Tag: game recaps

Joe Thornton

Another choking label erased? Joe Thornton, Sharks take series with dramatic OT win


Indulge me for one moment and picture the laziest heckler in the world. This person doesn’t get to watch every game, but knows enough about final results to christen players as “chokers” or “heroes.”

That person must be awfully unhappy right now. In the span of one round, the Washington Capitals and San Jose Sharks – two teams who are choke joke staples – didn’t just win their series, they showed serious guts in the process.

Nothing could be more symbolic than Joe Thornton (perhaps the most scrutinized player in the NHL) scoring the overtime game-winner that sent the Sharks to the second round.

San Jose 4, Los Angeles 3 (OT); Sharks win series 4-2

While the Sharks frequently dominated the play from a scoring chances standpoint in this series, the Kings deserve a lot of credit for making it a tough grind for San Jose. This series went to overtime three different times (all wins by San Jose), including the Sharks’ historic comeback. In other words, this series was much closer than I predicted.

Before we get into the impact for both squads, let’s take a look at the game itself.

The first and second periods:

Jonathan Quick was brilliant in the first period, keeping the score 0-0 despite the fact that the Sharks out-shot the Kings 16-5.

Kyle Wellwood defied all the Internet’s fat jokes by putting in a rebound to make it 1-0 for the Sharks early in the second period. Justin Williams was able to tie the game up on the back end of a double-minor power play that probably shouldn’t have happened because it wasn’t Joe Thornton’s stick that ended up knocking out Brad Richardson’s teeth. (Yes, you read that last bit correctly.)

Jason Demers scored his second goal of the playoffs by roofing it past Quick to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead heading into the final frame.

The third period and overtime:

The Kings just wouldn’t die in this game, which makes it a microcosm of their hearty work in the series. Ryan Smyth scored a rebound goal just 18 seconds into the third thanks to a nice setup by Jarret Stoll.

Dany Heatley hasn’t exactly been a major factor in this series, but he did give the Sharks a 3-2 lead thanks to a wicked wrist shot. Los Angeles didn’t roll over after that one, either, as Trevor Lewis scored his first career playoff goal to make it 3-3.

The remaining moments were dominated by a couple boneheaded penalties. The first one involved a Drew Doughty high-stick/cross-check to the face of Devin Setoguchi, a hit that might draw some league attention.

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The outcome of this game lessened the impact of the second call, but it was still a huge moment when referees handed Jamie McGinn a five minute major penalty and game misconduct for charging. There’s little doubt that it was a charge, but many hockey fans wondered if it was an extreme call considering the fact that it was made late in a big game. The Sharks were able to kill that penalty, with 3:23 of the shorthanded time in regulation and 1:37 in overtime.

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Ultimately, the Sharks killed the penalty and Thornton put home that series-winning rebound goal 2:22 into overtime and then delighted the hockey world with his victory slide.

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What it means for San Jose, Los Angeles

The Sharks continue to look like a “different” team, a point underscored by their comeback win and three away wins in the series. They should feel great about their offense, with Antti Niemi and their occasional lapses in discipline being their biggest concerns.

The Kings still haven’t won a playoff series since 2001, but it’s still safe to describe them as up-and-comers. The team is strong on defense, promising in net and just an asset or two away from being dangerous on offense. This loss will hurt for some time, but they have something to build on after giving a great team a run for their money.

Steve Downie scores three points in 4-2 Lightning win, Tampa Bay forces Game 7

Sean Bergenheim, Steve Downie

Make no mistake about it, this is a great time to be a hockey fan. There will be two Game 7 showdowns on Tuesday and thanks to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, there will be at least one more on Wednesday.

The Lightning won thanks to Steve Downie’s one-goal, two assist night and a 27-save Dwayne Roloson performance, setting up a decisive Game 7.

Tampa Bay 4, Pittsburgh 2; Series tied 3-3.

Pascal Dupuis began the scoring about eight minutes into the first period, but Teddy Purcell banged a rebound home to send the first period to a 1-1 tie. Sean Bergenheim scored the only tally of the second period, sending Tampa Bay into the third with a 2-1 lead. Jordan Staal scored his first goal of the playoffs with a great shot to tie things up 2-2, but that’s when the game turned on its head.

Roloson made an enormous, highlight-reel save right after allowing that tying goal and then Downie answered Staal’s goal with the game-winner a bit more than a minute later. He barely slipped the puck under Marc-Andre Fleury to collect a rebound goal.

Ryan Malone made his fair share of mistakes, including taking a third period penalty, but he ended up putting the exclamation point on Tampa Bay’s win by scoring with a slap shot on a partial breakaway. Malone told Versus that he just “closed his eyes” and hoped it would go in. He ended up with a goal and a primary assist in the game.

