Monday night was yet another exciting night on the frozen pond. There were three game-sixes tonight, with two of the three resulting in series winners.
In Boston tonight, the #6 Boston Bruins join the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins as the third team in the Eastern Conference to advance to the semi-final round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Flyers were the first team to advance, defeating the New Jersey Devils in five games, 4-1. The Penguins joined the Flyers on Saturday night, winning game six in overtime against the Ottawa Senators to win the series 4-2.
The Bruins defeated the #3 Buffalo Sabres Monday night at home 4-3. The Bruins held a 2-0 lead just 1:01 into the second period, after getting power-play goals from David Krejci in the first period and Mark Recchi to start the second. Patrick Kaleta put the Sabres on the scoreboard not long after Recchi, to make it 2-1 heading into the third.
Krejci scored his second goal of the game 7:18 into the third to give the Bruins a two –goal lead once again. 22 seconds later, Nathan Gerbe scored to make it 3-2. Miroslav Satan would score the next goal for Boston, which turned out to be the game-winning goal. Satan’s goal gave Boston a 4-2 lead, but they would need that goal after Thomas Vanek scored in his first game back. Vanek was injured early in game two and has missed the last three-plus games.
Once again, Tuukka Rask played well enough to get his team the win and now, the Bruins will be advancing to the semi-finals to face either Pittsburgh or Philadelphia.
The other Eastern Conference game of the night featured the #1 Washington Capitals, who failed to advance to the next round, losing to the #8 Montreal Canadians 4-1. With the victory, Montreal has won two-straight and tied the series 3-3, forcing a game seven in Washington. The Capitals are in danger of being yet another Presidents Trophy team to lose in the first-round.
The Canadians have switched goalies in and out and back in and tonight it was Jaroslav Halak once again. If there is one explanation for why there is a game seven, look no further than Halak. Halak won game one, lost game two, was pulled in favor of Carey Price in game three, sat in game four, once again started in game five and won, and he turned away 53 of 54 shots Monday night in the Canadians win. I think there is no question who will be in the pipes for game seven.
Eric Fehr is the lone Capital to get a shot by the other-wise impenetrable Halak. Alex Ovechkin was held goal-less for the first time in the series. He attempted eight shots on goal, without getting one past Halak.
On the other side of the ice, Semyon Varlamov didn’t find the same success as Halak. Varlamov played well, but not good enough to pick up the series win. Like Halak, Varlamov didn’t start the series as the goalie, but was named the starter a couple of games ago.
In the Western Conference, the Chicago Blackhawks became the third team to advance to the semi-final round. The #2 Blackhawks knocked out the #7 Nashville Predators in game six, 5-3. The Predators played a tough series and at times looked like they may win the series, but the experience and talent of the Blackhawk team was just too much to overcome. After game three, the Predators held a 2-1 series lead and were looking good. Chicago battled back to win the next three games and the series 4-2.
The majority of the scoring came in the first period, with the Blackhawks putting four on the board and the Predators scored three goals. Duncan Keith got the scoring started for Chicago at 6:38 in the first period. Not long after, Nashville’s Shea Weber tied the game at 1-1. Weber’s goal was followed by Patrick Kane’s fourth goal of the series, just a little over a minute later, to give Chicago the lead once again 2-1.
Patrick Sharp would then make it 3-1 Chicago, with his goal a few minutes later. Like they have all series, Nashville fought back to tie the game at 3-3, after getting two goals from Jason Arnott, the first was on the power-play. 24 seconds after Arnott tied the game, Chicago’s Jonathan Toews scored just his second goal of the series on a power-play opportunity and just like that it was 4-3. There would be no more scoring for either team until John Madden put an empty net goal in with 8 seconds left in the game and Chicago won 5-3.
The Blackhawks will host the #3 Vancouver Canucks when the semi-final round begins later this week. Vancouver won their series 4-2 over the Los Angeles Kings. Of the four teams that made the playoffs this year after not making them in the previous year, Phoenix is the only team left, with hope to advance. They will take on Detroit in game seven tonight. The #1 San Jose Sharks clinched their opening series with the #8 Colorado Avalanche, winning it 4-2 and are awaiting the winner of the Phoenix and Detroit game.
Points of interest:
If Phoenix wins tonight, it will mean that seeds 1-4 are advancing to the semi-final round. The last time this happened was in the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs, with the top-four seeds in the Eastern Conference advancing to the next round. That same season, seeds five through eight advanced to the semi-finals in the Western Conference.
If Montreal should go on to beat the Capitals, it will be the second-straight season that the team that finished the regular season with the most points will be out in the first round. Last year, the San Jose Sharks won the President’s trophy and lost to the Anaheim Ducks in the opening-round.