Yesterday, there were five games in the latest installment of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The bubble in Edmonton and Toronto was quite busy. You had a lot of hockey to pick and choose from.
Three of the five games went to overtime. That included the Islanders and Capitals with Mat Barzal beating Braden Holtby on a breakaway with a nifty backhand deke into a open net to give the Isles a 3-0 stranglehold on the lifeless Caps. They continue to dominate the Caps at five-on-five.
Then, you had the Stars coming from behind to beat the Flames 5-4 in sudden death to even their series. After a Jason Dickinson goal was wiped out by incidental contact, Joe Pavelski came to the rescue by putting home a rebound with a dozen seconds left for a hat trick. Calgary was that close to going up 3-1. Instead, a John Klingberg shot banked off Alex Radulov for the OT winner to tie the series at two.
In the third game, the Flyers used an early Jake Voracek odd tip in goal over Carey Price to defeat the Canadiens 1-0 in Game Three. In a strange game of few shots and fewer chances, the lone goal came off a face-off with Claude Giroux shooting a innocent shot off Voracek’s stick for a weird deflection that sailed over Price and in. That was enough for Carter Hart to pitch a shutout thanks to his best friend the goalpost. Montreal hit the post four times including Nate Thompson late. Philly leads the series two games to one.
The fourth game was the best one. The Blackhawks avoided a sweep against the Golden Knights thanks to a stupendous performance from Corey Crawford. The two time Stanley Cup champion was unbelievable against Vegas last night. He was in a zone stopping nearly everything sent his way in a 3-1 Chicago victory in Game Four. How under siege was he? Try following goals from Drake Caggliua and Matthew Highmore, Crawford had the lead cut to one by impressive Vegas top defenseman Shea Theodore.
Afterwards, it was a shooting gallery. The Golden Knights had 20 shots in the first period and another 16 in the second. The Hawks couldn’t get out of their zone. But Crawford wouldn’t allow them to lose. He made 48 saves in a jaw dropping performance. In fact, Vegas out-attempted Chicago 96-45. The Hawks couldn’t mount anything against former goalie Robin Lehner. He could’ve been at the beach in a lounge chair catching waves. As Crawford continued to stand on his head, his best two saves came when he somehow masked away a pointblank Golden Knights chance and then made a great glove save on a shot labeled for the top part of the net. The way he grabbed the puck out of midair was amazing.
Crawford wouldn’t let them lose. He improved to 15-6 in elimination games. That’s no small feat. For a good goalie who’s been written off by most due to concussion history and injuries that affected his play, don’t forget he’s a winner. He proved it to the Golden Knights, who threw the kitchen sink at him yesterday. Alex DeBrincat finally scored his first postseason goal into a open net to seal the 3-1 win. Crawford deserved Lobster and steak with his choice of wine. Game Four is tomorrow.
In the fifth and final game of the night, the Blues are still alive thanks to Brayden Schenn, who scored on a clean breakaway to beat Jacob Markstrom and the Canucks in an exciting 3-2 overtime win. It was a great game. After a scoreless first period, the teams combined for four goals in a topsy turvy second. JT Miller scored on a beautiful wrist shot top shelf in transition to put the Canucks ahead. Then, the Blues responded with goals from Justin Faulk and David Perron to take the lead. But before they could get comfortable, Elias Pettersson picked a tight spot on St. Louis starter Jake Allen by going high stick side off the inside of the crossbar and in to tie the game at two. It was a great shot by a skilled player.
The third was good with each team looking for the go-ahead tally. It never came as both goalies played well. In particular, Markstrom was outstanding. In a losing effort, he finished with 46 saves. The overtime was just as exciting with each team exchanging chances. Allen came up big by making a huge glove save to deny Miller. Finally, Ryan O’Reilly made a great play. With pressure on him in his zone, he made a good backhand outlet for an open Schenn at the Canucks blueline. Schenn took off and picked high glove on Markstrom to give the defending champs a huge victory. They had to have it. They trail the series 2-1.
Today, four games are on the slate including a back-to-back with the Blues looking to even their series versus the Canucks. Does Allen start again or will Craig Berube go back to Jordan Binnington? Columbus battles Tampa Bay this afternoon. They’ll need another big game from Joonas Korpisalo to even that series. Boston looks to go up 3-1 on Carolina, who are without Andrei Svechnikov following Zdeno Chara’s dirty slew foot that caused a knee injury. Rod Brind’Amour doesn’t expect to have the young star back. James Reimer is expected to start versus Jaro Halak. It’s been a very good series. The Coyotes look to draw even with the Avalanche. Darcy Kuemper has quite busy in their 4-2 win the other day. Will he need another clutch performance against the ultra talented Avalanche featuring Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri, Cale Makar and Gabriel Landeskog? Probably.
I’ll have more later on Hard Hits Live. Tune in at 10 PM for a two-hour show mostly on the first round series. Link below.