HERNING, Denmark (AP) — The United States dominated host Denmark 4-0 for a second straight victory at the world ice hockey championship on Saturday.
The Czech Republic rallied from a goal down to beat Slovakia 3-2 in overtime, and South Korea’s debut at the championship was memorable for the wrong reason as it lost to Finland 8-1.
Also, France beat Belarus 6-2 to rebound from losing to Russia 7-0 on Friday in Group A in Copenhagen. Latvia outlasted Norway to win 3-2 in overtime, and Switzerland prevailed over Austria 3-2, also in overtime.
After an opening win over favorite Canada in a shootout, the U.S. had an easier time against Denmark.
After saving 40 shots against Canada, goalie Keith Kinkaid was outstanding again, finishing with a 20-shot shutout.
”I felt pretty sharp today,” Kinkaid said. ”Maybe even sharper than yesterday.”
Maple Leafs 4, Bruins 2 (Bruins lead series 2-1):Patrick Marleau scored a pair and Frederik Andersen made 40 saves in a must-win for the Maple Leafs. Boston had dominated both outings at TD Garden, with the Leafs giving up 12 goals over both games and forcing Mike Babcock to pull Anderson in the first period in Game 2 after allowing four goals on seven shots. Andersen was back between the pipes on Monday, and although he allowed two gifts early on, he settled in to aid in the win. Auston Matthews scored his first of the series and David Pastrnak was held pointless after his six-point outing on Saturday. In fact, the line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Pastrnak failed to record a point after putting up a whopping 20 over Games 1 and 2.
Devils 5, Lightning 2 (Lightning lead series 2-1): Speaking of teams needing a win and better goaltending… The Devils found themselves down 2-0 after allowing five goals in each of Game 1 and Game 2 in Florida. John Hynes elected to make a switch in net after Devils playoff starter Keith Kinkaid was yanked after 33 minutes in Game 2. Cory Schneider stopped 34-of-36 en route to his first win in 2018. Taylor Hall had a goal and two assists in the game.
Avalanche 5, Predators 3 (Predators lead series 2-1): Take a team that plays very well at home and a player who scores a lot of his points at home and you get a Colorado Avalanche win thanks to two goals by Nathan MacKinnon on Monday. The Avs scored three times in the first period. MacKinnon’s second of the game early in the second period stood as the game-winner.
Sharks 8, Ducks 1 (Sharks lead series 3-0): The Anaheim Ducks need a miracle after Monday’s embarrassment. After losing both games at home to the San Jose Sharks, the Ducks put up a stinker in Monday’s loss. John Gibson didn’t get any help and then he was pulled after allowing five on 24 shots. The Ducks looked disinterested after a while and the Sharks feasted as a result. Joonas Donskoi had a goal and two assists to lead the way. Martin Jones was stellar when called upon, stopping 45 of 46.
Patrick Marleau, Maple Leafs: Toronto needed someone to step up and it came through their elder statesman in Marleau, who notched a pair as the Maple Leafs rode to victory to help stave off a 3-0 deficit.
Taylor Hall, Devils: Hall scored unassisted to tie the game in 1-1 in the first period and then was the primary assist on Will Butcher‘s game-tying goal in the second and Stefan Noesen‘s eventual game-winner later in the period. A solid outing from the Hart Trophy candidate.
Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche: There’s a strong case to be made here for Martin Jones, who set a franchise record for a playoff game with 45 saves, but MacKinnon’s two goals propelled the Avs to a much-needed victory after coming into Monday’s action down 2-0 in their first-round series against the Predators. MacKinnon and the Avs have been money at Pepsi Center this season and that held true in their win on Monday. Sorry, Martin.
Washington Capitals at Columbus Blue Jackets, 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN) – Blue Jackets lead 2-0
Winnipeg Jets at Minnesota Wild, 8 p.m. ET (CNBC) – Jets lead 2-1
Vegas Golden Knights at Los Angeles Kings, 10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN) – Golden Knights lead 3-0
The Tampa Bay Lightning locked up a playoff spot before April even began, and the only real drama they faced boiled down to whether or not they’d win their division. The New Jersey Devils, meanwhile, scratched and clawed their way to their last game of the season.
