Well we finally have our first team moving on to the Conference Semifinals, but many more are getting close at this point. Let’s break down what happened on day 8.
Detroit vs. Phoenix– The Wings kicked things off quickly in a busy first period as Pavel Datsyuk skated in, cut to the middle, and found a trailing Tomas Holmstrom who buried a beautiful shot for a 1-0 lead. It seemed as though Phoenix was ready to play, however, as they bounced back with two quick goals from Taylor Pyatt and Shane Doan to take the lead 2-1 less than ten minutes in to the game. Patrick Eaves closed the period with his first goal of the playoffs after patiently positioning himself in front of the net waiting for a feed. Heading to intermission, things were all tied up at two.
Early in the second, Phoenix grabbed the lead once again when Martin Hanzal buried a power-play goal into a wide open net. Hanzal was set up beautifully from Radim Vrbata. Just three and a half minutes later, it was the Wings who tied things up at three with a power-play goal of their own. Niklas Kronwall found a gift in between the circles and fired it right past Bryzgalov for his first of the post-season. Things remained tied at three through the 2nd intermission.
It began to look, for a bit, that this game might be headed to overtime. Fortunately, for Wings fans, Danny Cleary took it upon himself to fire a terrible angle shot at Bryzgalov 13:41 into the third period. Cleary had no other options, and the shot was placed perfectly as hit Bryzgalov in the right spot and trickled past the goal line. Things appeared to be all set, but the Wings wanted to ensure the Coyotes could not come back. They did just that when Todd Bertuzzi found the back of the net after bouncing the puck off a defensemans foot on a wrap around. The goal came at 15:34 of the third and gave the Red Wings a comfortable 5-3 lead. Their view of the second round became even more clear when Patrick Eaves picked up his second of the game as he finished off a breakaway shot into the empty net.
The Red Wings looked solid, and comfortable, throughout their series against the Coyotes. They could face up to a week of rest, which may be a blessing for injured players, but could hurt them by being off for so long. The sweep of the Coyotes came despite Henrik Zetterberg sitting out all four games with a knee injury. He lead the Wings in points throughout the regular season. Franzen also sat game four, as Mike Modano skated in his place. Franzen was a game-time decision with an injured ankle, but should be fully healed by the first game of round two. One other positive note for Wings fans: there were thirteen different goal scorers in those four games against the Coyotes. Secondary scoring is huge in the playoffs, and everyone played a huge role in the first round sweep.
Pittsburgh vs. Tampa Bay- The first of our two overtime games from last night, the Penguins were able to score early into the second extra period to take a 3-1 lead over the Bolts. Tyler Kennedy got the scoring started at the 8:14 mark when he tallied in Pittsburgh’s first power play goal of the series. They snapped a streak of 15 power plays without a goal in the playoffs when Mark Letestu fed Kennedy with a pass in which Kennedy skated in and fired a wrist shot past the stick side of goalie Dwayne Roloson.
Pittsburgh would make it 2-0 2:39 into the middle period when Aaron Asham scored on another wrist shot past Roloson. The Penguins controlled play and constantly peppered shots on Roloson, and the second goal was no different when Asham took a rebound from Roloson and scored. It would take until almost the end of the second period before the home team got on the scoreboard, as Martin St. Louis scored his fourth of the series with 2:46 remaining in the period. The Lightning wouldn’t go down without a fight, as Sean Bergenheim tied the game with 3:17 remaining in the game. St. Louis earned his second point of the game with an assist.
The game would end when James Neal scored his first career playoff goal when he fired a slap shot from the right boards that clipped Roloson’s glove before entering the net. Roloson turned away 50 shots while Marc-Andre Fleury made 29 saves. The Pens can close out the series Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh.
Washington vs. New York- In what could be the second-largest comeback this year’s playoffs, the Rangers choked on a 3-0 lead to allow the Capitals to mount a comeback and force overtime, where Jason Chimera scored one of the strangest goals one has ever seen to take a 3-1 lead in the series.
After a scoreless first period, the Rangers dominated the second period when they scored their three goals in 8:23. The first was scored when Artem Anisimov got the bounce to go his way when he shot the puck from behind the net and entered the goal due to it deflecting off the skate of Caps forward Matt Hendricks at the 5:24 mark of the second period. The second and third New York goals occurred seven seconds apart, the first occurring when Marian Gaborik was open to the left of Michal Neuvirth and took pass off the backhand of Ruslan Fedotenko at 13:40. Neuvirth couldn’t get the goal off his mind before the Fedotenko skated down the ice and backhanded the puck to a waiting Brandon Dubinsky who one-timed the puck seven seconds later for the 3-0 lead.
Washington would score three goals of their own, in a span of 9:20. The first was Alexander Semin’s second of the postseason via wrist shot at 2:47. Less than a minute later, Marcus Johansson tipped a shot from Brooks Laich past Rangers keeper Henrik Lundqvist. Johansson would make a return trip to the score sheet when he tied the game at 12:07. It occured shortly after a Sean Avery penalty, leaving the Rangers still with four skaters in their own zone. John Carlson fired a slap shot from the point where it was deflected by Johansson past Lundqvist.
Jason Chimera would complete the comeback and silence the Madison Square Garden crowd in the second overtime when he followed up his shot and knocked the fumbling puck out of the reach of Lundqvist and into the net. Like Pittsburgh, Washington can close out the series at home Saturday afternoon.
Anaheim vs. Nashville- Just like the Detroit-Phoenix game, game four between the Ducks and Predators was tied 3-3 after 40 minutes. And just like the Red Wings, it was the road team scoring three goals in the final period as the Ducks squared the series with the Predators at 2-2 as both teams go back to Orange County for game five tomorrow night.
Anaheim was powered by three special teams goals, including the game-winning goal that occurred when the Ducks were shorthanded in the second minute of the third period when Corey Perry recorded his second goal of the series. He and Brandon McMillan were on a odd-man rush when Perry fired a backhanded shot past Pekka Renne. Renne couldn’t recover as he allowed two more goals in 5:30 before Anders Lindback entered the game in relief. The last goal was scored by McMillan when he beat Renne on a breakaway through the five-hole. Renne made 23 saves on 29 shots, and Lindback turned away all nine shots he faced. Ray Emery got his second win of the series as he stopped 19 pucks on 22 shots.
Buffalo vs. Philadelphia- In a night that averaged over seven goals per game in the other four games, the two teams combined for one goal as Buffalo was able to ensure themselves of one more home game in the series against Philadelphia. The series is tied 2-2 behind a goal from Jason Pominville at the midway point of the first period. The goal was scored when he skated towards the net and took a pass from Rob Neidermayer across the crease and into the net for the only goal of the contest.
Starting his second straight game, Brian Boucher played as well as someone could to give his team the best chance to win. He allowed only one goal on 29 shots. And has only allowed three goals in over two and a half games since Sergei Bobrovsky was pulled early in game two. Ryan Miller made 32 saves for his second shutout of the series. The two teams will play to determine who will return to Buffalo with a 3-2 lead tomorrow night.
Editor’s Note: Matt also contributed to today’s recap of games.