The Washington Capitals can’t clinch the playoffs Monday night, but they can put themselves firmly in the driver’s seat with a win against the Tampa Bay Lightning. With three games left in Washington and the ninth place Buffalo Sabres’ schedules, Washington has a two-point lead and control over the tiebreaker. That means if Washington wins two of their remaining contests, they will get into the postseason regardless of what Buffalo does. If the Capitals beat Tampa Bay on Monday, then Buffalo will need to come away with five points in their final three games just to stand a chance of making the playoffs.
Beyond that, a win today would keep the pressure on the Florida Panthers in the Southeast Division race. Although it’s a long shot at this point, if Washington can keep winning and get some help, it is possible for them to end up with the third seed over the Panthers. It helps that Washington will get a chance to gain some ground on Thursday in a matchup against Florida.
Aside from the playoff implications, this will also be the second match in Nicklas Backstrom’s comeback attempt. He returned on Saturday after missing almost three months due to a concussion and ended up logging 19:40 minutes.
“I can’t be worried about getting hit again, and that’s what I did from the start and it felt all right, but I can be a little bit better,” Backstrom said. “My lungs were a little tired there after a while.”
These next three contests should prove invaluable to Backstrom as he shakes off the rust and gets ready to compete in the playoffs, should the Capitals make it.
On the Lightning side of things, the focus won’t be on them so much as it will be on Steven Stamkos. Tampa Bay can’t make the playoffs, but Stamkos is four goals away from 60 with four games left in their schedule. Given how hot Stamkos has been lately, it’s certainly possible that he’ll be the first player since Alex Ovechkin in 2007-08 to reach that mark.
The St. Louis Blues won’t be thrilled with the way they played in the third period, but in the end, they did just enough to come away with a 4-3 overtime win over the Dallas Stars in Game 2. The Blues’ win means that the series will head to St. Louis tied 1-1.
The Stars opened the scoring in the first period, but the Blues responded by scoring three unanswered goals (Patrik Berglund, Joel Edmundson, Troy Brouwer) on five shots. Stars coach Lindy Ruff had seen enough from starter Kari Lehtonen at that point. He yanked Lehtonen in favor of Antti Niemi at the start of the second period.
Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the second period, but things got crazy in the third.
With his team still trailing 3-1, Mattias Janmark split Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko before scoring a great goal.
Moments after Janmark’s goal, Brian Elliott took a Jason Spezza blast off the mask. Elliott was shaken up on the play (he even lost one of his contact lenses), but he did stay in the game.
Stars captain Jamie Benn (surprise, surprise) leveled the score by burying a goal by Brian Elliott with under three minutes in regulation.
Like they did during their first round series against Chicago, the Blues took some time to regroup before finding a way to get the job done.
The Blues’ power play went back to work after Antoine Roussel took his third penalty of the game. That’s when the birthday boy, David Backes, came through.
That’s a nice way to celebrate your 32nd birthday.
Game 3 goes Tuesday night in St. Louis.
This definitely wasn’t the way the St. Louis Blues drew it up.
The Blues entered the third period of Game 2 with a 3-1 lead. Unfortunately for them, they weren’t able to shut the game down on the road.
St. Louis jumped ahead 3-1 after 20 minutes before Dallas decided to pull Kari Lehtonen in favor of Antti Niemi. The move didn’t provide any results in the middle frame, but something certainly sparked the Stars in the third period.
Mattias Janmark cut the deficit to 3-2 with this beauty (notice how he split Colton Parayko and Alex Pietrangelo).
With less than three minutes remaining in regulation, Stars captain Jamie Benn tied it up (top).
It’s safe to say this wasn’t a memorable third period for the Blues.
A bit of a scary moment in the third period of Game 2 between the Stars and Blues.
Less than five minutes into the third period, Jason Spezza took a shot that caught Blues goalie Brian Elliott square in the mask. Play was halted as Elliott remained down. It appears as though the shot to the mask also made Elliott lose one of his contacts.
Thankfully, Elliott wasn’t seriously injured on the play. After being examined by the team doctor, he was allowed to stay into the game. He did need a new mask though (he got his original one back a few minutes later).
You can watch the play by clicking the video at the top of the page.
The Blues currently lead 3-2 late in the third period.
Here’s some Twitter reaction:
Kari Lehtonen might have been more hit than miss in the playoffs going into today’s action, but Game 2 against St. Louis was certainly a start he’d like to forget.
Dallas outshot St. Louis 10-5 in the first frame, but the Blues still managed to take a 3-1 lead. Antti Niemi replaced Lehtonen for the second period which means, barring another goalie change, Lehtonen will actually end up with a sub-.500 save percentage this afternoon.
The numbers obviously look bad and it’s hard not to blame Lehtonen in the face of that, but the Blues deserve a lot of the credit for those goals. Patrik Berglund had a great shot on goal for the first marker, Joel Edmundson‘s first career playoff goal came after a nice setup by Troy Brouwer, and when Brouwer collected his own goal it was off of a rebound during a power play.
So to an extent, you could say Lehtonen looked bad due to circumstances that were very unfavorable to him. Nevertheless, the Stars needed to shake things up after what was unquestionably a bad period for them.