The Canadiens and Ducks win; notes on Max Pacioretty, Nathan Beaulieu, Daniel Briere, John Gibson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Jarret Stoll and more.
MAKE IT SEVEN
Facing elimination, the Montreal Canadiens came out of the gate quickly to take an early lead, got a few bounces and 26 saves from Carey Price on the way to a 4-0 win, tying the series at three games apiece.
Montreal's big scorers came to play, as LW Max Pacioretty scored once and added an assist. It was Pacioretty's second goal of the playoffs, his first of this series. Pacioretty struggled early in the series, but has been better (43 5-on-5 shot attempts for, 41 against) over the past three games. Pacioretty's assist game on the first of Thomas Vanek's two goals.
A couple of additions to the Habs' lineup paid off in limited roles for Game Six. Veteran C Daniel Briere, a healthy scratch in Game Five, was on for nine shot attempts for and four against, anchoring the fourth line with Dale Weise and Brandon Prust.
Rookie D Nathan Beaulieu, in for Douglas Murray, chipped in an assist and was one for 58.3% of 5-on-5 shot attempts when he was on the ice.
Canadiens D Josh Gorges, charged with protecting the lead, played a game-high 26:19, and was on the ice for 25.0% of 5-on-5 shot attempts. With Gorges off the ice, the Canadiens held 64.3% of the shot attempts at even strength.
That the series is going seven games doesn't come as a major surprise -- over the past decade, the Canadiens and Bruins have gone seven games in a playoff series in 2011, 2008 and 2004 -- but with a couple of missed opportunities earlier in the series (ie. Lost lead in Game Two, OT loss in Game Four), the Canadiens needed a really big performance to take this particular series to Game Seven.
The Bruins have been the better team ove the course of this season and carried play more consistently over the course of this series, but that doesn't much matter now. Wednesday night will bring a winner-take-all Game Seven between these arch-rivals, with a trip to the Eastern Conference Final awaiting the winner.
DUCKS FLYING HIGH
For the first time in the Freeway Series, the home team came out on top, and the Anaheim Ducks' 4-3 win in Game Five gave them a 3-2 series lead over the Los Angeles Kings.
The Ducks turning to rookie G John Gibson, in their time of need, has altered the series and Gibson turned aside 39 of 42 Kings shots in Game Five to earn the win. In five regular season and playoff games with the Ducks this season, Gibson has stopped 150 of 157 shots (.955 SV%). This wouldn't be the first time that a rookie goaltender made a name for himself in the NHL playoffs, but Gibson's performance in the last two games has already tipped the series in Anaheim's favour.
Ducks LW Devante Smith-Pelly is taking a liking to his role on the number one line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Smith-Pelly scored a pair of goals and led the Ducks with six shot attempts and seven hits.
Once the Ducks jumped out to a 4-1 lead, they went into a defensive shell as the Kings mounted a comeback attempt. LW Marian Gaborik scored a pair of goals, giving him a playoff-leading eight goals, and had seven shots on goal. Not surprisingly, the Kings' top line of Gaborik, Justin Williams and Anze Kopitar carried play, all three on the ice for better than 70% of 5-on-5 shot attempts.
Unheralded Kings C Jarret Stoll has been having a tremendous series. In five games, he's been on the ice for 65.8% (79 for, 41 against) of the 5-on-5 shot attempts. He's gone without a point in the past eight games, but the puck is spending a lot of time in Anaheim's zone when Stoll is on the ice.
Also, in Game Five, Kings D Drew Doughty had 13 shot attempts, including a deflection in the final minute that was kicked aside by Gibson.
Kings C Mike Richards played 9:50, second-lowest on the team (ahead of only Jordan Nolan) and didn't take a shift in the final 10 minutes. In 250 regular season and playoff games over the past three seasons with Los Angeles, prior to Game Five, Richards had played more than 10 minutes in 249 of those games.
The Kings may hold an edge in territorial play in this series, but they're now facing a deficit and have to win back-to-back games against the Ducks. Finding a way to get Gibson off his game has to be the priority because, right now, the kid is playing well enough to leave Los Angeles royally disappointed.
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.