Tag: game recaps


Tim Thomas helps Boston steal a 3-1 Game 5 win, Bruins gain 3-2 series lead

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It’s amazing that someone would claim that the 2011 playoffs lack dominant goaltending performances when you consider the astounding work by Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas. Whether he wins a Stanley Cup this year or not, Thomas is putting together one of the best combined regular season and playoff runs we’ve seen in a long time.*

For most of this series, the Tampa Bay Lightning carried the play but Thomas regularly bailed his Boston Bruins out. Tonight’s Game 5 might be the best example of how Thomas is carrying his team on his well-traveled back, though.

Boston 3, Tampa Bay 1; Bruins lead series 3-2

After allowing a goal on the first shot he faced (a beautifully executed one-timer from Steven Stamkos to Simon Gagne), Thomas never allowed another puck in his net. He made 33 stops overall, including a desperation stick save that might just be the best save of the 2011 playoffs.

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As you can see from that clip, he wasn’t the only goalie who played well in Game 5. Lightning coach Guy Boucher decided to start Mike Smith instead of Dwayne Roloson, a move that surprised some. Out of context, it might seem like Smith was a weak link for the Lightning since he allowed two goals on 19 shots. The thing is, the two goals he allowed were nearly unstoppable and he was an asset for most of the contest. No doubt about it, Boucher faces a tough decision regarding his Game 6 starter.

Bruins recover from lopsided first period

Tampa Bay out-shot Boston 14-4 in the first period but Thomas only allowed that 1-0 goal. The Bruins scored two goals in the second period, which ended up being all the offense they would need.

Nathan Horton made amends for his two interference penalties by rifling a one-timer through Smith to make it 1-1. Horton has been hot-and-cold in his first career playoff year, but his goals have often been game-changers.

Speaking of game-changers, Brad Marchand’s game-winning goal ended up being a nice team effort. Zdeno Chara made a nice play to keep the puck in the zone, Patrice Bergeron sent an outstanding pass through the Lightning defense and Marchand overpowered Martin St. Louis to score.

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The Lightning sent steady pressure toward Thomas in every period, but the Bruins were able to hold onto that 2-1 second period lead through the rest of the game. Rich Pevereley scored the 3-1 dagger into an empty Tampa Bay net to seal the deal for Boston in the third period. Steve Downie seems to be getting reputation-based penalties in this series, as many questioned the boarding call he received while officials missed Andrew Ference tripping him behind Boston’s net. Downie was seen stewing alone on the Lightning bench after the game concluded.

Outlook for both teams

The Bruins are one win away from their first Stanley Cup finals appearance since they lost to the Edmonton Oilers in 1990. Again, they have one man to thank above all else: Tim Thomas. It’s unclear if they did this by design, but only Thomas came out during the three stars ceremony after the game. As usual, he had something interesting to say in this post-game interview.

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Boston would like to avoid another Game 7 by wrapping this up in Tampa Bay, but they shouldn’t lean so heavily on Thomas on Wednesday. The Bolts are undefeated in elimination games, so this series probably won’t get an easier for the Bruins.

The Lightning put 34 shots on Thomas, frequently catching the Bruins flat-footed with their superior overall speed. One area of concern is the health of unexpected hero Sean Bergenheim, who didn’t return after suffering a first period groin injury.

After winning games in which they were regularly out-shot thanks to outstanding goaltending and timely offense during the first two rounds, The Lightning are getting a taste of their own medicine in the Eastern Conference finals. You cannot fault their effort so far, but that will be little solace if they fall two wins short of the championship round.

* – My bet is that Thomas will win the Vezina Trophy for the 2010-11 season. The last goalie who followed up a Vezina-winning regular season with a comparably outstanding postseason was Martin Brodeur, who won a Stanley Cup after earning the Vezina during the 2002-03 season.

Special teams makes the difference for Canucks; Vancouver takes 4-2 win and 3-1 series lead

Alex Burrows, Antti Niemi
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Every once in a while, pre-game storylines end up being justified by in-game results. The Vancouver Canucks’ 4-2 win over the San Jose Sharks accomplished that task in such a dramatic way that the two games at the Shark Tank seem like point/counter-point columns.

