Tag: game recaps

Alex Ovechkin, Ryan Malone, Dominic Moore

Tampa Bay rides Game 7 momentum, beats Washington 4-2 in Game 1

With stars like Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos on each side, the marquee matchups dominated much of the talk going into tonight’s Game 1. While Stamkos ended up notching the game-winner, it turned out that Tampa Bay’s lesser known players came up big, too.

The Lightning carried their first round momentum into this contest, winning their fourth playoff game in a row and boosting their away record to 4-0 in the postseason. The Capitals weren’t outright atrocious, but a dull output might be equally troubling.

Tampa Bay 4, Washington 2; Lightning lead series 1-0

Sean Bergenheim continues to provide some much-appreciated depth scoring for the Lightning. He scored a goal about two minutes into the game, which brings his goal-scoring streak to three games and his overall points streak to five (four goals and one assist).

The Capitals were one of the best teams in the NHL at bouncing back from early deficits, so it wasn’t that surprising when Alexander Semin tied it up less than two minutes later. Things got that much worse for the Lightning when speedy sniper Simon Gagne needed help getting off the ice after a hard, but legal hit by Scott Hannan. It seems like Gagne is “OK” but he didn’t return during Game 1 and his status will be re-evaluated on Saturday.

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Brooks Laich appeared to give the Capitals 2-1 a lead, but as you can see from the video, he clearly kicked the puck in. The game ended up tied 1-1 heading into the first intermission.

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The Capitals didn’t take long to make that 2-1 lead a reality as Eric Fehr finished off a nice face-off play by burying a one-timer after a nice setup by Jason Chimera. The Capitals managed to hold that lead for much of the second period, but a few mistakes caused them to lose their final lead of the game.

Tampa Bay takes advantage of Washington’s mistakes

Steve Downie continues his metamorphosis from a player who only delivered little but dirty hits to a poor man’s Corey Perry in Tampa Bay. He’s still an agitating force, but you must respect his offensive ability. Downie tied the game up at 2-2 and his one-goal, one-assist Game 1 makes him the team’s leading postseason scorer with nine points.

Chimera took an ill-timed penalty late in the second period, opening the door for Stamkos to jam home a rebound with about 30 seconds left in the middle frame. That ended up being the game-winner for Tampa Bay.

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The Lightning defense holds strong

Guy Boucher’s 1-3-1 scheme and his team’s overall defense improved as the game went on. The Lightning allowed 14 shots on goal in the first period, nine in the second and only five while protecting that one-goal lead in the third. Perhaps all the discussion of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ putrid first round PP obscured just how efficient the Bolts’ PK was, as they kept the Capitals’ man advantage off the board in all five opportunities.

Dominic Moore capped a great high-effort game by scoring an empty-net goal while out-hustling Alex Ovechkin, who made Moore earn that tally by dropping him shortly thereafter.

Looking forward

Boucher pointed out all the pressure on the Capitals going into Game 1. The Bolts can feel even looser in Game 2 after taking at least one contest on the road. Tampa Bay wasn’t perfect – Brett Clark was particularly bad, turning the puck over on Semin’s goal – but they should be pleased with themselves right now.

The Capitals seemed flat in this game, perhaps due to the dangerous combination of too much time off and too much praise for a gritty first round performance. The Rangers series tested their willingness to fight, but the Lightning will make Washington prove that they can really play lock-down defense.

Every round of the playoffs force teams to prove themselves once more, so we’ll learn a lot about the East’s top seed by how they respond in Game 2.

Dwayne Roloson steals spotlight, shuts out Penguins in Game 7

Tampa Bay Lightning v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Seven
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Going into this series, the story was that the Tampa Bay Lightning held a big advantage in the “star players” category, so Marc-Andre Fleury would need to save the day for the Pittsburgh Penguins. As it turns out, the hockey world should have focused on the other goalie in this series: Dwayne Roloson.

Roloson ended up being one of – if not the – biggest difference makers in Tampa Bay’s comeback from a 3-1 series deficit, underscoring his perfect record in elimination games with a 36-save shutout. (Roloson is now 6-0 in elimination games.)

Tampa Bay 1, Pittsburgh 0; Lightning win series 4-3

This year’s first round seemed to favor road teams, but that trend ended in Game 7s. The Lightning were actually the only away team to win in Game 7, as the Flyers, Canucks and Bruins all took care of business in their buildings when it mattered the most.

In a way, they also beat the Penguins at their own game. The Lightning beat the Penguins by scores of 4-2, 8-2 and 5-0 in their other wins while two of Pittsburgh’s three wins came by one goal. The thing is, anyone who followed the Lightning know that the team has been committed to defense, at least schematically. Just ask Patrick Roy about the defensive-minded tendencies of Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher.

The game’s only goal might be one of the weirdest of the playoffs because Sean Bergenheim scored nearly the same exact way in Game 6. Compare the two goals for yourself.

Bergenheim’s Game 7 goal:

Bergenheim’s Game 6 goal:

Weird, huh?

Ultimately, the Penguins couldn’t overcome Roloson’s outstanding goaltending, Tampa Bay’s superior offensive talent and the Lightning’s passable overall defense.

