Tag: game recaps

Vancouver Canucks v Nashville Predators - Game Three

Canucks cash in on shaky penalty call, beat Predators in OT for 2-1 series lead


Not long ago, Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis aired his grievances regarding officiating before the team’s Game 7 against the Chicago Blackhawks. Now one must wonder if he’ll send the league’s officials a Christmas card.

If you want my honest opinion, Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber should not have been whistled for that overtime hooking penalty on Ryan Kesler. Yet the officials might have felt obliged to give the Canucks a “makeup call” after Jerred Smithson got away with a questionable hit shortly before that penalty. It didn’t take long for the Canucks to score on that man advantage as Kesler appeared to deflect the winning goal through Pekka Rinne.

Vancouver 3, Nashville 2 (OT); Canucks lead series 2-1

It’s fair to say that Vancouver was the better team in this game, even if they won the game in a very controversial way. Kesler was clever to lock Weber’s stick into his body for a few precious extra seconds, sending the team’s best defenseman into the box in overtime. Again, the Canucks didn’t take long to shine the spotlight on that goal by winning the game.

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As usual, the game was close on the scoreboard, although the Canucks were the aggressors for most of this contest after sitting back for much of Game 2. They out-shot the Predators 15-8 in the first period but Dave Legwand scored a shorthanded goal to give Nashville a 1-0 first period lead.

Kesler finally broke through to score his first goal of the playoffs in the middle frame by tapping in a one-timer in front of a mostly-open Predators net.

Chris Higgins made it 2-1 early in the third period, but the Predators wouldn’t go away, as Joel Ward scored thanks to the type of move from behind the net that made me think of my own cheesy offense in the video game NHL ’11.

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That Ward goal notched things up at 2-2, which forced yet another overtime game. (As James Gralian pointed out, the 2011 playoffs already feature more overtime games than all of last year’s games. Yes, that is indeed pretty amazing.)

It was a tight checking overtime period until those controversial moments ended the game. Here’s what David Legwand said about the call, via Mark Spector.

“I don’t know if Timmy Peel had a date or something, but he wanted to get outta here pretty quick.”

As great as the playoffs have been, inconsistent penalty calls have been one of this year’s biggest issues. Jeremy Roenick explained the problem quite well in the video found in this post.

The outlook for both teams

Once the “we stole that one” vibe dies down for the Canucks, they’ll probably feel relief more than anything else. The team needed to earn at least one win in Nashville to feel comfortable in this series, so now they can play with house money in Game 4. Vancouver is also one of the few teams who can be pleased with their power play, which converted on 2 of 4 opportunities.

They still must improve in some areas, though. While Daniel Sedin earned an assist, each Sedin twin had a -2 rating in the contest. Kesler had a breakthrough game, so the team would love it if the twins tried to top him.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Predators react to such a dispiriting loss. My guess is that they’ll continue to bring their grinding, defensive-minded game to the ice to make things as difficult as possible for their Canucks. Nashville has a lot of good things to take from these games, even if they’re down 2-1.

You don’t have to be keenly observant to notice how great the Nashville atmosphere has been in these playoffs. Let’s just hope they opt against another “Gold Out” in Game 4, though, or all of our eyes will suffer. (This post’s main image gives you a small glimpse of that eye-straining unified color experiment, which I called the NHL’s answer to Boise State’s horrid blue field.)

Lightning take a shocking 3-0 series lead; Who’s to blame in Washington?


The Tampa Bay Lightning might just be the hottest team in hockey right now. They won their sixth consecutive playoff game thanks to another strong third period performance, leaving the favored Washington Capitals on the brink of elimination.

Tampa Bay 4, Washington 3; Lightning lead series 3-0.

Expect plenty of “Lightning strikes twice/thrice” type puns from this one, as the game turned on a dime in the final frame. The Capitals managed to take a 3-2 lead into the third period, but the Bolts scored two goals just 15 seconds apart to win Game 3.

It’s natural to fixate on the Capitals blame game, but let’s give Tampa Bay their much-deserved credit first. Sean Bergenheim continued his unexpected hot streak by scoring the game’s first goal. Alex Ovechkin should not be a scapegoat in Washington, as the spirited Russian set up Mike Knuble’s 1-1 goal and also scored a goal. John Carlson made it 2-1 while Vincent Lecavalier is also red-hot lately, as he banged in a rebound to make it 2-2. Ovechkin pounced on a loose puck to give the Caps a 3-2 lead on the power play.