The Canucks’ penalty killing and 5-on-3 power play units failed miserably in Game 3, but they absolutely won Game 4 for Vancouver. After killing five penalties through today’s first 24 minutes, the Canucks did what the Sharks couldn’t: they made their opponents pay for their mistakes.

In fact, they did so in a way we may never see again by scoring three 5-on-3 powerplay goals in less than two minutes. The Sharks didn’t totally give up after falling into that 3-0 hole, but you can’t blame them for being a little stunned.

Vancouver 4, San Jose 2; Canucks lead series 3-1

Much like Joe Thornton before him, Henrik Sedin is silencing his critics in a dramatic way. He earned four assists to take first place in 2011 playoff scoring with 19 points. Henrik has been on a blistering streak since Game 4 of Vancouver’s series against the Nashville Predators, scoring two goals and 12 assists for an astounding 14 points in seven games. His brother Daniel Sedin had a strong game himself, earning three assists to hit the 16-point mark.

Roberto Luongo’s strong game shouldn’t get lost in the shuffle, either. He made 33 saves throughout the game and shut down the Sharks power play when it mattered the most. San Jose scored on Luongo twice during a third period in which they out-shot Vancouver 17-3, but that ultimately just made it a more respectable outcome.

Canucks played strong all-around game, despite stats

Many people will make a big deal about the shot discrepancy (the Sharks out-shot the Canucks 35-13), but in a game with nine penalties in the first two periods, special teams efficiency was more important. Besides, the Sharks’ shot advantage was a more reasonable 18-10 through the first two periods before the Canucks focused primarily on defending their lead.

For the most part, Vancouver kept San Jose’s chances to the perimeter until the Sharks started dominating late in the third period. The Canucks simply capitalized on their golden opportunities and pressured the Sharks enough to make them squander their chances.

A lot of people will blame Antti Niemi for the loss, and it’s true that he did allow a weak goal or two. Niemi would like to have that final goal back in particular, but he didn’t have much of a chance on those 5-on-3 goals.

Jumbo worries for San Jose

If the outcome wasn’t bad enough, the Sharks also must be concerned about the health of Thornton. The big center didn’t return to San Jose’s bench after landing awkwardly on his shoulder thanks to a clean hit by Raffi Torres. As much as people rush to call Jumbo Joe a choker, losing his sublime passing and big body would be a huge blow to the Sharks’ hopes for a comeback.

Special teams dominance is the lasting memory of this game, but if you want to summarize the emotional impact of the game in one clip, watch Keith Ballard’s hip check on Jamie McGinn.

Much like Game 3, this contest ended a bit ugly. Ryan Kesler was on the worst end this time around, then, as a Ryane Clowe punch sent him sprawling in the final seconds after the two exchanged slashes.


Will the Canucks close out the Sharks and get a nice break before they try to win their first-ever Stanley Cup finals? Could San Jose continue to build up their growing reputation as a surprisingly resilient team by fighting hard to stay in this series? We’ll keep you updated about reactions, injuries and highlights as Game 5 approaches on Tuesday (which you can see on Versus at 9 p.m. ET).

Here’s the complete recap of Game 4 from NBC

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Here are the highlights of Game 4 from NBC

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After the game, Darren Pang spoke to both Sami Salo and Henrik Sedin

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Bruins score early, Tim Thomas shuts out Lightning to give Boston 2-1 series lead

Boston Bruins v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Three
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When David Krejci scored a little more than a minute into Game 3, it was natural to wonder if we had another wild and wide-open game on our hands. The rest of the first period featured its fair share of defensive lapses and near-scores, but the two teams finally went back to the type of defense-first hockey most of us expected in the last two periods.

That style seemed to suit the Boston Bruins the best, as Patrice Bergeron didn’t miss a beat in his return to playoff action while Tim Thomas earned a 31-save shutout to give the B’s a 2-1 series lead.

