Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh
13:08: Brooks Orpik with the first good scoring chance of the day rings a shot off the post. It rang like a church bell, echoing throughout the CONSOL Energy Center. Quite possibly the best noise in hockey, the super-quick, high-pitched ping is a symphony to a goalie.
16:57: Beautiful rush by Tampa with Simon Gagne, Teddy Purcell and Vinny Lecavalier. Six quick passes, a shot off both posts and an easy tip in on the rebound by Gagne. They could have easily taken a shot five times, but showed amazing patience on the play spreading out the defense.
17:43: Lightning does strike the same place twice as Steven Stamkos scores his first career playoff goal on a rebound in front. Like I said about Ovechkin last week, these are the goals he's going to have to score as those one-timers and snipes aren't going to work often in the playoffs.
19:28: The penguins do an amazing job of keeping control of the puck on a delayed penalty, effectively increasing their power play by about 25 seconds.
End of period: Though the Lightning scored two quick goals, the period belonged to Dwayne Roloson whose play early on kept them from being in a hole early. The Lightning were out-shot 13-8 in the period, with most of their coming in the last five minutes of play. By the way, I love P.J. Stock as an announcer. Known more for fights like this, once he gets used to talking on air (he stumbles and pauses at times) I think you'll see him behind a desk for a while.
1:55: Tremendous pass from Stamkos to Lecavalier for their third goal of the game. Once again patience is key as Stamkos waits with the puck in the corner while three defenders are on him before making a centering pass to a wide open Lecavalier.
5:31: Like he did last year against Boston, Gagne saves his best for when his team needs it the most. He scored four goals in the final four games of that series after coming back from injury and he has two today. His second goal ended Marc-Andre Fleury's day and Tampa has taken complete control of the game.
7:00: Stamkos does it again, going to the net for a rebound on the power play. Right now the Lightning are outworking the Penguins in every facet; outracing them to loose pucks and winning battles in the corner. Wins in these areas are directly leading to goals. Stamkos is known more for scoring with his wicked one-timer and superior skill, but is doing exactly what he needs to do in the playoffs and is having the type of domination game he is more than capable of.
9:39: With Pittsburgh on the power play, Kris Letang takes an ill-advised cross checking penalty negating their man advantage after just 19 seconds. They needed a goal there to have any chance at a comeback. It seems like a stretch, but there has already been a four-goal comeback and several three-goal comebacks this year, proving anything is possible at this time of the season.
End of period: The Lightning out-shot the Pens 10-7 in the second, but the advantage seems way higher in their favor. Tampa seemed to dominate and Pittsburgh looked lost for most of the middle frame.
2:54: An awful penalty by Alexei Kovalev leads to another power play goal for the Lightning. He high-sticked Dominic Moore on the backcheck even though the puck was nowhere near him. Pavel Kubina scored on an absolute blast from the top of the circle. Along with Roloson's strong play early on, one of the biggest stories of the game is the power play for both teams. Tampa Bay is now 2-for-3 while Pittsburgh is 0-for-5.
5:45: Another bad penalty, another power play goal for Kubina, this time from right in front of the net. Goalie Brent Johnson took a roughing call after getting tangled with Sean Bergenheim.
6:36: Rupp scores and the Pens have finally showed up. The crowd, which is half-empty now, has something to cheer about for the first time since early in the game. The goal came on a shot from the slot off a pass from Kovalev who finally showed some kind of emotion a little too late as the game is already out of reach.
8:22: Pittsburgh takes advantage of terrible defensive zone coverage by Tampa. They had all five skaters and Roloson chasing the puck, leading to an easy goal for Chris Conner.
11:00: There is no chance of the Pens coming back in this game, but they have really turned on the forecheck and have the Lightning scrambling in their own end. They are hitting and attacking, sending a message for Game 6 that they will not be beaten as easily on Monday. If they can keep the Bolts on their heels and let them know goals will be much harder to come by and they will fight harder to score themselves, they may have an advantage in the next game.
13:46: In an attempt hit everything that moves, Max Talbot takes another bad penalty for Pittsburgh, this time for hitting Victor Hedman from behind. Dominic Moore responds, proving that stupid and unnecessary penalties are so much harder to kill off. Coach Guy Boucher has finally taken Stamkos and Marc-Andre Bergeron off the points on the power play, giving his role players their rare minutes with the man advantage.
16:35: The Pens are cutting ruts to the penalty box and Kubina nearly gets a hattrick as he rings one off the post. Orpik and Steve Downie get thrown from the game as the refs are making sure the game doesn't get out of hand and turn into the type of retaliation game the NHL has tried so hard to get rid of. For the second time this game, Rolson tries to settle down his teammates, taking time to get his equipment adjusted so thye can get a breather.