Tampa scores two goals in a stunning 15-second span

For yet another game, Ovechkin’s big goal wouldn’t be enough for a Capitals win. Steven Stamkos capitalized on a bad Eric Fehr turnover to fire an absolute laser to make it 3-3.

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Things went from troubling to downright heart-breaking when the Lightning took a lead thanks to Ryan Malone crashing the net. The puck went off of his skate, but it was ruled a good goal. That would ultimately be the game-winner in this contest.

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It might be easy to blame Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth and it’s true that he allowed a goal or two that he would like to have back. Still, the tough-to-rattle goalie made some huge saves to keep Washington in the game. Neuvirth stopped a Bergenheim shorthanded chance and nullified a horrific Nicklas Backstrom turnover to keep the deficit at 4-3, but the Capitals couldn’t pierce the Lightning defense again.

The Capitals three biggest scapegoats

Naturally, the next question is: who or what should get the blame? Here are my three potential choices.

1. Horrible third periods: If there’s one signature thread to the first three games of this series, it’s that the Lightning finished games stronger. They out-shot the Capitals 15-5 in Game 3’s final frame, winning that period 2-0. Washington carried much of the play in Game 2, but Tampa Bay turned it around in the third with a 11-5 shot deficit (both teams scored one goal in that third period). The Lightning didn’t out-shoot the Caps in Game 1’s third, but they limited Washington to a 5-4 shot advantage as they sat on their lead and also scored an empty-netter.

So, overall, the Bolts out-scored the Capitals 4-1 (counting an empty-netter) and doubled their shots (30-15) in three third periods.

2. Bruce Boudreau: Personally, I think the Capitals might make a mistake if they get rid of Bellicose Bruce. Still, in this media congested age, it’s easy to lose patience after a few disappointments. While I’m easier on him than most, it’s tough to deny that Guy Boucher is coming out on top. Here’s what Keith Jones and Mike Keenan said about Boudreau in the first intermission.

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3. Nicklas Backstrom:
For years, Backstrom was the one Capitals star who jived with casual and hardcore hockey fans alike. The sweet-passing Swede has zero goals and two assists in eight playoff games, which is far worse than any supposed  Alexander Semin and Ovechkin stink-bombs from past years. Maybe he’s playing through an injury, but the Caps simply need more from their less-renowned star.

Final conclusions

Ultimately, the Capitals hope to be the fourth team in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 deficit. They’ll need to shake off tonight’s loss quickly because the two teams will meet again tomorrow night.

The Lightning simply need to continue their trend of timely scoring, sufficient defense and strong goaltending. Tampa Bay’s big three forwards Martin St. Louis, Lecavalier and Stamkos are coming up huge and support players like Dominic Moore and Bergenheim are playing over their heads. It wasn’t Roloson’s best game, but maybe that’s because he set the bar so high.

Boucher said he was happy Game 2 didn’t go too deep into overtime after his team slugged it out in a seven game series in the first round, so an early second round sweep would do wonders if the squad is truly tired.

Vincent Lecavalier scores twice, Lightning stun Capitals in OT to take 2-0 series lead

Vincent Lacavalier, Teddy Purcell
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Guy Boucher might struggle to convince his team that they’re the underdogs after tonight.

The Tampa Bay Lightning took a 2-0 series lead over the Washington Capitals on the strength of their red-hot veteran goalie Dwayne Roloson, a few lucky bounces and outstanding play by their two long-time stars Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.

Tampa Bay 3, Washington 2 (OT); Lightning lead series 2-0

For the first two periods, the Capitals out-shot the Lightning but Tampa Bay still managed to build leads. Despite a 11-6 shot margin in the first period, Lecavalier scored on a Lightning power play to give his team a 1-0 lead.

The Caps were most dominant in the second period, hammering 16 shots on Roloson and allowing only three shots on their own goalie Michal Neuvirth. Roloson continued his recent hot streak by only allowing a Brooks Laich rebound tally.

The Lightning woke up in the third period, out-shooting the Capitals 11-5 as a St. Louis pass bounced off Mike Green’s skate and into Washington’s net for a 2-1 Tampa lead. It really wasn’t a great night for Green. Along with that bad moment, Green took two penalties. One was bad luck (he received a penalty for roughing even though it was a clean hit) and one was bad decision-making (an ill-advised elbow on Steven Stamkos).

It wasn’t a great day for officials, either, as they seemingly nailed both teams with dubious penalties while also letting some rather egregious infractions go unnoticed. Jeremy Roenick provided an amusing rant on the subject.

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Some felt that this the Capitals would wave a white flag, but that ignores the consistent stream of magic featured in the 2011 playoffs.