Boston 2, Tampa Bay 0; Bruins lead series 2-1

Thomas notched the second shutout of his playoff career in this win. He made some huge stops during this contest, although his defense didn’t hang him out to dry like they did in both home games. There was one play that symbolized that improved work to me: Zdeno Chara made a great play to intercept a pass on what could have been a deadly 2-on-1 play against Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier. That odd-man rush had “GOAL” written all over it, but Chara sniffed it out.

Perhaps the biggest story of this series is the outstanding play of Thomas, who is solidifying his place as the best goalie in the world right now. Yes, Boston’s defense was better in Game 3, but the Lightning still put 31 shots on net. Even with some tough moments, Thomas put aside 96 out of 105 shots so far in this series and carried elite numbers into the Eastern Conference finals as well.

Two goals and one controversial penalty call

It’s tough not to throw Victor Hedman under the bus for the first (and ultimately game-winning) goal by Krejci. Hedman left the talented pivot all alone in front of the Lightning net and a sprawling Dwayne Roloson had no chance against a guy with Krejci’s hands. The most impressive part of this goal was Krejci’s patience, as he waited to settle down the puck before putting it past Roloson.

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The first period wasn’t all great news for Krejci, as Marc-Andre Bergeron delivered a big (but by almost all accounts, clean) hit on him later on. Bergeron received a widely criticized elbowing penalty for that check, but like many stated, the onus was on Krejci to be aware of where he was on the ice. On the bright side, the Bruins didn’t score on the ensuing power play.

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The Bruins didn’t have a ton of trouble bottling up the Lightning attack thanks to more responsible defensive coverage, a middling Tampa Bay effort and great play by Thomas. Boston also was wise to avoid “turtle mode” by continuing to create offense, which allowed Andrew Ference to give the team an 2-0 insurance goal. As we know now, that extra goal ended up being unnecessary.

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Outlook for both teams

No doubt about it, the Bruins are a more formidable opponent with their best two-way forward in the lineup. Patrice Bergeron simply looked fantastic tonight. He played more than 19 minutes, went 18 for 28 in the faceoff circle and showed little hesitancy to fight for pucks along the boards.

Boston must be feeling great about this victory, especially since Krejci seemed fine after taking that big hit in the first period. About the only negative is that they were out-shot 15-5 in the third period, but again, they weren’t as passive as that number might indicate.

The Lightning still have some reasons to be concerned, but their outlook would change dramatically with a spirited Game 4 win. They haven’t been down in a series since the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but it would be shocking if Tampa Bay bowed out of this one. That being said, falling down 3-1 would be more worrisome against Boston than it was against a limited Pittsburgh squad.

Canucks dominate third period, take 1-0 series lead over Sharks with 3-2 win

Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin

The Vancouver Canucks went into the third period down 2-1 but simply outlasted the San Jose Sharks in the final frame. CSN’s Ray Ratto points out that the Canucks took 21 of the last 28 shots in Game 1, as the home team wore down their talented opponents.

Many wondered if the Sharks’ seven-game tussle with the Detroit Red Wings caused that weak finish, but that seems like a flimsy excuse. It disrespects the physical game the Canucks bring to the ice (they were credited with 38 hits) and seems like a “too bad, so sad” complaint since San Jose had plenty of opportunities to earn some rest earlier in that second round series.

Let’s not forget that the Canucks were in a similar situation (but with two less nights of rest) against the Nashville Predators in Round 2, yet they prevailed in that Game 1.

Vancouver 3, San Jose 2; Canucks lead series 1-0

No doubt about it, the Canucks wanted more from the Sedin twins going into this series. The duplicate duo seemed to gain confidence as the contest went on (much like their team). Daniel Sedin didn’t manage to find the net, but his six shots on goal indicate that he was involved in much of the play. Henrik Sedin might have been the MVP of the game, though. Henrik earned a secondary assist on Kevin Bieksa’s game-tying goal and then cashed in on a brilliant Christian Ehrhoff pass to put home the game-winning goal on the power play.

