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: Tampa Bay’s Game 5 blowout victory likely tasted all the sweeter because Steven Stamkos finally stirred the drink. The youngster registered the first two playoff goals of his career as the Bolts finally took full advantage of the fact they have their stars in the lineup and Pittsburgh doesn’t. Tampa may have won the game going away, but they started it standing still and Dwayne Roloson was fantastic until his team found its sea legs. Eight Lightning players wound up with multi-point afternoons.
1. Steven Stamkos – He didn’t just get three points, he got three hard points while the ending was still in doubt, fighting to bang home rebounds in front and digging a puck out of the corner to feed Vincent Lecavalier on the lip of the crease.
2. Simon Gagne – Opened the scoring by going to the net and hammering home another puck that made it 4-0 early in the second, effectively putting the game out of reach. If he gets going in addition to the ‘Big Three,’ it’s a huge boost to the Bolts.
3. Pavel Kubina – Two goals and plus-3. Somebody is smiling about their ninth-round pick in the office pool.
The Black Hole
Brooks Orpik – He’s leaned on to be a tough, defensive presence for the Pens, but he was on the ice when Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell played give-and-go at will in the Pittsburgh zone before the game-opening goal. Then, on the Bolts’ third goal, Orpik needlessly ran into a corner Paul Martin was already occupying, leaving Lecavalier all alone in front.
THN’s Take: Once again, the Caps beat the Rangers at their own defense-oriented game, keeping the Blueshirts off the scoresheet until the final minute of the third period in a series-ending win. Although all the games were close, nobody should doubt who the better team was: The Capitals played patiently and with a resilience that until now hasn’t been part of the Alex Ovechkin era. Meanwhile, the Rangers proved yet again they didn’t have anywhere close to the amount of offense generation necessary to win a playoff round. Henrik Lundqvist can only do so much – and he did so much, but it still wasn’t enough. The Caps have served notice they can clamp down on opponents just as easily as they can run-and-gun with them.
1. Michal Neuvirth – Stopped 26 of 27 Rangers shots and allowed eight goals in the entire series. His save percentage over that span? .946 (140 of 148 shots stopped).
2. Alex Ovechkin – Another goal and two points for Ovechkin gave him three goals and six points in the series. Even better, his defense is far improved.
3. John Carlson – A game-high 26:31 of ice time for Carlson, who also had five blocked shots on the night (only Marc Staal had more, with six).
The Black Hole
Marian Gaborik – For the third time in the five-game series, Gaborik was held pointless by the Caps. He had five shots on net, but at this point in his career seems incapable of raising his game in the post-season. Good luck trading that contract, Glen Sather.
THN’s Take: A thrilling double-overtime game that injured Canadien Max Pacioretty tweeted was longer than Brad Marchand’s nose (he later apologized and removed the post) ended on Nathan Horton’s marker in the 89th minute of play. The teams rode their best players hard – P.K. Subban played 40:38, Zdeno Chara led the way for Boston with 37:06 – and the goalies were outstanding. Both Montreal’s Carey Price and Boston’s Tim Thomas set career highs for saves in a playoff game. With the victory Boston became the first team in the series to win a home game. The Canadiens will have to do the same Tuesday in Montreal to extend the series.
1. Tim Thomas – Was strong all night making 44 saves, none bigger than a game-saving stop five-and-a-half minutes into the second overtime on a bang-bang one-timer by a wide open Brian Gionta. The acrobatic stop was reminiscent of the save of the year he made on then-Toronto blueliner Francois Beauchemin earlier in the season. Thomas was calm and cool in the net, even seen smiling and joking at one point.
2. Carey Price – Despite a stickhandling gaffe in overtime, made a difference with his passing skills by starting breakouts like a defenseman all night. Price made 49 saves in all and was the reason the Habs were in the game late. With 1:30 to play in the first overtime he made a huge save on David Krejci, who walked in all alone and tried to deke.
3. Brad Marchand – The small, shifty winger was at his agitating best all night and was the strongest forward on either team. Scored the opening goal, was always in the middle of the action and frustrated Montreal players throughout the game. He is quickly becoming – or already has – a major difference maker.
The Black Hole
Tomas Kaberle – The late-season addition was invisible unless making mistakes. Sure he earned an assist on the Marchand goal, but he was also directly responsible for the tying goal by Jeff Halpern: Kaberle’s weak pass behind the Boston net was picked off and then he was even weaker defensively on Lars Eller, who centered the puck to Halpern.
THN’s Take: There was no comeback from the Sharks tonight. Los Angeles’ starter made 50 more saves than San Jose’s starter – then again, Antti Niemi played less than 9:00. For the second time this series Niemi got off to a horrible start and this time it sunk his team. San Jose was all over the Kings all night long, but this game came down to the staggering difference in performance from the men in the blue paint. San Jose coach Todd McLellan has a tough decision for Game 6. Option 1: Antero Niittymaki, who has stopped 29 of 30 shots he’s faced in relief this series, but is known as a hot and cold goalie. Option 2: Antti Niemi, who was the team’s MVP down the stretch, but has now imploded twice this series.
1. Jonathan Quick – Made a number of terrific saves along the way that prevented the Sharks from gaining any momentum. Quick’s 51-save performance was brilliant as he redeemed himself from earlier in the series.
2. Wayne Simmonds – Opened the scoring for the Kings and assisted on the second. Simmonds showed some quick-footed aggressiveness tonight.
3. Willie Mitchell – His 28:16 of ice time was a game high. The defender didn’t have a point, but he made a number of nice defensive plays and was a big reason why San Jose’s power play went 0-for-4.
The Black Hole
Antti Niemi – Just when it looked like this hole couldn’t get any deeper, Niemi goes out and posts another stinker. The Stanley Cup champion allowed three goals on four shots and was yanked around the time the early game ended.
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.