Five Thoughts: Breaking down some goodies from Canucks-Sharks Game 1

Now that we’ve got one game of each series under our belts it’s high time we overanalyzed what we saw for both games and panic about what we saw for both losers… Right? OK so we’re not about to do that, but we do have some thoughts about last night.

1. It was quite the juxtaposition for both Vancouver and San Jose last night. One team was overly rested up while the other was still working off the hangover of a grueling seven game series. The game played out pretty much the way you’d figure. Both teams came out cautious but full of energy but as the game wore down, the Sharks got tired and Vancouver took over. I doubt the rest of the series will play out similarly but this first game was one that Vancouver had to lock down in retrospect. Not beating San Jose while they were gassed would’ve been a very bad omen for Vancouver.

Instead, Vancouver gets their “gimmie” game and in comeback manner too. San Jose will be thankful to get the extra day off between Games 1 and 2 and they’ll be better prepared in Game 2 on Wednesday night.

2. Seeing the Sedin twins get things going in Game 1 was a great sign for Vancouver and very much expected to see. While San Jose is a great team, they’re not as defensively dedicated as the Nashville Predators were. The Preds made it their mission to shutdown the twins and they followed through with that with such zeal it’s a point of pride for them. San Jose isn’t going to lock in on them the same way, however.

I know that sounds like the Sharks will have problems with Henrik and Daniel if they do things that way, but the Sharks have their own sets of scorers and playmakers the Canucks will have to deal with as well. Everyone is going to get their opportunities to swing the series and it’s just a matter of cashing in on them. It just turned out that everyone we pointed to that had something to prove in these finals all came through in Game 1.

3. I’m sure we were all a bit relieved to see Maxim Lapierre get busted for diving late in the third period while trying to sell a Dan Boyle holding penalty. Vancouver’s been guilty of diving more than a few times throughout the playoffs and got away with it. Lapierre’s over-exaggerated sell job on a hold was both egregious and embarrassing. After all, if you’re being held, you don’t pirouette and fall to the ice.

It’s worth watching to see how both teams do with the diving as we’ve seen the Sharks pull off some fakery of their own throughout the playoffs. Let’s hope this doesn’t turn into an Italian soccer game with flops all over the ice to draw a call. This is one time where we’re OK with Colin Campbell flexing his authority if need be.

4. One thing the Sharks should be concerned about is that sagging third period. Sure, they came into last night’s game off a brutal series with Detroit and had just a couple days to prep for Vancouver, but this was their fourth straight bad third period effort going back to Game 5 against Detroit. It’s more than a trend right now for the Sharks and that slow, plodding effort has to change or else Vancouver is going to roll them out of the playoffs. Early intensity is great and putting opponents in that uncomfortable spot of having to fight back in games is good, but getting blitzed like that in the third period is no good.

5. If there was a team that has more questions to answer after their Game 1 loss it’s the Boston Bruins. While both the Bruins and Sharks showed some signs of things that could be worries further on in the playoffs, the way the Bruins were disposed of in Game 1 gives us more reason to be concerned for them. While its admirable that Claude Julien wanted to stick to his gameplan through Game 1, not adjusting to what Tampa Bay was throwing at them was the wrong call to make.

Yes, that three goal attack in the first period put them on their heels and changed the complexion of the game, but the Bruins didn’t generate anything else the rest of the way outside of what Tyler Seguin helped them do in his limited time on the ice. The Bruins will be better prepared tomorrow night in Game 2, but if Tampa Bay throws them any more curveballs, we worry that the Bruins will be stuck scrambling the rest of the series.

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    Thompson nets 4 in 1st, 5 overall, as Buffalo tops Columbus

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    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tage Thompson matched an NHL record by scoring four times in the first period and finished with five goals and an assist as the Buffalo Sabres won their third straight road game, 9-4 over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night.

    Thompson is the second U.S.-born player to score five goals in a game. He is the fourth player in NHL history to record four goals in the first period of a regular-season game, joining Peter Bondra (1994), Grant Mulvey (1982) and Joe Malone (1921). He is also the fourth active player to score five goals in a game, joining Timo Meier (Jan. 17, 2022), Mika Zibanejad (March 5, 2020) and Patrik Laine (Nov. 24, 2018).

    “It’s definitely a rewarding feeling,” Thompson said. “You’ve spent a lot of years working to get to this point and to be rewarded for it is a pretty good feeling and it just leaves you hungrier.”

    Thompson’s outburst helped Buffalo score six times in the first 16:40.

    “That was an amazing performance by Tage, and really, the whole group set the table,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “I thought the energy, the collective effort, the focus to start was really good and enabled that to happen.”

    Alex Tuch had a goal and three assists, Dylan Cozens added a power-play goal and two assists and Rasmus Dahlin finished with a goal and two assists. Peyton Krebs also scored. Jeff Skinner picked up four assists and Jacob Bryson had two. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 20 shots.

    Patrik Laine and Gustav Nyquist each scored twice for Columbus.

    Joonas Korpisalo stopped two shots before being pulled in the first in favor of Elvis Merzlikins, who stopped 15 shots through the second period. Korpisalo returned in the third and finished with six saves.

    Columbus has lost six straight home games and five of its last six overall.

    “We didn’t have an answer for that one line,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “Tage Thompson just tore us up tonight.”

    Buffalo dominated from the puck drop, scoring four goals on its first six shots.

