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Penguins-Flyers a complete turnaround; Senators no easy out; Schneider relegates Luongo to backup

Steve Sullivan of the Pittsburgh Penguins scores one of the Penguins' 10 markers in Game 4. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Steve Sullivan of the Pittsburgh Penguins scores one of the Penguins' 10 markers in Game 4. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/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.

 

PENGUINS/FLYERS, GAME 4: PENGUINS 10, FLYERS 3 (FLYERS LEAD SERIES 3-1)

THN’s Take: In the first three games against the Flyers, Pittsburgh scored the first goal and often built up big leads before collapsing and losing all of them. This time, they trailed when the scoring opened and, once they shook up Philadelphia’s goaltending midway through the game, the Pens stepped on the home side’s throat and staved off elimination with a 10-3 romp.

Led by a hat trick from Jordan Staal, a goal and three points from veteran Steve Sullivan and a Sidney Crosby goal scored off the superstar’s rear end, the Penguins engaged in none of the shenanigans that marred their 8-4 Game 3 loss and let them melt down instead. Whether it was Zac Rinaldo – ejected from the game late in the second period for an attack on Zbynek Michalek that should draw the attention of NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan – or goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (pulled early in the second after allowing five goals on 18 shots), the Flyers were listless and undisciplined and failed to take advantage of the suspension-related absences of forwards James Neal and Arron Asham.

This game was well-officiated by referees Chris Lee and Wes McCauley, who established a firm no-nonsense policy that deterred the game from getting out of hand as it did in Game 3. If that standard sticks, and a few Flyers (including Bryzgalov and forwards Danny Briere and Brayden Schenn, who combined for a minus-8) don’t get their acts together, the virtually certainty of a Flyers series win could quickly turn into a Game 6 or 7 showdown and the nauseating specter of arguably the most painful collapse in Philly history.

Three stars
1. Jordan Staal – Pittsburgh’s third-best center has been one of the team’s better performers in their three losses and was certainly one of their best in their only win. His hat trick took only three shots to record and he played 22:53 (the most of any forward on either team and second only on the Pens to Kris Letang).

2. Evgeni Malkin – The Pens star center was heavily and rightfully criticized for his invisibility prior to Game 4. But he shook off the criticism, scored his first playoff goal of the season and added two assists and a game-best plus-4. It wasn’t exactly a dominating performance, but given the alternative Pens management will take it.

3. Steve Sullivan – This might be the veteran forward’s final playoffs and he hadn’t looked all that good through the first three games (with only two assists and a minus-2). But his three-point night was exactly the kind of secondary scoring the Pens needed to extend the series.

Who do you think was the first star?

The Black Hole:
Once again, the Flyers net was an absolute nightmare. Bryzgalov and understudy Sergei Bobrovsky’s save percentages (both .722 on 13 of 18 saves) were equally horrific and have helped breathe some confidence and life into the Penguins’ frustrated forwards. It won’t matter how many goals the Flyers come back with if the familiar old burden of goaltending comes back to haunt Philly yet again.
- Adam Proteau

RANGERS/SENATORS, GAME 4: SENATORS 3, RANGERS 2 (SERIES TIED 2-2)

THN’s Take: Will the Ottawa Senators do the unthinkable and beat the No. 1-seeded New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs? Probably not. But you have to give them credit. The Senators are not playing in the post-season as though they’re just happy to be there.

Quite the opposite, actually. The Senators are proving to be an incredibly tough out, using the same sense of resilience and esprit du corps in the playoffs they employed during the regular season when they were the pleasant surprise of the NHL. The result is the Senators go to New York deadlocked at two games against the Rangers after a 3-2 overtime victory against the Rangers in Game 4.

If there were ever a game when the Senators had an excuse for throwing in the towel, it was this one. They were down 2-0 after giving up two power play goals in the first five minutes of the game and it looked as though it was going to be one of those games where Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was going to stop everything directed his way. The Senators were complicit, though, being far too predictable in their shot selection and not forcing Lundqvist to get out of his comfort zone.

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The comeback in the game was sparked by Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek, a trend that will have to continue if the Senators have any hope of winning this series. There has been some fine work done by the foot soldiers, but the results of this series are going to hinge on the production of the Senators skilled players. With Michalek and Sergei Gonchar scoring in regulation time, and Kyle Turris taking advantage of Lundqvist playing deep in his net in overtime, that’s a good place to start.

Three stars
1. Kyle Turris - He provided the heroics and was rewarded after being thwarted repeatedly during the first three games.

2. Matt Carkner - After his brain cramp in Game 2 that led to a Game 3 suspension, Carkner set up Ottawa’s first goal and was a dominating presence on the blueline all night.

3. Brad Richards - Gotham’s highest-paid player had come under fire for a lack of production, but unleashed eight shots and assisted on both Ranger goals.

Who do you think was the first star?

The Black Hole: It’s tough to argue with the style employed by a goalie of Lundqvist’s stature, but he gave Turris far too much net to shoot at on the overtime winner and was burned for doing so. With the loss he falls to 1-7 in playoff overtime games in his career.
- Ken Campbell

CANUCKS/KINGS, GAME 4: CANUCKS 3, KINGS 1 (KINGS LEAD SERIES 3-1)

THN’S Take: More interesting than the Canucks clinging to their season for at least one more night, or even the return of Daniel Sedin, is the unfolding prequel to an inevitable off-season goaltending drama.

The decision to start Cory Schneider again in Game 4 invited a new and interesting era into the blue ice. Through his solid and consistent play, Schneider is accepting and embracing the opportunity. Barring a Florida Panthers-like blowup, where Schneider gets pulled and Luongo comes in for the win, the American is Vancouver’s goalie through the rest of the first round. If they somehow win it, he’ll lead Vancouver into Round 2. 

There was a confidence in Schneider from the Canucks in front of him. He isn’t letting in the odd awkward goal as Luongo had been or the back-breaker his teammate is known for, though in no way was ‘Bobby Lou’ the problem behind the team’s 3-0 deficit. 

And, really, whether the Canucks go on a playoff run now or not, the damage has been done. By officially relegating a player of Luongo’s salary and status to the backup position in the playoffs, the table has been set. At some point this duo has to break up and it might be the one least mentioned in trade rumors who moves on.

If, as expected, the Canucks still bow out in Round 1, something needs to change. There’ve been suggestions coach Alain Vigneault should be fired, but perhaps it’s a changing of the guard in goal (and whatever assets that may be added to the NHL team for Luongo) that would provide the right amount of shakeup.

Can a goalie signed through 2021-22 with a cap hit of $5.3 million be traded? I believe so. And I also believe we’re going to find out this summer.

Three Stars
1. Cory Schneider – Made 43 saves with a number of them coming in the clutch by keeping his team within one goal in the first and ahead in the third. His stop on Dustin Brown’s penalty shot sticks out.

2. Dan Hamhuis – Can you imagine how impressive the Nashville defense corps would be had it been able to keep this guy around? Hamhuis logged the most minutes and shots on the Canucks, two first assists, three hits and played all situations.

3. Daniel/Henrik Sedin – I’m breaking the rules on this one, but the twins act as one. After taking a little time to settle back in they started clicking again and completely changed the feel of the Canucks attack.

Who do you think was the first star?

The Black Hole: If you had to guess who the one player on Los Angeles was without a hit, who would it be? I bet it wouldn’t be Rob Scuderi. The shutdown defender wasn’t nearly physical enough in the cleanup game at home with nearly 20 minutes of ice time. He was also a minus-1 and needs to be better in Game 5.
- Rory Boylen

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