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A look at the goalies

Roberto Luongo should thank his teammates for pulling out the win tonight, because he was responsible for the type of goal that can earn a “goat” label. Luongo and the Canucks defense experienced a lapse in communication late in the first period, leading to an ill-fated pass that landed right on Joe Thornton’s stick and into Vancouver’s net. The Canucks went into the first intermission with a bitter taste in their mouths down 1-0.

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Antti Niemi was brilliant at times in a losing effort, making 35 saves. Still, he showed that Luongo isn’t the only goalie who struggles to move the puck, as his failed clear helped to set up Maxim Lapierre’s 1-1 goal.

Sharks build a small lead

Early on in this game, it seemed like the Sharks were going to get the “easy” goals. Along with that gimme for Thornton, Patrick Marleau was able to score on the power play to give San Jose a 2-1 lead going into the third.

Niemi’s most brilliant moments probably came late in the second period, as he made some gorgeous saves and survived a rugby-like scrum.

Canucks dominate third

Some will say that San Jose “choked” in the third, but it’s more appropriate to say that Vancouver took over. Henrik Sedin sent a pass to Alexander Burrows, who set up Kevin Bieksa for an odd angle goal Niemi probably regrets. Sedin then scored that PP game-winner about a minute later, rapidly changing the tone of the game.

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Outlook for both teams

The Canucks took care of business tonight and must feel content about their efforts. They played their game – and perhaps most importantly – didn’t sit on their lead when they earned it 8:21 into the third. Ryan Kesler didn’t get on the board, but the team was still able to win because of their quality depth and Henrik Sedin’s much-anticipated production.

The Sharks cannot be happy with coughing up another third period lead, even if they were tired. The Canucks are a deeper team than Detroit and a more explosive one that Los Angeles, so they must finish stronger. The Sharks converted on their only power play, so they can look at that as a silver lining since they’ll almost certainly get more opportunities in future games.

On the bright side for those blaming fatigue, the two teams will play on Wednesday instead of the traditional two-day turnaround. We’ll see if the Sharks can take advantage of that extra rest or if the Canucks will remain too much for that talented San Jose squad to handle.

2011 IIHF World Championships: Finland tops Sweden for gold, Czechs take brozne

Sweden v Finland - 2011 IIHF World Championship

Voters named Swedish goalie Viktor Fasth the MVP of the 2011 World Championships tournament right in time for him to allow five Finland goals in the third period. Call it a curse or a coincidence, but either way, Finland dominated that final frame to win their first gold medal since 1995. They beat Sweden in that final game as well, which was their first ever gold in the World Championships.

Finland 6, Sweden 1; Finland wins gold medal.

Petteri Nokelainen began that third period scoring frenzy with a breakaway goal to give the Finns a 2-1 lead. Niko Kapanen made it 3-1 just 46 seconds later. Finland buried any hope of a Swedish comeback later on in the third when Janne Pesonen and Mika Pyorala scored 35 seconds apart while Antti Pihlstrom scored in the final minute to make it 6-1.

The Swedes could have taken a 1-0 lead into the second intermission, but David Petrasek took a hooking penalty with 30 seconds left. That ended up being an inopportune infraction as Jarrko Immonen tied it up in the dying seconds.

If you count that Immonen goal, the Finns crushed the Swedes with two three-goal bursts, with the first set taking about four minutes and the second taking about five. Magnus Paajarvi scored Sweden’s only goal in this contest.

Though you won’t confuse the Finns with Kristen Wiig, they have qualified as bridesmaids in the World Championships going into today’s contest. NHL.com points out that the Finns are tied with Canada (and Sweden) for the most gold medal round losses since their last title in ’95.

Czech Republic 7, Russia 4; Czech Republic wins bronze

The Czechs fell short of matching their 2010 gold medal, but beating Russia for the bronze isn’t a bad  consolation prize.

Roman Cervenka scored a hat trick, Petr Prucha found the net twice while Jan Marek and Tomas Plekanec also scored to lead the Czech Republic to another victory against Russia. The Czechs forced Russia to settle for the silver last year and left their rivals without a medal of any kind in 2011. Ilya Kovalchuk scored twice while Dmitri Kulikov and Vladimir Tarasenko found the twine once in a losing cause.