Roloson’s work in net for the Lightning was particularly outstanding in the second period and he could not be faulted on Pittsburgh’s first goal. The third tally was an empty-netter.
3. Alex Kovalev – ‘The Artist’ was dangerous all night, but it was a simple disappearing act in the third that allowed him to pot the opening goal of the contest, which would also serve as the game-winner.
The Black Hole
Pavel Kubina – Lost his stick when he tripped Kovalev at the side of the Bolts net and though he wasn’t called for a penalty, he paid for his sin when he left the crafty Penguin alone. Kovalev buried the puck into the yawning cage seconds later.
THN’s Take: In the defense-dominated opening game of their quarterfinal series, the Rangers and hometown Capitals needed more than just regulation time to settle the score. Exceptional Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist gave his team a chance to win, turning aside 31 of 33 Caps shots on the night. But Alex Ovechkin’s goal with six minutes left sent the game to overtime and Alex Semin ended it at the 18:24 mark after Marc Staal failed to clear the zone. True to form, the Blueshirts blocked 28 shots on the night, but the Caps blocked 32, demonstrating they can play defensively as well. The Rangers, meanwhile, need to find some scoring – and fast.
1. Alex Semin – Streaky winger was held to only two assists in last year’s first round playoff loss to the Canadiens, but scored the game-winner and assisted on Ovechkin’s game-tying goal in Game 1 of this series.
2. Henrik Lundqvist – Once again, the Blueshirts’ backbone wowed with timely saves and confidence-inspiring play for his team’s sputtering offense. Can’t do it all on his own, though.
3. Alex Ovechkin – His goal late in regulation was what you need from a superstar and team leader.
The Black Hole
Marian Gaborik – The line on Gaborik: four shots on net, no goals and no assists. You can say Lundqvist is earning his multi-million dollar payday, but you can’t say the same for the often-invisible Gaborik. He’ll be on the trade market this summer if he can’t step up.
GAME 1: CANUCKS 2, BLACKHAWKS 0 – CANUCKS LEAD SERIES 1-0
THN’s Take: One game is not about to exorcise all the Vancouver Canucks playoff demons, but a few more efforts similar to Game 1 and they’ll certainly be well on their way. The Canucks took the defending champions to the woodshed in the first period and dictated the pace the rest of the way. All you need to know about this victory was that Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen scored the goals and Daniel and Henrik Sedin didn’t. The Canucks depth of talent at every position shone through, while the Blackhawks leaned heavily on their star players and still came up short. The Canucks clearly turned the playoff tables on the Blackhawks for at least one game. They were the more aggressive, more physical and deeper team.
1. Ryan Kesler – The Canucks’ Selke Trophy favorite earned an assist on the first goal and his blocked shot led directly to the second one.
2. Roberto Luongo – Was not really tested much in the first period, but he stood tall as the Blackhawks found their game and, in doing so, answered his critics.
3. Jannik Hansen – His blazing speed made the difference on his goal and he consistently worked the corners and laid the body on the Blackhawks.
The Black Hole
Jonathan Toews – As the Blackhawks uncharacteristically became unglued in the first period, Toews’ body language was horrendous. At one point he was clearly admonishing Hawks defenseman Brian Campbell, then was seen shaking his head on the bench.
THN’s Take: The win-by-committee Predators just wanted this one more. From skating harder to physically standing up to the Ducks, Nashville had it all going in Game 1. Early on the story looked like it would gravitate towards the massive pull of MVP candidate Pekka Rinne, but Mike Fisher scored two goals on beautiful wrist shots that ultimately knocked Dan Ellis out of the crease. The Ducks, namely Corey Perry, made it a point to get in Rinne’s face in the third period, so look for more of that as the series goes on. Nashville also has to make sure it doesn’t get caught up in Anaheim’s physical games and get in penalty trouble as it nearly did in Game 1.
1. Mike Fisher – Not only did he score two goals and three points, Mr. Underwood’s penalty killing helped keep Anaheim’s PP at a 1-for-5 rate.
2. Pekka Rinne – Stopped 27 of 28 shots with some spectacular saves sprinkled in. He couldn’t have done much with the 5-on-3 goal against.
3. Shea Weber – Threw the first big hit, scored the first big goal; Weber set the tone early for the Preds.
The Black Hole
Ryan Getzlaf – The Ducks’ important first line didn’t do a whole heck of a lot in Game 1, but Getzlaf was especially invisible. He managed just one shot on net in 21:38 of ice time, won three of 13 faceoffs, was minus-1 and his assist was with a two-man advantage late in the game. Corey Perry’s numbers were worse, but Perry was creating chances and stirring the pot with Rinne.
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.