Why Pittsburgh won: The Penguins final decided to play a full team game and, most importantly, had confident, steady goaltending behind them. It's not a coincidence that the two games they've dominated in this series have started from quality play in the crease.
Why New York lost: This was a different Islanders squad from the one we saw in Games 2, 3, and 4. It's not surprising there was an emotional letdown after Game 4, but New York came out flat and could never generate any sustained pressure. Physicality and speed, the Isles calling cards in this series so far, were lacking. The loss of Andrew MacDonald on 'D' has had an impact on the back end.
Play of the game: A no-brainer if there ever was one - Sidney Crosby's defense-splitting rush was one of the playoff's best so far and was the game's dagger. There was no coming back from a 3-0 hole.
1. Sidney Crosby: A goal and an assist. Not a dominating performance, but still best of the Pens in an overall team effort. Led all forwards in ice time by a large margin.
2. Tyler Kennedy: In his first game of the series, scored slick opening goal on a breakaway when tally the other way could have turned the tide.
3. Tomas Vokoun: Wasn't tested often, but stood tall when needed to, making 31 saves. Made a beauty pad stop on a John Tavares partial break in the second frame.
What's next: After the Islanders were embarrassed in Game 1, they bounced back with a much more dialed-in effort. They'll need the same, this time at home, to stay alive in this series come Saturday. The Penguins had far too much room in Game 5. Starting with Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner, New York will need to get engaged physically right from the drop of the puck. That and a much-better performance from Evgeni Nabokov are a must if they hope to force a deciding game. - Edward Fraser
Why Ottawa won: Ottawa did it Thursday night with its usual helping of Craig Anderson heroics and opportunistic scoring. Anderson made most of his best saves during a first period in which Montreal outplayed Ottawa and the Sens repaid him with two goals before that stanza was up. The Sens beat a bewildered Peter Budaj by regularly sending bodies to the net and generating traffic in front of him. Cory Conacher’s goal came because Jean-Gabriel Pageau attacked the middle of the ice; Kyle Turris scored because he charged toward Budaj and was shoved into him by Tomas Plekanec; and Daniel Alfredsson’s third-period dagger was the result of a perfect screen by Colin Greening.
Why Montreal lost: It wasn’t for lack of trying – in the first period, at least. The Habs were flying and throwing everything they had at Anderson. But the standout Ottawa stopper seems to discourage teams the same way Dominik Hasek used to in his prime (that does NOT mean I’m comparing the two). After he robbed Rene Bourque in the opening minutes, Ottawa answered with two goals, aided by some horrible rebound control by Budaj. It’s hard to blame a loss on a goalie, but the Habs really needed a lift from him and his shakiness put them in an insurmountable hole. Not that the loss was all Budaj’s fault. Facing elimination, Montreal inexplicably came out with all the moxie of a tranquilized sloth for the third. This team quit.
Play of the game: Midway through the second, Erik Condra floated a shot on net just as Plekanec shoved Turris into Budaj. The pucked bounced off Turris and in, giving Ottawa a 3-1 lead. Boos rang out in the Bell Centre and you could sense Montreal didn’t believe it could put two more pucks past the white-hot Anderson.
1. Craig Anderson: He simply dominated this series. Like many other nights, he stoned the Canadiens even when the ice was tilted in their favor. But Game 5 was particularly impressive because his effort, combined with Budaj’s atrocious game, mentally broke Montreal.
2. Kyle Turris: He’s maturing into a complete player and he showed it tonight, acing his defensive zone coverage and potting a shorthanded goal.
3. Marc Methot: Wasn’t too noticeable aside from an assist, but that’s the point. He was a true shutdown D-man tonight, regularly forcing Montreal forwards onto the perimeter, where they could only manage low-percentage shots.
What’s next: As disappointing as this series went, 2012-13 was no failure for GM Marc Bergevin’s Habs. This team went from 28th overall last season to the Northeast Division crown and will only get better with youngsters such as P.K. Subban and Alex Galchenyuk to build around. As for the Senators, Anderson has shown the ability to keep them in any series going forward. They’re getting healthier and – who knows? – Jason Spezza could return for Round 2 now that they’ll get an extended rest. – Matt Larkin
Why Chicago won: The Hawks just have way too much for the Wild to handle over a playoff series. Look at any team currently winning its series or already in the second round and you’ll see some secondary production. The Hawks not only have secondary help, but tertiary and quaternary as well. Any championship team has that in their arsenal and it’s why Chicago is in that class. Next.
Why Minnesota lost: The most obvious reason is the horrible injury luck with their goaltenders that struck before Game 1 even started. Josh Harding started, but something still wasn’t right with his leg and when that began to show, Darcy Kuemper came on in relief. Minnesota's best chance to win Game 5 was in the very first period, when it took the play to a slow looking Hawks team. Minnesota didn’t grab it, fell behind and looked defeated after the goalie change. All-in-all, this series was a pretty good showing for the Wild, though. They gave the Hawks two overtime games and gained some valuable experience. No doubt this team is headed in the right direction.
Play of the game: Marcus Kruger’s wraparound originally looked like it was going to be a harmless attempt, but Josh Harding had trouble sliding across and came awkwardly to the post with a gaping five-hole. The goal was ugly, but it gave the Hawks a 2-0 lead and demoralized the Wild.
1. Marian Hossa: Scored two nice goals and added an assist, adding to a playoff resume that is rivaled by very few.
2. Jonathan Toews: Captain Serious picked up his first two assists – and points – of the series, five shots, won 59 percent of his faceoffs and was his usual two-way menace, grinding down the beaten Wild.
3. Corey Crawford: Was tested less and less as the game went on, but he gets the nod for keeping the Wild off the board when they were the ones pushing the play in the first period.
What’s next: The Wild take to the off-season with their heads held high and a bright future in sight. Niklas Backstrom, injured for this series, is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent and needs to be kept so they have the backing of a steady No. 1, when he’s healthy. Chicago looks ahead and will likely match up against the on-fire San Jose Sharks, unless Detroit comes back in its series against Anaheim. Either way, the Hawks swept the regular season against both and will be the favorite. – Rory Boylen