Final score: Lightning-8 Penguins-2
Story of the game: After dominating most of the first period, the Penguins lost focus after two quick Lightning strikes. They started pressing way too much even though they had penalty of time to settle down, play their game and tie it up. Instead they gave up the puck way too much and the Lightning's best players played like they should, creating tons of chances and scoring on most of them. Every member of their top two lines and their offensive blueliners were dangerous all day and the steady attack wore on the Pens before long. When they Pens tried to respond in the third period by playing a physical game, their plan backfired and they took too many stupid penalties, digging themselves into a hole impossible to climb out from. Each team had six power play opportunities; the Lightning were shorthanded early and were able to kill them off and buried their chances on the power play later in the game, netting four goals while the Penguins didn't get one.
Player of the game: Steven Stamkos was a bull in the first two periods, crashing the net and scoring his first two career playoff goals in a game where they absolutely needed him to be their best player. he showed patience with the puck and didn't let the Pens' physical game discourage him early on.
New York at Washington
5:59: Mike Green scores his first playoff goal in almost two years as the Caps get off to a quick start. they are determined not to collapse this year like they have the past two years against Pittsburgh and Montreal. Right now the Caps are letting Rangers fans know they can in fact hear them and have responded appropriately by dominating play with five unanswered goals since that point in Game 4.
7:55: Capitals fans respond to New York with their own "We are louder" chant. Gotta love when fans of each franchise go against each other like that. One of my favorite memories ever is from last year when Flyers fans did their own ole chant after dominating each game in Philly. It definitely makes the games a more fun and intense experience.
13:49: Green takes his second shot off the face this season, he missed 26 of the last 28 regular season games after taking a Brooks Oprik shot near the eye on Feb. 6 and an elbow to the head from New York's Derek Stepan a few games later. If he's hurt badly this could be a devastating injury for the Caps as he has had points in every game this series after pulling a disappearing act that would make Houdini proud in each of the past two playoff years. They showed a replay of the shot and several screws on the helmet came undone revealing the type of courage hockey players have and what they will do to win just one more game in the spring.
End of the period: Just like the rest of the series, this period was tight and hard-fought. The Caps out-shot the Rangers 13-6, but most of them were from far out and easy stops by Lundqvist.
0:43: Amazing play by Marc Staal to take a great scoring chance away from Alex Ovechkin. It could easily be 2-0 Caps right now, but Staal's quick stick saves the day. The Rangers are going to have to be that attentive all game as they are not going to get many scoring chances against this hard-hitting Capitals team so they need to keep chances against to a minimum.
7:04: Ovechkin gets another chance and flys by a tired Staal before pulling the puck across the crease and scoring on a backhand. It's only two goals, but the Rangers are in a hole now. Both times the Rangers have scored three goals have been at MSG. The two previous games in Washington, they have a combined two goals. And with Michal Neuvirth playing as calm as he is and sucking up any shot near his glove hand like a black hole, it will be tough for them to fight back.
9:10: "We are louder" chant starts again, but I don't think this will backfire like it did in New York.
14:37: Great news for the Caps as Green has returned to the bench. It will be interesting to see how much he plays the rest of the game. Seeing him back indicates it is a facial injury, not a head/concussion problem as he likely wouldn't play the rest of the game if that were the case, especially with the Caps in control like this.
17:19: John Erskine with a hard hit on Brandon Prust leads to an interference call. A solid hit, but a little too early as the puck hadn't reached Prust yet. This is a huge power play for the Rangers as their offense desperately needs to show some signs of life and this is the time to do it.
End of the period: The Caps learned quite a bit last year and it shows in their play. They are not trying to win this game 8-0, they are playing solid in all three zones and making sure everyone is back on defense while capitalizing when they have a chance to score. It will take an unbelievable effort in the third period for the Rangers to come back from this.
7:00: Pierre McGuire notes Mike Green is still on the bench, but has not played a shift since taking the puck off the face. There is a pretty good bruise on the side of his face. It's a good call not playing him. The Capitals are doing just fine and there is no need to rink injuring him even further.
9:35: Marcus Johansson shows amazing speed and nearly sets up a goal by Jason Chimera. I have never seen anyone skate that fast, he made it from his own goal line to the top of the faceoff circle in the Rangers zone in about five seconds flat. He looked like Pavel Bure out there.
16:23: Johansson does it again this time setting up Semin who buries the shot past Lundqvist. This officially seals the win for the Caps. It was a beautiful pass as Johansson channeled Adam Oates this time, saucering the puck over Staal who had fallen to the ice in an attempt to block the pass.
18:52: Boyd Gordon makes a great play in the crease to put the puck out of danger as the Rangers were pressing hard. This is exactly the type of play you wouldn't have seen last year and it looks as if they have gotten used to playing defense first when they have to.
19:28: Wojtek Wolski breaks up the shutout bid for Neuvirth, but it doesn't matter as there is only 30 seconds remaining in the game. Sean Avery shows his true colors by starting a scrum after the fight, putting the Capitals on the power play for the remainder of the Rangers season.
