Henrik Lundqvist shutdown the Senators, turning aside 39 shots. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
The NHL Playoff Recap gives you THN's take of what happened in each game of the night and what the consequences will be for the rest of the series.
We also provide our Three Stars of the night, which will be tabulated after each round. First Star is three points, Second Star is two points and Third Star is one point. Be sure to vote on who you think the first star was as well.
Of course there's the other side of the coin: The Black Hole is a piece of the lineup that just couldn't get it going on a given night and contributed to a difficult evening for the team.
THN's Take: Goaltending, the great equalizer.
In a game where the Rangers were badly outplayed, Henrik Lundqvist was a wall. The team in front of him was flat for most of the contest and again played Russian roulette in the waning minutes by sitting back after taking the lead. But every time there was a lapse defensively, King Henrik was there to bail out his team.
This is nothing new for the sure Vezina Trophy candidate, but leaning so heavily on your keeper certainly won’t leave New York coach John Tortorella in a good mood (or a less bad mood). While the Rangers can get away with an uninspired offensive performance against a team like the Sens and come away with a ‘W,’ that won’t fly against a much more dynamic team like Flyers or Bruins (or Capitals or Devils).
For the home team, it's the youngsters, specifically Colin Greening, Jesse Winchester and Erik Condra, who carried the load with Daniel Alfredsson sidelined, Jason Spezza lost in the woods and Filip Kuba making questionable decisions leading to odd-man rushes*. No team outside of Philadelphia has a better crop of rookies than Ottawa and Monday’s game proved that.
(*Erik Karlsson likely won’t win the Norris Trophy because of a perceived lack of defensive acumen. But anyone who holds that belief might want to check out the replay of the youngster deftly breaking up a 2-on-1 late in the first period. He's made a believer out of this author.)
1. Henrik Lundqvist - Thirty-nine saves, most of which were far from the easy variety.
2. Craig Anderson – Wasn’t nearly as busy as his counterpart (22 saves), but he came up with several timely, top-quality stops.
3. Brian Boyle - It’s too easy to give the behemoth a star just because he scored the only goal. He deserves it for more than that. He led his team with five shots and had the most ice time of any Rangers forward.
Who do you think was the first star?
The Black Hole: Marian Gaborik. We’ll lay off Jason Spezza, though he could just have easily earned this “honor” for the third straight game. ‘Gabbo’ couldn’t find room to utilize his speed or dangerous wrist shot. Simply put, he needs to be better.
- Edward Fraser
THN’s Take: Through his first two career NHL playoff games, goalie Braden Holtby had done as good a job as any Capitals official could’ve hoped for in Washington’s series against the defending champion Bruins. However, he came down to earth long enough in Game 3 for Boston to pounce, win the game 4-3 and reclaim home-ice advantage in the first round.
But it wasn’t only Holtby’s fault Washington lost. Although the 23-year-old flubbed Rich Peverley’s goal and wasn’t nearly as sharp as he was when he held the Caps in Game 1 and helped them steal Game 2, the home team clearly isn’t as good as Boston. Washington has no answer for defenseman Zdeno Chara – who showed why he’ll get many votes as the Norris Trophy winner – and no player able to frustrate the opposition the way super-pest Brad Marchand does.
If there were any positives to take away for the Capitals, it was that both Alex Semin and Alex Ovechkin scored for the first time this post-season. But as Milan Lucic marauded his way around the ice and as supporting cast players such as Brian Rolston and Daniel Paille stepped up with timely goals, the reality was that the Bruins’ superiority is starting to wear down Holtby’s youthful exuberance and a Caps team that doesn’t take too many chances. The end isn’t near for Ovechkin & Co., but it isn’t far, either.
1. Zdeno Chara – Boston’s captain led the way in almost every regard, scoring the game-winner, adding two assists and playing a team-high 26:29. Easily his best game of the series – and the type you expect out of your best players.
2. Brooks Laich – The Capitals center was pointless through his first two playoff games, but broke out with a one-goal, three-point night. It’d be nice to see him get more than one shot on net, though.
3. Chris Kelly – The Bruins center, an unrestricted free agent this summer, is quietly earning a sizeable raise for himself. He chipped in an assist, was a game-high plus-2 and has averaged a point per game so far.
Who do you think was the first star?
The Black Hole: If anyone has seen Tyler Seguin, tell him his presence would be appreciated. The sophomore star has been non-existent in the playoffs, failing to register a point and playing just 13:42. For a guy who enjoyed a breakout regular season, this is unacceptable.
- Adam Proteau
THN’s Take: The San Jose Sharks could easily have finished eighth in the Western Conference and got a first round matchup with the Vancouver Canucks, a team with the second-ranked power play in the league. Vancouver ousted San Jose in five games a year ago so that’s bad enough, but the Sharks’ 29th-ranked penalty kill would have put them at a severe disadvantage.
Instead, San Jose seemed to get a more favorable matchup, while the Canucks' road got tougher. After all, St. Louis’ power play was tied for 18th in the league and they lacked a top-tier scorer. Through two games the theory proved true, as the Blues went 2-for-9 on the man advantage and the Sharks earned home-ice advantage.
The penalty-kill, San Jose’s Achilles’ Heel, wasn’t supposed to be exploited in this series. But in a crucial Game 3, the Blues stuck out as a Stanley Cup challenger by pouncing on that low-hanging fruit.
Antti Niemi didn’t do much to help the Sharks either, allowing two goals he should have saved, including the eventual game-winner. The 4-1 deficit was devastating and more indicative of the game than the final score.
Because special teams proved so influential in this game and because it hasn’t gotten too out of hand overall, it’s unlikely this series will adopt an "anything goes" approach seen in a few other stops across the NHL.
Don’t count San Jose out, but the Blues looked awful strong in this one.
1. Andy McDonald – He’s underrated and the closest thing St. Louis has to a reliable scorer. He notched a goal and two assists in Game 3 to prove it and answered for a cheap shot against him with points on the board.
2. Alex Pietrangelo – Didn’t get a point, but Pietrangelo led the Blues in ice time by nearly three minutes and was a steadying hand on the back end.
3. Brian Elliott – The three goals against are misleading as Elliott led his team to a three-goal lead for most of the game. He made the saves he needed to and that’s all you can ask of your goalie.
Who do you think was the first star?
The Black Hole: Patrick Marleau isn’t doing anything to disprove the notion he doesn’t step up when the going gets tough. He's still without a point in the series. The Sharks need their skill to push St. Louis’ strength and depth, but Marleau isn’t doing his part.
- Rory Boylen