Wednesday kicked off the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs with plenty of excitement and more than a little bit of controversy. Honestly, it was kind of hard to believe that there were only three contests because each series began with all guns blazing. So what does Thursday’s quartet of Game 1’s have in store? Jeremy Roenick and Bill Patrick broke them down for your viewing pleasure:This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
1. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
Vasilevskiy will still be stopping pucks when he goes to sleep tonight.
The Washington Capitals fired 58 shots in the direction of the young Russian superstar netminder. He stopped 54, which was enough (and more than should have been required) in a 5-4 overtime win.
Vasilevskiy is well on his way to winning the Vezina this season, and Wednesday was just another brilliant performance in what’s been a season full of them.
2. Loui Eriksson, Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks had a 5-0 lead in the third period before the Ottawa Senators scored four unanswered to claw their way back into the game. Eriksson provided an assist on Horvat’s 6-4 goal and then scored the 7-4 marker to put the game out of reach.
Eriksson’s season isn’t much to write home about, but he had a solid night on Wednesday.
3. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
A Vezina runner up last season, Hellebuyck’s season hasn’t mirrored that this time around. He’s been solid lately, despite a tough start to the year, and getting his first shutout of the season is a monkey off his back.
Resting Hellebuyck is something the Jets are doing in the last couple of weeks here. He didn’t play Monday and won’t play against the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday, either, with the Jets electing to save him for a pivotal matchup against the Nashville Predators in Winnipeg on Saturday night.
Highlights of the night
This passing is unfair:
One-hopper to perfection:
Pretty tip on this one:
Don’t give Victor Hedman all day:
Maple Leafs 4, Sabres 2
Lightning 5, Capitals 4 (OT)
Canucks 7, Senators 4
Jets 3, Ducks 0
The Winnipeg Jets have fallen victim of the bad-team bug a few times this season.
They lost twice to the Ottawa Senators inside one week earlier this year, twice to the Colorado Avalanche in the same time frame and once to the Arizona Coyotes, who weren’t quite yet on the run they’re now in February.
So coming into this road trip late in the season, where they’d play the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks in two of the three games, there was a reason to be worried they’d get caught in the trap.
The good news for the team is that hasn’t been the case this time out. They beat Los Angeles on Monday and put together a 3-0 win against the Ducks on NBCSN on Wednesday Night Hockey for their fourth straight win after a 29-save shutout from Connor Hellebuyck, his first of the season.
Winnipeg is now three points up on the second-place Nashville Predators with a game in hand and a big meeting with their rivals on Saturday back in Winnipeg — a game that could decide the division if Winnipeg can get the win.
First, however, they’ll have to play the streaking Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night in Sin City. For the most part, they didn’t expend too much energy in their Wednesday win, so there should still be some gas left in the tank.
Hellebuyck’s is unlikely to start against Vegas, with the Jets looking like they’ll rest their No. 1 for Saturday’s pivotal big game against the Predators, but he had a relatively easy night. Laurent Brossoit, Winnipeg’s’ exceptional backup, should get the call.
Winnipeg’s defense has been decimated down the stretch, with no Dustin Byfuglien, no Josh Morrissey and now no Nathan Beaulieu, a trade deadline acquisition that was thrust into a top-pairing role. Beaulieu missed the game because of an undisclosed injury, making an already thin blue line that much thinner.
Given all their injuries on the back end, the shutout performance by the team is remarkable, even against the Ducks. Winnipeg is slated to get Big Buff and Morrissey back in time for the playoffs, which is critical if they’re to make a deep run once again.
Kyle Connor has a goal and an assist for the second straight game for the Jets. The sophomore has 12 points in his past 14 games.
The Ducks, who came into the game winners of six of their past night, seemed more interested in pestering the Jets rather than playing hockey against them. They didn’t give up six first period goals this time around, or lose 9-3. So that was an improvement over their last meeting.
Like many nights this season, this wasn’t Anaheim’s. If nothing else, the loss helps their lottery chances. All the winning they’ve been doing lately hasn’t helped, however.
Elias Pettersson has been a revelation in Vancouver this season, a source of hope for long-suffering Canucks fans who haven’t had much to cheer about in recent years.
Petterson notched an assist on Markus Granlund‘s second-period goal and that moved him past the great Pavel Bure for the team’s rookie points record with his 61st point in what will likely end in a Calder-winning season for the young rookie.
Pettersson added another assist later in the period. He’ll surely extend that record before seasons’ end. He’s currently on 27 goals and 63 points in 63 games. He’d likely be closer to 80 at this point if not for an ugly hit early on in the season and another injury right after the New Year.
Vancouver could be a scary team in a few years, and Pettersson will be leading that charge.
For now, they have one of the NHL’s brightest young players who should bring back a shiny piece of hardware to British Columbia come June.
It was going to take a Herculean effort from the Washington Capitals to somehow beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second half of a back to back. And man, did they ever deliver one.
But even that wasn’t enough to beat the insanely good Lightning, who recovered from 56 shots against in regulation and a game-tying goal with 57 seconds left in the third period to find a way to their sixth straight win.
The game-winner came courtesy of a Victor Hedman deke. It was pretty.
Tampa is now just five wins away from matching the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for most victories in the regular season at 62. Given that the Lightning at 18-2-0 in their past 20 games, it’s completely acceptable to believe they can do this. With the Presidents’ Trophy already sewn up, the Lightning have eight games now to find five wins — six if they want the record all to themselves.
I’d bet the house on it. Both matching it and surpassing it.
It was a heartbreaking loss for the Capitals, who still managed to pick up a point to increase their lead in the Metropolitan Division to three points on the New York Islanders.
That Herculean effort included a total of 58 shots fired at Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was his usual, totally unfair self in this one. In typical Vasilevskiy fashion, he made easy saves look easy and hard saves look much the same. And he set a franchise record doing it, with his 54 saves the most in a game, surpassing the 48 Ben Bishop made back in 2014.
The game was also a clinic in why special teams matter so much.
When you’re given six power-play opportunities against the far-and-away best team in the NHL — on the second half of a back to back to boot — you need to take advantage.
The Capitals couldn’t, going just 1-for-6 in the game while the Lightning were a perfect 3-for-3, typical of the team with the best man-advantage in the league.
After taking a 1-0 lead in the first period, the Lightning scored three unanswered before Carl Hagelin stopped the bleeding. That goal was quickly followed up by T.J. Oshie‘s 22nd of the season to tie the game back up.
The deadlock lasted all of 1:21 thanks to a passing play that was equal parts filthy and beautiful.
The Capitals rested Braden Holtby in their Tuesday win against the Devils. Holtby’s effort could have been better after allowing five goals on 28 shots.
Another seven-game series between these two would be good fun.
More things Tampa did tonight:
- Established a franchise record for road wins in a single season (26).
- Became the eighth team in NHL history to post four or more separate winning streaks of at least six games.