Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Playoffs, Day 4: No one wants a 2-0 series lead

This is kind of awesome. Chicago, you better win Sunday. Every series is tied 1-1.

Television jinxes Fubbalo
The graphic brought to you by NBC as the third period of Boston-Buffalo was about to begin: Buffalo was 31-0-0 when leading after two periods.

And now the Sabres are 31-1.

Michael Ryder and Zdeno Chara each scored his second goal of the game in the third period, Buffalo didn't get a shot in the final frame until 9:45 remaining, and Boston evened its series with Buffalo following a 5-3 victory. Mark Recchi's empty net goal with 20 seconds remaining sealed the win off a fabulous play (that's sarcasm) by Sabres defenseman Toni Lydman.

That might be Buffalo's biggest flaw - apart from Tyler Myers, there's zero offensive support from the back end. Lydman (four goals, 20 points, 77 SOG) should never be on the ice when you're trying to erase a one-goal deficit. Protect one, yes. Erase one, no.

Eddie Olczyk praised Blake Wheeler's pass that helped set up Ryder's goal that tied the score at 3-3, but that was an accident. Wheeler's pass was intended for Andrew Ference but deflected off Ference's stick right to Ryder, who had an open net at which to shoot. And for once, he didn't miss.

Exactly two minutes later, Chara's soft wrist shot from the blue line got through bodies and over Ryan Miller's shoulder for a 4-3 advantage. Goals by Ryder and Chara had erased a 2-0 Bruins deficit in the second period, built by goals from Myers and Matt Ellis. Jason Pominville put Buffalo ahead 3-2 late in the second period.

Tuukka Rask made 26 saves. Miller also finished with 26.

Backstrom saves Caps
Alex Ovechkin had a nice game and all, but let's be honest: This game belonged to Nicklas Backstrom.

His hat trick, including the overtime winner just 31 seconds into overtime, gave Washington a thrilling and shocking 6-5 victory over Montreal to avoid a potential disaster of losing the first two games at home. The series is now tied at 1-1.

After Andrei Kostitsyn scored the third of his hat trick goals late in the second period, Montreal was sitting pretty with a 4-1 lead. Then a really really long video review followed immediately after as officials reviewed an earlier play when Benoit Pouliot nearly scored. The lengthy downtime might have given the Capitals a chance to regroup, and Backstrom scored his first goal just 39 seconds afterward, with 1:37 left in the second period, to make it a 4-2 score.

Frankly, I think that's where Montreal lost the game. It was imperative the Canadiens take a three-goal lead into the third period. Instead, Washington netted the next two goals, when Ovechkin poked a puck through Jaroslav Halak's pads and when Backstrom converted a nice Ovechkin pass.

Tomas Plekanec restored Montreal's lead at 5-4 with 5:06 to play, but Halak gave up a weak goal on a delayed penalty call with 1:21 remaining to American juniors hero John Carlson. Backstrom then wasted no time getting the winner, Washington's first overtime playoff win at home since 1998. Backstrom and Ovechkin each had four points.

Brian Gionta (Montreal) and Eric Fehr (Washington) also scored. Mike Cammalleri recorded three assists for the Habs. Semyon Varlamov made 19 saves in relief of Jose Theodore, who gave up goals on the first two shots he saw and was immediately yanked.

Montreal has to be happy at the split, but the players also have to be asking themselves some questions after having this game well in hand and then epically failing it.

Kopitar, power play get Kings even
Vancouver's key to winning its first round series boils down to simply staying out of the penalty box.

Anze Kopitar's first career playoff goal came in overtime on the power play after Vancouver was called for too many men on the ice, and Los Angeles evened its series following a 3-2 victory. Fun fact: Kopitar now has more playoff overtime goals than Mario Lemieux.

His goal was also the fourth of the Kings' five goals in the series that came on the power play. Earlier, Fredrik Modin scored with the man-advantage to get Los Angeles on the scoreboard. Wayne Simmonds scored 35 seconds later as the Kings quickly erased a 2-0 deficit. Kopitar assisted on Simmonds' goal. Jonathan Quick made 24 saves.

Steve Bernier and Mikael Samuelsson scored in the first period for the Canucks.

Stat of the night
7 - Boston broke a seven-game playoff losing streak spanning four series at Buffalo. Its last win there was 1992.

Quotes of the night
"I found the largest milk carton I could."
Darren Pang, whose Wikipedia page lists his height as 5-5, on interviewing 6-8 Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers

"Five-foot-nine Tim Kennedy doing a good job blocking out 5-11 Darren Pang."
Doc Emrick

"Wow, you gave me 5-11?"

"Well I dreamed 5-11 for myself, I figured you might have done the same."

The lesson: God bless Doc Emrick.

Sunday predictions
Detroit 5, Phoenix 2
New Jersey 2, Philadelphia 1
Ottawa 3, Pittsburgh 1
Chicago 3, Nashville 2
San Jose 4, Colorado 3

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