Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Playoffs, Day 10: East staying alive; West closer to elimination

Who would've thought Buffalo was the team that would score, not Washington? Not me.

Quick start keeps Buffalo alive
In danger of becoming the second high seed in the Eastern Conference to meekly bow out of the playoffs, Buffalo put forth a solid effort to stay alive.

Adam Mair scored just 1:54 into the game and Ryan Miller made 34 saves as the Sabres earned a 4-1 victory over Boston to force a Game 6 on Monday. The Bruins still hold a 3-2 series lead.

Early goals and late goals in a period can be killers, and Jason Pominville doubled Buffalo's lead with 1:06 remaining in the first period. The Sabres remembered how they blew a 2-0 lead in Game 4, and Mike Grier made it a 3-0 midway through the second period.

The Bruins made the kind of desperation push in the third period that one might expect from a team on the brink of elimination instead of a team trying to eliminate another. Boston fired 21 shots on Miller in the third period after having only 14 through two. The only puck that found the back of the net was from Johnny Boychuck on the power play with just 2:30 to play.

Tyler Ennis scored an empty-net goal less than a minute later to end any comeback hopes.

A brawl marred this one at the end of the game. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara received an instigating penalty, but the automatic one-game suspension that comes with that has been rescinded and he'll play in Game 6.

Halak returns to net, form just in time
I said this series was done since Jaroslav Halak started to suck. Well, for one game at least, he was good again, and we have another Game 6.

Halak's 37 saves and a real quick start for Montreal led to a 2-1 victory over Washington, which became the third team to fail to close out a series in Game 5 and the second to do so at home. The Caps still hold a 3-2 lead ahead of Game 6 in Montreal.

Mike Cammalleri scored 90 seconds into the contest and Travis Moen netted his first of the playoffs at 7:01 of the first period to silence the Washington crowd. Alex Ovechkin got them back into the game with his fifth goal early in the second period, but Halak slammed the door from there.

Hidden stat from this one: As good as Benoit Pouliot was for Montreal after the trade - though not as as good as Guy Latendresse (I'm calling him Guy; screw that Guillaume crap. Way too long to spell. If his last name was Smith, I'd spell out the first name. But I digress) - Pouliot has been a train wreck in the playoffs. He logged only 4:35 of ice time in Game 5. He averaged nearly 17 minutes in 39 regular season games with Montreal and had been seeing a lot of time in the playoffs, but Jacques Martin saw enough of him early in this one.

Television jinxes Phoenix
I know, I used the same headline a few days ago for Buffalo. I don't care.

Goals by Tomas Holmstrom and Pavel Datsyuk just past the midway point of the third period broke a 1-1 tie and Detroit took a 3-2 series lead over Phoenix following a 4-1 victory. The jinx came from the TV guys talking just before the third period started about how invisible Datsyuk (and Henrik Zetterberg) had been through the first two periods. Datsyuk's goal was pretty and made it an insurmountable two-goal lead, and he helped set up Holmstrom's marker.

Jimmy Howard made 30 saves.

Drew Miller and Ed Jovanovski had exchanged goals earlier in the game. Zetterberg scored an empty net goal, foiling my "3-1 Detroit" prediction from Thursday. I'm giving myself partial credit for that.

Television jinxes Quick, Kings
I know, I used the same headline a few paragraphs up for Phoenix. I don't care.

Jonathan Quick had been praised by the Kings television announcers for being the better goaltender in that series - a claim I wouldn't necessarily disagree with - but then gave up five goals and was yanked in Vancouver's impressive 7-2 demolishing of Los Angeles. The Canucks take a 3-2 series lead heading to LA.

Steve Bernier and Mikael Samuelsson each scored twice, with Samuelsson taking the playoff goals lead with seven, in the rout. Bernier netted the game's opening goal before the Kings got - get this - a power play goal from Michal Handzus.

Vancouver proceeded to score the next four goals to chase Quick. Alexander Edler, Daniel Sedin, Samuelsson's first and Pavol Demitra did the damage. The second goals from Samuelsson and Bernier came against Erik Ersberg. Samuelsson and Demitra each registered three points and Roberto Luongo made 24 saves.

Fredrik Modin also scored for the Kings.

Stat of the night
0 - Playoff series won by Buffalo when trailing 3-1 (0-11.) ... Playoff series won by Phoenix since moving to Arizona (0-5)

Quote of the night
"Now that they've seen our best game, they have to react."
Miller. I like the guy, but those are strong words coming from a man whose team is still down 3-2 in the series. I appreciate his confidence though.

Saturday predictions
Nashville 4, Chicago 2
Pittsburgh 5, Ottawa 3 (if Ruslan Fedotenko does not play)
Ottawa 4, Pittsburgh 2 (if Ruslan Fedotenko plays)
Colorado 3, San Jose 2

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