Two experienced goalies in different spots

While Fleury didn’t give up a bunch of goals like he did in Pittsburgh’s two other losses, there still might be some question about his mindset after this game. Fleury allowed four goals on just 21 shots. Of course, “The Flower” received plenty of criticism at times during the Penguins’ 2009 playoff run, yet most people just remember his Cup-clinching save against Nicklas Lidstrom in Game 7 of the finals.

Tampa Bay probably doesn’t share the same worries with their hot-and-cold goalie. Roloson stopped 27 of the 29 shots he faced, pushing his record in elimination games to a startling 5-0. (Beyond being a solid goalie, Roloson did this without ever winning a Stanley Cup because he was injured in the first game of the Edmonton Oilers’ Cup finals series against the Carolina Hurricanes and was demoted in a goalie rotation during his days with the Minnesota Wild.)

Looking ahead

While Tampa Bay’s comeback after being down 3-1 isn’t quite on par with the Chicago Blackhawks’ turnaround, it’s still an impressive feat. Of course, it won’t mean much if they cannot complete the task, as they must beat the playoff-proven Penguins in Pittsburgh on Game 7.

Naturally, we’ll break that game down before and after it takes place on Wednesday. Stay tuned.

Flyers put together 5-4 comeback win as Ville Leino’s OT goal forces Game 7

Ville Leino, Ryan Miller

If you want an interesting microcosm of everything that’s right and wrong about the Philadelphia Flyers, today’s resourceful 5-4 overtime Game 6 win over the Buffalo Sabres might be ideal.

On the bad side, you have Michael Leighton’s laughably bad first period. Even people who expected the goalie to look rusty were probably surprised to see him allow three awful goals on only eight shots in one period of duty. Another ugly element of the game was Mike Richards’ hit on Tim Connolly. Richards sent Connolly head-first into the boards with a check from behind but only received a two-minute minor penalty.

Before you roll your eyes at the complaint that Richards didn’t get booted out of the game, chew on this: he was on the ice for Philadelphia’s game-tying and game-winning goals. Then again, that love-it-or-hate-it style suits the Flyers really well, as they found to way a win thanks to their deep reservoir of quality forwards.

Philadelphia 5, Buffalo 4 (OT); Series tied at 3-3.

Ville Leino scored a goal that felt a little like a grittier version of Nathan Horton’s OT winner against the Montreal Canadiens last night. Leino found himself on the doorstep when a rebound bounced his way and the Sabres’ defense couldn’t react quickly enough to keep him from scoring that sudden death tally.

The Flyers fell behind 2-0, 3-1 and 4-3 in this game but came back every time. This marks the second straight game in which this series went to overtime, but this time Philly came through with their season on the line.

There will be some controversy over the Richards hit for sure; in fact, there might even be a suspension if the league’s feeling courageous (though we wouldn’t bet on it). You can decide for yourself if the Richards hit is suspension-worthy by watching this video of two big hits: Richards on Connolly and Tyler Myers on Kris Versteeg.

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Ultimately, it almost seems proper that this series will go to the limit. After all, every game in this series was decided by one goal (discounting one Philly empty-netter). Each team now has two regulation wins and one overtime victory each. It’s been an even-matched and increasingly contentious series, so Game 7 should be an absolute blast to watch.

Here’s Ville Leino’s game-winning goal in overtime.

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Game 7 outlook

On one hand, the Flyers realize that they can come back from some formidable odds. They managed to tie Game 5 up after falling behind 3-0 but lost in overtime, yet this time around, they were able to dig themselves out of a 3-1 first period hole.

Even if they’ve shown the resiliency to fight back after falling behind, it’s obvious that the Flyers would like to avoid this situation in Game 7. Some might expect a goalie controversy after Leighton’s flop, but with two relief wins, it would be very surprising to see anyone but Boucher in net.

(You really never know when it comes to the Flyers and their goalies, though.)

One thing seems clear, at least if Game 6 is any indication: Chris Pronger simply isn’t healthy enough to be a significant contributor for the Flyers right now. His time on ice was just 4:33 in Game 6.

The funny thing about this series is that Philadelphia receives all this criticism, yet Buffalo has problems of their own. It’s probably unfair to throw Ryan Miller under the bus (he stopped 44 out of 49 shots), but their defense deserves some serious scrutiny.

Buffalo blew a three-goal lead in Game 5 before winning in OT and three different leads in this loss. As dangerous as the Flyers might be, that remains unacceptable for a team hoping to make a dark horse run in the 2011 playoffs.

There are plenty of questions on both sides, but all that does is set up what should be a thrilling Game 7 confrontation. Will the Flyers force their way to the second round or will the Sabres mildly upset the second seed? Either way, the biggest winners are hockey fans.