Craig Anderson is a wall for the Senators, Capitals' Holtby wins goaltending battle, an unlikely hero for the Blues and the Red Wings get back on even footing with the Ducks. Scott Cullen breaks down Thursday night's NHL playoff action.
ANDERSON SAVES THE DAY
When breaking down the Montreal-Ottawa series, one of the glaring differences between the two teams was the play of their goaltenders this year.
Ottawa's Craig Anderson missed time with a high ankle sprain, but that may be the only reason that he won't win the Vezina Trophy because he did lead the league in goals against average (1.69) and save percentage (.941). Compared to Montreal's Carey Price, who had a .905 save percentage, worst among starting goaltenders in the playoffs, Anderson held a distinct advantage.
In Game One, Anderson stopped 48 of 50 Montreal shots (27 in the second period alone), proving to be the difference in a 4-2 Ottawa win. As great as he played, it wasn't even the most saves Anderson has made in a playoff game. He had a 51-save shutout for Colorado, against San Jose, in April, 2010.
The Canadiens, most notably Brandon Prust, tried to get Anderson off his game but, for the most part, they were not successful.
With Anderson as the backstop, the Senators still needed to generate some offence.
The most obvious player to create chances for the Sens is superstar defenceman Erik Karlsson and he didn't disappoint, scoring a goal and an assist, finishing with a plus-3 rating, a team-high five shots on goal, all while playing a game-high 29:11.
Karlsson's primary defence partner, Marc Methot, also had a goal and an assist and was plus-3, but that offence isn't quite so common from Methot. In 322 career games, Methot had scored two points in a game five times.
A couple of other Senators had multi-point nights: Swedish rookies Jakob Silfverberg (1 G & 1 A) and Mika Zibanejad (2 A) were factors in the Senators' third-period rally.
Montreal took the lead on a second period power play when Senators D Eric Gryba laid out Canadiens C Lars Eller at the Habs' blueline. The hit knocked Eller out and Gryba was handed a five-minute major for interference (even though Eller touched the puck). On the power play, Canadiens rookie Brendan Gallagher converted a pass from Tomas Plekanec. It was one of eight shots on goal (a career-high) for Gallagher.
His long-term recovery is of foremost concern right now, but Eller being out of the Canadiens' lineup is a significant loss. He finished the year with 13 points in the last 12 games and was effective while centering Montreal's rookies, Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk. They were among Montreal's best in the possession game for Game One.
It was a rough game for Canadiens D Raphael Diaz,; he was minus-2 and delivered the pass that left Eller vulnerable to get hit hard.
A few other stats of note: Montreal P.K. Subban had six shots on goal, a threshold he reached three times in 42 games this season.
Senators RW Erik Condra had five blocked shots; he led Ottawa forwards with 32 blocked shots this season.
Canadiens C Tomas Plekanec won 17 of 22 draws, 77.3%, while Ottawa's Kyle Turris and Jean-Gabriel Pageau combined to win 10 of 27 face-offs (27.0%).
Capitals G Braden Holtby stopped 35 of 36 shots and the Capitals scored a pair of goals 46 seconds apart in the second period to pull away from the New York Rangers and win 3-1.
Washington doesn't typically have possession numbers as strong as the Rangers do, so they're going to need Holtby to perform well and they got the better goaltending performance to open the series. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 of 30 shots for the Rangers, but the third goal, scored by Jason Chimera, looked like a softy, a relatively harmless shot from the sideboards that found it's way through Lundqvist.
In the matchup of big scoring wingers, Capitals RW Alex Ovechkin scored Washington's first goal and had a team-high five shots on goal to go with five hits, a solid night.
Rangers RW Rick Nash couldn't find the net even though he got eight shots on goal and took five more shots that were blocked.
Prior to the start of the series, there had been some mention of Ovechkin scoring a low percentage of his goals (9 of 32) against playoff teams. That is a lower percentage, though not too far off of what was typical for many of the league's top goal-scorers. Interestingly, Nash scored only five of his 21 goals against playoff teams this season, the lowest percentage for any of those that scored at least 20 goals this season.
The Capitals only scored one power play goal, but had five opportunities and that has to be an area of concern for the Rangers. With Washington owning the league's best power play, connecting at 26.8% during the regular season, discipline has to be a standard part of the Rangers' gameplan if they are going to win this series.
A few notable stats from this game:
Rangers D Steve Eminger had seven hits in just 9:56 of ice time.
Rangers LW Mats Zuccarello registered six hits and played 21:43, a total he's surpassed just once in his career.
Capitals D John Carlson led the club with six blocked shots and RW Troy Brouwer was a physical presence, registering seven hits for Washington.
Into the final minute of a low-scoring, tight-checking game, the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings looked like they would be heading for overtime, but the Kings got away on a rush late and, with 51 seconds to go, veteran D Barret Jackman fired home the game-winner, a wrist shot that appeared stoppable for Kings G Jonathan Quick.
Not only was Jackman the last-minute hero, but he enjoyed a strong game by possession metrics as well.
Blues G Brian Elliott stopped 28 of 29 shots for the win. It was the 11th time in the last 13 games that he allowed one or fewer goals.
Kings RW Justin Williams had eight shots on goal and had a strong possession game.
There weren't a lot of standout performances in this game, which isn't a major surprise because the Kings and Blues are really battling for every inch of the ice, so there isn't a ton of room to create opportunities.
Both games in this series have been such a grind that's it is all the more back-breaking when the winning goal is something that Quick should be able to stop.
The defending champs return home to L.A. now, but if they are going to get back in the series, they will need to throw Brian Elliott of his game in the Blues net. If Elliott keeps playing at his current level, it's going to be very difficult to take out the Blues.
RED WINGS WIN IN OVERTIME
When the Detroit Red Wings scored 20 seconds into the third period to take a 4-1 lead over the Anaheim Ducks, it appeared that the game was well in hand, but then the Ducks reeled off three in a span of 9:48 to tie the game.
In overtime, Detroit's Gustav Nyquist was the hero, finishing a nifty setup from C Valtteri Filppula at 1:21 into overtime to give the Red Wings a 5-4 win.
After they were largely held in check in Game One of the series, combining for seven shots, Detroit's top line of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader carried the play in Game Two, tallying 17 shots as a unit.
Detroit scored three power play goals, a pair from Johan Franzen, as well as the game-winner by Nyquist. Red Wings RW Damien Brunner was aggressive in his play and led the Wings offensively with a goal and two assists.
An unsung hero for the Wings in Game Two would be RW Justin Abdelkader, who scored the game's first goal, played a career-high 20:00, but also drew two penalties on Ducks D Sheldon Souray, one in the last minute of the second period and one in the last minute of the third. The Red Wings scored on both power plays.
Three Ducks -- Saku Koivu, Kyle Palmierei and Bobby Ryan -- finished with a goal and assist apiece. When the Red Wings started reeling in the third, the Ducks put on relentless pressure and no one on Detroit was capable of steadying the ship.
Detroit returns home, having earned the split in Anaheim. Rookie D Danny DeKeyser suffered a broken finger and will be out for the rest of the season, a noteworthy absence, but the Wings earned the road split that they needed with a much better effort in Game Two, at least for 50 minutes.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.