It was an exciting day of playoff hockey in the National Hockey League, as we had four games and a lot of storylines. Last season we had a total of eight playoff games go to overtime, but on Saturday we had three games require more than regulation to decide a winner. The lone game not to go to OT was the Toronto Maple Leafs-Boston Bruins game, and that one had the biggest storyline of all with a key member of the visitors likely facing a suspension. Let's get started!
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Washington Capitals 4, Carolina Hurricanes 3 (OT)
The defending champion Capitals fired out to a 2-0 lead midway through the first period, as Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie registered goals in the first 9:26 to make the Verizon Center go bananas. The goal for Backstrom was already his third of the season, so the Hurricanes are going to want to make sure they do a better job of shutting him down on Monday night in Raleigh or this feel-good trip to the playoffs might be very short-lived for the 'Bunch of Jerks'.The Hurricanes were able to get on the board late in the first period on a screamer from Lucas Wallmark, slicing the lead in half. After a bunch of back and forth, but not a lot of offense, it was All-Star Sebastian Aho answering late in the second period to tie the game up 2-2. The Hurricanes, who were trying to pull off the road split and wrestle home-ice advantage from the Caps, were feeling good heading to the third period.
Midway through the third the seesaw battle continued. Alex Ovechkin and Backstrom moved the puck around nicely in the zone and the puck bounced to Tom Wilson, and he deposited it past Petr Mrazek for the 3-2 lead. Again, it was a short-lived lead. Nic Dowd was called for a high-sticking minor at 14:35, and 25 seconds later it was Jordan Staal striking on the power play on assists from Dougie Hamilton and Andrei Svechnikov to force overtime. Mrazek actually made a tremendous stop at point-blank right at the horn to keep the game level. The rookie Svechnikov has managed two goals and three points in his first taste of the NHL postseason.
In the extra session it was Brooks Orpik striking early. It was a series of unfortunate circumstances, too, as a defender lost his stick and it was like a power-play situation of sorts. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Oshie moved the puck around and the fortuitous bounce came to Orpik who wired it past Mrazek top shelf for the winner and 2-0 series lead.
Nashville Predators 2, Dallas Stars 1 (OT)
In the Music City, the Predators were in desperation mode after being dropped by the Stars in Game 1. They could ill afford to go down 2-0 heading to the Metroplex for Game 3. The first period was scoreless and rather physical. In the second period, Jamie Benn quieted the crowd with a goal at the 1:59 mark to break the ice, and that had the crowd in Nashville wringing their hands. The consternation didn't last long, as Rocco Grimaldi broke through with the game-tying goal just 1:57 later on assists from Austin Watson and Calle Jarnkrok to tie the game.
In the third period there weren't a lot of offensive chances, as both Ben Bishop and Pekka Rinne stood on their hands to preserve the stalemate. Bishop faced a lot more rubber, allowing two goals on 42 shots on the evening, while Rinne faced just 23 shots all evening, allowing one. The difference maker was Craig Smith, who delivered his first overtime game-winning tally in the postseason, with Mattias Ekholm setting him up, and Jarnkrok picking up the secondary helper, his second assist of the evening. Normally he isn't a great fantasy option in seasonal formats, but he isn't a bad low-cost DFS option going forward into Game 3 and beyond.
Boston Bruins 4, Toronto Maple Leafs 1
In Beantown, the B's were in the same position as the Predators. After losing in Game 1, they couldn't go down 2-0 heading to the Center of the Hockey Universe. Charlie Coyle, acquired prior to the trade deadline from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Ted Donato, bagged him first of the playoffs on a helper from David Backes, who was back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch in the series opener. Brad Marchand scored late in the first period, and the B's were feeling good heading to the room after 20 minutes.
Midway through the second period it was Danton Heinen breaking through for an unassisted goal, and the Bruins faithful were back to feeling just as confident as they were before heading into the series against the team they have owned over recent seasons.
The third period is when the fireworks started, however. Well, really it started early and often. Nazem Kadri of the Leafs and Jake DeBrusk were mixing it up for most of the evening. A knee-on-knee hit from DeBrusk to Kadri caused the Toronto center to hobble off to the locker room for a brief period in the second. Kadri had his revenge in the third period, notching Toronto's only goal of the game, but that wasn't the big story. He took exception to a DeBrusk hit on veteran Patrick Marleau, cross-checking DeBrusk to the head, and the B's player laid on the ice in a heap while Zdeno Chara worked over Kadri for his misdeed. That's not the only discipline that Kadri will be facing, however, as many talking heads figure he'll be gone for at least Game 3, if not the remainder of the series.
Lost in the dust-up was a great performance by Tuukka Rask, who bounced back with 30 saves on 31 shots to help the B's level the series 1-1 heading back to Toronto, essentially making this a best-of-five now. Something tells me that the Kadri-DeBrusk rough stuff isn't the last time we'll see these two sides exchanging haymakers.
Colorado Avalanche 3, Calgary Flames 2 (OT)
The final game of the day might have been the most entertaining. The first period had a lot of gumming it up in the neutral zone, and not a lot of offensive chances. The two sides were scoreless through 20 minutes. The Calgary Flames had a power play midway through the second period, but it was Matt Nieto etching his name onto the scoresheet with the shorthanded goal. He scored 15 goals last season, but managed just four goals in 2018-19, and he was a bit of an afterthought, especially from a fantasy perspective.
Rasmus Andersson answered back on the power play for his first-career postseason goal at 12:26 of the second period. Right around the same time in the third, 12:27 to be exact, Sean Monahan potted a goal from the faceoff circle to the left of Philipp Grubauer to send the Calgary fans into a frenzy and give the Flames their first lead of the night. However, it was J.T. Compher to splash cold water on the fans inside the Saddledome, and outside of the arena partying in the street, as he knotted the game up 2-2 late in the third to force overtime.
In OT, Michael Frolik was denied at point-blank range by Philipp Grubauer, the most important of his 35 saves on the night. Just seconds later the Avalanche broke the other way, with Ian Cole working it up to Mikko Rantanen, and Rantanen feeding it to Nathan MacKinnon. He streaked in against Smith and wired one top shelf over the glove hand of Smith to send the Avalanche home to Denver with home-ice advantage heading into Game 3. Rantanen, who missed time down the stretch with an injury, managed two assists to make fantasy owners in postseason pools smile.