The outlook for both teams

The Lightning should feel great about themselves, although they face a much more balanced team in the top-ranked Washington Capitals. Obviously, these two teams know each other well after facing each other six times and battling it out for the Southeast Division title. Washington will be well rested and holds home ice advantage, but Tampa Bay should be much looser since the Caps will be under far greater pressure to succeed. Washington won’t see a huge advantage in star power, either, especially with Martin St. Louis remaining perhaps the league’s least-discussed superstar (four goals and four assists for eight points against Pittsburgh). Something tells me that if Steven Stamkos is even close to healthy, he’ll gladly try to one-up Alex Ovechkin.

That series will also feature an interesting goalie duel between 41-year-old Roloson and Michal Neuvirth/whichever early 20’s goalie the Capitals trot out.

Meanwhile, the Penguins must cope with mixed feelings. On the negative side, they failed to make it past the first round for the first time since the Ottawa Senators clobbered them in 2007. It hurts that much more because they used their guile to build a 3-1 series lead against Tampa Bay. Obviously, Pittsburgh will look back on their 1-for-35 mess of a power play and wonder “What if?”

I don’t think I’m alone in giving Pittsburgh a partial pass, to some extent, though. The team stayed relevant during the second half of the 2010-11 season because of hard work (and a decent sampling of charity points, by the way) but clearly missed the firepower of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

If Crosby and Malkin can eventually be healthy during the 2011-12 season, they’ll join a team that is among the NHL’s leaders in elbow grease. Once the pain of coughing up that series lead subsides, Penguins fans can daydream about Crosby/Malkin setting up James Neal for one-timers next season.

Those visions might look a lot like the feeds St. Louis sends to Stamkos, actually.

Bruins need overtime to kill off Canadiens in Game 7, will face more demons in Round 2

Nathan Horton, Adam McQuaid, Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic

Much like the Vancouver Canucks last night, the Boston Bruins didn’t shake off the Montreal Canadiens in the prettiest way possible. This Game 7 match fits this gripping, up-and-down series like a glove. Even though it took three overtime wins and plenty of nervous moments, the B’s will play in the second round thanks to Nathan Horton’s second overtime game-winner of the series.

Although the Bruins got one longer term monkey off their backs by beating their historical rivals, they will face another ghost of their playoff past in the second round against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Boston 4, Montreal 3 (OT); Bruins win series 4-3

Even though Boston won, both teams seemed to thrive in their preexisting roles in elimination games. The Bruins kept shooting themselves in the foot, making mental errors to cough up 2-0 and 3-2 leads. Montreal remained defiant in desperate moments, as they scored timely goals and Carey Price made astounding saves.

Give the Bruins credit, though. They kept their heads down and wouldn’t let some tough breaks sap their energy, ultimately overwhelming their hated opponents at home.

Boston builds, then squanders lead in first and second periods

The Bruins came out humming in Game 7. Defenseman Johnny Boychuk and 43-year-old wonder Mark Recchi made it 2-0 in a two minute span in the first period before Habs coach Jacques Martin wisely calmed his team down with a timeout.

Much like in Game 6, mental errors plagued the Bruins throughout this game. Yannick Weber scored an absolutely brilliant power-play goal to make it 2-1, which is the way the first period would end.

The Bruins’ abysmal power play (0 for 21 in the series) reared its ugly head in the second period, as Tomas Plekanec added injury to the insult by scoring a shorthanded goal. Yup, that means the Bruins’ PP was actually a -1 in this series.

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Boston can’t kill off Montreal until OT

To little surprise, the third period was full of drama. One of the carryover stories from this game will be the suspension debate regarding Andrew Ference’s hit on Habs forward Jeff Halpern. Decide for yourself if Ference deserves supplementary discipline for the hit (he didn’t get a penalty in the game, if that matters).

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The Chris Kelly-Rich Peverley-Michael Ryder line hasn’t been together very long, but they seem to work incredibly well together. Kelly scored another big goal to give the Bruins a 4-3 lead, but it wouldn’t last.

Say what you want about cocky Canadiens rookie P.K. Subban, he’s clearly a special talent. Subban rifled a one-timer through Thomas for a power-play goal, the Habs’ third special teams tally (two on the PP, one on the PK).

Despite some tense moments, the Bruins were spot-on in overtime for the third time in this series. Once again, it was Horton, who scored his second overtime-winner of the first round to win it for Boston.

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The outlook for both teams

The Bruins won, but they face some serious questions. Becoming the first time to win a seven game series without a PP goal isn’t something to be proud about. They also struggled protecting leads, as they coughed up two in this game. They cannot expect to go deep in the playoffs without improving on special teams and they need to avoid taking bad penalties, as well.

One of the areas they don’t need to worry about is the play of Tim Thomas, as their Vezina Trophy candidate made 34 out of 37 saves in Game 7.

While the Habs must feel great sadness about this defeat, they were tough to finish off once again. Price might not have won a series, but he silenced just about anyone who wondered why the team went with him instead of Jaroslav Halak. Montreal’s top line also grossly outplayed Boston’s, although some will forget that after watching those two Horton OT winners.

So both teams had some pluses and minuses to look at, but Boston overcame their historical headache. Will they also avenge their 2010 collapse against the Flyers? We’ll find out in Round 2.