Goaltender Craig Anderson was outstanding for the Ottawa Senators in Game 1 against the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)
Why Ottawa won: It hardly feels fair to say Ottawa won this game. Goaltender Craig Anderson won it singlehandedly. At least, he won it stopping 39 of 41 shots in the first two periods to bail out an overwhelmed team in front of him. After that, it’s almost as if the Sens woke up, realized how lucky they were to be trailing by one goal instead of 10 and finally sustained a forecheck in the third period. They generated offense via the point, getting goals from Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot, the latter of whom potted the game-winner.
Why Montreal lost: On the flip side, it feels unfair discussing what Montreal did wrong in this game. The Habs were absolutely dominant for the first two periods. The Sens had no answer for Montreal’s speed up front. However, because of Anderson's play, all it took were a few crucial blunders to give Ottawa the opening it needed. In the first period, the Habs forwards didn’t pressure Karlsson enough, giving him room to skate and convert a give-and-go with Kyle Turris for Ottawa’s first goal. Carey Price, perhaps cold after seeing so few shots in the third, should’ve stopped Jakob Silfverberg’s relatively harmless slap shot that tied the game.
Play of the game: When Eric Gryba flattened Lars Eller on a suicide pass from Raphael Diaz in the second, leaving Eller in a bloody heap, it was a rallying point for Montreal. On the ensuing power play, the Habs took the lead on a goal by Brendan Gallagher.
1. Craig Anderson – His 48-save effort was nothing short of epic. Outstanding positioning and poise.
2. Brendan Gallagher – Calder candidate was a little fireball for the Habs, buzzing the net, scoring a goal and registering eight shots.
3. Erik Karlsson – He's the game’s most offensively dominant defenseman and when the Habs gave him room to skate, he punished them.
What’s next: Even after a loss, Montreal has plenty of positive takeaways. Anderson can’t stop 48 shots every game. If the Habs continue using their speed and especially if they find a way to neutralize Karlsson (hint: hit him), the series will shift in their favor in a hurry. That said, Price has to play better. Goaltending decided this game at both ends of the ice and the wrong team won. - Matt Larkin
Why Washington won: Because these guys are not your big brother’s Capitals. There was a time when this group was so fragile that it would have allowed a first period in which they outshot their opponent 14-8 and were trailing 1-0 on an unfortunate goal to crush their spirits and force them to squeeze the graphite out of their sticks. But these Capitals, buoyed by a 7-1-0 record down the stretch and an outstanding second half, came out in the second period and went about their business. Goalie Braden Holtby kept them in the game as they continually turned the puck over in the first five minutes of the second. Once they found their game, the Capitals were off to the races.
Why New York lost: Because last year’s playoffs were a mirage and the Rangers aren’t near as good as their press clippings would lead you to believe. Last spring they barely defeated a bad Ottawa team and a mediocre Capitals team before losing to a Devils team that wasn’t all that great. The Rangers work hard enough and have some good speed and determination, but they can’t even come close to matching the offensive talent the Capitals have. As great as Henrik Lundqvist has been during the regular season, we’re still waiting for him to have that dominating, team-saving performance in the playoffs.
Play of the game: With the Rangers on a very bad change, Marcus Johansson snuck behind the defense and was sprung for a breakaway with an outstanding pass from Steve Oleksy, then managed to sneak it by Lundqvist low on the glove side.
1. Brayden Holtby. He kept his team in the game when things got hairy in the second period and did not waver under the pressure of facing 30-plus shots. His controversial save in the third snuffed out any chance for a Ranger rally. The only Ranger goal went off John Erskin’s skate.
2. Rick Nash. As has been the case most of the season, the Rangers troubles are not the fault of their high-profile acquisition last summer. Nash led players on both teams with nine shots.
3. Alex Ovechkin. He got the Capitals back in the game with a power play goal – on a great set play by Mike Green – but did so many other things well. His blocked shot late in the game was key.
