NHL

Cullen: Habs, Ducks take 2-0 series leads

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Scott Cullen
4/19/2014 8:34:00 AM
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The Montreal Canadiens follow Rene Bourque's lead, Pavel Datsyuk makes the difference for the Red Wings and Ryan Getzlaf makes the difference for the Ducks. Scott Cullen looks at Friday night's NHL playoff games.

HABS FOLLOW BOURQUE

Canadiens LW Rene Bourque, who has scored 21 goals and 37 points in 128 regular season games for Montreal since arriving in a trade from Calgary, scored a pair of goals to pace the Montreal attack in a comfortable 4-1 win at Tampa Bay, giving the Habs a 2-0 series lead.

Both of Bourque's goals required significant individual effort, allowing him to remind people that he's a three-time 20-goal scorer -- that he had been known to finish on occasion before he joined the Canadiens.

While Bourque's contribution counts as something of a surprise, the Canadiens also took advantage of what was supposed to be their greatest advantage coming into the series: goaltending. Carey Price stopped 26 of 27 shots, his shutout broken with less than two minutes remaining on a Teddy Purcell power play goal.

In Tampa's net, Anders Lindback was yanked after allowing three goals on 23 shots, replaced by rookie Kristers Gudlevskis, who allowed one goal on three shots. Lightning coach Jon Cooper downplayed any goalending controversy but, as expected, the non-Ben Bishop options aren't ideal for the Lightning.

The unfortunate part for the Lightning is that they had a relatively strong possession game. Defencemen Mike Kostka and Eric Brewer, along with forwards J.T. Brown, Cedric Paquette and Nikita Kucherov all had a Corsi percentage of 66.7% or better, meaning that at least two of every three shot attempts were in the Lightning's favour with those players on the ice.

The funny thing is that the Montreal line that was torched, possession wise, was Lars Eller, Brian Gionta and the aforementioned Rene Bourque.

The Habs are up two games to none and going home, with the Lightning having a clear deficit in goal. It's a favourable situation for Montreal, but they can't get complacent.

MAGIC ACT

The top-seeded Boston Bruins were upset in Game One, as Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk scored a spectacular goal with 3:01 remaining in the third period, to give the Red Wings a 1-0 win in the game and 1-0 lead in the series.

While the Wings had every right to believe they could compete with Boston coming into the game, it's one thing to believe it and another to carry 58% of the possession play on the road against the Presidents' Trophy winners.

The Bruins were missing defencemen Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller, which resulted in Corey Potter and Andrej Meszaros playing; both were break-even in possession terms. The real tough night for the Bruins came for the top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla. They were matched up against the Red Wings line of Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist, with Danny DeKeyser and Kyle Quincey on defence. Sheahan had better than 70% Corsi% to lead all skaters.

Even Bruins stalwart D Zdeno Chara had a 35.1% Corsi%; he had a Corsi% lower than that twice all season, both in games against the San Jose Sharks games this season. Chara spent his night matched against Datsyuk and the edge clearly went to Datsyuk.

Naturally, in a 1-0 game, the goaltenders played well. While that's pretty standard for Vezina favourite Tuukka Rask in the Boston net, Detroit's Jimmy Howard had an uneven season, but he allowed two goals in each of his last five starts, before opening the playoffs with a 25-save shutout. In 43 career playoff games, Howard has a .919 save percentage, which ranks seventh among active goaltenders (Rask, incidentally, ranks second).

Detroit utilized their depth. Everyone in the lineup played at least 12 minutes -- Daniel Alfredsson, at 12:14, played the least for the Wings -- and, as a result, their top four defencemen were the only ones to play more than 20 minutes.

It wasn't easy for the Wings, but their Game One performance showed a template for how they can push the Bruins in this series; use a disciplined, puck-control game and don't get caught up in Boston's aggressive physical game.

DUCK AND COVER

The Anaheim Ducks held on for a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars, taking a 2-0 series lead.

Ducks C Ryan Getzlaf, playing with facial protection after taking a Tyler Seguin slapshot in the cheek late in Game One, led the Ducks' effort, scoring a goal and adding an assist. RW Corey Perry also scored for the Ducks and stands contrast to the performance of the Stars' Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, who have not had the same kind of impact.

The game's puck possession metrics were tilted dramatically by score effects, after the Ducks took a 3-1 lead, as Anaheim held a decided edge in score-close possession, but the Stars led in 5-on-5 possession numbers overall after outshooting the Ducks 15-2 in the third period.

Ducks LW Matt Beleskey missed Game Two, with a lower-body injury, creating an opportunity for Devante Smith-Pelly to skate on the top line with Getzlaf and Perry.

Stars LW Ryan Garbutt, who scored the Stars' second goal, registered eight unblocked shot attempts in just 9:53 of ice time.

In the end, Stars G Kari Lehtonen allowed three goals on 19 shots, while Ducks rookie G Frederik Andersen stopped 34 of 36. If the lower-seeded Stars are going to get back in the series, and harbour hopes for an upset, they need to win the goaltending battle and have Seguin and Benn contribute at a level closer to Getzlaf and Perry. Otherwise, the hill will be awfully steep.

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.

Rene Bourque (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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