More highs and lows for the Caps

Alex Ovechkin answered the call, scoring his fourth goal of the playoffs with Washington’s net empty. Even if his team ends up on the wrong end of another series upset, Ovechkin has been a force once again in the playoffs.

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It seemed like this team’s series of baggage-shedding moments would continue as the Capitals rode a surge of momentum in overtime, but it was ultimately not to be.

Scott Hannan and his teammates were caught on a bad change on that Lecavalier game winner. Randy Jones made a heads-up breakout pass to Teddy Purcell, who sent a nice pass to a wide open Lecavalier, who took the time to settle down the puck and put it over a sprawling Neuvirth.

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To some, this was an unlucky break, but the Capitals dodged a bullet shortly before that when Green was caught deep in Tampa Bay’s zone but Steve Downie couldn’t finish a 2-on-1 chance. Washington dominated much of the game, but mistakes and bad bounces did them in once again.

The outlook for both teams

The Lightning are on an amazing run right now, winning five games in a row and five out of their six road games in the playoffs so far. Maybe it hasn’t always been pretty, but their big-name scorers came up big. Lecavalier was huge in Game 2, Stamkos scored a timely winner in Game 1 and St. Louis has been outstanding game-in and game-out.

Of course, they wouldn’t have gotten here without Roloson’s all-world, age-defying work in net. He leads all starting goalies with six wins and an outstanding 94.7 save percentage. Last season, Jaroslav Halak solved both the Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. Will Rolo duplicate those results?

Meanwhile, the Capitals will face one of their biggest tests yet. It seems like they are doing what they can to break through their playoff struggles, but if this team buckles now, then every critic will be emboldened. There might be some who think that Bruce Boudreau should bench Neuvirth for Semyon Varlamov, but the biggest worries revolve around what they’re going to do about the opposing goalie.

On the bright side, Washington came back to win a series after following behind 2-0 against the New York Rangers in 2009, so they at least now it isn’t over yet.

David Krejci, Bruins get first measure of revenge against Flyers with crushing 7-3 win

Boston Bruins v Philadelphia Flyers - Game One

The Boston Bruins need three more wins to truly get their revenge for last year’s 2010 semifinals collapse against the Philadelphia Flyers, but today’s 7-3 win must have been sweet for David Krejci.

Krejci gained a measure revenge against Mike Richards and the Flyers, who knocked him out of Game 3 of last year’s series. He scored two goals and two assists as Boston absolutely squashed Philly, adding fuel to the fire of the Flyers’ seemingly eternal goalie questions.

Boston 7, Philadelphia 3; Bruins lead series 1-0

Krejci and his linemate Nathan Horton helped the Bruins build a 2-1 lead in the first period, but the Flyers didn’t really unravel until the ugly second period. Krejci, Mark Recchi and Brad Marchand scored three more goals to bump Boston’s lead to 5-1, chasing befuddled Brian Boucher out of the Flyers’ net in the process.

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James van Riemsdyk scored to make it 5-2 as the second period ended, but things didn’t get much better for the Flyers.

The third period featured a plethora of puzzling penalty calls and non-calls capping a sub-par afternoon of officiating. Mike Richards made it 5-3 on the tail end of a 5-on-3 power play, but Marchand and Gregory Campbell sealed the deal with two more goals.

Although the second period was a disaster overall for Philadelphia, the two-goal span that made it 3-1 Boston really sapped a lot of the Flyers’ energy. They got there thanks to a late first period goal by Horton and Recchi’s tally 2:33 into the second.

Plenty of positives for the Bruins.

Obviously, the Bruins must feel excited about the Krejci-Horton-Milan Lucic line, even if Lucic technically didn’t score. Lucic was more involved in this game than he was in the first round, although he needs to be careful being that he was thrown out of the late proceedings after mixing it up with Flyers fighter Zac Rinaldo.

The Bruins also received great performances from Patrice Bergeron (three assists) and Marchand (two goals, one assist). Much has been made about Philadelphia’s offensive depth, but the Bruins can roll with more than one quality scoring line themselves.

Obviously, Boston also boasts one of the best goalies in the NHL in Tim Thomas. He made 31 out of 34 saves, including some highlight reel stops that must have made Flyers fans a little jealous.

The only issue for the Bruins is their still-stagnant power play. They went 0-for-5 in Game 1, extending their struggles to 0-for-26 in eight playoff games. It’s an area of concern, but with Boston dominating like they are at even strength, it’s far from a crisis.

Flyers face questions in areas beyond goaltending.

