Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Playoffs, Day 3: A Balance in the Force

Crosby answers, saves Pens
It's funny when people start questioning a player's game despite him getting three assists, but that's what happens when you win a share of the Rocket Richard Trophy. Oh, and your team loses.

There aren't a whole lot of better responses than what Sidney Crosby did. He scored a timely goal, made the biggest save of the game and went on an incredible individual effort to set up Kris Letang's winner in Pittsburgh's 2-1 victory over Ottawa to even that series at one game apiece.

Peter Regin stunned the Pittsburgh crowd just 18 seconds in when he ripped a wrister past Marc-Andre Fleury for a 1-0 lead on the game's first shot, but the Penguins responded the right way with an aggressive attack that was distinctly lacking in Game 1. It paid off with 11 minutes remaining in the first period when Chris Kunitz pressured Anton Volchenkov, forced a turnover and fired a shot on goal that Brian Elliott couldn't control. Crosby raced in and banged home the rebound for his first of the playoffs.

Late in the third period, a Volchenkov blast got through Fleury and laid in the crease, possibly with enough momentum to cross the goal line. Crosby's diving effort knocked the puck away. Five minutes later, Crosby criss-crossed the trapezoid behind the Ottawa cage four times, with Jason Spezza tailing him as best he could, before dishing a pass to Letang, whose point shot found the back of the net with 4:12 remaining.

Elliott finished with 29 saves. Fleury, who is 9-2 in his first playoff game after giving up four or more goals, stopped 19 shots.

Devils find offense, even series with Philadelphia
This game sounded a hell of a lot more entertaining than Game 1. But I saw absolutely none of it so it's still a short write-up. Sorry guys.

Dainius Zubrus broke a 3-3 tie with 4:04 left in regulation, Ilya Kovalchuk added an empty net goal and New Jersey defeated Philadelphia, 5-3, to get back on even terms. Patrik Elias posted three assists for the Devils, who got goals from Zach Parise, Colin White and Andy Greene. Martin Brodeur made 26 saves.

Philadelphia took a 2-1 lead in the first period on goals by Aaron Asham and Claude Giroux before New Jersey scored the next two. Chris Pronger tied the score at 3-3.

Chicago joins club: "Top seeds losing Game 1"
Michael Wilbon on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption said seeding doesn't mean anything in the Stanley Cup playoffs. It really doesn't, does it?

J.P. Dumont scored twice in the third period, seventh-seed Nashville potted a pair of empty net goals and knocked off Chicago, 4-1, in that series opener. Pekka Rinne made 25 saves, needing to make only four in the third period. Wow. This is another I didn't see but sounds like a hell of a defensive game played by the Predators, who had lost their first 10 road playoff games in franchise history.

Patrick Kane scored for the Blackhawks. Antti Niemi stopped 22 shots.

Z's hattie earns Wings split
I hope no one changed the channel in the Phoenix-Detroit game. You might've missed a goal. Actually you might have missed five goals.

A fairly tame first period turned into an explosive scoring affair, and Henrik Zetterberg's hat trick keyed Detroit's wild 7-4 victory and an even 1-1 series. Valtteri Filppula scored twice for the Red Wings.

Keith Yandle scored in the first period for Phoenix before the teams combined for five goals in a span of 3:58 in the second period. It was all back-and-forth too. A Detroit goal, then a Phoenix goal, etc. etc. When it was all said and done, the game was tied 3-3. Goals were by Zetterberg, Wojtek Wolski, Pavel Datsyuk, Matthew Lombardi and Filppula.

Detroit's muscle became flexed in the third period, putting four goals in the Phoenix net. Justin Abdelkader and Shane Doan exchanged goals before Zetterberg broke the 4-4 tie with 6:06 remaining. Filppula's second came on the power play for an insurance goal, and Zetterberg capped off the hat trick with an empty netter.

Jimmy Howard stopped 27 shots. Ilya Bryzgalov made 32 saves.

Setoguchi's Revenge
I kinda thought that disallowed goal from Devin Setoguchi that would've tied San Jose's game at 5-5 with Colorado was kind of bunk. It looked like he made an effort to avoid goalie Craig Anderson and couldn't. I'd have been OK if the goal was waived off because of contact with the goalie, but giving him a minor penalty was harsh.

Fortunately for San Jose, Setoguchi got one later that wasn't disallowed. And it didn't tie the game, it won it.

Joe Pavelski equalized the game at 5-5 with 32 seconds remaining in regulation, Setoguchi deflected Ryane Clowe's shot on the power play in overtime and San Jose averted a huge 2-0 hole with a 6-5 victory to - stop me if you've heard this before - even its series at 1-1.

Setoguchi's goal was his second of the game and came on San Jose's 52nd shot of the contest. In contrast, Colorado fired just 22 on Evgeni Nabokov, who apparently is carrying over his poor Olympic showing into the NHL playoffs.

Like the Detroit-Phoenix game, this one was wild. The teams combined for six goals in the second period, yet no one ever led by more than one goal. Though actually, the Sharks never led until Setoguchi's winner. Colorado had five one-goal leads. Rob Blake, Manny Malhotra and Scott Nichol also scored for San Jose.

Chris Stewart had two goals and Brandon Yip had a goal and an assist for the Avalanche. Milan Hejduk scored and Kyle Cumiskey was credited with a goal when Blake's clearing attempt 70 seconds in deflected off teammate Marc-Edouard Vlasic and into the net.

Stat of the night
The five goals in 3:58 in the Detroit-Phoenix game was the third fastest span of five goals in playoff history. The two fastest both featured the North Stars, who gave up five in 3:06 in a 6-2 loss to Chicago on April 21, 1985, and who scored five in 3:20 of a 6-5 victory over Philadelphia on April 29, 1980.

Quote of the night
"The game started and we have a bad bounce again. I'm sure a lot of people thought, 'Here we go again.'"
Nabokov on the game's first goal. Not only did I think "Here we go again," Nabby, but I'd already written up how you guys gacked Game 2 away. I had to delete it when you won.

Saturday predictions
Buffalo 3, Boston 1
Washington 4, Montreal 2
Los Angeles 4, Vancouver 3

No comments: