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NHL Playoff Game Day 9: Maple Leafs-Bruins; Rangers-Capitals; Kings-Blues; Red Wings-Ducks

Nick Bonino's overtime winner was the difference as the Ducks took a 3-2 series lead on the Red Wings. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

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Nick Bonino's overtime winner was the difference as the Ducks took a 3-2 series lead on the Red Wings. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

GAME 4: BOSTON 4, TORONTO 3 (OT) – BRUINS LEAD 3-1

Why Boston won: The Bruins were outplayed most of the night, but showed veteran calm after giving up the first two goals of the game, constantly testing Leafs goalie James Reimer, who struggled mightily with his rebound control all night long. Milan Lucic had his best game of the series, pushing the Leafs around at will. And Tuukka Rask once again made all the saves he needed to, turning aside 45 of 48 Leafs shots.

Why Toronto lost: For the second straight game the Leafs outplayed Boston in the third period (outshooting the Bruins 14-7 in the final frame of regulation time), but too much play on the periphery affected the quality of Toronto’s scoring chances. In addition, Toronto’s normally solid penalty kill allowed two goals on five opportunities. But the play of captain Dion Phaneuf was abysmal. He made several questionable choices and was caught out of position a number of times, including on the game-winner at 13:06 of overtime.

Play of the game: The Bruins weathered a number of Toronto storms as the game went on and when Phaneuf pinched in Boston’s zone in overtime, the visitors quickly moved the puck up ice on a 2-on-1 and Krejci buried his third goal of the night to break the Leafs’ back.



Three stars

1. David Krejci: The Czech center continued his torrid and league-leading playoff point production pace. He now has five goals and 11 points in four games.

2. Jake Gardiner: The rookie was Toronto’s best defenseman and arguably their best player, posting a pair of assists and jumping into the rush when the opportunity presented itself. He was the polar opposite of Phaneuf in many ways and never should be a healthy scratch.

3. Johnny Boychuk: The Bruins defenseman was a major defensive force, blocking a game-best seven shots and leading the Bruins in hits (seven). On a night Zdeno Chara wasn’t at his most consistent, Boychuk was a force.

What's Next: The series returns to Boston for Game 5 Friday and although the Leafs should have some confidence given how much pressure they’ve put on the Bruins, they need better goaltending from Reimer and much better play from Phaneuf if they hope to extend the series. If they can get that, it’s not out of the question for them to win two straight and force a winner-take-all Game 7. The line between winning and losing has been that thin. – Adam Proteau

GAME 4: NY RANGERS 4, WASHINGTON 3 – SERIES TIED 2-2

Why New York won: What makes the Rangers a difficult playoff matchup for anyone is that they play you tough and they frustrate your offense. What can make them a Cup contender is if their offense can produce with any regularity. After scoring one goal in the first two games in Washington, the Rangers totaled eight in their two wins at home. It will be crucial to keep this going in Washington because, despite New York’s best efforts at defense or to at least wear down their opponent, Washington still put up six goals in the past two games.

Why Washington lost: The Caps were outplayed in the first two periods, but because these teams are so evenly matched, they still managed to go into the third tied at two. But an early power play goal and insurance marker five minutes later was what the Rangers needed to permanently tip the scales in this game. Alex Ovechkin managed 12 shots in the first two games, but only two last game and one tonight. He had the game on his stick with a good opportunity in the last minute, but fired the one-timer wide.

Play of the game: This dandy between Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin and Ryan Callahan was not only pretty, but it gave the Rangers their second two-goal lead of the game and stood up as the game-winner. (Side note on the goal: Alex Ovechkin, what the heck are you doing?)

 



Three Stars
1. Carl Hagelin: The speedy Hagelin scored the second goal of the game and picked up two first-assists to surpass his playoff point total from a year ago when he played in 17 games.

2. Derick Brassard: It hasn’t been New York’s big guns stepping up most – it’s been a guy like Brassard who recorded two more first assists in Game 4 and now has five points in his past two games.

3. Ryan McDonagh – Logged a crazy 31:29 of ice, spending most of it against Alex Ovechkin. McDonagh blocked five shots and made his presence felt.

What’s next: If the Rangers offense doesn’t go into hiding again in Washington, this one could take a mighty turn in their favor. Surely the Caps will need more from Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro and not have Mathieu Perreault and Karl Alzner as their shots on goal leader. Have these past two games been a case of the Rangers wearing down the Caps, or a case of home-ice advantage coming into play? Game 5 will speak volumes about both teams. Expect it to stay a close match, though. – Rory Boylen

GAME 5: LOS ANGELES 3, ST. LOUIS 2 (OT) – KINGS LEAD 3-2

Why Los Angeles won: After coming out a little flat and letting the Blues control the tone early, the Kings found their composed forecheck game and once they took a 2-1 lead in the third period, it was like the 2012 playoffs all over again - until lightning struck with another late goal by the Blues. The Kings won on this night because their goalie made one fewer mistake in overtime.

Why St. Louis lost: Besides goalie Brian Elliott looking weak on the overtime winner, the Blues were caught guilty of watching the puck on a few occasions and that forced them to play comeback most of the night against the Kings. But when it comes to playing desperate hockey, the Blues have become proficient experts and forced overtime with a late goal. St. Louis looked worn out in overtime playing three lines as coach Ken Hitchcock shortened the bench.

Play of the game: Kings defensemen Slava Voynov broke up a Blues scoring chance midway through the first overtime period with a neat pokecheck, then had the presence of mind to join the counter-attack. With Justin Williams and Anze Kopitar breaking in on St. Louis' top defense tandem of Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester, Voynov jumped forward which gave Kopitar a passing outlet. His shot along the ice from 20 feet out beat Blues goalie Brian Elliott between the legs. Nothing special about the shot. The way it was defended by Elliott, however, made him look like a goalie from the Original Six era. No butterfly. Just stood there and looked weak.


 
Three stars
1. Jeff Carter: With one of the quickest releases in the league, you use it whenever you can and the big pivot had found the groove lately with his second and third goals of the series. On a team that struggles to score on the road and doesn't have home-ice advantage in the series, offense from Carter is imperative.

2. Alex Steen: The Toronto Maple Leaf castoff is playing the best two-way hockey of his career and he's getting plenty of attention now because of his offense. His tying goal in the second period was his third of the series and he was a force on other rushes. Defensively, he was again superb in a shutdown role.

3. Drew Doughty: As Hockey Night in Canada commentators mentioned all night, Doughty is probably the best, most complete defensemen in the world right now and it shows shift after shift. Whether it be skating the puck out of danger, setting up an attack or taking the body in his own zone, Doughty did it all and more while logging a ton of ice time in Game 5.

What's Next: The Blues absolutely have to find a way to win in Los Angeles. The best way to do that is to emulate their game plan in the opening two games - take the body, take the body and take the body again. Problem is, they're showing fatigue in a big way. The series is easily the hardest-hitting of the opening round, but St. Louis was a little tentative in the department during Game 4 in Los Angeles compared to the other games. The Blues will surely wear themselves down in the process, but at this point they have no other choice. St. Louis has to find a new level of nastiness. As for the Kings, they just have to be themselves in Los Angeles and look to win for a 10th straight time on home ice. – Brian Costello

GAME 5: ANAHEIM 3, DETROIT 2 (OT) – DUCKS LEAD 3-2

Why Anaheim won: The Ducks survived Detroit’s brief flurries of pressure and physically dominated the game. They got themselves into trouble a couple of times as their defense struggled to either move the puck up to their forwards or deal with Detroit’s forecheck on occasion. Still, Anaheim put on enough pressure that this one should have been done before overtime, but Jimmy Howard had something to say about that.

Why Detroit lost: They were lucky to escape the first period in a 1-1 tie, but didn't take advantage of that bonus. Detroit earned a five-minute man advantage when they already had a 2-1 lead in the second, but instead of scoring an insurance marker or two, Brendan Smith took a holding penalty and Anaheim scored in the final minute of the period. Those five-plus minutes of the game were crucial.

Play of the game: While the OT winner is obviously the most important goal, Ryan Getzlaf’s game-tying marker was both skillful and capped a shocking turn of events. When Detroit went on the five-minute advantage it felt as though a turning point was coming…but all signs indicated it would be in favor of the Wings, who had just been starting to put on pressure, not the Ducks. By the end of the major, the Ducks were the ones on the power play and Getzlaf scored a seeing-eye wrister.



Three Stars
1. Jimmy Howard: Loss or not, Howard was phenomenal. This game could have been over in the first period if not for the Red Wings goalie and he made a few other game-savers later on.

2. Nick Bonino: Has been a ball of energy all series and finally got rewarded with an overtime winner.

3. Ben Lovejoy: In a physical game for the Ducks, Lovejoy registered four hits and got a very nice assist through the crease on Bonino’s game-winner.

What’s next: The Ducks need to keep up the intensity they showed in this game, but so far they’ve struggled to put together two equally strong efforts in a row. Meanwhile, Detroit heads home on the brink against a team that is more physical and can also skate with them. Detroit is still very much alive because of Anaheim's unpredictability, especially if Howard can keep up this potentially game-stealing level. – Rory Boylen

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