Final score: Washington-3 New York-1
Story of the game: Ovechkin continues to get stymied when trying to score on far shots, but is cashing in on chances down low. He should take notice and stop taking those shots. The Caps have learned how to win playoff games, holding the puck in the corner in the offensive zone, taking valuable time off the clock and grinding their way to a win. This was especially evident during the last three minutes when Lundqvist was pulled. Instead of trying to score the fourth goal, they just made sure to get the puck out of the zone without icing it. It is the first time an Ovechkin-led Capitals team has played a series that went less than seven games as Washington becomes the second team, and first from the East, to advance to the second round. Right now they are looking like a good bet to make the Stanley Cup final.
Player of the game: The whole team played well, but Michal Neuvirth was there to keep the Rangers off the board until the game was all but over. The Caps were out shot in each of the last two periods by a combined 21-14. Neuvirth was a vacuum and helped control the pace of the game. He made some key saves and gave the Caps the confidence they needed to close out the series like they haven't been able to the past two years.
Montreal at Boston
8:05: With Thomas way out of position, Michael Ryder makes a save on Tomas Plekanec. The first goal is going to be huge and Ryder, not known for his work in his own zone, keeps it a scoreless game. Maybe he should do that full time.
10:38: A bad giveaway by Carey Price lead to a glorious chance in front for David Krejci. Price gets into the game in a big way as he made a good recovery and stoned Krejci. Looks like goals are going to be hard to come by today.
End of the first: It must be a warm day in Boston and the ice seems chippy and the puck is taking a lot of bounces. The ice should get better as the game goes on and it gets cooler, but for now it is going to be difficult to make plays. They are better off throwing the puck on net and crashing for the rebounds.
19:08: The game is heating up as Tomas Plekanec and Brad Marchand exchange a couple blows and get matching minors for roughing. This has been a very physical series and plays such as this are to be expected. It will be interesting to see if the ensuing 4-on-4 will open up the game and create a few more scoring chances.
End of the period: There was not too much action to report as both teams were very cautious on the bad ice. Plus I was eating dinner. Shots were nine-six in favor of Boston compared to a 12-10 advantage for them in the first. This game is going to come down to either a missed defensive assignment or a bad bounce near the goal. With the second period starting 4-on-4, the teams may try for a quick strike to start the final frame. This is just the fourth game to go scoreless in the first two periods, with the other three coming in the first two days of the playoffs.
0:33: The Canadiens have a gaping net with a loose puck in front, but no one is around to tap it in. Moments later the Bruins would have a great chance of their own. Just like I thought, the game really opened up 4-on-4 and it's been an exciting start to the third.
4:33: Marchand opens up the scoring with his first career playoff goal. Mark Recchi is a beast in the offensive zone, creating chances and dishing the puck well throughout the entire shift. He gets a luck break off a broken stick in front, but the puck bouncing right back to him after trying to make a centering pass left him and the net wide open for the easy goal.
11:02: There has already been as many shots this period as in the second. Both teams have ramped up their attack as they can sense the end of the game.
13:56: Jeff Halpern answers for Montreal and the third line scores a rare goal for the Habs. They needed a goal from them as they have had little depth during the series after their first line who has been shutdown this game. Mike Cammalleri had the first line's best chance earlier in the period, but ripped a shot over the net on a shot from just above the slot.
End of the period: Both teams found the net this period, but it remained a strong defensive battle forcing the game into overtime. The Bruins tried to win the game 1-0 after their goal, so naturally Montreal was able to come back and score. It's just like prevent defense in football, what it prevents is you from winning. When they were forechecking hard they were keeping play in the Montreal end and had the opportunity to increase their lead. Instead their will play more hockey tonight.
1:40: Nice save by Thomas on a tricky Mathieu Darche shot that changes speed on its way to the net. Didn't look dangerous, but those are the type of shots that go in in overtime.
5:00: The Habs sustain some serious pressure in the Boston zone as they were out for a long shift. This is most clear when Lucic can't get the puck away from a Canadien tied up with another Bruin when he is just a few feet away from him.
8:08: Terrible miscue by Price almost leads to a Boston goal. Trying to handle a puck near his crease, he loses it in his feet, but falls on it after colliding with Marchand trying to shove the puck in. Looked for a moment the overtime winner would be similar to this play.
11:15: Thomas makes a great save, snatching the puck headed towards the top corner on a one-timer by James Wisnieuski. Shortly thereafter Mike Cammalleri make a great play on the backcheck, poking the puck away from Lucic who had the opportunity to take a shot from the slot. Both teams are playing great, trying to limit their chances and showing the desperation and determination you would expect when a Game 5 in a 2-2 series is in overtime.