What’s next: The Capitals under Adam Oates are better defensively than they were under Bruce Boudreau and create more offense with their speed and forecheck than they did with Dale Hunter behind the bench. Expect the onslaught to continue. With that as the backdrop, Lundqvist is going to have to be better if the Rangers are going to have a hope in the series. - Ken Campbell
Why St. Louis won: They played with resilience and patience on a night when the Kings controlled most of the offensive play and probably deserved it more. Perhaps more accurately, a long-distance wrist shot by stay-at-home rearguard Barret Jackman through a partial screen in the final minute doesn't beat Jonathan Quick most of the time.
Why Los Angeles lost: The Kings ramped up their physical play to match that of St. Louis, but couldn't beat Blues goalie Brian Elliott to secure a two-goal lead for 40 minutes. Had they been able to, there's almost no chance the low-scoring would Blues rally for three goals. Los Angeles needs to make life more physically difficult for the Blues defenders and Elliott.
Play of the game: With less than a minute remaining in a 1-1 game, Chris Stewart of the Blues carries the puck in over the Los Angeles blueline and looks to aim a pass over to Andy McDonald on the left wing. But teammate Jackman is in the middle and it lands on his stick instead. If that's the way Quick saw it, he might have been angling more towards McDonald than Jackman. With Kings defenseman Drew Doughty as a partial screen, Jackman uncoiled a wrister than found mesh just inside the left post behind Quick. Jackman's startled look to teammates a few seconds later suggests the end result shocked even him.
1. Dustin Brown – He hits, he digs, he antagonizes, he crashes the net, he scores. One of the most complete players in the game put the Kings on the board in the first and the goal held up until the third period.
2. Kevin Shattenkirk – His skating ability and creativity in the offensive zone led to several chances for the Blues. St. Louis doesn't have the A-list offensive kingpins most contenders do, so his help from the is absolutely necessary if the Blues are to advance.
3. Brian Elliott – Last minute aside, both goalies played well, but it was Elliott who found ways to shut the door after the Kings jumped ahead 1-0 midway through the first. He's been exceptionally stingy lately in allowing more than one goal in a game.
What's Next: Knowing how difficult it is to win games in Los Angeles, the Blues winning both in the Gateway City still just gives them a slight edge in the series. This opening round match-up could easily be even 2-2 in a few days. If St. Louis lightens up from a physical perspective, the Kings will pounce on home ice. Even if the Blues maintain their pounding, Los Angeles has a way of finding that extra gear on home ice. This series may get even rougher. - Brian Costello
Why Detroit won: Like in Game 1, the top line did most of the heavy lifting in regulation. After that game, THN noted the Red Wings “next in line” needed to step up at some point for this team to continue on as it has. And when it came down to it in Game 2, the difference was a Valtteri Filppula-Gustav Nyquist connection in extra time.
Why Anaheim lost: If the Ducks played with as much desperation in the first two periods as they did in the third, this game wouldn’t have been a contest. Jonas Hiller didn’t do his team any favors in the early-going, but came up large on a couple of occasions towards the end of period three. After a convincing effort in a Game 1 win, the Ducks didn't seem to think they'd need to play a full high-tempo game to win this one either - and they were almost right.
Play of the game: Lots to choose from here. If Anaheim had won, the play of the game would surely have been Hiller’s stonewalling of Pavel Datsyuk in the dying seconds of the third. However, Filppula’s dirty toe-drag made Anaheim’s penalty-killing defense melt away and left Gustav Nyquist alone in front for a goal, seconds after Nyquist created another chance for himself.
1. Pavel Datsyuk – Picked up two assists, made a number of nifty defensive plays, recorded five shots and logged the second most ice on the Red Wings. It looked like he might Datsyuk the Ducks a loss on a late-third period rush, but missed by inches.
2. Justin Abdelkader – A big presence, especially early in the game, Abdelkader scored his first playoff goal in three years and recorded a game high six shots.
3. Jonas Hiller – Overall, Hiller didn’t have a great game, but being a good playoff goalie often means making the right saves. With the Wings up one, Hiller robbed them of a chance to gain a two-goal lead and stoned Datsyuk on a last-minute chance. He can’t be faulted for the power play overtime winner.
What’s next: The Wings still need more consistent pressure from their depth lines to have any chance and have to hope Jimmy Howard’s third period hiccup is behind him. The Ducks have to put together a start-to-finish effort or risk falling into bad habits – ones more potent teams will destroy them over. - Rory Boylen