For the Boston Bruins and Anaheim Ducks, a loss last night would have put them on the brink of elimination. Both teams managed to prevent that with one-goal victories over the Montreal Canadiens and Los Angeles Kings respectively.
Teemu Selanne, 43, came up big for the Ducks with a power-play goal late in the second period while Matt Fraser, two decades Selanne’s junior, was the hero in Boston. Fraser netted the overtime winner in an otherwise scoreless contest.
Boston is now tied with the Canadiens at 2-2 while Anaheim remains a game behind the Kings. Neither of those series will end until Monday at the earliest, but the first member of the Conference Finals might be established tonight.
Game 5: New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins [Pittsburgh leads series 3-1] (7:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)
The Rangers took Game 1 of this series and since then, almost nothing has worked out for them. They were shutout in two straight contests and weren’t able to manage a sustained effort in their 4-2 loss to the Penguins on Wednesday.
New York isn’t lacking in top-end talent, but for the most part the team’s best guys haven’t been able to step up. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh, in coach Alain Vigenault’s words, “obviously … hasn’t played very well.”
He has just one point in the 2014 playoffs while Rick Nash is still searching for his first goal. Rangers fans let their frustration out on the 29-year-old forward by booing him during Game 4.
“We may not look it, but we’re trying our guts off here,” Vigneault insisted.
Perhaps fatigue has gotten the better to them. They only recently completed a stretch of five games in seven days. It’s moot now though. One more loss and they’ll get all the rest they need – and they certainly won’t want the breather then.
Game 4: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota Wild [Chicago leads series 2-1] (9:30 p.m. ET — NBCSN)
The Blackhawks cruised to victory in the first two games of this series to extend their winning streak to six games. Despite Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville warning that the Wild couldn’t be taken lightly, it looked like Chicago would cruise to the Western Conference Final.
Then Minnesota scored four unanswered goals in the third period of Tuesday’s contest to make this a series again. Chicago forward Patrick Kane suggested that his team might have gotten overconfident and that loss served as a “wake up call.” The Wild will try to prove it was more than that tonight.
As has been the case for Minnesota all season though, it won’t be that simple. The Wild are expected to once again adjust to a major injury as forward Matt Moulson is doubtful with a lower-body injury. Matt Cooke is eligible to return after serving his seven-game suspension and will almost certainly be in the lineup if Moulson can’t play.
Minnesota was 26-10-5 at home in the regular season and hasn’t lost a game at the Xcel Energy Center in the 2014 postseason. If the Wild can maintain their dominance at home, then they still have a shot in this series.