    Cozens put the Sabres on the board at 3:21 of the first, 53 seconds into a Blue Jackets penalty, and Thompson made it 2-0 just 2:09 later. Dahlin scored Buffalo’s third goal at 7:28 of the first, driving Korpisalo from the net in favor of Merzlikins, who gave up Buffalo goal No. 4 to Thompson 32 seconds later.

    Thompson’s third career hat trick and second of the season came on a power-play goal at 12:22 of the first. He followed with his fourth goal, also on the power play, at 16:40.

    Columbus scored two goals in just over a minute, with Laine at 10:49 and Nyquist at 12:04, before Buffalo reeled off three straight in just over three minutes to end the period, including Thompson’s fifth, and goals by Krebs and Tuch.

    Laine and Nyquist scored in the third period for Columbus.

    STREAKING

    Cozens has 12 points in his last five games and is riding a career-best, five-game point streak. Thompson has eight goals and five assists in his last five games and 10 multi-point games. Dahlin has a five-game point and assist streak, and Gaudreau stretched his points streak to six games.

    NOTES: The Sabres joined the Kraken as the second team this season to score nine goals in a game. … Thompson is the second player in Buffalo history to have five goals in a game, joining Dave Andreychuk, who had five goals and an assist on Feb. 6, 1986.

    UP NEXT

    Buffalo: Hosts Pittsburgh on Friday.

    Columbus: Hosts Calgary on Friday.

    Ovechkin, Strome lead Capitals past struggling Flyers 4-1

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    PHILADELPHIA — Alex Ovechkin scored two empty-net goals, Dylan Strome had a goal and an assist and the Washington Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 on Wednesday night.

    T.J. Oshie also scored for the Capitals, who finished 3-3 on a six-game trip. Charlie Lindgren made 29 saves.

    Kevin Hayes scored for Philadelphia, which has lost 13 of 15 games. Carter Hart made 23 stops.

    Strome broke a 1-all tie with 10:41 remaining when he deflected John Carlson‘s shot from long range past Hart.

    Hayes had a golden opportunity to tie it on a Philadelphia power play, but Lindgren made a great right pad save on a try from close range with 8:20 remaining.

    Ovechkin iced it, scoring into an empty net with 1:35 left and adding another empty-netter with 8.2 seconds left for his 15th of the season. Ovechkin has 795 career goals, good for third all-time. He is six goals away from tying Gordie Howe for second place. Wayne Gretzky, with 894 goals, tops the list.

    Hayes scored his ninth goal of the season for his team-leading 28th point with 4:14 left in the first period to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Hayes rushed to the bench after breaking his stick on a slap shot attempt, and scored on a wrist shot from the high slot with his new stick.

    The Flyers had a power-play goal for the third straight game and have four overall in that stretch. Philadelphia, which began play ranked 30th in the NHL in scoring on the man advantage, now has converted 16.7% (14 of 84) of its chances.

    Oshie tied it 3:51 into the second on the Capitals’ fourth power play as the Flyers continued to take sloppy penalties. This time, James van Riemsdyk committed Philadelphia’s third tripping minor of the game. Oshie made them pay with his fifth goal of the season when he finished a nifty passing sequence with Strome and Evgeny Kuznetsov with a perfectly placed one-timer over Hart’s left shoulder.

    NOTES: Van Riemsdyk returned after missing the last 20 games due to a broken right index finger. . Flyers forward Tanner Laczynski was placed on injured reserve after departing midway through the third period of Monday’s 5-3 win over Colorado with what looked like an injury to his left leg. . Washington was without several injured players, including starting goalie Darcy Kuemper (upper body). Kuemper was with the team, but missed his second in a row. . Carlson had two assists. . Philadelphia’s Cam Atkinson, out all season with an upper body injury, has been practicing and is close to returning.

    UP NEXT

    Capitals: Host Seattle on Friday night.

    Flyers: Open four-game trip at Vegas on Friday night.

    Penguins prospect Sam Poulin taking leave of absence

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    PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins forward prospect Sam Poulin is taking a leave of absence from the club’s American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

    Penguins general manager Ron Hextall announced on Wednesday that the 21-year-old Poulin, Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in the 2019 draft, is stepping away due to “personal reasons.”

    “The Penguins support Sam’s decision to take time away from hockey to focus on himself,” Hextall said in a release. “As with all of our players, our priority is them as individuals first. We look forward to having him back with the team when he is ready.”

    Hextall said Poulin will return home to Quebec and continue to work out on his own.

    Poulin made his NHL debut in October and had one assist in three games before heading back to the AHL. Poulin had four goals in 13 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at the time of his decision.

    Nathan MacKinnon sidelined about a month with upper-body injury

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    DENVER — The injury-riddled Colorado Avalanche will be without leading scorer Nathan MacKinnon for about a month after he suffered an upper-body injury in a loss to Philadelphia.

    The team announced the news on social media.

    MacKinnon has eight goals and 26 assists for a team-best 34 points this season for the defending Stanley Cup champions. He joins a long list of banged-up players, including Valeri Nichushkin, Evan Rodrigues, Bowen Byram, Kurtis MacDermid, Josh Manson, Darren Helm and captain Gabriel Landeskog. Forward Artturi Lehkonen also missed the game in Philadelphia.

    The 27-year-old MacKinnon signed an eight-year extension in August. He was coming off a postseason in which he tied for the league lead with 13 goals, helping the Avalanche raise their third Stanley Cup in franchise history.