13:45: Bergeron and Chara combine to block a shot on another empty net opportunity for Montreal. Thomas is lucky this game hasn't ended already.
16:12: Bergeron has a great chance all alone in front and gets tripped trying to take a shot. This is the perfect time for them to get their power play in order as they haven't scored on it yet. Personally I think it could have been called for a penalty shot.
End of the period: This looks like a game that could go on for a while as both teams refuse to give an inch. Both goalies have made some mistakes, but have been able to recover. Boston had a great chance to end it, but their power play was abysmal.
2:51: Roman Hamrlik takes a shot from the point, but pauses before taking it allowing Price time to square up to the shot. I have been seeing that all day, they would be better to take a wrist shot with the rolling puck than to wait for it to settle down so they could take a slapshot. When puck is rolling and the goalie is not ready, it can dip and dive and cause them fits.
5:35: the save of the season as Thomas stones Brian Gionta one a one timer from the slot on a 2-on-1 rush. A great pace so far this period considering the players must be getting very tired by this point.
9:03: Nathan Horton ends it on a rebound in front. Both goalies have been in such a zone, especially Price who wasn't running and scrambling around nearly as much as Thomas. It's unfortunate to see anyone lose a game like this.
Final score: Bruins-2 Canadiens-1
Story of the game: This was a defensive battle all the way. Both Thomas and Price were on top of their game and when they weren't, their teams were the to bail them out, especially Boston. This may have been the best goaltending performance of the playoffs yet. Every inch of ice was fought for and it was a pretty much perfectly played game on both sides. The few mistakes that were made were covered for
Player of the game: This could have gone to either goalie, but it was Thomas who came out with the win. His save on Gionta was fantastic, while Price let up a rebound that went straight to Horton. Those stiff pads aren't treating him well at the moment. Thomas ended up with 38 saves on 39 shots while Price countered with 42 on 44. Thomas showed tonight he is a battler as he was all over the net, smothering Montreal's best chances all game.
Los Angeles at San Jose
3:36: Wayne Simmonds opens the scoring on a deflection of a Rob Scuderi, huge goal for the Kings who are looking to avoid another meltdown today. I'm not watching this game, just checking the boxscore and seeing the highlights as the Bruins-Habs game is not yet over.
7:14: Kyle Clifford this time. I wish the other game would end so I can watch this one. Very similar start to Game 3.
8:42: Look who decides to show up. Dustin Penner scores his first of the playoffs and his first in 18 games.
17:38: I finally get to tune into the game after the damage has been done early.
18:39: Just noticed Antero Niittymaki is in goal when they showed Niemi on the bench. He allowed three goals on just four shots and I think the fact he owns a purple Sharks hat is a reason for his bad performance. The hockey gods would surely smite anyone wearing that thing.
End of the period: They did an interview with Kyle Clifford during intermission. He has a huge bruise on his face and his eye is red. Looks pretty good for a guy in the playoffs. Jonathan Quick has a good period, stopping all 19 shots fired his way.
3:07: Niclas Wallin takes a hit from Kevin Westgarth and goes through the plexiglass, which then pins his arm keeping him stuck in the corner. A pretty funny sight, though he is lucky it wasn't the heavy glass still found in some arenas or he would be in some serious trouble.
5:43: Marleau scores as Jonathan Quick takes his skate off the post for just a second after he makes a save on Wallin.
End of the period: It was a well played period for the Kings who didn't sit back and defend their lead. Despite being outscored 1-0 in the middle frame, they played much better than the first. They were outshot 15-12, but in the first it was worse at 19-six. A terrible start by Niemi is a big reason they are up, but it looks like they won't squander another big lead.
1:19: Niittymaki makes an unbelievable save on Drew Doughty keeping it at a two-goal deficit. It looked as if he was down and out after losing his stick, but he manages to get his glove on it. It is a huge save as it looks like it will be tough for the Sharks to beat Quick tonight.
8:32: Quick answers Niittymaki with a huge save on Logan Couture who was left all along in front. It looked like he didn't know just how much room he had as he rushed the shot when he had more than enough time to make a quick move.
18:12: Dany Heatley makes a save on Jarrett Stoll with Niittymaki pulled for the extra attacker. This is the first time I even noticed him tonight.
Final score: Kings-3 Sharks-1
Story of the game: After three quick goals, the Kings were able to hold on for the win and extend their season for another game. The best thing was, while they were certainly out played at times, they never sat back and solely focused on defense, attacking whenever they got the chance, though Niittymaki was perfect in relief keeping the Sharks in the game.
Player of the game: Jonathan Quick tied a career high with 51 saves as he was under siege all night and responded admirably. Many of the shots were quality chances, especially late in the game. He stopped all five shots from Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi and eight of nine from Patrick Marleau. After two bad games in Los Angeles, Quick showed he has the ability to forget about bad games and looked calm despite the barrage he faced.