Maybe that lack of urgency and Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s fatigue conspired to make the Bolts’ finish to 2017-18 a little less than inspiring? Tampa Bay went 5-4-1 in its last 10 games, as just one example, with Vasilevskiy and Nikita Kucherov losing significant ground in their respective trophy races.
The Lightning still finished atop the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference, going 54-23-5 for 113 standings points. The Devils finished one point ahead of the Florida Panthers for the East’s final wild card, generating 97 standings points on a 44-29-9 record.
Even with a less-than-spectacular finish to the season, the Lightning are heavy favorites. Tampa Bay ranks among the biggest favorites of any team in the first round on account of its strengths and the Devils’ perceived weaknesses.
Beyond the momentum angle, the Devils might pin their hopes on sweeping the season series against the Lightning. They won once in a shootout and twice in regulation. Maybe New Jersey matches up well with Tampa Bay?
Let’s break this series down.
Lightning: It’s easy to look at the Lightning as just the one-two punch of a successfully returning Steven Stamkos (27 goals, 86 points) and Kucherov, who hit the 100-point mark for the first time in his wildly underrated career. The frightening part is that it’s not even just about them, nor J.T. Miller in Vladislav Namestnikov‘s old spot.
This series might clue in casual hockey fans that Brayden Point is a rising star. He scored 32 goals and 66 points this season, doing so in sometimes spectacular ways:
Yanni Gourde would also receive way more Calder Trophy buzz in a normal season, as he scored 25 goals and 64 points. The Lightning also have some other nice forwards, including Tyler Johnson (21 goals, 50 points), Alex Killorn, and Ondrej Palat. It should be noted that, while Palat only scored 35 points, he was limited to 56 games.
The biggest injury question revolves around Stamkos, who missed some late-season games. Will he be 100 percent either by Game 1 or merely sometime in this series?
Devils: It’s well-publicized but true: the drop off from Taylor Hall (93 points) to the second-best Devils scorer (Nico Hischier, 52 points) is drastic.
Hall deservedly gets Hart Trophy buzz, and he’s the single player who could will the Devils to upset victories against the Bolts in his first-ever visit to the postseason.
It’s unfair to say that he’s the only weapon for New Jersey. Despite being limited to 62 games, Kyle Palmieri continues to be an under-the-radar gem, scoring 24 goals and 44 points. Patrick Maroon has been a boon via the trade deadline, collecting 13 points in 17 games with the Devils. Michael Grabner‘s been quiet, but his speed and skill could be useful in a short series, especially with the motivation of a contract year hanging over his head.
Advantage: Lightning. Few teams possess the arsenal that Tampa Bay boasts.
Lightning:Victor Hedman may very well win the Norris Trophy this season. You can argue until your face turns blue over who deserves that nod, but he certainly earned the right to be in the discussion, generating 63 points in 77 games while playing great defense.
Mikhail Sergachev might be a work in progress, yet his offense is already formidable, as the rookie collected 40 points this season despite modest ice time (15:21 minutes per game). They can enjoy the best of both worlds as they protect him and then deploy him for scoring situations.
Ryan McDonagh is still adjusting to Tampa Bay. This is the time they got him for, as he could be a key piece in matchups. He’s joined by other former Rangers Anton Stralman and Dan Girardi, though the Lightning probably want to limit Girardi’s exposure (even after a relatively decent season).
Devils: New Jersey still looks weak on defense on paper, but credit the Devils with adding some talent in that area.
Sami Vatanen is developing into a workhorse for the Devils, averaging 22:44 per game while scoring 28 points in 57 games. Will Butcher has a ways to go in his own end, but he already generated 44 points in his first NHL season.
Lightning: Andrei Vasilevskiy may still be a Vezina finalist, and it’s easy to see why with a 44-17-3 record, .920 save percentage, and eight shutouts. He’s also proven himself in postseason play before, generating that same .920 save percentage in 12 career playoff appearances.
His recent play is the elephant in the room, as he admitted himself to fatigue late in 2017-18. Consider that he generated a brilliant .931 save percentage in 41 games before the All-Star break, only to slide to a bad-backup-level .902 save percentage in 24 games after the break.
