After last night’s action, the Tampa Bay Lightning are heading to the golf course, the Sharks have a stranglehold on their series against LA, and Boston and New York have reclaimed home-ice advantage. Tonight, the Blue Jackets, Stars, and Blackhawks will all try to even their series. Updated win probabilities are below.
Montreal Canadiens beat Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0
The Lightning showed a brief flicker of life in the third period last night, potting two fluky goals early in the frame to erase a 3-1 deficit, but this flash of good fortune didn’t last long: with overtime looming, Tampa rookie Cedric Paquette took a tripping penalty, and Max Pacioretty smacked home a rebound at 19:17 to send the Canadiens through to the second round. For a Tampa Bay team that overcame so much this season – the offseason departure of long-time captain Vincent Lecavalier, losing Steven Stamkos for four months, the trade of Martin St. Louis at the deadline – to finish with 101 points, it’s hard to fathom how badly things went wrong against Montreal. A 51.7% Fenwick Close team in the regular season, Tampa was just 43.6% in their four playoff games. In terms of Corsi events, their offensive production didn’t change much when the postseason started, but their shots against ballooned versus Montreal. Players like Tyler Johnson, Radko Gudas, Richard Panik, and Sami Salo saw much tougher zone starts in the playoffs, and were crushed in those minutes. The late-season injury to Ben Bishop didn’t help matters, as backup Anders Lindback served up 0.877 goaltending at even strength, and was pulled in his final two games. Still, a defensive effort like they displayed in the regular season would have likely kept the series closer. As for the Canadiens, they get a long rest before they meet the winner of the Boston-Detroit series in the second round.
Boston Bruins lead Detroit Red Wings 2-1
One odd thing about this series: in each game, the road team has had the better of the puck possession. After questionable efforts in a split of the first two games in Boston, the President’s Trophy winners came out last night looking like the team we’d expected to see. The Bruins outshot Detroit 11-4 in the first period and grabbed a 2-0 lead on goals by Dougie Hamilton and Jordan Caron seven minutes apart. Score effects didn’t really apply the rest of the way, as Boston drove the play despite holding the lead. For a Detroit squad hoping to use home-ice advantage to put Boston in a deeper hole, their effort last night has to be disappointing. Moreover, for a team that struggled to generate shots all season long, it’s concerning that they’ve only beaten Tuukka Rask twice in three games thus far. The series will go back to Boston this weekend, but the Wings need a win in Thursday’s Game 4 if they don’t want that to be an elimination game.
New York Rangers lead Philadelphia Flyers 2-1
There’s a reason Henrik Lundqvist is called The King, and last night illustrated it. In the first 11 minutes of Game 3, the Rangers took a quick 2-0 lead. After that, the game was 49 minutes of score-effects-driven possession for the Flyers, and despite a huge shot advantage, considerable scoring talent, and the ability to get more favorable on-ice match-ups, Philadelphia only got one puck past Lundqvist. At the other end of the ice, Ray Emery failed to match his effort in Game 2, allowing four goals on just 20 shots before being lifted for Steve Mason. I’ll leave it to others to second-guess the goaltending moves in Philadelphia, but this win gives home-ice advantage back to New York. The Flyers will try to stay level in the series in Game 4 on Friday.
San Jose Sharks lead Los Angeles Kings 3-0
Before last night, San Jose hadn’t won a game in regulation or overtime at Staples since clinching a first-round series there in the 2011 postseason. While last night’s game wasn’t nearly as one-sided as the first two games at the SAP Center, it was about as strong a road game as I’ve seen anyone play in LA this year. While even-strength shot attempts were largely even between the teams, the Sharks still put 40 shots on goal against an elite shot-prevention team, and twice overcame one-goal deficits against the squad that allowed the fewest goals in the NHL this season. Once again, Todd McLellan’s willingness to run Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, and Joe Pavelski on separate lines paid dividends, as the Kings’ attack was neutralized for much of the game. Before the playoffs started, it was unthinkable that this series could end in a sweep for either team, and while nothing is over until the handshake line (Sharks fans may recall how a 3-0 series lead turned into a one-goal victory in Game 7 against Detroit in 2011), San Jose has a chance to bring this series to a quick end. Game 4 is on Thursday.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (PIT leads 2-1)
Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars (ANA leads 2-1)
St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks (STL leads 2-1)