Cheap shots, Suspensions and Overtime

Day Four of the NHL Playoffs was chaotic. You had three Game Two’s go to overtime. You also had cheap shots and suspensions. One was handed out to Nikita Kucherov for his idiocy. He will serve a one game ban tonight in a critical Game Three for the Lightning at Columbus.

The other suspension is gonna be a lengthy one for Nazem Kadri. For a second consecutive year, he lost his discipline against the Bruins. He was involved all night with Jake DeBrusk. They went at each other early on in Game Two and had some run ins during a heated contest won by Boston 4-1 to square the first round series headed back to Toronto.

During the second period, a hustling Kadri came out of the penalty box to deny a Bruins chance. At the same moment, DeBrusk checked Kadri with his leg colliding with the Leafs center’s. Even though it was knee on knee, there didn’t look like any intent. Both players were traveling at good speed. Debrusk came in a straight line and didn’t stick his leg out. There was no penalty despite Kadri leaving the ice. He would return.

It was in the third with under 10 minutes left that things got hectic. With Toronto finally playing better due to a Kadri goal on a nice deflection, they were only down 3-1. But this play involving a DeBrusk cheap hit on veteran Patrick Marleau close to the stanchion drew the ire of Kadri. His response was a deliberate cross-check to DeBrusk’s head.

For his poor reaction, he was assessed a five minute major and game misconduct. I understand why he went after DeBrusk. That hit is one you don’t like to see. It’s too close to an area where a defenseless player can get hurt. I feel that the officials should’ve given DeBrusk a penalty on the play. But before they did anything, Kadri made a bee line for DeBrusk and cost himself the rest of the series. He will have a in person meeting today, which means at least five games. Last year, he got three games against the same opponent. Yikes.

Boston got goals from Charlie Coyle, Brad Marchand, Danton Heinen and Patrice Bergeron. Marchand had a goal and assist to earn the game’s number one star. Tuukka Rask made 30 saves while Freddie Andersen had 37 to keep the Leafs in it. Boston could’ve had eight. David Backes returned and had an assist with seven hits.

For the Leafs, Auston Matthews remains quiet without a point. That’ll need to change starting in Game Three. Losing Kadri is a big hit for Toronto. They nearly overcame it last year before losing in seven in the same round.

The early game saw the Capitals edge the Hurricanes 4-3 in overtime. Carolina rallied back to tie it twice from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits. Alexander Ovechkin made a great play drawing two Canes to open up a seam for a superb pass on Tom Wilson’s go-ahead tally that made it 3-2. But with Washington shorthanded, Jordan Staal deflected a Dougie Hamilton point shot to force sudden death.

It nearly didn’t reach that point. Petr Mrazek bailed out his team with some great saves on dangerous chances. That included stoning John Carlson point blank at the buzzer. He finished with 29 saves.

A bad break cost Carolina. Brett Pesce lost his stick on a long defensive shift. Even after getting a stick, he never recovered. Evgeny Kuznetsov waited behind the net before setting up Brooks Orpik for the game-winner at 1:48 of sudden death. Orpik does his best work in the playoffs. The defensive defenseman once beat the Islanders a few years ago.

That’s the playoffs in a nutshell. Where unlikely heroes emerge. In a tightly played Game Two, Craig Smith won the game for the Predators to even the series against the Stars. Nashville prevailed 2-1 to get a much needed win with the series headed to Dallas. Both Been Bishop and Pekka Rinne played well. It looks like that could be a long series.

In the night cap, the Avalanche fought hard to come back and beat the Flames 3-2 in OT. After Matt Nieto and Rasmus Andersson exchanged goals in the second, Sean Monahan put the Flames on top 2-1. But with Phillip Grubauer pulled, J.T. Compher tied the game at 17:21 on a broken play off a face-off.

I thought Sam Bennett would win it for Calgary. He was their best forward, picking up two assists including the primary on both Andersson’s and Monahan’s goals. But following a clutch stop from Grubauer, Nathan MacKinnon took a perfect pass from Mikko Rantanen in stride and pulled away from Mark Giordano before rifling a laser past Mike Smith’s glove to finally break through at 8:27 of overtime.

It was an outstanding play by a great player. Now, the series is tied with the next two in Colorado. There wouldn’t have been overtime without Grubauer, who made 35 saves. Smith was excellent too stopping 36 of 39. It’s been much different than expected so far.

It’ll be interesting to see how many games Kadri receives. I like him as a player. He’s a solid two-way center, who plays on the edge. However, he simply cannot take that penalty. It could cost Toronto again. Now, he’ll be unavailable for the rest of the first round. He should’ve challenged DeBrusk to a fight.

Instead, Kadri will be watching from the press box hoping his team can prevail without him.

The Islanders look to go up 3-0 the Penguins at high noon on NBC during Master’s Sunday. Can Tiger win his fifth green jacket? Sidney Crosby will be looking to get untracked in a must win Game Three at home.

What about the Lightning? Can they get back in their series visiting Columbus? Without Kucherov, it’s up to Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Tyler Johnson, Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh to deliver in front of Andrei Vasilevskiy. That’s at 7 PM.

Winnipeg faces a similar situation at St. Louis. After dropping the first two at home, do they have what it takes to get Game Three and make it a series?

San Jose is banking on Martin Jones to be better than his disappointing Game Two in Vegas. Two teams that hate each other renew acquaintances in Sin City with the series tied.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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