2010 NHL playoffs: Upsets galore on opening night

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The first night of playoff hockey did not disappoint. Three upsets
out of four and all games were decided by one goal, in a night that had
plenty of hitting, skill, goaltending prowess and even a snake thrown
out on the ice.

Sens4.jpgPittsburgh Penguins 4, Ottawa Senators 5
Senators lead series 1-0.

This was NOT the game that
showcased great goaltending. Marc-Ander Fleury looked unsure of himself
and was nowhere near the confident goaltender that took his team to the
Stanley Cup finals the past two seasons, and was spraying rebounds all
over the ice. You have to hand to the Senators, however; they were able
to contain and frustrate the Penguins for much of the game, and it
wasn’t until the score was nearly out of reach that the Crosby and the
Pens woke up. Yet everytime that the Penguins would score, the Senators
would answer right back. The Penguins now face questions of
inconsistency and suddenly fragile goaltender in net, while the Senators
continue to build confidence.

Next game: Friday, Apr. 16;
7:00 p.m. EDT

New Jersey Devils 1, Philadelphia
Flyers 2
Flyers lead series 1-0

This wasn’t
exactly the knock down, dragged out brawl I half-expected it to be; in
fact, the Flyers and Devils had the least amount of hits total out of
all four games. The Devils were just completely disinterested to showing
any intensity in the game, and when they had a chance in the third
period to seriously close the gap on the 2-0 deficit with a four-minute
power play, mustered hardly any attack at all.

The Devils were
outworked in front of their own net and Martin Brodeur allowed two goals
on just 14 shots. Still, plenty of credit goes to the Flyers, who were
lead by a solid performance in net by Brian Boucher and showed
confidence in themselves and each other for 60 minutes.

Next
game: Friday, Apr. 16; 7:30 p.m. EDT

San Jose Sharks
1, Colorado Avalanche 2
Avalanche lead series 1-0

Uh
oh…can you see the wagons circling? The Sharks entered the postseason
with nothing but questions about how they would perform in the playoffs
— once again — and nothing from the game tonight did much to quell
those fears. You have to hand it to Colorado, however, who’s confidence,
speed and stamina outlasted the top seed in the West, while Craig
Anderson once again proved why he
was perhaps the best free agent signing of the season
.

Not
all is lost. Evgeni Nabokov was great, and it’s just one game. Sharks
fans can all calm down. For a day at least.

Next game: Friday,
Apr. 16; 10:30 p.m. EDT

Wings.jpgPhoenix Coyotes 3, Detroit Red Wings 2 Coyotes
lead series 1-0

As expected, this was the game of the night.
The atmosphere at Jobing.com Arena was absolutely electric, and the
Phoenix Coyotes overcame an early 2-1 deficit to take out the much more
experienced Red Wings. It was exactly Dave Tippett hockey; the Coyotes
allowed 40 shots on goal and have the brilliance of Ilya Bryzgalov to
thank for the victory. But in the end, it was the team approach by the
Coyotes and and every player on the ice selling out to preserve the lead
that netted one heck of a victory.

On the other side, the Red
Wings were outworked and outhustled by the Coyotes for the final 40
minutes of the game, and only Pavel Datsyuk showed any true life for the
Red Wings down the stretch.

There is still plenty of hockey to
be played, and the Coyotes cannot become too elated based on one win.
But for the Coyotes fans and the franchise, what a tremendous night.

Next
game: Friday, Apr. 16, 10:00 p.m. EDT

Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

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He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

From the AHL:

With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

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The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

“Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

The Ducks defeated the Jets on Friday, moving into a tie with the Sharks at 91 points.

San Jose’s struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.