While there were only four games on the slate on Wednesday, the parity in the NHL means that every night can make a difference. Here’s a look at how those contests affected the outlook in the East and West:
- OK, there was only one game for the East, but it was a substantial one. The Tampa Bay Lightning rode Steven Stamkos’ hat trick to a 5-3 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bolts have won four in a row while the Buds have dropped three consecutive contests.
Here’s the refreshed conference outlook, via NBC Sports:
- It was a busy night for the Central Division. At the higher ranks, the Colorado Avalanche grabbed a charity point in an OT loss to the Winnipeg Jets while the Chicago Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues 4-0. Chicago has one more point than Colorado for the second spot in the division, but losing Patrick Kane for multiple weeks is obviously bad news.
- Again, the Jets grabbed an important two points, keeping their slim playoff hopes alive.
- Speaking of shaky hopes, the Vancouver Canucks blanked the Nashville Predators 2-0 to stay in the picture as well.
Take a look at the Western Conference races via NBC Sports:
After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.
Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.
The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.
Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.
Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:
Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.
Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.
Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.
It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.
After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.
Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:
Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.
The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.
Thomas Hickey is involved in a controversial hit, yet the greater debate may revolve around the one he received rather than the one he delivered.
In the second period, the New York Islanders defenseman connected for a thunderous hit on Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin, which sidelined Drouin for a chunk of Game 3.
Many believe that hit was legal:
The Islanders are upset about the Brian Boyle hit on Hickey in overtime, which came moments before Boyle scored the game-winning goal. You can see the full sequence here, with the hit happening around the 50-second mark:
Islanders head coach Jack Capuano believes that it was a suspension-worthy hit.
You’re not going to believe this, but the Lightning disagree.
Boyle clearly didn’t receive a penalty on that sequence, yet one would imagine that the league will at least take a look at that hit.
Brian Boyle was part of the fight before Game 3 even started … and then he ended it in overtime.
In a Tampa Bay Lightning win in which they just kept rolling with the New York Islanders’ punches, it only seems fitting that Boyle battled to land a big hit and then score the clinching goal for a 5-4 overtime victory.
This gives the Lightning a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4.
Also fitting? Boyle landed a big hit on Thomas Hickey, the guy who sidelined Jonathan Drouin for a chunk of this contest.
That sequence prompted a brief goal review, but it ultimately stood:
(Was that Boyle hit on Hickey dirty, by the way?)
Drama was in the air from the beginning, yet Drouin really stole the show when he came back from what some believe was a concussion to assist on Nikita Kucherov‘s last-minute goal, which sent the game to overtime.
In some ways, this win feels like a microcosm of the Lightning’s season. They keep getting hit in the mouth with injuries and near-injuries, yet they just won’t stay down.
The Islanders saw three leads disappear in this contest, but one would think that they won’t roll over, either.