Speaking of crises, the Flyers have a lot of questions to answer. The most obvious one revolves around their goalie issues. Will Philly go back to Boucher or stick with Sergei Bobrovsky? It must be noted that Michael Leighton’s play sparked much of the team’s 2010 turnaround after Boucher struggled and then dealt with an injury.

Goaltending isn’t the only issue for Philadelphia, though. The Flyers lost plenty of puck battles during the game and must find a better matchup against Boston’s Horton-Krejci-Lucic line. Perhaps they should take Pierre McGuire’s advice and send two-way center and captain Richards after that group?

The Flyers power play wasn’t exactly fantastic either, as they only went 1-for-5 in this game.

Philly might take two positives from the game: 1) their offensive leaders produced and 2) Chris Pronger looked more like his old, angry self in Game 1. Danny Briere scored his playoff-leading seventh goal, Richards found the net on the power play and JVR scored a goal while peppering the net with eight shots.

They’re going to need Pronger and his mates to play elite defense if they hope to get back into this series against the Bruins, though. This Flyers team might succeed in tough spots, but the Bruins look like a more versatile opponent in 2011.

Sharks earn another OT win, take 1-0 series lead against Red Wings

Detroit Red Wings v San Jose Sharks - Game One

Controversial penalty calls dominated much of the chatter – at least among Detroit Red Wings fans – when the team lost to the San Jose Sharks in the 2010 semifinals. If the Sharks’ 2-1 OT win in Game 1 is in any indication, those tin foil hats might get some serious mileage this year, too.

The Sharks weren’t able to score after Justin Abdelkader was whistled for a high-sticking double-minor in overtime, but Ben Ferriero’s winning goal came just 20 seconds after the Red Wings killed a rare OT penalty.* People will surely discuss the fact that San Jose received six power plays while Detroit only had two man advantages in Game 1.

San Jose 2, Detroit 1 (OT); Sharks lead series 1-0

When I heard announcers mention that Friday was Mike Babcock’s 48th birthday, I thought: “Oh, so that explains Jimmy Howard’s otherworldly play … he forgot to get Babs a present.” Apparently Ferriero’s birthday (he turned 24 on Friday) trumped Babcock’s, though, as the young Sharks forward scored that OT winner in his first career playoff game.

Howard truly was outstanding in defeat, though. Perhaps the Sharks’ high-volume offense brings out the best in opposing netminders, as Howard stopped 44 out of 46 shots in this game. He didn’t win tonight, but if Howard can keep this up, Detroit must like their chances. In the opposing crease, Antti Niemi was solid in a relatively light night of work, making 24 out of 25 saves.

Things began well for the Red Wings, as Pavel Datsyuk set up a Nicklas Lidstrom goal midway through the first period to give Detroit a 1-0 lead. Howard kept that lead intact through the second period despite the fact that the Sharks out-shot his team 18-7.

There was a give-and-take between Howard and Joe Pavelski, which probably shouldn’t be surprising since “The Big Pavelski” experienced his breakout 2010 playoff run during the teams’ semifinals series. Howard sent a few blows Pavelski’s way after the Sharks forward showered him with ice.

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Pavelski got the last laugh (in this game, at least) by scoring a power-play goal that revealed his world-class hand-eye coordination.

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The overtime period didn’t last very long, as the Red Wings killed off that double-minor shortly before that Ferriero goal. On a night when the Sharks didn’t get many bounces, they earned them on their two goals. That was especially true with the OT winner, as Ferriero sent a shot that deflected off Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart’s stick and into the Red Wings net.

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The outlook for both teams:

As usual, the Sharks created more scoring opportunities than their opponents but barely won. All negativity aside, though, they found a way to win their fourth overtime contest in only seven playoff games. It’s getting tougher and tougher to glue that choker label back on them, but many won’t be satisfied unless they win a Cup.

Both the Red Wings and Capitals lost tonight after hearty breaks from playoff action. Does that mean Detroit was rusty? You might call it that, but I cannot help but wonder if the real problem is their shaky defense. It’s possible that this game might have been lopsided if Howard wasn’t playing like the elite goalie he can often be.

Still, it’s just one game, something both teams are well aware of. The Sharks won in five games last year, but few would be surprised if this series ends up being lengthy. That might be tough on both sides in the long run, but it should be a great treat for fans considering how much talent each team boasts.

* – Then again, maybe overtime penalties are becoming more common. The Sharks were forced to kill part of a major penalty in overtime themselves while Vancouver Canucks forward Alex Burrows received a penalty in overtime of a Game 7.