Devils: With Cory Schneider seemingly at a career crisis, the Devils turned to Keith Kinkaid. Kinkaid proved unexpectedly sturdy for New Jersey, producing a four-game winning streak to help them lock down that playoff spot, and also generating a .913 save percentage over 41 appearances.
Advantage: Lightning, even though Vasilevskiy’s energy comes into question.
Lightning: The Bolts’ power play ranks among the NHL’s deadliest, boasting a 23.9-percent success rate on 66 power-play goals and just three shorthanded goals allowed. Their penalty kill struggled, however, with a PK% of just 76.1 percent, fourth-worst in the NHL (64 PPGA, nine shorthanded goals for).
Devils: New Jersey connected on 21.4 percent of its power plays, good for 54 PPG and six SHGA. They excelled on the PK, tying for seventh in the NHL by killing 81.8 percent of their penalties (47 power-play goals allowed, 12 shorthanded goals scored).
Advantage: Devils, as they mix a very nice power play with one of the better PK units, especially when you consider how dangerous they are with 12 shorthanded goals. That said, the Lightning’s power play is so dominant, it might make that balance irrelevant.
Lightning: Is Vasilevskiy going to be anywhere close to his best self or his tank truly empty? This Lightning team is balanced and dangerous at the top, but bad goaltending can submarine even the strongest teams.
Devils: Taylor Hall in his first playoff series. It’s a great story, and there’s a solid chance that he’ll be the best player on the ice. Could he be such a force that he tilts this series in New Jersey’s favor?
Lightning in five games. The Bolts possess the top-heavy talent to nullify Taylor Hall, and even if they lose that battle, they’re likely to dominate from a depth perspective. Vasilevskiy also gives them an advantage in net … at least on paper.
If you’re a Devils fan grumbling right now, consider this: New Jersey seems to thrive on defying the odds. Why not do it in the first round, too?
NEWARK — The New Jersey Devils saw all of your preseason predictions placing them in last place (*raises hand*). That helped fuel this season’s mantra — New Jersey Devils vs. Everybody — that they continue to carry into Game 81 — a game where they can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
While you’d think the “Us Against the World” mentality would have subsided a bit as the Devils played their way into the Eastern Conference playoff picture and Taylor Hall played his way into the MVP conversation, but it’s business as usual as they look to extend their season beyond this weekend.
“It hasn’t changed. It’s just keep doing the same thing,” head coach John Hynes said after Thursday’s morning skate. “It’s not about that. We have to make sure that we’re ready to play a game tonight and get to our identity and really test ourselves against a real good team.”
As the Devils began to exceed expectations, the tenseness of the playoff race saw them slip up in January where they went 3-6-2 as the calendar turned to 2018. The team had a talk, and the overriding message to the players was to start having fun and not allow the pressure to get to them.
“It just seemed to be from the start of training camp we we’re all in on what we had to do,” said Hall. “Last year was a bit of an eye opener for all of us here at the organization, not just the players, but the coaching staff. We all kind of took a step back and figured out what we had to do better.”
Things began to change in the middle of February, as did Hall’s season, which went from strong to Hart Trophy-worthy.
[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]
The 26-year-old Hall has never played postseason hockey, and following years of disappointment in Edmonton, Thursday night that can all change.
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s what we wanted at the start of the season,” said Hall. “Coming into the season, if you were to tell me that Game 81 we’d be playing in a clinching game, I would have taken that in a heartbeat. It’s really exciting for our group, for our organization and for our fanbase. It’s been a fun ride so far this year and the improvements that we’ve made as a team, and you’re seeing individuals improve over the course of a year as well, it’s really exciting for our franchise.”
From Hall to the rookie campaigns of Will Butcher and Nico Hischier to Keith Kinkaid saving the season after Cory Schneider’s injury to Brian Boyle’s come back from an early-season cancer diagnosis, there are many different stories to pick from the 2017-18 Devils season. Now, for the first time since they went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012, they’re on the verge of being back in the playoffs, a place they feel they deserve to be.
“We’ve worked hard. We’ve earned our spot so far,” said Boyle. “But nothing’s done yet. We’ve got a really good team that’s coming in here and we have a big challenge tonight.”